From 21 to 26 May 2017, a group of 39 people headed by Mercury’s chief executive Fraser Whineray took part in the Initiative’s ‘Go Swiss Delegation’. The delegation comprised of chief executives and chairs of large New Zealand companies, who travelled with us to share in the Swiss experience.
The Key Findings at a Glance
A direct and participatory democracy
- Elections are important but referenda are more important. The people as the sovereign have the final say in all matters local, regional and national.
- Legislation becomes more cautious given the possibility of referenda. This slows down decision-making but ensures better quality outcomes.
- Referenda have a disciplining effect on fiscal policy at all tiers.
- As a part-time institution, Parliament can attract high calibre candidates, bringing considerable professional expertise into the legislative process.
- The level of civic engagement in politics is much higher than in New Zealand. Public office and public administration are held in high regard.
Federalism and Localism
- Switzerland’s structure of government is the antithesis to New Zealand’s centralism. Political decisions are taken much closer to the people affected by them.
- Smaller political units may lack economies of scale but make up for scale effects by greater efficiency.
- Swiss local and regional government has much stronger financial incentives to promote economic growth than their New Zealand counterparts.
- Competition between neighbouring jurisdictions ensures that councils pay close attention to the wishes and needs of their residents.
- Tax competition at the local level is a crucial element of this competition.
- Councils can voluntarily cooperate in service delivery without having to amalgamate.
- There are highly attractive options for Swiss school leavers, both for those wishing to pursue academic studies and others preferring a vocational training pathway.
- There is equal respect for academic and non-academic education.
- The cooperation between companies and schools in the delivery of vocational training is a crucial factor for the success of dual education.
- Switzerland does not pigeon-hole its students but keeps open a variety of development options throughout their professional life.
- Companies are a key driver behind delivering solid education – and they are a key beneficiary of this system as well.
A flexible labour market
- The flexible Swiss labour market is a success factor for the Swiss economy.
- Switzerland upholds the “freedom to terminate” by which employment contracts can be ended easily by either party.
- There is a broad social consensus for keeping employment laws liberal.
For the whole Report;
With kind permission from Dr Oliver Hartwich, Executive Director of the New Zealand Initiative.