How to waste public funds

City Park construction project cost €367 million already; final price tag may reach €774 million

The City Park (Városliget), in the heart of Budapest, is under reconstruction. We summarized how much the construction works have cost so far: the company responsible for the project, Városliget Zrt., has already spent 119 billion Forints (approximately €367 million at today’s exchange rate) on the so-called Liget Project. Half of this amount was spent on the new Museum of Ethnography, a concert hall called the House of Hungarian Music and the National Museum Restoration and Storage Centre.

The plan of a museum district appeared in the program of Budapest mayor István Tarlós in 2010 first. This is practically a huge construction project that will result in several new buildings in the City Park. In 2011 László Baán, head of the Museum of Ethnography appointed coordinator of the construction project. At the moment Baán is the president of Városliget Zrt.

According to the plans, the new buildings will be the following: a concert hall called the House of Hungarian Music, The National Museum Restoration and Storage Centre, the new Hungarian Transport Museum, a new National Gallery, the Museum of Ethnography, a parking garage and a theatre as well. The Olof Palme House will also be reconstructed.

The park will be rehabilitated as well, with new promenades, a sports field and pavilions across the Zoo. The Romanesque Hall of the Museum of Fine Arts, which was damaged in WW2 was already renovated. Next to the zoo, there is Pannon Park, presenting the wildlife of the Carpathian Basin. Also, the renovation of the Star Fortress (Csillag Erőd) in Komárom was organized by Városliget Zrt. and it cost 5,1 billion Forints (€16 million).

According to our summary, 119 billion Hungarian forints (€367 million) were spent on construction so far. The total might reach 250 billion HUF (€774 million) in the end.

We calculated the number of further costs based on contracts signed by Városliget Zrt. and official public procurement notices.

Since 2014, Városliget Zrt. spent 124 billion Forints (€383 million), from which 119 billion (€367 million) were spent on the Liget Project. You can see the contracts here.

The three biggest projects – the Museum of Ethnography, the House of Hungarian Music and the National Museum Restoration and Storage Centre – cost 55,4 billion Forints (€171 million).

In 2018 RTL Klub reported that the price of the constructions has grown a lot in the last few years: in 2012 the government estimated the cost to be around 50-60 billion Forints (€150-180 million), but in 2018 László Baán mentioned 250 billion Forints (€ 773 million).

Government-friendly businesses as contractors

Many of the building contractors are close to the government. Subsidiaries of Austrians Strabag are also among the contractors.

West Hungária Bau (WHB) Kft. is building the underground carpark for 6 billion HUF (€19 million). WHB is a company associated with István Tiborcz’s business partner.

Only the construction pit for the Museum of Ethnography cost approximately 2.5 billion HUF (close to €8 million). Bohn Mélyépítő Kft. and Market Építő Zrt., the company owned by István Garancsi were contracted to do the work.

30 billion Forints (€93 million) were spent on the new Museum of Ethnography. ZÁÉV Építő Zrt. and Magyar Építő Zrt. are building the institution which costs 25,9 billion HUF (€80 million). ZÁÉV is the property of Lőrinc Mészáros and Magyar Építők belongs to WHB.

Magyar Építők Zrt. is building the House of Hungarian Music as well, for 17,5 billion HUF (€54 million). The building is designed by the Japanese Sou Fujimoto Architects.

Épkar Kft. is reconstructing the Olof Palme House. The company recently worked with WHB on the renovation of the Star Fortress.

Market Zrt. and Vilati Szerelő Zrt. are building a new area of the Zoo for 32,7 billion HUF (€101 million).

The old hospital at Szabolcs Street is transformed into the National Museum Restoration and Storage Centre. 18 billion Forints (€55 million) were spent on this project so far. 12 billion HUF (€37 million) of this sum was spent on the general construction, arranged by Züblig AG and two companies of Strabag: Strabag Építő Kft. and Strabag-MML Magas és Mérnöki Kft.

Many protested against the project, to no avail

The Liget Project has been controversial from the start. Ligetvédők, a grassroots movement supported by experts has been protesting against the deforestation of the park. There were even a few clashes between protesters and security guards.

Ligetvédők Lapja, a publication by the movement published seventeen arguments against the construction of the museum quarter. They argue that it is illegal that many construction and urban development regulations were suspended in the case of the Liget Project and that there was no real consultation with local residents, NGOs and experts.

Written by Brigitta Csikász

English version by Lili Rutai. You can read the original, Hungarian-language story here.