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Parliament approves bill to raise pay of MNB officials

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The Hungarian Parliament approved legislation today that will raise the pay of top officials employed by the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) and give the central bank discretion to withhold private information on companies it owns, Hungarian news agency MTI reported today.

The bill, submitted by governing Fidesz MP Erik Bánki just a day before, authorizes the raise of the monthly salary of the MNBʼs governor to a fixed HUF 5 million.  

At present, the governorʼs salary is capped at ten times the average monthly wage of about HUF 250,000.

The law sets the salary of the deputy governors at 90% of the governorʼs, and the members of the policy-making Monetary Council at 60%.

The law gives the MNB the legal power to withhold information from the public on companies that support its activities, if it deems that defending the interests of its monetary or foreign exchange policy outweighs that of the publicʼs right to information on publicly-funded institutions.

The law also allows foundations established by the MNB to be turned over to their curators, resulting in a separation sufficient to classify the foundations as being outside the sphere of “public funding” thereby reducing public scrutiny. 

In a letter to the head of Parliamentʼs legislative committee published late Monday, Attila Péterfalvi, who heads the National Data Protection Office, said some elements of the legislation violate an article in the Constitution that stipulates that “data relating to public funds and national assets shall be data of public interest”. He noted that a provision in the bill that would apply the rules on disclosure to “procedures already underway” qualifies as legislating retroactively and goes against the principle of legal certainty. He added that the proposed legislation would overturn an existing, unappealable court ruling.

The opposition Socialists sued the MNB earlier for failing to comply with a public information request regarding a foundation it established. The Socialists subsequently won the case and the ruling cannot be appealed.

The bill was approved in an expedited procedure with 118 voting for and 58 voting against. There were no abstentions.

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