From Iceland — Looks Like This Is It: Referendum on Icesave Starts Tomorrow

Looks Like This Is It: Referendum on Icesave Starts Tomorrow

Published March 5, 2010

Unless by some miracle British and Dutch authorities come up with a new Icesave deal that all Icelandic political parties will be happy with, the referendum on the current law is scheduled to begin tomorrow.
If you didn’t receive your government pamphlet detailing the facts of the current Icesave law, and what will happen if the majority votes for it or against it, you can visit and see for yourself, provided you can read Icelandic.
The last opinion poll on the subject showed that about three-fourths of the nation intends to vote against the current Icesave deal. Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir has called the referendum “meaningless”, pointing out that the terms of the current Icesave law are no longer up for debate anyway, and that British, Dutch and Icelandic authorities are trying to work out a new deal. The referendum is then, in effect, voting on a law which will no longer be in effect anyway. And it will cost Icelandic taxpayers 200 million ISK.
Minister of Finance Steingrímur J. Sigfússon has hinted at the idea of delaying the referendum for a week in the hopes of making progress with the British and Dutch, thereby foregoing the necessity of the referendum. But conservative party chairman Bjarni Benediktson has vowed that any measure calling for the referendum’s delay will be blocked.
Many have speculated that a referendum killing the current law could spell an end to the ruling coalition, but neither Sigurðardóttir nor Sigfússon have said anything to that effect, emphasizing on the contrary that they will continue to work out a deal with the British and Dutch. The referendum, as it pertains to a law not even the ruling coalition is using as their bargaining chip, has mostly a symbolic meaning for opposition parties.
In related news, an opinion piece in The Economist shows some interesting and varying viewpoints on the Icesave debacle. To quote in part: “One school of thought (common in Britain and the Netherlands) holds that Icelanders were happy to enjoy the fruits of the boom years, and should not try to wriggle out of the consequences now that their country’s enormous financial bubble has burst. Iceland is a mature democracy: its citizens had the ability and the duty to keep an eye on what its buccaneering (and state-backed) banks were doing.” This was responded to by one commenter with the quip: “Applying the same logic that Britain and Netherlands are using, certainly these countries are also mature democracies and their citizens had the ability and the duty to invest wisely and not make risky investments to chase better interest rates. Their citizens also enjoyed the fruits of higher interest rates during the boom years, and must now bear the consequences of making risky investments. There has also been a failure by British and Dutch governments to adequately monitor, safeguard and protect their citizens. The financial collapse hurt everyone, and British, Dutch investors should be no exceptions.”
However you vote tomorrow, if you have the legal right to do so, make your choice based on what you think would be best for your country, as you would in any other election.

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