BUDAPEST: Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban pledged on Friday to make the country financially independent and put the economy on the road to recovery, while helping households clear their foreign currency debts.
With a successful dollar bond sale earlier this month, the country's first international issue since 2011, Orban managed to secure financing after the International Monetary Fund refused it a credit line after long months of talks.
"Our master plan is that we will end the country's external financial dependence. We will end Hungary's energy dependence and we will ... help everyone get rid of their foreign currency debts," said Orban, who faces elections in 2014, in a keynote speech.
From about 2005, banks aggressively marketed loans in foreign currencies, particularly Swiss francs, to Hungarians, which has caused increasing hardship as the forint depreciated.
Orban said the recession-hit economy would start picking up this year.
Hungary, which has clashed with the European Union over controversial policies such as windfall taxes on some sectors and laws that curbed the independence of the central bank and the media since Orban swept to power in 2010, has been helped in its battle for financial independence by investors' global hunt for riskier high-yielding assets.
Orban said Hungary reduced its debt last year and would keep its budget deficit below 3 percent of economic output this year, contrary to European Union projections for a higher deficit released earlier in the day.
The big challenge is to kickstart the recession-bound economy in time for the elections, and Orban said the government would take further measures to cut energy costs and help lower-income families this year.
"Particularly low-income families are in a difficult situation, therefore in the second half of 2013 we will launch a new action plan for those who live on wages," he said. "We will not allow the living standards of old people to decline."