- Area: 93 036 sq km
- Capital: Budapest
- Official language: Hungarian
- Currency: Hungarian forint; abbreviations: Ft, HUF; prevailing interest and currency rates
- Form of government: republic
- Population: 9 830 485
- International Airport: Budapest Ferihegy, BUD
- OECD member since: 1996
- EU member since: 1 May, 2004.
Hungary is situated in Central Europe, between latitudes 44° and 48° North and longitudes 16° and 23° E and occupies an area of 93 036 sq km. Neighbouring countries: Slovakia to the north, the Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia to the south and southwest, and Austria to the west.
The majority of the landscape consists of plains and low mountains. The highest point in the country is the Kékes at 1 014 m. The two largest rivers, the Danube and the Tisza, are navigable. The Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe, can also be found in Hungary. Natural treasures of the country include the arable land and the waterways, the latter including, in addition to a large number of rivers and lakes, a number of high-quality artesian springs and various types of thermal springs.
Hungary has a continental climate but is also influenced by the oceanic climate from the west and the Mediterranean climate from the south. Summers are generally warm and sunny with temperatures in the 25-30°C range. For a few weeks, daytime temperatures can reach around 35–38°C. Winters are cold with temperatures in the -10–0°C range. Spring and autumn are often short and usually wet.
The population of Hungary has been declining steadily since 2001. According to figures of 1 January 2015, the total population of Hungary is 9 830 485. Bringing the population decrease to a halt is a primary government objective. The age pyramid depicts an aging population.
Close to 20 percent of Hungarians live in Budapest and its suburbs. This concentration is mostly due to the capital’s primary role in the country’s higher education, public administration and economy, as well as the traffic infrastructure. In addition to the high concentration in Budapest, the number of people living in large and mid-size towns is also significant, and migration from small towns is typical.
In terms of ethnic composition, the vast majority of the population are Hungarian, but the peoples from neighbouring countries and those that settled in Hungary during previous centuries have strong minority representation. The following is a list of minorities from the most to the least populous Gypsies, Germans, Croats, Slovaks, Romanians, Ukrainians, Serbs and Slovenians.
After a centuries-long journey, Hungarian tribes settled in the Carpathian Basin in 9th century A.D. The following century witnessed the development of centralised leadership over the tribes. Pagan Hungarians were converted to Christianity under Stephen I, the first King of Hungary, a process that lasted for several decades. The foundation of the Hungarian state is traced back to the date when Stephen I was crowned with the headpiece received from the Pope of Rome.
Despite the devastation caused by the Mongol invasion, centralised power and a strong state were established in the Middle Ages. The nation-founding House of Árpád was succeeded by the Anjou kings, who raised Hungary to a great European power. In addition to the country’s political and economic roles in Europe, succeeding kings enhanced the importance of Hungary’s cultural life, which resulted in a flourishing state during the Renaissance only to be brought to an end by the Ottoman occupation.
By early Modern Times, Hungary’s political power had decreased, and with the Ottoman invasion its territory was broken up into three parts in 1541. The ensuing battle to recapture the country from the Turks turned the central area of the country into a wasteland. The Habsburgs ruling the western part of the country easily extended their influence over this central region previously occupied by the Turks and the Principality of Transylvania, a former vassal state of the Ottoman Empire in the east. Between the early 18th century and World War I, Hungary was part of the Habsburg Empire.
Hungary eventually regained its independence as a republic after World War I. The Peace Treaty of Trianon, signed on 4th June 1920, redefined state borders, as a result of which the country lost around two thirds of its pre-World War I territory and population. Between the peace treaty and World War II, Hungary was once again officially a kingdom, but was ruled by a governor.
In 1941, Hungary joined Germany in the Second World War with high hopes of regaining the territories it had been deprived of some two decades before. In 1944, the country was occupied by the Germans, who were defeated and replaced as the occupying force by the Soviet Red Army only to increase the material and human toll of the war.
