The Hungarian economy as reflected in the World Bank’s 2012 GNI per capita figures

Each year on July 1 the World Bank revises its classification of the world’s economies based on estimates of gross national income (GNI) per capita for the previous year. The current income classifications by GNI per capita are as follows: low income = $1,035 or less; lower middle income = $1,036 to $4,085; upper middle income = $4,086 to $12,615; and high income = $12,616 or more.

If we take a look at the figures between 2008 and 2012 we find that until 2012 Hungary belonged (just barely) to the high income group. But last year the GNI per capita dropped below $12,616, the cutoff number. To be precise, Hungary’s GNI per capita income in 2012 was $12,390. With this drop Hungary joined the group of upper middle income countries and left the high income ones.

The World Bank list that summarizes the changes between 2008 and 2012 is revealing in more than one way.  Somewhat surprisingly, Hungary’s 2009 GNI ($12,980) was higher than the year before, but by 2010 it fell back to the 2008 level. The range over the first four years of the survey period, however, was not significant, as you can see from the graph below. By contrast, last year’s drop was substantial: from $12,860 down to $12,390. So, Hungarians are not living better.  It doesn’t matter what Viktor Orbán tells his people about the brilliance of Hungary’s economic policies that the whole world should imitate.

All of the countries in the region with the exception of Hungary improved their per capita GNI. Bulgaria, the poorest country in the region, moved up from $5,700 in 2008 to $6,870 in 2012. With the exception of 2010, Romania improved every year (from $8,050 to $8,420). Poland likewise–from $11,870 to $12,670–which means that Poland moved into the high income countries while Hungary dropped out of this elite group. Although Croatia’s per capita GNI declined somewhat in 2012, the country is safely in the high income zone with a figure over $13,000.

This chart, which was published in today’s Index, is telling. For instance, Slovakia was far ahead of Hungary between 2008 and 2011 and shot up even higher in 2012, reaching $17,170.

GNI/capita changes between 2003 and 2012 in the East-Central European Region / World Bank / Index
GNI per capita changes between 2003 and 2012 in the East-Central European Region / World Bank and Index

Sharp-eyed observers noticed that while there were thirteen countries globally that moved into a higher category, there were only two that dropped into a lower one: Southern Sudan and Hungary.

Opposition politicians immediately responded to the news. Csaba Molnár (DK) recalled that in Brussels at the latest summit Viktor Orbán indignantly said that he found it strange that all those countries that are so unsuccessful at handling their own economies criticize the only country in the European Union that is successful. Molnár called particular attention to Lithuania and Latvia, two countries in the region that managed to get into the high income category. Latvia’s figures are truly impressive: between 2008 and 2012 it went from $12,020 to $14,180. Lithuania also did well: $13,850 in 2012 as compared to $12,000 in 2008.

In the Hungarian miracle economy, it turns out that the deficit (as of June) is much higher than expected. Unless revenues increase dramatically in the rest of the year, Hungary’s deficit will not be under 3.0%. Actually, in the first five months the deficit reached 3.8%. As the case of Cyprus showed, the European Commission can easily put Hungary under the excessive deficit procedure again if it fails to meet its target, which would be an awful blow to the Orbán government.

In order to avoid such a calamity yet another austerity package might have to be introduced. And if the state of the treasury doesn’t improve, the planned increase in teachers’ salaries as of September 1 will have to be scrapped. As it is, the current budget doesn’t include the several billion forints that would be needed to give a modest salary raise to teachers. That may mean that Orbán’s plans for raising salaries just before the election might have to be abandoned. According to one of the trade union leaders, it is more than possible that the majority of teachers voted for Fidesz in 2010 because of its promise to raise the very low salaries of teachers. For three years nothing has happened and the teachers’ patience is running out. There are more than 100,000 teachers in Hungary. That’s an awful lot of voters whom Fidesz may lose.

MSZP suggested that the figures on poverty that were due to be released in June are being held back. Opposition politicians suspect that the figures are horrendous and that’s the reason for the delay. Whatever the cause, one suspects that poverty has risen sharply since the inauguration of the Orbán government. When will the Hungarian public reach a point of no return?

