Échangerait dette contre détenus…

La suggestion de David Hale pour régler le différent sur Icesave entre l’Islande et le Royaume Uni et les Pays Bas:

A mutually satisfactory solution for Iceland and Obama

By David Hale

Published: February 1 2010 02:00 | Last updated: February 1 2010 02:00

There can be little doubt that Iceland was the greatest casualty of the global financial crisis of 2008-09. There was a run on the nation’s banks, which caused all three of them to go bankrupt. Unemployment has skyrocketed and inflation has risen sharply because of a plunge in the value of the currency. McDonald’s has closed its three restaurants on the island because of the high cost of importing food supplies.

The crisis has also left a legacy of debt. The European Union wants Reykjavik to repay retail depositors in the UK and the Netherlands for $5.6bn (£3.4bn, €4bn) they had deposited in Icelandic banks. As Iceland is trying to join the European Union its parliament agreed to pay, but the president vetoed the bill because of public anger. Sixty thousand people signed a petition against repaying the deposits with government money. They feared such a large debt because gross domestic product is only $12bn.

The global press and recent books have portrayed the Icelandic disaster as a financial event. It actually should be classified as a geopolitical event because of Reykjavik’s special relationship with the US. Iceland entered the 20th century as a Danish colony and the Danish king was head of state. When the Nazis occupied Denmark in 1940, Iceland appointed a regent in his place. The US occupied Iceland in 1942 and the country declared itself a republic in 1944. The US built a major air and naval base at Keflavik. When the war ended, the base stayed open because the US used it to monitor the Soviet navy in the north Atlantic. The US closed the base four years ago because of the end of the cold war.

There is an old geopolitical tradition that countries with US military bases never default. This was last upheld in South Korea 13 years ago. In 1997, there was a run on Korea’s banking system by foreign investors and foreign exchange reserves were nearly exhausted. Default appeared imminent but the US promptly intervened to stage a rescue. The International Monetary Fund immediately offered financial assistance. Robert Rubin, the Treasury secretary, and Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve chairman, spent the Christmas holiday calling bankers all over the world to request that they roll over Korean loans.

If the US had not closed the Keflavik base, Iceland would have experienced a similar rescue. The IMF would have offered assistance as soon as the currency began to weaken. Treasury secretary Hank Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke would have called for European banks to maintain credit lines. The Pentagon would have told Her Majesty’s Treasury it could not invoke an anti-terror law to seize the assets of the island’s largest banks. The credit rating would have been stable and there would have been no run on the banks. On the contrary, Kaupthing Bank might have taken advantage of the global financial crisis to launch a takeover bid for Royal Bank of Scotland.

The challenge for Iceland today is to reopen the US base. It would no longer have a military function but could be an ideal solution to President Barack Obama’s problem of where to place the Guantánamo prisoners. The US has offered Palau $200m to accept 13 prisoners. Bermuda accepted a few to protect its status as a tax haven. The US could show its appreciation to Reykjavik for hosting prisoners by allowing its banks to join the troubled asset relief programme. The US Treasury could cover the cost of repaying Iceland’s retail deposits in the UK and the Netherlands with just one-half of the profit it made on its Goldman Sachs shares. As the prisoners come primarily from Afghanistan, they would probably prefer Iceland’s cooler climate to the tropical heat of Cuba.

Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff, said in November 2008 that the US should not waste a good financial crisis. He was referring to the opportunity that the crisis created to increase federal spending on long-cherished Democratic programmes. His statement could also apply to foreign policy and Guantá-namo. The American people do not want any suspected terrorists in their backyard. There are less fortunate countries that would accept Guantánamo prisoners in return for cash. Iceland is ideal to play such a role because it was the closure of a US military base that allowed its financial collapse. Iceland could escape from default and depression if the base were to reopen. The writer is chairman of David Hale Global Economics

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. You may share using our article tools. Please don’t cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

S’ils ne sortent pas de la base, qu’ils sont gardés, je ne vois pas le problème. Mais si c’est pour les laisser libre en pleine nature, je ne peux que leur souhaiter d’être mangés par les ours polaires!

Via Visir.is

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