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New year, new laws come into effect

The state has put a few good cards in the hands of families this year

(Keystone)

The start of 2009 has heralded the introduction of more than 300 new federal laws, revisions and regulations affecting residents of Switzerland..

As a direct result of the global economic crisis, people with savings in Swiss banks will benefit from a tripling of account holder protection from the current SFr30,000 limit to SFr100,000 ($28,180 – $93,950).

Three public agencies, the Federal Office of Private Insurance, the Swiss Federal Banking Commission and the Anti-Money Laundering Control Authority, have been merged into one umbrella organisation from January 1 - the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority.

The new body aims to restore confidence in the financial markets and protect customers, creditors and investors.

"Crisis reserves" of SFr550 million have also been unfrozen since January 1. Six hundred and fifty companies have paid voluntarily into a fund that has tax benefits. The law foresees restitution of the money in the event of a crisis.

Under pressure from consumers, the government decided to reduce a planned rise of electricity costs from this year and fixed rates at 1.1 centimes per kilowatt-hour instead of the planned 2 centimes.

Households, offices and factories should save on their electricity bill while reducing energy use since sales of the least efficient light bulbs are now banned.

Under the Family Allowances Act, parents – employed or not - will receive at least SFr200 in child benefits for offspring under the age of 16 and SFr250 for those between 16-25 who are still in school or serving an apprenticeship.

Retirees will also see an increase in their income. As a result of inflation, they will receive between SFr1,140 and 2,280 a month more from their state pension.

A reform of corporation tax - approved by voters on February 24 last year - aims to reduce levies on dividends to investors with a stake of at least 10 per cent. They will no longer be taxed in full, but only at the rate of 50 per cent for commercial investments and 60 per cent for the private sector.

Justice

For the first time, Swiss police have the right to use stun guns. The revised law governing the use of force aims to ensure a minimum infringement of individuals' rights.

Meanwhile, Swiss who are victims of an attack while abroad will no longer be entitled to financial compensation. The move was one of the most controversial changes in the revision of the 1993 law.

The former practice of deciding on naturalisation for immigrants by secret ballot – rejected by voters in June - will also disappear completely this year.

In setting out its goals for the coming year, the government stressed policies that will limit the impact of the global financial crisis and support the economy.

These include measures to promote economic growth and ensure that free-trade accords do not harm domestic sectors such as the farming industry.

In the latter case, the measures are designed to help Swiss farmers remain competitive as markets open to more foreign goods.

The government has also said it hopes to present a new law on carbon dioxide this year, as part of its policy focussing on the international nature of climate change.

Security and integration issues will also be at the forefront as Switzerland settles into Europe's Schengen zone.

swissinfo with agencies

Federal law 2009

The hundreds of revisions to federal ordinances, regulations and laws this year does not necessarily mean an increase in government decrees.

Nearly 80 of the changes in 2009 have to do with the abolishment of existing laws and regulations.

And the 425 revisions this year is far fewer than those that came into force one year ago, when there were 776.

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