Icelandic Economist On Haarde Trial: The Blame Game

12.3.2012
Words by Paul Fontaine
An Icelandic economist has pulled no punches in a column he wrote about the trial of former Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde, saying that all the witnesses are denying having had any power to stop the crash, while blaming others for it happening.

Jón Daníelsson, an economist at the London School of Economics, shared his thoughts on the trial on his personal blog. There, he identifies three types of characters in the matter: government officials, bankers, and the Central Bank. He says that because foreign journalists do not understand the way things actually work here; that "what is being said publicly has very little to do with reality. This is why foreign observers usually get Iceland wrong."
[The government ministers] claim they did not have the information, nor power to act. One might expect that since the parliament has that has power to pass laws, it could do something about it? ... The bankers claim everything was fine, and it was somebody else’s fault that they collapsed (they being Lehman Brothers, the Icelandic government, foreign governments, foreign creditors or incompetent Icelandic bankers (in other banks), or some other boogyman). ... The central bank alternates between two types of explanations. Sometimes it says that it understood what was going on but could not act because it would cause a collapse or it did not have the power to stop the excesses. It also likes to say that they got fooled by the banks, but hence couldn’t act.
Not that Jón lays the blame entirely at the feet of the past. He also believes the Social Democrats share in the blame, because "Many of the very same government ministers who presided over the crisis are now also ministers, one is even the prime minister." He also adds that the Leftist-Green Party, who he calls "the latest incarnation of the Communist Party" of Iceland, "had nothing to do with the crisis, but finds it useful to use the recrimination process to demonstrate the wickedness of the right."

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