Iceland Facing Economic Storms

Poor Iceland, a work by artist Sigurður Guðmundsson.






Iceland Facing Economic Storms


Icelanders are used to depressions. They arrive with dreary regularity, once or twice a week, throughout the nine-month winter, bringing rain, storms and snow. The one we face now, however, is of an entirely different order: A financial meltdown of unprecedented scope that has crippled the economy, slashed the value of the currency and given us 5.5% unemployment with things only expected to get worse, at least in the short term. No one knows how long this will last or just how bad it is going to get.

With the whole world in recession, Iceland will have to rely mostly on its own resources to weather this storm, despite loans from the International Monetary Fund and friendly governments. For those who had been living high in the period of easy credit and umhampered free-market politics the adjustments will be hard to make. For the rest of us, however, the crisis may represent a chance to rediscover other values and find our way to a more sustainable future. A key to that will be our commitment to the country’s cultural roots and the creative spirit of the inhabitants.

The image above shows a work by artist Sigurður Guðmundsson, an enamel sign reading Poor Iceland. Though certainly appropriate now, the work was in fact produced soon after the American-led invasion of Iraq and is part of a series, the others reading Poor America and Poor Iraq.


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