President Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson has a Ph.D. in History from Queen Mary, University of London and taught history at the University of Iceland before seeking elected office. He declared his candidacy for president in 2016, unaffiliated with any political party. President Jóhannesson currently has the highest approval rating of any Icelandic president at 97 percent.
Harvard Political Review: Iceland’s economy suffered in 2008 when the Króna fell.
The Gross Domestic Product of Iceland as of 2016 was $20 billion, a far cry from the 2008 GDP of $17.64 billion and 2009 GDP of $12.89 billion. How is Iceland working to make sure this growth is sustained when modern global superpowers are putting the world on the possible brink of another financial collapse?
Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson: We Icelanders learned our lesson in a way. We were badly hit by the global financial crisis. Fortunately, in the decade since, we have managed to build up a strong economy: partly through the correct economic policies but partly through luck. Fisheries are still an important sect of the economy, [and we are] doing well there. We enjoyed a tourist boom, which is important for us [in] getting the economy on the right track. We have to make sure that we do not repeat the mistakes that we made in the years before the collapse; we should focus on what we know how to do and what we do well, such as fisheries and high tech. We need to invest in human resources, educate people, think globally, [and] be open. We need to have a free-flowing idea of resources and services, and we need to build an open economy. Then our future will be bright.
HPR: In the year 2000, Iceland began a deep drill digging project for renewable energy. How is this development and the use of renewable [geothermal] energy changing the economic and energy landscape in Iceland?
GTJ: Iceland is rich in natural resources, hydropower, and geothermal energy: we want to be carbon neutral. We want to increase the use of sustainable and geothermal [energy]. What I feel we can contribute is that we Icelanders have a certain knowledge of how to use geothermal energy. There are ongoing projects in China, parts of Central Europe, and options opening in African countries and others. We have to reduce our use of certain energy resources. We have to focus our attention on renewable energy and geothermal is certainly one of the available options where we Icelanders can use both our resources and help others utilize their own.
Image Credit: Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons
This interview has been edited and condensed.