Iceland and South Asia – a great potential for cooperation
The people of Iceland are the friendliest in the world, according to a report by the World Economic Forum. Yet most Pakistanis do not know of their 37 years of friendly ties with Iceland. The Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Iceland in Pakistan,
Your Excellency, how does it feel to represent the Icelandic people in Pakistan?
I am honored to represent Iceland in Pakistan. In 1977, my father Mr. K. Mahmoodullah became the first Honorary Consul General of Iceland to Pakistan. It has been over 37 years now that our family has proudly represented the people of Iceland in Pakistan.
Does Iceland have significant trade with the South Asian region?
Iceland and India have multiple agreements and MoUs for promotion of trade relations. These agreements range from double tax avoidance to cooperation in renewable energy, science and technology, fisheries development and cultural exchange. Iceland’s exports to India in 2011 were recorded at $4.6 million, comprising primarily of pharmaceuticals, metal products and mechanical appliances. India’s exports to Iceland were at $43.7 million, consisting primarily of organic chemicals, manufactured goods and transport equipment.
What important projects is Iceland pursuing in the South Asia and how are they impacting the local economy?
Pakistan’s neighbor India has Icelandic companies engaged in renewal energy projects, science and technology cooperation and fisheries development. Icelandic companies have business interests in pharmaceutical, plastics, turbines, IT and renewable energy concerns operating in India. These ventures are benefiting the local economy in creation of jobs, transfer of technology and skills and achieving economic self-reliance in the long run. Iceland can help Pakistan in addressing its energy deficit and revolutionize its fisheries sector. Would you like to give us an overview of the economy of Iceland?
The Forbes magazine ranked Iceland as the 15th best country for business in the world, just behind the USA. As per the annual statistics of 2013 the unemployment rate is stable at 5.4%, the annual average growth rate of Gross National Income is at 2.2% whereas the GNI has grown by 11% and the GDP has grown by 3.3%. This makes Iceland one of the world’s more stably growing economies and the Icelandic people as one of the most vibrant market for investors. What is the reason for the robustness and sustainability of the economy of Iceland? What lessons are there for the international community?
The President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson in his speech at the Meeting of OECD Ambassadors in Paris in early 2013 introduced the term ‘Clean Energy Economy’ in his speech signifies the radical transformation of Iceland’s energy system which now produces 100% of Iceland’s electricity and almost 100% of house heating through hydro and geothermal. But the effects are far beyond than just heating houses and producing electricity. Far less costly than the other European countries, this clean energy has helped the economy to attract huge foreign industrial investments across high-tech industries, IT companies, data storage centres, aluminium smelters and other thriving enterprises. The lesson to share with the international community lies in sharing Iceland’s expertise in utilizing renewable energy like hydro and geothermal which are highly relevant to the South Asian twin economies. Despite the cold weather of Iceland, is the tourism sector growing rapidly?
Yes the tourism sector or may I say eco-tourism is rapidly growing in Iceland. In 2013 nearly a million tourists visited Iceland. It may interest holders of Schengen Visa to know that they can enter Iceland without any further requirements. Due to the clean energy policy of Iceland, tourism initially attracted European neighbors to Reykjavik on holidays or even long weekends. Now pretty much the entire Europe and North America is on the regular visitors list. The message is in the balance that Iceland has been able to maintain between economic growth and its natural habitat. The largely exclusive attractions that Iceland offers are its natural hot springs, the magical northern lights phenomenon, breathtaking landscapes and a very lively sea life safari.
Saad Mahmood, Honorary Consul General of
the Republic of Iceland in Pakistan