Costs of relocating government offices to Buda Castle set to soar further

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A long-held plan by Hungary’s current prime minister is being implemented in moving the premier’s main office to the prestigious Buda castle. As we learned, the costs will like reach astronomical proportions, the necessary construction work is being conducted in secrecy, not to mention the fact that the fundamental change in the operation of the castle district may have very harmful consequences.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long had his sights on the Sandor palace in the historic castle district in Budapest. As early as 1999, during his first term as premier he already mandated preparations to relocate the prime minister’s office along with other important government offices. The plan was foiled by his Fidesz party’s election defeat in 2002. However, the idea is now very much back on the agenda.

The necessary changes are currently estimated to cost a massive HUF 200 billion, well more than 0.5% of the country’s annual GDP. However, past experiences show that major state-backed projects regularly end up costing the taxpayer way more than originally planned. To make matters worse, critics of the project are frequently blocked off from the works, there is hardly any public information available about how the huge earmark is being utilized.

Opposition MPs were denied access, no photos can be taken of the ongoing reconstruction jobs and even the plans are held a secret. The overall venture comprises many spending items. These include planning, installing new carpets not to mention the expenses of relocating major government and bureaucratic infrastructure. We asked for details from the government. The tally we received indicates that new items keep being to the list, the costs are rising, just as in the case of other large-scale projects that Atlatszo.hu has covered in the past.

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Opponents of the project we have spoken to are also concerned about how the fundamental change in the function of the castle will play out. Currently, it is a favored tourist determination, with historic buildings, restaurants and a view of the city. It is also one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Budapest for the few residents who live there.

Turning it into a government hub will drastically increase traffic, tourists will be obstructed, the underground parking facilities that are currently being built can’t accommodate their buses. Furthermore, there are also concerns that the green areas will suffer the rearrangements. This is a possibility, given that the castle was declared a priority project exempting it from a number of regulatory approval procedures.

A local opposition representative is also critical of the political aspect of the move. She says Hungary doesn’t have a monarch or even a governor, therefore it is a bad message in a democracy to have its top elected official working in a palace.

Original article in Hungarian

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