Hello there, I'm a guy from Hungary who doesn't give you a job, wouldn't hire a woman, and now shares a pretty € 497 743 010 bill with you. And when I say share, I mean that you guys in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom will actually pay the bill. With your money. For those of you whose eyes glazed over, ask yourself if your country is in the EU. If yes, you get to pay.
:-Don't laugh! You will pay € 497 743 010.
I'm not joking, and throughout the rest of this post, I'll explain why. Corruption isn't funny. It's literally killing people. I mean they actually die. Children and women too. Corruption only begins funny, but it evolves. When corruption begins, it's only a little cheating. Come on, everybody does it. Or have you never cheated about anything in your life?
The evolution of corruption
Corruption creates more corruption. It starts with a few corrupted cells. In this phase of the disease it's very easy to get over it. Come on! It's a small thing, it has always been among us, we're all corrupt, just a tiny bit. Look, we're doing fine, there aren't any serious symptoms. We can live with corruption, it won't kill us. But corruption grows. And it grows exponentially. More corrupt cells infect more corrupt cells that will in turn infect even more corrupt cells. By the time society realizes that it has huge masses of corruption in its body, it may have already become impossible to treat.
Corruption has already killed quite a few small businesses
Corrupt companies don't respect regulations. They don't pay their taxes, they employ people illegally. They will be happy to employ women, since they don't pay into social security anyway. They suck out the lifeforce of the decent companies by taking away their customers with their low prices. Which is one of the defenses of corruption. It hides behind price competition.
In a corrupted country, the playing field becomes uneven. Healthy, honest, decent companies have to constantly climb 55% uphill. Corrupt companies can easily pass them by, and the corrupted justice system will not protect the healthy companies.
Let's say I have a small restaurant and I manage to run it 100% legally. The corrupt guy opens the very same restaurant next door. He copies my menu, he copies everything, but his prices are 1/2 of my prices because his overhead is so low. I have two choices. I either close shop, or I start cheating too. There aren't any other options. But I'm not that good and practiced in corruption as the corrupt guy. He will report me to the authorities, which are of course also corrupt, and are good friends with the corrupt guy. I go to jail, or I become even more corrupt myself. No matter what, corruption grows and more and more people become a part of the corrupted masses.
Sometimes the honest owner of the decent restaurant has a bank loan, that he can't pay back because his business has closed due to the corruption. He can say goodbye to his home and his family. He gets his divorce. He either hangs himself, or dies homeless the slow way. These things do happen. People do - literally - die; corruption does kill. It does happen and it doesn't even happen rarely.
There's only 1 real investigative journalist left in Hungary.
His name is Tamás Bodoky. He runs atlatszo.hu, similar to Wikileaks. He teaches (and does) investigative journalism, advocates (and enforces) transparency. He's a brave guy too. But the death of investigative journalism isn't caused by every other journalist being pussy. They are a sort of cowardly sheep, but that's not an important reason. Information wants to be free. So the internet killed a lot of high quality journalism, but that's not an important reason either. There are people like Tamás who do it anyway, and they may even find a way to finance themselves with crowdsourcing. No matter how hard corrupt politicians, corporations and organizations try to blackmail the mainstream media, with bribes (nonsense, fake advertising), legal notices and other types of threats; information will find its way out. This is the true meaning of "information wants to be free". No matter how hard they try to block it, the UD Zrt. materials, MVM's stuff is all out there, and there's no delete option on torrents. So, none of these are the important reasons in the death of investigative journalism.
The important reason is this:
That's right. This is a viaduct, on the Hungarian lowland. Tamás Bodoky is out of his job. This viaduct cost € 126 911 314. This is all public data, no investigative journalism was neccessary to find this out. We can simply see with our eyes; this wasn't a very smart way of spending that money.
This picture shows tunnels on the Hungarian motorway M6. I think any kindergarten child can spot what's wrong with this. Or do you really need Tamás to investigate?
That's right. There are no mountains on the picture. We're digging tunnels into the flat land. Of course, there were some "investigations" and "reports" and all that stuff. The result: these tunnels were the cheapest way to build the road. Any other solution would have been a lot more expensive. Good Lord.
This charming man on the cover of "Free Railroad" union newsletter is Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary. He promised that he would punish his political opponents who let those funny construction projects happen; those you have just seen in the photos. He promised to reduce taxes and he sent this "Letter of Guarantee" to every pensioner that he would protect their pensions from the Socialist party - if they voted for him. They did.
