echo-Interview with Christine Egerszegi, State Councillor for the canton of Aargau
elipsLife echo: Ms Egerszegi, referendum results in the past few years show that a gap has opened up between the political class and the people. How could this and the resulting scepticism and mistrust happen?
Christine Egerszegi: For me, the big gap is not between the people and Parliament, but within the nation as a whole, in particular between the urban and rural communities. Their problems and needs are different, and this becomes clear whenever a referendum is held. The people in the cities are more open-minded with a more globalised outlook than those who live in the more rural areas. In the Council of States we are quite close to the people, primarily because party politics do not play such a big role. In the National Council, however, it has become the fashion not to tolerate any divergence from the party line. But when in a multi-party state all parties only look out for themselves, it is difficult to find good solutions.
… and what can the political circles do about this?
Disseminate information to the public as well as possible. We also have to exercise our function as a lay parliament. When I stand in a queue on Saturday when I do my shopping for the weekend, I can see what the people in front and behind me have in their shopping trolleys. I cannot really see this on the golf course.
Just as a gap has opened up between the people and the political class or between different population groups, relations with the business sector have also suffered. Are the Swiss people no longer friendly to business?
Whenever we have identified some black sheep, we tend to generalise them. But there are black sheep everywhere, in politics as well as in business. Events such as the Swissair grounding or the 68 billion francs which the government had to give to UBS to help it survive the financial crisis erode the trust. When such a crisis has occurred it takes many years to build up a relationship of trust again. In the process, people forget about the good things that these companies did previously. They only see the ten-digit figure and forget that in the case of UBS, for example, the government actually made a profit in the end. When groups of regulars m
When groups of regulars meet around their usual table, it is often said that one of these days, none of us will get any social security. What do you think of such statements?
In such a rich country as Switzerland, it will never happen that the AHV is not paid. Retirement provision is a central pillar of our state, and we have found on numerous occasions that it is the most sensitive pillar of our social insurance system. The people have a really good feeling for what is too much and what is not. They neither consent to grand initiatives to expand the social insurance system, nor do they accept any serious cutbacks.
What is your personal assessment of the standard of the employee benefits insurance in Switzerland?
Our three-pillar system is unique and works extremely well in many regards. Financing, for example. The first pillar, the AHV, is financed as a pay-as-you-go system. What comes in on the one side goes out on the other. The disadvantage is that this money cannot be invested in order to earn a profit, but we always know exactly how much is available. And as all issues related to the AHV can be calculated very precisely, everything is transparent. As the financing system for the second pillar is different, a profit can be earned. But where a profit can be made we can also suffer a loss, and unfortunately this is often forgotten. The two pillars complement one another when it comes to financing, and together they maintain a balance. Another reason for the stability of the system is the fact that everybody pays AHV contributions. This is where the solidarity between old and young, between employers and employees, and between rich and poor comes into play. In addition to the basic insurance for all employees provided by the second pillar, employees who earn a higher salary can also be offered supplementary insurance cover. While these people pay much more into the AHV than they will ever get back in pensions, they can use the second pillar to save in order to retire in the style they are used to. Although this may sometimes be difficult to explain, it is a logical concept when we look at the system as a whole, and I believe that it is also just and proper. The third pillar completes the system as a kind of individual piggy bank.