The World Factbook (1990)/Iceland

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The World Factbook (1990)
United States Central Intelligence Agency

pages 140–142


World Factbook (1990) Iceland.jpg

 See regional map V


Total area: 103,000 km²; land area: 100,250 km²

Comparative area: slightly smaller than Kentucky

Land boundaries: none

Coastline: 4,988 km

Maritime claims:

Continental shelf: edge of continental margin or 200 nm
Extended economic zone: 200 nm
Territorial sea: 12 nm

Disputes: Rockall continental shelf dispute involving Denmark, Ireland, and the UK (Ireland and the UK have signed a boundary agreement in the Rockall area)

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

Natural resources: fish, hydroelectric and geothermal power, diatomite

Land use: NEGL% arable land; 0% permanent crops; 23% meadows and pastures; 1% forest and woodland; 76% other

Environment: subject to earthquakes and volcanic activity

Note: strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country


Population: 257,023 (July 1990), growth rate 1.1% (1990)

Birth rate: 18 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 7 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 7 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 75 years male, 80 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 2.2 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Icelander(s); adjective—Icelandic

Ethnic divisions: homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norwegians and Celts

Religion: 95% Evangelical Lutheran, 3% other Protestant and Roman Catholic, 2% no affiliation

Language: Icelandic

Literacy: 100%

Labor force: 134,429; 55.4% commerce, finance, and services, 14.3% other manufacturing, 5.8% agriculture, 7.9% fish processing, 5.0% fishing (1986)

Organized labor: 60% of labor force


Long-form name: Republic of Iceland

Type: republic

Capital: Reykjavík

Administrative divisions: 23 counties (sýslar, singular—sýsla) and 14 independent towns* (kaupstadar, singular—kaupstadur); Akranes*, Akureyri*, Arnessýsla, Austur-Bardhastrandarsýsla, Austur-Húnavatnssýsla, Austur-Skaftafellssýsla, Borgarfjardharsýsla, Dalasysla, Eyjafjardharsýsla, Gullbringusýsla, Hafnarfjördhur*, Húsavík*, Isafjördhur*, Keflavík*, Kjósarsýsla, Kópavogur*, Mýrasýsla, Neskaupstadhur*, Nordhur-Isafjardharsýsla, Nordhur-Múlasýsla, Nordhur-Thingeyjarsýsla, Olafsfjördhur*, Rangárvallasýsla, Reykjavík*, Saudhárkrokur*, Seydhisfjördhur*, Siglufjördhur*, Skagafjardharsýsla, Snaefellsnes-og Hanppadalssýsla, Strandasýsla, Sudhur-Múlasýsla, Sudhur-Thingeyjarsýsla, Vestmannaeyjar*, Vestur-Bardhastrandarsýsla, Vestur-Húnavatnssýsla, Vestur-Isafjardharsýsla, Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla

Independence: 17 June 1944 (from Denmark)

Constitution: 16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944

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

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

Executive branch: president, prime minister, Cabinet

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (Althing) with an Upper House (Efri Deild) and a Lower House (Nedri Deild)

Judicial branch: Supreme Court (Haestiréttur)

Leaders: Chief of State—President Vigdís FINNBOGADÓTTIR (since 1 August 1980);

Head of Government—Prime Minister Steingrimur HERMANNSSON (since 28 September 1988)

Political parties and leaders: Independence (conservative), Thorsteinn Pálsson; Progressive, Steingrímur Hermannsson; Social Democratic, Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson; People's Alliance (left socialist), Olafur Ragnar Grimsson; Citizens Party (conservative nationalist), Julius Solnes; Women's List

Suffrage: universal at age 20

Elections: President—last held on 29 June 1980 (next scheduled for June 1992); results—there were no elections in 1984 and 1988 as President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was unopposed;

Parliament—last held on 25 April 1987 (next to be held by 25 April 1991); results—Independence 27.2%, Progressive 18.9%, Social Democratic 15.2%, People's Alliance 13.4%, Citizens Party 10.9%, Womens List 10.1%, other 4.3%; seats—(63 total) Independence 18, Progressive 13, Social Democratic 10, People's Alliance 8, Citizens Party 7, Womens List 6, Regional Equality Platform 1

