Otto Stich, a cabinet member who led the finance ministry from 1983 to 1995, died on Thursday after a long illness. A member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, Stich served as Switzerland’s president in 1988 and 1994.
A cabinet statement said Stich will be remembered as a "gruff but warm- hearted" personality.
The trained teacher and political scientist started his political career as in the town of Dornach and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1963.
He was a member of the top management at the retail chain Coop when he was elected to the Swiss government.
Stich’s election to the cabinet in December 1983 was controversial, as he was chosen over the Social Democrats’ official candidate, Lilian Uchtenhagen, by the right and centre-right majority in parliament.
The Social Democrats, who wanted to be the party with the first female cabinet member, threatened to leave the government, a threat that was averted only after an extraordinary meeting of its delegates.
IMF and VAT
Among Stich's main achievements are Switzerland's membership to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in 1992 as well as the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT). He also helped push through an increase in fuel tax.
His critics blamed him for mishandling a crisis at a pension fund of the federal administration. He was also known for his opposition against the construction of the new Alpine Lötschberg railway tunnel.
Stich suffered a heart attack during a cabinet meeting in 1994 and stepped down a year later.
Stich was often referred to as having a “hard head” and was known for his tenacity, particularly with regard to savings.
Stich gained the respect of his colleagues for his financial competence, as several commentators pointed out.
He enjoyed broad popularity, particularly in German-speaking Switzerland, for being down-to-earth and close to ordinary citizens.
The former minister’s death followed a long illness and a series of hospitalisations.
Even after his retirement from the cabinet in October 1995, Stich continued to comment on political issues. Born in 1927, he published an autobiography in December 2011, titled “Ich blieb einfach einfach” (I simply stayed simple).