a) Systemic problems
Even according to the study requested by the government, we should expect additional costs of $2,7billion throughout the planning and realisation of the Olympic games; while experts predict that this figure could easily shoot higher up. Instead of Budapest’s olympic bid it would be crucial to focus on resolving more urgent problems. Due to the ‘unorthodox’ economic policies of Fidesz, since 2010 Hungary has been lagging behind its regional counterparts in ways it is hard to comprehensively define.
The country’s performance is amongst the poorest in economic competitiveness, quality of life and transparency factors across the continent. Besides, the state-financed health care and educational systems also face serious shortcomings – in the absence of immediate reforms, more generations will grow up without an equal chance on the European labour market, and more citizens will suffer from diseases that could otherwise be effectively cured.
b) Health care: $580-620million missing a year
Expenses on health care in Hungary are 170-180billion forints below the average of the Visegrad4 group. However, we do not need to know the numbers to understand how under-financing the health industry is one of the government’s biggest vices. The lack of funds is apparent on pictures of hospital food – which has the sole potential of nourishing internet memes -, inside dirty and contagious hospital wards, in the low salaries of demoralised workers, through the embedded nature of the system of gratuities, or in the fact that most medic students seek job opportunities abroad following their graduation. Meanwhile, under the government’s assist the health care system is getting divided into a small number of expensive private hospitals and a large number of public institutions mostly uncapable of looking after those who are less well-off.
If the government believes that the country can resist the massive financial challenge of the 2024 Olympics, they should first assume liability to provide quality health care provision across Hungary.
c) Education: reduced funding, deteriorating PISA results
The second serious problem is the under-funding of the educational system – year by year, the government periodically reduces its contribution to the school system, while simultaneously impeding local councils to act via large-scale centralisation. Within the Hungarian system, even the best secondary schools operate with little or no private funding, and hence the state’s responsibility should be much higher accordingly.
Hungarian schools are ever less competitive and often even uncapable of fulfilling some of their basic functions. Even the money eventually spent appears not to lead towards positive outcomes, as it is apparent via the recently published PISA results.
Instead of the olympic games, it would be essential to invest much more in the infrastructure and reform of our educational system – only a successful youth generation can build a successful nation. The development of IT tools and their maintenance, along with the promotion of digital and foreign language competences should enjoy top priority. At the same time, we cannot ignore the low level of salaries that teachers and other educational actors receive: raising these salaries would not just provide extra motivation, but it would increase the prestige and labour market competence of the profession.
– by Gergő Papp; translated by Sebestyén G.