Communists: less than 100 (est.), some of whom participate in the People's Alliance

Member of: CCC, Council of Europe, EC (free trade agreement pending resolution of fishing limits issue), EFTA, FAO, GATT, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICES, IDA, IFC, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, IPU, ITU, IWC—International Whaling Commission, NATO, Nordic Council, OECD, UN, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WMO, WSG

Diplomatic representation: Ambassador Ingvi S. INGVARSSON; Chancery at 2022 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008; telephone (202) 265-6653 through 6655; there is an Icelandic Consulate General in New York; US Ambassador Charles E. COBB; Embassy at Laufasvegur 21, Reykjavik (mailing address is FPO New York 09571-0001); telephone [354](1) 29100

Flag: 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)


Overview: Iceland's prosperous Scandinavian-type economy is basically capitalistic, but with extensive welfare measures, low unemployment, and comparatively even distribution of income. The economy is heavily dependent on the fishing industry, which provides nearly 75% of export earnings. In the absence of other natural resources, Iceland's economy is vulnerable to changing world fish prices. National output declined for the second consecutive year in 1989, and two of the largest fish farms filed for bankruptcy. Other economic activities include livestock raising and aluminum smelting. A fall in the fish catch is expected for 1990, resulting in a continuation of the recession.

GDP: $4.0 billion, per capita $16,200; real growth rate -1.8% (1989 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 17.4% (1989 est.)

Unemployment rate: 1.3% (1989 est.)

Budget: revenues $1.5 billion; expenditures $1.7 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA million (1988)

Exports: $1.4 billion (f.o.b., 1988); commodities—fish and fish products, animal products, aluminum, diatomite; partners—EC 58.9% (UK 23.3%, FRG 10.3%), US 13.6%, USSR 3.6%

Imports: $1.6 billion (c.i.f., 1988); commodities—machinery and transportation equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs, textiles; partners—EC 58% (FRG 16%, Denmark 10.4%, UK 9.2%), US 8.5%, USSR 3.9%

External debt: $1.8 billion (1988)

Industrial production: growth rate 4.7% (1987 est.)

Electricity: 1,063,000 kW capacity; 5,165 million kWh produced, 20,780 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: fish processing, aluminum smelting, ferro-silicon production, hydropower

Agriculture: accounts for about 25% of GDP (including fishing); fishing is most important economic activity, contributing nearly 75% to export earnings; principal crops—potatoes and turnips; livestock—cattle, sheep; self-sufficient in crops; fish catch of about 1 .6 million metric tons in 1987

Aid: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-81), $19.1 million

Currency: króna (plural—krónur); 1 Icelandic króna (IKr) = 100 aurar

Exchange rates: Icelandic krónur (IKr) per US$1—60.751 (January 1990), 57.042 (1989), 43.014 (1988), 38.677 (1987), 41.104 (1986), 41.508 (1985)

Fiscal year: calendar year


Highways: 12,343 km total; 166 km bitumen and concrete; 1,284 km bituminous treated and gravel; 10,893 km earth

Ports: Reykjavik, Akureyri, Hafnarfjordhur, Keflavik, Seydhisfjordhur, Siglufjordhur, Vestmannaeyjar; numerous minor ports

Merchant marine: 18 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 62,867 GRT/87,610 DWT; includes 9 cargo, 2 refrigerated cargo, 1 container, 2 roll-on/roll-off cargo, 1 petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) tanker, 1 chemical tanker, 2 bulk

Civil air: 20 major transport aircraft

Airports: 99 total, 92 usable; 4 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 3,659 m; 1 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 14 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: adequate domestic service, wire and radio communication system; 135,000 telephones; stations—10 AM, 17 (43 relays) FM, 14 (132 relays) TV; 2 submarine cables; 1 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT earth station

Defense Forces

Branches: Police, Coast Guard

Military manpower: males 15-49, 68,688; 61,553 fit for military service; no conscription or compulsory military service

Defense expenditures: none