From Iceland — Minister Proposes Privatization To Finance New Hospital

Minister Proposes Privatization To Finance New Hospital

Published September 30, 2014

Same Rationale Given For Privatization Of Síminn In 2005

Haukur Már Helgason
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Same Rationale Given For Privatization Of Síminn In 2005

Healthcare Minister Kristján Þór Júlíusson has proposed that the State sell some assets to finance the construction of new hospital building. In a radio interview broadcast by RÚV Wednesday morning, he stated: “We should proceed by transferring assets that belong to Icelanders in common to another form of ownership, in order to be able to reconstruct our national hospital, as everyone agrees we must do.” As journalist Jóhann Hauksson already pointed out, in pre-2008 Icelandic, ‘transferring assets to another form of ownership’ would have been simply called privatization.

The Minister evaluates State assets at a total neat 1,000 billion ISK, which would translate as around 6,6 billion € at current exchange control rates. The amount includes land, plots, real estate and businesses. RÚV quotes the Minister as adding: “What I want to encourage is that political forces look at these assets to see if we cannot, among the 1000 billions, find some 60–80 billions, if not more, to start financing the inescapable costs of the national hospital.” He also said that in his mind “all assets are up for consideration”, even if he had his own “personal preferences” and, furthermore, that concrete proposals about the financing are to be expected in the first two quarters of 2015.

Back Story

Between 1992 and the economic crash in 2008, multiple publicly owned businesses were privatized, including two banks and, during the period 2001–2005, the formerly public phone company Síminn. The Independence and Progressive parties formed the Alþingi majority and coalition government then, as they do now. In 2005, ministers broadcasted their intention to use the gains from the sale, in whole, to finance the construction of a new hospital building for the national university hospital Landspítalinn. The sum was eventually added to the State budget without visibly benefiting the hospital.

In dire need of expansion, hospital managers recently announced that the offices of doctors and other hospital staff will be transferred into containers, to be located close to the hospital’s main building.

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