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Who needs dental care when you have quota barons?

Some of you may be familiar with the quota system here in Iceland – whereby fishing rights were allocated to a group of individuals [dubbed the “quota kings” or “quota barons”] who subsequently became extremely wealthy by exploiting a natural resource that should, by rights, belong to the Icelandic nation as a whole.

Initially the idea was that these barons would have the rights to the resource, and the profits they made would be pumped back into the traditional fishing communities, ultimately benefiting the nation as a whole. Alas, this did not come to pass, as the quotas were sold out of the communities and profits were funnelled into tax havens. [I discuss this, albeit somewhat peripherally, in my new book.]

The last government tried to reform the system by implementing a so-called “veiðigjald” or “fishing fee” on the quota barons. This was basically a tax levied in an effort to make the system more fair, by making the barons pay more into the common coffers. Naturally, when the law was passed, the barons wailed and lamented their lot to such a degree that you’d think they were teetering on the brink of financial ruin. They were absolutely livid, and pulled out all the stops to discredit the people who had injured them so atrociously. While, of course, still paying themselves billions of ISK in dividends.

Simmi og BjarniNow, praise be, the newly elected government has decided to pull the fishing fee. This was not unexpected – after all, the quota barons have backed the current coalition parties handsomely throughout the years, especially the Independence Party, which is effectively the quota barons’ string puppet.

This new move will mean a loss of revenues for the Icelandic treasury amounting to ISK 3.2 billion this year, and around ISK 6 billion next year.

Naturally, being the sensible sort, they have already begun looking for ways to make up these losses somewhere, and one of those ways is to cut back on subsidies for children’s dental care. After all, according to the head of the IP Bjarni Benediktsson, it costs the treasury a whopping ISK 1 billion per year.

I don’t know about you, but I always find it so inspiring to see people who know what is important in life and are able prioritize accordingly.

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[Photo nicked from dv.is]