The Paris Peace Treaty reinforced the state borders of the Treaty of Trianon. The post-war period of parliamentary democracy, lasting barely four years, ended in August of 1949 with the Soviet-backed Communist Party taking over control of the country and establishing a one-party system. In the first half of the 1950s, Hungary was changed into a Stalinist totalitarian regime against which the 1956 Revolution broke out under the leadership of workers and young people. After the revolution was defeated by the communists relying on the support of Soviet tanks, government control tightened, yet this proved to be relatively mild (“goulash communism”) compared to other countries in the Soviet-led communist bloc.
In the late 1980s, Soviet control began to slacken, paving the way for the change of political regime in 1989, with 23 October marking the birth of the new Republic of Hungary. The first democratic national and municipal elections took place in 1990. Complete democratic restructuring and stabilisation of the new institutional system went in parallel with a fundamental transformation of economic life.
As early as 1990, Hungary was striving for Euro–Atlantic integration, joining NATO in 1999, the European Union on 1 May 2004, and the Schengen Area in December 2007.
Since 1990, the Republic of Hungary has been based on a political system of Parliamentary democracy. Parliament is the highest body of popular representation. Members of Parliament are elected directly by the people every four years. Upon the recommendation of the President of the Republic, the Parliament elects the Prime Minister, who then forms the cabinet. Cabinet members are appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister. The President of the Republic is elected by Parliament for a period of 5 years.
The President’s duties are primarily diplomatic, but he also announces the date of a national election and his approval is necessary for bills passed by Parliament to be enacted.
The 15-member Supreme Court is an independent forum designated to study whether or not specific laws are in compliance with the constitution. Enacted in 1949 and amended in 1989 on the occasion of the democratic transformation, the constitution was replaced on 1 January 2012 with a new constitution, which reflects the European and the general international principles.
Hungary is divided into 19 counties and the capital representing a separate region for public administration purposes, and 7 regions for development and statistical purposes.
The Hungarian education system is divided into three levels (elementary, secondary and higher education),all three with some publicly owned and some privately owned institutions. Hungary joined the Bologna Process in 1999.
The sectoral structure of the Hungarian economy is mostly compatible with other countries at the same level of development.
The service sector accounts for slightly less than two-thirds of the GDP. Within the service sector, the private services (trade, tourism, finance and other economic services) are highly developed. Services, especially economic services, represent a sizeable portion of the country’s export. The transportation sector (with some companies owned by the state and others by private corporations) offers optimum conditions for transit traffic due to Hungary’s favourable geographical location. The state-run service sectors (health, education, public administration) failed to keep pace with the other service sectors and their fundamental transformation is therefore high on the political agenda.
The agricultural sector, for which Hungary has especially favourable climate conditions, represents approximately 4 percent of the country’s GDP. In line with international trends, the industrial sector accounts for around one quarter of the country’s GDP. Recently, primarily export-focused industries have been able to increase their output. These include the automotive industry, telecommunications and computer technology, while food and light industries have fallen back and the construction industry, as a result of the crisis, remains in a poor condition. The shortfall in the food industry is mostly attributed to the adverse conditions generated by Hungary’s accession to the European Union. However strong it may once have been, Hungary's light industry is now almost non-existent, as Hungary has also lost out to Southeast Asian export markets.
Global economic growth only slightly accelerate in 2017 (from 2.9 percent to 3.1 percent). The US will continue to grow moderately, supported by a combination of the improving employment picture, rising wages, higher household consumption and the Fed’s hiking path which will be more gradual than formerly envisaged. This growth is curbed by a still strong US dollar and limited CAPEX expansion due to political uncertainty and still low oil prices.
The greatest risk to the eurozone growth outlook is the potentially negative outcome of the Brexit negotiations, which may have a detrimental effect on business and consumer confidence, the financial markets, the already distressed banking system and through these factors on the GDP. The factors boosting growth include the improving labour market, expansive monetary policies and the generally good overall balance. Domestic growth in Germany is on the rise, owing to the continous improvement of the labour market situation and the low oil prices, while the low interest rate environment and the housing program for refugees has boosted investment.
Emerging markets will continue to face challenges in 2017 with limited contribution to the global economic momentum, although their growth rate may pick up slightly.
