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Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson is the fifth President of Iceland. Grímsson was born in Ísafjörður, a small fishing town on Iceland’s northwestern peninsula. He graduated from the Reykjavík Lyceum in 1962 and then studied in[…]

The president of Iceland explains the secret to the Nordic countries’ recent economic and social success. Social welfare programs such as free access to education and healthcare have proved to be a boon to the free market economy.

Ólafur Grímsson: If you look at the Nordic countries, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, you have five countries, they are all different in many ways but there is one very strong common factor, these five countries all have very competitive free market economies. And in every international ranking they are among the top nations in that respect. And their economic success in recent decades demonstrates that the Nordic free market economies perform extraordinarily well. They have produced global companies that dominate many other parts of the world, but at the same time these five Nordic countries have developed a social welfare system where everybody, irrespective of their income and class, gets the same right to education, to healthcare and to equal treatment in any economic way. This coexistence of a social welfare society with a right to education and healthcare is equally distributed throughout society is one of the pillars of our economic and business success. So you cannot find any business organization in any of the Nordic countries, which is advocating that we should decrease this social welfare system. On the contrary, the prominent business leaders of our countries realize that the evolution of this social welfare system in terms of education and healthcare is one of the major reasons why the Nordic businesses have been globally so successful and why our market economies have grown so aggressively.

Why? Because if we have an established system that takes care of the sick when they need it and allow every kid to be educated to the fullness of its potential, the business leaders can concentrate on the business. They don't have to worry about the health insurance and everything that goes with this complicated system where you don't have a universal educational or health right. So the Nordic formula, not just the Icelandic one, but also from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, has created what The Economist, the preeminent weekly economic newspaper in the world, deemed a few months ago perhaps the most successful economic model in the last few decades. So when my American friends call it socialism in a very negative term I'd ask them look at our business record, look at our economic record, look at the growth rate, look at the prosperity, look at the global companies, look at the innovation that takes place within this framework. And if you do that the evidence is absolutely clear that to provide everybody with a right to education and healthcare is a formula for economic and business success.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton