Controversial government bill sticks in Icelandic parliament

The Icelandic Prime Minister’s controversial bill to invest more money in government ministries was discussed at length yesterday in the Althingi parliament. The main opposition parties are firmly opposed to the idea.

Yesterday’s debate was the second reading of Johanna Sigurdardottir’s bill on government ministries and lasted much of the day. The Progressive and Independence parties oppose the bill strongly – while the Prime Minister insists the extra money for extra staff is necessary.

The Althingi General Committee made recommendations on changes to government ministries in Iceland, some of which the Prime Minister put into the bill she later put to the Althingi parliament. Among the proposals is to increase the number of personal assistants so that each minister could have two personal assistants, and a further three personal assistants would move between ministries as necessary, RUV reports.

The Independence Party representative on the General Committee argues against the bill, saying that if all ten ministers used their allowance of personal assistants, it would mean an extra cost to taxpayers of ISK 120-130 million (EUR 747,200-809,465) a year. That estimate is based on figures from the budgetary office at the Ministry of Finance.

Supporters of the opposition claim that the extra money needed is wasteful and unnecessary; while supporters of the government say the opposition is being deliberately obstructive because the extra assistants could help government ministers to better do their jobs.

Some MPs have also been questioning the President of Althingi’s chairmanship of the debate and complained that Prime Minister Sigurdardottir to be present at all times while her own bill is being debated.