Swiss government to virus-hit companies: don't expect helicopter money

ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss government is working on directing support to companies hit by falling demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak and will not adopt a broad stimulus program, a top official said on Saturday.

“For us it is important that we don’t have some kind of ‘helicopter’ money, subsidies or an economic program that works (only) in the long term, not the short term,” Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, director of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), told broadcaster SRF.

The SECO agency coordinates economic and labor market policy for the government.

Government subsidies paid to staff put on short working hours by their employers have been shown to be an effective economic stabilizer, she said.

The government was also looking to target support at companies such as event managers which are likely to be hit by government restrictions including a temporary ban on events which draw more than 1,000 people.

Ineichen-Fleisch said supply chains were still functioning and company inventories were well stocked, but she added that could change in a month depending on the spread of the virus which has infected hundreds and killed one person in Switzerland so far.

“The situation will leave marks on our economy, how deep we don’t know yet,” she said.

Asked about calls for the Swiss National Bank to help address the widening economic impact, she said the central bank was independent and would make its own decisions.

Reporting by Michael Shields; editing by James Drummond