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Lean on me State subsidies – a waste of money?

A lot of Switzerland's federal budget is spent on subsidies. The money is used for a range of things from piling up cow dung to teaching Italian. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) 

In 2013 subsidies totalled CHF35.8 billion ($38.3 billion). While 50 years ago subsidies made up only a quarter of state expenses, today it accounts for more than half. People are divided over which subsidies are well invested.

Critics say some subsidies made sense at some point in history but no longer today. They point to Franches-Montagnes horse breeding, where a farmer get CHF400 for each female horse and foal. A measure that was intended to keep the breed alive has resulted in so many foals being born that half have to be slaughtered.

Some subsidies even contradict each other. Swiss tobacco farmers are given a total of CHF640,000 annually. At the same time the state spends millions on smoking prevention. Cutting subsidies can be complicated, since the recipients usually fight to keep them. Currently there’s a motion pending in parliament to force subsidy recipients to publicly declare how much they’re getting and what exactly the money is used for.