Hungary has received much bad press. Some of this is generated by leaders from the old regime who formed a sort of oligopoly after the communists driven from power. These leaders who were a hold-over from communist times were recently voted out in parliamentary elections, but their ties to the US media stemming from their Ivy League educations tends to perpetuate the bad press Hungary receives in the US and worldwide. “The country really needs some positive press about the things actually happening here,” Janos Horvath told me over lunch last week.
I’ve been on a whirlwind bunch of trips the last few weeks. We held our annual company meeting the first of June, then I was off for Budapest. Pictures on Flickr here and here. While we were in Budapest, we were privileged to meet with Janos Horvath, who is the oldest member of the Hungarian Parliament. In 1944, he was the youngest member of the Parliament. In between, he lived in the US while the communists were in power only returning in 1998.
His story is amazing. In 1943 as a member of the anti-Hitler movement, he was arrested and about to be executed. Literally at the last minute, the Russian troops reached Hungary and began shelling Budapest. In the uncertainty that followed, Horvath escaped. Hungary had a free government for a couple of years, and he became a Member of Parliament. The came the Soviet “putsch” that overthrew the elected government and established a Communist state. So, he escaped again.
In the United States he earned a Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia and taught in universities for many years. He actually ran for election to the US Congress once. And, at 89 years old, he remains sharper than many younger people I know. This was an inspirational meeting.
I actually got the opportunity to meet him because he is a friend of another Hungarian who escaped to the US–Bela Liptak. Liptak has been a columnist for Control magazine since its beginning and is the author/editor of the bible of process control. Keith Larson from Control was also on the trip. He wrote Liptak and asked for suggestions on things to do in Budapest.
Under the communists and for some time afterwards, the Hungarian economy was based on scarcity. Therefore clerks and others developed a mentality of “I’m doing you a favor by selling you this.”
But changes are occurring in Hungary as the market economy takes hold. Horvath told us stories of entrepreneurship in manufacturing that are taking place in the country. Industries currently strongly represented in Hungarian manufacturing include automotive, pharmaceutical and chemicals.
If you are building a plant in eastern Europe, it would be worth your time to investigate Hungary.