Mothers pay no tax for life under Orban plans
Women are being offered a lifetime exemption from income tax if they have four children under Hungarian plans to replace immigration and combat falling birth rates.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced the incentive as part of a series of tax and loan benefits for families. Mr Orban, one of the most outspoken critics of mass immigration to Europe from the Middle East and Asia, added that he aimed to keep economic growth two percentage points over the EU average in the next years despite an expected global slowdown. However, the ruling party would not say how much the new measures would cost.
Mr Orban's ruling Fidesz party faces European Parliament and local government elections this year after a string of protests in recent months against the 55-year-old premier's rule, although the party still leads in opinion polls.
The rallies were sparked by the passage of laws in December allowing employers to ask for up to 400 hours of overtime per year, and the creation of new administrative courts that will answer to the government and oversee sensitive issues.
As Mr Orban gave his annual state of the nation speech yesterday, several hundred protesters gathered outside the Presidential Palace in Buda Castle, while about a hundred demonstrators blocked a nearby bridge over the Danube river.
"There are fewer and fewer children born in Europe. For the West, the answer (to that challenge) is immigration. For every missing child there should be one coming in and then the numbers will be fine," Mr Orban said.
"But we do not need numbers. We need Hungarian children," he said.
His plans would "ensure the survival of the Hungarian nation".
The new measures include the expansion of a loan programme for families with at least two children to help them buy homes.
There will also be a subsidy of 2.5 million forint (€7,800) toward the purchase a seven-seat vehicle for families with three or more children.
Women below 40 who marry for the first time will be eligible for a 10 million forint (€32,000) subsidised loan, Mr Orban said.
A third of the debt will be forgiven when a second child is born and the entire loan waived after the third child.
Despite the street protests, Mr Orban's Fidesz party remains well ahead of its opposition rivals, according to the latest opinion polls this week.