His Excellency, Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, is the ambassador to the court of St James. His background is in finance, industry, publishing, armed forces and politics. His hobbies include polo, showjumping, shooting and sailing.
Kristóf was pleased with the attendance of his lecture. He enjoyed the fact that so many people had gathered to hear about his ‘strange little country’. Hungary covers 93000 square kilometres and has a population of 10 million which when you include the diaspora of Hungarians living abroad in neighbouring countries, reaches 15 million. In Hungary they are concerned for their survival. Hungarians are non-Slavic, non-Germanic and non-Latin. Their language is a secret code, although increasingly in his travels across Britain, Kristóf is always meeting fellow Hungarians, be it in hotels or posh private clubs.
Hungary is in a strategic location. There are opportunities and advantages in this location but equally it can be like sleeping next to a motorway. The Magyars originally invaded, coming from the East on horseback in the 800s around the time of the Vikings. Mongols and Ottomans were camped out on their doorstep and Hungary has only recently shaken the yolk of occupation from the Soviet Union. In modern times Hungary is at a commercial crossroads and it benefits from being central to the energy pipelines running across from Russia into Europe.
In 2010 a new government came into power and it is this government’s mission to focus on economic stability. In 2010 it was indebted 86% of GDP and had to be bailed out by the IMF. This figure is now 73% and dropping. 12% unemployment has, by publics works schemes, dropped to an excellent figure of 3.6%. There had been stagnant economic growth but now, for the last quarter this year, growth is at 5%. There is comfortable regular growth of 3.6%, 3.8% and 4%.
Corporation tax has been increased and there is a policy of strict financial vigour.
The Maastrict criteria has been fulfilled although the government do not wish to currently take on the Euro.
There has been a change in the tax system with a revolutionary flat tax system being introduced.
Income tax is fixed at a universal 15% and corporation tax is at 9%.
VAT is 0% for food and 27% for luxury goods.
The economy is now more sustainable and stronger.
A new ministry has been created of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
Hungary is looking at its demographic challenge. Life expectancy is 77 years and efforts have been made politically to protect the family. They have subsidised the bringing up of children and this has brought results.
Marriages have doubled over a seven year period and the divorce rate has dropped 40%. There is a fertility rate of 1.2-1.5 children.
Abortions have dropped 30%.
Hungary is looking to become a Smart country. It has no real resources of raw materials nor swathes of vast agricultural land.
There is a focus on its human capacity and brains.
It aims to be a brain-driven smart economy.
Car manufacturing production is important in Hungary with the big German car companies, BMW and Mercedes, both having factories there. They have their largest plant in Hungary. Hi-tech industry is attracted.
There are service centres where higher value added services are encouraged.
The big asset management company, Black Rock, is based in Budapest.
Within the higher education system there is a world of development. On leaving communism the country inherited minimal infrastructure. This leads to innovation in education.
Brain surgery is an important focus. Also, driving vehicles, with the largest autonomous driverless vehicle testing centre being based in Hungary.
There is an aim to bring education efforts towards the real economy. There are tailor-made faculties for the economy.
Hungary didn’t used to support entrepreneurs very well. However, that situation is now changing with there being a lot of promotion for startups.
Kristóf wanted to emphasize that Hungary is a fun country. The largest influx of foreign tourists to Budapest now come from the UK. There are Michelin starred restaurants and a spa culture with thermal baths. Outside of Budapest there is a lot also in the hinterland. Hungary has Europe’s largest lake and there is much winegrowing. Also, there is much fun to be had in lively university towns such as Debrecen.
Kristóf finished his talk by announcing that he “Welcomes you to Hungary’ and he encourages you to visit there.