As for the government’s efforts to turn Hungarians against the European Union, they have not yet borne fruit. The majority of Hungarians still think that Hungary’s place is within the European Union. Some opposition politicians think that perhaps the 2014 election should be a kind of  referendum on Hungary’s membership in the Union. This might be a savvy political strategy. Especially if the opposition hammers home the dire consequences of leaving the EU and being isolated and locked inside the country’s borders after almost ten years of total freedom of movement across the 28-country Union. Show the people the changes that abandoning the Union would bring to their everyday lives–from an increase in the price of goods and an economic slowdown to needing visas to visit their relatives in Slovakia and Romania. I’m sure they would think twice before voting for a party that wants to keep the country totally independent. Independence has a price. Just as Hungary’s independence from Austria had a price. A very high price.

89 comments

  1. I think there is no question about the trends the Worldbank points to and that Orbán’s bragging was a lie – as was to be expected.

    From direct personal observation I know that poverty is increasing in Hungary. I know a person who was a qualified secretary at an institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences with some special skills (book and review lay-outing) who now has to live on a pension of about HUF 100 000 (about 340 euros). In addition, she has to pay back a FX mortgage that she fortunately was able to convert into a forint debt. Sometimes she goes to a packing station in a paper factory (at 60) for 15 euros a day. That’s like Bangla Desh!

    However, I would like to warn of accepting any data from any of the big world or EU organisations without a big load of skepticism. Where do they get their figures from? We know that the Central Statistical Office in Hungary has been politicised recently. The head of the German Federal Statistical Office even acknowledged that they do a lot of „interpolation“. These problems are compounded when they reach the limited wisdom of Worldbank, IMF, Uncdat, Eurostat, etc.

    Another problem is the „per capita“ presentation. It doesn’t say anything about the real distribution of anything – wealth, income, poverty, etc. As a consequence, you may get the same income classification although the rich got richer and the poorer are in fact starving.

    How USD 12,616 can be regarded as a high income remains a mystery to me. In Switzerland, this is much below the poverty level. In Tanzania it may be the income of a wealthy person.

    The EU deficit target was a good idea, but there were only a few countries that were ever able to keep below it. Britain is now far off the mark. France will not meet it this and the following years, Germany for several years didn’t meet it either.

    I believe that economic dynamics are more important than sovereign debt. But sovereign debt coupled with low productivity and a lagging economy are, indeed, a problem, a problem Hungary has.

    .

  2. Purchasing Power Parity figures are much better for comparing between countries.

    According to the same Atlas, Hungary’s GNI per capita PPP has also dropped in 2012, from $20,380 to $20,200. As the recovery has been swift in the Baltic states, Hungary’s figure is now the lowest of all 2004 EU members, while the Czech Republic and Slovakia are slowly but surely catching up with Portugal (which Slovenia left behind a couple of years ago).

  3. @Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10). I agree with you that Purchasing Power is a much better yardstick.

    But do you agree that per capita figures can be extremely misleading where economic differences are big and/or increasing?

  4. Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) :

    Purchasing Power Parity figures are much better for comparing between countries.

    According to the same Atlas, Hungary’s GNI per capita PPP has also dropped in 2012, from $20,380 to $20,200. As the recovery has been swift in the Baltic states, Hungary’s figure is now the lowest of all 2004 EU members, while the Czech Republic and Slovakia are slowly but surely catching up with Portugal (which Slovenia left behind a couple of years ago).

    Very good point. All Hungarian papers concentrated on the figures I was quoting and although I went to the original sources unfortunately I ignored the purchasing power parity figures. You are right!

  5. The U. S. Department of Agriculture published a graphic illustration of how much of their income people have to spend on food. I only have an Italian version. For Hungary it says 17.8%. I have some trust in the general gist – but not more.

    I think we should also – not solely – concentrate on the “facts&figures” we are fed.

