Prospective Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, chair of the Progressive Party, and prospective Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Bjarni Benediktsson, chair of the Independence Party, presented their government agreement at a press conference in the old district school at Laugarvatn in South Iceland today.
Sigmundur and Bjarni. Photo: Geir Ólafsson/Iceland Review.
“This location, this beautiful building in the countryside, is symbolic in that the entire country should benefit from what we emphasize: agriculture, tourism, education, the youth, natural resources and the environment,” stated Sigmundur in his address.
The Icelandic Training College of Physical Education used to be facilitated in the building, the design of which resembles the traditional Icelandic turf farm. “In our universal community development we will observe the ideals and goals of youth associations: contributing to the growth of the country and people,” he went on.
Sigmundur then summarized the government agreement, the highlights of which include the mortgage situation of homeowners. During their campaign, the Progressive Party promised a 20 percent write-off of mortgages. “We will start to work on that straight away but it will take time to prepare the necessary bills,” Sigmundur pointed out.
The new government will also emphasize the creation of capital goods, safeguarding the welfare and education systems, simplifying the taxation system and making the environment such that it encourages companies to thrive, making improvements to the fisheries control with which all can be content, encouraging innovation, counteract depopulation of rural areas and taking advantage of big opportunities in the gas and oil sector—harness the potential resources as soon as possible and establish a state-owned oil company—as well as being leading in the affairs of the Arctic Region. At the same time environmental issues are to be stressed, Sigmundur maintained.
The government agreement states that the parliament is to continue working on improvements to the constitution. However, instead of a complete overhaul, the chapters concerning national ownership of natural resources and national referendums will be prioritized, as Bjarni clarified.
Both new government leaders agree that the accession talks with the European Union should be paused and not continued until after a national referendum. According to the most recent surveys, the majority of respondents prefer completing the accession process. When the nation will be given a say in continued accession talks is unclear.
Bjarni stated that his and Sigmundur’s government is not about making promises they cannot keep and that all actions are to be made in solidarity with the entire nation.
“There are many opportunities but if the atmosphere isn’t right, Iceland will lose its competitive edge against other nations. We want to create a better atmosphere and eliminate political uncertainty. This government agreement is one giant communal project,” Bjarni concluded.
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir/Iceland Review