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New debt relief measures on the horizon for struggling firms

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter. (Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle)

The Swiss government is examining plans to stave off bankruptcies of companies struggling with the fallout of the coronavirus crisis. But regular debt collection procedures will resume on April 20.

Justice Minster Karin Keller-Sutter said the aim was to stabilise the economy and to secure jobs.

“It is key for the government to prevent or keep to a minimum job losses and bankruptcies,” she told a news conference on Thursday.

The government will now consider the possibility of introducing a longer grace period for SMEs to pay off debts, or allowing businesses to hold off on filing for insolvency if they are threatened with coronavirus-related problems, provided there is a chance their debt problems can be resolved after the crisis.

The specific measures will be announced by the government next week. Keller-Sutter made it clear that the measures were aimed at businesses who were in good financial health before the arrival of the coronavirus epidemic – that is, those whose problems are directly linked to the fallout from the crisis.

Debt collection from April 20

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The pausing of debt procedures initially came into effect on March 19, three days after all non-essential businesses in the country were ordered to close as part of nationwide restrictions.

Keller-Sutter said the temporary suspension of debt procedures was not appropriate as long-term instruments, and would not be extended beyond April 20.

Similar steps have been taken by other European countries, she said.

Keller-Sutter also referred to a freeze at the beginning of the First World War in Switzerland, which had a negative impact on the general motivation of companies to meet their debts.

Civil and administrative courts, whose work was also paused over the past month, will also return to action on April 20.

In order to help them work through the current situation, new procedures including video- and tele-conferencing can be used, the justice ministry announcedexternal link.

The announcement comes a day after the government extended all other emergency measures – the closure of businesses, schools, and non-essential activity – until April 26. After that date, it will examine how to begin easing measures.

Full story here
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