Iceland names new finance minister in government shuffle

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 31, 2011 12:28 PM

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Iceland named a new finance minister Saturday in a cabinet reshuffle aimed at strengthening the center-left coalition by decreasing internal dissent.

Oddny Hardardottir, the new minister, is expected to maintain policies aimed at gradually cutting the budget deficit.

The 54-year-old is seen as a loyalist to Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, a Social Democrat whose government has been hurt by the anti-EU sentiments of some ministers.

Iceland is currently in talks to enter the European Union, a stance supported by the prime minister.

"I have no doubt that the changes we are making will be positive for the coalition and the country," Sigurdardottir told reporters.

Hardardottir replaces Steingrimur Sigfusson as finance minister.

Sigfusson will now take on the Economy Ministry and the Fisheries and Farm Ministry in a combined post. The move ousts an outspoken critic of Iceland's EU talks who had served as farm and fisheries minister.

Analysts say the government will be more united after the reshuffle, announced after traditional end-of-the-year talks between the government and the president.

The reshuffle also means women now outnumber men in the government by five to four, including the prime minister.

(Reporting by Omar Valdimarsson; Writing by Patrick Lannin; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)