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Media raise doubts over UBS salary caps

(Keystone)

The parliamentary debate about a second financial stimulus package to boost the ailing economy has prompted mixed reviews in the Swiss media.

The House of Representatives on Monday decided to approve a SFr700 million ($604 million) credit package and steps to cap salaries of top managers at the ailing UBS bank.

The other parliamentary chamber, the Senate, will discuss the issue on Wednesday.

The Bern-based Der Bund newspaper saw the calls by the House to interfere in the salary structure of UBS as a "clear signal".

It said given the disastrous performance of the country's largest bank "it makes perfect sense that politicians want to have a say in salary matters".

But the editorialist had doubts that such shackles were in the interest of the taxpayer. "UBS needs capable top managers who can take the bank to calmer waters."

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung warned of hasty steps and the risks of another major government stimulus package.

It slammed the centre-left parties for their seemingly irresponsible demands for increased state expenditure to boost business and prevent a rise in the jobless rate, which stands at 3.4 per cent.

"They seem to believe that 'more state spending is necessarily better' and they turn a blind eye to the dangers of running up huge debts," it said.

Parliamentarians of the centre-left Social Democratic Party and the Green Party called for an injection of up to SFr5 billion to support the slowing economy.

The two centre-right political parties, the Radicals and Christian Democrats, came out in favour of the government package, while the rightwing Swiss People's Party argued state intervention in the free market was fundamentally skewed.

Government in squeeze

Zurich's Tages-Anzeiger newspaper called on the government to help take measures to "reduce the risks of the financial markets and make them transparent".

It added that the House on Monday had paved the way for regulations of the markets.

"But while it is clear that the steps may be urgent, Switzerland can not act alone." It said international regulations, standards and supervision were needed and the Swiss government would be well advised to draft its proposals.

"Otherwise it will be too late – take the example of banking secrecy – and we're left standing with open mouths because nobody understands us."

Contradictory

For its part the Basler Zeitung poked fun at some of the contradictory and selfish proposals expressed by the main parties to cut spending in one place but increase it elsewhere.

"Everybody chips in advice for the country's future – and confuses the poor cabinet ministers in the process. In short: hopes and demands a plenty, while the economy is seriously suffering."

The Tribune de Genève pointed out that compared with the United States, which has spent some SFr800 billion on a stimulus package, Switzerland was still in pretty good shape – "that's not to say it's immune to nasty surprises, for example a significant rise in unemployment".

It disagreed with critics who said Switzerland's package should be bigger. "There's no doubt that Switzerland needs care and attention, but overdoing it would risk delaying the recovery."

Wednesday's discussion in the Senate will provide another opportunity to comment on the main business of the current spring session of parliament.

swissinfo, Urs Geiser

In brief

The second stimulus package worth SFr700 million mainly targets infrastructure projects for road and rail.

It also includes credits for research, energy, environment and tourism.

It was approved by the cabinet last month.

A first package to the tune of SFr980 million to boost private investment and prevent job cuts was agreed last year.

The government said it was willing to consider a third programme if the economic situation fails to improve.

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