News / Europe

Hungary Condemns 'Junk Status' Credit Rating Downgrade

Hungarian Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy looks on before his meeting with Hungarian economists in Budapest, November 25, 2011.
Hungarian Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy looks on before his meeting with Hungarian economists in Budapest, November 25, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +

Hungary has condemned a decision by the Moody's Corporation to downgrade the country's credit rating to a non-investment "junk" status. Moody's decision was made after Hungary asked the International Monetary Fund and the European Union for possible financial aid as it suffers from the debt crisis in the 17-country eurozone, even though it does not use the euro currency.

Moody's, one of three international credit agencies, says uncertainty over the Hungarian government's ability to fulfill its debt reduction plans, and the country's vulnerability to external shocks, are among reasons for Thursday's downgrade.

It also notes that foreign investors hold over 60 percent of Hungary's bonds, of which two-thirds are in foreign currencies. A weaker Hungarian currency, the forint, makes it more expensive for Hungary to pay back these foreign-currency loans.

But the Hungarian Minister of State for National Economy, Zoltan Csefalvay, says that he views Moody's move to give Hungary's credit rating "junk" status as an unjustified financial attack on his nation.

"I am really surprised because if you look at the fundamentals of the Hungarian economy and the significant efforts we have made in the last one-and-half years, we reduced significantly the public debt. We reduced also the deficit. So this means that the Hungarian economy as a whole is in a very good shape," Csefalvay said.     

The minister adds that he realizes Hungary has to do more to, in his words "solve this problem" in the next few years.

Yet, analysts expected the downgrade. The head of research at Raiffeisen Bank, Zoltan Torok, has told VOA News that Hungary's junk status is only partly due to its exposure to the mounting debt crisis in the 17-nation eurozone.

He says there is also international concern about the right-of-center government's controversial fiscal policies.

They include nationalizing private pensions for some 14 billion dollars, a recently introduced "crisis tax" on predominantly foreign owned companies and a banking tax on financial institutions.

And, Torok says, especially international banks are forced by the government to potentially accept at least hundreds of millions of dollars in losses on foreign currency loans.  

"It made possible early repayment of ((for instance)) the Swiss franc mortgages at a preferential exchange rate. This means, that currently the Swiss franc-Hungarian forint exchange rate is about 250. And the government said that each bank has to make possible a repayment at a preferential rate of 180. And all these losses should be taken by the banks," Torok said.  

Eight banks have urged the EU's executive body, the European Commission, to intervene and Hungary's banks also asked the Constitutional Court to stop the debt-relief program. Hungarian authorities raided banks this week for allegedly undermining the loan arrangements.       

Moody's downgrade adds to the series of setbacks for banks and Hungary as a whole.

Hungary was in the 1990s the darling of foreign investments in the emerging countries of Central and Eastern Europe. But it later faced the region's highest debt, some 80 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2010, and other economic turmoil.

Those troubles were partly due to heavy expenditures on cradle-to-grave social security, a lack of structural reforms, and the global financial crisis.    

In 2008 Hungary became the first European Union nation to receive a 25-billion-dollar rescue package from the International Monetary Fund, EU and World Bank.   

Recently elected Prime Minister Viktor Orban broke off talks with the IMF and EU on a new credit-line, saying Hungary would no longer accept what he called “diktats” from these institutions in future negotiations.  

Mr. Orban especially opposes austerity measures and other tough reforms often associated with IMF-led loans.

But with the Hungarian forint now the world's worst performing currency, and Europe in turmoil, the government again turned to the IMF and EU last week to receive precautionary financial assistance, admits Minister Csefalvay.

"I think Hungary is able to finance itself on the markets. But a safety net gives an additional security and additional safety. And ((in)) particular in this very, very turbulent time, the country needs this kind of safety net," Csefalvay said.

Moody's says the request for some kind of assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union "illustrates the funding challenges" facing this nation of 10 million people.

Two other agencies, Fitch and Standard and Poor's, are also considering downgrading Hungary's credit rating, but still give the government some time.    

Hungary's plight also affects other nations in Central and Eastern Europe. After the announced Hungarian downgrade, weakening of national currencies were seen in Poland and the Czech Republic.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid