By Ueli Maurer
The reputation of Switzerland as one of the most important and leading financial centres of the world is well known. However, by implementing brand-new state legal regulations for DLT (Blockchain) in recent months we took a huge step forward in fostering the innovative ecosystem of crypto currencies in our country.
Hence, we are combining the traditional strengths of high productivity, stability and security with new developments such as sustainable finance and Fintech innovation (www.finance.swiss) with our new financial market policy.
In June 2021, Switzerland proudly received an excellent review from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its economic and financial policy during the Covid pandemic.
It is of paramount importance for me as the finance minister of Switzerland that not only our government, but also our financial centre stakeholders maintain a strong presence in Qatar. And next year, we even celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations. With my visit to Qatar, I am promoting and honouring our bilateral relations.
Blockchain, Startups, Green Fintech
For decades, one of the main objectives of the Swiss financial centre has been cross-border wealth management. In this area, Switzerland is the world leader with a market share of over 25% of all internationally managed assets. Whilst this top ranking is expected to continue in the future, renewed efforts are needed to provide the best possible framework for new technologies and sustainable development in the financial sector, in which Switzerland has high ambitions to be one of the international pioneers. Switzerland’s recent ranking by the European Innovation Scoreboard as the most innovative business location in Europe, ahead of all EU member states, is an encouraging development.
By introducing the DLT Regulation on February 1, 2021, we push innovation whilst mitigating risks – for example, with regard to money laundering. In the so-called Crypto Valley in the Zug region, hundreds of startups are taking advantage of these attractive conditions.
On January 1, 2019, Swiss lawmakers created the so-called Fintech licence – a licence with facilitating requirements to promote innovative financial companies. The Fintech licence allows public deposits of up to a hundred million Swiss francs to be accepted. Start-ups in the financial sector therefore, do not need a full banking licence.
The combination of digital technology, which can produce innovative financial services, and sustainable finance, which takes climate change risks into account, is forward-looking. The Green Fintech Network has existed in Switzerland since 2020, facilitating co-operation between public authorities and green Fintech companies, universities, venture capital firms and consultancies. The network presented its first action plan in spring 2021.
Strong relations with Qatar
Less than two years from now, Qatar and Switzerland will celebrate an important anniversary: our diplomatic relations will be exactly 50 years old. These relations stand on a solid foundation, are friendly and constructive. The fields of ever-growing co-operation between our two countries are very diverse. For example, Qatar is one of our most important economic partners in the Mena region. In 2020, our bilateral trade volume amounted to QR5.8bn. Co-operation in the financial sector contributes significantly to this positive development. Despite the difficult Covid situation, it decreased by only 6.7% compared to 2019.
Switzerland is a prime tourist destination for Qataris and expats alike, not only to cool down in summer but also skiing and hiking in wintertime. Qatar has also substantially invested in the Swiss hotel industry over the years. Swiss tourists, on the other hand, will be increasingly heading to Qatar to visit the fascinating desert, its sandy beaches and the country’s landmark museums ahead of and during FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Furthermore, our two countries are co-operating towards protecting the rights of migrant workers, which constitute an important part of the society in both countries.
I’m very pleased that Qatar is committed to improve their livelihoods through fair job opportunities, without the threat of exploitation. For Switzerland and the world at large, security and prosperity in the Gulf region are of major importance. I welcome that relations between Qatar and other states in the Gulf region have recently eased, and I am confident that the increased co-operation between GCC states will further benefit Swiss-Qatari relations.
* The writer is finance minister of Switzerland
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