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Orbán: Punish bad brokers; polls not important

Addressing the Quaestor brokerage scandal Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that “those who hurt clients need to be punished” in his regular fortnightly interview with state-owned Kossuth radio this morning. He also discussed the coming by-election in Tapolca and the plan to reduce the advertising tax.

Regarding Quaestor, Orbán said the Fidesz government inherited a financial system that is in a “very bad condition”. In correcting this system, the first step was dealing with foreign exchange loans, the second step was stabilizing the system of savings cooperatives and the next step is dealing with brokerages, the prime minister said. He insisted that public money needs to be withdrawn from brokerages, small investors need to be fully compensated and big investors need to be compensated as much as it is possible.

Tens of thousands of people lost their savings when the National Bank of Hungary suspended Quaestor’s operating license on March 6 due to apparent fraud. According to news reports, a few hours before the brokerage went into bankruptcy, a state-owned firm withdrew all state money from the brokerage. Questions have arisen over whether officials illegally took advantage of insider information, but they have denied those charges.

In connection with the upcoming by-elections in Tapolca, which are being held this weekend, the leader said that “we are all in the Good Lord’s hands, all we have to do is work hard”. Commenting on recent opinion polls suggesting that Fidesz has been losing support, he said he does not follow country-wide opinion polls as Fidesz has its own resources for counting such data. Although Fidesz’ support has become a “popular topic nowadays”, what is really important according to Orbán is that the government “has a program that it needs to follow and work on.”

On the proposed reduction of the highest limit of the criticism-ridden progressive advertisement tax from 50% to 5.3%, Orbán said he finds the new highest limit “too low, but the majority wanted it, therefore I accept that”. He also mentioned that negotiations are being held on a possible bracket of 0%, but it still needs to be discussed.