Hansjörg Walter: As far as the economy is concerned, we have to forestall an oncoming recession. It’s harder to introduce economic policies to prevent a recession than to cushion its impact. The Swiss National Bank, which is politically independent in terms of its decision-making, has a key role to play in influencing the exchange rate. The Swiss franc is overvalued against the euro and exports will run into difficulties. The tax differences with foreign countries will persist as opposition parties are fighting what would be a sensible final withholding tax for cheap gain. Switzerland is well advised to stick to its own laws and political processes independently and autonomously.
Economic and tax policy, the “Swissness” motion (protection of national emblems), amendments to stock corporation law, spatial planning, the Agriculture Act, the Cartel Act as well as funding for social welfare, national defense and infrastructure projects.
The last legislative period was not as bad as all that. We implemented a financially advantageous solution to the banking crisis (UBS) and to a certain extent fended off the fierce attacks from the US and the OECD by amending legislation. The flattening-out of the global economy did not really affect our country and, unlike in other countries, actually helped cut our sovereign debt. I would like there to be fewer contrasting opinions between the National Council and the Council of States, as less time spent ironing out differences would mean a quicker legislation process. It’s important that we continue to adhere to the “debt brake” principle.
As soon as the economic challenges increase, so too do expectations on the Federal Council. The Council should present a united and coherent front to the outside world and must not bow to pressure from abroad. Options and provisional resolutions for tackling increasingly rapid changes in the economy need to be drafted in good time. The Heads of Department need to anticipate the new situations we will be facing.
Changes in the media landscape and in the way society communicates have a knock-on effect on the culture of politics. It is important for information to be provided openly and transparently. Indiscretions on the part of the Federal Administration and the Parliamentary Committees should be punished more strictly in future. Public criticism of Parliament’s decisions by the Federal Council does not build trust. The Federal Council communicates well with the people.
Unfortunately, regulatory intervention into the economic system has by necessity become increasingly frequent in an attempt to tackle selfish excesses. Many politicians know full well that such practice constricts properly functioning economic systems. The commercial activities of financial services providers necessitated a change in the Banking Act (“too big to fail”) and also impacted on the wider economy in the form of a more stringent Auditing Act and a restrictive stock corporation law as well as a potential additional tax on bonuses. Under these conditions, the removal of regulatory barriers is likely to prove difficult. It is vital that the Swiss economy has free access to the global market. There are clear signs that countries are beginning to pull up the drawbridge.
Interview: Simone Glarner, Marketing & Communications