Iceland’s New Central Banker in First Press Conference Skip to content

Iceland’s New Central Banker in First Press Conference

Icelanders are a hard-working people, Svein Harald Oeygard said in his first press conference as Iceland’s new Central Bank governor, which is one of the reasons why he accepted the offer to lead the bank and the Icelandic nation out of the crisis.

Oeygard did not comment on whether or when the policy rate will be lowered, currently at 18 percent, saying that the primary project ahead is to strengthen the currency of the Icelandic króna.

When asked, Oeygard said he believed the Central Bank enjoyed credibility, Morgunbladid reports.

The Central Bank of Iceland. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.

Oeygard graduated with a Masters degree in economics from the University of Oslo in 1985 with macroeconomics as a major. He has extensive experience in international economics after working as a consultant and executive board member at McKinsey & Company.

“Svein Harald Oeygard receives top marks from those I’ve spoken with,” said Thórólfur Matthíasson, an economics professor at the University of Iceland. He studied with Oeygard in Oslo.

Matthíasson said a professional of Oeygard’s caliber will strengthen the Central Bank. “He knows what it is like to lead a banking system through a crisis, like Norwegians did at the beginning of the 1990s.”

Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg was Oeygard’s first visitor to Iceland’s Central Bank. Stoltenberg said Norwegian authorities had recommended Oeygard to Icelandic authorities, which had led to his appointment.

Stoltenberg described Oeygard has hard working and skilful. Stoltenberg knows him personally because he has worked with Oeygard in Norway’s Labor Party, the sister party of Iceland’s Social Democrats.

Matthíasson said Oeygard’s background with the Labor Party is not likely to get in the way of his work at the Central Bank.

Oeygard himself said he hoped that his experience as Norway’s Vice-Minister of Finance from 1990 to 1994 and member of the economic council of the Norwegian Labor Party until 2000 will strengthen his work at the bank.

He pointed out that he has extensive experience from working both in the private and public sector, completing a 14-year career at McKinsey & Company on Friday morning.

Oeygard said he had made the decision to leave McKinsey & Company for Iceland’s Central Bank without having signed an agreement on his salaries, but expected his wages to be similar as the wages of Iceland’s former central bankers.

MP for the Independence Party Bjarni Benediktsson said it is more important to concentrate on the projects ahead instead of focusing on Oeygard’s political connections. “I believe it important to try and join forces and give the new Central Bank governor a chance.”

The Independence Party was against changing the Central Bank’s senior management and making the former governors redundant, among them Davíd Oddsson, former prime minister and leader of the Independence Party.

“We […] didn’t want to create this situation and were therefore against this procedure. But the new government has presented an interim Central Bank governor. We have to live with that,” Benediktsson concluded.

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