“Worth waking up”
Gloomy prospects characterize the budget debate in the Council of States
The Council of States began deliberating the 2023 budget on Monday afternoon. The financial prospects darken after 2023. Finance Minister Ueli Maurer emphasized that solutions had to be found.
Switzerland’s financial prospects are becoming increasingly gloomy. The outgoing Finance Minister Ueli Maurer warned the Council of States on Monday to wake up for the time after 2023.
In the introduction, the spokeswoman for the preliminary advisory finance commission summarized Switzerland’s financial situation: “The debt brake will still be observed this year, but not from 2024,” said Johanna Gapany (FDP / FR). According to the extrapolation, the deficit will then increase every year. In the worst case, the funding deficit could rise to seven billion francs by 2026, according to the Federal Council.
Even if one is now talking about the 2023 budget, one should not ignore the prospects, said Gapany. The situation is not easy. New debt should not be made because of the debt brake. Specifically, the budget provides for income of CHF 79.8 billion and expenditure of CHF 80.5 billion. This results in a deficit of CHF 669 million. Last week, the National Council approved increases of CHF 14.1 million compared to the Federal Council’s proposal.
Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, for his part, emphasized that the budget shows a total financing deficit of CHF 4.8 billion. This is caused in particular by the extraordinary expenses – for example for those seeking protection from Ukraine. “We assume that we will have 100,000 people with protection status S here next year, today there are around 80,000 people.” CHF 1.7 billion has been budgeted for this.
Four billion francs are also planned for the Axpo rescue package. “The loan has not yet been claimed and we are confident that it will not be claimed in the coming year either,” said Maurer. A financing gap comes about because of the Swiss National Bank (SNB). “We have to assume that the payments from the SNB will not be made for 2023.” The reduction of the extraordinary debt will therefore be delayed.
Overall, however, the budget for 2023 is still on course as part of the debt brake, said Maurer. “For the coming years, we expect financing deficits of 1 to 3 billion francs.” The point here is not to decide on any new expenditure that is not financed. “Otherwise, this will lead to cost-cutting measures.” Maurer finally summed it up: “We can sleep soundly in 2023, but for the years to come it’s worth waking up and seeing what can be done.”
To start the debate, the Council of States made two first substantive decisions in the field of sport. The small chamber did not agree with the National Council’s decision to allocate an additional CHF 360,000 to improve the ethics situation in sport. The National Council requested this because the Swiss Sport Integrity registration office received a higher number of reports than forecast. The decision in the Council of States, on the other hand, was made by 23 to 18 votes.
The Council of States also rejected the decision of the National Council to make an additional CHF 650,000 available for the 2024 World Relay Championships in Lausanne. In the meantime, the world championship has been awarded to the Bahamas, said Finance Minister Ueli Maurer. Accordingly, the Council of States tacitly rejected this.