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Unformatted text preview: eement on the concept of “subsidiarity”. The key questions are not
semantic, but start with
c) the definition and measurement of “efficiency”,
who decides when the provision of a local (decentralised) public service is no longer “efficient” and
at which level the responsibility should be “centralised” ? Opinions also diverge about which "efficiency" criteria are appropriate for the organisation (and the reorganisation) of
functions within the three layers of government. Economies of scale, homogeneity of preferences, spillovers and
congestion costs, are generally accepted as efficiency criteria (DAFFLON, 1992). Poorer governments which argue that
they ought to receive more equalisation payments dispute the criteria of financial capacity and budgetary resources.
WISEMAN (1989) argued that efficiency criteria must be related to the capability of strengthening political checks and
balance through appropriate procedures and not to the tax-and-expenditures outcomes as such. This is probably the
closest theoretical argument for Switzerland. The resulting allocation of expenditure functions and of policy-making
within the communes, the Cantons and the Confederation does not obey simple rules that ensure neatness, tidiness and
smoothness. Instead, an elaborate system of compromises (call it "checks and balance") limits horizontal and vertical
coercion, which has led to the budgets of the different levels of government becoming increasingly entangled.
♦ Education (table 5) is a good example of the subsidiarity principle. Total expenditures in table 4 show that the main
responsibility lays at the cantonal level, with around 53 per cent of total public outlays, followed by the local level (35 %) and
the Confederation (12 %). However, when various functions are distinguished “bottom-up” within education, the image
stands out in contrast. Kindergartens and public schools are principally in local hands (with respectively 63 % and 56 %).
For the public (primary and secondary) public schools, however, the communes have command mainly of the school
buildings and the equipment. The teachers’ salaries are predominantly paid at the local level, but according to cantonal
standards. The Cantons also decide almost exclusively the teachers’ qualification, and the schools’ programmes (for the
latter, sometimes in co-ordination with other cantons within the Conference of the Cantonal Ministers of Education – see
section 2.4. on co-operative federalism). Special schools are in some cantons local, cantonal in other. Professional,
teachers’ school, colleges and technical schools are predominantly if not exclusively placed at the cantonal level. The
federal government does not intervene very much. Except for the Federal Polytechnics, the Universities are cantonal, but
they are partly financed by all the cantons through horizontal transfers per student, according to their residence, and
through federal grants-in-aids. The subsidiarity principle implicitly carries with it the acceptance of asymmetry in the provision of public services. But it is
difficult to assert whether this couple "subsidiarity -asymmetry" is a formidable tool to recognise diversity, whether
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