From Iceland — Hægri Grænir, Flokkur Fólksins (“The Right Green People’s Party”) Interviewed

Hægri Grænir, Flokkur Fólksins (“The Right Green People’s Party”) Interviewed

Published April 8, 2013

Hægri Grænir, Flokkur Fólksins (“The Right Green People’s Party”) Interviewed

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

XG is a conservative, green, people’s party. We are libertarians that like to see smaller government, lower taxes, free trade and peaceful international relations. One of our main goals is to adopt similar measures to the American TARP to reduce index-linked housing loans to that which they were on November 1, 2007, when the EU MiFID directive became Icelandic law and refinanced them through a Quantitative-easing programme. We also wish to establish a new Icelandic currency, the Ríkisdalur, and peg it to the US Dollar to achieve currency stability, among many other benefits. We want to generally reduce government and government spending and make all government more open and accountable. We will instate a flat 20% tax rate to create conditions for increased investment and get the economy moving again.
2. Tell us about your party. What’s it all about? Does it have a history? Are you proud of that history?
The party was established by Mr. Guðmundur Franklín Jónsson on June 17, 2010. Mr. Jónsson, educated in business administration, economics and political science, had spent much of his carrier as a managing director in banking firms on Wall Street, gaining valuable experience and insight. For the last seven years he has worked in the travel and tourism industry, operating hotels in the Czech Republic. Returning home, he found much lacking in Icelandic politics and economic policy and wanted to change this and improve matters. He started out extensive research seeking knowledge and advice from scholars and experts alike on the problems the country faces, and searched both internationally and locally for solutions to them. This work took the better part of two years and a large databank was gathered. This resulted in a very large policy statement on which the party was founded.
The party is based on libertarian values, analytical knowledge and unbiased practical solutions and common sense. The party is liberal on social issues and conservative on economic issues. It is a right of centre party. It is a party of and for the people.
 3.     Is there a foreign sister party that you identify with, one that international readers might identify with?
Not really, but we are close to Ron Paul’s ideological agenda. It is very difficult to compare politics in the different countries. But progressive conservative parties might make for apt comparisons.
4.     What do you consider the most important issue facing Iceland today? How about the most important issue to consider in this election?
There are very many issues that the party considers important, even critical. Generally speaking, the party wants to break away from the unrealistic and unsuccessful leftist policies upheld to date and create a new more dynamic and open and accountable society. We want to wage war on corruption and reduce big government, re-negotiate most international trade agreements and create stability and opportunities for growth of the country for the benefit of the people. In the opinion of the party, the most important issue this election is to correct and refinance all index-linked housing loans as described in answer no. 1. The party offers a unique but proven and effective solution to this very large matter affecting most households.
5.     What do you admire about the current coalition government and what it accomplished in the last four years? What does you dislike? What will you do better?
There is basically nothing to admire, although the government gloats over some imagined success. We, in short, intend to do very much better on all fronts.
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?
First, the Right Green People’s Party was certainly not responsible and was not even established at the time. Secondly, the crash of 2008 can mostly be blamed on the banks and their reckless and questionable practices. Thirdly, the government was also to blame for not having been active in their regulatory, oversight and supervisory duties. This has already changed and the party wants to continue constructive reforms.   
7.     Specifically, how do you plan to bring Iceland back to economic prosperity?
This has largely been answered in no. 1 above.
8.     Do you want to weaken, strengthen or keep unchanged the regulation of the financial industry and other business activity in Iceland?
Constructive and active reforms must be at the forefront at all times, while at the same time care must be taken that there be flexible room for industry and business to invest and function profitably. We also intend to make all government—all its departments and institutions—more accountable. Towards this end we for instance intend to make them open a home page where they must list all contracts and agreements, every daily transaction, who authorized it, for what the payment was rendered, the amount and the beneficiaries, all to the smallest detail. The party considers that this will hinder corruption, unnecessary, under budgeted, perhaps even reckless, spending and will assist the people to watch over how their money is being spent.
9.     Do you plan to increase or decrease the total tax burden in Iceland?
We plan to decrease taxes gradually over the next four years to then reach and remain at a flat 20% for all federal taxes, i.e. the income tax, VAT and capital gains taxes. The VAT on food, however, will remain at 7%, and we will immediately reduce the wage related tax on companies from 7% to 3%. We also intended to abolish all import duties on food, apparel, computers and investment materiel ASAP, and possibly all import duties in the future. This, however, must be governed by international agreements already made, while the party intends to seek new international trade agreements with the EU, NAFTA and others. The party believes the money should be with the people rather than with the politicians and government as much as is practical. Government income should come from the profits of activities after the fact, rather than before they have been allowed to economically establish themselves. Tax evasion should diminish if the incentives for it are removed.
10.  Do you believe in the Icelandic króna? Or will you work to adopt an alternative currency? If so, which one?
