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Hungary boosts private enterprise

Quietly, and without the political ruptions of nearby Poland, Hungary is pushing ahead with a considerable increase in private enterprise. For years, Hungary has been showing its East European allies how a communist-style economy can be adjusted to overcome its built-in weaknesses and clumsy centralism. Now, in the latest step in its "new economic mechanism" launched 12 years ago, it has announced that small businesses and consumer services will be allowed greater freedom to grow.

Agriculture has long been collectivized. But over the years farm members have been given more and more help and freedom on their household plots, which today provide 50 percent of the meat and dairy items for the home market.

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Now, small shops, restaurants, and services are to be encouraged in similar fashion -- both to provide outlets for workers made redundant by closure of unprofitable state enterprises and to help the private sector meet consumer needs.

Hungry, the Poles might also note, has just raised the price of meat to give farmers more incentive. It was the third price hike in line with market conditions since 1976, carried out with careful advance consultation with the unions. And without a political crisis!

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