How is the crisis being perceived in Switzerland?

3. Economic dimension of the crisis

We will now sum up, how some interviewees perceive this economic dimension of crisis in Switzerland.

The Professor for financial management at the University of Basel outlined three time frames, concerning the negative short term impact of the crisis, the positive medium term situation and possible negative long term effects. His perspectives takes into account companies, banks and investors. It became obvious that Switzerland was affected by the economic and financial crisis when the biggest Swiss bank, the UBS needed to be rescued in 2008. Government and national bank had to bail it out with 60 billion US-Dollars. In the medium term however, this crisis has had a rather positive effect on Switzerland. The relatively stable situation – in comparison with the insecurity and mistrust in banking systems worldwide – resulted in an increasing flow of capital into Switzerland, but also in an increasing flow of workers with their know-how and financial resources. Through these effects a business cycle has been elongated into a super-cycle. However this professor is rather pessimistic concerning the long term effects. Due to the fixed minimum currency rate, investments in all areas had been enhanced: real estate, shares, bonds, at times precious metal, raw material and food. These assets are currently turning into growing bubbles that are likely to burst at some point. Investors are facing a kind of crisis, because there don’t seem to be any good investment possibilities: on the one hand, assets are turning into bubbles, on the other hand, liquidity might suffer from a depreciation, if Switzerland imported a European inflation. On top of this, the discussion about bank secrecy and unreported earnings carries with it a potential image loss for the banking industry. This might result in a crisis in the Swiss banking industry, which would affect companies who need loans, and could damage the Swiss economy deeply.

The Occupy Basel activist, the trade union member and a sociologist focus on some aspects that weren’t part of this professors perspective: In Switzerland 1% actually does own more assets than the remaining 99%; the banks play a dominant role within Swiss politics; other countries are being blackmailed to the benefit of Swiss banks and companies. Switzerland also benefits from weapon exports and is therefore part of the global war industry. This is part of a Swiss self criticism that has become more dominant. The crisis is also being located within a crisis of Swiss identity. According to the sociologist, Switzerland needed to redefine its role when the cold war ended and the ‘we remain neutral politically and deal with everyone economically’ role wasn’t defined through the east-west pattern anymore. He sees the current economic crisis as connected with a redefinition of Switzerland.

In the discussion following the input it was pointed out that from a European or global perspective, Switzerland is an interesting country, because a lot of the capital is accumulated here; a lot of capital owned by the global 1%.  One participant of the summer school suspected that the EU doesn’t want to own or damage Switzerland – it wants to keep it as a “crystal ball” for its super rich. It would also be interesting to look closer at the way the 1% is connected transnationally – through the Swiss context; to look at what relations exist with China, Singapore, etc.

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