Today, it's Iceland. They've just sent officials to Russia to beg for a €4 billion loan. At first, they'd claimed they'd gotten one, but then the Russians said they hadn't formally been asked and hadn't made any decisions. Finally, Icelandic officials admitted they had "overstated" the agreement and that talks were still "ongoing".
One of their smaller problems? Their banks had been taking lots of deposits from abroad:
There's a British angle, of course: Icelandic banks have been taking Brits' deposits. This is not exactly reassuring:In actual fact, Icesave depositors are being stiffed by the Icelandic government, which took over the bank. In response, Britain's Prime Minister Brown says the UK will sue Iceland over the 300,000 accounts belonging to UK account holders.Times readers reported yesterday morning that they could not withdraw their money from Icesave accounts over the internet. But a spokesman for the bank said that Icesave was now operating normally and depositors could withdraw money. He added that the Icelandic Government had ample foreign reserves to cover the £4bn of British deposits in the event of any collapse.Er, no, it doesn't. The Icelandic government has 374 billion kronur of foreign exchange reserves; if you convert that at 188 kronur to the pound (as plausible an exchange rate as anything else, and the one I get from Yahoo), that works out at less than £2 billion. Even with an extra €4 billion from Russia (Russia!), Iceland's foreign-exchange reserves aren't enough to last a day, if the locals sensibly decide they'd really rather be in any currency but kronur.
"The Icelandic government, believe it or not, have told me yesterday they have no intention of honoring their obligations here,'' [British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alastair] Darling told the British Broadcasting Corporation.Of course, Iceland's a tiny country. But when this all started, the banks that went bust were tiny ones no one had ever heard of...
"The first call would be on the Icelandic compensation scheme which, as far as I can see, hasn't got any money in it," he added.