The Hungarian government is highlighting HUF 1,500bn in tax cuts on its Coronavirus website: Updated
Updated: Jan 11
But the one big number you won't see it highlighting is 40,000 Covid deaths
Photo: The lead story on the official government Coronavirus website at noon today, Sunday. It is headlined: This January, we have cut taxation by HUF 1,500bn. (A sum approximating to EUR 4.1bn/ USD 4.7bn at current exchange rates.)
A click on this story leads the reader sees a table comparing various tax rates applied in 2009, the last full year of the previous Socialist government, and (some) rates starting from January 1 this year.
Photo: Let the numbers speak! Reduction in taxes since 2010 - according to the government assessment, that is. Whether it's morally right that people under the age of 25 pay no personal income tax from January 1 is another matter - someone thinks it's good for votes.
We won't go into the selective use of data here (for example, the table conveniently ignores the increases in general VAT rate, from 25% to 27%, and the financial transaction tax imposed by the Orban government), nor the fact that before 2010 those earning the minimum wage paid zero personal income tax instead of the 36% advertised in this post.
Let's simply ignore these annoying details and ask: what has this story got to do with the Covid-19 pandemic in the first place?
The answer, of course, is nothing whatsoever. Sure, despite the shenanigans being played with the numbers, I can accept the overall tax burden on individuals has been reduced over the past decade – most especially for high income earners who have vastly more disposable income to spend how they wish. (This is not necessarily true for low-income persons, of course, who spend a far higher percentage of their wages on necessities such as food, heating and basic clothing than the well-off.)
Personal economics apart, this story has no other purpose on this particular website than a piece of government propaganda.
The irony, sadly, of this misuse of facilities is that there is - except by specifically looking for it - no mention of the really important milestone about to be reached regarding coronavirus, namely that - unless something unusual happens to buck the trend - Hungary will pass the 40,000 Covid-related death threshold today or tomorrow.
Nor is there any indication that currently Hungary has 4,134 covid deaths per 1 million population – the third worst in Europe (after Bulgaria, at 4,588 per million, and Bosnia-Hercogvina at 4,175) and fourth worst world-wide. (Peru has the unenviable mantle of holding the leading death rate, at 6,030 per million.)
For comparison, the rates are 2,572 in the USA, 2,193 in the UK, 3,407 in the Czech Republic, 3,099 in Romania and 3,105 in Slovakia.
Despite much trumpeting about the vaccination rate, the Hungarian government has nothing to boast about when it comes to combating Covid. On the contrary - apart from ridiculously low testing rates - the government introduced, without consultations, a new contract system for medical staff during the pandemic forcing employees to endure tougher conditions or leave the service – a move which resulted in an already understaffed health service losing between 4,000 – 5,000 professionals.
How absurd is that, unless, of course, you intend to reduce the national health service to levels where the public – or at least the better off public – turn to private health care in order to stay alive? (And guess whose friends are investing in private health care clinics right now?)
Hungary no longer releases figures over the weekend, but as of Friday morning, the country has lost 39,780 souls to Covid since the pandemic was first detected here 22 months ago. Deaths last Thursday totalled 101 persons, which brought the seven-day average to 85.
Usually the number of deaths reported over the weekend dips somewhat compared to the average because of a lag in reporting, so the total released tomorrow morning may still be below the 40,000 threshold - just - even if the reality is higher.
But surely by Tuesday, that chilling total willl have been reached.
True, it will be there, at about line seven in the daily report - but that's one big number you can be sure the government will not be quick to put into a headline.
UPDATE: Tuesday morning, 11 January: with 69 deceased on Monday, the total of Covid victims to date has climbed to 40,016. (See line 6)