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Swiss prosperity: What’s behind the success story?

Update: July, 31/2018 - 09:00
The old town of Bern, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. — Photo courtesy of the embassy
Viet Nam News

On the occasion of Swiss National Day, Ambassador Beatrice Maser Mallor shares her country’s development story.

Switzerland celebrates its 727th anniversary on August 1. A mountainous country located in the heart of Europe, Switzerland traces its origins to 1291, when a defensive alliance of three cantons (provinces) was formed. It quickly expanded over the next two centuries into a loose confederation of sovereign cantons. After a short period of centralized government during the Napoleonic period and the confirmation of its present borders at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Switzerland became a federal State through the promulgation of a modern constitution in 1848.

Rapid industrialization and economic development went hand in hand with the granting of extensive civil and political rights, including elements of direct democracy, for which the country has become famous.

Switzerland does not have many natural resources and does not have access to the sea. In spite of these rather unfavourable circumstances, the country boasts one of the most competitive economies, and its inhabitants enjoy among the highest living standards in the world. Among the reasons for this surprising success, two deserve a special mention, as they are highly relevant to developing nations: good governance and excellence in education.

Good governance is achieved through decentralized and inclusive political institutions, a sound legal framework, broadly consulted policies and a strong civil society. Good governance is essential to creating an attractive and predictable environment for citizens and businesses alike.

This is why over 10,000 foreign multinational companies are represented in Switzerland, where they employ more than ten percent of the country’s workforce. This environment benefits the many small and medium-sized companies, many of which compete successfully in international markets and form the backbone of the Swiss economy.

The country’s traditional neutrality, political stability and attractive environment have also led to the establishment of dozens of international organizations on Swiss soil. Many agreements have been reached in areas such as international peace – including the 1954 Geneva Conference – health, environment, international trade and humanitarian assistance, to name just a few.

Excellence in education is the result of a system that offers opportunities beyond academic credentials by training large amounts of people in skills that are essential to producing the quality products and services for which Switzerland has become famous.

In the so-called “dual” vocational education and training (VET) system, students combine learning in school with learning in workplace settings. VET is the mainstream upper secondary programme, serving 70 percent of young Swiss people.  It prepares a broad cross-section of students including high achievers for careers in a range of both white and blue-collar occupations – high-tech, health as well as traditional trades and crafts.

This system enjoys strong support from Swiss employers, who credit it with being a major contributor to the continuing vitality and strength of the Swiss economy.

At the same time, Switzerland is home to a number of top-rated universities and polytechnic schools, earning the country no less than 26 Nobel prizes, 21 of which were in the area of science. It should thus come as no surprise that Switzerland has one of the highest per capita expenditures for research and development worldwide.

Switzerland’s relationship with Việt Nam has developed quickly since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1971. Switzerland has supported Việt Nam’s development since the early 1990s through technical assistance with a view to helping reduce poverty and create conditions for economic growth.

Representatives of both countries meet regularly, including at a high level. An increasing number of Vietnamese people are discovering the beauty of Switzerland, and the number of Swiss visitors to Việt Nam is rising rapidly.

The recent signature of a new air services agreement and the inauguration of a non-stop flight connection between Zurich and HCM City later this year will boost these important people-to-people exchanges even further. Universities in Switzerland and Việt Nam cooperate and exchange students, and growing numbers of young Vietnamese are enrolling in educational institutions in Switzerland.

Bilateral trade is booming as well, with Việt Nam being one of Switzerland’s most important trading partners in Southeast Asia. More than 100 Swiss companies are present and have invested in Việt Nam.

The conclusion of a free trade agreement, currently under negotiation between the European Free Trade Association, of which Switzerland is a member, and Việt Nam, will lead to even closer economic ties between our two countries.

On this day I wish the Vietnamese people happiness, good health and prosperity, and all the Swiss compatriots in Việt Nam an enjoyable National Day. — VNS

 

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