''Í sama báti'' - Leiðarinn um Icesave í Financial Times 11. ágúst 2009




Ef til vill vilja einhverjir senda vinum og kunningjum erlendis leiðarann sem birtist í Financial Times til að kynna málstað okkar:

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In the same boat.

When the Dutch and British governments clinched Iceland’s agreement to reimburse savers in Icesave, the now-defunct overseas branch of Landsbanki, they did not count on the ire of Icelandic voters. The deal, stuck in an Althingi committee, is unlikely to gain the Icelandic parliament’s approval.

All sides are playing hardball. Iceland’s government sees the deal as essential to repair Iceland’s links with the rest of the world. It worries that economic lifelines from Nordic neighbours and the International Monetary Fund will be undermined by the lack of an agreement with Holland and the UK – who refuse to budge.

The £3.3bn Reykjavik agreed to reimburse is a paltry sum for most countries, but it amounts to more than £10,000 for each citizen of the subarctic island. This economic burden – about half a year’s economic output – for compensating overseas savers is similar to the cost to the British government of tackling a UK recession less severe than Iceland’s.

Some compare the plan to the Versailles treaty’s harsh demands of Germany. A better analogy is the 1982 Latin American debt crisis, in which even Chile, poster boy of Chicago School economics, saw the state take over a mountain of private debt. A decade of stagnation followed. The same could be in store for Iceland.

Would that benefit anyone? It would alienate the Icelandic people, already angered by Gordon Brown’s use of anti-terror laws to freeze Icelandic assets. Icelanders’ support for the recent application to join the European Union is rapidly cooling. The risk is an Iceland geopolitically adrift with its strategic location and important natural resources. Russia is no doubt paying attention: it was the first to offer Iceland economic assistance.

Moreover, there is a joint interest in bringing to light any murky dealings behind the bank collapse. A less confrontational relationship could foster collaboration on investigation – and recovery of assets – which Iceland does not have the resources to carry out alone.

There is plenty of blame to go around, beyond latter-day Viking raiders who built brittle financial empires. Icelandic voters repeatedly elected a government bent on unleashing financial liberalisation while letting regulators sleep on duty. But Dutch and UK authorities could have seen that Icesave’s high yields were only as safe as Iceland’s ability to cover deposits.

With more even burden-sharing for clearing up the mess, good neighbourliness may prove to bring more than its own reward.

Published: August 11 2009 22:52 | Last updated: August 11 2009 22:52

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009.





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Ágúst H Bjarnason
Ágúst H Bjarnason

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