Hungary Table of Contents
According to the Constitution, the Council of Ministers guided, influenced, and controlled the entire construction of the economic, political, and social system of socialism. The council had primary authority over economic decision making; it developed and implemented the regime's economic plans. Beginning in 1968 with the introduction of the New Economic Mechanism (NEM), an effort to relax central controls over the economy, the Council of Ministers has played a particularly critical role within the political system (see Economic Policy and Performance, 1945-85 , ch. 3).
In 1989 the Council of Ministers consisted of a chairman (the prime minister), two deputy prime ministers, twelve ministers, the chairman of the National Planning Authority, the chairman of the People's Control Committee, and the chairman of the State Planning Committee. The number of ministries has varied over time. In 1989 they included agriculture and food, culture and education, defense, environmental protection and water management, finance, foreign affairs, health and social affairs, industry, internal affairs, justice, communications, construction, and trade. Other agencies also operated under the auspices of the Council of Ministers and in 1989 included the Central Statistical Office, the Hungarian National Bank, the National Price Office, the State Office for Church Affairs, the State Office for Youth and Sports, the Postal Service, and the State Wage and Labor Office.
Although the Council of Ministers devoted primary attention to the economy, according to the Constitution its first responsibility was to "safeguard and guarantee the political and social order of the state and the rights of the citizens." In 1989 other duties included enforcing laws and decree-laws, supporting scientific and cultural development, establishing a system for social and health services, and concluding and approving international agreements. According to Chapter III, Article 34, of the Constitution, a special act of the National Assembly may assign other duties to the Council of Ministers in addition to those described in the Constitution.
In 1989 ministers had no fixed term of office. Ministers served at the behest of the National Assembly and could, upon recommendation of the party, be recalled at any time.
Hungarian political scientist Mihaly Bihari has argued that the Council of Ministers and the ministerial system institutionalized society's economic interests and their representation within the government. The ministerial departments made the most important decisions on the economy because they had the requisite knowledge at their disposal as a result of their day-to-day administration of issues under their jurisdiction. Although the National Assembly and, most often, the Presidential Council issued laws, regulations, and decrees, the ministries developed and selected the suggested proposals. Bargaining among ministries and within the Council of Ministers resolved policy differences on these proposals. All interested ministries had the opportunity to modify these proposals so that it was possible to discern the interests and political demands of the social groupings represented by each ministry.
The People's Control Committee functioned under the direction of the Council of Ministers. The committee supervised a hierarchy of similar committees at the local levels. The Presidential Council appointed members of the People's Control Committee, but volunteers staffed most of the positions at the local levels. The committees oversaw the operations of government organs, social organizations, and economic enterprises to ensure proper management and legality.
Data as of September 1989