Icelanders Reject Landsbanki Repayments

For the second time in as many years, Icelanders have rejected a public financial repayment agreement to cover the losses of a failed private Icelandic bank, Landsbanki Island, that operated an Internet only bank in Britain and the Netherlands under the name Icesave. Landsbanki Island collapsed during the height of the global financial crisis in October 2008 when its highly speculative derivative investments in the US real estate market failed.

The British and Dutch governments, in turn, were forced to reimburse nearly 400,000 people in danger of losing savings held in the Icelandic bank's subsidiary Icesave accounts. Britain and the Netherlands are demanding that the government of Iceland repay some €4 billion, roughly $5.8 billion dollars, in losses. 

“The turnout of the referendum was high and close to 40% voted for and 60% voted against the law,” the Government of Iceland said in a statement. Iceland's Socialist Prime Minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, said yesterday that Icelanders had chosen "the worst option" in rejecting the repayment plan.

Her statement added that the Icelandic government “will do all in its power to secure that the referendum outcome will not have a major impact on Iceland´s economic program and the fiscal consolidation plan which it has been pursuing.” The government warned that in light of the outcome of the referendum, there will be a “reassessment of macroeconomic assumptions,” adding that current fiscal plans will be reviewed. “A revised prognosis and budget figures will be available no later than in early May,” the government said.

The issue will now be decided by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Surveillance Authority court.

The first attempt at a repayment deal – specifying an interest rate of 5.5 per cent to be paid over eight years - was rejected by 93 percent of Icelandic voters in March 2010. Under this second proposal, Iceland was to pay over 30 years from 2016, with a 3.3 percent interest rate to Britain, and a 3 percent rate to the Netherlands. The deal had the backing of the Icelandic parliament, which hoped to draw a line under the dispute. But the President, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to sign it, triggering a second referendum.

The issue is expected to cloud Iceland's bid to become a full member of the European Union. Still, Icelanders are refusing to be held hostage with the no camp painting the vote as a rejection of the notion that taxpayers of Iceland must assume the liabilities created by financially imprudent private banks.

More from The Independent.

Citizens Against Taxing Big Oil

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. – (attributed to) Abraham Lincoln

One evening I was watching the news minding my own business when I was astonished by what I saw. It was an ad paid for and produced by the American Petroleum Institute or API the main trade association for the oil and natural gas industry. According to the commercial which depicted what appeared to be ordinary Americans upset because the Congress is considering raising the taxes on the industry by 80 billion dollars in the 2011 budget. According to these ordinary Americans raising taxes during a recession on anyone is bad policy. This rationale sounds eerily familiar to the rhetoric being used to justify keeping the Bush tax cuts. It is this type of blatant propaganda that must be exposed for what it is.

What is amazing to me is that we have all read how energy company profits have been at all-time highs for the last decade. Each quarter they set new record highs not just for energy companies but for all corporations. So with all of these record profits you would think that these concerned energy titans would be using that money to research and develop new cleaner energy technologies right? Wrong. Many of these companies are using less than 1% of their income to research new clean energy technologies. Most of them are using these enormous profits to buy back their stock and thus insuring even larger profits in the future. So at the end of this decade of record profits we are to assume that taxing these companies is going to wreck the economy and kill 400,000 jobs?

We as Americans through the work of our political leaders have been subsidizing an industry that continues to make money hand over fist. We do this not only in paying higher energy bills but also through subsidies to this industry.

All of this political gamesmanship aside, consumers have good reason to be angry. Not only are the oil companies racking up extraordinary profits, they’re doing it while continuing to enjoy generous tax breaks and economic subsidies paid for by the same people who are also paying exceptionally high prices at the pump. Essentially, consumers end up paying oil companies twice for the same product, first subsidizing their production and then buying the finished product at inflated prices.Larry West

So let me get this straight, the people who are being gouged are upset because the people who are gouging them are going to have pay taxes on these record profits and lose some of the subsidies they don’t need in the first place. How stupid do they take us for? I thought the ad about an energy company being in the people business was bad, but this one sets a new low. The thing that troubles me the most about this ad is that the people being interviewed obviously have no clue who the tax would impact. One woman states that some people are barely hanging on so raising taxes would be a burden. I agree if the tax was for ordinary working people but this tax is on an industry where the top 5 companies made over 550 billion dollars under the Bush administration and has not slowed down since. Are we to assume that the oil industry is just barely hanging on? If it weren’t so dishonest it would be almost comical.

