Switzerland fast-tracks emergency aid for small businesses weathering COVID-19

vegetable market

(Eka Sariwati, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Emma Charlton, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Switzerland offers fast access to credit and emergency loans.
  • The International Monetary Fund says COVID-19 has already pushed the world into recession.
  • The UK Federation of Small Businesses has called accessing support “nightmarish”.

Switzerland is fast-tracking small business aid to help stave off the economic effects of coronavirus – offering an example to other nations weathering the downturn.

While governments around the world are introducing financial support measures for their citizens, businesses in some countries are complaining they can’t access the funds quickly enough to stay afloat.

But Switzerland’s Federal Council is offering rapid access to credit facilities to bridge liquidity shortfalls. The country has distributed emergency loans to more than 76,000 small businesses, substantially more than other countries in Europe, according to the Financial Times.

The fast-action plan was the idea of Thomas Gottstein, the chief executive of Credit Suisse, the FT reports, who worked with finance minister Ueli Maurer and others to set up a task force.

coronavirus covid-19 Switzerland economy
Total number of enterprises in the non-financial business economy in Switzerland in 2015, by size class of employment*
Image: Statista

“The key thing was for the process to be conducted in a rapid and straightforward manner, so that the money is transferred to the company’s account as quickly as possible,” Mr Gottstein says in the FT.

Switzerland is one of the countries hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. On 16 March, the Federal Council declared a national state of emergency, closing all shops, restaurants, bars, entertainment facilities and schools until 19 April, prohibiting public gatherings of five people or more and recommending all citizens stay home.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID 19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy.

Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

Other countries have also enacted strict lockdown measures to stave off the crisis. While this should help mitigate the human cost, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it has already pushed the world into a recession. In the US alone, in the last two weeks in March almost 10 million people applied for unemployment benefits.

coronavirus unemployment US economy covid-19
The economic impact of COVID-19 on the world’s largest economy.
Image: IMF

“For 2020 it will be worse than the global financial crisis,” the IMF says. “The economic damage is mounting across all countries, tracking the sharp rise in new infections and containment measures put in place.”

Small- and medium-sized businesses are the engine of the global economy – and are also among the worst hit by the pandemic. They play a major role in most economies, according to the World Bank, representing about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide.

EU economy businesses SME small and medium-sized
Small but mighty – small and medium sized businesses in Europe
Image: EuroStat

To help support them, policymakers around the world are enacting different measures. In the US, the government is offering one-time tax rebates to individuals as well as $349 billion in forgivable Small Business Administration loans and guarantees to help small businesses that retain workers.

China’s administration has expanded its re-lending and re-discounting facilities to support micro-, small- and medium-sized firms, and taken steps to ensure liquidity remains for smaller businesses.

business contribution economy UK
The contribution of different sized businesses to total population, employment and turnover
Image: UK government

In the UK, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) has faced challenges, where business owners said they couldn’t access funding quickly enough. It’s now been significantly expanded, with some changes to features and eligibility criteria to widen its scope.

The FT reported that Germany’s emergency loan scheme has also “had patchy success”, with money taking too long to arrive.

In the UK, the Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the latest measures to improve access to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

“Time and again we’ve heard from members who’ve approached their bank seeking an emergency loan, only to be offered anything but,” says the FSB’s National Chairman, Mike Cherry. “They were promised interest-free, fee-free, government-backed support from banks but, until now, the process for securing it has proved nightmarish for many.”

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Here’s how tech can help governments fight corruption

Khashoggi trial in Saudi Arabia falls short of independent, international probe needed: UN rights chief

Mobile technology saving lives: Changing healthcare systems with simple technology solutions

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Venezuela-Colombia baby breakthrough, Italy piles on rescue boat pressure, States must combat hate, Kashmir rights latest and a musical plea to combat CAR hunger

Climate change will force us to redefine economic growth

This AI can predict your personality just by looking at your eyes

Northern Ireland: Parliament wants to secure post-Brexit regional funding

UN launches Facebook Messenger-powered bot to take on climate change

Keeping cool in the face of climate change

‘Favour dialogue’ over violence, UN chief urges all parties following clashes in Mali’s capital

Building climate resilience and peace, go hand in hand for Africa’s Sahel – UN forum

Being blinded by labels stops social change. Art helps us see a better future

Here’s why upskilling is crucial to drive the post-COVID recovery

UN, African Union make significant joint commitment to global health

Protecting refugees in Europe: UNHCR calls for a ‘year of change’

Yemen: UN envoy asks Security Council for more support ‘to move back’ to the negotiating table

Is the EU denying its social character favouring a banking conglomerate?

UN rights chief Bachelet appeals for dialogue in Sudan amid reports ‘70 killed’ in demonstrations

How the US should react to the pandemic, according to Bill Gates

One million facing food shortages, nutrition crisis after Mozambique cyclones: UNICEF

4 ways Africa can prepare its youth for the digital economy

UN agencies launch emergency plan for millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants

Do doctors need to know their patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity?

The next 48 hours may change the European Union

The UK referendum has already damaged Europe: even a ‘remain’ result is not without cost to Britain and the EU

Mali facing ‘alarming’ rise in rights violations, warns UN expert

A European Discovers China: 3 First Impressions

5 things to know about African migration

MWC 2016 LIVE: GTI shifts to phase two – 5G – after hitting milestones

If we want to solve climate change, water governance is our blueprint

Minsk “ceasefire” leaves more doubts than safety, with EU already planning steps further

Trade: First year of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement shows growth in EU exports

Electronic Cigarettes: Are they really as safe as we think?

UN and African Union in ‘common battle’ for development and climate change financing

Parallel downfalls of Merkel and Deutsche Bank threaten Germany and Europe

For video game addiction, now read official ‘gaming disorder’: World Health Organization

A new proposal breaks the stalemate over the Banking Union

To Brexit, or not to Brexit…rather not: 10 Downing Street, London

AI can be a game-changer for the world’s forests. Here’s how

What young people can teach world leaders about mental health in 2020

How can you or your organization support the Hour of Pride initiative?

Why do humanitarian crises disproportionately affect women?

Russia and the West to partition Ukraine?

Uzbekistan wins its long fight against malaria, as global rates continue to rise

Clean air is good for business

These are the world’s 20 most dynamic cities

Making the most of the Sustainable Development Goal 3: its overlooked role in medical education

Capital transaction tax on Ecofin table

International Women’s Day 2019: more equality, but change is too slow

An all-out fight for the EU budget

World Digital Media Awards winners announced at WNMC.19 in Glasgow, in association with The European Sting

Millennials (and Gen X) – Here are the steps you should take to secure your financial future

Forget GDP – for the 21st century we need a modern growth measure

David Attenborough’s worried about this ocean threat – and it’s not plastic

Is this the way to finally beat corruption?

80 adolescents a day will still die of AIDS by 2030, despite slowdown in epidemic

UN ceasefire monitoring chief tours Yemeni port of Hudaydah

DR Congo elections: ‘historic opportunity’ for ‘peaceful transfer of power’ says Security Council

Consumers’ rights against defective digital content agreed by EU lawmakers

Parliament mobilised to channel EU funds to those affected by Coronavirus pandemic

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s