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Orbán welcomes central bank measures to boost lending

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Friday welcomed steps by the National Bank of Hungary to support corporate lending and said they marked an end to the central bank's earlier "bad policy". Speaking on public radio, Orbán criticised the MNB's failure under its previous management to take measures to support the economy, as many of the central bank's peers around the world had done. He said that the government would have acted differently but added that it was in no position to interfere, acknowledging the central bank's independence. Orbán conceded there is a dispute over the cause for weak corporate lending in Hungary, but said determining whether the problem is on the supply or the demand side requires giving businesses that do have plans access to cheaper credit. Business growth cannot take place at the high interest rates at present, he added. The MNB on Thursday unveiled a HUF 500 billion refinancing package targeted at microbusinesses and SMEs to support low-interest credit and the conversion of foreign currency-denominated loans. Orbán said Hungary could not be sure that the European Union would take a decision on lifting the excessive deficit procedure against the country based solely on the facts. He noted that the country's "enemies" would do everything to get the government to reduce the bank levy and roll back a cut in household utilities prices. "We'll see to what degree this way of thinking will infect Brussels," he said.