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Environment agency stretched by budget cuts

Forestry management has suffered a SFr42 million cut Keystone

Switzerland’s environment agency says it will be stretched to the limit after axing 20 staff and abandoning some of its activities in the face of deep budget cuts.

This content was published on April 14, 2004 - 15:51

It is losing almost a fifth of its budget as part of a huge round of public spending cuts agreed by parliament in November.

Announcing the job losses and a restructuring programme in Bern on Wednesday, Philippe Roch, director of the environment agency, said he was concerned about the consequences of the cuts.

“It is very hard for the environment because we can’t guarantee that we will have the skills for the future,” he said.

In total the environment agency stands to lose SFr104 million ($80 million). Its budget from 2006 will be SFr610 million.

This represents a budget reduction of 17 per cent - far higher than the average of six per cent for other government agencies and departments.

Roch said the cuts, which exceeded the government’s recommendation of SFr90 million, were a severe blow to the agency and its work.

He warned that the cuts would push the agency to the limits of its capabilities, forcing it to concentrate on priorities.

“Gene technology, for example, is a very complex subject not just politically but scientifically,” Roch told the conference.

“I have very good people, but I’d be surprised if they can do their work as well.”

Cuts and reductions

The agency announced that 20 of its 270 staff would lose their jobs by the end of 2005 - around seven per cent of the workforce.

The number of specialist divisions at the agency will also be streamlined, with some, such as fauna, fish and species, and biotopes protection, being merged into one section. International cooperation will also be reduced.

The budget for forestry management is also being reduced by SFr42 million, at a time when there are increasing calls for making better use of Swiss wood reserves, which are some of the biggest in Europe.

The environment agency said that it would also have to abandon some of its activities altogether. This mainly affects reservoirs, which the agency said would need a change to the law.

Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger is due to present these changes to the cabinet before the summer recess.

The government is due to discuss further public spending cuts of SFr2.5 billion in June, on top of the SFr3.3 billion ($2.4 billion) agreed in the autumn.

Roch refused to comment on whether he thought his agency would be affected.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

SFr104 million to be cut in 2006.
This represents a 17% cut in budget.
The average for other government departments is 6%.
20 full-time jobs will go.
Forestry management will lose SFr42 million; water and waste treatment SFr39 million.
SFr4.5 million will disappear from nature and countryside projects.

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