Poll: Most Icelanders Against Selling Off Public Ownership Of Banks - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Poll: Most Icelanders Against Selling Off Public Ownership Of Banks

Published July 31, 2019

Andie Fontaine
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Google Street View

The results of a new poll from Zenter show that most Icelanders want the government to maintain or increase its ownership of two of the country’s major banks, Fréttablaðið reports.

Currently, the Icelandic public own two banks, with the government owning 100% of Íslandsbanki and 98.2% of Landsbanki. These banks, which were privatised in 2003, were taken over by the Icelandic government in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. However, it is a part of the joint coalition platform that “government holdings in financial institutions is amongst the most comprehensive in Europe, and the government seeks to find ways to reduce this”, and Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson has been a vocal advocate of selling the government’s stake, in whole or in part, of these two banks.

The results of this poll show that only 34.8% support selling public stakes in these banks to any degree, while only 5.1% support selling them off entirely. 60.2% of Icelanders want the government to maintain, or even increase, its ownership of these two banks.

The Special Investigative Commission (SIC) report, appointed in December 2008 with the goal to “collect information, find facts and provide an overview of the main events leading to the fall of the Icelandic banks and identify its causes”, published findings in 2010 wherein the then-privatised banks featured prominently in the determined causes that led to the 2008 financial collapse. Specifically, the SIC report found that the banks were in part to blame for essentially committing fraud, with directors loaning to themselves and buying stock in their own companies, artificially inflating the value of the banks.

In addition, in an interview with Grapevine in 2010, William Black, Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law, he put a great deal of emphasis on the privatised banks, as well as the political environment at the time, which covered for the banks and refused to believe they could do any wrong.

While the push to sell public shares in the banks kicked off last January, there have been no serious measures taken to move forward with selling any public stake in either bank.

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