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REFERENDUM TIME.

On September 24, four major referendums will hit the ballot-boxes: the "18 per cent Initiative" and three energy-oriented Initiatives. The "18 per cent Initiative" would dictate that the amount of foreigners residing in Switzerland not exceed 18 per cent of the population overall. The 18 per cent has been a hot number among all political factions and parties, although the Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC) is the only major party to have approved it in their party convention. Those for the Initiative cite the familiar xenophobic arguments involving over-population and a "continuing influx of foreigners which is making the situation no longer manageable," as proponents of the Initiative have said. Those opposed to the Initiative are so for both social and economical reasons. Adversaries of the Initiative say that the Swiss economy is highly dependent on foreign workers, especially in fields such as Information Technology. In addition, they discredit any fear of being overrun with foreigners and call for alternativ es to the across-the-board limit of 18 per cent. Among their proposals are a sort of "Greencard" similar to Germany's, which includes a special set of stipulations for employees in certain sectors as well as an easing of the naturalisation process.

Opinion regarding the three "Energy Initiatives" differs greatly among political factions. A philosophical debate has been sparked between those who believe in and support the idea that taxation influences consumer tendencies and those who refute the idea that governmentally implemented tax schemes have any influence at all on consumer practices. The three "Energy Initiatives" are as follows:

1. The "Energy Taxation for the Environment" foresees a maximum tax of 2 centimes per kilowatt-hour on non-recyclable energy sources such as heating oil, gasoline, natural gas, uranium and electricity (not including sun, wind, wood and water-power) which would result in the following price increases:

* Electricity 0, 8 centimes per kilowatt-hour

* Gasoline/Petrol, 18 centimes per litre

* Diesel, 20 centimes per litre

* Heating oil, 20 centimes per litre

* Natural gas, 2 centimes per kilowatt-hour

The taxes would result in about Sfr3 billion which the government would in turn re-distribute in the economy and to the population in the form of a 1.3 per cent reduction in AHV contributions for both employee and employer alike. The idea behind this initiative is to increase incentive to reduce consumption of non-recyclable energy sources, save energy and make recyclable forms of energy more attractive to consumers. Exceptions would be made for sectors characterised by intensive energy use or export-oriented businesses.

2. "Promotion of Recyclable Forms of Energy." An additional tax of 0.3 centimes per kilowatt-hour on non-recyclable forms of energy. However, the roughly Sfr450 million in tax revenue would not flow back into the economy but would be used exclusively for the promotion of recyclable forms of energy, such as solar energy, technology directed at saving energy, such as the so-called "Minergy" houses, and renovation and maintenance of domestic water-power plants. Increases would include:

* Electricity, 0.12 centimes per kilowatt-hour

* Gasoline/Petrol, 2.7 centimes per litre

* Diesel, 2.9 centimes per litre

* Heating oil, 3 centimes per litre

* Natural gas, 0.3 centimes per kilowatt-hour Some economical sectors, such as the paper, cement, glass and metal industries, would be totally or partially exempted from these taxes. This Initiative is the Swiss parliament's alternative proposal to the "Solar Initiative."

3. The "Solar Initiative." This Initiative was submitted by environmental groups and calls for governmentally collected revenue to promote solar energy and other natural energy sources. A tax of 0.5 centimes per kilowatt-hour on non-recyclable forms of energy would result in about Sfr750 million. This money would then be used to provide discounts on building and maintaining solar-energy sources and promoting energy-saving measures.
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Author:MAUPIN, MICHAEL
Publication:Swiss News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EXSI
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Words:619
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