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Committee backs Swiss gold reserves plan

1,300 tonnes of gold reserves will be distributed

(Keystone)

A parliamentary committee has approved the Swiss government's plan to distribute funds from the sale of 1,300 tonnes of gold reserves. The plan envisages dividing the proceeds equally among a new aid foundation, the country's pension scheme and its 26 cantons.

The House of Representatives' Committee for Economic Affairs and Taxes joined the Senate in supporting the plan, and voted against the centre-right Swiss People's Party's initiative to invest the money solely in the state pension scheme, which is expected to face a shortfall in the future.

In June, the Senate overwhelmingly approved using some of the SFr20 billion ($11.16 billion), which the gold sale is expected to raise, to pay for the proposed Solidarity Foundation, which was set up by the Swiss government.

The foundation describes its mission as contributing to preventing the causes of poverty, suffering and violence, and alleviating their consequences.

By a large majority, the parliamentary committee voted not to impose an age restriction on members of the foundation's board. The Senate had wanted the majority of board members to be below 40-years-old.

The committee also said it was important to adopt a law in the upper chamber of parliament saying that the foundation must help the young generation to face the challenges of the future.

Train youngsters

According to the Committee's president, Rudolf Strahm, the aim of the foundation should not be altered to become a humanitarian organisation. He added that the foundation should not be a forum "to train youngsters."

The idea of the foundation was first outlined in 1997 at the height of the controversy of Switzerland's wartime past.

The People's Party have argued that the foundation is little more than a "shameless" ploy to buy sympathy for Switzerland in the wake of international condemnation over its wartime role.

The finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, dismissed the accusation, saying Switzerland should and wanted to donate a portion of its "lottery windfall" from the gold to good causes.

The foundation, the cantons and state pension scheme stand to receive SFr250 million a year.

The House of Representatives will debate the issue later this year before the Swiss cast their vote in a nationwide ballot.

swissinfo with agencies


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