Final referenda--2004: as the year draws to an end, the Swiss step up to the ballot box to vote on the last of four referendums of 2004. In a year marked by several defeats for the government, voters will once again give thumbs up or down to another three proposals of the Federal Council and Parliament.

Author:Anderson, Robert
Position:Politics
 
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Swiss voters will decide on:

1) The federal resolution of 3. October 2003 on reform of financial equalization and task allocation (PET) between the federal government and the cantons

2) The federal resolution of 19. March 2004 on finance restructuring; and

3) The federal law of 19. December 2003 governing embryonic stem-cell research.

The Government's Proposals

The reform of financial equalization and task allocation (PET) between the federal government and the cantons involves a package relating to financial matters (the equalization of resources and burdens) and task allocation between the federal government and the cantons as well as among the cantons.

The aim of RET is to reduce disparities in the cantons' financial capacities and to enhance the efficiency of the public sector. Financial reforms have sparked considerable criticism in the donor cantons due to the extent of the payments and the way in which they are calculated, while certain interest groups have protested against the range of changes that would occur to the social services. However, with the exception of Zug, all of the cantonal governments have approved the RET package.

If RET is adopted, it would be introduced in 2008 at the earliest. In the medium-to-long term, much will depend on how individual cantons respond to the new system in terms of taxation and spending policies.

The Swiss Constitution stipulates limitations on the power of the...

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