Low costs attract Nazi-era filmFor weeks there have been strange happenings in and around Budapest: huge swastika flags hanging from one building near the National Museum and boys wearing ‘40s style-trousers and severe partings in their hair running down the street next to the State Opera. The reason is that the British production company Heyday Films chose Budapest ahead of Berlin and Prague for the shooting of the film version of John Boyne’s novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
It might not be as contentious as Danzig or the Polish Corridor, but Germany and Poland last week fell out over the cover of a Polish magazine. German politicians were up in arms at the cover of Polish current affairs magazine Wprost for showing a mocked up image of German Chancellor Angela Merkel breastfeeding the Polish President and Prime Minister under the headline “Stepmother of Europe”. The magazine, in a not very subtle way, was trying to suggest that Merkel was treating the continent like an evil stepmother. The row blew up in the wake of the recent summit on the EU Constitution hosted by Germany which was undermined by Polish demands for more voting rights based on the size of its population. German ire was aroused by Polish PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski claiming that Poland’s population would be a lot larger now if the Germans had not killed so many Poles during the Second World War.
Foreign direct investment is continuing to flood into Ukraine despite recent political unrest. The first three months of the year saw USD 1.2 billion invested from abroad, 20% more than the National Bank of Ukraine’s forecast. The bank expects that the figure will reach USD 6 billion for the full year. Despite this the economic picture in Ukraine is not an unqualified success. Ukraine’s government last week announced drastic restrictions on grain exports effective from 1 July, because of the recent drought which it estimates will reduce this year’s grain harvest by up to ten million tonnes. The restrictions are aimed at guaranteeing Ukraine’s food security, but might affect the country’s bid to join the World Trade Organisation.
Some 30 extreme right-wing demonstrators disrupted a live broadcast by commercial station Klub Rádió on Thursday in the eastern Hungarian town of Debrecen last week. Reporters from the station had just finished interviewing the Fidesz mayor of Debrecen, Lajos Kósa when demonstrators unfurled banners and disrupted the broadcast for about ten minutes. When the Klub Rádió reporters moved to a back room in the restaurant where the interview took place, the demonstrators tried to wrest the camera from an Echo TV cameraman who had been recording the event. Zsolt Kácsor, a Népszabadság reporter who came to his aid was struck over the head with a flagpole. An MTI correspondent at the scene said that in spite of the assaults, the four police officers, who only appeared after the attacks took place, did not take any action against the protestors. The demonstrators called the Klub reporters “traitors”and “dirty commies”, while Kácsor was called a Jew and told to “go back to Israel”.
Hungary is entitled to HUF 10,000 billion (EUR 41 billion) in reparations for damage inflicted in 1956, pressure group the World Federation of Hungarians (MVSZ) claimed last week. The lobby group, which was behind the unsuccessful 2005 referendum on granting dual nationality to ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring states, claims to have calculated the cost of destruction committed by the Red Army during its brutal suppression of the 1956 Uprising, in which thousands died and hundreds of thousands were displaced. MVSZ chairman Miklos Patrubány said at a press conference last week that his organisation will initiate a referendum in Hungary unless the government supports the indemnity claim.
A recent survey by debt collection company Intrum Justitia suggests that Hungarian companies are getting later with their payments. The report indicates that on average Hungarian companies paid their suppliers within 45.1 days so far this year, compared to 43.6 days last year. Overdue payments were on average 16.3 days late, while last year the figure was 14.8 days….
The government has invited bids in a tender for the building of the planned new government quarter near Nyugati railway station.
South Korean tyre-manufacturer Hankook began production at its EUR 500 million plant in Dunaújváros last week amid criticism from main opposition party Fidesz and complaints from employees. The plant, which currently employs 800 people, plans to make 5 million tyres per year in the first phase.
Hungary’s productivity has climbed to 60% of the EU average, according to a new report. Professor Ivan T. Berend of UCLA, speaking at a conference held to mark the 15th anniversary of the Hungarian Development Bank (MFB), put the rise down to massive USD 240 billion influx of cash since 1989. FDI accounts for two thirds of this figure, he said, and went on to liken the effect to that of funds paid out to Europe under the post-WW2 Marshall Plan. The gap between the east and the west in Europe is closing, he added. In 1990, productivity was USD 5-7 per hour in the region, less than a quarter of the USD 25-28 in Western Europe. The change in the relative level of pay does not reflect this change. In the early nineties, Hungarians took home just seven per cent of what their German counterparts earned. Today, Hungarian wages are still on average only about one-fifth of those in Germany.
The confidence level of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)Â dipped sharply in June, figures released last Thursday by Ecostat, the research arm of the Central Statistical Office (KSH) showed. Ecostat said that the SME business confidence index dropped to 39.7 points from 46.2, the lowest since September 2006. The drop marked the end of a steady eight-month rise in confidence. Regarding the future of their own business, only 11% of the managers were optimistic, as opposed to 26% in May. Some 45% of managers expressed pessimism, a sharp hike on the 29% in May.
A National Association of Entrepreneurs (VOSZ) survey has found that the inflationary pressure on wages is only due in a small part to government efforts to whiten the economy. Deputy Chairman of VOSZ Tamás Gláser told business daily Napi Gazdaság that only 20% of the rise was due to whitening, while up to 60% was up to real wage increases. The government has claimed that this date showed it was making great strides in tackling the black and grey economies. Hungarian National Bank Governor András Simor, while explaining the bank’s surprise rate cut last week, said that increases in gross wages were in part due to the whitening of the economy, and thus represented a smaller-than-thought inflationary risk.
The jobless rate fell to 7.3% in March-May from 7.5% in February-April, the Central Statistical Office said last Thursday. There were 307,700 jobless in March-May, down from 314,300 in Feb-April.
The European Court of Justice is set to rule in the autumn on whether Hungary’s local business tax complies with EU regulations after it finished hearing the case last Thursday. Complainant companies claim that the tax is turnover-based, while EU regulations allow only one such tax (VAT), and want their payments since Hungary joined the EU in May 2004 reimbursed.
The daughter and one of the sons of US Ambassador to Hungary April Foley were caught up in bar scuffle in District VIII, Kossuth Rádió reported. Budapest Police spokesman Tibor Jármy said that a fight broke out after two groups of people got into an argument, resulting in light injuries to one person. US Embassy spokeswomanÂ Kate Byrnes refused to comment on the issue, saying it was a private family matter.