By Sarah Ensor
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Follow Iceland

This article is over 10 years, 8 months old
Voters in Iceland have for a second time rejected the opportunity to help bailout the governments of Britain and the Netherlands.
Issue 358

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, the black hole created in the global economy threatened to swallow Iceland, then described by the Financial Times as “a reasonably large banking system with a small country attached”.

Icesave, the internet bank set up by Landsbanki, Iceland’s privatised national bank, immediately collapsed. After weeks of protests at the parliament building in Reykjavik the government fell in January 2009.

The Icelandic parliament supported a proposed IMF deal that would have seen a repayment scheme amounting to a crippling 50 percent of Iceland’s gross domestic product over 8 years (an equivalent for Britain would be £700 billion). The government is now claiming that repayment will only be 50 billion kroner (£168 million) as the rest will come from selling Landsbanki assets, as if that isn’t also theft from Iceland’s people.

Iceland’s president refused to sign the deal and triggered a referendum in which 93 percent of voters rejected the deal. This time a “better” deal to repay over 30 years, was rejected by just under 60 percent of voters.

Since the collapse of Icesave thousands of people in Iceland have lost their jobs and their savings while pensions have been slashed or disappeared completely.

Yet this country – with a population the size of Bradford – has twice faced down the IMF, powerful European states and their own ruling class’s threat that they will be annihilated if they don’t submit to the bankers’ blackmail. They are an example to us all.

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