Business World

Friday 22 June 2018

Swiss voters reject 'real money' plan

The so-called sovereign money initiative, or 'Vollgeld', would have ended the system of fractional reserve banking that’s been around for centuries by allowing only the Swiss National Bank to 'create' money. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo
The so-called sovereign money initiative, or 'Vollgeld', would have ended the system of fractional reserve banking that’s been around for centuries by allowing only the Swiss National Bank to 'create' money. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

Catherine Bosley

Swiss voters dismissed a radical proposal to overturn one of the financial system's core tenets.

The so-called sovereign money initiative, or "Vollgeld", would have ended the system of fractional reserve banking that's been around for centuries by allowing only the Swiss National Bank to "create" money.

But 75.7pc of voters rejected the measure, according to the government.

"Of course, we're happy," said Heinz Karrer, president of business lobby Economiesuisse. "A large majority didn't want to go for such an experiment."

While polls had suggested "no" was likely, the fact supporters were able to muster the 100,000 signatures necessary to put it on the ballot is testament to the ongoing distaste about the financial industry still palpable a decade after the financial crisis. While that was sparked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Switzerland didn't escape, and was forced in 2008 to bail out UBS, its biggest bank.

Still, the Swiss Bankers Association focused on the result itself, saying that the rejection "reflects the confidence of the electorate in the Swiss financial centre and the banks".

Proponents of Vollgeld argue that by putting the central bank solely in charge of steering the amount of money in the economy, there would be more safeguards to prevent the kind of asset price bubbles that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

While the movement has gained the most prominence in Switzerland, thanks to its system of direct democracy, it has also found favour in other countries, such as Germany and the UK.

"It was a pragmatic proposal to make the currency system better," said Reinhold Harringer, a supporter of the measure.

Irish Independent

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