Posts Tagged ‘Iceland’
The northern lights are seen in the skies near Faskusfjordur on the east coast of Iceland.
Click on the photo for a few more lovely views.
Geir Haarde in court on charge of gross negligence1
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
Iceland began the trial Monday of former prime minister Geir Haarde for failing to prevent a 2008 financial crash, thought to be the only prosecution in the world of a political leader over the crisis.
Iceland’s top three banks all collapsed in late 2008 after years of debt-fuelled expansion. The country of just 320,000 people was forced to borrow around $10 billion from the International Monetary Fund and other lenders.
Parliament voted in 2010 to prosecute Haarde over the crisis at a special court of impeachment set up in 1905, which has never been used before. He has denied the charges. “None of us realized at the time that there was something fishy within the banking system itself, as now appears to have been the case,” Haarde told the court in opening questioning from the special prosecutor investigating crimes linked to the crisis.
Many Icelanders blame a small and closely connected group of businessmen, bankers and politicians for the crisis.
Haarde is charged with gross negligence for failing to take proper measures to prepare for an impending financial crash.
He is also accused of failing to rein in banks which grew their balance sheets to around nine times the size of the island’s economy in the years preceding the crisis…
Iceland’s biggest banks were all taken over by the state in late 2008 after the credit crunch provoked by the fall of Lehman Brothers froze their access to funds…
The economy has started to recover from the crisis, having borrowed on the international bond markets last year and getting its investment grade back from Fitch in February.
Bravo. Now, can we stealthily suggest to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney they should consider taking a trip to Iceland, say, for salmon fishing? Har.
Will the loonie soon be flying high in … Iceland?
For months, Icelanders have been toying with the idea of ditching the tarnished krona, which has never fully recovered from the collapse of the financial system four years ago. But one of the intriguing suggestions floating around the North Atlantic island is that instead of the adopting the euro — a natural fit given that Iceland has taken initial steps to join the European Union — it might cast a furtive eye to the Canadian loonie.
This is not as outlandish as it sounds. Canada’s banking system is something Iceland’s is not — sound — and the Canadian economy, with its mooring in much-desired natural resource wealth, is among the most stable and predictable in the advanced world.
Canada also does not have the massive overhang of sovereign debt that will trouble Europe or even the United States for years…
Bank of Montreal economist Douglas Porter says the feat can be accomplished. Iceland would need to buy sufficient Canadian currency to do the trick, which likely will initially put upward pressure on the loonie.
But the impact on Canada would be small, he said, since Iceland’s population is only about 317,000 and the economy is less than one per cent of Canada’s…
“Frankly, I think we should take it as a great compliment. I know everybody thinks of Iceland as a basket case, but they are beginning to turn things around,” Porter said.
“It shows you how far we’ve come in the past 10 years that people are even talking about this.”
I think it’s a great idea. Probably add futher currency to the idea of Americans moving to Canada for the opportunity to live in a stable, sensible nation that offers reasonable healthcare and a good education.
Yes that was a deliberate pun.
British photographer, James Appleton from Cambridge, has spent the past seven years capturing the volatile landscapes of Iceland – and was rewarded with shots of an erupting volcano and the northern lights. He says: “I became aware of the Fimmvörðuháls volcano through a friend of mine who is an Icelandic vulcanologist. I knew immediately I had to try and get out to see it. On the plane flying over to Iceland I had in my mind’s eye the perfect image I wanted to see, which was exactly this combination of an erupting volcano and the Aurora Borealis. I never dared to hope it might actually happen, but seeing it for real put all the hairs on the back of my neck up. When I saw the photographs come through the camera I was jumping around with excitement.”
Ireland and Iceland are seeking to fuel their hard-hit economies and exploit their position on the western edge of Europe with new data centers to be connected via a new, $300 million transatlantic telecoms cable by 2013.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny unveiled the project — which Ireland hopes will help in its ambition in becoming a global hub for cloud computing — on Thursday at Dublin Castle. “This will give great connectivity around the whole country, which is vitally important for attracting high tech investment in the future,” Irish government spokesman Tom McLoughlin said.
Demand for remote data centers is increasing, boosted by the rising trend of so-called cloud computing, where information is stored and processed at massive remote data centers. Ireland’s temperate climate suits the centers, which require huge amounts of power to run and to prevent from overheating.
