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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2703

The sour Hungarian goulash

By Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

The gaffes made by public figures such as politicians always create a controversy but usually the trouble ends with nothing more harmful than an acute embarrassment to the guilty person. After all no harm ensued when during a G-8 coffee break in Russia George Bush hailed the British prime minister as 'Yo, Blair'.

Bush himself had little trouble from his countrymen when he was heard saying 'get the Hizbollah to stop doing this shit'. The last Conservative British Prime Minister, John Major, had called some of his un-named ministerial colleagues 'bastards.'

The consort of the British Queen, Prince Philip, has been frequently guilty of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time and once India was at the receiving end of his ‘humour’ displayed before a non-Indian crowd in Britain. Seeing an old fuse box, he said: ‘It looks as if it was put in by an Indian’.

But he was even less diplomatic when he asked an aborigine introduced to him during an Australian visit:’ Still throwing spears’. And what do you think he, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, asked a Scottish driving instructor: ‘How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?’

If at times the off the cuff remarks that come into circulation resulted in the loss of job of the offender it was largely to control the spiralling effect of the ill-chosen spiel. The speech that the Hungarian prime minister, Ferenc Gyursany, made at a close-door meeting with his Socialist members of parliament late in May and leaked to the media now does not seem to have embarrassed him and, according to many analysts, is unlikely to see him quit even when some people compared the demonstrations and protests on the streets of Budapest against his remarks to the 1956 uprising against the Soviet Union.

In the excerpts of the speech played on the Hungarian state radio---quite a surprise that—Gyursany was heard saying that no European country had done something as ‘boneheaded’ as the (Hungarian) Socialists have. ‘Evidently, we lied throughout the last year-and-a-half, two years. It was totally clear that what we are saying is not true. You can’t quote any significant government measure we can be proud of, other than at end we managed to bring the government back from the brink.’

As might perhaps be expected of a man who makes such an ‘honest’ confession there were references to drinking alcohol and the oration was richly embellished with obscenities.

Many analysts insist that the ‘leak’ of was a ploy used by Gyursany for two different reasons. (It is reported that the full text of the controversial speech is available on the prime minister’s own website.) One, to help his party win the October 1 local polls as well as those that might be held later. Two, and probably more likely, to prepare the country for further tightening of belt.

After joining the ‘free world’ Hungary made some rapid strides economically and the people have loved the ‘freedom’ unknown to them for half a century. At the same time, a class of rich elite has emerged which seems to be getting richer and richer. The poor feel it is happening at their expense. Incidentally, the 45-year-old Guyrsany is a rich business tycoon.

When Hungary broke ranks with the Communists following the collapse of the Soviet Union, people were asked to make some sacrifices to ensure a stable and better future. After more than a decade down the line those sacrifices do not seem to have brought the desired results. The economy is not moving up sufficiently and strict austerity measures have to be introduced to put the economy back in order.

Hungary faces difficult decisions on healthcare spending, unemployment benefits and pension. It has to improve tax and revenue collections. The budget deficit totals about 10 per cent of the annual gross domestic product which is three times the limit set for members of the European Union.

Nearly 50 per cent of the budget accounts for social security spending, which is not sustainable. State spending requires vigorous checks and controls. Inflation has reached 6 per cent and economic growth may fall to two per cent next year from four per cent this year.

In short, things do not look very rosy and the Prime Minister Gyursany didn’t feel it necessary to mislead his party colleagues anymore when he was meeting them behind the safety of closed doors. Having taken a different public stance, he might have been only suggesting to his MPs to end the charade of progress and prepare their electorate for harsher realities ahead.

By conveying the message to the people, albeit through a ‘leak’, Gyursany might have spared his MPs some awkward moments before their voters. That is how he might have seen it. But it remains to be seen if his deliberate ‘gaffe’ helps the Socialists in Hungary to sell any future talk of a bright future.

Indian politicians who are perhaps more prone to making gaffes at public platforms might remain tuned into events in Hungary and watch the political consequences that befall Guyrsany and his ruling party.

- Syndicate Features -

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