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Iceland Forgives Mortgage Debt to Save its Economy
It’s probably not a concept that most U.S. banks and lawmakers want to think about, but the fact is, Iceland’s economy has grown by leaps and bounds since the government there implemented widespread debt forgiveness for many of its citizens.
The initiative came about http://www.bloomberg.com” target=”_blank”>following protests by Icelanders in 2008-2009 who were angry at the country’s leaders and bankers for its fiscal and economic collapse. At one point, protestors gathered around the Parliament building and pelted it with rocks.
In the ensuing months, Iceland banks have forgiven loans equaling 13 percent of the country’s annual gross domestic product, which has eased the debt burden for more than 25 percent of Iceland’s population, according to a February report published by theIcelandic Financial Services Association.
“You could safely say that Iceland holds the world record in household debt relief,” Lars Christensen, chief emerging markets economist at Danske Bank A/S in Copenhagen, toldBloomberg News. “Iceland followed the textbook example of what is required in a crisis. Any economist would agree with that.”
By any definition, the initiative has been a success.
Iceland’s slow ascent out of the economic abyss began in 2008, following an $ 85 billion default by the country’s banks. Its economy in 2012 will surpass that of the entire euro zone, as well as the developed world on average (including the world’s largest economy, the United States, whose economy grew at an anemic 2.2 percent in the first quarter of this year), according to an estimate by theOrganization for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD).
And, while the rest of the continent continues to drown in debt, most polls now indicate that Icelanders don’t want any part of joining the European Union, which is in its third year of debt crisis.