25 Sep 2017

Robbing the poor to give to the rich?

This is a country-wide phenomenon which is quite worrying because the business and political elite will have disproportionate power which it can use against critical local voices, not to mention what a fertile ground this can be for corruption.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team NewsMavens, Europe
Robbing the poor to give to the rich? - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

Give land back to farmers! -- that is one of the main policies of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party.

But it seems that most public land is being auctioned off to wealthy oligarchs.

Specifically: vast territories are mostly not bought by random businessmen, but by a small circle of oligarchs who are loyal to the populist right-wing government.

Some are directly affiliated with state ministers, others are indirectly connected to leading political figures or their family members.

And being at an auction is like being in a theatre. There is a legit bidding process, but small farmers -- who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of Fidesz’ policy -- have no real chance of winning large plots of land.

The starting bids are extremely high and local farmers couldn’t even dream of getting a piece of land for such fortunes.

But rich businessmen can.

Part of Hungary is literally being sold to a privileged elite loyal to the government.

This has been going on for quite a while and new cases of mismanagement of public land came to light yesterday when Jozsef Angyan, a former State Secretary released a report on land auctions in Jasz-Nagykun-Szolnok county. 

What happened in the Eastern county of Hungary is just a drop in the ocean. This is a country-wide phenomenon. And it’s really worrying because the business and political elite will have disproportionate power which could be used against critical local voices, not to mention what a fertile ground this can be for corruption.

It also makes it harder for farmers to improve their businesses since they cannot expand the lands they manage. They are the biggest losers of a policy which was intended to make them winners. Wasn’t it? 

Details from the story:

  • Jozsef Angyan, former State Secretary of the Fidesz-government released a report on Monday about the auction of public lands
  • His investigation focused on the eastern Hungarian county of Jasz-Nagykun-Szolnok, where 46,950 acres of public land were put up for auction over the past few years. This equals more than 10% of all public land sold at auction in Hungary
  • According to Angyan’s findings, although the ruling Fidesz party claims that it aims to give back public lands to local farmers, the biggest and most valuable pieces of land are being bought up at astronomical prices by oligarchs loyal to the government.
  • According to the report, in Jasz-Nagykun-Szolnok county, public land was bought by 444 entities, but nearly two-thirds of the land was bought by 10% of the bidders. It means that the biggest pieces of lands were bought by a few elites. Local farmers only got to buy very small pieces of land.
  • The rule is that those who win should live no further than 20 kms away from the land. But 20% of the land was acquired by people who live further than that. One bidder who won 568-acres of land lived 100 kms away, in a luxury apartment-complex in Budapest.
  • Angyan’s report focuses on Jasz-Nagykun-Szolnok county, but the agricultural engineer claims that it is a country-wide phenomenon. Similar cases have been reported in the Hungarian media. Some of the biggest winners were businessmen affiliated with the ruling Fidesz party, state ministers and their family members.
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