Iceland 1999Iceland

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Iceland - Introduction 1999
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Background: Iceland boasts the oldest surviving parliament in the world, the Althing, established in 930. Subsequently this Nordic island, whose small population has largely depended on fishing and sheep-herding for a living, came under the rule of Norway and then Denmark. It gained home rule in 1874 and full independence in 1944. Literacy, longevity, and social cohesion are topnotch by world standards. Tensions continue with Norway, Russia, and other nearby countries over fishing rights in the North Atlantic and adjacent seas.

Iceland - Geography 1999
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Location: Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK

Geographic coordinates: 65 00 N, 18 00 W

Map referenceArctic Region

Total: 103,000 km²
Land: 100,250 km²
Water: 2,750 km²
Comparative: slightly smaller than Kentucky

Land boundaries: 0 km

Coastline: 4,988 km

Maritime claims
Continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers

Terrain: mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords

Extremes lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
Extremes highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,119 m

Natural resources: fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite
Land use

Land use
Arable land: 0%
Permanent crops: 0%
Permanent pastures: 23%
Forests and woodland: 1%
Other: 76% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: NA km²

Major rivers

Major watersheds area km²

Total water withdrawal

Total renewable water resources

Natural hazards: earthquakes and volcanic activity

Note: strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe

Iceland - People 1999
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Population: 272,512 (July 1999 est.)
Growth rate: 0.57% (1999 est.)
Below poverty line: NA%

Noun: Icelander(s)
Adjective: Icelandic

Ethnic groups: homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norwegians and Celts

Languages: Icelandic

Religions: Evangelical Lutheran 96%, other Protestant and Roman Catholic 3%, none 1% (1988)

Demographic profile
Age structure

Age structure
0-14 years: 23% (male 32,608; female 31,061)
15-64 years: 65% (male 89,258; female 87,449)
65 years and over: 12% (male 14,510; female 17,626) (1999 est.)

Dependency ratios

Median age

Population growth rate: 0.57% (1999 est.)

Birth rate: 14.87 births/1000 population (1999 est.)

Death rate: 7.01 deaths/1000 population (1999 est.)

Net migration rate: -2.17 migrant(s)/1000 population (1999 est.)

Population distribution


Major urban areas

Current issues: water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
International agreements party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
International agreements signed but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation

Air pollutants

Sex ratio
At birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female
Total population: 1 male(s)/female (1999 est.)

Mothers mean age at first birth

Maternal mortality ratio

Infant mortality rate: 5.22 deaths/1000 live births (1999 est.)

Life expectancy at birth
Total population: 78.96 years
Male: 76.85 years
Female: 81.19 years (1999 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.03 children born/woman (1999 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

Drinking water source

Current health expenditure

Physicians density

Hospital bed density

Sanitation facility access


Major infectious diseases

Obesity adult prevalence rate

Alcohol consumption

Tobacco use

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

Education expenditures

Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 100% (1976 est.)
Male: NA%
Female: NA%

School life expectancy primary to tertiary education

Youth unemployment

Iceland - Government 1999
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Country name
Conventional long form: Republic of Iceland
Conventional short form: Iceland
Local long form: Lyoveldio Island
Local short form: Island

Government type: constitutional republic

Capital: Reykjavik

Administrative divisions: 23 counties (syslar, singular_sysla) and 14 independent towns* (kaupstadhir, singular_kaupstadhur; Akranes*, Akureyri*, Arnessysla, Austur-Bardhastrandarsysla, Austur-Hunavatnssysla, Austur-Skaftafellssysla, Borgarfjardharsysla, Dalasysla, Eyjafjardharsysla, Gullbringusysla, Hafnarfjordhur*, Husavik*, Isafjordhur*, Keflavik*, Kjosarsysla, Kopavogur*, Myrasysla, Neskaupstadhur*, Nordhur-Isafjardharsysla, Nordhur-Mulasys-la, Nordhur-Thingeyjarsysla, Olafsfjordhur*, Rangarvallasysla, Reykjavik*, Saudharkrokur*, Seydhisfjordhur*, Siglufjordhur*, Skagafjardharsysla, Snaefellsnes-og Hnappadalssysla, Strandasysla, Sudhur-Mulasysla, Sudhur-Thingeyjarsysla, Vesttmannaeyjar*, Vestur-Bardhastrandarsysla, Vestur-Hunavatnssysla, Vestur-Isafjardharsysla, Vestur-Skaftafellssysla

