No, I’m not talking about the UK suffering from snow and becoming a land of ice! Towards the end of 2008, Icelandic banks hit the headlines and for all the wrong reasons. Icelandic banks were key lenders to some of the key businesses and entrepreneurs in the UK and an online bank held the accounts of over 150,000 Brits. The Icelandic government tried to rescue their banking sector, but with little success and we saw it collapse, sending shockwaves through UK banks. The UK economy lost millions and this contributed to the worsening financial system within our shores.
Iceland’s President has been under serious pressure, from the UK and Dutch governments on one side and from the Icelandic people on the other. A quarter of voters in Iceland have signed a petition against plans to repay money lost by foreigners when an Icelandic online bank collapsed. When the Icesave scheme collapsed in 2008, British and Dutch savers lost approximately £3.4bn (€3.8bn). Although they were compensated by the British and Dutch governments, this still meant that the taxpayers in these countries were owed the money by Iceland.
Iceland’s Parliament approved the plans to reimburse the money, but the people are encouraging their President to veto the bill. They argue that repaying this money will cost the Icelandic taxpayers: the compensation is some 12,000 euros for each of Iceland’s residents. Campaigners say that the Icelandic people are being forced to pay for the mistakes of the banks. Whilst UK taxpayers lost out, the Icelandic people’s arguments have something of a déjà-vu about them: after all it wasn’t long ago that the UK people were asking why we should have to suffer from higher taxes and future cuts in government spending to bail out the banks, when it wasn’t our fault that they collapsed in the first place. The following articles consider this issue.
Icelandic bank with British savers’ money enters crisis talks Telegraph, Rowena Mason (4/10/08)
Town Hall’s £830m Iceland shortfall This is Money, Daniel Martin (6/1/10)
Iceland leader vetoes bank repayments bill BBC News (5/1/10)
iIceland blocks repayment of £2.3bn to Britain Times Online, Robert Lindsay (5/1/10)
Iceland petition against pay-out over Icesave collapse BBC News (2/1/10)
Iceland’s President under pressure over Icesave Telegraph, Angela Monaghan (3/1/10)
Peston’s Picks: We’re all Icelanders now BBC News (7/1/10)
Iceland President says country will pay UK government BBC News (7/1/10)
- For the Icelandic people, what are the arguments (a) for and (b) against repaying money owed to the UK and the Netherlands?
- For the British and Dutch people, what are the arguments (a) for and (b) against repayment?
- How will this repayment (or lack thereof) affect the recovery of the British economy?
- Will the repayment of this money adversely affect the Icelandic economy? Explain your answer. Think about tax cuts and the effect on consumer incomes.
- Why is this a key example of international policy interdependence?