As the global economic crisis has undermined trust in most governments worldwide, more than three out of four Swiss citizens still express confidence in their national authorities, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found.
According to the OECD’s Government at a Glance report for 2013, 77% of Swiss trusted their government in 2012, up from 63% in 2007. That’s the highest level of trust across all 34 member countries.
In the other nations, only two out of five citizens on average say they have confidence in their national authorities. Not surprisingly, trust particularly declined in countries that were hit hardest by the crisis, such as Ireland, Greece, Slovenia and Portugal, the report showed.
The authorities in countries where trust has eroded over the past years need to put their fiscal houses in order and deliver high-quality services to their citizens, the authors found.
“Citizens look to governments to lead the way. Without strong leadership, supported by effective policies, trust is easily eroded,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría at a presentation in Paris. “Good governance means putting the needs of people at the centre of policy-making.”
The OECD urged governments to become more inclusive, transparent, receptive and efficient in order to rebuild trust. Trust is crucial to implement the structural and fiscal reforms that are key to restoring growth and promoting well-being, the report stated.
Switzerland is one of the countries which, thanks to policies to stabilise its economy, has no problems balancing its budget and meeting the OECD debt targets. Already in the 1990s the Swiss government introduced a debt break, measures to balance its unemployment insurance and domestic market reforms.
The government debt was 43% of the gross domestic product in Switzerland in 2011, well below the 79% average. It is one of the few countries where no consolidation is needed to achieve the 60% debt-to-GDP ratio the OECD aims for by 2030.
With regard to services, Switzerland also scored well in the report. In 2012, for example, 94% of citizens in Switzerland were satisfied with their healthcare system, the highest rate across the OECD. The country also scored above the average when it came to confidence in other services such as the police, the judicial system and education.
Not for the first time, Switzerland failed to get top marks from the OECD when it came to questions of transparency. The country has already come under pressure worldwide for its banking secrecy and lack of information exchange in tax matters.
On October 15, the Swiss authorities signed the OECD’s convention on mutual administrative assistance in tax matters, which allows for the exchange of tax information upon request so it can better safeguard the integrity and reputation of its financial centre.
The new report, however, also finds fault with disclosure in the Swiss government. The level of disclosure of private interests and public availability of information is only 20% in Switzerland, less than half of the 51% average, the authors found.
For the report, which is published every two years, the international organisation measures the performance of governments in the OECD’s 34 member countries, using more than 50 indicators ranging from hospital waiting times to government spending.