Cabinet sticks to planned spending cuts

Regional trains and bus services are the target of government spending cuts wikipedia / Roland Lüthi

The government is pushing ahead with proposed spending cuts to the tune of SFr1.6 billion ($1.56 billion) annually until 2013 to balance the federal budget.

This content was published on September 1, 2010 - 15:50

The bill, to be discussed in parliament next year, foresees savings in all seven ministries, including slashing subsidies to the multimedia platform, swissinfo.ch.

The proposals include a programme to increase the efficiency of the federal administration.

A statement on Wednesday by the finance ministry said the cuts and savings were necessary despite the markedly improved economic outlook.

It warned that a shortfall in fiscal revenue and tax breaks for families, as well as a decision to increase development aid, could create an annual structural deficit of SFr2 billion.

“It is therefore not possible to review the consolidation programme,” the statement said.

Economic forecasts for 2010 range between a surplus of SFr600 million and a deficit of the same amount.

The federal state and cantonal deficits are expected to reach a total of about SFr4.8 billion next year, but the financial situation is set to recover by 2014 with a forecast surplus of SFr1.4 billion.

Protests

The latest government plans come despite protests over the past few months, notably by the public transport sector, supporters of swissinfo.ch, and those backing the federal stud.

The communications ministry has proposed cutting government subsidies to swissinfo.ch. The multilingual news platform currently receives SFr26 million in funds annually. Half of the amount comes from the government and half from the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).

A committee of eminent persons has been set up and a petition launched with the support of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad calling on the government not to go ahead with the cuts.

For its part the SBC has examined different scenarios to cut SFr7 million from the budget of swissinfo.ch. But the plan has been shelved pending the outcome of discussions in cabinet and parliament.

It is the second time in less than ten years that swissinfo.ch has been facing potential financial cuts. In 2004 its budget was reduced to SFr26 million from SFr44 million, jobs were cut and shortwave broadcasts were abolished.

Transport and stud

Other proposed savings include closing down public transport links to remote regions of the country which are used by fewer than 100 passengers a day, instead of 32 passengers as at present.

The government is looking for spending cuts of SFr15 million annually for 160 postal service lines.

Cantons and a leading environmental group as well as the tourism sector have warned of the impact of the cuts on mountain regions.

Supporters of the National Stud in western Switzerland have also mounted a series of protests against government funding cuts.

Its main task is to support the breeding of horses on farms.

Parliament is due to begin debate on the proposed saving measures in the spring session of 2011.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch and agencies

Savings

The government in June announced it was looking to shave SFr2.7 billion from the national budget.

It seeks cuts in subsidies, savings in the federal administration, IT and external advisors.

The plan also foresees increasing a tax on cigarettes.

The government warned failure to cut spending would result in an structural annual deficit of SFr2 billion.

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