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Spokesman rejects speculation govt has sights on individual bank accounts

The government categorically denies any speculation that the state intends to take control of individual savings accounts, Government Spokesman Andras Giro-Szasz said on a television program on Friday.

Mr Giro-Szasz characterized opposition conjecture that the state has such intentions to be irresponsible. Hungarian Socialist Party Attila Mesterhazy on Wednesday asked the government to guarantee that it would not touch individual savings accounts.

With regard to a report earlier this week, which the National Economy Ministry subsequently denied, that the government would use part of the foreign-currency reserves of the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) to enact measures aimed at spurring economic growth, Mr Giro-Szasz said that the government "does not in that form wish to touch [central bank fx reserves] in any way," adding that the government does not even have the right to do so.

Mr Giro-Szasz remarked that the government’s position concerning u%oming talks with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union on a financial-assistance package has always been aimed explicitly at achieving agreement. The government spokesman asserted that informal talks on the package between the government and the IMF and the EU in December had not broken off prematurely.

With regard to Hungary’s new Central Bank Law, Mr Giro-Szasz said that parliament had incorporated 13 of the European Central Bank’s 15 observations concerning the legislation into the law. With respect to the ECB’s two considerations that parliament did not incorporate into the law, those concerning expansion of the MNB’s monetary council and appointment of a further deputy governor and limitations on the salaries of the bank’s management, Mr Giro-Szasz noted that nobody had expressed concerns when the Hungarian Socialist Party-led government had increased the number of monetary council members and bank deputy governors in 2004-2005 and that the European Commission voiced no opposition when Lithuania’s parliament decreased the salary of the chairman of the Bank of Lithuania by 30%.

In response to a question about the stipulation in the new Central Bank Law authorizing the prime minister to appoint the governor of the MNB, Mr Giro-Szasz commented that the president of Germany appoints the president of the Deutsche Bundesbank at the recommendation of the country’s chancellor.

Mr Giro-Szasz declined to say whether the government would be willing to amend the Central Bank Law if the IMF and EU specify this as a condition for agreement during talks on a possible financial-assistance package, adding that this is an issue for discussion at the negotiating table and that it would be poor strategy to comment on it before the talks begin.

The spokesman said minister without portfolio in charge of Hungary’s talks with the IMF and the EU will leave for Washington for talks with the IMF on Saturday, and a time for the meeting with the European Commission is still being set up.