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Hungary should carry out fundamental reforms in order to become eligible for introducing the euro in 2010, Zsigmond Járai, President of the National Bank of Hungary (MNB), said at a conference on Wednesday.

According to Járai, the current account deficit is likely to reach 8%–9% of GDP this year, mainly due to the public sector facing a high deficit. He added that inflation has been falling in the latest months, which shows a favorable trend. Inflation targets for 2005 and 2006 can be met, he added. The MNB expects inflation to drop to 3.4%–3.5% this year.

“On the long run, stable and strong economic growth is possible only with a low inflation rate,” said Járai. While Hungary’s economy is doing well, the government spends excessively. The country’s economic woes are mostly caused by the high public sector deficit, Járai said.

“Capping expenditures of the state budget is extremely important because [the country needs to meet] the Maastricht criteria,” Járai said, adding that Hungary must fulfill all the four Maastricht criteria as preconditions of introducing the euro. “Hungary is far from that,” said Járai.

“According to government statistics, public sector deficit meets the Maastricht criteria, but the central bank does not agree with this statement,” Járai said. He added that public sector deficit is high, so state debt and interest rates also remain high. “The government’s goal to adopt the euro in 2010 can be met only if serious reforms are introduced as early as possible,” Járai said. “I hope the

Prime Minister keeps his promises, and will not prepare an election budget,” he added. When asked about the relationship between the government and the central bank, Járai replied “we both do our jobs and trust each other.” The most pressing task the government faces is reducing bureaucracy, Járai highlighted.

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