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Couchepin says postal, telecom services unlikely to be privatised

Pascal Couchepin says privatising the postal service is not politically feasible

(Keystone)

The Economics Minister, Pascal Couchepin, says it is unlikely the Post Office or the country's main telecommunications operator, Swisscom, will be fully privatised. He raised serious doubts whether the Federal Railways will be privatised.

Couchepin also called on the National Bank to cut its interest rates, in a newspaper interview on Wednesday. He added that this was his personal opinion, as the bank is independent of the federal government.

The minister said it was politically unfeasible to privatise the post office in Switzerland. Steps should have taken earlier towards deregulating postal services to make them more competitive internationally, he said.

Couchepin saw no possibility of a full privatisation of Swisscom, but he believes a likely scenario would be to privatise the mobile phone sector, while keeping the land-lines network under government control. Currently, the government is the majority shareholder of Swisscom.

In his interview with the Berner Zeitung newspaper, Couchepin came out against privatising the federal railways. He said the British example was discouraging for investors and the public. But Couchepin said it could be worth considering a partial liberalisation if the railway infrastructure remained in government hands.

Importance of competition

Couchepin underlined the importance of competition in the fields of telecommunication, railway and postal services and said the extent of government involvement was not a decisive factor.

The minister also downplayed fears the Swiss economy could slip into recession because of slowed growth over the past few months. He said the Swiss economy was still in good shape with a growth rate of 1.5 per cent and an unemployment rate of below two per cent.

He recommended a cut in bank interest rates to boost growth, but said the National Bank was autonomous in its decisions.

The president of the bank, Jean-Pierre Roth, has indicated that the board of directors was unlikely to decide before the second half of September whether to change its fiscal policy.

swissinfo with agencies

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