Published April 16, 2010
Last month the London Times contemplated volcanic fallout in 2010 due to the inevitable eruption of Katla; Alþingi agreed to rent out Keflavík’s former NATO base to a privately-owned military company (strangely, this news received little attention in the international media); and President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson suggested flogging Iceland’s NATO marine facilities as a way station (for when the polar ice cap has melted through). Newsweek recently confirmed China’s interested in taking over the abandoned NATO naval base (which perhaps explains why Iceland was not invited to the recent Arctic countries meeting in Canada?).
What else is up for grabs? Well, certainly no strip clubs—that business model is now firmly a thing of the past.
On March 25, the Guardian hailed Iceland as the world’s most feminist country. As of July 1, it is illegal for any business to profit from the nudity of employees. This makes Iceland the first country in the world to ban stripping for “feminist reasons”. Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir, former Minister for the Environment, was quoted as saying: “I guess the men of Iceland will just have to get used to the idea that women are not for sale.”
On March 31, following the lead of Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) lowered Iceland’s credit rating to BBB/A-3, which for all intents and purposes is pretty much a junk rating. S&P stated to Businessweek that “potentially prolonged application of foreign exchange controls will restrict Iceland’s monetary and fiscal flexibility and investment prospects.” Meaning that Iceland will have to do some serious mind-bending in order to generate any possible foreign currency earnings.
Nothing new on that front, but let’s have another look at the numbers as laid out by Bloomsberg:
Iceland has to finance a 230 billion ISK deficit in 2010. It is expected that 190 billion will be generated domestically by selling government debt. Another 40 billion will be come out of the central bank’s deposits. A 1 billion- euro ($1.3 billion) bond matures, and should be paid up by December 2011.
So, have the powers that be tightened their belts and donned their thinking caps? Well, you be the judge.
Even if stripping is now illegal, it appears Alþingi seems to think it is above the law as far as the sale of whale meat is concerned. On March 18, The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) stated that Iceland is illegally selling whale meat to EU countries, including Denmark and Latvia. Talking about spurious activities, the Guardian, the Washington Times and Salon Magazine all commented on Wikileaks’ newest: namely the leak of US diplomatic documents including the profiles of Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and Össur Skarphéðinsson. Jóhanna immediately called for a visit from Sam Watson, US charge d’affaires, presumably to give him a right old spanking.
Wikileaks also claim they have been the victim of harassment by the Pentagon and their friends in Iceland. Wikileaks’ editor Julian Assange suggested that he was being followed by the CIA from Iceland to a recent conference in Sweden. At the same time he pointed out that the local police was holding one of his Icelandic volunteers in custody. Surely he’s not intimating that the Icelandic police are colluding with the CIA? “We have discovered half a dozen attempts at covert surveillance in Reykjavik both by native English speakers and Icelanders. On the occasions where these individuals were approached, they ran away,” noted Assange.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Bet you can’t wait for the next round of Icesave negotiations.