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Government launches economic rescue package

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss says innovation will boost the economy

(Keystone)

The government has said it is ready to invest SFr17 billion ($13 billion) in training, research and technology over the next four years in a bid to kick-start the economy.

The announcement came as economists downgraded growth forecasts for 2003 to 0.3 per cent.

The economic research institute, Basel Economics (BAK), said the revision was due to the continued slump in consumer spending.

The latest downbeat forecast coincided with the launch on Friday of a new programme, dubbed "InnoNation Switzerland", aimed at boosting innovation.

"We want to get Switzerland back on track and it is important to quickly turn good ideas into goods and services," announced Economics Minister Joseph Deiss.

He said he wanted to introduce a monitoring system to compare Swiss innovations with those of other countries.

The economics ministry also wants to improve cooperation between the economics, education and research sectors, as well as to ensure better coordination of government policy.

Monetary policy

On Friday the Swiss National Bank (SNB) said it saw no sign of an upturn before 2004.

Issuing a bleak half-year assessment, the central bank dumped its March forecast that the export-dependent economy would grow by almost one per cent in 2003. It said it now expected zero growth.

Jean-Pierre Roth, the SNB's chairman, pledged to keep monetary policy generous and to take aggressive action - including direct intervention in the currency markets - to avoid the franc appreciating against the euro.

"We shall... continue to take decisive steps to combat a tightening of the monetary conditions brought about by any significant rise of the Swiss franc against the euro," he said.

He pointed out that in order to boost exports the Swiss banking sector had to do everything to make investments in Switzerland unattractive.

The Swiss franc, which is usually seen as a safe haven in times of economic and political turmoil, fell following Roth's remarks.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The economics ministry plans to invest SFr17 billion into Swiss businesses.
The growth rate of the Swiss economy has been downgraded to 0.3 per cent.
The Swiss National Bank says it sees no sign of an upturn before 2004.

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