We as a nation I believe will not get serious about clean energy until we make it too painful to continue down the path we are on. Unfortunately humans respond best to two stimuli; pain and fear. Most of the countries that are pioneering clean energy and sustainability are doing so because they had to. Until gas prices reach about $5 a gallon we will continue our urban sprawl with bigger and more congested highways, we will continue to refuse to develop and implement clean energy sources for providing energy to our homes and businesses, and we will ignore rail and other transportation alternatives. The truth is that gas prices will reach $5 the question then becomes do we allow the profits to go to an industry that has repeatedly shown it has no desire to provide clean sustainable energy or do we create a self-imposed tax that will be used to fund the switch to clean energy? How can we expect an industry with little or no incentive to develop the clean energy technologies we need?

Following the oil embargo of 1973 the nation of Iceland embarked on a radical and massive shift in its energy policy. Because the cost of fuel had skyrocketed they made the calculated determination that they would begin to seek alternative fuel sources and conservation. The people of Iceland created a self-imposed tax on oil to fund their transformation to renewable energy and today are reaping the benefits. So while we went left (change suppliers), they went right (reducing dependency and alternative sources). So while they now enjoy the freedom of renewable energy we are still being held hostage by foreign governments (many of whom are hostile to us) through our big oil companies. History has shown us that we will not develop sustainable energy policy until the last drop of oil is gone. The problem with that strategy is by that time it will be too late.

The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun. - Ralph Nader

The Disputed Truth

Citizens Against Taxing Big Oil

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. – (attributed to) Abraham Lincoln

One evening I was watching the news minding my own business when I was astonished by what I saw. It was an ad paid for and produced by the American Petroleum Institute or API the main trade association for the oil and natural gas industry. According to the commercial which depicted what appeared to be ordinary Americans upset because the Congress is considering raising the taxes on the industry by 80 billion dollars in the 2011 budget. According to these ordinary Americans raising taxes during a recession on anyone is bad policy. This rationale sounds eerily familiar to the rhetoric being used to justify keeping the Bush tax cuts. It is this type of blatant propaganda that must be exposed for what it is.

What is amazing to me is that we have all read how energy company profits have been at all-time highs for the last decade. Each quarter they set new record highs not just for energy companies but for all corporations. So with all of these record profits you would think that these concerned energy titans would be using that money to research and develop new cleaner energy technologies right? Wrong. Many of these companies are using less than 1% of their income to research new clean energy technologies. Most of them are using these enormous profits to buy back their stock and thus insuring even larger profits in the future. So at the end of this decade of record profits we are to assume that taxing these companies is going to wreck the economy and kill 400,000 jobs?

We as Americans through the work of our political leaders have been subsidizing an industry that continues to make money hand over fist. We do this not only in paying higher energy bills but also through subsidies to this industry.

All of this political gamesmanship aside, consumers have good reason to be angry. Not only are the oil companies racking up extraordinary profits, they’re doing it while continuing to enjoy generous tax breaks and economic subsidies paid for by the same people who are also paying exceptionally high prices at the pump. Essentially, consumers end up paying oil companies twice for the same product, first subsidizing their production and then buying the finished product at inflated prices.Larry West

So let me get this straight, the people who are being gouged are upset because the people who are gouging them are going to have pay taxes on these record profits and lose some of the subsidies they don’t need in the first place. How stupid do they take us for? I thought the ad about an energy company being in the people business was bad, but this one sets a new low. The thing that troubles me the most about this ad is that the people being interviewed obviously have no clue who the tax would impact. One woman states that some people are barely hanging on so raising taxes would be a burden. I agree if the tax was for ordinary working people but this tax is on an industry where the top 5 companies made over 550 billion dollars under the Bush administration and has not slowed down since. Are we to assume that the oil industry is just barely hanging on? If it weren’t so dishonest it would be almost comical.

We as a nation I believe will not get serious about clean energy until we make it too painful to continue down the path we are on. Unfortunately humans respond best to two stimuli; pain and fear. Most of the countries that are pioneering clean energy and sustainability are doing so because they had to. Until gas prices reach about $5 a gallon we will continue our urban sprawl with bigger and more congested highways, we will continue to refuse to develop and implement clean energy sources for providing energy to our homes and businesses, and we will ignore rail and other transportation alternatives. The truth is that gas prices will reach $5 the question then becomes do we allow the profits to go to an industry that has repeatedly shown it has no desire to provide clean sustainable energy or do we create a self-imposed tax that will be used to fund the switch to clean energy? How can we expect an industry with little or no incentive to develop the clean energy technologies we need?

