Man, what a day it has been!
I wonder if people outside of Iceland realize what a huge and serious thing this whole Icesave matter is for our nation. I wrote earlier that the country was practically non-functional for at least an hour after the president’s veto, and that is true – I can’t imagine that there was a single workplace in this country where work did not just STOP while people absorbed the ramifications of what had happened. It was like a bomb had gone off and we were – and are still – dealing with the fallout.
Some people are jubilant – others are deeply shaken. I heard of one woman today who remarked that, for the first time since the beginning of October 2008 – when the banks collapsed – she had a knot in her stomach. I had much the same feeling today. This feels like a throwback to those first dark days of the collapse when it felt like the rug had been pulled out from under us and there was all this nagging uncertainty – would our currency plummet even further, would we become totally isolated, would we run out of food and gas, would we have a functioning economy, would everything grind to a halt?
It’s a scary feeling.
Today there has been much focus on the way the foreign media has interpreted the move by the president. The reaction from abroad was instant, and many headlines claimed that Iceland had decided “not to pay” – which, according to those concerned, is not the case at all.
Actually that has not been clear, even to us locals. I mean, I was under the impression that the petition that InDefence had going was all about that – refusing to pony up, because it was unfair. Now they tell us that, no, it’s about getting a better deal.
Not that it matters either way – Icelandic negotiators already headed that way twice, and they are unlikely to be welcomed with open arms if they go back a third time, requesting still more concessions. Call me a cynic, if you will if you shall if you must.
Plus, Iceland’s credit rating was dropped down to junk status today. We’re on par with Dubai now. Totally expected. Our credibility was in the toilet before and evidently with his performance this morning, Óli flushed us down.
Still, it looks like the government will hold, at least for the time being. The referendum will likely take place within two months and will cost 160 million crowns – but hey, who’s worried about money?
The only light in the dark today was the awarding of the Bjartsýnisverðlaun – the Optimism Award – which was the other thing Ólafur Ragnar had to do today. They went to our dear friend Víkingur Heiðar, and I truly cannot think of a better recipient. If there is an optimistic light in the cultural darkness of this nation, it is definitely Víkingur. We’ll even overlook the fact that the Bjartsýnisverðlaun are sponsored by Alcan Rio Tinto. Instead let us watch Víkingur play the first part of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.
See, we should have just stuck to exporting musicians.