updated 11 July 2001
updated 11 July 2001
SAPRIN REGIONS &
A wide variety of NGOs have come together with Hungarian trade unions under the banner of SAPRIN in Hungary. A total of 1,600 organizations are represented directly or through the various coalitions that are actively involved in the network.
Organizing centers have been established in16 of the 19 counties across the country. They are coordinated by a 22-member Steering Committee. An Information Committee was established to access and review World Bank and government documents on structural adjustment programs and policies in Hungary, and a Technical Committee of civil-society experts is responsible for designing and overseeing the research process.
Steering Committee members:
Technical Committee members:
Organizations affiliated with SAPRIN include:
Hungarian unions and NGOs engaged their government in discussions in mid-1997 about joining SAPRI after World Bank overtures were unsuccessful. In June 1997, the Office of the Prime Minister, in conjunction with the Ministries of Labor, Industry and Finance, committed the government to participate in a national exercise, with its active involvement beginning in 1998.
Beginning in 1997, civil-society organizations undertook an extensive outreach effort. A group of progressive economists, ECOSTAT, took the lead and enlisted the participation of the largest trade-union alliances, including the Alliance of Autonomous Trade Unions, the National Alliance of National Trade Unions, and the Cooperative Forum of Trade Unions, as well as the Democratic Trade Union of Sanitary Workers, the Trade Union of High School Educators, and the Workers' Council. Three large farmers' organizations, the National Alliance of Small Industries, and other key constituency groups, such as gypsy organizations, the Alliance of Hungarian Women, the National Representatives of Pensioners, and the Organization of the Disabled, as well as organizations representing environmentalists, engineers and economists, were also brought on board. ECOSTAT then asked the Alliance of Social Associations (ASA), which coordinates a nationwide network of social organizations, to reach out to the different regions of the country to broaden public knowledge of, and participation in, the SAPRI exercise. There were 11 well-publicized meetings, with media coverage and the involvement of local officials, organized for this purpose in ten of the nation's 19 counties in late 1997 and early 1998, in which approximately 725 people participated.
The Hungarian Opening National SAPRI Forum was held on 6-8 June in the historic town of Esztergom, northwest of Budapest. Approximately 180 people participated in the three-day event. The more than 100 civil-society participants included representatives of organizations and alliances of urban workers, women, pensioners, farmers, gypsies, environmentalists, health and legal professionals, educators, small industrialists and the unemployed. The World Bank was represented by six officials from Washington and Budapest, while the Ministry of Finance led the government delegation, which included the participation of four government State Secretaries and ten ministerial department heads. Also present were four representatives of the global SAPRIN Steering Committee and officials from the IMF and the ILO.
The agenda began with opening remarks by representatives of civil society, the World Bank and the government. Through the initial outreach and consultation process, the local civil-society steering committee had chosen four priority issues for consideration at the Forum: public-finance reform; trade and price liberalization; privatization of the industrial sector; and reform of the public-utility sector. After introductions by the Bank and government on each issue, civil-society representatives from various sectors and population groups -- educators, health-care workers, women's and family associations, trade unions, farmers, small businesses, environmentalists -- presented analysis and perspectives on that topic. The presentations were followed by debate and broader discussion, the results of which were presented in a final plenary session. A summary of the proceedings was produced by the Hungarian SAPRI Secretariat, and a brief report on the results was also prepared in English.
From January through April 1999, the Tripartite Technical Committee went through an arduous process of drafting the terms of reference for the research. The terms were finalized in May for the following four areas:
Research in each of these areas was carried out separately by civil-society teams and by World Bank / government researchers, as agreement could not be reached on the breadth of the research on each theme. Civil society contracted four research teams, each focusing on a different theme, while the Bank contracted four individual researchers. In June 1999, the civil-society steering committee developed a research design, selected researchers and began fieldwork.
The local SAPRIN technical team coordinated the civil-society research effort on each of the four thematic issues. The effort has involved 20 civil-society researchers from Budapest and ten regions of the country, with four lead researchers responsible for desk studies and the coordination of field research carrying out case studies. An additional 100 civil-society representatives from some of the hundreds of Hungarian organizations affiliated with SAPRIN also presented short case studies using their own organizational resources. Civil-society teams, as well as researchers contracted by the Bank / government, completed fieldwork at the end of December 1999.
