a range of alternative economic strategies
banks, the Swiss economy now offers a world of opportunity
for small and medium-sized enterprises
The Swiss enjoy a reputation
as a sensible and quietly prosperous people, thanks
in large part to keeping out of Europes conflicts
for more than 500 years. But the defining characteristic
of this island of stability is the flexibility of
Slightly bigger than Wales,
largely mountainous, with a population of seven million
and few natural resources, Switzerlands economy
is in a constant state of adaptation to external factors,
while looking ahead to emerging markets and trends.
It has skillfully sold itself abroad, acquiring its
enviably high standards of living, education and health
care largely through international trade and banking,
and by a thriving tourist sector.
The Swiss economy, which grew
by 2.7 per cent in 2006, and by around 2.4 per cent
in 2007, is not built on mass production or large
industries. Instead, more than 99 per cent of the
countrys 300,000 companies are SMEssmall
and medium-sized enterprises. Many of these businesses
have followed a niche strategy of concentrating on
a small range of high-quality products. As a result,
such enterprises have often been able to corner the
world market in their own speciality.
reputation for the high quality of its exports, based
on mechanical and engineering products, micro-technology,
high technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, banking
and insurance, is built on heavy investment in research
and development. Swiss products command high prices
in world markets because consumers are ready to pay
for high quality. But with such a strategy, Swiss
companies dare not rest on their laurels. In Switzerland,
a higher percentage of people work in research and
development than in other industrialized countries,
with R&D accounting for 2.7 per cent of GDP.
Swiss exporters can count
on the federal government to help find new markets,
as economic affairs councillor Doris Leuthard explains.
In a global world we have to get better access
worldwide: we aim for open markets and we fight trade
barriers, she says. In 2007, she visited India
and Japan, Indonesia, and the Gulf States in the continual
quest to open up new international markets.
Aside from the adaptability of its industries, the
stability of the economy is built on the gold-backed
Swiss franc. Then there is Switzerlands consensus-based
democracy, which means taking the wishes of all parties
whose interests would be affected by a change in legislation
into account by submitting new laws to the popular
vote if required.