Hungary seeks to cut pensions of former communists

AP News
Posted: Oct 25, 2011 1:37 PM
Hungary seeks to cut pensions of former communists

More than 20 years after the fall of communism in Hungary, legislators are considering slashing the pensions of the leadership that ran the dictatorship.

Those pensions are often much higher than the average euro300 ($418) a month received by Hungarian retirees today because of the high salaries the apparatchiks paid themselves.

Deputies from Hungary's governing Fidesz party say they favor imposing a "reparations tax" on the pensions of thousands of former functionaries from the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party _ which ran the country during most of the communist regime ending in 1990.

Other parties want to recalculate individual pensions to exclude wages received for political duties.

Maria Wittner, the Fidesz lawmaker who initially proposed the legislation, said Tuesday that any savings stemming from the pension cuts should benefit veterans of the 1956 anti-Soviet revolution. In 1957, Wittner was condemned to death for taking part in the uprising. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison, from where she was released in 1970.

Communist-era decision makers continue to reap the advantages of having served the dictatorship through their higher pensions, said Janos Lazar, head of the Fidesz parliamentary faction.

"They need to give back to society the part of their pensions above the bare minimum," Lazar said, adding that while the rules to determine whose pension would be cut have yet to be determined, in 1987 the communist party had some 5,700 people in leading positions.

Lawmakers from four of the five parliamentary parties _ all except the Socialist Party, the former communists _ met to coordinate their proposals and agreed that pensions would not be cut below minimum living standards.

A preliminary draft of the legislation is expected to be ready within two weeks.

Andras Schiffer of the opposition Politics Can Be Different party questioned the timing of the proposal, saying it could be seen as an attempt to deflect attention from tax increases and other austerity measures announced recently by the government. Fidesz deputy Gergely Gulyas denied that, saying that similar plans already had been discussed last year but that consultations with historians and other experts had taken a long time.