In China, the economic policy measures have improved the short-term outlook: lending has accelerated, infrastructural expenditures have increased and the country has managed to overcome the financial market turmoil, yet we expect a somewhat slower growth rate than last year.
In Russie, rising oil and commodity prices may put an end to the economic downturn and moderate growth is also possible. The situation will be similar in Brazil.
The most dynamic emerging economy, India is set to grow by more than 7 percent next year. We see no inflationary threats in 2017. The inflation rate may accelerate somewhat in developed countries, primarily due to faster growth, abundant liquidity in Europe and rising oil prices.
The inflation rate will slightly decrease in emerging markets. Oil prices may rise by 15 percent in 2017, with Breant, WTI an Dubai at around USD 50-52 on average. However, geopolitical risks will linger on and may cause significant price fluctuations from time to time.
GDP momentum will pick up in 2017, owing to the “loose” fiscal and income policies preceding the elections, monetary easing as well as employment growth also supported by the state, pay rises due to wage pressures in tight labour markets and investment momentum generated by increased EU funding. Higher growth will be fundamentally driven by an increase in domestic consumption and accumulation, thus the rate of domestic consumption will significantly exceed GDP generation. Import dynamics will outperform export dynamics, thus net export will hold back growth. As regards production, growth will be driven by the industrial sector. At the same time, construction will begin to recover while the momentum of services will somewhat abate. In the light of the foregoing, we expect 3 percent growth and a nominal GDP of around HUF 37,400 billion for 2017.
Drivers of growth
In 2016, investments mainly declined due to the loss of EU funding. Although this also impacted our competitors in Central and Eastern Europe, Hungary’s momentum plummeted even more, which forecasted further deterioration in competitiveness. In processing, after a year of decline, investments only picked up on Q2, mainly focusing on the automotive industry.
In 2017, strong investment momentum is expected to develop on the low base. The government will work very hard to demonstrate an upturn in the year preceding the elections by accelerating the allocation and distribution of EU funds. In the Budget Act, consolidated accumulation expenses exceed the 2016 target by 91 percent, of which investments represent 37 percent. The amount of budgetary resources available for corporate development projects is near the record-high levels of the previous years. The Cabinet has a clear preference for transport, ICT, tourism and investments generating employment, while “CSOK” (the new family housing allowance scheme) brings dynamism to residential developments. Corporate investments are also gaining momentum, owing to the economic recovery, the interest rate environment, the improvement in banks’ ability and willingness to lend as well as the need to replace expensive or missing labour. Accordingly, investments may grow by up to 10 percent in the national economy as a whole.
Strong wage increase has been forecast for 2017 due to the increasing shortage of labour and the run-up to the elections. The government and the private sector have reached an agreement about the minimum wage and the guaranteed minimum wage for 2017. Compared the 2016, the former grew by 15 percent while the latter by 25 percent.
Starting from 1 January 2017, the mandatory minimum monthly base wage (minimum wage) payable to full-time employees is HUF 127,500, gross. For full-time employees employed in positions that require at least completed secondary education or vocational training, the guaranteed minimum wage is raised to HUF 161,000, gross.
Employment is expected to grow further in 2017, although the growth rate may decrease, primarily because it is becoming more and more difficult for companies to hire the right employees due to the increasing shortage of labour. The labour market will become saturated and reserves will disappear. The level of public employment is not expected to change next year. We estimate employment at 4.4 million and the number of unemployed at 200,thousand on an annual average, thus the unemployment rate will drop to 4.4 percent.
In 2017, export and import growth expressed in EUR are both expected to accelerate, the former may reach 6 percent, while the latter 7 percent. Accordingly, there will be a reversal in export compared to import dynamics. Due to the import bias, the surplus of the foreign trade balance will slightly decrease, however, it will still be close to EUR 9.9 billion. The concentration of our export remains very high and this will be further increased by the expected automotive investments. This is the main downside risk in our foreign trade forecast.
