Magazine

The Secret of Switzerland's Success


Congratulations for the two articles "Trouble in paradise" and "One thing the EU could learn from the Swiss" (European Business, July 29). So-called self-governance of management--without adequate control from outside shareholders and directors--is very similar to most European parliaments: The majority of deputies are civil servants or at least working in some way for the state administration. In Switzerland, at least politically, the individual citizen has a means of control and decision, because most important decisions have to be approved by the people.

It would be a mistake to force "the Swiss model" on the EU. However, two things should and could be introduced: a second chamber of the European Parliament, where all member states would have the same number of representatives and which would approve all decisions, and an extended right of referendum, as in Switzerland. It would force the European Commission, as well as member states, to consult the people before introducing new laws and regulations. It might be the key to the ultimate success of the EU.

Peter H. Spillman

Limassol, Cyprus

Most Europeans are aware that it was only in 1971 that Switzerland extended voting rights to women. It could be argued, therefore, that democratic "perfection" is fairly recent among the Swiss.

I fully agree with you, though, that the unelected Eurocrats in Brussels need to be subject to democratic checks and controls sooner rather than later!

A. Gylenstn

Abu Dhabi

John Rossant concludes incorrectly that "the Swiss political system has given rise to one of the world's wealthiest, best-educated, and most linguistically diverse countries." Swiss banking secrecy coupled with the country's avoidance of international conflicts enabled the country to become extraordinarily wealthy during the past 70 years--beginning with the period just before World War II.

With respect to the country's democracy, the qualifications to become a Swiss voter are extremely rigid, resulting in a situation where the opinions of many long-term residents and taxpayers are not represented.

Joseph Shabathai

Miami Your story on Malaysian economic policy, "Mahathir's change of heart?" (Asian Business, July 29), is a damning one--but in large measure it addresses the truth of the matter.

In the past, the Malays were tied to their agrarian communities, and the British brought in Chinese and Indians to partake in different spheres of economic activities. As immigrants, the Chinese and Indians had a common denominator to push them economically. Independence brought a socially dichotomous and paradoxical order: The Malays controlled the politics, and the Chinese (and perhaps Indians) the economics. Addressing this situation, the Malaysian leaders of the past created the New Economic Policy (NEP) as a form of social engineering to redress the imbalance.

However, the implementation of NEP, like many other social and economic activities of the Malays, was heavily tainted with politics. This is perhaps the main cause of failure. Malaysia needs another social engineering process to approach the modern, globalized world. This time round, it must use the well-established method that has proved successful in many modern communities in the world, i.e., education.

Abd Hamid Mat Sain

Kubang Kerian, Malaysia After Corporate America rediscovers honesty and integrity, along with other basic fundamentals such as price-earnings ratios, shareholder interest, and the public good, it might then be time to take a good hard look at Wall Street itself ("The angry market," Cover Story, July 29).

The past and present problems in the market could also be a cumulative result of too many questionable and sleazy practices by too many brokers, traders, dealers, analysts, and other assorted market hustlers--whose conduct is starting to make Wall Street look like the red-light district of national finance.

F.A.C. Lister

Nauheim, Germany In "Inside McKinsey" (Cover Story, July 8), the word "consultancy" is as much abused as the word "`nice" in the English language. Consultants such as McKinsey develop strategies but shy away from strategy execution (implementation). They can get away with this because of their reputation and because of their policy to "drop" partners into as many executive boards as possible, creating an old boys' network that generates new assignments. The connection between auditors and their consultants is not the only one that deserves a critical look.

Henk van der Meer

Werchter, Belgium Jeffrey E. Garten's "Five steps to make Wall Street safer for investors" (Economic Viewpoint, July 15) was very much to the point. I would suggest further imperatives: make more matters subject to shareholder approval, and make readily available to the stockholding public all meeting minutes showing how major (named) shareholders cast their votes on all propositions on each shareholder agenda. This would have the beneficial effect of "enfranchising" smaller shareholders, whose shares may be voted as part of a nominee bloc or who would anyway be outvoted by institutional shareholders. It would make clear the effect of crony relationships between management, outside directors, and institutional shareholders.

Ian McLeish

London "From a trot to a gallop, inflation is picking up speed" (Latin America, July 29) shows the sad reality of the Argentine people. When the president of Argentina's Auto Dealers Assn. says that "overnight, Argentina went from having some of the most expensive cars in the world to some of the cheapest," he involuntarily revealed the tremendous distortion of the economic policies that are applied to countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and others.

We do not need luxurious cars in our streets. In lieu of Mercedes, Audis, Ferraris, we need investments to spur development and growth, to create jobs and, consequently, improve the standard of living of the local population.

Jos? Thomaz Gama da Silva

Ouro Pr?to, Brazil


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