  6. Minusio :
    The U. S. Department of Agriculture published a graphic illustration of how much of their income people have to spend on food. I only have an Italian version. For Hungary it says 17.8%. I have some trust in the general gist – but not more.
    I think we should also – not solely – concentrate on the “facts&figures” we are fed.

    Given an median salary of 150000, 17.8 of that is 26000. I don’t see how that number could be correct.

  7. “MSZP suggested that the figures on poverty that were due to be released in June are being held back”

    Ah, that will explain why the regime has announced on Tuesday in the Nazi Nemzet 300,000 new slaves will be created next year in their *public works* scheme next year.

  8. London Calling!

    Median salary of 150,000 – forint per month?

    That equates to an average annual equivalent of £21,000 GBP or about 24,000 Euros.

    (In England we can only handle annual figures!)

    Are you sure LwiiH ?

    Regards

    Charlie

  9. Oops LwiiH sorry! Brain malfunction – just woken up and faculties not entirely in synch!

    Mixing annual and monthly! Derrrr!

    If you haven’t already – disregard my maths!

    Regards

    Charlie

  10. Part of my problem is sheer incredulity at such a low number – I just can’t get my head around how Hungarians manage – when I know that on many basic foodstuffs you pay as much as me in England.

    And that’s the median.

    How do the underclass survive? Incredulous.

  11. These numbers prove what I experience every day:

    There’s a growing number of Hungarians who cannot make ends meet – and they’re getting desperate. Around Hévíz there’s still a relatively strong “lower middle class” but in the East, where my wife is from …
    There was an article on this in BBJ or Portfolio which I quoted already – strange that this wasn’t discussed in more detail.

    All these averages are also misleading in a way, because the income distribution is very skewed – only the median gives better info.

    An old example from my math studies at university 5o years ago (how time flies …) adopted to Hungary:

    There’s a village with 999 inhabitants and one Russian millionaire who earns 200 million HUF a month, while the others each earn 100 000.
    That gives an average of 299 900 HUF …

    OT and PS:

    There are always unforseen consequences of Orbán’s crazy tax schemes, e g:

    http://www.bbj.hu/business/e-toll-will-take-its-toll-on-poultry-demand-product-council-says_66433

    “The electronic road toll, to be introduced in July, could make poultry 5% more expensive on average through the increase in shipping costs, the Poultry Product Council said on Thursday in a release to MTI.”

    And many food prices are already higher in Hungary than say in Austria and Germany …

  12. CharlieH :
    Median salary of 150,000 – forint per month?

    150 000 Forint : 340,5 X 12 = GBP 5286 per annum.

    As for the cost of food: I don’t know which figures to compare to, but food is more expensive in Hungary than in Germany, partly due to the enormous VAT. I assume the median salary is the average value of people who do have a salary, i.e. in most cases has to feed more than one person, the 17,8 per cent don’t seem to be all that far off from reality. But, as Minusio stated: average values don’t say all that much.

  13. wolfi :
    And many food prices are already higher in Hungary than say in Austria and Germany …

    Wolfi, I saw a post on the Friends of Hungary Facebook site once which pointed out the exact same thing. It was comparing the price of a few basic food items in Spar (which is an Austrian chain). Of course, the same items in Hungary were more expensive than in Austria.

    The main message was: look at this evil Austrian shop, cheating we Hungarians by charging us more! And the comments were full of disgust and anger at this cheating foreign shop.

    So, it’s easy to blame the foreign multinationals. And by the way, let’s support Orban’s tireless crusade against these evil anti-Hungarians who would destroy Hungary!

    Of course, the post completely avoided any mention that Hungary has one of the highest VAT rates in the EU.

  14. Bowen: “Of course, the post completely avoided any mention that Hungary has one of the highest VAT rates in the EU.”

    Not only in the EU. In the entire universe.

  15. CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    Median salary of 150,000 – forint per month?
    That equates to an average annual equivalent of £21,000 GBP or about 24,000 Euros.
    (In England we can only handle annual figures!)
    Are you sure LwiiH ?
    Regards
    Charlie

    Hmmm, I am wondering how did you get to this calculation?
    For me it goes like:
    12 x 150,000 Ft = 1.800,000 Ft
    that is around £5,300 GBP at current rate.

