Economist calls for higher taxes on expats

Economist calls for higher taxes on expats
Professor Reiner Eichenberger. Photo: Hannes Röst
Saying immigration is too high, an influential Swiss economist is calling on the federal government to levy higher taxes on foreigners in Switzerland.

Reiner Eichenberger, head of the centre for public finance at the University of Fribourg, believes profits from the higher taxes could be distributed to the benefit of Swiss citizens.

Eichenberger made the controversial recommendations in an interview published online by Tages Anzeiger, the German-language newspaper, on Monday.

The economist said that immigration at the current level — a net increase of 80,000 people a year — “impinges on natural and policy-made boundaries”.

It added demands to transportation, energy consumption and housing prices, he said.

Eichenberger acknowledged that Swiss universities benefited from immigration.

“Our children need the best education possible, so the best professors, and these are often foreign,” he said.

But overall, he said the federal government was “whitewashing” the true impacts of immigration to play up their benefits.

He advocated abandoning bilateral agreements with the European Union and targetting immigrants to fill positions as needed.

“Some foreign workers we really needed, but of course not, as now, a net immigration of 80,000 people per year.”

Eichenberger’s comments follow a call for quotas on immigrants made last month by Rolf Dörig, the chairman of Swiss Life and staffing company Adecco.

Dörig, who is also an executive board member of economiesuisse, an umbrella group for Swiss business, the quotas are needed to ensure that Switzerland gets the workers “we really need”.

He told Norwestschweiz newspaper that an “unconditional multicultural attitude” threatened the country’s social stability.
He added that if restrictions to immigration were not made, Swiss citizens would end up limiting Switzerland’s openness to the world through referendum initiatives.

So far, among Switzerland’s national political parties, only the populist Swiss People’s Party is calling for more restrictions on the country’s immigration policy.

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