The Swiss government has opened a consultation procedure on possible uses for 800 tonnes of National Bank gold no longer needed as a reserve.
A further 500 tonnes have already been earmarked for the Solidarity Foundation, which, subject to acceptance by the people in a referendum, will finance charitable projects at home and abroad.
The government is proposing two variants for the 800 tonnes. The first, and it is clearly the cabinet's favourite, is to finance a programme of information technology training. The finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, has said it is a field where the country needs to catch up.
The plan foresees the investment of the capital formed by the gold, so that SFr 100 million per year could be spent on advanced training for IT teachers, SFr 20 million for teaching software, and SFr 30 million for groups who have no computer experience.
After five years, the IT programme would come to an end and the money then used for bridging payments to give certain social service recipients softer landings. Additional millions would be available for partially handicapped widows, for widows who have been out of work for years, and also for the elderly unemployed in general.
The expenditure would be re-assessed in 2016 or 2017.
The second major proposal for the National Bank gold is favoured by the cantons, which would like to use the proceeds from the gold to pay off debts. As the National Bank is basically owned by the cantons, they would get two thirds of the revenue, and the Confederation, one third.
The consultation procedure ends in October, and the government is expected to take a decision by the end of this year.
by Peter Haller