Robert Wades Speach in Haskolabio 12.01.2009 – Iceland Crisis




On January 12 in Reykjavik, Iceland, the Organization for Civic Action will host a debate on the economic crisis and the collapse of the banking system in Iceland. Panelists will include Robert Wade, Professor of Political Economy and Development at London School of Economics, Raffaella Tenconi, economist with Straumur Investment Bank in London, Sigurbjörg Sigurgeirsdóttir policy analyst, and Herbert Sveinbjörnsson, documentary filmmaker and activist. Representatives of the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce will attend, and leaders of the political parties have also been invited. After opening statements, questions will be taken from the audience.

The debate will focus on the economic, legislative and ethical framework that contributed to what the Economist recently described as “the biggest banking failure in history relative to the size of an economy”. The banking collapse occurred in the first two weeks of October; since then the situation has progressively deteriorated with, to quote the same source, “corporate Iceland” now being “technically bankrupt”. Coupled with a currency crisis that in many ways is more serious than the banking crisis, Iceland’s prospects are currently fairly bleak and, in November, it became the first Western European country to seek the financial aid of the IMF in over three decades.

Organization for Civic Action is a community based voluntary organization that came into being with the intent of hosting civic meetings where those in power were held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof, and a forum was created wherein citizens could voice their concerns directly to their representatives, among others. These meetings have been ongoing since October 27th, and include a civic meeting on November 24th which the group hosted in Reykjavík’s largest theater and invited the government which, having declined to attend previous meetings, attended and took questions from an audience of two thousand people; the event was broadcast live on television and can be seen as a watershed moment in terms of civic responses to the present crisis.

We would highly appreciate and sincerely welcome the presence of the international media at the event on January 12, and we will do whatever we can to facilitate visits and assist those who arrive in Reykjavik. For the convenience of those attending who do not speak Icelandic, the proceedings will be translated into English as they unfold. For further information about the event, us, travel arrangements, or the situation in Iceland more generally, please contact Björn Vilhjalmsson (email:; tel: 354-8467763) or Gunnar Sigurðsson (; 354-8977694). We will be happy to respond to any inquiries.

The event will take place in Háskólabíó (University Theater), Hagatorg, 107 Reykjavík on January 12 at 20.00. See also our website:

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