    Am I missing something here?

  16. London Calling!

    Yes – even though there is a price war for bananas in England – we have paid around 68p per kilo for years. That’s about 230 forint – way below what they are in Hungary – if you can get them.

    And (whole) milk is double the price (2.3ltrs for 1 GBP (340ft) in England). And 3.6% whole milk is like rocking horse manure – with a short shelf life if you do find it.

    And with 27% VAT- and butter on ‘fat tax’ (?) – I always bring Butter, Cheese and frozen whole milk from England for the freezer in Hungary. (Not to mention Coffee (beans), Porridge, Marmalade and Marmite!)

    Our food is mostly zero rated – so there can be a big difference.

    You may consider this parsimonious – but Orban is getting as little VAT from me as possible.

    Regards

    Charlie

  17. London Calling!

    There is of course the widespread VAT (and other tax) avoidance that is going on in Hungary.

    So that ‘Median’ as suggested by others has to be taken with a pinch of salt but it is still very low, no doubt.

    I don’t see the E-tills bringing in the much-vaunted revenue either if my (dreadful) experience is typical.

    *************
    O/T alert!

    Only in Hungary? – I have never experienced anything like this in England – never.

    My lawnmower disintegrated while I was trying to inadvertently reshape a lump of concrete hidden in my lawn near a perimeter wall.

    In England it would be easy to identify the model – then the spare-part numbers – then to order them online for delivery in a day or two.

    Not in Hungary. Three lawnmower shops would only order if you brought the parts in – only one said he had parts in stock – but I had to take the old disintegrated parts in.

    An online portal? Postal delivery? You must be joking!

    He sold me – at full/new spares price the required belt, blade mount and locking spindle key.

    But only after three trips to the store – and three round journeys of over 100km.

    Such was his dishonesty that I only noticed two vital ‘lugs’ missing and a fracture hair in the body of the main part – that made me realise that this was a broken part from another customer’s mower.

    He failed to mention that I needed a vital key and even sold me the wrong one.

    As I was out to ‘rescue’ the house from the floods – and with the grass ever growing – I ended up running out of time and having to buy a new mower.

    I made an awful scene in his shop – berating his two mechanics who clearly admitted it was broken – and jumping the queue of three customers to demand my money back – and demanding a contribution for the wasted petrol and six hours of my time to end up with a still useless lawn mower.

    Two of his customers left – having heard the ‘mechanics’ exchange – and a third decided to stay when I suggested he go elsewhere. His appeal to the leaving customers that “I can get the parts in a couple of days” fell on deaf ears.

    Having refused to give me any sort of documentation he ‘refunded’ 400 Ft more than I had paid – and it wasn’t a contribution to my wasted time and petrol. either His finances were just chaotic. He had refused to give me a bill – he just smiled.

    So corrupt, dishonest retailing – with fraudulent trading too.

    Such was my distress and anger that back in England I wrote to the manufacturer’s in the USA – and so concerned where they that they promised to pass my letter on to their Hungarian representative. I believe they will.

    I had already ordered the parts at another place in Gyor – who were a breath of fresh air – ready for collection when I return. They could not have been more helpful.

    But nevertheless I have two mowers now.

    A couple of days ago a large parcel arrived – it was a free set of spares from America and an apology – even a new blade which I don’t need (yet!).

    I’m afraid that Janos Racz’ of AgroPlus in Gyor will regret ever stitching up this Englishman.

    I am currently writing to the Tax authorities in Hungary with my experience – offering to be a prosecution witness if necessary, for fraudulent trading.

    This man cost me a lot of time and expense for which he was completely unapologetic.

    My partner says ‘suck it up’ – that’s not unusual in Hungary.

    The email is currently unsent – I’m still looking for the correct Government department.

    Should I send it?

