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Swiss to vote on basic income for all

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The Swiss are a pretty comfortable bunch, sitting in their valleys yodelling, while pigging out on holey cheese and superior chocolate. Occasionally though the nation's citizens idly wonder how to improve their lot. Get enough of them together and they can attempt to pass a new law.

The latest initiative finds the Swiss voting on introducing a basic level of income guaranteed to all citizens. The sum in question is 2,500 Swiss francs, which works out at around £1700 a month. which would buy a whole lot of Toblerone even if they don't get them in Poundland. The petition required 100,000 signatures to spark a referendum. Unsurprisingly that was not a problem.

The actual referendum will amount to the less well-off Swiss trying to prise the state coffers open and help themselves, while the better-off citizens (OK, that means most of them) will worry about what such a measure might mean for the economy.

Switzerland has always been Europe's service industry economy, happy to hold the wallets while Europe's superpowers punched lumps out of each other in the continent's equivalent of the pub car park (Belgium). Their economy has thrived through Swiss willingness not to ask too many awkward questions about the provenance of all the looted gold in the bank vaults.

That said, the Swiss are commendably unwilling to countenance the sort of corporate excesses that bedevil the British economy. A recent referendum placed strict curbs on executive pay and a November vote will attempt to ensure that the highest-paid executive in a corporation receives no more than 12 times the salary of the lowest-paid worker.

Before everybody books a one way EasyJet to Zurich, the Swiss are notoriously picky about who they let into their country, and especially about who they give residency to. Although the criteria are pretty inexplicable if Phil Collins passes.

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