Framsóknarflokkurinn ("The Progressive Party") Interviewed - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Framsóknarflokkurinn (“The Progressive Party”) Interviewed

Framsóknarflokkurinn (“The Progressive Party”) Interviewed

Published April 8, 2013


1.    Briefly describe your party’s general agenda in one sentence.

Radical-rationalism.
2.    Tell us about your party. What’s it all about? Does it have a history? Are you proud of that history?
The Progressive Party was founded in 1916 as a centrist party. It has an unbiased approach towards the urgent issues of the day. The Party wants to apply the methods of knowledge and science to remove the obstacles to progress on the basis of the social values upon which the Party’s policies are built. The Progressive Party is open-minded towards the opinions of others. It has the view that all those who have something to contribute towards the solution of social problems should have the opportunity to express their views, and to explain their opinions and to try to win support for their point of view before decisions are made.
The Progressive Party has had an important and beneficial impact on the formation and growth of Icelandic society as the Party has been a participant in various coalition governments for a period of at least 60 years of the +90-year history of the Party. The Party has had the good fortune of being able to change and evolve in tune with the Icelandic people under totally new social conditions in the last years.
3.    Is there a foreign sister party that you identify with, one that international readers might identify with?
The Progressive Party has multiple sister parties, among them the centre parties in the other Nordic countries and the Democratic Party in United States of America.
4.    What do you consider the most important issue facing Iceland today? How about the most important issue to consider in this election?
The Progressive Party considers job creation, the removal of indexation on consumer loans and correction of consumer loans that have grown abnormally (because of the financial collapse and the indexation) to be the main focus both in the election and for the next four years to come.
5.    What do you admire about the current coalition government and what it accomplished in the last four years? What do you dislike? What will you do better?
The current coalition government formed by the Social Democratic Alliance and Left Green Movement have passed measures encouraging the unemployed to go to school. The next step is to motivate the creation of new private sector jobs. The Progressive Party intends to take the much-needed next step to encourage that as well as removing the laws about indexation.
6.    Was the financial crisis in 2008 and the problems Iceland now faces in some way caused by government policy and action or the lack thereof? Is your party in some way responsible for this? Why or why not?
As the current Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir said after Icesave verdict was delivered, now is not the time to look for someone to blame. However, deregulation in the years preceding the crash went a step too far and it would have been sensible to enact laws and regulation prohibiting the banks from overextending their lending.
7.    Specifically, how do you plan to bring Iceland back to economic prosperity?
The Progressive Party believes that a balanced system of cooperative firms, private firms and the public sector will provide the best results for Icelandic prosperity.
In the last four years, there have been about 200 changes to the tax system. The Icelandic economy has to be stable, transparent and trustworthy to create an environment where initiative, hard work and social justice are the primary objective.
For that to happen the tax system needs to be relatively simple to approach and competitive. Trust in government also needs to be high to allow for the creation of long term plans of both individuals and companies.
8.    Do you want to weaken, strengthen or keep unchanged the regulation of the financial industry and other business activity in Iceland?
Creating the right environment for small and medium sized companies to flourish is most important as they employ the largest number of people. The Progressive Party will look to that statement in setting its regulation agenda.
9.    Do you plan to increase or decrease the total tax burden in Iceland?
In the last four years there have been about 200 changes to the tax system. The Icelandic economy has to be stable, transparent and trustworthy to create an environment where initiative, hard work and social justice are the primary objective.
For that to be a reality the tax system needs to be relatively simple to approach and competitive. The Progressive Party believes in a tax burden that reflects the standard of healthcare and other public services we´d like to see. But first and foremost there needs to be private and cooperative employment to increase tax revenue.
10.    Do you believe in the Icelandic króna? Or will you work to adopt an alternative currency? If so, which one?
If in government, we will work to establish the króna again as a valued currency as it is our currency for the foreseeable future.
11.    Do you support the newly passed law removing an expiration date from Iceland’s capital controls? Will your party work to lift these controls? Does it have a timeframe in mind?
Lifting capital controls is important to Iceland’s economic health, but it must be done cautiously so that there won’t be an outpouring of currency. As the Progressive Party considers the króna the currency for the foreseeable future, the timeframe is sooner rather than later.
12.    Do you believe that the collapse was more than an economic one? If so, what else failed in 2008 and does it still need fixing?
There was a failure of institutions as described in the SIC report and was dealt with in part by a parliamentarian conclusion. That work is ongoing.
13.    How can the government best serve Icelandic homes?
Give the nation the tools to succeed; Iceland is rich with resources, resources that should enable all Icelanders to be fairly well off.
14.    What is your stance on Iceland’s application to the European Union? Do you ultimately think Icelanders’ interests would be best served by being part of this coalition?
Icelanders’ interests would be best served by staying out of the EU.
15.    What is your stance on the new constitution that was called for in the wake of Iceland’s financial crisis? Are you for or against pushing the current draft through parliament? Why or why not?
We think that the constitution should be revised and want it to be finished by the end of next term, but it has to be done soundly and in agreement with the majority of the nation. It should not be forced through parliament. The current draft should be used as a template for a revised constitution.
16.    Will your party do something to protect the land and its resources? Is a more stringent regulative framework needed to ensure conservation of the environment?
The Progressive Party believes that it is important to include an article in the constitution that puts resources within Icelandic territory into the national ownership.
17.    Is gender equality a problem in Iceland? If so, what does your plan to do to ensure equality?
There are still some issues that need to be dealt with. The Progressive Party would like work against negative gender stereotypes, prepare both genders during their early years to work together in society, secure gender equality in the distribution of public funds and, last but not least, to reach pay equality for women.
18.    Where do you stand on immigration issues?
The Progressive Party has historically been a pioneer in terms of immigration issues in Iceland, leading the foundation of alþjóðahús (“intercultural centre”), fjölmenningarhús (“multicultural centre”) and establishing the flóttamannaráð (“refugee council”) during its time in government.
Today, The Progressive Party believes that it is important to enable immigrants to be vital members of Icelandic society and considers knowledge of the local language key to doing this.
19.    Does your party harbour any ideas about the role of religion in governance?
The Progressive Party sees Christian values as the foundation of Icelandic culture and supports the national church as it is set in the current law.
20.    Are there any parties that your party will not work with in a coalition government? Why?
No. The Progressive Party Chairman Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson has said that he and the party are willing to form a government with the party/parties that support the Progressive Parties ideas about job creation, the removal of indexation on consumer loans and correction on consumer loans that have grown abnormally (because of the financial collapse and the indexation).

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