“These times are difficult for all governments and it’s very difficult to predict what will occur in the next few weeks, let alone more than that,” begins Pal Jalsovszky, Managing Partner of Jalsovszky Law in Budapest.
“When it comes to Hungary,” he says, “I believe we’re doing a bit worse than other countries in the region, as there are still a lot of people mingling in the streets and not practicing social distancing – but it’s not just that.“ Jalsovszky believes that the Hungarian lawmakers are “lagging behind“ as there are “still no economic stimulus measures to put the economy back on track or mitigate the effects of the crisis.” And, he says, time is of the essence, as the later the government implements its measures the more harm the economy will suffer.
Jalsovszky is frustrated that one of the first things the government did was to boost the pensions of retirees. “This has no direct relevance with the current economic situation," he says. "It does nothing other than protecting a social group which is strongly pro-government.“
Despite the Government’s slowness to act, Jalsovszky reports that some valuable legislative measures are already in place. “There is a moratorium on the repayment of loans and interests. Now, while this may be good for some debtors, it is not a nuanced measure so it may hurt some folks as well.“ He says that the government has prohibited the termination of leases, but notes that, imposed as a blanket measure, this leaves some businesses that are dependent on customers, such as gyms, in trouble. “With fewer people leaving their homes due to the crisis these businesses suffer, and on top of that, they have to keep on paying their leases – which is very bad for them."
Despite his dissatisfaction with some elements of the Hungarian government’s response, Jalsovszky says that he is pleased about the way it is communicating during the crisis. “The government is delivering information in a calm and collected manner, to avoid sparking panic and fear,” he says. “And they have been pretty good at it so far; probably a four on a scale of five."
Jalsovszky says that the crisis has affected different business sectors differently. Still, he says, “the automotive sector has had massive layoffs, as there is less demand for certain types of employees in the production sector. The same goes for the aviation sector, hospitality, retail commerce … a lot of layoffs are expected.“
The crisis, Jalsovszky says, has a mixed effect on the legal industry. On one hand, many business transactions have been suspended, which, obviously, reduced chargeable hours for lawyers.
On the other hand, he says, “a lot of new legal issues have however arisen – especially in terms of determining if one can be fired from one’s job due to the crisis and if contractual obligations can be voided.“ Indeed, he says a number of new legal questions pop up frequently that “require urgent handling“ and that this creates work, balancing out the absence of transactional activity. “It is promising that lawyers will always be needed in these situations, and now more than ever, as the legal environment becomes more difficult to understand.“ He says, also, that liquidation, bankruptcy, and restructuring are highly active at the moment and that “much more work“ is expected in these areas.