[Marxism] Interesting article on Libya referenced in Achcar's "The People Want"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jan 26 13:09:28 MST 2014


http://afrol.com/articles/37336

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 
workforce.

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 
food products."

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 
crowds.

By staff writers




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