An ugly night in Budapest

Scott Jagow Sep 19, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: Thousands of people took to the streets of Hungary’s capital last night. Protesters threw stones and set fire to a state television building. 150 people were injured in clashes with police. What sparked the violence was an audio tape leaked to the media. On it, Hungary’s Prime Minister said he and his Socialist party lied about the economy for four years to get reelected. Reporter Stefan Bos is in Budapest.

STEFAN BOS: He said no other European country made such a mess as Hungary had done under his government and he also says if we have to give an account to the country about what we did for four years then what do we say?

JAGOW: So you’re telling me that a politician lied to the people and that got all these demonstrators into the streets starting fires?

BOS: Well it was one of the reasons. I have to say that they were already mad at him because of one of the most serious austerity measures in years to reduce the budget deficit, which is the highest in the European Union. He said before the elections in April that the budget deficit will be about 4.7 percent of gross domestic product. Now it turns out that the budget deficit in reality will be more than 10 percent this year. And this is a major, major crisis for this country you know which still has to get over decades of communism and as a new European Union nation. They also want to introduce the euro, but that’s not possible with such a huge deficit because the European Union and the euro’s own criteria call for about a 3 percent of GDP maximum. So it’s a very, very difficult situation now.

JAGOW: So the Prime Minister’s been saying the economy is in better shape than it actually is, but don’t people feel the impact of such a horrible economy? Don’t they see it themselves?

BOS: Oh absolutely. People are already complaining that they have less money now, the prices are rising, they also you know feel that very much. For instance, one of the things people are going to feel now, that after decades the free health care will end. A lot of things we will see the coming years that people have to learn to live with, here it’s quite a new phenomenon.

JAGOW: Stefan Bos in Budapest.

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