    Regards

    Charlie

  18. Bowen :

    wolfi :
    And many food prices are already higher in Hungary than say in Austria and Germany …

    Wolfi, I saw a post on the Friends of Hungary Facebook site once which pointed out the exact same thing. It was comparing the price of a few basic food items in Spar (which is an Austrian chain). Of course, the same items in Hungary were more expensive than in Austria.

    Hmmm, I disagree.

    Raw, seasonal, local, ‘traditional’ food is cheaper in Hungary than in Western European countries, even in the center of Pest. What is not is 1) Pre-processed food – 2) Western-taste products – 3) Foreign products.

    Of course, to benefit from this you must have time to cook (and time to go to the piac if you live in a city center)*. Otherwise you pay a premium, and yes this premium is probably higher than it is now in the West, where most people now shop in supermarkets for products of non-local origin and spend much more time watching TV than cooking.

    (*) one shouldn’t forget that Hungary has one of the lowest women’s employment rate in the EU…

  19. CharlieH: Re. grass-mowers.

    A few years ago I had a similar problem with a grass-mower, which I bought in the Bricostore. In the end of it I bought a new one in another store, but I did manage to write a complaint in the complaint book, which every shop needs to have. My suggestion is to write it in this book.

    As to writing to the Tax Authorities, do not do this. In my experience you may end up to be prosecuted, especially if this shop owner is part of Fidesz. You want to take that risk?

    You can go to the (European or Hungarian) Consumer Protection Agency.
    http://www.magyarefk.hu/en.html
    http://www.nfh.hu/en/

  20. TOP SECRET:

    As we know the Hungarian Data is based on the Government Statistical Office’s published information.

    Knowing this govenment full well, this is not raw data… Instead it has been.pre-cooked and pre-digested. aThe true data, if kept secretly at all, is locked up in heavy vaults. The material is sealed sealed, labeled TOP SECRET for 80 years…

    No point duscussing the economic issues under these conditions.

    You know it too –
    The ‘economists’ here are flying by wire…

  21. We have no sales tax on food but food prices are very high here. Unfortunately, I already threw out the slip I received from the last shopping but next time which will be fairly soon I will entertain you with some figures.

    Actually I remember the prices of a few items. A pound (450 grams) of green pepper are normally $1.99 but if you want the red or orange ones that can be as expensive as 2.99 or even 3.99. Tomato under $3,000 (rarely) is sale price. 1 head of garlic $0.50. 1 pickling cucumber also 0.50. English cucumbers (the long straight ones) normally around $2.00 per cucumber. One can get 3 lemons for $1.00. Bananas $0.69. Potato $1.74 per pound. A head of lettuce $2.99. A year ago they cost only $1.99 but then something happened to lettuce in California and suddenly prices shut up. A pound of beef cannot be gotten under $4.00 and that is the less desirable part of the cow. Fish is also terribly expensive. A pound of salmon is close to 10 dollars.

  22. Marcel: one shouldn’t forget that Hungary has one of the lowest women’s employment rate in the EU…
    CharlieH:Marcel? are you being sexist? …Or am I in responding like this!

    This is not the mistake of the women, but the way the labor code and pregnancy leave is arranged in Hungary. and yes Hungary, like all former CEE countries.

    First part-time job is in general not done, because legally it has not been arranged efficiently in the law.

    Basically you need to work from 9-17. And if you have kids you need to bring the kids to school before 8.00am and have somebody collect them at 16.00pm. Furthermore, in the vacation the kids have at least 10 weeks vacation, but little during the school year

    Secondly: Pregnancy in Hungary means that you stay at home for one year, and in case of twins six years. Money wise it is a very little that you get.

  23. @Marcel:

    You are rightr regarding the price and quality of the “piac” – but, as I’ve written before you also need things like milk and sugar and these are way more expensive in Hungary …
    I do as Charlie does: bring butter in from Germany – the Irish butter (my wife really loves it) is maybe 1.30 € in Germany, local butter is cheaper.

    And in Hungary: Just saw a Tesco ad for Kerrygold butter at 600 HUF – and it’s just 200 g, while in Germany we get 250 g in a package.

