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Prime Minister's Office

Address by the Prime Minister at Social Progress Index

The spoken word applies

Madame Chairwoman /  Mr. Chairman.Ladies and gentlemen
I am honored to have this opportunity today to discuss the competitiveness of nations with several leading scientists and academics in this field. 

This is, in fact, a unique opportunity to assess and consider current situations; to examine the criteria constituting the grounds of competitiveness, and last but not least, to address how we may utilize this knowledge for improving living conditions in individual countries. 

It is my sincere hope that today's event will indeed become an annual event in Iceland, reflecting in an interesting manner the future vision and policy formulation of nations, and that it may also generate interest in the achievements we have made in Iceland.

It is important to bear in mind that we cannot obtain any guidelines or seek one truth as to how societies may be structured in the most sensible and fair manner. 

The truth of the matter is that every single nation must find its own path, based on its history and conventions, as well as on the opportunities entailed in the country's nature and environment. 

We, Icelanders, know very well how something that once was considered as a negative factor that reduced the quality of life suddenly becomes a positive factor that increases our competitiveness in modern times. 

This may probably be best seen by how Iceland's glacier rivers used to be the greatest hindrances and hard to overcome; however, have now become a basic source for the generation of environmentally-friendly energy. 

Barren and harsh landscape, which did not yield much, is now the main reason for the extensive increase in the number of tourists coming to Iceland to see the vast and impressive Icelandic panorama.  

The ocean surrounding Iceland, which took many human lives, now yields valuable food throughout the world.
Just over a century ago Iceland was considered to be such a harsh place that it was deemed to be nearly uninhabitable. 

At that time Iceland had limited competitiveness other than that entailed in its romantic patriotic poetry frequently intended to attract back to Iceland the very few Icelanders who managed to go abroad to seek an education. 

A change occurred at the turn of the century, 1900, when the Icelanders were able to utilize the natural resources here, both in terms of fisheries and agriculture. 

Productivity rapidly increased and gradually the Icelanders had something to offer at the international marketplace. It is tempting to link this fact to how, at this point in time; the Icelanders received confirmation of Iceland's sovereignty. 

The nation's independence are without doubt among the most important assets of the nation, so to speak. 

Interestingly, a common factor among the nations at the top of the list of the Social Progress Index, which is being discussed here today, is that they operate an independent monetary policy and have their own currency. 

The index is indeed not based on direct hardcore economic factors; hence drawing too much conclusions on monetary issues on grounds of the index should be avoided. 

Nevertheless, this is an interesting fact and underlines the importance of the nation's independence when it comes to strengthening competitiveness. 

Adjustment competence and flexibility, which independent economic systems possess more than others, are necessary factors for a nation's competitiveness.

The science of economy is the field of expertise that people turn to regarding various issues relating to sensible management of the economic systems. 

We politicians know, however, that this alone does not suffice, and furthermore know that the discipline of economy can miss various things that are important for the welfare of the individual. 

Hence, it is clear that the SPI is better than other indexes in measuring economic growth, performance and the prosperity of nations as it includes more variables in its calculations. Variables are significant when assessing the quality of our societies.

Ladies and gentlemen,Referring to the aforementioned, however, we do realize that nothing is to be taken for granted. 

Societies that once were considered as strong and solid have collapsed, leaving their populations in chaos and despair. 

Europe's recent history contains examples of this, as well as several of the worst areas of conflict in the world. These are reminders to us all for safeguarding that which unites us and calls upon us not to place peace in jeopardy. 
It should surprise no one that Iceland is among the top-ranking nations in terms of the indicators that measure the general quality of a society. 

We must nevertheless constantly answer new and pressing questions about the strength of Iceland's infrastructure. 
We also know that notwithstanding the benefits of independence and our special position, we should look outside of Iceland and compare ourselves with other nations, learn from them and hopefully, have something they can learn from us. 

Exchanging information as we are doing here today helps us better understand the factors that work in similar circumstances as ours.

There are many things indicating that Iceland's strength is entailed in the fields of prosperity and sustainability. The task ahead is therefore to ensure effective economic management and a good monetary policy  -  and to continue on our path of prosperity and tolerance that indeed exists in Iceland. 

The Social Progress Index is a tool that can certainly work in Iceland by the same token it does elsewhere.  
Allow me to express my appreciation for having this opportunity to follow the input and efforts of the experts who are here today. 

I hope that all of this will prove useful in rendering Iceland as a better and more just society.

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