A view from Switzerland

Hans Meyer, Chairman of the Governing Board

Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tokyo, 14.07.1998

At the end of the twentieth century, Switzerland is at a turning-point of its economic and social development. On the one hand, prosperity and welfare have increased to a remarkable extent; both the favourable monetary framework as well as the adjustment of outdated structures have created a sound basis for such a development. On the other hand, social ties have become looser and the awareness is increasingly gaining ground that the growing international involvement not only offers opportunities, but also bears risks.

In this respect, care must be taken to achieve a healthy balance between economic flexibility and social cohesion. The efforts to create favourable competitive conditions must be continued, the performance characterised by innovation and productivity being decisive for a sustained success. Flexibility should be increased with respect to conditions of employment and mobility. Sound public finances must be re-established. On a human level, education and training need to be further promoted. Of decisive importance is, finally, a stability-oriented monetary policy. Price stability indeed represents the best contribution of monetary policy to creating favourable conditions for a balanced overall economic development; it is also a social issue, since the weakest members of society suffer the most from inflation.

All in all, maintaining an equilibrium between economic and social development is of crucial importance. This fact has been demonstrated by the recent events in Asia. An unbalanced economic development, weak financial systems and insufficient supervision of the financial markets are symptoms of deeper-lying causes. Today’s difficulties clearly show that a sustainable development is only possible on the basis of stable social conditions. Such conditions must, first and foremost, be created by individual countries themselves.