Cantons strike gold

The proceeds from the sale of the gold will now be distributed Keystone

Switzerland’s cantons are to receive the bulk of the proceeds from the sale of 1,300 tons of excess gold reserves.

This content was published on December 16, 2004 - 11:35

The regional authorities will receive SFr14 billion ($12.25 billion), while the remaining SFr7 billion will go to the federal government.

The Senate on Thursday rejected for a second time a proposal by the House of Representatives to put the proceeds into a fund and distribute the annual interest – estimated at SFr500 million.

The House of Representatives wanted two-thirds of the money to go to the state old-age pension fund, and the remaining third to go to the cantons.

But the Senate threw out the proposal by 32 votes to nine.

“The cantons can look forward to golden times,” said Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz.

Gold reserves

Over the past seven years, parliament and Swiss voters have been asked on a number of occasions to decide what to do with the proceeds from the Swiss National Bank’s excess gold reserves.

In a nationwide vote in 2002, the electorate rejected a plan to set up a so-called Solidarity Foundation, which would have donated some of the money to humanitarian causes both at home and abroad.

Voters also turned down an alternative proposal by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party to invest all the money in the old-age pension scheme.

The Swiss constitution stipulates that the reserves should be split between the federal authorities and the cantons in the way outlined in the Senate proposal – and this is how the money will now be divided, since the two parliamentary chambers have been unable to resolve their differences.

No decision was taken on Thursday on what to do with the SFr3 billion ($2.6 billion) surplus generated by the Swiss National Bank each year.

In September parliamentarians threw out a proposal to give SFr1 billion to the cantons and invest the remainder in the state pension scheme.

Under the current system, the cantons receive two-thirds, while one-third is earmarked for the federal government.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Swiss National Bank has been selling off 1,300 tons of gold it no longer requires for monetary policy purposes.
The gold’s value is SFr21 billion.
The regional authorities will receive SFr14 billion, while the remaining SFr7 billion will go to the federal government.

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