The think tank Avenir Suisse has calculated that in 2020 the Swiss federal government spent CHF 5 per person per day on the pandemic, a total of CHF 41 million a day.
While an enormous sum, this compares favourably to a number of other nations. For example, the UK spent CHF 8 francs per person per day and the US government a whopping CHF 15 per person per day.
One big differentiator was Switzerland’s deployment of partial unemployment payments. This cost less than the unemployment payments made in the US, which had to be sustained for longer. Winding down Switzerland’s partial unemployment payments came with lower risks and its withdrawal had less economic impact.
In addition, Switzerland more successfully supported its economy with extra spending when it was needed most, something it was better able to do because of its healthy national balance sheet. Nations like Italy and Spain provided much less support relative to the size of their economies than Switzerland. This was largely driven by their already high levels of national debt.
The combination of judicious deployment of partial unemployment support and a capacity to inject sufficient money into the economy due to history of restrained government spending gave Switzerland an edge and allowed to spend less on aper capita basis.
To maintain this edge it is now important that Switzerland return to balanced budgets, argues Avenir Suisse.