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Basel researchers forecast economic stagnation

Weak exports and lack of investment are holding the economy back

(Keystone)

Another leading Swiss economics research group has revised downwards its forecast for the Swiss economy. The government took action on Tuesday to support the economy.

BAK Basel Economics said on Tuesday that it expected the economy to stagnate this year and grow by 1.6 per cent in 2003.

In its spring forecast in July, the research group had predicted growth of 1.5 per cent for the year.

At a presentation in Basel, BAK researchers said their expectations for a global economic recovery had not been achieved.

BAK director Christoph Koellreuter told swissinfo that one of the reasons for the clear downward trend was misleading figures from the Federal Statistics office.

"History has been rewritten by our statistics office with last year not as good as everybody had thought," he said.

"And prospects for the world economy for the next few quarters are not the same as what we thought about half a year ago," he added.

Recession "very improbable"

However, BAK commented that a recession in the United States or other major industrialised countries was "very improbable".

It said it expected stagnation this year mainly due to the investment crisis and the poor development of exports and tourism.

Private consumption continued to support the economy but was being held back by the current situation in the labour market, BAK added.

Unemployment set to rise

The Basel researchers believe that the unemployment rate will rise to 2.7 per cent this year, climbing to three per cent in 2003.

Inflation is set to be 0.6 per cent this year and 1.2 per cent in 2003, below the maximum level for price stability of two per cent.

BAK also reported that it was less optimistic about the long-term prospects for the Swiss economy, forecasting average annual GDP growth between 2004 and 2010 of 2.1 per cent, down from its previous prediction of 2.4 per cent.

Pressure on banking secrecy

It argued that prospects for the Swiss financial sector were not as rosy as had been anticipated. BAK cited a "clear redimensioning" of the asset management business and political pressure on Swiss banking secrecy as factors holding back growth.

Expectations in the tourism and investment goods industry also had to be revised downwards in the mid-term, BAK added.

Earlier this month, economic researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich forecast the economy would shrink by 0.1 per cent this year and grow by 1.4 per cent in 2003.

"Black zero"

The government expects GDP growth of 0.5 per cent this year, while the Swiss National Bank has spoken about stagnation and economic growth amounting to a "black zero".

In another development, the Swiss economics ministry gave the green light on Tuesday for SFr350 million ($234.57 million) to be released from a fund aimed at job creation.

Some 1,000 companies will be able to profit from the move.

The last time that the government took such a measure, believed by experts to be of symbolic character, was in October 1998.

"I do not know whether that will help a lot because it's difficult to help companies if they have problems with falling markets abroad," BAK's Koellreuter commented.

Bankruptcies rise further

A separate report on Tuesday indicated that the number of bankruptcies in Switzerland rose to 680 in September, some 6.8 per cent higher than the same month last year.

The Swiss Creditreform Association said that during the first nine months of the year, some 2,968 companies (+7.1 per cent over the comparable period last year) and 3,516 private individuals (2.9 per cent) had filed for bankruptcy.

However, it added that the number of new entries to the Swiss company register totalled 2,324 companies in September, almost 10 per cent up on last year's figure.

swissinfo

economy facts

BAK blamed the downturn on weak investment and poor export growth.
But it said a recession in major industrialised countries was unlikely.
The spring forecast had expected growth of 1.5 per cent.

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