His promises lead to a landslide victory for Viktor Orbán. Then he increased taxes, nationalized all the private pension funds, declared a war against the EU, basically saying Hungarians are free to do whatever the hell we Hungarians want to do in Hungary. He calls this a war for our freedom. But also, he's asking for a lot of money from the IMF. War against the EU isn't cheap you know.
But I guess I'm boring you to death. Told ya', corruption kills.
Ok, here's the € 497 743 010 bill I mentioned earlier. This is the one that you guys from all over Europe will actually have to pay. In fact this is only one of the zillion other bills that you're going to pay, I'm just using this one as an example.
You see, this is official. Signed by Viktor Orbán himself. This bill was published in Magyar Közlöny on the 18th of May 2011. It is about the reconstruction of the railway between two Hungarian towns: Szajol and Püspökladány. The bill increases the cost by 15%.
The increased cost is € 497 743 010.
85% of this will be covered by the EU. The remaining 15% will be payed by Hungary. Maybe the reason for this bill really is that at the end of the game the EU ends up paying the whole sum. :-) Or maybe, because it wasn't high enough for the most expensive bidder, who later won the tender. Well, not that much later, since it happened only 2 days after this bill was published. The companies who won the tender were recently fined for participating in what's called a hardcore cartel in previous railroad reconstruction works. In English, they talked to each other and decided upfront, who's going to win which tenders, how they split the cash between themselves and the other details. I don't know much about such things, maybe everything is perfectly legal and fine.
But isn't that a little too much money?
Well, it's certainly a lot more than my usual pocket money. It's in fact so much money, that most of us usual guys can't even perceive it. Too many digits. Half a billion euros. 500 million. But is it too much for a railway?
Let's see. It's a 67 km long thing. That means €7,3M/km. One meter costs €7,300. I know, it's not only two pair of rails made of iron. It's a big project. When they're finished, trains will do 160 km/h on this line. Wow, but for €10M/km they can build brand new TGV lines in France. That stuff is like in a sci-fi movie, it does 320 km/h. It just looks fishy to me, knowing exactly, that the Szajol - Püspökladány line will be ok I guess, but surely nothing close to TGV.
The issue was raised by a blog called Vastagbőr. They received this answer.
Basically it says it's absurd to compare this to other railroad projects, because every project is very different. Then they give a list of what's included in the price. Looks good, there are a lot of things included indeed.
The goverment agency ends their answer with this:
"... If somone would ask why the Hungarian state in the present economic conditions has to finance an investment expanded with significantly higher engineering content, than those in Croatia, then our answer is, that when we joined the EU, the Hungarian goverment has agreed to renew all of our transeuropan railroad corridors --- however it's important to mention, that such wide spectrum investment is financed 85% by the EU."
Bla-bla-bla, - but don't worry, it's mostly payed by the EU.
Most commenters got confused by all the engineering stuff, and / or didn't worry about it any more; the EU pays the bill anyway. But it still bugs me. It still sounds like a little too much money to me, even if it's not Hungary who picks up the bill.
These are real-estate prices in Hungary in forints/sqm:
- Real-estate prices on the map range from €600/sqm (dark-blue) -- €2140/sqm (dark red).
- At €1200/sqm you can buy brand new, nice homes in Budapest.
- The Szajol - Püspökladány area is in the middle of the country. It isn't very urbanised, there are no mountains.
- Szajol has 1554 homes.
- Püspökladány has 5694 homes.
- From €30,000 you can buy a nice house over 100 sqm in this area.
Based on the above facts, you can follow my calculations.
€ 497 743 010 / €1200 = 414 785 sqm.
In other words, we could build a 400 000 sqm brand new house (with the expensive Budapest new home real-estate prices). This would be a 67km long x 6m wide new house that starts in Szajol and ends in Püspökladány.
The train could run in a brand new house. :-D
Or: € 497 743 010 / (1554+5694) = €68 673
We could buy a 100 sqm house for every family in both towns, and we would still have 56% of the cash left; to do something with the railway, or whatever.
Who killed investigative journalism?
Nothing. The true answer to this question: nothing. The murderer is nothing. That whole Hollywood genre is fake. When the alcoholic, stubborn, tough journalist digs up the shit, fights to get it published, and in the end something happens. In reality what happens is nothing. It will continue as if nothing happened. There is no happy end to this story. Even when they jail somebody for corruption, even then the only reason is to cover up a zillion other, 1000x more corrupt cases. This is how corruption kills. You have to do something! If we want to cure ourselves, you have to cure yourself!
YOU must change!
You have to change how you think about corruption.