    And the Hungarian butter is only good for cooking, it tastes like nothing …

    Another example: Last summer (when all housewives started to do jams etc …) there was a price explosion for sugar in Hungary – only when Aldi and Tesco offered it cheaper (limited to 10 kilos per custumer …) did the price drop again. Something similar happened with the price of eggs …

    PS:

    You can’t live on potatoes and paprika alone – even the sunflower oil is more expensive here in Hungary, even though you see square miles of beautiful sunflower fields …
    Somethings’s really rotten in the state of Hungary!

  24. “I don’t see the E-tills bringing in the much-vaunted revenue either…”

    Why should they? We have cancelled two, day trips to Balaton and one to the countryside simply because we don’t want to pay a one-week (minimum) highway toll–I’m sure others have done the same…

  25. Eva: Fish is also terribly expensive. A pound of salmon is close to 10 dollars.

    About the salmon I believe that, but fish in general? You are living practically next to the sea. If you like fish that much, why not organizing with a fishmonger together with some neighbors to bring directly to you place. At least it will be much cheaper and the fishmongers get a better price than he gets now.

  26. London Calling!

    Eva, using £1 to £1.49 exchange rate – your items in England would cost (in bold) :

    Green Peppers ($1.99) – $.49 (33p each medium/large) for all colours or £1.49 for three mixed.

    Tomatoes ($3 per kilo?) $1.13 (76p for six large – about 500g)

    Single Garlic ($.50) $.37 (25p) quite large!

    Pickling cucumber? Confused of London! A culture breakdown here!

    ‘English!’ cucumber ($2.00) – $.74

    Three lemons ($1) $.89 – 500g or 6 medium

    Bananas ($.69 – pound or kilo?) $1.01 (68p) per kilo

    Potatoes ($1.74per pound) – $.61 – 90p per kilo

    Lettuce ($2.99) $.75 (50p) for large iceberg or normal round. (whatever happened to the robust cos?)

    Beef ($4) $5 per pound £7.53 per kilo

    Salmon ($10) – $16.35 (£10.97 per kilo) – and that’s for budget salmon!

    (Currently all salad stuff is cheap because of the hot weather. Your protein costs are interesting – you may regard meat and fish as expensive – but cost much more here!)

    An interesting exercise!! (I hope my maths haven’t malfunctioned again!)

    I’d like to know what you pay for Cheese, butter and milk!

    Regards

    Charlie

  27. CharlieH as my comment is still awaiting moderation as copy without links.

    CharlieH: Re. grass-mowers.
    A few years ago I had a similar problem with a grass-mower, which I bought in the Bricostore. In the end of it I bought a new one in another store, but I did manage to write a complaint in the complaint book, which every shop needs to have. My suggestion is to write it in this book.
    As to writing to the Tax Authorities, do not do this. In my experience you may end up to be prosecuted, especially if this shop owner is part of Fidesz. You want to take that risk?
    You can go to the (European or Hungarian) Consumer Protection Agency.

  28. Yes Wolfi butter is a conundrum for me in Hungary – must be more than 27% VAT – did I read somewhere that it is subject to the ‘fat tax’? – For which I don’t know the rate..

    Butter here is £1.00 ($1.49) or 340 ft. – as you say for 250g. (for good English butter – french and dutch are more expensive by about 20-40p per block)

    It was a cynical move to sell it in 200g blocks.

    Kerrygold is £1.25 ($1.86) or 425 ft here

    Regards

    Charlie

  29. Thanks Ron – goodness I didn’t even consider this aspect.

    Really? I’m flabbergasted – but yes – Eva’s covered many ‘vindictive’ prosecutions.

    I would never have thought it!

    What a state Hungary is in!

    Regards

    Charlie

  30. Petofi I was talking about the E-tills; where all shops now have to have their tills connected to the tax authorities – in a bid to reduce ‘off the book tax avoidance’.

    The E-Tolls are a different kettle of fish – and yes a great disincentive to travel.