Work began in December 1999 to integrate the individual papers presented by NGOs with the civil-society studies in order to produce summary civil-society reports on each of the four thematic issues. While the SAPRIN draft reports have been well received by people in government and at the Bank, anticipated differences of opinion may be reflected in the final report.
In March 2000, once the researchers had completed their reports, the civil-society technical team synthesized the four civil-society research reports and the various NGO papers into a 100-page draft summary, which was taken to a process of consultation in a series of economic-literacy seminars around the country. Input from these meetings was incorporated into the draft paper, as were the results from the four World Bank research reports.
The Bank technical team objected to parts of this summary report and re-wrote it. The civil-society technical team did not accept the Bank's version and, instead, made changes in its version to reflect the World Bank's objections. After discussing this revised summary (85 pages), a joint, 34-paragraph (eight-page) executive summary was accepted, although some views expressed in the detailed paper were still opposed by the Bank. The executive summary was distributed and presented at the Second National Forum in June 2000.
An economic-literacy program was carried out as part of a process to gather comments and feedback from the civil-society network on preliminary research findings. The executive summary of the draft research report was used as the basis of debates organized nationwide from March through May 2000 in 55 workshops in which Hungarian NGOs and civil-society organizations took part. There were 34 workshops held in different localities across the country, while the other 21 were organized by sector.
The Second National SAPRI Forum in Hungary took place on 26-27 June 2000 in the city of Esztergom. Approximately 150 representatives of a broad range of civil-society organizations involved in the SAPRI exercise over the last few years participated in the two-day forum, along with several government and World Bank representatives. The research findings were presented, based on a summary report that was distributed. In addition, the results of the four studies undertaken were presented in plenary sessions in which panel discussions among civil-society, government and Bank representatives were probed by comments from Forum participants.
Among its conclusions, the report states that liberalization measures caused industrial and agricultural output to be reduced by more than a quarter, with nearly one-third of the country's jobs lost as a result. Privatization favored foreign over domestic ownership, caused a public loss of three-quarters of the original asset value of firms sold and created a dual economic structure fraught with long-term risks that has endangered state finances. Public-expenditure reductions and public-utility reform have increased inequality, dividing society into a narrow wealthy layer and a broad poor stratum while exacerbating regional differentials and caused the Roma, the elderly and other low-income groups to suffer the greatest consequences. Among its recommendations, the report calls for a reorientation of economic policy (specifics are in the longer paper, now being translated) and strengthening the role of the state to universally address social needs.
Comments and discussion from civil-society participants at the Forum supported and presented arguments in favor of the summary report and recommended setting forth some critical remarks in more detail. The lead government representative present from the Finance Ministry backed the report in general and highly evaluated its importance for future policy-making. The Bank, in an oral presentation, disagreed with some of the report's findings. In general, the Bank accepted the validity of the data from the research but disagreed with some of the interpretation. Essentially, Bank representatives agreed with the assessment of conditions and objected to the assignment of causality to adjustment policies and to the Bank, as well as to SAPRIN's assessment of the scope and sustainability of the problems.
In a tripartite meeting before the last session of the Forum, Bank representatives accepted, with some changes that were jointly agreed to, the English translation of the executive summary of the summary report. The Bank also agreed to accept the 85-page summary report distributed at the Forum, once editorial changes are made and their technical team verifies that this longer version does not deviate from the content of the executive summary. If, however, the Bank objects to portions of the longer version, it agreed to resolve the problem by including sidebars in the final document to indicate the Bank's separate opinion. The Bank has already indicated that it sees five areas of disagreement, including points related to the operation of the market, the cost of transition and the speed of liberalization. As long as these and other differences are clearly reflected in the longer summary, the Bank will accept that document as the final, joint report from SAPRI in Hungary.
Based on a recommendation from the floor during the Forum, the tripartite group decided that an action program will be formulated in order to ensure follow-up at the national, regional and global levels. At the national level, the Bank and the government are committed to actively considering the policy recommendations coming out of the SAPRI/Hungary exercise, as well as to involving civil society more fully in the economic-policy-formulation process in the country. In addition, the Bank is committed to bringing the civil-society network into the design of the next CAS, with documents being made available well in advance. All parties agreed to plan a meeting in mid-2001 in order to review progress on these commitments. At the regional level, the Bank and SAPRIN will consider working together on an exercise in Central Europe.
Following the Forum, changes were made in the summary research report to reflect the input and discussions during the Forum. The final country report was prepared with feedback from the government and World Bank representatives.