Editorial: Something to Raise a Glass To
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Finally, there is good economic news to acknowledge, although now may not yet be the time to crack open the champagne.
As our Macroscope report makes clear on page three, inflation has dropped below the single-digit milestone, if only just, at 9.9%. That is a long way from its eye-watering January peak of 25.72%. To put that into some context, this is the first time Hungary’s inflation has been in single digits for 18 months, according to Bloomberg. If anything, the drop has come quicker even than the government (never shy of championing the most positive of views) expected. In July, Minister of Finance Mihály Varga told Reuters, “By December for sure, but if we are lucky, inflation will be below 10% already in November. I can say that inflation will be around 7-8% by December.”
But while the market accepts that the disinflationary processes are happening faster than expected, there is still plenty of hard work ahead. Analysts have mixed views about how this will feed into economic growth, with a range of suggestions for this year and next. All agree 2023 will have been a recessionary right-off, with the best prediction being a -0.1% contraction. For 2024, the range is from 2.1-4%. This subject also came up at our latest BBJ Boardroom Meeting roundtable discussion on Nov. 7, with our speakers hovering around the 2-3% mark. The problem is the variables: projections for growth in the EU, particularly Germany (Hungary’s most significant trade partner), are anemic. The latest economic forecast for Germany from the European Commission, updated on Nov. 15, is 0.8% growth in 2024 and 1.2% in 2025. The EU itself does little better at 1.3% and 1.7%, respectively. And then there is the question of Hungary’s missing EU funds. Most analysts think Hungary will get at least some of the money (one of our speakers suggested it might be released via economic salami tactics). The worst-case scenario is it gets nothing at all. Most don’t think that is likely, but if that does happen, expect all growth scenarios to be rounded down.
The seemingly ever-optimistic Minister for Regional Development, Tibor Navracsics, hopes for a positive resolution by the end of November, but he thought the same this time last year. We will see, but in what has been a “lost year,” to quote one of our analysts on page three, this economic news is to be welcomed, and is perhaps worth celebrating with a wee dram of something.
Talking of celebrating, and I realize there is a danger that this borders on the self-indulgent, but I trust you will allow me to note our own significant milestone: Thursday, Nov. 9, was the 31st anniversary of the publication of the first issue of the Budapest Business Journal in 1992. Our inaugural front page promised “Business News That Works.” We have always looked to find ways not simply of reporting accurately and fairly what is going on, but also to add value. That may be one reason why we remain Hungary’s oldest English-language publication in continuous circulation. The annual BBJ Book of Lists also turns 31 this year, and the latest print version of that went to the presses on Friday, Nov.10. Do feel free to pre-order your copy now!
This editorial was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of November 17, 2023.
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