Iceland Nearly Bankrupt

9 10 2008

People and companies go bankrupt all the time. But countries?

Iceland was on the verge of doing exactly that on Thursday as the government shut down the stock market and seized control of its last major independent bank. That brought trading in the country’s currency to a halt, with foreign banks no longer willing to take Icelandic krona, even at fire-sale rates.

As the meltdown in the Icelandic financial system quickened, with the government seemingly powerless to do anything about it, analysts said there was probably only one realistic option left: for Iceland to be bailed out by the International Monetary Fund.

“Iceland is bankrupt,” said Arsaell Valfells, a professor at the University of Iceland. “The Icelandic krona is history. The IMF has to come and rescue us.”

Prime Minister Geir Haarde, who had warned this week of the threat of “national bankruptcy,” said Thursday that Iceland’s finance minister, Arni Mathiesen, would be in Washington this weekend for the autumn IMF/World Bank meetings. He declined to say whether Iceland was seeking a rescue package from the international lender.


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