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New government set to be announced today

With any luck, we should have a new government later today [Saturday]. By all reports coalition talks between the Left-Greens and Social Democrats are coming along swimmingly. No word yet as to who will run what ministry, but rumour has it that there will be five ministers from each of the parties and two ministers from outside the political arena – Gylfi Magnússon, an economics professor at the University of Iceland, as Minister of Banking and Business Affairs, and Björg Thorarensen, a law professor from the U of I, as Minister of Justice.

The Progressive Party is also very much involved in the talks as they are instrumental in propping up the minority government, i.e. they have pledged their support to protect the government from collapse, providing some fairly stringent conditions are met. Among those is that the constitution be completely reviewed and changes made where necessary [along the lines of what Njörður P. Njarðvík described in our interview here].

The project schedule for the new government has been drawn up in collaboration with a group of economists, including Jón Daníelsson, a professor at London School of Economics. What is particularly reassuring about this change in government is that FINALLY we get a sense that things are moving and people are doing something rational [like consulting real live economists], and moreover it is TRANSPARENT – we, the public, are kept posted on the discussions taking place and when they are expected to finish and who is involved, and suchlike. Which is a complete turnaround from the surreptitiousness we have seen here over the last three months.

It’s like a breath of fresh air.

Meanwhile, the Independence Party has gone out like a deflating balloon. The ministers, including the PM, have been packing up their belongings and moving out of their ministries over the last couple of days, and the IP ministers I have seen interviewed have all been speaking through clenched teeth. The Prime Minister, for instance, addressed his party today in his farewell speech [he’s leaving politics, at least for the time being, for health reasons] and went on about how their former coalition partners the Social Democrats had been “controlled by their hatred for one man” – one Davíð Oddsson, because they had set it as a condition for the continued collaboration that Doddsson be removed from the Central Bank. Not a word about Doddsson’s incompetence or his numerous failures to protect the interests of the Icelandic nation in the lead-up to the economic meltdown. Nope – Doddsson was a poor innocent victim – much like the Independence Party itself – of the impossible Social Democrats and their preposterous conditions.

And the refrain is repeated and repeated again: this country is on the fast track to hell because nobody but nobody can do a proper job of running it except the Independence Party. Those horrid Socialists and Left-Greens are, of course, ignorant fools who know nothing about finance and whose policies are childish and ill-conceived. Geir Haarde even had the gall to stand up on the podium and pronounce that “things in the economy are far from being as bad as many people like to claim.” My God! The only thing worse than their arrogance is their delusion.

AND FRESH WINDS HAVE STARTED BLOWING
In actuality, across our fair country. It’s picked up quite a bit in the last couple of hours. Weatherman sez we’ll have moderate winds in the capital area, with sunny spells and temps around the freezing mark today. Right now, just after midnight, we have just that, 0°C [32F]. Sunrise is at 10.13 and sunset due for 5.09 pm.

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  • Bluegrass Mama January 31, 2009, 2:05 am

    Let’s hope those fresh winds are truly a sign of things to come!

  • Cassie January 31, 2009, 4:02 am

    Aside from anger at the denial and incompetence … I’m very VERY glad to hear that things are moving along. The changes sound positive.

  • Andrew January 31, 2009, 8:08 am

    Looks like David Oddsson will be the very last of the old regime to be given the boot! Any celebrations planned for when he finally goes?

    Here in Britain, a special compilation album of Sigur Ros is free in today’s issue of The Independent:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/sigur-r243s-why-were-mesmerised-by-the-hypnotic-icelandic-band-1519898.html

  • James January 31, 2009, 10:08 am

    Good article – an interesting update. But, more importantly, my IWR T-shirt arrived today 🙂

  • DJ January 31, 2009, 2:16 pm

    Of course it is nice that there now appears to be some transparency but I’m sure this will soon disappear when the elections are over.
    It is one thing running a campaign but governing is something completely different.History has taught us that no politician has been able to honour all(most)of their promises.
    The new government seem to think that joining the EU is some kind of panacea.It would,undoubtedly,bring a short term benefit to Iceland and its economy but what would it offer long term?

