From Iceland — Debate Over Chinese Investor Gets Heated

Debate Over Chinese Investor Gets Heated

Published September 5, 2011

Iceland’s politicians cannot seem to agree on how to respond to Huang Nubo, a Chinese businessman who wants to buy land in Iceland for building a luxury hotel.
As Grapevine reported, Huang Nubo, director of the company Zhongkun, is willing to pay 1 billion ISK for land in Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum. The land has been for sale for some time now, and Nubo would like to build a luxury hotel on the location.
While the debate in the blog world – over whether Huang Nubo is a sincere admirer of Iceland who wants to conduct operations in an environmentally friendly manner or an inscrupulous opportunist whose company cannot be trusted – rages on, Iceland’s political leaders appear to be divided on the matter.
Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson welcomes Huang Nubo, telling the Financial Times, “China and India lent Iceland a helping hand in many constructive ways whereas Europe was hostile and the US was absent.”
While Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir agrees that there is no reason to fear investors from outside Europe, many Social Democrat politicians appear to be quite close to Huang Nubo. He is good friends with Hjörleifur Sveinbjörnsson, the husband of former Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir. Huang Nubo and Hjörleifur have apparently been friends for a long time, and it has been reported that during a visit to Iceland last year, Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson lent him a ministry car for being shown around the country. Most recently, former MP Lúðvík Bergvinsson became Huang Nubo’s advisor over the deal. All of these politicians hail from the Social Democrats.
Meanwhile, politicians from outside the Social Democrats take another point of view.
Conservative MP Bjarni Benediktsson, while welcoming foreign investors and even liking the idea of building a luxury hotel, takes issue with the sheer amount of land Huang Nubo wants to purchase: hundreds of square kilometres totalling about 0.3% of Iceland’s land mass.
In addition, Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson is more concerned with the fact that Huang Nubo hails from a totalitarian regime. He emphasised, though, that investors from within and without Europe should be treated equally.
How the matter will resolve is uncertain, but Huang Nubo has said that if things drag on too long, he may scrap the project altogether.

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