One of the safest countries on earth is in trouble. Good old Helvetia, a country more upside-down than sideways, according to Papa, could end up on its head. Its industrial base might melt as its currency is much too strong for its own good, and deflation might set in as the Swiss National Bank is printing good money to tie its fortune to the euro. Lashing the franc to the euro seems a suicidal thing to do, but such are the joys of global finance. Mind you, I don’t understand a thing and am on my way down to see some bankers who will explain things, not that I trust bankers as much as I used to.
Still, buying foreign currencies in unlimited quantities to win respite for its exporters is a dangerous practice, something the Swiss are not known for. Switzerland is a small country which unites a number of unique, diverse communities which are small worlds in themselves, all with a well-earned reputation for freedom, independence, industry and honesty.
The Swiss enjoy direct democracy, with referendums at regular intervals about important subjects such as joining the EU, permitting tall minarets, and, until 1971 in the canton of Appenzell, allowing women to vote. I’m a big fan but a worried one. Every bum I know wants to come and live here, and bums do not have the Swiss attitude of hard work and honesty. Soon the place might turn into Italy, or Greece, or even Britain.
The expensive Swiss franc is another problem altogether. When I first came to Gstaad and moved into the Palace hotel, one dollar got you 4.30 francs. Living at the best hotel in town cost me around $10 a day, tips included. The most expensive chalet was worth around 100,000 francs — you do the maths.