Current account balance
In the first half of 2016, a massive surplus (even exceeding former levels) was accumulated on real economy transactions, while the decrease in interest expenses reduced the outflow of income. Thus, the current account surplus exceeded the same amount in the first half of the previous year. However, the deceleration of EU transfers due to the launch of the new programming period slightly deteriorated the external financing capacity. For the whole of this year, beside the decline in import momentum due to the good export opportunities, the improving exchange ratio and sluggish investments, the surplus of real economy transactions may be outstanding (EUR 11 billion). Owing to the drop in the outflow of income, the current account surplus may reach a record high EUR 6.5 billion, or 5.8 percent of the GDP. However, due to the temporary decline in EU transfers, the country's external financing capacity will slightly deteriorate, yet it may still reach 7.5 percent of the GDP.
General government balance
Keeping the budget deficit below 3 percent of the GDP and reducing the debt ratio are not expected to pose a difficulty either this year or next year. In the first half of 2016, growth momentum declined and inflation fell short of the target, which did not facilitate the implementation of the plans, however, the achievement of our fiscal objectives will be supported by the recovery of domestic demand and the fact that the reclassification of the country into investment grade strengthens the currency and reduces financing costs. The latter is also supported by the NBH’s liquidity-providing policies resulting in loose monetary conditions.
The 2017 budget deficit may reach 2.6 percent of the GDP under ESA 2010 standards, which exceeds the 2.4 percent target specified in the Budget. The deviation is due to the lower real economy scenario forecasted by us, even though the positive effects resulting in the expansion of the tax base (wages, consumption, corporate earnings) still prevail. At the same time, we expect EU fund drawdowns to be less than planned. If the Government manages to save the National Protection Fund, the deficit target may be achieved. Better-than-expected growth and/or strict control over spending may contribute to the Government’s room for manoeuvre.
The debt ratio may drop to 73.1 percent by the end of 2017. The debt ratio predicted by us is higher than in the convergence program because we foresee slightly less growth than the government forecast. However, the strengthening of the forint or the decrease in real interest rates on the state debt may lead to a lower debt ratio than our forecast.
Development of consumer prices
The impact of imported inflation will already be felt in 2017 owing to the rise in the price of oil and commodities. The carry-over effect from the previous year, the disappearance of the demand-side barriers and the pressure resulting from the increase in specific wage costs will once again generate inflation in the Hungarian economy, however, its rate will not reach the NBH’s inflation target. Our average inflation estimate is 2.1 percent for the whole of the year and 2.3 percent for December.
Development of interest rates
The policy of the National Bank of Hungary may become slightly more stringent in the second half of next year due to added fiscal easing in 2017, stronger inflation and the Fed rate hikes, however, this is not expected to take place through hiking the policy rate but rather through easing the restrictions on deposits. Accordingly, interbank rates and government bond yields may increase slightly even if the policy rate remains unchanged.
Due to the rising inflation rate, investment instruments increasingly return negative yields in real terms, while the falling real rates on bank loans strengthen both corporate and retail credit demand. Although the bank tax that has been halved this year and will further decrease next year and the decline in risk costs reduce the costs included in loan rates, this effect is partially compensated by the contribution payable by banks to the deposit and investor protection funds due to the defaults of small banks and brokerage firms. The re-entry of EU funds and the extended "CSOK" may boost credit demand which in turn will increase the nominal loan rates while boosting inflation.
Exchange rate development
In the wake of the Fed rate hike, the interest premium of the HUF vs the USD will decrease in 2017. This may reduce the attractiveness of short-term HUF instruments, although long-term government bonds are still expected to offer sufficient yield spreads to avoid any material weakening of the Hungarian currency. However, the forint may become somewhat weaker compared to the highs at the end of this year. We predict that one euro will be worth HUF 307 on an annual average and HUF 308 at the end of the year. The dollar may appreciate to HUF 302 on average and HUF 308 by the end of the year.
OUTPUT OF MAIN SECTORS
We expect that the growth rate of EU Member States and our key foreign trade partners will increase slightly in 2017,thus, export growth may accelerate (partly due to the low base),while domestic sales will be boosted by investments and the increase in household consumption. Accordingly, next year we expect an industrial growth rate of about 5 percent (i.e. higher than this year).
