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From: The Socialist issue 607, 13 January 2010: Decent jobs - not slave labour

Search site for keywords: Iceland - Pay - Debt - Britain - Bankers

Iceland debt crisis: Make the 'dirt bags' pay!

ATTEMPTS TO make Iceland's population of 320,000 pay 11,000 each to bail out the bankers, has run into the buffers.

John Sharpe

All three of Iceland's banks collapsed in October 2008, having been privatised in 2005. Nearly 400,000 savers in Britain and the Netherlands had accounts with one of them, Landsbanki, through its internet arm, Icesave. The British and Dutch governments compensated these savers and the Icelandic government agreed to repay the 3.5 billion involved. This is a colossal amount for a small country that is one of the most indebted in the world and amounts to 40% of Iceland's GDP.

The original plan agreed by the Icelandic parliament last August put a cap of 6% of GDP on any payment with payments spread over a 15 year period.

This was rejected by the British and Dutch governments and a new far more stringent plan only narrowly passed through parliament after a heated debate at the end of December.


The response from most Icelanders has been outrage at the bankers, bosses and politicians. In a poll 70% opposed the plan and a petition signed by 15,000, 25% of the electorate, called on the country's president not to sign the latest swingeing repayment plan. In a mighty shock to the establishment he didn't sign it. A referendum is likely to be held in March.

As one Icelander commented: "Why is attention not being paid to the criminals responsible, to the dirt bags living in fancy apartments in London? Why aren't we grabbing that money and taking it back?"

Icelanders are already suffering rising unemployment (which was non-existent before the crisis), pay cuts, cuts in services, tax rises and pension funds that are worthless and there is more to come. These vicious repayments can only exacerbate the situation.

Mass protest a year ago forced the resignation of the government. The new government is a coalition between the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement but the cost of the crisis is still expected to be paid by those who had no part in creating it and they will become a slave to the IMF into the bargain.

It is not hard to imagine why the British government, and every other government, is worried about the outcome of the referendum. If a similar referendum were to be held in Britain, or any other country, what would the result be?

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