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Switzerland ‘losing global clout’, warns ex-central banker

Published on February 28, 2021

Switzerland’s fading influence on the international stage is a cause of concern to former Swiss National Bank (SNB) chairman Philipp Hildebrand.

Hildebrand, who this week ended his race to become the next head of the Organisation for International Co-operation and Development (OECD), believes the country should act to restore its global voice.

In an interview with the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, Hildebrand suggested that Switzerland could emulate Singapore, which exerts considerable muscle via the global investments of its sovereign wealth fund.

While acknowledging that a Swiss fund would likely prove politically difficult, Hildebrand believes that the country should find ways to be more proactive in the world.

“We lack the tools to influence an increasingly complex world,” he said. “Gone are the days when we could rely on our good offices to create goodwill. Other countries also offer such good services; they are no longer a unique selling point.”

“We have to first admit that we have a problem and then develop a plan based on what makes us stand apart. Singapore was aware that to maintain its independence it had to generate wealth and then use it strategically with foreign investments to assert its influence. It’s a decades-long project, but Singapore has done it well.”

He added that his attempt to head up the OECD was largely unsuccessful because he lacked enough support from the European Union to make the final cut.

Hildebrand was chairman of Switzerland’s central bank between 2010 and 2012, before he stepped down under pressure, notably from the political right, over a private currency deal.

He later joined BlackRock, a leading asset management company, and has held the position of vice-president there since 2012.

swissinfo.ch/mga