Dependent areas

Independence: 17 June 1944 (from Denmark)

National holiday: Anniversary of the Establishment of the Republic, 17 June (1944)

Constitution: 16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944

Legal system: civil law system based on Danish law; does not accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

International law organization participation


Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch
Chief of state: President Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON (since 1 August 1996)
Head of government: Prime Minister David ODDSSON (since 30 April 1991)
Cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
Elections: president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 29 June 1996 (next to be held NA June 2000); prime minister appointed by the president
Election results: Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON elected president; percent of vote_41.4%

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament or Althing (63 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
Elections: last held on 8 April 1995 (next to be held by April 1999)
Election results: percent of vote by party_Independence Party 37.1%, Progressive Party 23.3%, Social Democratic Party 11.4%, Socialists 14.3%, People's Movement 7.2%, Women's Party 4.9%; seats by party_Independence 25, Progressive 15, Social Democratic 7, Socialists 9, People's Movement 4, Women's Party 3

Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Haestirettur, justices are appointed for life by the president

Political parties and leaders

International organization participation: Australia Group, BIS, CBSS, CCC, CE, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EFTA, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, MTCR, NATO, NC, NEA, NIB, OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNMIBH, UNU, UPU, WEU (associate), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation
In the us chief of mission: Ambassador Jon-Baldvin HANNIBALSSON
In the us chancery: Suite 1200, 1156 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20,005
In the us telephone: [1] (202) 265-6,653
In the us FAX: [1] (202) 265-6,656
In the us consulates general: New York
From the us chief of mission: Ambassador Day Olin MOUNT
From the us embassy: Laufasvegur 21, Reykjavik
From the us mailing address: US Embassy, PSC 1003, Box 40, FPO AE 9,728-0340
From the us telephone: [354] 5,629,100
From the us FAX: [354] 5,629,118

Flag descriptionflag of Iceland: blue with a red cross outlined in white that extends to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag)

National symbols

National anthem

National heritage

Iceland - Economy 1999
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Economy overview: Iceland's Scandinavian-type economy is basically capitalistic, yet with an extensive welfare system, low unemployment, and remarkably even distribution of income. The economy depends heavily on the fishing industry, which provides 75% of export earnings and employs 12% of the work force. In the absence of other natural resources_except energy_Iceland's economy is vulnerable to changing world fish prices. The economy remains sensitive to declining fish stocks as well as to drops in world prices for its main exports:fish and fish products, aluminum, and ferrosilicon. The center-right government plans to continue its policies of reducing the budget and current account deficits, limiting foreign borrowing, containing inflation, revising agricultural and fishing policies, diversifying the economy, and privatizing state-owned industries. The government remains opposed to EU membership, primarily because of Icelanders' concern about losing control over their fishing resources. Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, and new developments in software production, biotechnology, and financial services are taking place. The tourism sector is also expanding, with the recent trends in ecotourism and whale-watching. Growth is likely to slow in 1999, to a still respectable 4.6%.

Real gdp purchasing power parity

Real gdp growth rate: 5.1% (1998 est.)

Real gdp per capita ppp

Gross national saving
Gdp composition by sector of origin

Gdp composition by end use

Gdp composition by sector of origin
Agriculture: 13%
Industry: 24%
Services: 63% (1997 est.)

