DP11185 | All’s Well that Ends Well? Resolving Iceland’s Failed Banks

Publication Date

03/23/2016

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Abstract

Iceland’s capital controls were imposed in October 2008 in order to prevent massive capital flight and a complete collapse of the exchange rate. The controls have not been lifted yet; until recently this was primarily because of the risk of large outflows of domestic holdings of the failed Icelandic banks. As argued in a precursor to this paper (Baldursson and Portes, 2014), significant restructuring of domestic holdings of foreign creditors of the banks was required before the controls can be lifted. Such a restructuring was finally accomplished in January 2016 and gradual lifting of the capital controls now appears to be within reach. Broadly in line with the recommendations of Baldursson and Portes (2014), the resolution involved a voluntary – in much the same sense as the Greek debt restructuring was voluntary – restructuring of the banks’ debt, under which most of the Icelandic krona assets of the banks were relinquished to the state or tied up in Iceland. Resolution of the old banks will cut Iceland’s public debt, but it will still be substantially higher than before the crisis. The net international investment position of Iceland is, however, stronger than it has been in decades.