The maximum credit limit for participants in the Széchenyi Card program, a state-sponsored scheme that offers SMEs revolving credit, will be doubled from HUF 50 million to HUF 100 mln for most of the schemeʼs credit types, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said at a ceremony Thursday marking the issuance of the 250,000th card.
Orbán said the Hungarian government considers lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a matter of strategic importance. Hungaryʼs economy could not exist without SMEs, he argued, noting that some 2 million people, or 73% percent of all employed people, were employed by SMEs in 2015.
The prime minister stressed in his speech that in his view, the Hungarian economy is not developing merely on the back of money it receives from the European Union.
"We have ourselves to thank for this performance, since there were no substantial EU funds available in 2000*," said Orbán. "And yet we have managed to push back debt to 53%, and have had half years when the economy has expanded by 6%."
Economic news portal vg.hu recalls how in 2001 Orbán and Sándor Demján, president of the National Association of Entrepreneurs and Employers (VOSZ), had agreed on a preferential credit scheme for entrepreneurs, for which the initial support was provided by György Matolcsy, then economy minister and now governor of the National Bank of Hungary. The initiative was later taken up by the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MKIK), through whose efforts the Széchenyi Card scheme was created.
Outlays made within the framework of the Széchenyi Card program have reached HUF 1,841 billion since the scheme was launched 15 years ago. SMEs have submitted 343,000 credit applications as part of the program and 258,000 companies are already using their Széchenyi Cards, said László Krisán, CEO of KAVOSZ Zrt., which runs the scheme. He added that 86% of those applying for the card are based outside Budapest, while 25% are individual entrepreneurs.
The average credit amount drawn is HUF 7 million, which Krisán said is proof that the Széchenyi Card is the most successful credit product for SMEs today.
"With its help, a monthly HUF 17 bln, more than HUF 100 mln an hour, and HUF 11 mln of new credit every five minutes helps the lives of Hungarian enterprises," claimed Krisán.
Krisán noted that a total of nine banks currently help to extend the credit, with applications handled by 220 VOSZ and MKIK offices.