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Hungary's Premier to choose new central bank chief in a week

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány said he will name his choice for the next central bank president in a week.

Gyurcsány, speaking on public television last night, said he held off naming current central bank President Zsigmond Járai’s successor to avoid protracted political debate and tension weighing on his nominee. The new chief, who will take over on March 3, won't alone change monetary policy, which is decided by a 13-member council, he added. „I want to avoid having a long period when there is a sitting central bank president and a nominee who naturally has somewhat different views and to start an unpleasant communication that would hurt,” Gyurcsány said. „The Hungarian system is such when the President has very little say” in monetary policy decisions.
The list of potential candidates for Járai’s job has narrowed to György Surányi, a former central bank president, Eva Várhegyi, a researcher who sits on the bank's supervisory board and Zoltán Bodnár, Surányi's one-time deputy who now heads the state-owned Magyar Export-Import Bank Zrt, the newspaper Magyar Hirlap reported on January 30, without citing anyone. András Simor, head of the local Deloitte Touch Tohmatsu unit, István Hamecz, the central bank's chief economist and Ferenc Karvalits, the chairman of mortgage lender FHB Nyrt were also in the running, MTI news agency reported on January 9.
In the same interview, Gyurcsány said that the government won't make a decision about raising the retirement age from 62 until 2009. He added that the government will make a decision about whether to allow private companies to compete with the state health insurer in the first half. Gyurcsány also came out in support of Health Minister Lajos Molnár, criticized for his steps to overhaul the sector. „Lajos Molnár is serving his country very well and is doing that in a very strong and brave way amid lots of conflicts,” the premier said. The transcript of the interview was published on the Web site of Hungary's public television company. (Bloomberg)