The Senate has approved a government plan to use part of the proceeds from the sale of 1,300 tonnes of Switzerland's gold reserves to fund a "Solidarity Foundation", devoted to good causes. Swiss voters will have the final say in a nationwide vote.This content was published on June 20, 2001 - 16:19
The Senate overwhelming approved using some of SFr20 billion ($11.16 billion), which the gold sale is expected to raise, to pay for the proposed foundation.
The rightwing Swiss People's Party had argued against the idea, saying that the money should be invested in the state pension scheme, which is expected to face a shortfall in the future.
The Senate proposed that some of the proceeds should be divided into three parts, with equal amounts going to the pension scheme, the cantons, and the proposed "Solidarity Foundation".
The idea of the foundation was first mooted in 1997 at the height of the controversy of Switzerland's wartime past. In the Senate on Wednesday, the People's Party argued that the foundation was little more than a "shameless" ploy to buy sympathy for Switzerland in the wake of international condemnation over its wartime role.
The finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, dismissed the accusation, saying Switzerland should and wanted to donate a portion of its "lottery windfall" from the gold to good causes.
He admitted, though, that political considerations had played a part in the government's backing of the proposed foundation. He said Switzerland was faced with a choice of being perceived as a miserly and money-grabbing nation, or one which was prepared to share its good fortune.
The issue will now be debated in the House of Representatives, before going to a nationwide vote.
swissinfo with agencies
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