Hungary to give lifetime tax exemption to women who have four children

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual 'State of Hungary' speech in Budapest on Sunday. The ...
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual 'State of Hungary' speech in Budapest on Sunday. The inscription on the podium reads: "For us Hungary is the first!" Photo: MTI

Budapest: Hungary's anti-immigration Prime Minister said the government would increase financial aid and subsidies for families in a bid to boost the country's population.

The measures announced during Prime Minister Viktor Orban's annual state of the nation speech are designed to encourage women to have more children and to reverse Hungary's population decline.

They include a lifetime income tax exemption for women who give birth to at least four children.

Orban said such policies – and not immigration – were "Hungary's answer" to downward demographic trends

He repeated his assertion – without evidence – that European Union leaders in Brussels wanted to fill Europe with migrants from other continents.

With European Parliament elections set for May, he claimed that unchecked EU immigration would create "mixed populations" in countries that Muslims would eventually dominate, making Christians a minority.

Other measures announced included the expansion of a subsidised home loan program for families with at least two children and subsidies for car purchases.

Hungary in February became the first European Union country to be designated as only "partly free" in an annual gauge of democratic freedoms, underscoring the effects of Orban's drive to create an illiberal state.

The erosion of democracy under Orban constitutes "the most dramatic decline ever charted" in the EU, Freedom House, a Washington-based think-tank, said in its annual Freedom in the World report. All other 27 EU members retained a "free" label.

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The government in Budapest rejected the report, saying that Freedom House was part of the "empire" of George Soros, the Hungarian-born billionaire investor and philanthropist. Most of Freedom House's funding in fact comes from the US government.

Orban, who returned to power in 2010, has overseen the most extensive centralisation of power since the end of communism. He has appointed allies to head formerly independent institutions, extended his influence over parts of the court system and curbed dissent by tightening regulations over universities and civil society.

The EU is currently probing whether to sanction the perceived rule-of-law violations in both Hungary and Poland.

"Hungary has become a trailblazer when it comes to dismantling democracy," said Zselyke Csaky, Freedom House's head of research for Europe and Eurasia. "It's spawned copy-cats inside the EU as well as across the Atlantic."

AAP, AP, Bloomberg

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