After the derailment of 2016, the construction industry may gain momentum from the low base. The main driver of the approximately 10 percent growth rate will be the acceleration of the allocation of EU funds and the construction of buildings (mainly residential) which may recover from the historic low and double its value.
Owing to the completed investment projects and the new investments of the Rural Development Program co-funded by the EU, agricultural output is expected to grow in 2017, despite the fact that profitability and thus the incentives for investment is declining in animal husbandry. There are two distinct trends. The first is a halt in animal husbandry, while the second is a change in the strategy of cereal (primarily wheat) production: the acceleration of the transition to intensive varieties and precision farming. The volume of the production of plants will increase by 2-3 percent, production of livestock will stagnate and productionof milk will grow by 1-2 percent. The expansion of agricultural income can only exceed this level, if the expected price increases materialise. The stability of the existing agricultural capacities requires the renewal of the Hungarian processing industry in the medium term. Domestic food consumption will only moderately increase in 2017 (around 1-2 percent),which may be exceeded by import growth by 2-3 percentage points. Export is expected to grow slightly slower, by 2 percent, however, the overall foreign trade surplus of the agricultural sector may still exceed EUR 3 billion. Agricultural investments will expand with the increased availability of EU funding and will be 10 percent higher than in 2016.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Contrary to the acceleration of global and European growth, Hungary's economy is expected to slow further in 2016: our best case scenario is 2.4 percent GDP growth. This dynamic, already lagging behind the surrounding countries, may further deteriorate due to the effects of the Volkswagen scandal given the high significance of car manufacturing in Hungarian industry and exports. Investments are already sluggish this year and they will markedly contract next year due to the temporary decline in EU funding and the lack of investor confidence; their volume will drop to pre-crisis levels, which will further deteriorate the country's competitive position and chances of convergence. The export surplus will dynamically grow due to former investments (mainly in the car industry),thus the country's robust external financing surplus may remain in place despite lower EU transfers. Household consumption will continue to grow, however, the outflow of income indexed to the underestimated inflation and the nominal decrease in social benefits will shrink real incomes despite the lower personal income tax rate, thus, only the carry-over effects of "holding the banks to account" will increase household spending. Due to the deceleration of growth, fewer new jobs are created in the private sector, thus any further decrease in unemployment is only made possible by the expansion of public employment. Decline in budget deficit and public debt, reduced vulnerability due to the conversion of FX loans to HUF and robust surplus in the external position increase the probability of Hungary being upgraded from the non-investment-grade category.
Economic growth and equilibrium, indicative of the recovery from the crisis, have been improving for two years party due to external growth and EU funding, and partly consumption-boosting fiscal and monetary policies. However, the extensive and state controlled nature of this growth is a serious obstacle to the sustainability of the momentum required for convergence. Due to low productivity, increased employment levels (mainly due to public works) play a key role in GDP growth, whose further expansion is limited by scarce budgetary resources as well as the quantity (migration) and quality (centralised and "watered down" education) of the available labour force. Private sector investments are mainly related to EU funding and the special deals (strategic cooperation agreements) entered into with the government, while the private sector's ability to raise and maintain capital has been deteriorating for years. State ownership has been on the rise not only in the public utilities but also in the private sector, which, combined with the extensive restriction of competition, makes the improvement of the efficiency of the Hungarian economy doubtful. Growth in public employment can only temporarily improve the overall employment landscape as the majority of public workers will never make it to the labour market.
The government is primarily trying to consolidate the economy by means of measures that undermine future growth (imposing levies on the revenues of service sectors and withdrawing funds from the social sector, education and health care) and methods offering only temporary solutions (public employment, public utility cuts),which deteriorate the potential growth rate of the economy. The above actions make it difficult to maintain a growth trajectory that could support convergence, while it requires ever increasing sacrifices from Hungarian society.
