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Next year's budget on way to approval

The 644-page budget now goes back to the Senate

(Keystone)

The House of Representatives has passed the 2006 Swiss federal budget which foresees a deficit of SFr574million ($434 million).

It was approved thanks to the strong support of the centre-right parties, the Radicals and the Christian Democrats, and the backing of a large number of centre-left Social Democrats.

The rightwing Swiss People's Party and the Greens voted against on Wednesday following several days of discussion.

The Senate approved the SFr53 billion budget last week, but shaved a further SFr89 million off the SFr697 million deficit proposed by the cabinet.

The two chambers will now have to work out the relatively minor difference on the deficit before it passes the final hurdle.

The government has been trying to reduce the federal deficit through a series of public-spending cuts.

In the summer session, parliament finalised a savings package aimed at cutting SFr4.8 billion between 2006 and 2008 - mainly in social welfare, transport, education and research, as well as foreign aid.

Savings programme

The government has argued that were it not for the federal savings programmes, the country could be facing a deficit of several billion francs.

But the cuts do not go far enough for the People's Party. It called for next year's budget to be balanced.

The Green Party also voted no, calling the budget "anything but socially responsible or environmentally-friendly".

However, most of the Social Democratic members of parliament voted in favour to ensure that the government would be able to operate with a budget next year.

The centre-left party overcame its reservations that its two portfolios in government - the foreign ministry and the transport ministry - would suffer more than any other from the cuts.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

House of Representatives approved deficit:
-574 million
Senate approved deficit:
-SFr608 million
Government budget proposal 2006:
- Income: SFr52.157 billion.
- Expenditure: SFr52.854 billion.
- Deficit: SFr697 million.

end of infobox


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