Sustainable Policies


Economic Policies

With government spending used as a political instrument, Hungary falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 36) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.9 points since 2014.

After an initially slow response to the pandemic, the Orbán government instituted wage subsidies and other expansionary spending. A massive GDP drop of 14.2% in mid-2020 was followed by a sharp bounce later that year, and a return to modest growth. The government used the crisis as an opportunity to redistribute resources to allied oligarchs.

Official unemployment rates remained modest throughout the crisis, reaching nearly 5% in mid-2020. Public works programs were expanded to ameliorate joblessness. Companies were allowed to deviate from working hour and minimum wage rules. While the flat corporate tax is low, tax policy is used to favor figures close to the ruling party and punish outsiders.

The government pushed through numerous popular spending measures ahead of the 2022 elections, leading to record deficits. R&I spending has been increased, but structural reforms have infringed on academic freedom, and are likely to weaken R&I performance overall.

Social Policies

Reflecting the state’s increasingly centrist ideology, Hungary’s social policies place it in the bottom ranks (rank 38) in international comparison. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

The government reacted to the pandemic by placing the healthcare sector on a near-militarized, highly centralized footing, often ignoring the objections of hospital directors. The state focused on vaccines to combat COVID-19 while eschewing masking obligations and social distancing. Infection and death rates have been consequently high.

School systems were not prepared for online learning, and communication about school closures and quarantine provisions was chaotic. The government has substantially extended its political control of the higher-education sector. Major social benefits have been cut, and COVID-19 aid tended to help the middle classes rather than the poor.

The government rhetorically supports families, but does little to help women combine childcare and careers. Public spending on pensions is low, but discretionary increases arrive during election seasons. The Orbán government actively seeks to keep migrants aside from ethnic Hungarians out of the country. No integration strategy exists, and even access to education for immigrant children is restricted.

Environmental Policies

With ecological concerns largely relegated to the background, Hungary falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 29) in the area of environmental policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.9 points relative to 2014.

Environmental policy has suffered from a lack of commitment, institutional fragmentation, and weak implementation and coordination. The state’s campaign against “climate hysteria” has been softened, and a goal of climate neutrality by 2050 has been set. However, unambitious interim targets raise doubts about its credibility.

Administrative burdens for solar power investments have been reduced. Weak local oversight has led to contaminated water and polluting garbage sites. The country uses substantially more energy than the EU average per unit of GDP, due to low energy prices.

“National interest” legislation has removed environmental standards for projects run by oligarchs close to the ruling party. A development rush has resulted in massive construction around lakes Balaton and Fertő, destroying natural areas. The country backed the effort to include nuclear power in the EU’s assessment of sustainable energy sources.

Robust Democracy


Quality of Democracy

Having taking long strides toward illiberalism in recent years, Hungary falls into the bottom ranks (rank 40) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 1.8 points since 2014.

Electoral procedures are routinely changed to disadvantage the opposition. The government used the pandemic as an excuse to cut public funding for political parties. Most public and private media are under government control. National referendums are used as a way to mobilize support for the governing party.

The government failed to provide vital public health data during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, it passed sweeping laws criminalizing dissemination of “distorted truth” and giving itself the right to override any law.

Government leaders defame opposition activists as traitors, and campaign vitriolically against Muslims, refugees and the LGBTQ+ community. A new law bans the “promotion” of queer or homosexual content in schools. Judicial independence has drastically declined under the Orbán governments, and corruption is widespread, with benefits flowing to government-connected figures.

Good Governance


Executive Capacity

Despite the state’s sweeping consolidation of power, Hungary falls into the bottom ranks (rank 38) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this issue has declined by 0.8 points relative to 2014.

The Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Office act to ensure that policies are in line with the governing party’s ideology. This sometimes creates bottlenecks. Informal decision-making is common, with Prime Minister Orbán guiding virtually all important decisions. The core executive can intervene in ministry policy preparations at any time.

RIAs are only selectively implemented. The government rarely consults with societal actors aside from multinational corporations and the churches. Government communication is coherent, but largely propagandistic. Levels of ministerial compliance are very high, as ministers see themselves as representatives of the government.

Since losing control of many local governments, the governing Fidesz party has sought to disempower municipalities. It has deprived them of major revenue sources and cancelled development projects in opposition-run areas. Oligarchs close to the government are routinely exempted from regulations.

Executive Accountability

With few checks on the powerful prime minister’s power, Hungary falls into the bottom ranks (rank 40) with respect to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 1.3 points relative to 2014.

The state-controlled media offers little analysis of government decisions. Instead, pro-government outlets constantly attack the opposition as traitors. The prospect of voting the Fidesz party out of power in the 2022 parliamentary elections reinvigorated many citizens’ interest in politics.

Parliamentarians do not have sufficient resources, and oversight powers are in practice flawed. The audit office, while retaining some independence, has done little to monitor the government’s opaque finances, and has not protested the flow of funds to oligarchs. Neither the ombudsman nor the data protection authority has served as a check on the government.

The governing Fidesz party is highly centralized, while opposition parties have become increasingly democratic. Business associations have proved largely loyal to the government. Trade unions have been more critical, but are small. The government has set up a broad, well-financed network of false, pro-government civil society associations and foundations.
Back to Top