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Tax chief leans on MOL to cut local fuel prices

A move by Fidesz MP András Tállai, state secretary for parliamentary affairs and taxation who also heads the National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV), to interfere with fuel prices on the market at local level has gained international publicity, with Bloomberg labeling it "an example of the government’s micromanagement of Hungary’s economy."

András Tállai, head of the countryʼs tax authority.

In a post on his personal Facebook page on Saturday, Tállai said that Hungarian oil and gas company MOL lowered fuel prices in his constituency of Mezőkövesd - of which he was formerly mayor - after he notified the firm that fuel prices were "too high" in the area.

Tállai (pictured above) insisted that he had "attended to fuel prices in Mezőkövesd and its vicinity based on a citizen’s request," and not as president of NAV. Following his intervention, fuel prices in Mezőkövesd (130 km northeast of Budapest) dropped by HUF 11 per liter for gasoline and HUF 5 per liter for diesel.

MOL did not comment on the isolated price change. Bloomberg, however, in a report on Monday under the teaser headline "Orbán  ally flaunts power as MOL cuts prices in tax chiefʼs city," noted the "move showcases cabinet’s meddling in Hungarian economy" and pointed to the government stake of one quarter in MOL.

Bloomberg also referred to the use of energy prices by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in previous electoral campaigns. Now, Bloomberg says, "the sudden focus on a single constituency shows the ruling party’s willingness to intervene in the economy for political gain."

Online news site index.hu reported today that when asked by a journalist to comment on the price reduction secured by Tállai in Mezőkövesd, Orbán congratulated the NAV chief and called on MOL to "lower them everywhere."