From Iceland — New Government Agreement Signed, New Ministers Chosen

New Government Agreement Signed, New Ministers Chosen

Published May 23, 2013

The succeeding coalition government coalesced yesterday, as the leaders of the Progressive Party and the Independent Party signed a new government platform and nine new ministers were announced.
The new agreement is a twelve page document which touches on issues such as the national economy, home mortgages, health, education, foreign and domestic policy, the environment and fisheries.
In accordance with the newly appointed Prime Minister’s reiterated promise, the platform prioritizes reducing home mortgages. Several remedies are suggested, such as abolishing inflation-adjusted loans and replacing them with non-index linked loans, as well as a general reduction on the principal of loans. The platform also stipulates that a special reserve fund will be set up in order to alleviate the problem. 
Other notable features of the platform include putting a stop to current talks about Iceland joining the European Union pending a national referendum. Instead, the platform advances a foreign policy based on increased free trade agreements.
Regarding internal affairs, the platform suggests strengthening the powers of law enforcement to deal with organized crime and calls for a simplification of the tax system.

According to Stefanía Óskarsdóttir and Guðmundur Hálfdánarson, political analysts at the University of Iceland, the new platform is nothing out of the ordinary given the political stance of the two parties. However, Guðmundur expressed surprise at the wording of the platform, which he said was overly general and gave few specific promises compared with the parties’ election campaigns. 
Katrín Jakobsdóttir, leader of the Left-Greens also criticised the platform for being overly general, saying it lacked a clear plan for implementing its goals of a simplified tax system and reduced home mortgages. Katrín appeared on Kastljós last night to discuss the government’s new agreement with Siv Friðleifsdóttir, former Member of Parliament for the Progressive Party. For her part, Siv defended the platform for its positive tone and emphasis on team work.
The nine new ministers were also announced yesterday, four from the Progressive Party and five from the Independent Party. None of the appointed officials have ever served as government ministers before and only three of them are women. The new government’s decision to incorporate the Ministry for the Environment into the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries was also questioned.   

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