God Save(d) the Icesave (PS)


palli-dlThe IceSave case is not black and white. We are, and have been, paying the depositors since day one after the collapse of Landsbanki Íslands in October 2008.

Icelandic Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson said at the news conference minutes after the (good) news that the EFTA Court had cleared Iceland of having to pay damages when it refused to pay compensation to U.K. and Dutch depositors.

Össur emphasized that Iceland had already repaid 93.5 percent of the total amount to the U.K. and Dutch depositors. And soon, every cent will have been paid.

It is unusual for a bank which went bust to be able to repay the full amount.

Icelandic taxpayers have paid billions after billions to restore the three failed banks.

It was the Icelandic government of Geir Haarde which gave the banks permission to open Icesave accounts in the U.K. and Holland in spring/summer 2008 knowing that the bank was no good.

It was the Central Bank of Iceland, chaired by Davíð Oddsson (former chairman of the Independence Party, now editor of daily Morgunblaðið), who gave the bank a go. They gave a sick bank a clean bill of health.

They knew better.

Last night the knights in Indefence and Sigmundur Davíð (the brightest man on Planet Earth, the only one who knew the outcome) the chairman of the Progressive Party, celebrated in a downtown watering hole like the worst football/soccer hooligans, as if they (Iceland) had won the Champions League (CL). Sad.

First, Iceland/Landsbanki never made it to the CL. We were playing in the lower leagues.

One of our players got a red card for unsportsmanlike behavior. The referee gave him a long ban but the governing body only gave the player a three-game ban, so now can we play on.

And play by the rules and hopefully celebrate a real victory, on the field instead of in the courthouse.

Last week, there was another and very different celebration in the Republic: the 40-year anniversary of the eruption on Heimaey in Vestmannaeyjar.

Journalist Pétur Blöndal wrote an article in the Sunday edition of daily Morgunblaðið about the government’s plan to have General Electric (GE) build a nuclear plant on the island in 1958, 15 years before the eruption hit.

After a year of negotiations with GE, the government decided against it—it was too expensive compared to the costs involved in transporting (sustainable) hydroelectricity by cable from mainland Iceland.

The nuclear plans discussed involved not only producing electricity from the proposed nuclear plant but also heating up the houses on Heimaey with the nuclear plant cooling water.

What would have happened if that plan had been realized?

The best—and only—spot to erect the nuclear plant was right where the earth opened up on January 23, 1973.

Iceland would be a different place if that nuclear plant would have gone up in smoke.

A very different place.

Páll Stefánsson - ps@icelandreview.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.