Like all other countries, Switzerland has been, and still is, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cases were as numerous as those in the most affected countries. However, the number of victims is significantly lower, probably because of the quality of the Swiss health care system and better organisation and implementation of government measures.
The Swiss Federal Council (Government) is currently undergoing a gradual exit from the lockdown which will take place in three phases, on 28 April, 11 May and 9 June.
These measures seem all the more credible because containment has never been complete in Switzerland: non-food stores and pharmacies were closed, as were restaurants, but outside these sectors population was authorised to move and work.
In terms of economy, the closure measures have, as everywhere, caused a great deal of damage and a drop in GDP of approximately 8% is expected in 2020.
This is the result of both the measures taken and the fact that, as the Swiss economy is very integrated with the economies of its neighbours, the loss of purchasing power will be felt in Switzerland.
However, GDP is generally expected to rise by the same amount in 2021, according to projections by most economists.
Assistance measures taken
The federal government and the cantons have also taken measures to support companies and employees.
These compensatory measures include direct aid to companies which had to close or those whose turnover has been significantly reduced, intervention in the payment of commercial rents, loans, loans guaranteed by the public authorities, easier access to temporary unemployment, etc.
It is recognised that these measures have been effective, although they are insufficient to compensate for the losses suffered by businesses. In addition, the Federal Government and the cantons have been very reactive, with aid sometimes being granted within only two or three days.
The future of the Swiss economy
As is the case everywhere, lockdown measures, although not comprehensive, will have medium- and long-term implications.
However, one of the important advantages of Switzerland is that the public authorities were very lightly in debt and therefore have a significantly higher borrowing capacity than most of the other European countries. In addition, the federal budget has been in surplus in recent years, and the state wisely refused to listen to those who recommended the spending of the budget bonus.
Therefore, Switzerland has now a greater capacity to intervene without jeopardising the balance of public finances and without requiring new taxes from taxpayers.
Residence in Switzerland
This is probably one of the reasons why the establishment of a company in Switzerland, or the acquisition of a Swiss residence, is to be recommended today, provided that it corresponds to reality.
There is a concern that some other countries, including in Europe, will take very heavy fiscal measures, either at the end of this year or in the following years, in order to service their very heavy 2020 expenditure incurred.
It is highly unlikely that Switzerland will be forced to take equivalent measures.
It is therefore more than probable that in the coming years there will be additional advantages in establishing in Switzerland, not because of an improvement in the Swiss tax system, but because, compared to that, the taxation of neighbouring countries will be even higher than it is today.