Icelandic Government to Establish National Reserve Fund

Bjarni Benediktsson

A bill proposing the establishment of a national reserve fund will be put before the Icelandic parliament in the fall, RÚV reports. Dividends from energy companies will be diverted to the fund, which could reach ISK 250-300 billion ($2.1b/€1.8b) in only 15 to 20 years. A temporary provision will allocate some of the dividends to healthcare infrastructure and innovation in the business sector.

The establishment of such a fund has been on the agenda of the last several governments, though its proposed name and purpose has changed over time. In 2015, then Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson said such a fund would serve as a kind of reserve to stabilise fluctuations in the Icelandic economy. He suggested it could be used to pay off debt and finance important infrastructure projects, as well as for unforeseen emergencies, such as natural disasters that could cause economic damage beyond the scope of the country’s existing emergency funds.

The Ministry of Finance’s recent statement on the fund, however, states that it would not be used to maintain economic stability, as previously proposed. The conclusion was made that such a fund is not necessary. Instead, a portion of the fund will be used to support start-up businesses and for building up nursing home infrastructure. Most of the dividends will come from the National Power Company of Iceland.

The government accepted the submission of comments on the proposed fund during a seven-day period. The Icelandic Association of Local Authorities criticised that more time was not given. Though the organisation stated they are not against the fund, they propose it also be used toward the implementation of EU legislation, as well as waste management and public transportation.

The SA Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise is against the establishment of the fund, stating the government should prioritise paying down the treasury’s pension obligations, which currently amount to one quarter of GDP, as well as repaying national debt.

The Flight of the Nurses

Her workday always started at home, technically speaking, as the job calls for special preparations. She applied the standard makeup – dark lashes, pink lips, rosy cheeks – folded her long, blonde hair into a neat bun, and made sure her nails were properly polished. Then, before heading out the door to the flight shuttle, she slipped on the bright purple uniform.

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Pumpkin Carving Now Popular in Iceland

Carving pumpkins for Hallowe’en is a growing trend in Iceland. RÚV reports that pumpkins are currently sold out in grocery stores around the country.

Though Hallowe’en is not traditionally celebrated in Iceland, more and more locals are partaking in North American traditions to mark the holiday, including carving jack-o’-lanterns. Sævar Óli Ólafsson, chief buyer at Samkaup has notice the trend. “We have doubled our sales [of pumpkins] compared to last year,” he stated.

Icelandic children and adults are increasingly dressing up on October 31, even trick-or-treating in some neighbourhoods. The popularity of American television and movies is likely behind the trend.

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Bingo to be Legal on Holidays

The Ministry of Justice is drafting a bill which would legalise bingo and other forms of entertainment that are currently illegal on major Christian holidays, RÚV reports. According to current Icelandic law, it is illegal to organise public entertainment such as raffles, bingo, and even dance parties on high holidays, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Good Friday, and Whit Sunday, and Easter Sunday.

While the law was put in place decades ago to ensure religious holidays could be celebrated without disturbance, few would feel it is still necessary. The bill, which is currently in consultation in the Ministry of Justice, is intended to better service those who would like to organise or partake in entertainment on red-letter days. Should it be passed, the only clause that would remain would be that such activities may not interfere with religious services or church activites.

Elías Þórsson, public relations project manager for the Bishop’s Office of the National Church of Iceland says the matter will be discussed at a synod this weekend. The Bishop of Iceland will refrain from comment on the matter before that time.