Swiss in for a Merry Christmas after all

Mon Dec 22, 2008 8:31am EST
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By Sven Egenter

ZURICH (Reuters) - The fairy tale tram rattles along Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich's posh shopping street, beneath the twinkling Christmas lights as if this was just any other year.

Inside the tram, children listen to tales of Santa Claus, outside their parents rush from shop to shop, loaded with bags, ignoring the tales of global economic doom and gloom.

Retailers are rejoicing about record sales and a table in restaurants is as hard to get as a hotel room in ski resorts.

While recession has already turned into the nightmare before Christmas elsewhere, the Swiss are still enjoying the benefits of a five-year long boom which has added thousands of jobs and boosted wages in the already prosperous country.

"I am still shopping and will continue to do so," said Edith Weibel Sovilla.

"I, personally, have not felt any impact from the crisis, but I am watching it and will watch it in the future," the communications worker said whilst browsing in a posh Max Mara shop in Zurich.

The Swiss will ultimately not be able to just shop away the recession, which the government expects to be the worst since 1991 as demand from elsewhere in the world slows, weighing on exports, the country's main driver of growth.

But the $490 billion economy, which some feared might face an Iceland-style meltdown after the subprime-related writedowns of its largest bank UBS of some $50 billion, appears to be in pole position to make it through the crisis as a winner.   Continued...

<p>A man dressed as Santa Claus drives the Maerlitram tram in Zurich December 20, 2008. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann</p>