In the local government elections held in 2019, several districts in Budapest and beyond fell to the opposition coalition of ‘we’ll do anything to get a foot in the door’.
The opposition took control and for a while, the only noise that could be heard was of them crowing about their victory. That, predictably, couldn’t and didn’t last. Within a very short space of time, what was most detectable was the noise of the old boys’ network. The cogs and wheels of the network, always well-oiled and cared for, began to spin at a blinding speed. The crowing of victorious opposition local politicians was drowned out by the sound of their mates slithering into positions where they would be best placed to suckle from the teat.
The opposition local governments have, en masse, decided to accuse central government of withholding funds. The logic, presumably, is to convince voters that this is the government’s way of punishing voters who rejected them in order to bring in opposition candidates. In the harsh light of day, however, with the most modest application of logic, we can see that the idea can’t get off the ground, much less fly.
If central government’s plan was to make themselves look more popular than the opposition, they would hardly starve local governments of funding, would they? That would merely ensure that people in those districts would suffer. And since when has creating suffering amongst the populace ever resulted in votes for those causing the suffering? Exactly. A dud plan if ever there was one.
Now, apart from my, perhaps cynical, doubt that the logic of the plan can be expected to bring home the bacon, there are other problems with the incessant concert of whingeing and whining that we’ve been subjected to since the results of the 2019 local elections were announced and the opposition moved themselves into the local palaces of power.
One thing that doesn’t fit with the eternal carping about the lack of funds is the fact that, obliged, as they were, to ensure jobs for Uncle Tom Cobley and all, a lot of the local government budgets have started from a point several metres behind the starting line. Everyone clubbed together to fight the local government elections as a combined force. Fine, but when one or another candidate was elected, the phone calls started, demanding comfortable seats for the next 5 years doing bugger all but being extremely well rewarded for that bugger all.
So, jobs for the boys took a fair chunk out of the budgets. Mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, for example has 41 advisors. This costs Budapest, and therefore the taxpayer more than HUF 29,000,000 a month. That’s a shed-load of cash. Wasted.
And it doesn’t appear to be stopping either. Of late, a new poster campaign has started, asking the somewhat pointless question, for example, of “Who wouldn’t want to see this metro transport passengers tomorrow?”
Followed up with the punchy call to arms:
“Save Budapest from the effects of the epidemic, the crisis, and the government’s cuts!”
Fine, but as we’ve seen, that’s distorting the truth. For all the claims of suffering under the government’s cuts, nobody’s seriously tried to save money from the almost 30 million a month by getting rid of at least some of those ‘advisors’, have they?
There’s also the fact that Budapest is the biggest winner of the latest budget. What the opposition-led leadership of Budapest always neglect to mention is that the government is providing HUF 12 billion to assist with public transport. In addition, the government is providing funds to the value of HUF 3.2 billion in order finance the purchase of 64 brand-new buses with all the bells and whistles.
In 2021, the government has set aside funds for Budapest to the tune of hundreds of billions of forints.
So, what’s the whining about? Well, for one, they’re wasting money on frivolous salaries and bonuses for them and their mates. That’s taken a huge chunk out of the available funds they’ve got to play with. The second thing is political, rather than financial. These local governments are led by people who want to save all their money for the big push at the national elections in 2022. They’re holding back funds, in order to fill their party war chests for the 2022 elections.
Central government has set aside massive amounts of money for local governments both in Budapest and beyond.
The government will pick up the bill for the ongoing renovation of metro 3, a plan agreed with former mayor of Budapest, István Tarlós. That bill amounts to HUF 200 billion. Again, this is not the small change the opposition claim.
But, the opposition being as immature as they are, have chosen to waste the taxpayers’ money with campaigns aimed at reducing the government’s popularity.
This is a combination of the deliberate wasting of money and patent stupidity. In concentrating all their efforts on a campaign of complaints, the opposition have repeatedly taken their eye off the ball.
By delaying the signing of the contract related to the renovation of Budapest’s Chain Bridge, the opposition-led Budapest municipality managed to screw everything up. The same company that had originally agreed to renovate the bridge for HUF 21.8 billion will now do the same job for HUF 26.7 billion. The mayor of Budapest spent so much time complaining about central government funding that all deadlines came and went, and a deal with the company could only be achieved at an extra cost of HUF 4.9 billion to the taxpayer. Incompetence. Not fit for purpose.
Lies, lies, lies, and incompetence. These facts don’t make anyone’s life easier, least of all the lives of those in Budapest, but the opposition would doubtless deny that, too.