The Swiss government has come out in favour of delaying the controversial national exhibition by one year to take place in 2002. The cabinet also pledges to contribute more money if Swiss industry matches the government’s contribution.This content was published on October 4, 1999 - 09:36
The Swiss government has come out in favour of delaying the controversial national exhibition by one year to take place in 2002. The cabinet also pledges to contribute more money if Swiss industry matches the government’s contribution.
Economics Minister Pascal Couchepin (above) made the announcement in parliament on Monday, putting an end to months of speculation about the government’s commitment to a project that has been beset by management crises, a wave of resignations and severe financial problems.
The economics minister said a one-year delay was necessary in order to iron out the glaring financial, management and organisational problems of Expo.01, which will now be Expo.02.
Couchepin said the government was willing to contribute another SFr.250 million ($167 million) to the costs. It has already pledged a separate SFr130 million ($87 million) credit in a decision announced in 1996.
However, Couchepin said the money would only be forthcoming if a number of conditions were met:
-- Swiss industry and business leaders must match the government’s contribution, which would be a total of SFr380 million ($253 million).
-- Overall financing must be secured and a lower cost cap imposed. The Expo.01 project must be redesigned and scaled down.
-- All management authority must be transferred from the current board to a five-member professional management team immediately.
Couchepin said the government would now present its financial proposals to parliament, which is expected to discuss the credit in its next session in a few weeks.
Couchepin’s conditions made clear that the cabinet had largely followed a project review report by Nicolas Hayek, the head of the Swatch Group. Last month, Hayek gave Expo.01 extremely bad marks, noting a severe financial shortfall and calling for a new management team.
Political observers point out that the ball is now in the court of Swiss business leaders to make good on their financial pledges.
The main employers' organisation, the Swiss Trade and Industry Association, welcomed the delay and reaffirmed its commitment to the exhibition. The organisation said it was now mainly up to the companies to decide how much money they wanted to contribute.
UBS and ABB -- two major Swiss-based companies in the banking and engineering sectors -- welcomed the government's position and said they would meet their financial pledges.
The main concept for Expo.01 is to have four major exhibition areas in the Neuchâtel, Murten, Biel and Yverdon-les-Bains lake regions in western Switzerland. The displays, installations and artistic projects are meant to portray the kind of social, political, scientific and educational topics which are relevant for modern day Switzerland.
Despite all the scandals and negative headlines, construction on the Expo.01 site has been going on for months.
However, the controversy raised serious questions as to whether Switzerland had the will and the ability to carry through with a national project of such magnitude.
From staff and wire reports.
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