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Amendment would give Fiscal Council new members

An amendment submitted to Parliament by the economy minister on Wednesday would replace the members of the Fiscal Council — an independent body established by the previous government to assess Hungary's budgets — and eliminate its staff, the text of the amendment published on the website of Parliament shows.

The amendment would make the three members of the council the governor of the National Bank of Hungary, the head of the State Audit Office and an economist appointed by the President of the Republic for a six-year mandate. The amendment would also allow the President to recall his appointment.

At present, three economists make up the Fiscal Council. Their assessments of the government's fiscal legislation have often been viewed as critical.

The amendment seeks to establish a body similar to one proposed by governing Fidesz in 2006, when the party was in opposition.

The Fiscal Council would be allowed to express its opinion on budget acts, but the amendment does not give it a veto right.

The amendment would eliminate the Office of the Fiscal Council on the last day of 2010.

György Kopits, who heads the Fiscal Council at present, said at an earlier planned event on Thursday that if Parliament approves the amendment, a serious intellectual asset would cease to exist, and it would be difficult to re-establish. "This is not just about our existence, but about Hungary's future and credibility," he added.

Fiscal Council member Gábor Obláth said the body's staff of 40 had worked "into the evenings and at the weekends" to complete assessments of the government's fiscal legislation. It would be "a crime" to disband such a highly qualified staff, he added.

Kopits said the Fiscal Council and its staff were the only ones to have carried out impact studies of proposed fiscal legislation. The State Audit Office and the central bank have only expressed their opinions on this legislation, opinions that were sometimes even supported by the Fiscal Council's impact studies, he added.

Kopits noted that the European Commission had expressed its disfavour to the government of measures affecting the Fiscal Council's standing in a letter that was not made public.

A recent proposal by a Fidesz MP would take HUF 826 million of the Fiscal Council's HUF 836 million budget and reallocate it to the Foundation for Hungarian Gypsies. (MTI-ECONEWS)