    On our return last month I suggested we take the non-motorway route home because of the ‘vignette’ situation and was pleasantly surprised with the picturesque countryside.

    In addition there was a point where petrol is extremely cheap! And a 24hr Tesco’s and restaurants……….

    …making the 1700km drive more productive – and pleasant!

    Yes – the vignette situation is a cynical means of ‘milking’ the motorist – especially visitors to your country – and other ‘incidental’ visitors.

    Regards

    Charlie

  31. CharlieH :
    Petofi I was talking about the E-tills; where all shops now have to have their tills connected to the tax authorities – in a bid to reduce ‘off the book tax avoidance’.
    The E-Tolls are a different kettle of fish – and yes a great disincentive to travel.
    On our return last month I suggested we take the non-motorway route home because of the ‘vignette’ situation and was pleasantly surprised with the picturesque countryside.
    In addition there was a point where petrol is extremely cheap! And a 24hr Tesco’s and restaurants……….
    …making the 1700km drive more productive – and pleasant!
    Yes – the vignette situation is a cynical means of ‘milking’ the motorist – especially visitors to your country – and other ‘incidental’ visitors.
    Regards
    Charlie

    I like the scenic route, but this past weekend we had to go about 45 minutes out of our way to avoid taking a short ride on a motorway, where we would have had to pay the same one-week toll as anyone else. This system is ridiculous!

  32. Each week Stop & Shop, the closest supermarket, sends a flyer informing the shoppers of weekly specials. So, here a few prices from last week’s flyer: “Independence Day specials.”

    Cherries $2.99/lb; boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs $1.99/lb; pork ribs $2.99/lb; top round London broil $3.95/lb; ground beef $2.49/lb; center-cut pork chops $3.49/lb; boneless leg of lamb $4.99/lb; sliced bacon (16 oz) $3.99;live lobster $6.99/lb; swordfish steak $11.99/lb; sea scallops $14.99/lb; American cheese $4.99/lb; Land O Lakes Butter (4 sticks 16 oz) $3.00; speeches $1.99/lb; plumbs $2.49/lb; grapes $2.49/lb; strawberries 2 pounds) $.499; avocados 3 for $5.00; head of cauliflower $2.50; spinach (9 oz) $2.99

    But they are all specials. American cheese is pretty awful. Next time I will take a look at good French and Italian cheese. They are very expensive.

  33. CharlieH :
    Part of my problem is sheer incredulity at such a low number – I just can’t get my head around how Hungarians manage – when I know that on many basic foodstuffs you pay as much as me in England.
    And that’s the median.
    How do the underclass survive? Incredulous.

    I believe that VAT is lower on some foodstuffs, but I never see the pre-VAT price, so I don’t know for sure.

    Poorer Hungarians manage by buying incredibly unhealthy food, such as “parizsi”, which is mystery-meat in a huge sausage. Also, many people live in one home and share expenses. Gardening is very popular here, and often because of necessity. Finally, many transactions take place “off the books”, meaning the VAT is avoided entirely (possibly a majority, but I can’t really know how many). I’ve heard that people who work in multi-national-owned shops save a lot using the “five-fingered discount”, but I don’t know how pervasive such theft is.

    On the whole, many people here suffer greatly, and unnecessarily, in my opinion.

  34. I’ve been saying for a long time that trumpeting the benefits of being in the EU was the answer to the problems of the opposition, especially since Fidesz have been trashing the EU so regularly, but I recently read a poll (don’t remember where) that gave the pro-EU and anti-EU vote about equal weight, with a small undecided. Sure, the poll could’ve been skewed, but there is definitely a change in the popularity of the EU here, and it’s also possible that people will vote for the romantic notion of “independence” over their material prospects. If Hungary leaves or is kicked out of the EU, I’m sure that the returnees will mostly vote against Fidesz, as well as all the newly unemployed people (same or lower number of jobs + higher number of residents + loss of structural funds = huge spike in unemployment). Orbán knows this, but might not care, since he can rig the elections all he wants. I’d say look for a Hungexit after Fidesz wins the next elections. Orbán doesn’t give a whit about Hungarians who aren’t his friends or core supporters.

