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Government ends 2009 in the black

The Swiss government closed the 2009 budget with a higher-than-expected surplus of SFr2.7 billion ($2.5 billion), the finance ministry said on Tuesday.

The figures came despite the recession, the finance ministry said in a statement. It had expected to end the year with a SFr1.8 billion surplus.

Switzerland’s fiscal health stands in contrast to that of the United States and other European countries, many of whom were forced to borrow massively to finance bank bailouts and government stimulus packages.

Last autumn Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz predicted a surplus of SFr700 million, blaming the global economic crisis and weaker-than-expected public accounts. The “clear improvement” came from additional receipts and reduced expenditure, the finance ministry said.

“The year-end account 2009 all the more remarkable because parliament agreed to more than SFr1 billion extra funds for economic stablisation,” it pointed out.

The government’s sale last August of its nine per cent stake in troubled big bank UBS, taken when it bailed out the bank in 2008, brought in SFr7.2 billion. SFr6.8 billion of this amount was from non-recurrent revenue.

UBS last week reported its first quarterly net profit after four quarters of losses. and agencies

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