Following the oil embargo of 1973 the nation of Iceland embarked on a radical and massive shift in its energy policy. Because the cost of fuel had skyrocketed they made the calculated determination that they would begin to seek alternative fuel sources and conservation. The people of Iceland created a self-imposed tax on oil to fund their transformation to renewable energy and today are reaping the benefits. So while we went left (change suppliers), they went right (reducing dependency and alternative sources). So while they now enjoy the freedom of renewable energy we are still being held hostage by foreign governments (many of whom are hostile to us) through our big oil companies. History has shown us that we will not develop sustainable energy policy until the last drop of oil is gone. The problem with that strategy is by that time it will be too late.

The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun. - Ralph Nader

The Disputed Truth

Helping Iceland

Iceland is a small country in big trouble.

During the heady times of economic growth, its banks expanded operations far beyond what the country could possibly support. When the global financial crisis came, all three collapsed. Millions of depositors in Britain and the Netherlands would have lost their savings.

When banks collapse nowadays, fortunately, governments intervene. The governments of both Britain and the Netherlands guaranteed the accounts of their citizens. In total, this cost said countries approximately 3.9 euros (or 5.3 billion dollars).

Understandably, said countries were also angered at picking up the tab of Iceland’s failed banks. The root of Iceland’s current troubles lies in their demands that Iceland repay the €3.9 billion. To force Iceland’s hand, Britain – in a rather mean gesture – used anti-terrorism laws to freeze Iceland’s financial assets. This helped crush the country’s economy.

Now, there are two problems with the demands of Britain and the Netherlands. Firstly, Icelanders really do not want to repay the money. To the average citizen, suffering for the mistakes of a few bankers smacks of unfairness. Giving money to what many view as a big bullying country is also unpopular. In a recent referendum on the question, 93% of voters rejected a deal to repay Britain and the Netherlands.

Secondly, it’s practically impossible for Iceland to repay the money. The country’s population, after all, numbers only around 300,000. The €3.9 billion in debt amounts to almost half of its GDP. Imagine if the United States owed $6.5 trillion to another country because of Goldman Sachs.

The best step for Britain and the Netherlands would just be to forgive Iceland’s debt – or, if that fails, to negotiate a very generous deal. Third World countries have their debt relieved all the time; there’s no good reason for Iceland to be an exception.

Perhaps United States can lend a hand. €3.9 billion is a lot for Iceland, but practically nothing for a country of America’s size. It may not even need to actually spend money to help Iceland; Britain, after all, still owes the United States £40 billion pounds (inflation-adjusted) that it borrowed from it to fight WWI.

More fundamentally, this situation may end very badly for the West. Iceland’s predicament brings to mind the massive reparations Germany faced after WWI – something which ended disastrously for all countries involved. Already hostility to Britain and the Netherlands is quite high in Iceland; it will probably rise further. Last November the president of Iceland accused its neighbors of betraying Iceland during its time of need.

There may come a time when the West is likewise in a dire strait – whether it be war, economic peril, or something else. It may need all the help it can get. Then Britain and the Netherlands may rue taking a country like Iceland for granted. In the best case scenario, Britain and the Netherlands get their €3.9 billion, and Iceland forgives and forgets. In the worst case – one of those “unknown unknowns” – their bullying may end up costing the West far more than €3.9 billion.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

Reducing Food Waste in the Event of An Erupting Volcano and Other Farming Hazards

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

As Iceland's erupting volcano strands thousands of air travelers across Europe and worldwide, a less publicized but arguably more costly catastrophe is mounting 15,000 miles away: piles of gourmet produce and cut flowers, some of Kenya's chief exports, are rotting in limbo. Meant to be shipped to upscale grocery stores throughout Europe, lilies, roses, carnations, carrots, onions, baby sweet corn, and sugar snap peas are going bad in heaps, on the vine, and in the ground because airport warehouses are already full and there's no local market for the expensive produce in a country where half the population lives on less than a dollar a day.

As food prices continue to rise worldwide, reducing food waste will be a critical element in alleviating hunger and poverty worldwide. Already, Nourishing the Planet has highlighted the many ways that growing indigenous vegetables for local markets and improving storage techniques can help to both reduce food waste and improve access to food, in Kenya and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.

To read more about food waste and ways it can be prevented, see:  Reducing Food Waste, Finding Creative Ways to Grow Food in Kibera, Farming on the Urban Fringe, and Investing in Better Food Storage in Africa. Also, stay tuned for an entire chapter on the subject, written by Tristram Stuart, in State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

 

 

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