From the financial crisis to the future of AI: Five minutes with Iceland’s director of economic affairs

By on 05/06/2024 | Updated on 05/06/2024

In this interview, Tómas Brynjólfsson, deputy permanent secretary and director of economic affairs in Iceland’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, discusses his civil service career and learning from international peers.

This is part of a ‘Five minutes’ series featuring participants from this week’s Global Government Finance Summit in Dublin (5-6 June). 

What are you most interested in discussing at the Global Government Finance Summit 2024?

I’m most interested in discussing how finance ministries can use artificial intelligence. It seems to offer immense opportunities for ministries that work with a lot of data but it’s hard to separate that hype from real potential.

Read more: ‘Choose your words and manage your time wisely’: Five minutes with Noureddine Bensouda, Morocco’s finance chief

What drew you to a career in the civil service?

I entered the civil service during the financial crisis in Iceland. At the time it seemed almost an existential crisis for our small society. Building and executing a new framework for economic management that has delivered renewed prosperity has given me an immense sense of purpose.

Are there any projects or innovations in your country that might be valuable to your peers overseas?  

Being a very small civil service, we continually look for good examples from abroad. We have extensively used work by the Irish Advisory Fiscal Council and the New Zealand Treasury to name two good examples.

Read more: Advancing homegrown AI: Five minutes with Mihai Cuza from Romania’s Ministry of Finance

What’s your favourite thing to do at the weekends? 

When the weather in Iceland allows I try to hike or ski most weekends. Iceland offers ski-touring and cross-country skiing possibilities well into what would be considered summer months in the rest of the Northern hemisphere. When summer finally arrives, nothing beats the Icelandic wilderness.

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