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Business lobby group to slash budget by 20%

Bührer outlines his economiesuisse vision

(Keystone)

The Swiss Business Federation, economiesuisse, will reduce its annual budget by a fifth in the next two years as part of a package of reforms announced on Tuesday.

New president Gerold Bührer, in his second day in office, said the organisation would also tighten its focus and become more representative for all members to avoid future conflict.

The reforms come in response to a crisis that threatened to tear economiesuisse apart earlier this year when three key members from the manufacturing sector announced they would withdraw.

Their main complaint was that the federation was bowing to the demands of powerful pharmaceutical and finance members at the expense of industry.

The Swiss Master Builders' Association and umbrella engineering group Swissmem have since withdrawn their threat to leave at the end of this year. Swissmem, however, will only renew its full membership once reforms have been put into place in 2007.

But the Aluminium Association confirmed to swissinfo that it would definitely end its ties with economiesuisse at the year's end despite the promised changes to the way the lobby group is run.

Warning

Bührer would not comment on where the budget cuts will be made or whether it signalled a reduction in membership fees – another bone of contention for some groups.

He warned that some members with conflicting business interests would have to bury the hatchet and make some compromises in future.

"Representing the common interest is not a one way street. In order for everyone to win, the various branches must show solidarity on core themes," he said.

"Not every decision suits everyone the same, not every decision has the same meaning for every branch."

Economiesuisse will now concentrate its efforts mainly in the areas of finance policy, tax, foreign trade and competition. Education and research, infrastructure (energy, environment, health and transport), regulation and fiscal policy will also take up some of its time.

Speaking to swissinfo earlier this month, Bührer hinted that the federation would distance itself from more controversial matters in future to give individual members more room for manoeuvre.

"There are fields where we also have to offer some advice but where specific organisations should also play a large part. That means Swissmem and others should have sufficient leeway to formulate and try to implement the specific objectives they have," he said.

Bührer, 58, has taken over the presidency of economiesuisse from Ueli Forster. The former Radical Party president stepped in after president-elect Andreas Schmid, who was due to take up the office in September, withdrew at the 11th hour following his resignation from travel group Kuoni.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich

economiesuisse

The Swiss Business Federation – economiesuisse - is the largest umbrella organisation representing the Swiss economy. It has the support of more ...

In brief

The Swiss Business Federation was created through the merger in 2000 of the Swiss Trade and Industry Association (Vorort) and the economic promotion organisation.

Since its founding, the federation has attracted more than 30 new members, including Microsoft, IBM and the SWX Swiss Exchange.

The federation plays an important role in the Swiss economy by representing the views of its members to the government and to the public.

economiesuisse has an annual budget of SFr15 million ($12.24 million) in 2006. It has pledged to trim this by 15% next year and by a further 5% in 2008.

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