Swiss economy grows in first quarter

The Swiss economy expanded 0.3 percent in the first quarter of 2011, slowing from the previous quarter when growth reached 0.8 percent, the economy ministry said Tuesday.

“Positive growth was generated by the trade balance, construction investment, and to a lesser extent by private consumption,” it noted.

The Swiss economy ministry had forecasted in March that gross domestic product would expand 2.1 percent in 2011 and 1.9 percent in 2012.

Who’s the king of the castle?

It's still Carl XVI Gustav who rules the roost at the palace, but when it comes to spending power the royal wallet is no longer the fattest.

According to Saturday’s Svenska Dagbladet the richest person in the royal household is the mistress of the robes, Countess Alice Trolle-Wachtmeister, who is the queen’s adviser. While the king has a taxable wealth of 173 million crowns and an income last year of over 5 million crowns, the countess is said to be almost twice as wealthy.

With 95 million crowns of taxpayers’ money being spent on maintaining the royal household this year, the government has decided that the royal finances should be more transparent in future. Currently only half of that amount, which is spent on the running of the palace, is open to public scrutiny.

There are over 134 employees in the royal household, and SvD was pleased to note that although the aristocracy plays its part, most of the staff “belong to the stable middle class”.

“Two out of three in the household are men. The majority live in Stockholm, are members of the Swedish church and pay property tax. Almost half are members of a union.”

While the king’s staff are generally more educated than the average Swede – 31 are officers, 18 have doctorates and 8 are lawyers – the palace walls don’t protect them from the long arm of the law.

“A couple of people have minor debts at the Swedish Enforcement Administration. One is on probation for serious drunk driving and three have lost their driving licences,” reported SvD.

But it seems the king can’t win. While SvD mocked him for having a lighter purse than the woman who tells his wife which dress to wear, Saturday’s Aftonbladet knocked him for trying to fill it – by lending the royal scribble to a perfume brand.

In September Oriflame, an international cosmetics company, will launch a new scent across Europe, and the label will carry the signatures of both King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia.

“The Swedish royal couple have agreed that we can distribute their perfume around the world,” said the unfortunately-named marketing boss at Oriflame, Nigel Mould.

Although part of the profit from sales will go to the queen’s charity for children, the World Childhood Foundation, the palace’s press officer Elisabeth Tarras-Wahlberg told Aftonbladet that she saw no problem from a private company earning money from the king’s name.

But Peter Esaiasson, a professor of political science at Gothenburg University, considered the move to be a significant departure from royal protocol.

“This looks like the first step on the road to a privatised royal family,” he sniffed. “It sounds like it’s right on the boundary of what’s acceptable.”

The perfume will be called ‘Soliden Eau de Toilette’ and, according to Oriflame, the scent is “based on the scenery of Öland”, an island off the west coast of Sweden. Next year the company plans to distribute the perfume in thousands of shops in 55 countries.

And the king may have a nose for more than just a good deal.

“The royal couple didn’t stand there mixing the perfume themselves,” said Tarras-Wahlberg. “But they have approved it.”