4:48pm

Thu April 7, 2011
Planet Money

Shark Week In Iceland

Planet Money's David Kestenbaum, along with our Icelandic intern Baldur Hedinsson, hopped a redeye to Reykjavik last night.

They'll be reporting on Saturday's big vote, when Icelanders will decide whether to up the tab for a failed bank. According to one estimate, the bill could be as low as $200 million or as high as $2 billion — which would be huge for a country with only 320,000 people.

Not surprisingly, things in Iceland are pretty intense at the moment. Here's an ad that's running there now:

The ad — which equates the failed bank with a shark — is actually supposed to persuade people to vote in favor of picking up the bank's tab.

It runs with text that says, "An unsolved dispute means more uncertainty — and is hazardous for our future. Yes is the way forward."

The story behind the vote: During the credit boom, people from around Europe flocked to high-yield "Icesave" accounts with the Icelandic bank Landsbanki. When the bank failed during the financial crisis, the Netherlands and the U.K. decided to reimburse their citizens who saw their savings wiped out.

Landsbanki's assets are now being sold off. That money will repay some, but not all, of what the governments of the U.K. and the Netherlands spent.

Saturday's vote will decide whether Iceland will guarantee that the U.K. and the Netherlands will get all of their money back — a guarantee that could cost Icelanders up to $2 billion.

(For more details, see Baldur's post, "Should I Pay For Bankers' Mistakes?")

For a counterpart to the shark, check out this terrifying radio ad created by opponents of paying the money back:

...Icelandic children were sold to the British Isles as mining labor in the 15th century. There is no reason repeat such behavior towards children of the future. That is why I say no to the Icesave agreement.

The ad, by the way, is voiced by Egill Olafsson, whom you may know as the front man of the band the Studmenn, or from his role in The White Viking.

We'll have more soon from David and Baldur.

Bonus Vote: As part of Baldur's post from a few weeks ago, readers weighed in on an online vote. Here are the results. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.