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Energy minister expects huge job losses in electricity sector

The Swiss energy minister, Moritz Leuenberger, has sounded the alarm bells for major job cuts in the electricity industry. He said at least 4.000 jobs were at risk, in an interview with the newspaper "Sonntagsblick".

The Swiss energy minister, Moritz Leuenberger, has sounded the alarm bells for major job cuts in the electricity industry. He said at least 4.000 jobs were at risk, in an interview with the newspaper "Sonntagsblick".

Leuenberger told the paper, he predicts 20 to 30 per cent of existing jobs will be axed in the long run, as part and parcel of liberalising the electricity market.
But he also said the situation could get a lot worse, without the introduction of a supplementary tax on electricity in order to boost renewable energy sources such as water-generated power.

However, business analysts believe the liberalisation strategy will help to reduce electricity rates for the consumer, judging by what happened to telephone rates in the past.

The economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, (Radical Party), said Leuenberger's predictions of doom and gloom were exaggerated. In an interview with the "Blick" newspaper, he said, "Just look at the telecommunications sector. There you have more jobs than before the liberalisation. In any case, the average consumer will be the one to profit from lower rates".

The liberalisation of the Swiss electricity market has been scheduled to begin in 2002 and should take six years to complete. The House of Representatives has already approved the measures which were put in motion by the federal government.

Swissinfo with agencies.

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