Iceland, located between North America and northern Europe, and recovering from its own economic crisis, hopes the new, larger cable will help it to benefit from its renewable hydro and geothermal energy resources for data centers…
U.S.-based startup Emerald Networks on Thursday joined a race to build the first new transatlantic telecommunication cable since 2003, linking Ireland and Iceland to North America…
It has picked TE SubCom, a unit of U.S. firm TE Connectivity, to supply the cable and install it. As existing cables in the Atlantic are aging, Emerald is seeking to first grab a share of their data traffic and then focus on growing through serving data centers…
Sembler said a few dozen Forbes 500 companies have already studied setting up a data center in Iceland. One of the first global players to move there has been Norway’s Opera Software, maker of world’s most-used mobile browser, which opened its Iceland data center last year…
Internet groups are trying to use Nordic locations to benefit from natural cooling, with Facebook building a center in Sweden and Google opening a data center in Finland on the site of an old paper mill.
Keep on rocking in the [cooler, temperate, northern] Free World.
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission
Former Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde has appeared at a special court on charges of “failures of ministerial responsibility” in his handling of the 2008 financial crisis.
The country’s three main banks collapsed amid economic turmoil.
The failure of Icesave, which hit thousands of savers in the UK and Netherlands, led to a dispute over compensation, which remains unresolved…
The two-hour hearing finished at midday, and a decision is expected within three weeks.
Mr Haarde, who pleaded not guilty, said as he left the courthouse: “My conscience is clear. And now I wait for the result of the court whether it comes in a few weeks or next year with a verdict.”
The hearing was held before the Landsdomur court, a special body to try cabinet ministers, which has never before heard a case.
Public opinion is divided, with some people seeing the trial of Mr Haarde as scapegoating, and others arguing that public accountability is essential following the country’s financial collapse.
Iceland was plunged into a deep recession following the collapse of its three leading banks, including Icesave’s parent company Landsbanki, in autumn 2008.
Mr Haarde, 60, led the Independence Party government at the time…
The charges carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
One would expect the defendant in any trial as serious as this to protest its worthiness to be heard. Yet there is sufficient respect for law and justice to have it proceed, treated as a legal proceeding should be dealt with.
Imagine what the carnival would be like if Congress in Obama’s first months had attempted to indict and try Bush – whether for his criminal invasion of Iraq or culpability in the deliberate slacking of regulation and oversight by his administration leading up to the Great Recession.
Clinton’s impeachment for being silly and stupid about sex was rococo enough. Bush accepting, his Oil Patch handlers accepting – the right of the nation to put his incompetence and corruption on trial would still be going on – with no end in sight.
Iceland’s interior ministry said Thursday it had received a request from a Chinese investor and property developer for permission to buy a tract of Icelandic land for a tourist resort.
Huang Nubo is seeking an exemption to an Icelandic law that bans the sale of land to citizens outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
“This request will be taken into consideration in the ministry, like all other requests, since the purchase is illegal unless there is a special exemption,” Icelandic Interior Minister Oegmundur Jonasson told AFP…
Oegmundur has previously said that the future of natural resources, such as water, on the land in question would have to be taken into account. The piece of land is located on the northeastern part of the island.
According to the Financial Times, Huang Nubo, a former Chinese government official, plans to buy 300 square kilometres of land and invest a total of $100 million to build a luxury resort with a hotel, golf course and sports facilities…
Forbes ranked Huang as China’s 161st richest man in 2010, with a net worth of $890 million. His company, Zhongkun Group, owns resorts and tourist facilities across China and around the world.
I wonder if Huang Nubo has ever been in Iceland. A golf course would be a trip – given typical wind conditions in Iceland.
Most islands tend to be a bit windy. Iceland tends to be “lot” windy. The usual instruction for casting a salmon lure on one of the better angling rivers is to pick a spot with the wind behind you – hold fast to your fishing rod and toss the lure up into the air directly overhead. It will travel dozens of meters before landing on the river’s surface.
In the global war against smoking, Europe remains a difficult battlefront. Despite ad campaigns featuring grisly images of rotting lungs and crumbling teeth, “the beautiful continent” continues to have the highest smoking rate in the world.
So forgive Iceland for considering something truly radical — prescription-only cigarettes. Under proposed legislation, only those with valid medical certificates would be permitted to buy cigarettes from pharmacies.
“I think Iceland can be a test tube to try out progressive things because we are a small country and we don’t have a massive lobby for tobacco,” said Thorarinn Gudnason, a cardiologist at Landspitali University Hospital in Rejkyavik. ”We are taking care of people who are dying of this disease in their 40s and we’re fed up with it.”
Iceland’s smoking rate is already one of the lowest in Europe. Just 15 per cent of the population lights up compared to an average of 31 per cent across the continent. However, the story among young Icelanders is more worrisome: 20 per cent of children and teenagers smoke. Dr. Gudnason hopes the new plan will dramatically reduce that figure and cut overall smoking rates to less than 10 per cent…
Tobacco and nicotine would be classified as addictive drugs and second-hand smoke would be treated and controlled like other carcinogenic substances. Lighting up in public places such as parks and in cars with children would be outlawed.
