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Bern maintains support for export promotion

Nine out of ten Osec members are SMEs

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss authorities are to free SFr34 million ($26.1 million) to promote exports in 2006 and 2007, despite rightwing opposition.

After the Senate, the House of Representatives voted on Tuesday by 133 votes to 29 in favour of supporting the Business Network Switzerland (Osec).

Osec is to receive the same amount it received in 2004 and 2005.

The organisation, which has had the mandate to promote Swiss exports since 2002, was criticised in 2003 for mismanagement and a lack of effectiveness.

Parliament at the time limited funding from four years to two and asked the government to evaluate the situation.

Satisfaction

The head of the centre-right Radical Party, Fulvio Pelli, noted with satisfaction that measures had been taken and that the situation at Osec had improved.

He said the organisation had been given a new service mandate, limiting its field of activities to those not offered by private bodies. He added that Osec played a particularly important role for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Other measures are aimed at improving coordination between export-oriented players. Apart from Osec, these include the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and the Swiss foreign ministry.

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss said that the government would issue a report on reform of the system at the end of the year.

And he warned parliamentarians not to cut Osec's lifeblood because this would leave the field open to foreign competition. "Let us not whittle down our own economy," he said.

But these guarantees were not enough for the rightwing Swiss People's Party.

Results

"We want to see results," said the party's Ulrich Schlüer, adding that the state should not be competing against private enterprises promoting exports.

His suggestion that the funding should be cut was rejected by 135 votes to 33.

Created in 2002, Osec has about 7,000 customers and 1,300 enterprises that subscribe to regular information on foreign markets.

About 90 per cent of its members are SMEs from all sectors and cantons. The others are big companies, economic organisations, chambers of commerce and other public authorities.

Osec, which has offices in Zurich, Lausanne and Lugano, employs a staff of 75 and generates turnover of SFr25 million annually.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Founded in 1927, Osec is a private non-profit association with the aim of promoting Swiss exports.

It was renamed Osec Business Network Switzerland and remains the government's organisation to push Swiss exports.

Out of a total budget of SFr25 million, more than SFr14 million returns directly to the private economy, for example as payments for services.

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