Negative government budgets are not the norm in Switzerland. Over the 23 years since 2000, 14 federal budgets have been positive and 9 negative. This week the federal government signed off on a negative budget for 2023 with a hole of CHF 4.8 billion in it, bringing the number of negative budgets since 2000 to 10.
In 2023, Switzerland’s federal government expects to spend CHF 86.2 billion, CHF 4.8 billion more than CHF 81.3 billion it expects to collect.
A large part of the deficit relates to a CHF 4 billion reserve that is expected to be lent to the electricity company Axpo, which faces a liquidity crisis. Axpo, which is owned mainly by Swiss cantons, owns and operates nuclear (49%), hydro (27%), fossil fuel (19%) and solar and wind (5%) power plants. The company has been hit by recent price disruption in the energy market. Rapid price shifts and efforts to deal with these by hedging future sales have consumed large amounts of cash.
The budget was accepted in parliament by 137 votes to 49. Ahead of vote an extra CHF 15 million was added to spending to fund marketing of Swiss wine, protect wolves, to support sport and a few other activities.
Not everyone was happy with the spending plans for 2023. Some on the left wanted higher spending on humanitarian aid to Ukraine, international funds, the Erasmus programme and support for clean energy and the circular economy, and less spending on the military.
Calls by the UDC/SVP for cuts to spending on the environment, health, energy, migration and culture were also rejected. Broadly, the party wanted across the board cuts with the exception of the military and welfare support for farmers.