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2009 OECD Economic Surveys: Iceland 2009

image of OECD Economic Surveys: Iceland 2009

This 2009 edition of OECD's periodic survey of Iceland's economy examines the impact of the financial crisis and makes recommendation on how it should be managed.

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The financial and economic crisis

The global financial and economic crisis has struck Iceland with extreme force. Iceland’s three main banks, accounting for almost all of the banking system, failed in October 2008. They were unable to resist the deterioration in global financial markets following the failure of Lehman Brothers. The banks had pursued risky expansion strategies – notably borrowing in foreign capital markets to finance the aggressive international expansion of Icelandic investment companies – that made them vulnerable to the deterioration in global financial markets. They had also grown to be too big for the government to rescue. When access to foreign capital eventually closed, the banks failed. Non-financial firms and households were also vulnerable to the deterioration in global financial conditions, having taken on a lot of debt in recent years based on inflated collateral values. In some cases, the debt was foreign-currency denominated, without matching foreign-currency assets or revenues. In the wake of the banking crisis, the government obtained an IMF Stand- By Arrangement to provide favourable access to foreign capital markets and creditability for the recovery programme. Even so, the recession is likely to be deeper in Iceland than in most other OECD countries owing to the seriousness of the banking crisis and the weakness of private sector balance sheets.

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