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Swiss still catching up with liberalisation

The electricity market has the most to gain from liberalisation

(Keystone)

Switzerland's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could increase by about two per cent if services were liberalised in five sectors, according to a new report.

The study, published by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco), comes as debate rages over the government's stake in telecoms operator Swisscom.

The electricity sector would have the most to gain from liberalisation, according to the report's authors. The effects would be less noticeable in the telecommunications sector, postal services, rail transport and insurance.

The study compares the degree of liberalisation of the services sector in Switzerland and the European Union's 15 most economically advanced states.

"Switzerland can learn a lot from other countries' experiences of liberalising services," said Aymo Brunetti of Seco.

The results of the study show that the Swiss are well behind Britain, Denmark and Sweden for telecommunications, postal and electricity services, as well as rail transport.

But Switzerland is considered top of the class for the liberalisation of its banking services.

Telecoms

The government's majority shareholding in telecommunications operator Swisscom and the company's last mile monopoly are just two of the factors that have led Switzerland to lag behind in this sector.

But the cabinet said just last week that its 66 per cent stake in the country's leading telecoms operator was restricting Swisscom's ability to expand and that it no longer wanted to be a majority shareholder.

It comes as the last mile monopoly is under attack. This week, the Senate came out in favour of further liberalisation of the telecommunications sector, removing part of Swisscom's monopoly.

In the electricity market, the main difference between Switzerland and Britain – the only EU state to have completely liberalised the sector – is the fact that the Swiss cannot choose their supplier.

Electricity market

A new electricity law is being discussed in parliament.

The House of Representatives has chosen to open the market in two distinct phases. But even if politicians from both chambers agree to liberalise the sector, they could face strong opposition.

The last time the Swiss tried to open the electricity market in 2002, voters rejected the changes.

Liberalisation in sectors such as trade, insurance, health and education is only considered to be slightly behind that in the most advanced EU member states.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The services sector accounts for 70% of all jobs in Switzerland and generate over 70% of the country's GDP.
The number of people working in the sector has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

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In brief

The report was ordered by the government last year as a discussion paper for special measures aimed at boosting economic growth.

It concluded that Switzerland could increase its GDP by over 2% if it liberalised five sectors: telecommunications, electric power, postal services, railway transport and insurances.

The report compares Switzerland's services sector with those of 15 EU member states.

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