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Hungary’s PM tells banks, big businesses: “Colonisation over”
September 09, 2013 , 6 : 44 pm GST
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Hungarian Prime Minister Orban delivers a speech at a foundation stone laying ceremony for a new division of the Knorr-Bremse factory in Kecskemet. Photo - Reuters
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stepped up his rhetoric against banks and big multinational firms on Monday, telling parliament that the era of "colonisation" and high profits was over.
The 50-year-old Orban, whose Fidesz party faces a parliamentary election in the first half of 2014, said he expected more conflict as his government pushes through cuts in energy prices for households and pressures banks to help foreign currency borrowers.
Fidesz maintained a double-digit percentage lead over the main opposition Socialists in an August survey by pollster Ipsos, but nearly half of voters are undecided.
"Hungary is an independent, sovereign country," Orban told the opening session of parliament, setting out the agenda for the autumn in the run-up to next year's election.
"The era of colonisation is over. Utility price cuts, the elimination of the foreign currency loan regime and rescuing families and their homes are national causes for us."
New cuts in households' energy bills in the next months and some form of fresh relief for hundreds of thousands of families who took out mortgages in foreign currencies are likely to be among Orban's main selling points for the 2014 vote.
"Banks and big companies enjoying a monopoly in Hungary must get used to the new situation," Orban said. "They used to be strong and Socialist governments bowed down before their might. But now we are the stronger ones and they have to adapt to Hungarians and not vice versa."
Orban's sometimes unorthodox budget measures have hit banks and mostly foreign-owned firms, drawing much criticism from abroad. However, they also got Hungary off the European Union's list of fiscal offenders after nine years.
Orban says he has saved Hungary from a Greek-style collapse and put the country's finances on a solid footing, but his critics say his policies have eroded investors' confidence.
After paying back the outstanding sums owed to the International Monetary Fund from a 2008 rescue loan last month, Orban said Hungary, central Europe's most indebted economy, has turned a corner and is on track for growth next year.
"By repaying (the loan) we have terminated the constant pressure with which international financial organisations were trying to enforce the policies of austerity upon us," he said.
Orban said the government expected 2 per cent growth for next year. That would be the fastest pace of growth Hungary has seen since Orban took power after an election landslide in 2010. Analysts projected 1.5 per cent growth in a Reuters poll.
Socialist leader Attila Mesterhazy, one of Orban's main 2014 rivals, said the prime minister was already in campaign mode.
"This is a tsunami of promises, which is unlikely to stop," Mesterhazy told Orban. "It is clear that the government is not governing but campaigning and it is also clear that these proposals mean that yours is the government of the rich."
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