A fair deal for Iceland

8th January, 2009

This piece appeared on the Guardian’s Comment site:

“Today the people of Iceland, a country whose population, at 317,000, is somewhat smaller than Leicester’s, are required by the British political, financial and economic establishment to carry the full burden of the losses suffered by Landsbanki’s depositor programme Icesave.

We consider this to be unfair, for the following reasons.

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A tale of two presidents

5th January, 2010

Sorry about the delay in posting, but this is my latest blog for the Huffington Post.

“One is president of a country of about 300,000 people — Iceland — a country about the size of Virginia, President Olafur R. Grimsson. The second is president of a country of about 300,000,000 people, the United States. President Obama.

Both their presidencies have been scarred by the financial crisis. Both have had to balance the interests of their people against the interests of their bankers.

President Obama has allowed that balance to tilt in favor of the bankers.

President Grimsson yesterday took a stand against bankers and international creditors, including the British and Dutch governments.

Instead, he stood up to defend the interests of his people.

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Unjust for Iceland to Take Sole Responsibility

7th January 2010,

Read Ann Pettifor and Jeremy Smith’s letter on why Iceland must NOT repay the debt in the FT today:

” Sir, The president of Iceland’s refusal to approve repayment to the British and Dutch governments should be welcomed (January 5). The pause gives the Anglo-Dutch governments an opportunity to withdraw their demand for full repayment from the government of Iceland, a country whose population at 317,000 is somewhat smaller than Leicester’s.

The UK and the Netherlands, with a combined population of 76m, should cease to use economic force majeure on a tiny country, and accept the principle of co-responsibility for the crisis. Repayment of the nationalised losses of a private bank amounts to €12,000 per Icelandic citizen, and will inevitably impact harshly on their lives and public services. By contrast the cost to Dutch and British taxpayers of the bail-out will be about €50 per capita.

We understand the strong desire of the present government of Iceland to restore the country’s tattered reputation.

But anyone reading the financial press in 2007 and 2008 (as opposed to the academic reports commissioned by Iceland’s chamber of commerce) would have known that Iceland’s banks were far from risk-free. That was why British and Dutch depositors enjoyed good rates of return on their deposits.

The British and Dutch governments have sound political reasons for protecting small savers lured into shark-infested financial waters. What is unjust is that the tiny population of Iceland should be forced to bear the full costs of the laxity of Icelandic, British and Dutch regulators and the reckless behaviour of private bankers and risk-takers. “

Read the letter on the FT website here.

A good president

5th  January, 2010.

The latest news from Iceland, as reported in the Guardian today:

” The president of Iceland has refused to sign a bill to repay more than €3.8bn (£3.4bn) to Britain and the Netherlands following the collapse of the country’s Icesave bank in 2008.

Olafur Grimsson threw the long-running issue into fresh uncertainty today when he declared that a national referendum must be held to determine whether or not the legislation is passed.

This is thought to be only the second occasion when the president of Iceland has refused to ratify a bill passed by the country’s parliament. Grimsson took the decision after hearing the depth of public anger in Iceland against the bill, which was narrowly approved by MPs on 30 December.

“The cornerstone of Iceland’s constitution is that the nation is the highest judge for the validity of law,” said Grimsson. “Now the nation has the power and the responsibility in its hands.”

At last!  A political leader that sides with the people, not the bankers.

A new Icelandic 'drop the debt' campaign?

4th January, 2010

I am proud of the great Jubilee 2000 petition, which I helped draft.

Within a short time, and making revolutionary use of the internet, we had circulated the petition worldwide.  Millions were printed, signed and returned in battered packages to our small HQ in London.

As Paula Goldman noted in an article in the Financial Times (17 May 2008) “the Jubilee 2000 petition holds two world records, according to Guinness World Records: it was the largest petition ever signed (24,391,181 signatures) and the most international (with people from 166 countries signing). Sheer size was no doubt key to the Jubilee petition’s success: when talking to decision-makers, campaigners could rightly claim historic levels of public interest.

Now our example is being followed by the people of Iceland.

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Iceland – a country of proud, indebted people

Ann Pettifor – 12th May 2009

Have just returned from a flying visit to Iceland, where I was mightily impressed by the warmth and strength of the Icelandic character. Also struck by the pride Icelanders have in the way the financial crisis deepened and strengthened their democracy – leading to the ousting of a corrupt government, and the election of a progressive coalition.

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