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Switzerland faces hefty bill for G-8

Security alone is costing SFr40 million

(Keystone)

The cost to Switzerland of the G-8 summit in Evian will run to many tens of millions of francs, business groups have warned.

Although the summit is not taking place on Swiss soil, the country is being forced to carry a significant share of the financial burden for security costs and lost business.

The bill for providing military and police security in Switzerland during the three-day event on the southern shore of Lake Geneva is expected to top SFr40 million ($31 million).

Most of that is likely to be borne by Swiss taxpayers, although the French government has agreed to contribute SFr18 million.

A row has also erupted over the cost of "hiring" 1,000 German police officers, as well as 15 water cannon, to help boost regional Swiss forces.

The German contingent is set to cost the canton of Geneva SFr4 million, although cantonal authorities are asking Bern to foot the bill.

Business impact

While expensive, some fear the security bill will pale into insignificance once the summit's impact on local businesses has been calculated.

The Geneva Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimates the G-8 summit may cost the local economy between SFr50-100 million.

"There will be an impact," Patrick Mayer, a member of the chamber's management committee, told swissinfo.

"All companies [in the Geneva area] will experience a slowdown, from Thursday, that will run into Monday and Tuesday," he said.

"That slowdown obviously carries a pretty tremendous cost."

Empty shops

Mayer said the financial impact would be compounded by the fact that tight security around Evian would halt normal economic activity.

"Most of the big companies will shut down, not only because they fear retaliation [from protesters], but because their employees, who live in canton Vaud or France, won't be able to get to work," he said.

"And the security measures in the Geneva-Lausanne region will make it difficult for people to move."

That could mean retailers in Geneva who do manage to open will have far fewer customers than normal.

Unlike Evian itself, Mayer said Geneva is unlikely to benefit from any additional income brought by the thousands of summit delegates and journalists.

"There will be hotels and restaurants between Lausanne and Montreux that benefit, but none in Geneva. We are only hosting the protesters," he said.

Hoteliers in Lausanne are also fretting about the impact, saying the summit is putting tourists off visiting the lake Geneva area on what is normally a busy holiday weekend.

Hotels in the city estimate their bookings will be down by as much as 50 per cent.

Ransacked

With up to 100,000 anti-globalisation protesters expected to converge on Geneva, many businesses are not taking any risks and have boarded up shop-fronts and removed valuable stock.

"That's particularly true of Anglo-Saxon shops or those selling Anglo-Saxon products such as fast foods or luxury goods," Mayer said.

"Every time we have protests in Geneva, and the last time was in 1998, all those shops were ransacked at a cost of million of francs."

Mayer said it cost the chamber SFr11,500 to cover up seven windows outside the organisation's headquarters.

"[We] should not be made to assume the financial consequences of the right given to demonstrators to protest."

swissinfo, Jacob Greber

Key facts

G-8 security bill for police and military - SFr40 million ($31 million).
France has agreed to contribute SFr18 million.
Cost of 1,000 German police and 15 German water cannon - SFr4 million.
Geneva business groups say the G-8 will cost the economy at least SFr50 million through disruptions and loss of trade.
Any damage done by protesters could double the amount.
Lausanne hoteliers say bookings are down 50 per cent.

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