[Marxism] Interesting article on Libya referenced in Achcar's "The People Want"
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jan 26 13:09:28 MST 2014
Libya economy reveals basis for protests
afrol News, 16 February - While the Libyan economy drowns in
petrodollars and its "Great leader" Muammar al-Ghaddafi buys support
abroad, almost half of its youth are unemployed. The non-oil sector is tiny.
Libya is the richest North African country. Counted in GDP per capita,
Libya indeed is on an Eastern European level.
But that does not reflect the real economy of the average Libyan, with
around half the population falling outside the oil-driven economy. The
unemployment rate is at a surprising 30 percent, with youth unemployment
estimated at between 40 and 50 percent. This is the highest in North Africa.
Also other development indicators reveal that little of the petrodollars
have been invested in the welfare of Libya's 6.5 million inhabitants.
Education levels are lower than in neighbouring Tunisia, which has
little oil, and a surprising 20 percent of Libyans remain illiterate.
Also, decent housing is unavailable to most of the disadvantaged half of
the population. A generally high price level in Libya puts even more
strains on these households.
But the key of popular discontent is the lack of work opportunities,
which strongly contrasts the Libyan image of a rich nation constantly
propagated by the regime and its Soviet-style media.
The few options for ordinary Libyans include the police or armed forces,
construction works and petty trade. But even here, contacts and
corruption are needed to have a chance.
But how can this be in such a rich country? The answer is that the
Libyan economy is totally driven by the oil sector, and that non-oil
developments have focused on Mr Ghaddafi's megalomaniac projects. Both
are dominated by foreign workers.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday timely presented its
newest indicators of the Libyan economy. According to these latest IMF
data, Libya's exports in 2010 amounted to an impressive US$ 47.8
billion. Quite illustrating, out of this, US$ 46.3 billion were exports
of oil and gas products.
Libya's vast hydrocarbon sector creates an immense wealth, with
government now having foreign assets of US$ 105 billion - or US$ 16,000
per Libyan citizen. But it does not create many jobs. A few Libyan
businessmen, close to the Ghaddafi regime, and some Libyan engineers and
oil workers make their living from oil and gas production. But foreign
businessmen, engineers and workers are even deeper involved in the sector.
Libyan leader Ghaddafi for years has sought to diversify the economy by
sudden launches of massive investments in giga-projects. A "Great
Man-made River" was to create agricultural lands in the desert.
First-class roads and high-speed trains were to cross the desert country
in all directions to boost trade. Large tracts of Libya's Mediterranean
coast have been set aside for massive tourist complexes.
These attempts to boost the non-oil sector have given some results on
the paper. For most of the last five years, new IMF figures show, the
non-oil sector has been growing much faster - with growth rates from 6
to 10 percent - than the hydrocarbon sector. It could seem that a
diversification of Libya's economy was in the making, creating job
opportunities for ordinary Libyans.
Not so. Most of the Libyan leader's megalomaniac projects are poorly
assessed schemes not based in the development needs of the country or
its population. Bluntly, they are mostly a waste of billions of dollars.
More importantly, they do not create work for ordinary Libyans. The
giant projects are put to international tender, with foreign companies
employing engineers and even bringing in the workforce to do the
constructions. Even the food for these foreign workers is mostly imported.
The great railway scheme currently being implemented sees the sparsely
populated country connected from east to west - the Egyptian border to
the Tunisian border - with a high-speed train. Further, a line through
the almost unpopulated Sahara desert is to be built. The projects went
to a Chinese and a Russian railway company, providing all input and
Yesterday's IMF report, noting the high unemployment rate, in clear
language says that the unrest across North Africa has not reached Libya
"so far." According to the IMF, government was meeting these challenges
by abolishing "taxes and custom duties on locally-produced and imported
Further, it "announced the creation of a large multi-billion dollar fund
for investment and local development that will focus on providing
housing for the growing population," according to the IMF. New policies
were aiming at "adapting the labour force to the economic transformation."
But among large parts of the Libyan population, the modest reform scheme
introduced by Mr Ghaddafi - in power since 1969 - come too late and
sound like empty words. Only one year ago, Libyan labour training chief
Amin Mansour Amine had announced unemployment would be reduced by 50
percent during 2010 by the country's great infrastructure projects.
Nothing however happened.
Meanwhile, the great social problems are adding up to political
frustrations and an opposition to the dictatorship, especially in
Libya's second city Benghazi. Inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and
Egypt, also a growing number of Libyans only see a solution in the total
collapse of the Ghaddafi regime.
The first major protests against the Ghaddafi regime consequently were
organised in Benghazi today. Several thousand protesters demanded the
resignation of Mr Ghaddafi, but were met with riot police dispersing the
By staff writers
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