Expat delegates give pension reform thumbs up
Delegates of the Swiss Abroad Council have clearly come out in favour of a reform of the country’s old age pension scheme, which will come to a nationwide vote next month.
Meeting in Basel on Friday, a majority of 80 members of the assembly recommended approval of the amended social security package, which will also affect Swiss expats all over the worldExternal link.
Twenty-two representatives came out against it, while eight others abstained in the vote which came after a short presentation of arguments by a supporter and an opponent of the proposal.
Tim Guldimann, a Social Democratic member of parliament and delegate from Germany, said the proposal was a balanced compromise and would be beneficial to the increasing Swiss expat community.
He added that the compromise solution approved by parliament in March came with a price, notably for the younger generation and women. But the reform would also result in a slight increase in payments for all new pensioners and additional legal guarantees for certain groups of expats.
“The urgently needed reform would be blocked for years, if it is rejected by voters,” he warned. Previous attempts to adapt the social security system to the demographic changes of an aging society have all failed over the past two decades.
Presenting the opposing camp, François Baur of the Swiss Business Federation and a member of the Radical Party, said the proposal was not sustainable and too costly.
“We will have the same funding problems again in 2035 at the latest,” he said.
The money needed for the reform, notably through an increase in value-added tax (VAT), should be used to boost education, according to Baur.
He also accused the government, notably Interior Minister Alain Berset, of rejecting a compromise solution to grant less affluent Swiss expats a higher pension payment.
At the same time, he rejected criticism of Radical Party President Petra Gössi, saying she was misquoted by the media. Gössi allegedly called for pension cutsExternal link for Swiss expats as many of them paid no taxes in Switzerland.
A discussion among the 116 delegates, who met for the first time in the new four-year term of the Swiss Abroad Council, showed the complexity of the issue at stake in the September 24 vote and the need for further clarification.
About 160,000 Swiss expatriates are eligible to take part in the ballot, and about 75,000 among them can use e-voting to cast their vote.
In total, the Swiss Abroad community is made up of 775,000 people, most of them living in neighbouring European countries – France, Germany and Italy. Around 100,000 of them are old age pensioners.
But there is also an important number of Swiss citizens living in North America.
An opinion poll, published on Friday, shows that the result of the vote on September could be closeExternal link.
The assembly once again discussed the controversial policy of Swiss banks towards Swiss expat clients, following numerous complaints about discriminatory business practices.
Roland Rino Büchel, a Swiss Peoples’ Party parliamentarian and leading member of the Swiss Abroad Council, said it was important to keep up pressure on the government and notably demand that PostFinance, the financial service unit of the state-owned Swiss Post, must offer services to Swiss expatriates under reasonable conditions.
He said he was confident that parliament was willing to take action now.
Remo Gysi, the president of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), added there were plans to involve the 26 cantons and their banks and parliaments to tackle the issue.
On the sidelines of the council meetings, several council delegates told swissinfo.ch about their problems with Swiss banks. Some clients said they were bluntly asked to withdraw their money. Others were left with the choice of paying high fees or facing huge bureaucratic hurdles.
Find more details of witness accounts from council delegates in swissinfo.ch reports in GermanExternal link, FrenchExternal link, ItalianExternal link, SpanishExternal link and PortugueseExternal link.
Cooperation OSA – swissinfo.ch
The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad and swissinfo.ch have agreed to increase cooperation.
A deal between OSA and the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), the parent company of swissinfo.ch, foresees a regular exchange of editorial content provided by swissinfo.ch and by OSA’s Swiss Revue magazine.
There are projects to strengthen cross promotion on social media as well as a joint presence at special events, including for National Day, to increase visibility for both partners.
Synergies could also be used for online marketing, according to a statement by the SBC.
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