Parliament agrees record spending cuts

Scientific research will be one of the sectors hardest hit by the spending cuts Keystone

Parliament has approved record spending cuts, which will trim public expenditure by over SFr3 billion ($2.35 billion) a year from 2006.

This content was published on December 11, 2003

The House of Representatives and the Senate ironed out differences over funding for research, childcare facilities, tourism and ministers’ salaries.

Parliament had been divided on the budget cuts, with the centre-right parties wanting deeper cuts, while the centre-left Social Democrats said the measures went too far.

Both Houses and the finance ministry said on Thursday that they were satisfied with the final package, although the 2004-2006 savings plan fell short of the government’s initial target by over SFr370 million.

“We have achieved approximately our objectives,” said Charles Favre, a member of a key parliamentary finance commission.

National debt

The finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, said the cuts were necessary to try to rein in the national debt. This currently stands at SFr120 billion, and the government expects it to grow by SFr3 billion a year.

However, centre-left politicians criticised the cuts, saying that regional and local authorities would lose out. But opponents failed to stop the budget from being approved.

Funding for scientific research was one of the big losers, with a reduction of SFr378 million over the next three years.

The tourism industry will see its budget slashed by SFr40 million over the same period. The Senate had hoped the cuts would be half that amount.

swissinfo affected

swissinfo will also be affected. Its government subsidy will be reduced to SFr5 million in 2005, and cut completely by 2006. Around 35 jobs are expected to go by the end of next year, as a result.

The childcare sector, another sticking point for parliament, escaped a proposed SFr12 million cut.

Government ministers’ salaries, which were threatened with a five per cent reduction, also escaped unscathed.

A final vote to confirm the bill is due to take place on the last day of the winter parliamentary session.

Meanwhile, another package of spending cuts – totalling SFr2.5 billion – has been put on the table, but has yet to be discussed by parliament.

This is expected to hit specific areas including social welfare, education and training, foreign policy and transport projects.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Total spending cuts:
2004: SFr1.006 billion.
2005: SFr2.079 billion.
From 2006: SFr3.034 billion per year.

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In brief

Parliament had previously been unable to agree on the cuts, with centre-right parties wanting more reductions and the centre-left wanting less.

The total reduction between 2004 and 2006 fell short of the government’s initial target by over SFr370 million.

Switzerland’s national debt currently stands at SFr120 billion, and the government expects this to grow by SFr3 billion a year.

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