GDP data show Hungary performing better, but still not well enough, PM says

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Fresh GDP data that show Hungary's economy grew in the first quarter are evidence that the country is performing better, but still not well enough, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview on public radio on Friday. Data published by the Central Statistics Office (KSH) early Wednesday showed Hungary's economy grew by 0.7% quarter-on-quarter in Q1, after contracting 0.4% in Q4. Revisions to earlier published data showed Hungary came out of recession – in the conventional sense of two consecutive quarters of negative growth – in Q3 of last year, earlier than previously thought. Orbán said Hungary was not willing to undertake austerity measures requested by the European Union. Increases in the minimum wage and pensions are here to stay, and the government will not raise the personal income tax rate or withdraw a reduction in household utilities prices, he added. He blamed the dispute between Budapest and Brussels on efforts by multinationals to get the government to backtrack on some steps it has taken. "That's what the dispute between Brussels and Hungary is about, all of the rest of the matters - political, human rights and other matters - are just pretense," he said. Orbán said the government wanted to use the extra revenue generated by economic growth to implement EU recommendations, although not austerity measures. It wants to cut spending on bureaucracy and use state assets to finance one-off expenditures, he said. "Naturally, I won't exclude raising taxes on banks or multinationals, or increasing the rate of the financial transactions duty," he added. Orbán conceded that Hungary's methods of crisis management did not conform to those in other member states. "But we can say with high hopes that [these methods] deviate from those of the others, and could be successful precisely for this reason," he added. Orbán dismissed speculation that concessions in a new state monopoly on retail tobacco sales were awarded based on political considerations, noting that hundreds of people who support the left had won licences, too. "I'm not saying this in a threatening manner, but if we ever want to validate political viewpoints in such a tender system, not a single supporter of the left would win," he added. He reiterated that the decisions on the concessions were not based on political considerations.

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