2021 Makes Early Bid not to be Overshadowed


The American political scientist Francis Fukuyama may well have been wrong (or at the very least premature) when he first posited the question “The End of History?” in 1989. But those of us who glibly reckoned 2021 could not be any worse than 2020 may have some reevaluating of our own to do.

Whether it is roads turned into ski slopes in Madrid, the rising number of COVID patients (and deaths) threatening to overwhelm Britain’s National Health Service, or the jaw dropping Capitol Hill riot in the United States, it has been a tumultuous start to the year.

The disturbing progress of the pandemic in the United Kingdom, complete with its own, highly infectious Kent variant of the coronavirus, invites us to draw a parallel between the differing approaches of Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Viktor Orbán.

Critics of the British leader claim that the Johnsonian approach is to always seek out the positive, but add that he finds it very hard to make difficult decisions. The handling of the post-Christmas start of term (he urged parents to send their children to school on an influential Sunday morning talk show, but the very next day announced lessons were to move online with immediate effect) will have done little to undermine that point of view.

There is no such apparent indecision from Orbán, of whom German Chancellor Angela Merkel once remarked that he gave the impression of having an unshakeable faith in the correctness of his own views (I paraphrase, but that was the gist of it). In his weekly interview on Kossuth Rádió, the Hungarian PM announced that restrictions brought in to contain the spread of the coronavirus back in November would again be extended, this time at least until February 1. So the evening curfew remains and secondary school students in grades 9-12 will continue their education online. Pointedly, Orbán remarked that Hungary had taken a different approach to pandemic restrictions than countries in the West, where measures have changed from week to week.

“We didn’t take that path, because we thought that predictability builds confidence,” he said. “Predictability is at least as important as efficiency.” The approach may not be particularly nuanced, but it does mean everyone knows exactly where they stand, while we wait for the roll out of the vaccines (one area where the United Kingdom does seem to be leading the way).

The link between the vaccine and the recovery is a theme you will read time and again in this issue of the Budapest Business Journal, whether in our round up of analysts’ predictions for the year ahead in the economic, real estate and labor markets, or our annual wish list from the great and the good. It is a theme that will be ever present at least until Easter, I would guess, though we will try not to bore you with it issue after issue.

So, yes, 2021 has come in with a bang, but these are early days in which to write off an entire year. Whatever your wish for 2021, I hope that you stay safe, and that all our businesses prove resilient and prosperous.

Robin Marshall


This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of January 15, 2021.

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