Eventually, smokers who are unable to kick the habit through treatment and various addiction programs — or those smokers who simply refuse to quit — may get a prescription for tobacco from their doctors. Once cigarettes become available only through physicians, the price will go down again — as it would be unfair to tax those unable to quit supporters of the plan say.
“Tobacco is very addictive and we would recognize them as addicts,” said Ms. Fridleifsdottir.
Bravo! Once again the political side of Iceland is willing to experiment with a daring approach to a disgusting problem. It would force a lot of people with lazy personal ethics to confront a personal problem. They can still maintain their addiction if they wish.
Saving their lives is a side effect.
President Olafur Grimsson
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
Icelanders rejected a depositor claims accord with the U.K. and Netherlands, forcing an international court battle that the island’s government said will probably last a year.
A final count showed 59.7 percent of voters said no to the so-called Icesave agreement, while 40.1 percent said yes, with voter turnout estimated at 75 percent…
… Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said in an interview with broadcaster RUV, immediately after the first results were published. “We will, of course, defend Iceland’s interests vigorously in this matter.”
The government had hoped an Icesave deal would restore investor and diplomatic relations and end the financial isolation that has stalled Iceland’s resurrection from its 2008 banking collapse. The failure of Landsbanki Islands hf, which offered the high-yielding Icesave accounts over the internet, threatened to leave 350,000 British and Dutch depositors in the lurch. They were repaid by their governments, which are now turning to the Icelandic state for compensation…
President Olafur R. Grimsson said the referendum “enabled the nation to regain its democratic self-confidence and to express sovereign authority in its own affairs,” in a speech yesterday. Three days after his veto, he said he rejected the accord because Iceland’s legal obligation to pay is “unclear,” adding the matter shows that European banking laws haven’t been “thoroughly thought out.”
The latest estimates of Landsbanki’s assets “indicate that the estate will be able to pay over 90 percent of claims for deposits,” the government said in a statement. Some estimates even put the coverage ratio at 100 percent, it said.
“Hence, the Netherlands and the U.K. will receive a refund of the funds spent to compensate depositors, regardless of the judicial process which will now be launched,” Iceland Finance Ministry spokeswoman Rosa Bjork Brynjolfsdottir said.
Bravo to the people of Iceland for sticking to their guns. Bailouts, nationalization,TARP programs all had different goals and dramatically different contexts from each other. The people of Iceland see a difference that the bankers and politicians of the Netherlands and the UK don’t see – or don’t care about.
Iceland is a nation I love not only for the natural wonders of the nation; but, their history of fighting for peoples’ rights. They have the longest-sitting democratic parliament in the world – and could offer about a hundred lessons to the Killer Klowns in Kongress.
Demonstrators gathered outside Parliament in Reykjavik
Iceland emerged from recession in the third quarter, official data showed Tuesday, returning to growth for the first time since its financial system collapsed at the height of the crisis in 2008.
Iceland’s real gross domestic product grew by 1.2 percent in the July-September period from the previous quarter, the first quarterly increase since the same period in 2008. Iceland entered a slump after its overleveraged financial sector collapsed in the wake of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy.
Like Ireland and Greece, Iceland has taken a large dose of austerity measures to rebuild its economy. Unlike Ireland and Greece, however, Iceland allowed private banks to fail, and its currency, the krona, has declined by about 46 percent against the dollar since the start of 2008.
“Excluding the financial system, the real economy is doing well,” Arsaell Valfells, a professor of business and finance at the University of Iceland, said in telephone interview. Retail spending was still shrinking, he said, but the export sector, consisting mainly of fish, aluminum and tourism, was improving.
“We’ve basically gone back to 2003 in terms of the level of standard of living,” he said. The worst has been felt by younger people who borrowed at the height of the bubble and are now having to reduce their debt, he said. “But they’ll come through this,” he added…
The three biggest Icelandic banks, which had expanded aggressively during the credit bubble, all failed and were nationalized in October 2008. Cleaning up the mess left by one of those, the Icesave unit of Landsbanki, has soured relations with Britain and the Netherlands and delayed international aid…
Mr. Valfells said that within a few years Iceland should be able to exit the I.M.F. agreement, and that because of the determination of the Icelandic people, the Icesave problem would be “only a minor issue for the long-term outlook.”
“We will grow out of this,” he said, “and could start now to finance our way out of it.”
Nice to see that sort of pride and determination. I think if there was a government in Eire with more backbone than our own – here in the United States – they could do much the same as Iceland.
I doubt if the EU would have the cojones to start kicking folks out the door because of failure to obey the demands of their beancounters. And if they did, a new government in Eire might mirror the new government in Iceland and take care of themselves.
Regardless – I know that economists calculating the end of a recession still doesn’t feel like the end. We’re sneaking up on holiday feasts and I for one will be certain to buy some Iceland lamb and Iceland hake.