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ISSUE 62 page 4

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Hungry in Hungary: march highlights poverty
Baltic states to ‘disappear’ unless birth rate boosted

AS THE INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL CRISIS grinds on, parallels with the ‘Hungry ’30s’ seem to be appearing in many European countries. Hunger marches were well known in the U.K. during that era and they were recently resurrected in EU member Hungary. Demonstrators organised by the public employees’ union and the ‘Work! Bread! Fair Pay!’ pressure group set out from a dozen provincial towns to protest before parliament in Budapest. About a thousand marchers braved the snow to walk up to 300 kilometres. Imre Komjathi, chairman of the group, said protesters demanded that the government restore the minimum pay on its public works scheme to 60,200 forints (€202) compared to the minimum wage of 93,000 forints, institute fairer taxation and reverse changes to the labour code and welfare benefits made over the past two years. According to Nandor Gur, deputy leader of the opposition Socialist party, who set off on the walk with the protesters, there are 4 million Hungarians living below the poverty line. The National Food Bank says that without its help 210,000 families in Hungary would struggle to put food on the table, a 30% increase from last year.
However independent trade union LIGA criticised the Socialist party for using the most vulnerable people for political campaign purposes.

On the march to Budapest

THE THREE BALTIC STATES OF LITHUANIA, LATVIA and ESTONIA have had a roller coaster ride since they regained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. Generally following a free-market economic policy, they have been made dizzy by the craziest booms and endured the deepest busts. Now, however, they face the most fundamental of problems: how to ensure their future existence. In plain terms they are running out of people. Demographers in Latvia have recorded a drop of 200,000 in its population since 2000 out of a total of 2 million. At this rate they warn that there will only be 300,000 Latvians left by 2100. Emigration is the greatest problem and this is also true of their two neighbours; 1.3 million Lithuanians live abroad compared to 31/4 million within the country and 200,000 Estonians have left since 1991 leaving 1.3 million behind. Although the proximity of the latter to Finland means that about 30,000 people can work abroad but live at home.
The solutions put forward include state payments and tax exemptions for parents, pre-school subsidies and government-backed mortgages for families.


A thing of the past? An Estonian crowd

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