The Debrecen project of German automobile manufacturer BMW stands as proof of the long-term prospects and strength of German-Hungarian relations, Gergely Gulyás, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office stated at the press conference Governmentinfo 118 which he held jointly with Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács.

The Minister said the area of 400 hectares which is required for the project is worth one billion forints, but the volume of the investment amounts to one billion euros, and so the area of arable land in question could not be used more profitably any other way, and additionally a great many new jobs will come into being.

DownloadPhoto: Károly Árvai/

He highlighted that Debrecen’s urban development, too, may enter a new phase as a result. With this investment the third largest German premium car manufacturer will also be present in Hungary, and after the country’s western and central parts, a large automotive industry project will be implemented in the eastern region as well, Mr Gulyás said. He pointed out that approximately one thousand new jobs will come into being.

In answer to a question he said that at this point in time there is no specific information regarding the state’s contribution to the project, but the amount in question will be in excess of ten billion forints. The benefits granted are not different from those granted in respect of other projects, he added.

According to Mr Gulyás Hungarian-German political relations, too, must be strong, rendering bilateral relations even closer is a mutual interest, and this is why Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently paid a visit to Berlin, he said, adding that he himself will also travel to Berlin on 29 August.

The Minister also highlighted that, according to conservative estimates, there may be a 15 to 20 per cent staff reduction in central public administration, and the goal is to implement this by 1 January.

He argued that today fewer than 14,000 people are working in ministries and support institutions, but this number can be reduced. The purpose of the measure is not to save expenditures, but to eliminate overlaps within the system as, in consequence of developments and digitisation, today fewer staff members may be enough for the fulfilment of the same responsibilities, he explained.

Mr Gulyás stressed that the goal is to create effective, swift and cheap central public administration. He took the view that it is reasonable to review how many people are working in different positions in order to eliminate unnecessary jobs. Simultaneously with this measure there will be scope for a quality pay rise as well, he pointed out.

DownloadPhoto: Károly Árvai/

Regarding the issue of gender studies programmes, the Minister said that if we take a look at the number of students seeking to enrol in these programmes, that in itself may be a powerful argument for terminating them. The government firmly believes that people are born either as men or as women, and are free to lead the life they wish to live, he stated. He added, however, that in this area the state does not wish to finance educational activities.

He observed that as of next September students will not be able to enrol for programmes like this with state accreditation.

He said in answer to a question related to the administrative high court that the relevant constitutional amendment makes it clear that “there is a Curia and there is an administrative high court”, but the detailed statutory regulations will be adopted during the autumn session of Parliament.

Mr Gulyás pointed out in answer to a question concerning the case of apple growers that the government’s means are limited, but they are seeking to help the united action of producers because they regard the price of HUF 13 per kilogramme as unfair. The government would act as a mediator in the case, a market agreement must be reached, and apples must be purchased at a fair price, he said.

According to the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office, Hungarian agriculture has wheat enough to supply not ten million people, but twenty million.

Mr Gulyás highlighted that this year 4.8 million tonnes of wheat had been produced in Hungary. 1.2 million tonnes of wheat would be sufficient for the nutritional needs of a country of ten million, meaning that today Hungary is able to supply as many as 20 to 22 million people with wheat, which clearly indicates the strength of Hungarian agriculture, he stressed.

The Minister believes that it is highly advantageous that when in many places around the world there is a danger of famine, Hungary is even able to export wheat.

The Minister said that there had been a major increase in Hungarian tourism: aggregated tourism sales have to date increased by 5.3 per cent compared with last year, and the revenues of accommodation facilities increased by more than 10 per cent in the first half of the year. He said that the number of foreign guests has increased by 4 per cent, while the number of domestic guests has increased by 6.8 per cent pro rata compared with last year.

DownloadPhoto: Károly Árvai/

He highlighted that the use of “SZÉP” cards has never before been this high; up to June people spent HUF 8.5 billion with SZÉP cards. According to the Minister’s summary, tourism will be an important sector of Hungarian competitiveness also in the long run.

Mr Gulyás informed the press that the government had discussed the issue of skyscrapers, and the cabinet clearly intends to enable Budapest to preserve its traditional cityscape. They are therefore introducing a ban on skyscrapers in Hungary.

He added that, according to the relevant regulations, buildings up to a height of 65 metres will not come under restriction, while buildings between 65 and 90 metres will be subject to a complex licensing process which will also take aesthetic criteria into consideration. At the same time, after the entry into force of the legislation, there will be no scope for the construction of skyscrapers taller than 90 metres.

He said they had offered the oil and gas company Mol, the financial service provider OTP and the pharmaceutical company Richter – as the three flagships of the Hungarian economy which are also significant regionally – the possibility of building skyscraper headquarters buildings as part of informal negotiations. From among them Mol was the only one which wished to avail itself of this possibility, and the company may in consequence build a 120-metre-tall building. He said that a decision had been adopted on Mol’s building before the adoption of the relevant regulations.

Regarding the salaries of ministers, Mr Gulyás said the rule of thumb is that ministers’ salaries are double the basic remuneration of Members of Parliament, while the remuneration of Members of Parliament has been tied to the average wage. Consequently, if the average wage decreases, the pay of ministers and Members of Parliament, too, will decrease. Also in the long run, we wish to live in a “fate community” here where we laugh and cry together, he said.

He highlighted that in the past 8 years there had been a 65 per cent pay rise in total. At the same time, the state left itself to last: the salaries of civil servants and ministers will only increase after a pay rise has already been implemented in law enforcement as well as for teachers and soldiers.

Mr Gulyás said there are two ministers without portfolio who deal with asset management. They are therefore governed by the rules of the economy, this is why they earn five million forints.

Regarding the findings of the investigation of the State Audit Office concerning hospitals, Mr Gulyás said the government takes the irregularities uncovered by the State Audit Office seriously. At the same time, the report relates to the period between 2008 and 2015, and also covered surgeries operated by entities other than the state. He said the Ministry of Human Capacities will review whether the irregularities uncovered still exist, and if they find that that is the case, the necessary measures will have to be adopted. He said the government will discuss this issue, but for the time being they would like to see whether the situation has changed since 2015, and if so, whether it has changed for the better, and how, in the ministry’s view, effective operations can be guaranteed in institutions.

He added in answer to a question that the Ministry of Human Capacities will prepare an action plan regarding the matter.

Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács said in the context of the 20 August celebrations that they are preparing for 20 August, Monday, with the usual programmes, but they will await visitors with the Street of Hungarian Flavours and a number of other programmes already as of Saturday. He added that the operational corps will meet again on Tuesday and will review the status of organisational responsibilities.

DownloadPhoto: Károly Árvai/

In answer to a question about the weakening of the forint, Mr Gulyás said the government has no target exchange rate, and does not deem any intervention necessary. He added that the economy is affected by the weakening of the forint, but it has more positive impacts than negative ones, and even on the basis of the most pessimistic calculations these impacts compensate for one another.

Regarding news reports that, according to Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs Katalin Novák, the government will look into the possibility of also extending the HUF 10 million preferential housing credit facility (csok) to families with two children, Mr Gulyás said the cabinet will review the practice so far, and as expected they will discuss this issue at the cabinet meeting to be held at the beginning of September.

(Prime Minister's Office/MTI)