Hungarian Prime Minister aims to restore payment of additional pensions more quickly

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during the Budapest Population Summit in Budapest, Hungary, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

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BUDAPEST, Sept 24 (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday he intended to speed up another month of payments to pensioners as he ramps up a pre-election spending spree.

Ahead of what is expected to be a close election early next year, Orban showered the electorate with freebies including a $2 billion income tax refund for families, a income for young workers, grants for home renovations and additional pension payments.

The 2.5 million Hungarian pensioners represent almost a third of the votes in this Central European country of just under 10 million inhabitants.

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Under current plans, pensioners would receive an extra two weeks of payments next year, partly reversing the decision to scrap a 13th month pension by a previous left-wing government before Orban took power in a power slide. land in 2010.

“From January 1, we want to restore the second week payment value but I am fighting to make it faster,” Orban told public radio in an interview. “So that it’s not just the second, but the third and probably even the fourth.”

“So that I can stand up before the voters come to the next election and say that what the Gyurcsany-Bajnai (left-wing) government took from the pensioners, we will have returned it to the last penny.”

Paying back a week of additional pensions this year will cost 77 billion forints ($253.76 million).

Orban said any increase in wages and pensions should be funded by economic growth driven primarily by investment, not increased borrowing.

As Orban ramped up his spending spree despite central bank calls to bring Hungary’s budget deficit under control faster, Hungary’s six-party opposition alliance staged a first round of primary elections to pick the challenger d’Orban.

No specific date for the election has been set.

A patchwork of parties that includes the far-right ex-Jobbik, which has rebranded itself as a centre-right grouping, as well as the Socialists, Liberals and Greens, upset Fidesz in the 2019 municipal elections.

The parties hope it can serve as a plan to unseat Orban, who has been in power for more than a decade, next year.

An August survey by think tank Zavecz Research estimated support for Orban’s Fidesz at 37% of all voters, while combined support for the six opposition parties stood at 39%.

($1 = 303.44 forints)

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Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Sam Holmes and Barbara Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Laura T. Thrasher