Ministers Answer Questions at Open Meeting Skip to content

Ministers Answer Questions at Open Meeting

By Iceland Review

A well-attended open meeting where the public could pose questions to members of the cabinet, including Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde and Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, was held at the University of Iceland Cinema yesterday.

Almost 2,000 people filled the theater. Eight cabinet ministers out of 12 attended the meeting, Morgunbladid reports.

Photo by Geir Ólafsson. Copyright: Heimur.

Demands made by speakers included that new general elections would be held as soon as possible, that the Central Bank board of directors would step down, that the indexation of loans would be abolished, at least temporarily, and that the assets of millionaires would be frozen.

In his opening speech at the meeting, professor in economy Thorvaldur Gylfason criticized the fishing quota system and the monetary policy, calling for the resignation of the Central Bank board. Spectators cheered and also one minister, Minister of Industry Össur Skarphédinsson.

Cabinet ministers and MPs. Front row from left to right: Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde, Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Minister of Education Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, Minister of Finance Árni M. Mathiesen, Minister of Industry Össur Skarphédinsson. Photo by Geir Ólafsson. Copyright: Heimur.

The ministers then received questions from attendees.

One attendee asked Prime Minister Haarde to what extent he held himself responsible for the situation. He replied that an independent investigation committee would make sure that every aspect of the collapse of the bank system would be investigated and once that investigation was completed, he would not run away from his responsibilities.

Foreign Minister Gísladóttir defended the indexation of loans (which means that downpayments and capital grow with inflation), saying that it was possible to assist homeowners who were facing difficulties because of the indexation without abolishing it.

Gísladóttir said she understood that some members of the nation wanted the government to step down, however, she questioned whether the attendees of the meeting represented the Icelandic nation as a whole.

Haarde commented that it would be a mistake to have new general elections right now because the government was in the middle of a “rescue mission” and that no loan could be expected until the first phase of that mission was completed in February. Elections would interfere with the government’s work.

Minister of Education Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir admitted that the government had made a mistake in not informing the public clearly enough on what was being undertaken to reconstruct Iceland’s economy.

However, it would not be possible for the public to have two representatives in every cabinet meeting and every committee as moderator of the meeting Gunnar Sigurdsson suggested, Gunnarsdóttir said.

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