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Unformatted text preview: ight is perceptible. 67 Commission on Fiscal Imbalance 3.3. Public expenditures
The assignment of functions between the three tiers of government has continually changed over the 150 years of the
Confederation's existence. The "optimum" division of competencies is of course never definitive and the question of
which tasks should be assigned to which level of government has never been finally answered (DAFFLON, 1992). The
division of public expenditures may be explained in terms of subsidiarity and centralisation. However, it must be said that
the whole process has been laborious and rather conservative, political strategies and bureaucratic locking often
jeopardising the results.
Articles 54 to 125 of the 1999 federal Constitution contain an exhaustive and detailed enumeration of the federal
competencies. The Constitution always states whether a function is an exclusive federal or cantonal matter and, with
shared responsibilities, the limits of central interference in the cantonal functions. 3.3.1. Exclusive functions and shared responsibilities Total expenditures for each function performed by the three levels of government are summarised in table 3.
Responsibility is shared, to some degree, by the three layers of government in almost all fields of public intervention.
Obviously, the Confederation is solely responsible for foreign affairs and to a less-than-full extent for national defence
(90 %). But other items, like education, culture, sports and recreation, health, environment, roads, generally remain the
main responsibility of the Cantons and the communes.
Table 4 indicates the respective shares of public expenditures in proportion of the total budget of each of the three layers
(column “within” – vertical) and the proportion between the three tiers (column “between” – horizontal). If we look at
which governmental tier is the biggest spender in single items :
♦ the communes have the highest share in the budget items: environment (63 %), culture, sports and recreation (56 %),
administration (44 %); ♦ the Cantons in: public order (67 %), health (56 %) and education (53 %); ♦ the Confederation has an exclusive position in foreign affairs (100 %), a dominant position in defence (90 %) and
assumes more than half the public expenditure in economy (52 %), transportation and finance (both at 51 %). ♦ Although the Cantons and the communes together spend more, the centre has the largest single share in social affairs
(44 %). The exclusive competence of one layer of government in a function (as indicated a contrario by a value 0 in the table 3)
occurs only in a few cases. Otherwise, the division of powers and the principle of subsidiarity apply. Thus, general
functions must be subdivided. For example, under the heading of “Social Affairs” in general (see table 3), the federal
government plays an important role (44 % of total social expenditures), though not dominant. The division of functions
shows that it has the first role in social security only (old-age pensions: 82 %, and invalidity: 71 %). Illness insurance and
individual social aid are both more important in the Cantons...
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