Agriculture products: potatoes, turnips; cattle, sheep; fish

Industries: fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production, geothermal power; tourism

Industrial production growth rate: NA%

Labor force: 130,000 (1998 est.)
By occupation manufacturing: 12.9%
By occupation fishingandfishprocessing: 11.8%
By occupation construction: 10.7%
By occupation other services: 59.5%
By occupation agriculture: 5.1% (1996 est.)
Labor force

Unemployment rate: 3% (1998 est.)

Youth unemployment

Population below poverty line: NA%

Gini index

Household income or consumption by percentage share

Distribution of family income gini index

Revenues: $1.9 billion
Expenditures: $2.1 billion, including capital expenditures of $146 million (1996 est.)

Public debt

Taxes and other revenues


Fiscal year: calendar year

Current account balance

Inflation rate consumer prices

Central bank discount rate

Commercial bank prime lending rate

Stock of narrow money

Stock of broad money

Stock of domestic credit

Market value of publicly traded shares

Current account balance

Exports: $1.9 billion (f.o.b., 1998)
Commodities: fish and fish products 70%, animal products, aluminum, diatomite and ferrosilicon
Partners: EU 60% (UK 19%, Germany 13%, France 6%, Denmark 6%), US 14% (1997)

Imports: $2.4 billion (f.o.b., 1998)
Commodities: machinery and equipment, petroleum products, foodstuffs, textiles
Partners: EU 58% (Germany 12%, Norway 12%, UK 10%, Denmark 9%, Sweden 7%), US 9% (1997)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

Debt external: $2.2 billion (1996 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment at home

Stock of direct foreign investment abroad

Exchange rates: Icelandic kronur (IKr) per US$1_69.250 (January 1999), 70.958 (1998), 70.904 (1997), 66.500 (1996), 64.692 (1995), 69.944 (1994)

Iceland - Energy 1999
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Electricity access

Electricity production: 5.048 billion kWh (1996)
By source fossil fuel: 0.06%
By source hydro: 93.43%
By source nuclear: 0%
By source other: 6.51%

Electricity consumption: 5.532 billion kWh (1997)

Electricity exports: 0 kWh (1996)

Electricity imports: 0 kWh (1996)

Electricity installed generating capacity

Electricity transmission distribution losses

Electricity generation sources


Refined petroleum

Natural gas

Carbon dioxide emissions

Energy consumption per capita

Iceland - Communication 1999
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Telephones fixed lines

Telephones mobile cellular

Telephone system: adequate domestic service
Domestic: the trunk network consists of coaxial and fiber-optic cables and microwave radio relay links
International: satellite earth stations_2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions); note_Iceland shares the Inmarsat earth station with the other Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden)

Broadcast media

Internet country code

Internet users

Broadband fixed subscriptions

Iceland - Military 1999
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Military expenditures
Dollar figure: none

Military and security forces

Military service age and obligation

Terrorist groups

Iceland - Transportation 1999
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National air transport system

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

Airports: 87 (1998 est.)
With paved runways total: 10
With paved runways over 3047 m: 1
With paved runways 15-24 to 2437 m: 4
With paved runways 914 to 1523 m: 5 (1998 est.)
With unpaved runways total: 77
With unpaved runways 15-24 to 2437 m: 3
With unpaved runways 914 to 1523 m: 21
With unpaved runways under 914 m: 53 (1998 est.)

Airports with paved runways
Total: 10
Over 3047 m: 1
15-24 to 2437 m: 4
914 to 1523 m: 5 (1998 est.)

Airports with unpaved runways
Total: 77
15-24 to 2437 m: 3
914 to 1523 m: 21
Under 914 m: 53 (1998 est.)



Railways: 0 km



Merchant marine
Total: 3 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 13,085 GRT/16,938 DWT
Ships by type: chemical tanker 1, container 1, oil tanker 1 (1998 est.)

Ports and terminals

Iceland - Transnational issues 1999
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Disputes international: Rockall continental shelf dispute involving Denmark, Ireland, and the UK (Ireland and the UK have signed a boundary agreement in the Rockall area)

Refugees and internally displaced persons

Illicit drugs

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