Hungary’s central bank, already facing criticism for a spending spree ranging from real estate to fine art, is now beefing up its security force, citing Europe’s migrant crisis and potential bomb threats among the reasons.
The National Bank of Hungary bought 200,000 rounds of live ammunition and 112 handguns for its security company, according to documents posted on a website for public procurements.
Additional protection is needed due to the rise of "international security risks" including bomb and terror threats and migration, central bank Governor Gyorgy Matolcsy said in a written response to a lawmaker who asked about the purchases, posted on Parliament’s website Feb. 17. The central bank’s assumption of the role of financial regulator and the related increase in the number of its properties also contributed to the need for further defenses, he said.
The security measures added to public scrutiny of the running of the bank, which under Matolcsy earmarked 200 billion forint ($718 million) to set up foundations to teach alternatives to what he called “outdated neoliberal” economics. Another $108 million fund used for buying fine art including a painting by Titian also drew criticism from opposition parties, as did a series of investments in office buildings and villas.
Matolcsy, an ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has argued the central bank has the right to spend its profits, which have been boosted in recent years as the weaker forint increased the value of its foreign currency reserves. The central bank has traditionally paid its profit into the government budget, while taxpayers are required to cover any losses by the regulator.
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