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The week in Switzerland

After the glitter of the World Economic Forum summit in Davos faded at the start of the week, public attention turned to more domestic issues: pensions, strikes and a string of good business results.

This content was published on February 4, 2000 - 16:00

After the glitter of the World Economic Forum summit in Davos faded at the start of the week, public attention turned to more domestic issues: pensions, strikes and a string of good business results.

Like other countries with an ageing population, Switzerland has been working out how to deal with the cost of ensuring a decent standard of living for pensioners. On Wednesday, as part of the 11th revision of the pension scheme, the government announced it was intending to save SFr1.3 billion.

The funds are to be made up by a two-stage increase in Value Added Tax and by using some of the interest on Switzerland's excess gold reserves. Those measures first have to be approved by parliament and will most likely go to a referendum.

On the same day as the cabinet was unveiling its proposals, it also announced the appointment of a new head for the federal commission on foreigners, which deals with their integration in Switzerland.

The appointment of the widely-respected politician, Rosemarie Simmen, ended a two week hiatus after the previous president resigned, along with half the commission members.

They stepped down in protest at a decision by the justice minister, Ruth Metzler, to place the commission under the same roof as the police ministry.

The commission's independence was being sacrificed, claimed opponents of the move. The new president does not agree and hopes to get the commission back in full operation within a month.

Another new head was appointed this week. Nelly Wenger was named director of the troubled national exhibition, Expo.02 - a post she has held in a temporary capacity for several months.

There was a rare strike in Switzerland this week. Public service workers held a day of action in canton Vaud in an attempt to force local authorities to re-negotiate a working agreement. Schools, hospitals and public services were hit by the industrial action.

On the financial front, several more industries reported encouraging figures for 1999. They included:
- The Swiss-Swedish electronics giant, ABB, which saw its profits rise by 24 per cent last year.
- The watch industry, which reported that the value of its exports topped the SFr9 billion mark for the first time.
- The computer industry, which said that more than one million PCs were sold in Switzerland last year.

In other business news, Swissair increased its stake in the Portuguese airline, TAP, to 34 per cent with an option to buy another five per cent.

Finally, on a slightly futuristic note, a planned theme park on the mysteries of the world, to be located close to the resort of Interlaken, has attracted three big sponsors. The park, which is the brainchild of the Swiss author, Erich von Däniken, is due to open in two years' time.

By Ron Popper

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