Former minister quits Hungary fiscal council

Former minister quits Hungary fiscal council

BUDAPEST - Agence France-Presse
Former minister quits Hungary fiscal council

Protesters shout anti-government slogans in Budapest in this Jan 2 photo. AFP photo

A former close ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who criticized his economic policies in November quit yesterday as head of the country’s fiscal council, saying it was too much work.

Zsigmond Jarai, finance minister in Orban’s first government from 1998 to 2002 and then central bank head until 2007, had said in November that Orban’s policies had unsettled investors.

Jarai said yesterday that new tasks for the fiscal council from Jan. 1 “created a situation that is incompatible with other public and private functions,” Hungarian state news agency MTI reported.

But Jarai also said that the targets of the repeatedly modified 2012 budget were “correct and realistic.”

Jarai earlier endorsed the government’s draft budget bill tabled in September, despite serious risks on the horizon which eventually forced the government to amend the bill as late as December, with his support.

The fiscal council was created as a condition for a massive bailout in 2008 by the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) but Orban dismantled it in late 2010 and replaced it with a three-member council dominated by loyalists.

It is one of a raft of similar moves that Orban’s critics say is making the European Union member less democratic, while also spooking markets.

Last week, tens of thousands of people demonstrated against what they see as Orban’s growing authoritarianism while investors sent the forint currency to new record lows and state borrowing costs to painfully high levels.