  35. @Ron, CharlieH, Wolfi

    I’m just a man who does cook, and has lots of time to do it. 🙂 Differences in social structure can have an influence on food consumption: somebody has to process the food, not just heat it – and if it’s not a stay-at-home woman (or man of course), then it’s the agri-food industry that does.

    Indeed, butter and whole milk are not in the local tradition. Yes, lekvár and jam are different; and yes again, granulated and powdered sugar are the most current forms of sugar in Hungary, not caster. As a Frenchman, believe me I had to give up quite a few habits in the food department as well… or more exactly, to trade up a few.

    “Potatoes and paprika” ? Gosh…what about pasztinák, sütőtök, csicsóka, karórépa, and those újhagyma cooked with kapor and a pinch of balsamic vinegar?

    What would be the point of living abroad if it was like home.

  36. The supreme irony of the “Szabadsag Harc” (Freedom Fight) is that, all along, the government is centralizing everything and hence narrowing the ‘wiggle-room’ of the individual. This is really 1984 and Kafka’s world wrapped into one. Rather than ‘freedom’
    Hugarians’ actions will be curtailed ever more. It’s startling that
    the average Hungarian cannot put one and one together and see this!

    What Orban is creating, is the slave state of the 21st century.

  37. CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    Median salary of 150,000 – forint per month?
    That equates to an average annual equivalent of £21,000 GBP or about 24,000 Euros.
    (In England we can only handle annual figures!)
    Are you sure LwiiH ?
    Regards
    Charlie

    Well, that is a number that is high teachers and about average for office workers that I know. I think it’s about right for many people at least in the eastern part of the country.

  38. Would someone be kind enough to sum up the gist of this conversation discussing prices in US dollars. What has this got directly and substantially to do with the World Bank information that Dr Balogh’s article started with… and what is the issue of food prices of specific items proving one way or another about the general economy that I assume the world Bank is talking about.

    You sure you dont wanna start a separate blog regarding Grocery price comparisons?

  39. Mssrs (m/f)

    LwiiH :

    CharlieH :
    London Calling!
    Median salary of 150,000 – forint per month?
    That equates to an average annual equivalent of £21,000 GBP or about 24,000 Euros.
    (In England we can only handle annual figures!)
    Are you sure LwiiH ?
    Regards
    Charlie

    Well, that is a number that is high teachers and about average for office workers that I know. I think it’s about right for many people at least in the eastern part of the country.

    Dear 2 above commenters – where applicable:
    150,000 ft per month comes to about 7,000 euros per year which must be somewhere around 5,000 English pounds… that is: definitely not 24,000 pounds.

    Also remember if the above 150,000 fts is brutto you must take off about 20% flat tax… + weho knows what else the Hungarian govenmnet decides to levvy today, tomorrow or the day after. You canto know in advance except that it’ll me more and mmore that’ll be taken off – and the less you make the MORE you get taxed. The minimum wage is taxed the same as the sky-high wage in % terms. ….

    I dunno whether to LOL or CRY the system here is SO pathetic…

  40. A senior-teacher one-income household in Hungary survives on a net income of just over HUF100000 per month, before bills. A senior social worker, I’ve just learned, earns even less. As for artists, writers, etc … well, ludicrously, they have to form a business, pay accountants, lawyers etc, pay all kinds of ridiculous extra health ‘taxes’ etc … their take-home pay may be almost nothing – even if they actually earn quite a lot.

    Since the piac closes at midday most days, it simply isn’t an option for most workers. And supermarket prices are now considerably higher than in the UK and other western european countries.

    Only beer is cheap in Hungary, these days. And almost the first Fidesz innovation was to legalise moonshine. Keep the nation sozzled was the idea, and then they will be too paralytic to notice what is being done to them.

  41. And has anyone else suffered trying to explain to a Hungarian why a flat-tax is unfair (or, indeed, a flat utility bill reduction)? All I get is incomprehension. This isn’t what they say on Hir TV, after all …

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