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You probably have more savings than Viktor Orbán, Hungary's prime minister

vagyonnyilatkozat cover
2019.02.01. 15:33

The asset declarations of Hungarian MPs and government members went public last night. We took a look at the Prime Minister's wealth.

According to Viktor Orbán's declaration, he owns half of the family home, a 233 square metre house in the prestigious XII. district of Budapest, and the entirety of the Orbán family's residence in the prime minister's hometown, Felcsút, right next to the stadium of Felcsút's football club that can hold twice the population of the small village. He has no car, no business interests, and no other sources of income other than his lawful salaries as an MP and as the Prime Minister. He has an €11,000 mortgage and believe it or not, the Prime Minister of Hungary has only €4,400 in savings on his bank account, but even if it seems like a small amount, it is still the most he has had for a rainy day since his ascent to power:

Data released last year by the Prime Minister's Office shows that Orbán's monthly salary is around €700 as a Member of Parliament and approximately €4,700 as Prime Minister, and he receives no income for performing his presidential function in Fidesz. After taxes, that becomes €3,600 Euros, making Orbán's yearly income €43,200. His savings of €4,400 (which is 10,18% of his yearly net income) are a little lower than the average Hungarian household savings rate (12,12%) and a little higher than the EU average (9.72%) as determined by Eurostat.

Those worried about the financial situation of this father of four should rest their minds: Orbán has many rich friends who make sure he doesn't even miss a match of his favourite team, one of his closest associates just became Hungary's wealthiest man, and his son-in-law is a successful entrepreneur, so help is close by, would the need arise.

How seriously should you take this?

The Hungarian system for public officials' asset declarations leaves much to be desired in terms of their role ensuring the transparency of public life

First of all, the fragmented regulations governing them are difficult to decipher - there are more than a dozen laws and decrees that contain provisions about this obligation with regards to various types of public officials. MPs, government members and certain public officials have to make their declarations public, but their family members can remain in obscurity - which is the easiest way for someone in the public eye to hide their wealth. Viktor Orbán used to publish his wife's asset declaration, but that practice stopped when he became Prime Minister in 2010. Her last declaration contained 34 pieces of real estate, mostly agricultural areas.

Also, there is no unified database, and the hand-filled forms are made available as scanned PDFs, therefore, they cannot be searched. The declarations contain vague data and can be amended indefinitely with no repercussions. 

There are no direct sanctions regarding the contents either - failing to provide the declaration by the deadline does carry a fine, but that is pretty much it. If a declaration reveals illicit enrichment, the relevant parliamentary committee is supposed to investigate, but they rarely do. Data available from 2013 shows that the approximately 400.000 declarations that accumulated since the introduction of the system prompted merely seven such investigations until that time. In the theoretical scenario that such an illicit wealth increase is revealed, there are no direct sanctions, however, the documents can be used as evidence in criminal proceedings. 

But the declarations are never examined ex officio by the police, the prosecutor's office, or the tax authority, and they are never compared to tax returns, so even if there is the occasional press scandal, there are never actual consequences.

(Cover: szarvas / Index)

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