Iceland Gives Christmas Frosty Reception

by Chris Sturr | December 24, 2008

A grim story from today’s Financial Times (posted to their website yesterday). Best quote, from the end of the article: “Sitting in an old fisherman’s cafe by the port, Orn Svavarsson shakes with rage. He sold his health food business three years ago when he was 54 and, like many of his countrymen, put the money into the stock market. It has been wiped out. “The Icelandic people are too lazy, he says. “Why don’t we go to the airport and block it until we get answers? For the first time in my life I have sympathy with the Bolsheviks; with the French revolutionaries who put up the guillotine.”

By Sarah O’Connor in Reykjavik | Published: December 23 2008 20:14

On the ground floor of one of Reykjavik’s gleaming office buildings, a well-dressed crowd shuffles and waits. Tinny Christmas songs blare from a small hi-fi by the door.

As numbers are called out one by one, people file into the next room where rudimentary shelves are filled with free tins, fish, clothes, books and wrapping paper.

Some 2,500 people have applied for Christmas relief packages from Iceland’s three main charities in recent weeks, a 30 per cent rise on last year, as growing numbers of the middle class lose their jobs in the wake of Iceland’s banking collapse.

Jon Omar Gunnarsson, a pastor at Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik’s main church, says applications to the Church Aid group have doubled.

“It’s mostly middle class people who have all these obligations, mortgages that are going up, many are losing their jobs … they just can’t carry the burden alone,” he says.

Iceland is still reverberating after its economy crumpled in October in the face of global financial turmoil.

Inflation and interest rates are both at 18 per cent as the country struggles to shore up its currency, which plunged after its three banks collapsed. It has borrowed $10bn from the International Monetary Fund and others which it needs to repay, meaning taxes are rising even as recession deepens.

Read the rest of the article.

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