  • CoffeeDrinkingWoman January 31, 2009, 5:26 pm

    hmmm, delusional government, sounds familiar…

  • John Hopkins January 31, 2009, 5:41 pm

    I wonder if people should be demanding online documentation of any plans and executions — as the “Sunshine Law” did in the US, making all federal gov’t proceedings public domain (except security issues).. and as Obama is taking many steps further with putting all the details of his planning online… why not Iceland is wired for online democracy, though I can’t imagine the gov’t there actually doing that! It would terrify them — to, for example, stream the negotiations that are going on NOW!

  • hildigunnur January 31, 2009, 6:25 pm

    I thought this was funny:

    Well well, a leftist government. That doesn’t bode well. Before we know the economic system will be down, inflation and interest rate will run amock, and we’ll have more unemployment than we have seen for ages. I’ll tell ya, this will end with riots in the streets!

    hey, wait a sec…

  • Kata January 31, 2009, 11:11 pm

    Hvar eru öll kommentin af gömlu færslunum?? Er einhver linkur sem hægt er að fara inn á til að sjá þau öll aftur?

  • alda January 31, 2009, 11:49 pm

    Kata – Ég útskýri á ‘About’ síðunni hvernig á því stendur að kommentin eru ekki undir gömlu færslunum … vegna þess að síðan færðist frá Blogspot yfir í Wordpress. Gamla síðan er núna á http://www.icelandweatherreport.blogspot.com – þú getur séð gömlu kommentin þar.

    Andrew – I think we’ll just all breathe a collective sigh of relief. At least most of us will.

    James – oh my! What is it like – do tell! Does the printed logo look all right??

  • GB February 1, 2009, 12:53 am

    Geir Haarde is correct that Iceland’s economy is far from being as badly off as many believe it. Indeed, Iceland could be in far worse condition: It could be a member of the EU and unable to adjust its own currency. Too many fail to realize the strengths there can be in a “weak” currency. Then, also, there are many positives already apparent, and more are and will be appearing. Also, thre are elements not immediately recognizable to be beneficial that will ultimately show to be be. Gordon Brown’s designating Iceland, or its banks, terrorist, is an example. His bit of over-haste will likely pay some of Iceland’s bills in time.

    As for D’Oddsson, he, too, is likely not so much the villain as he is made at present. There is no doubt he is being given the brunt and made the crisis scape-goat. It appears that he was taken as much in surprise by the breakdown as any, and he that he made a bad call or two. And there is little doubt that he has meant well for Iceland in all he has done. That said, there is that bit of cutsie foolishness, where he said to a worried and desperate government searching for answers and reasons that he knew the reasons, but he was not telling. With that he put himself squarely in line for where he is. From then he was crow-bait, and would be even had he done everything else right.

    There is a Swiss tale of an army of Swiss guard facing a wall of attacking Roman soldiers impregnable for being prickly with spears, until a brave Swiss charged the spears, gathering as many as he could into himself, thereby making an opening through which the others of the Swiss could get in, behind the spear defense, to then rout the Romans. Perhaps D’Oddsson can think of himself as such a one, taking the slings and arrows of the opposition?

    But there is also the story of Jesus, the truth of whom was not understood, wherefore he suffered ignoble sacrifice. Today’s question is which of these D’Oddsson is more likely to feel himself to be…

  • James February 1, 2009, 2:16 am

    oh my! What is it like – do tell! Does the printed logo look all right??
    It’s the organic cotton one with the autumn logo and, yes, it looks good and the logo is printed perfectly. A nice T-shirt 🙂 A pity London isn’t 20C warmer this weekend…

  • Scott February 1, 2009, 5:25 am

    GB –

    1) Time will tell how bad off Iceland is. However, my suspicion is that when company annual financial reports for yearend 2008 are public, facts will be much clearer and perhaps direr. My suspicion is that insolvencies will run rampant and “when all markets eventually clear” that may result in Iceland being cleared of many of its most promising youth, which may have little means or inclination to pay off crushing sovereign debt. I hope you are right and I am wrong.

