Fact Check: NO Evidence Budapest Mayor Karácsony Squandered Cash, Drove City To Near-Bankruptcy


  • szerzõ: Lead Stories
Fact Check: NO Evidence Budapest Mayor Karácsony Squandered Cash, Drove City To Near-Bankruptcy New Burdens

Did Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony drive his city to near-bankruptcy through profligate spending, and is he blaming his predecessor, István Tarlós, for the predicament? No, there is no evidence provided that supports this claim: Karácsony and his team acknowledge that Tarlós left Budapest with substantial monetary reserves, and primarily blame austerity measures imposed by the national government for sapping the Hungarian capital's financial strength.

The claim, which media outlets allied with Hungary's governing Fidesz party have been circulating since at least October 2022, reappeared in a Hungarian-language video (archived here) on TikTok on May 22, 2023, under the title "How You Should NOT run the capital city 😨." The clip's creator, Csenge Gabriella Ibolya, is an anchor at Fidesz-controlled Hungarian public television. She opened:

How should you not run a capital city? Let's do a test! ...Would you blame the previous administration for the fact that the city has no money, because you bankrupted it? Ahhh, of course not, since they left more than HUF 200 billion ($578.1 million) in the cash box.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

TikTok screenshot

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Wed May 24 12:17:34 2023 UTC)

Karácsony is presently scrambling to shore up the city's finances and stave off a potential bankruptcy. The mayor and Fidesz party members have been blaming the debacle on each other in tit-for-tat social media posts.

Budapest boasted savings of at least HUF 200 billion in 2019, the year Karácsony defeated Tarlós in the mayoral election, Tarlós said in an interview on April 20, 2023. (The Government Information Center puts the sum at HUF 214 billion, while Budapest municipal officials say it was "something more" than HUF 180 billion.) The same day, the Fidesz caucus in the Budapest City Council inquired, "Where is the money, Mr. Mayor?" on its Facebook page.

On April 21, 2023, Karácsony fired back by posting a diagram on Facebook claiming that the Orbán administration's "solidarity tax," a levy imposed on Hungarian municipalities, had stripped HUF 136 billion from Budapest's coffers since 2019. Two other measures inflicted losses of an additional HUF 91 billion, the diagram said.

Karácsony commented:

If we add up only the three items shown in the picture, it can be seen that the extra burdens far exceed even the amount cited by the government: withdrawals of 227 billion over three years. Added to this are the "real" effects of crises -- the income losses and spending hikes due to coronavirus, the [Ukrainian] refugee crisis and the energy crisis.

The Budapest city government has posted a detailed explanation of the financial crunch on its website.


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