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Hungarian PM says to extend loan moratorium, cut local business tax

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BUDAPEST, Dec 19 (Reuters) – Hungary’s government will extend a moratorium on household and business loan repayments until July to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus crisis, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday.

Posting on his Facebook page, Orban also said that a local tax for small and medium-sized businesses will be halved from the beginning of January to help support jobs.

This tax will hit municipalities as the local business tax is a vital source of revenue for them. Orban said towns with fewer than 25,000 inhabitants will receive support from the government, while the financial situation of bigger municipalities “will be considered one by one.”

Hungary’s government projects gross domestic output will shrink by about 6% in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

Orban said the government will cover two-thirds of wage costs of businesses in December and January that have to temporarily close in the tourism and hotel sector, as well as restaurants and private bus companies.

Families with children or expecting a child will be eligible for a preferential loan of up to 6 million forints and non-refundable grants to renovate their homes, the prime minister added.

“We made these decisions…and we hope we can save several hundred thousands of jobs,” Orban said.

Nationalist Orban has said he expects Hungary to emerge from the pandemic by around April. Vaccinations are expected to start on Dec. 27 or 28.

Orban, in power for a decade, faces tough elections in 2022, fighting the effects of the pandemic against an opposition that has unified for the first time to unseat him.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Alexander Smith and Christina Fincher)

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