The Swiss parliament has wrapped up its special session, with a pledge of CHF57 billion ($59.1 billion) for the economy, as well as millions for areas particularly hit by the coronavirus pandemic: daycare, the media and tourism.
Parliament was able to resume business this week, after its work was suspended due to Covid-19. The two chambers held their four-day session, which finished on Thursday, in a congress building on the outskirts of the capital Bern. This was because the regular parliament building in the city centre did not allow enough space for social distancing.
On the agenda was emergency funding and the government’s decisions over the coronavirus crisis.
CHF170 million extra
Parliament on Tuesday approved a financial package of more than CHF57 billion to help businesses and institutions cope with the impact of the pandemic in Switzerland.
Discussion became especially animated when it came to the proposed bailout of almost CHF2 billion for the aviation sector. Left-wing parties tried to link aid to environmental standards, but their demands were rejected.
Parliamentarians added CHF170 million in emergency relief for hard-hit sectors that had been “forgotten” by the government.
This included CHF65 million for daycare facilities, CHF65 million for the media and CHF40 million for tourism.
Parliament also decided that a tracking device to stem the spread of coronavirus in Switzerland should be defined in a law – against the will of the government.
International pandemic fight
Other decisions that were influenced by parliament – also through the work of committees and the presidents of the two parliamentary houses – include the allocation of loss of income allowances to all independent businesses, whether directly or indirectly affected by the country’s coronavirus pandemic measures.
Parliamentarians had also called for extra funding for the international humanitarian aid effort to support the poorest countries in their fight against the pandemic and for the global efforts against Covid-19. The government reacted by earmarking CHF400 million for international aid.
Half of that amount would be granted as an interest-free loan to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for work it is carrying out in over 80 countries. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) would receive a loan of CHF25 million for its disaster fund.
Parliamentary committees will continue their work so that they can intervene quickly concerning government decisions and to prepare for June’s parliamentary session, which will also take place in Bern. On the agenda then will be issues arising from the coronavirus crisis but also “normal” parliamentary business that had to be postponed.
Adapted from French by Isobel Leybold-Johnson