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OECD Praises Switzerland's Regional Policy

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

24 January 2011


According to the findings of a recent study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Switzerland’s new regional policy is well positioned, given that it is orientated towards competitiveness and towards added value in the Confederation’s regions. Compared to other OECD countries, the Swiss regions are in good economic health, the OECD maintains, adding that there are no great disparities between them. There is scope to improve the promotion of innovation, however, the OECD notes.

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) recently requested for the first time that the OECD evaluate the Confederation’s new regional policy (la nouvelle politique régionale – NPR). Details of the study’s findings were presented in Coire during a conference on the promotion of innovation.

In application since 2008, the modern regional policy or NPR is based on growth and competitiveness. The shift in focus – the decision to abandon the promotion of basic infrastructure and to focus instead on competitiveness, innovation and the creation of value – was judged a success by the OECD.

In its evaluation, however, the OECD suggests that the Confederation extend its policy to the whole of the country – up until now limited to rural zones – to include in future mountain and border regions or at least to better coordinate regional and urban policy.

In view of the fact that the key factors in regional economic growth (entrepreneur networks, the transport of goods and individuals and the transfer of knowledge) no longer end at borders, the OECD recommends that greater encouragement should be given to the Swiss cantons to encourage cooperation and coordination of regional policy strategies. The OECD also urges the Federal government to refine its system of controlling, reporting and monitoring in order to improve its strategic leadership.

Crucially, the findings of the study identify the need to improve coordination of political instruments designed to promote innovation at Federal and cantonal level. Switzerland is ranked world leader in terms of its capacity for innovation in further education and industry, offering excellent framework conditions for research, science and technology. Yet, according to the OECD, unused potential for innovation in traditional sectors include the craft industry and regions that are not densely populated. Innovation excluding research and development plays a determining role, and is crucial for national economic growth as well as for balanced regional development.

SECO confirmed its intention to take into account the OECD’s recommendations in the development of its regional and urban policies.

TAGS: fiscal policy | Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) | Switzerland

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