Looking back at this year’s reports of the business internet portal Növekedés.hu, it seems that the Hungarian Economic Association (HEA), the oldest and largest professional organisation of Hungarian economists, has had a rich year in professional events, conferences and round-table discussions. Növekedés.hu interviewed Gyula Pleschinger, President of the HEA, Member of the Monetary Council, and Éva Hegedüs, Secretary General of the Association and CEO of GRÁNIT Bank Zrt.

– The Hungarian Economic Association will hold an election next spring. The pandemic has now left its mark on two and a half years of the current presidency. What is your experience of this for the whole Presidency and especially for 2022?

Gy. Pleschinger: The pandemic has indeed fundamentally determined the functioning of this term of the Presidency – for example we could only hold our renewal election online in May 2020. I think that the Hungarian Economic Association emerged from the pandemic stronger in many respects. We have been able to adapt well to the closures, and perhaps I can also say that the HEA has never had such a rich and colourful programme offer as in the last two and a half years, thanks to the opportunities provided by online technology and, of course, the activity of our sections. As for our events: in addition to the plenary and thematic section meetings of our Itinerant Congress, the Association organised around 80 professional conferences and roundtables this year. In 2022, nearly 40,000 people watched our videos at our YouTube Channel. YouTube data shows that our online events are viewed by an average of 200-500 people in the four weeks following the live streaming, far more than we could reach with face-to-face events. Our three most watched videos this year were the opening plenary session of the Itinerant Congress, the monetary policy session of the congress and the presentation by historian Zoltán Sz. Bíró in early November. Our podcast is also growing in popularity and is now available on 7 providers, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts. In 2022, we have made 109 podcasts available, representing around 7.5 thousand minutes of professional content.

– You have mentioned the 60th Itinerant Congress of Economists, which after two online conferences was finally able to be held in person in Szeged…

É. Hegedüs: This year’s conference in Szeged was one of the strongest and most substantial conferences in recent years. Not only in terms of the plenary lectures – although we will remember the speeches of Governor Matolcsy, Finance Minister Mihály Varga and Sándor Csányi, CEO of OTP Bank for a long time to come – but also and especially in terms of the sessions. The programme of the sessions was of a very high professional standard and balanced. To give you some figures, some 160 speakers shared their thoughts with the audience in the three plenary sessions and in the 18 on-site and 9 pre-recorded thematic sessions. The number of on-site participants was 600. This is below the numbers before the pandemic, but I think there is no reason to be ashamed. Based on the positive feedback from the online conferences of the last two years, the plenary and the thematic sessions can be watched on the website of the congress and on YouTube as well. So far, some 12.5 thousand people have watched the congress videos on YouTube, and the podcasts of the conference presentations and roundtables have been listened to by some 2100 people. I would like to remind you that next year’s 61st Itinerant Congress of Economists will be held in Eger on 21-22 September 2023!

– With so many professional events, how much say does or can the HEA have in economic policy decision making?

Gy. Pleschinger: Our statutory task is to monitor the legislative process in the various areas of the economy, or, if possible, to act as a professional partner to assist economic policy makers and provide a platform for professional dialogue. I am convinced that the social and professional position of HEA in this field has been further strengthened in 2022. In recent years, we have repeatedly tried to help the government’s crisis management efforts with economic policy proposals, and we deliver the messages of our itinerant congresses year after year. This year we have made progress in two important areas. Firstly, we have succeeded in giving substance to the cooperation agreement between the Hungarian Rectors’ Conference (HRC) and the Hungarian Economic Association. We have recently been invited to join the working group on the renewal of training and outcome requirements, coordinated by the HRC, where our vice-president, Professor Ákos Bod Péter, represented the HEA. The other such “bridgehead” was in the Anti-Corruption Working Group of the Integrity Authority. Zsombor Essősy, CEO of MAPI Zrt. and Vice President of our Development Policy Department, was proposed to the working group by HEA. We are convinced that – in accordance with the provisions of the HEA Statutes – as a member of the Anti-Corruption Working Group of the Integrity Authority, Zsombor Essősy and through him the Hungarian Economic Association can help the Authority and the legislators with valuable professional proposals.

– How are these results reflected in MKT’s membership?

É. Hegedüs: The most important good news is that we welcomed 237 new members to the Hungarian Economic Association this year. So the membership of HEA is constantly being renewed, and now stands at around 3,300. It is gratifying to see that in some counties – Zala, Hajdú-Bihar, Bács-Kiskun, Miskolc, Heves – we finally have events again after a two-year break due to the pandemic. Obviously, thanks to our online events, our rural members and Hungarian economist colleagues living beyond our borders have not been left without HEA conferences in the past two and a half years. As for our sections: the HEA Monetary Policy Section was formed this year with a very strong board, chaired by Rector Előd Takáts, and the number of sections has now reached 27.

– A few years ago, HEA also started to build new international relations.

Gy. Pleschinger: Indeed, we traditionally have good relations with the Hungarian economic associations in the Carpathian Basin, as well as with the economic societies of the V4 countries. Most recently, I participated in a joint conference of V4 economics societies in Warsaw in October with Gergő Baksay, President of our Competitiveness Section, and Kristóf Lehmann, also from HEA. In September, we hosted the international final of the Economic Olympiad, which attracted students from six countries. And what we are particularly proud of is that the Hungarian Economic Association and our partner organisations, the Hungarian Economic Associations of Romania, Vojvodina and Slovakia, in cooperation, recently distributed free of charge some 4,000 Hungarian-language textbooks and workbooks aimed at developing financial awareness and financial literacy to 39 Hungarian schools beyond our borders. This, together with the extension of the MNB’s Excellence Scholarship Programme to Hungarian students studying economics beyond our borders – also initiated by the HEA – is a major help in the teaching of Hungarian-language economics in Transylvania, Slovakia and Vojvodina.

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