Althingi passes new Icelandic budget bill

The Icelandic parliament has voted through the national budget for 2011 — the last major task before Christmas each year. The budget includes widespread cutbacks as expected.

Due to an unusual number of amendments to the bill between its first, second and third readings in the Althingi parliament, cuts to health spending and welfare will be less severe than feared. Three members of the joint-ruling Left Green Movement abstained from the final vote, complaining that there are more cuts to welfare spending than to internal government spending. The bill passed by 32 votes in favour, none against, and 31 abstentions, including three members of the government.

Finance minister and Left Green leader Steingrimur J. Sigfusson told reporters he was very disappointed in the three of his MPs who abstained. He told Smuggan that recent survey results suggest he has the support of 90 percent of Left Green members; but that, sadly, he may need to re-evaluate whether he enjoys the support of a smaller percentage of his members within the walls of parliament.

The three MPs, Lilja Mosesdottir, Atli Gislason and Asmundur Einar Dadason, said in a statement that at the same time as major cuts are being made in many important areas, there is only a very small corresponding cut in the Administration of the State. They abstained because they believed the budget was not orientated enough towards the welfare system.

“It is also difficult to justify the priority that during times of great cutbacks, 200 public sector employees are working on the Icelandic EU accession bid, with a billion kronur in direct and indirect costs,” they say; adding that they continue to be wary of “blindly following” the IMF recovery plan, Visir.is reported.