Libya faces long walk to prosperity
The Libyan people face a daunting challenge to revive their country’s battered economy, observers noted yesterday at an event in Dubai designed to encourage investment in the nation.
More than four decades of harsh rule by Libya’s former leader Moammar Gaddafi have left what should be a prosperous nation with weak industries, poor finances and a lack of experienced professionals, delegates heard at the Future Libya Development Forum.
Gaddafi’s harmful legacy, as well as the damage sustained by the country in the violent revolution that removed him last year, make it critical that elections due to be held on July 7 are successful, experts warned. “Libya stands, at this moment, at a crossroads,” said Charles Gurdon, managing director of Menas Associates, a firm that advises major businesses on political risk in emerging nations.
“The Libya revolution obviously succeeded but now the work begins, business begins and it’s time to get on with the reconstruction. Libya is going to need all the help it can possibly get, from its friends, but also from its own people.” The removal of Gaddafi has revealed an economy that is “largely immature,” he explained, adding that despite a similar level of oil exports, and population, to Kuwait, the North African nation has little in common with the wealthy Gulf state - and looks more like non-oil producer Syria.
Gurdon said: “The requirements of what needs to be done are phenomenal and Libya doesn’t have a lot of able administrators. There are few people with significant experience of running a modern economy and that must change.” Dubai stands ready to help, said Atiq Juma Faraj Nasib - a senior director at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry - but is looking for Libyan people to seize the initiative.
“The Libyan people have first to show that they are really looking forward to the new era of Libya,” he said. “[That they] are committed to assuring the outsider that investments are going to be safe and treated with transparency. Laws should be also accommodating to the needs of the investors...once that is done, it comes to us, the supporters, to all put our hands together.”
Gurdon added: “It doesn’t really do Libya any favours to try and pretend it doesn’t have major problems and the road will not be difficult.”
Tripoli welcome to take lessons from Dubai
A European diplomat yesterday claimed that decades ago Dubai used to look to a pre-Gaddafi Libya for economic inspiration. However, David Bachmann, an economic official in the Austrian embassy in Tripoli, admitted that if such days once existed, they are long gone.
Today Dubai is the role model, and a senior member of the emirate’s authorities has pledged it will welcome Libyan officials should they choose to follow its path.
Asked what advice Dubai would today give Libya as it tries to emulate the emirate’s economic success story, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Atiq Juma Faraj Nasib said they should do what Dubai did and study the best.
“We went to places like Hong Kong, Singapore and started to learn from them, seeing where we stood,” he said. Today the emirate is ranked in the top three trading hubs alongside the two cities that were once its inspiration, he added.
“Libya needs to do the same. But keeping in mind, Libya does not need to do everything that we’ve done or are doing in Dubai. It doesn’t mean bringing all the technicians and saying ‘build me a Burj Khalifa’,” Nasib said.
“So, see, learn, and study what is going on here and capitalise on it. Aim for yours to be better and more unique than we what we have done. Because if you just copy and paste, you have not used your talent, your mind, and your own thinking.”