In his last speech as chair of the Independence Party, former prime minister David Oddsson, had harsh words for the Social Democrats and their support for Icelandic retail firm Baugur.
“It’s a sad sight that not only the leader of the Social Democrats, but also some of its parliamentarians…seem to view the Social Democratic Party as a minor subsidiary of a cartel instead of a political party,” said Oddsson in the opening speech at the 37th National Convention of the Independence Party. “The entire nation has watched how a media conglomerate has been used to serve the interests of its main owners who are fighting battles on other fronts,” said Oddsson.
Oddsson painted a bleak picture of the Baugur owned Fréttabladid news coverage of the Baugur case. “Ruthless attacks and gossip from stolen documents have been used against individuals that the cartel has a grudge against. The attacks have also been directed against me, usually indirectly, with endless insinuations,” said Oddsson.
Oddsson cited two speeches he gave in 1978 and 1991 where he voiced criticism against monopolies and cartels.”It did not matter at all to me in the year 1978, and it didn’t matter in 1991, just as it doesn’t matter in 2005, who the leaders of the cartels are which seek to lay their hands on everything. I am against when healthy competition turns into its opposite because I believe, and have always believed, that that healthy competition is for the good of the people in the country, ” said Oddsson.
In response to this criticism the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service quotes Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, leader of the Social Democrats, saying that Oddsson sounds like a “bitter victim”.
In his speech, Oddsson summed up the issues and events of his 12 year reign as the country’s prime minister. Oddsson emphasized the changes in the financial conditions of Iceland. “We no longer need to tax the public to pay the interest of government loans,” said Oddsson. He recounted the tax rates before his government came to power in 1991; company tax was then 50%, it is now down to 18%, and financial income tax was 47%, it is now 10%.
In this last speech as chair of the Independence party, Oddsson managed a last jibe at his long time nemesis, the current president of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. Oddsson recalled the “spiteful threats” of “the lefties” to increase taxes, when his government took over the finance ministry from then finance minister Grímsson. Before running for president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson was a member of parliament and served as chairman of the now-defunct socialist People’s Alliance Party. Personal income tax reached an all time high of 32.8% (municipal tax notwithstanding) under Grímsson term as minister of finance.
Oddsson also touched upon Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir’s recent comments on increasing financial income tax; he said that the left parties have never increased taxes to pay back loans or save. To emphasize his point, Oddsson took the finances of Reykjavík City. “The most clear example is the capital itself. Reykjavík owed ISK 2 billion (inflation adjusted) when I left office as mayor but now owes between 70 to 80 billion (inflation adjusted) even though taxes have been increased and there has been a huge growth in income because of the positive economic conditions. The financial management of the city, for the last 12 years, is one of the most horrible crashes that the country has witnessed, ” said Oddsson.
In addressing the criticism of the leaders of the opposition parties Oddsson said, “If one were to take Steingrímur [leader of the Left Green Party], Ingibjörg [leader of the Social Democrats] and Gudjón [Leader of the Liberal Party] seriously, the big question would have to be, why the nation hadn’t packed its bags long ago and, once and for all, left this godforsaken rock.”
Concerning the ongoing defense discussions with the US, Oddsson said that the president of the United States had “shown our position understanding.” According to Oddsson the Icelandic government has firmly held on to the view that “no changes be made to the defences of Iceland unless with the full agreement of Icelanders.”
The Independence Party Convention, held in Laugardalshöll, takes place from October 13th – 16th.