Summary forecast figures
|Of which - Euro zone||100.9||101.7||101.7||101.7|
|Inflation in developed countries (%)||1.4||0.3||0.5||1.5|
|Goods and services in world trade||103.7||102.6||102.0||103.0|
|Gross fixed capital formation||111.2||101.9||90.0|
|Net household savings||5.8||8.0||3.7|
|Net savings of companies||0.4||4.6||0.3|
Number of employees, as per
workforce survey, annual average
|4 101||4 210||4 320|
|Unemployment rate, annual average||7.7||7.0||5.3|
|Export (at current prices, EUR)||104.2||104.0||103.0|
|Import (at current prices, EUR)||104.7||104.6||101.5|
|Balance of foreign trade, EUR million||6 402||8 595||10 080|
|Current account balance, EUR million||2 181||3 713||6 500|
External financingcapacity as
percentage of GDP
State budget deficit as percentage
of GDP (ESA '95)
State debt as percentage of GDP
Inflation, annual average (%)
Inflation, year-end (%)
Prevailing national bank interest
rate, end-of-year (%)
yeild of 3-month state bonds,
|HUF/EUR exchange rate, end-of-year||314.9||313.1||306||308|
|HUF/USD exchange rate, end-of-year||259.1||286.6||291||308|
|Nominal GDP, billion HUF||32 400.1||33 999||35 359||37 400|
*forecast by Pénzügykutató Zrt.
The Budapest Stock Exchange (BSE) is the venue for trading with shares of public companies limited by shares and registered in Hungary, securities issued by businesses, and Hungarian state and other securities. The BSE has four trading sections: equities, securities, derivatives and commodities. For more information on the BSE and BUX, its leading index, see the BSE website:
The Budapest Stock Exchange is a full-fledged member of a number of international professional alliances and organisations:
The visa regulations of the Republic of Hungary are in compliance with the regulations and recommendations of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement. Hungary joined the Schengen area in December 2007.
Regarding Hungary’s Schengen membership, the following need to be highlighted:
- visas and residence permits issued by any member state of the Schengen area are valid in the Republic of Hungary, and vice versa
- visas issued by Hungarian legations abroad, and residence permits granted by Hungarian national authorities, are valid for the Schengen area as specified on the stamp of the visa issued in the member states: “ETATES SCHENGEN”, i.e. valid for all Schengen States.
The Schengen visa and entry regulations apply only for stays that do not exceed 90 days. For periods longer than 90 days, the visa regulations of the respective member states apply.
For more detailed information regarding entry and residence permits and the relevant procedures, a list of countries whose citizens can travel to Hungary without a visa, and special regulations on the citizens of non-EU countries, please visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Hungary uses the metric system for units of measurements.
Hungarian date notation: year/month/day. Contrary to the Hungarian spelling rules, as from 1 January 2012, the food trade shall display the shelf-life of the products in the order of day/month/year in compliance with the regulations of the European Union.
Hungarian uses the comma as the decimal separator and the full stop as the thousand separator.
Hungary is in the Central European Time Zone (CET),which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The country uses the practice of daylight saving time, advancing clocks by one hour during the period from the last weekend in March to the last weekend of October.
Normal business hours:
- Private and public offices: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed on Saturdays and Sundays
- Retail: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays
- Shopping centres, hypermarkets: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week
- Restaurants: 12 noon to 10 p.m.
The information above is not exhaustive and should only be considered as a guide because business hours may differ significantly in specific cases.
Public holidays in 2017:
- 1 January New Year’s Day
- 15 March National holiday
- 14 April Good Friday,
- 17 April Easter
- 1 May Labour Day
- 5 June Pentecost
- 20 August Commemoration of the founding of the Hungarian state
- 23 October Commemoration of the Revolution of 1956
- 1 November All Saints’ Day
- 24 December Christmas-Eve
- 25-26 December Christmas day and Boxing day
Distances between Budapest and some major European cities:
- Vienna, Austria: 243 km
- Frankfurt am Main, Germany: 964 km
- Rome, Italy: 1 225 km
- Paris, France: 1 448 km
- Prague, Czech Republic: 525 km
- Warsaw, Poland: 741 km
- Bucharest, Romania: 821 km
- Kiev, Ukraine: 1 107 km
- Amsterdam, Holland: 1 395 km