There has been much media talk and blogosphere and forum babble about the potential domino effect of Iceland's financial woes, now compounded by impending food shortages, although mainstream media has largely ignored this aspect of the story. Commentators have suggested that Icelanders are going to have to catch an awful lot of fish if they want to repay some of the £1 billion lost in their system by UK public sector investment. But, I ask you - what possessed public sector organisations to invest in their 'Cod War' opponent of old? I can only surmise that it was an attempt by the public sector organisations to survive under the UK Labour Government which has run that country's economy ragged over the past years. Gordon Brown as treasurer was past master at 'giving' with one hand and 'taking' with the other, so it all looked good until you took a long hard look at the books. Local authorities have struggled so the prospect of some high interest on their cash probably looked appealing - forgetting of course that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
But the main focus of discussion is on the possible effects in other 'small' places - including New Zealand. The Baltic states have been 'named' as other areas on the verge of similar problems, but this, so far, is being vigourously denied . Personally, even if the NZ financial system collapsed, I don't believe there would be a problem with food, because as a country we are able to feed ourselves. This wouldn't help the long term picture but there would be food available, particularly given that one of our main 'industries' is agriculture, dairy and meat. For Iceland, the shortages are very real if they can't get the foreign currency they need. For the other 'smaller' countries, the issue is more of confidence and trust. If the main players maintain that trust and the key relationships necessary for the system to function, then, as they say, she'll be right. If not, things become trickier.
Personally, I believe the UK is in greater danger from food shortages than smaller countries, which tend to have better relationships with those around them - and more food in the larder. I seriously doubt that the UK could feed itself if it's finances failed in the same way as Iceland - which is why Gordon has been rushing around handing out what is left in the coffers to prop up the banks. There are too many people for the land area, too much land has been given over to non-food use and when you combine the many EU restrictions with the huge number of imports and falling exports things really don't look tickety-boo. Economically and socially, it is a disaster waiting to happen. So Gordon Brown shouldn't get too shirty with Iceland. His government created the conditions that led to the public sector investments being made in the first place. So play nice. Rebuild the relationships. You might need the fish.
I am adding a 'PS' to this a little while after the original post, as having stumbled upon this blog post from Icelander Hjortur Smarason, I wanted to share it with you. It's an interesting read, adds relevant and valuable context to the Iceland discussion - I'll look for more views from Iceland that you might like to read. Hjortur is one of the few Iceland citizens I have found blogging in English (he just celebrated his first year of 'English' blogging) and from a personal point of view, it is pertinent that Hjortur says in reply to comments that he will be writing more about "how bad public relations ruined their economy and how good public relations is needed to fix it". I'll look forward to that one.