That'll cost you
Despite the Hungarian government trumpeting a turnaround in the economy of late and low budget deficit figures of the past two years, Mihaly Varga, the new pragmatic finance minister, seems to believe discretion is the better part of valour: with tax revenues looking somewhat anaemic this year, he announced a mini-package of tax increases on Monday to keep the deficit on track. Continue reading »
Audi, the German car maker, opened its long-heralded manufacturing unit in Gyor, north-west Hungary on Wednesday – a move that looks set to boost the country’s flagging economy just before elections due in the spring next year. Continue reading »
The court verdict that this week found Janez Jansa, the former prime minister, guilty of accepting bribes in the long-running “Patria” procurement scandal surprised many and has further polarised the Slovene population.
For many outside observers, including European Union officials, it was a step in the country’s much-needed fight against corruption. But for Jansa’s conservative faithful, it was a shock – as shown in this video where one ardent supporter outside the courthouse castigates the “crazy judges”.
But will the verdict make any difference to the practical ethics of doing business in Slovenia? Continue reading »
It was glum faces in Slovenia last week: not only was it the coldest May since the 1970s, but the month ended with news that the economy had slumped a shocking 4.8 per cent in the first quarter.
What to do? Well, successive governments in Ljubljana have insisted they are working hard to support small business, especially start-ups, to boost the economy and employment. Sounds good but, alas, Slovenes at the coal face tell a different tale. Take Vasja Golar, aged 29, from the small, north-east town of Gornja Radgona. Continue reading »
Question: What’s the link between a national airline, a global-brand ski factory and an organic flour producer?
Answer: none at all, except in Slovenia, where any half-aware citizen would immediately recognise them as state-owned companies being prepared for privatisation to raise the cash to bail out Slovenia’s heavily indebted banks and balance the national budget. Continue reading »
Hungary’s “fairytale economy” – as former economy minister György Matolcsy famously described it last year to CNN – remains, well, exactly that – fairytale. Despite the emphasis by government spin-doctors on lower bond yields and the strengthening forint, life for your average Imre and Ildikó just doesn’t seem to be getting any easier – as the latest figures for consumer spending show. Continue reading »
It’s getting rather routine: another rate setting meeting at the Hungarian central bank, another rate cut of 25 basis points down to another record low rate. On Tuesday this pattern took the rate down for the ninth consecutive month to 4.75 per cent.
About the only upset in this otherwise well-rehearsed show was was a mistakenly sent alert on Bloomberg terminals that the rate had been reduced to a mere 1 per cent. Cue a flurry sell off in the forint, before the damage could be repaired (see chart) – and business was back to normal, with the Hungarian currency trading at Ft 299.48 to the euro at 5pm Europe time. Continue reading »
Hungary is doing just fine for now, at least that’s the thrust of the news from the government’s PR office. Of late, it seems Viktor Orbán, the adrenalin-high prime minister, has been cutting ribbons for a living; a railway rolling stock builder expanding here (Stadler – a Swiss producer, in Szolnok, with €13.6m in further investment) – a children’s toy company there (Lego – the Danish plastic brick maker, in Nyíregyháza, with a whacking €200m investment job) were headline stories last week. Continue reading »
Wizz Air, which bills itself as the largest low-cost, low-fare airline in central-eastern Europe, said on Thursday that that it had struck a “pre-delivery payment financing and sale and leaseback agreement” with ICBC Financial Leasing, of China, for eight new Airbus A320 aircraft.
The A320s, due for delivery in 2013 and 2014 and carrying a headline price tag of $700m, represent a jump of a fifth in the current fleet of 40 such aeroplanes operated by Wizz Air. Continue reading »
The devil being in the detail is a phrase with much resonance in Hungary – especially when, as on Thursday, things look rather too good.
“Inflation at record low” said the headlines. Indeed, annual consumer price inflation fell to 2.2 per cent in March, well below the consensus of 2.5 per cent and the lowest ever recorded since the transition to a market economy. Continue reading »
Julia Király, deputy-governor of the Hungarian central bank (pictured left), resigned on Monday saying that moves made by György Matolcsy, the newly appointed governor, were damaging both the bank’s hard-earned credibility and the national economy over the longer term.
Last week Matolcsy announced a new central bank funding scheme which aims to get cheaper lending to small businesses and also reduce their exposure to euro-denominated loans. Continue reading »
The Hungarian currency is a bit like the famed “Grand old Duke of York” of late – the Duke who according to the traditional nursery rhyme, marched his 10,000 men up the hill, then back down again, all to no avail.
The new “postmodern” monetary policy unveiled on Thursday was widely – and worriedly – anticipated, but there was something of a relief rally afterwards. Where we go from here? It’s anyone’s guess. Continue reading »