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The President Of Iceland Tells Us How He Had The Balls To Stand Up To Britain

•, Adam Taylor
 For Ólafur, the crisis of 2008 was personal. Once the darling of the left wing, he worked as finance minister for several years before he became president of the country in 1996, a largely ceremonial role that he's inhabited ever since. Like many in the country he was once a cheerleader for Iceland's financial sector, privatized at the start of the 21st century — and the sudden collapse was a painful reminder that Iceland was a small, isolated place.

Now, of course, most headlines we see about Iceland seem positive. Iceland is repaying its IMF loans early, unemployment is down, and growth is above average. The streets of Reykjavik seem calm and happy.

Other countries, of course, haven't been so lucky. The crisis remains front page news in Greece, Italy and Spain — countries that followed a very different response from Iceland's.

Ólafur argues that his country's strength came from recognizing the problem was not just an "economic and financial challenge", but a "profound social, political, and even judicial" challenge.

After the crisis, the country held a full judicial investigation, and went against "the prevailing economic orthodoxies of the American, European and IMF model." Ólafur says that he likes to think that the IMF learned more from Iceland during this time than vice versa.

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