    2) Although your account has basis in fact, to be a little more precise it was a Swiss soldier fighting Italians at the battle of Bicocca in 1522 that was the basis (among others at other medieval battles who did the same thing) for this legend. Saying Romans prickly with spears conjures up an image of a) ancient Rome and b) a phalanx, which is more a Greek than a Roman tactic.

    3) Are our only choices for how to describe Oddson a) Arthur Winkelried (the Swiss martyred knight) or Christ? I don´t think that does justice to his lack of effectiveness and/or active participation in encouraging a system (unregulated kleptocracy) that led to such tremendous damage that will span across generations. A better analogy would be to the captain of a military vessel who is charged with its safe handling, and while they are asleep in the cabin, the crew runs it aground. Nevertheless, he/she (in nations with martial virtues) is still held accountable for the events that took place under their command. And they should be sacked.

  • Scott February 1, 2009, 5:32 am

    Correction: Arnold (von) Winkelried, not Arthur.

    And incidentally, the Swiss were slaughtered in that battle.

  • Joonas February 1, 2009, 7:27 am

    Hi,

    Wikipedia already claims that “Opinion polls indicate that the Left-Green Movement will win enough votes in the coming election to form their own government.” (No source provided, though.) But assuming this will happen in the coming elections, do you think the Left Greens will take Iceland out of Nato? After all, the party’s website says that it “opposes participation in military organizations such as NATO and WEU”.

  • Steve February 1, 2009, 12:27 pm

    >2) Although your account has basis in fact, to be a little more precise it was a Swiss soldier fighting Italians at the battle of Bicocca in 1522 that was the basis (among others at other medieval battles who did the same thing) for this legend. Saying Romans prickly with spears conjures up an image of a) ancient Rome and b) a phalanx, which is more a Greek than a Roman tactic.

    Looks more like the 1386 Battle of Sempach, although I see what you mean by “basis”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Sempach

  • Scott February 1, 2009, 5:51 pm

    Steve – don´t trust Wikipedia. The Swiss won at Sempach, they lost at Bicocca. The legend of Winkelried and his actions in the latter got later transposed into the earlier battle that they “really” liked to sing about, not the one where they got mauled. See Delbruck´s “History of the Art of War Within the Framework of Political History, Vol III, aka “History of the Art of War Vol II – Medieval Warfare”.

  • GB February 4, 2009, 1:31 am

    Scott:
    2> My account of the tale of the Swiss guard garnering spears I know as an apocryphal tale only. I assigned the invaders to be Romans only for their fame for impregnable spear-bristling close-formations. I could not call them Italian because no Italians have ever invaded Switzerland. An army attacking Swiss Guards in the Italian peninsula could only be other Swiss Guards or other nations’ troops or mercenaries. Any army attacking from the Italian peninsula into Switzerland could only be chronologically challenged Romans, perhaps ones fallen from a loose page of an Asterix history.
    Historically, Italy, Switzerland and Iceland, all three, rank among the nations of the world with the most vacant historical records for deeds of war and conquest and valorous slaughter. Italy’s record stands at one inglorious overture into an unsuspecting and unexpecting Abyssinia, and one less than energetic attempt against impoverished Ethiopia, which, if I recall correctly, was never finished. Iceland has bested no one but the Royal Navy, and that with its fishing fleet and fishing-grounds parking-patrol officers, for having nothing more warlike. Switzerland’s most recent record of warrish deeds are centuries old, ending with the closing of the history books on Swiss Guards who went as guest-workers into the Italian Peninsula, where they carried arms for any prince or potentate who could afford their fees, from the era of Rome’s Caesars up through when the last one’s treasury was bare. They would take either and as often as not both sides, and put on shows of arranged hostilities to please, and bankrupt, their sponsors. But that was before there was an Italy.
    2> I think your suggestion of a ship situation is a better analogy, though I picture it a passenger ship, with the captain and officers determined to go down with their ship. So determined they take their stances and wait, having forgotten to warn the sleeping passengers the ship is sinking…

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