The Feel Good Factor Returns


It’s been a week or so in which it is hard not to feel positive. The eye-catching and surprising Q1 GDP figures, as reported in our Macroscope feature on page three, indicate the Hungarian economy is far more robust than we thought and poised to bounce back in double-quick time, possibly as soon as this summer.

The Ministry of Finance is sticking to its growth prediction of 4.3% for this year, but a range of analysts (not all of them particularly pro-government) have been plotting more ambitious targets ranging from 5-7%. Even the European Commission is more optimistic than the government here in eying 5% GDP growth for Hungary. (Much of the improved situation is down to the better-than-expected performance of industry, within which automotive carries the most significant weight. The special report in this issue is dedicated to the latter sector and how it has coped with COVID.)

In truth, I am anyway predisposed towards being in a sunny disposition right now since I got my second COVID-19 vaccination on May 19. It was in the mid-morning of our deadline for this issue, which was what the scientists might call “sub-optimal,” but I was keen to get it over and done. Even better, and not to brag, but I got the Moderna jab, which I keep being told is a real rarity in Hungary. By a strange coincidence (not least because we live in entirely different health districts), our wine columnist Robert Smyth (you’ll find his latest offering on page 22 of this issue) also got the Moderna shot. He knows just one person other than me to have received it and said it was described to him as the Mercedes Benz of COVID vaccinations.

Before you accuse me of being singled out for special privileges, I ought to add that, since I got my jab in my hometown of Gödöllő, there are presumably a fair few of my local compatriots (Gödöllőites?) who are also going about with an armful of Moderna magic. I am just grateful it is one of the vaccines approved by the EU and the United Kingdom, which will presumably make the journey home to see my aged mother for the first time in a year and a half that much smoother once Hungary gets added to the “green list” for travel.

What hasn’t been going smoothly is the distribution of the government immunization cards to legally resident non-Hungarian citizens, as we report on page five. While Hungarians have been getting the cards in as little as eight days from receiving their first jab, foreigners have not. I subscribe to the cockup theory rather than the conspiracy variety. It seems the issuing system, which pairs ID card numbers with health records, did not factor in the different number sets used for non-Hungarian citizens. We are told work is ongoing to fix this; the best advice, for now, is to visit your local kormányablak (government window) in person with all your paperwork or try downloading the newly launched EESZT mobile vaccination app. However, you will need to be already registered with the e-government ügyfélkapu (customer portal) for the latter.

Robin Marshall


This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of  May 21, 2021.


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