Country Review -"William Tell's country"

a Prof. Michael Akerib   |   4 mins read October 1, 2021 | 199 eye icon

A closed country or a country of emigrants ?

Switzerland has become a country of emigrants, both rich and poor, both individuals and corporations, attracted by the peace that has prevailed for centuries. Switzerland being neutral, the low taxation, the high quality of its infrastructure, its education, not to forget its breathtaking mountains and lakes which offer countless opportunities for sports, have lured corporations and wealthy citizens.

Some of the world's most renowned corporations are Swiss, e.g. Nestlé, the world's largest food company, is located in Vevey, by the Geneva Lake, one of Europe's biggest lakes.

Swiss hospitality, however, does not mean that acquiring a Swiss passport is an easy task. Quite  the contrary. Applicants must have lived a minimum of 12 years in the country to be eligible and the process involves sitting for a number of exams covering the language, history, political system, and others.

Switzerland's neutrality and high level of security have made it an ideal place as the second capital of the United Nations as well as an eminent meeting place between heads of state, the latest one being between Presidents Biden and Putin.

Neutrality, however, does not mean a lack of army and the country is about to place a major order to renew its aging air force.

While the country will have to align itself on the minimum tax rates decided by the G20, it is more than certain that its taxation rate will remain an attraction to corporations and wealthy individuals.

High quality private banking and asset management characterize the Swiss financial sector which is an important contributor to the economic life of the country.

The reserves of the Swiss National Bank have reached, for the first time, 1 trillion francs. Its main role over the last few years has been to maintain the Swiss Franc in a range of 1.05 to 1.10 francs to a Euro, thus allowing Swiss companies to export to Europe, their main market.

The country also prides itself on having some of the world's best medical care and its public hospitals are rated among the finest in Europe. The two engineering schools, ETHZ in Zurich and EPFL in Lausanne, have found a place among Europe's top schools.

Switzerland, a confederal country made up of 26 cantons, boasts of being the only direct democracy in the world. The people can propose, accept or overturn laws and decrees through referendums, and these are quite frequent. The next referendum will be on taxing capital while reducing taxes on salaries, on the protection of glaciers and on homosexual marriage.

The country has four official languages and cultures, and even though elections show at times wide disagreements between the priorities of the French, the German and the Italian speakers, the country's unity has never been challenged, perhaps because of the overwhelming majority and economic weight of the German speakers. Well, let us say the German dialect speakers, for you will hear a variety of dialects rather than Hoch Deutsch, the official German idiom.

Hence, there is no national newspaper, but newspapers that address themselves, in one of the national languages, to a local population. This media multiplicity has an obvious impact on advertising budgets should one want to cover the entire country.

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union but has signed an important framework agreement with the EU which the Swiss government is not going to renew to the dismay of industry that would make exporting of their products more difficult.

The country is surrounded by major cultural and political centers easily accessible by road, rail, plane, or even bicycle : Austria, France, Italy and Germany. In fact, major Swiss cities have spent considerable sums of money to create bicycle lanes and public parking spaces, originally occupied by cars, have now been reassigned to bicycles.

The trains, however, need some updating and there is no Swiss high speed train, in spite of the fact that train tickets are among the most expensive in the world.

Like in many developed countries, one of the most arduous tasks in the years to come will be to sustain energy consumption so as to reduce climatic warming.

In summary, Switzerland has many assets, and one of the most formidable is tourism. So do visit the country and, in a mountain  restaurant, enjoy a fondue or a raclette.

Prof. Michael Akerib
Head of Academic and Strategic Development
Westford Education Group

Prof. Michael Akerib divides his professional life between industry, executive education and academia. He has worked for leading corporations (Dow Chemical, Merrill Lynch, COMILOG) in Africa, France and Switzerland.  He was the CEO of a South American gold and diamond mining corporation in the early 1990s. 

Since 1991, he has been involved in executive education and academia in over 20 countries. He has created curricula, franchised educational programs he created, was Dean, Managing Director of business schools and rector. 

He has published a number of articles on demography, energy and Russia.

Prof Akerib considers himself a global citizen – born in the Near East of grand-parents of four different nationalities, grown up in South America, studied in Britain. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, a Master’s degree in Biochemistry of Nutrition, an MBA, an MPhil in Industrial History and Geography and a PhD in Social Sciences. 

His favorite pastime is writing surrealist short stories.

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