By unilaterally adopting a foreign currency the country will have to buy that currency with other foreign currency we do not posses, thus losing monetary independence and control over to the country owning that currency in the process. The party opposes membership to the EU and the adoption of the Euro, and among other things the loss thereby of independence and the control of money and monetary policy. The country needs more fiscal stability. That needs to be addressed, the problem of destabilization of large amounts of offshore Icelandic króna in the economy and the huge problem of vulture funds’ strangling ownership of the banks as well. The solution to all of this is, as briefly described in answer no. 1 above, to establish a new currency, named after the old Icelandic currency “Ríkisdalur.” By pegging the new Ríkisdalur to the US Dollar, currency stabilisation will be achieved, while all monetary control and policy will to stay within the country. By various other means, too long to describe here, this will also enable solutions to the other problems.
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?
The establishment of the new Icelandic currency will provide the ways and means for the necessary removal of capital controls. If the party gains enough sway to enact on its policies, this will happen rather soon, in six to nine months time.
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?
The collapse in 2008 certainly had very serious repercussions on many fronts. For instance, confidence evaporated; confidence in the country’s institutions failed, confidence in the ability of politics and politicians, confidence in future prospects and many other things. The greatest morale booster will be what has already been described, e.g. a better, growing yet more stable economy, more accountability, security, openness and oversight. All of this will inspire good hope and a more positive outlook on most matters.
13.  How can the government best serve Icelandic homes?
The short answer is: by staying away from them. A longer answer is: by creating the general conditions that have already been briefly described. The party supports the welfare state, although it wants to make it more effective, remove unjust income related reduction of benefits to the elderly and the handicapped and to fix many of its expensive and bureaucratic practices. Equality of opportunity and benefits for all are the keys.
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?
The party opposes EU membership and wants to renegotiate the EEA and Schengen agreements. The party wants to hold a referendum within six months on whether to continue the EU application process or not. The party will, of course, then abide by the decision of the people.
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?
The constitution is a large and important matter and one that must be considered very carefully indeed. This is one matter that should not be pushed or forced, but must be allowed to take the time it will need to debate and consider. This work should be carried out in peace and harmony, with general acceptance as the necessary goal.
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 party is a right-green party. This reflects respect of and concern for the environment and the need for intelligent and practical utilization of natural resources based upon green solutions. The regulatory framework is already stringent, but contains holes to fill and knots to untie. The party wants to make people in general—including sectors such as agriculture, tourism, energy companies and the fisheries, all of which depend their existence on nature and its resources—to be more aware of the importance of the well being of the environment and their responsibility towards it. The party wants to provide incentives, help and assistance not only to protect the environment, but also to service it.
This may for instance be done by allowing the collection of entrance fees at tourist sites to provide necessary funds for upkeep; by providing incentives and help to landowners and farmers for increased land reclamation and forestry, while grazing restrictions on livestock need to be enforced. Our new fisheries policy will ensure that there is no more undesired catch dumping at sea. Where there is a carrot there must also be a stick. More and tougher disciplinary tools should also be provided to keep these important matters in check.  
17.  Is gender equality a problem in Iceland? If so, what does your plan to do to ensure equality?
Equality for all in all is what matters. This includes the handicapped and the elderly and help to the poor is a necessity. Equal pay for equal jobs is obvious, but the enforcement of gender or other such quotas is not necessarily equality, and can be discriminating in some cases. Meritocracy should therefore be the guiding policy. This helps the right talent to find the right venue.
18.  Where do you stand on immigration issues?
The party welcomes visitors and immigrants alike. The party wants the country to leave the Schengen accord in order for us to be able to monitor and control our borders. This is not the least necessary in order to combat organized crime or other illegal activities, a growing concern in the country. The party would prefer that immigrants learn our language, history and customs in order to be better able to integrate into and be a good and proper part of society.
19.  Does your party harbour any ideas about the role of religion in governance?
No. Religion is a private matter and everyone is by the constitution guaranteed the freedom of religion. Mutual respect among religions and peaceful worship should be the guide and all fanaticism, whether religious or otherwise, should be avoided.  
20.   Are there any parties that your party will not work with in a coalition government? Why?
The party will work with those that will honour and accept our principles and our policies. The party will condition any participation in government on to the core issues of the correction, reduction and re-financing of the personal housing debt, the establishment of the new currency and all that this entails, and the implementation of accountability and reduction of government and their cost, all of which as described above. This is a country of only 320 thousand inhabitants, approximately. Our activities should be tailored to the needs of our people and we should not try to mimic or copy what other larger or wealthier nations may need or want for themselves.

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