Libyans Dare to Dream - Reasons to be Cheerful - by Sami Zaptia 01/10/2011 12:08:00
It is very easy to be pessimistic about Libya’s future in view of the trauma it has been through since February 17th. Certainly listening to some analysts across the plethora of satellite TV news stations you could very easily, as an uninformed outsider, draw the conclusion that Libya’s future looks gloomy.
And since a picture is worth a thousand words, hours of footage showing Freedom Fighters roaming Libya’s streets, the constant sound of gun fire echoing across the cities and dead bodies strewn here there and everywhere - you may have good reason to be cynical.
However, I would like to abstain from this glum forecast and make the case for an alternative and optimistic future for Libya despite the horrendous six months it has been through.
I would like to offer an alternative thesis where the newly liberated Libyans have many good reasons to be cheerful and can for once in their lives dare to dream. Moreover, I would like to go further than that and argue that there is a case for saying that, in the long term, the Libyan revolution may lead to an even rosier future than its neighbours Tunisia or Egypt can expect.
For a start, many an analyst have made the inevitable comparisons with how in Iraq the war was won but the peace was lost. Iraq still suffers power cuts and many basic deficiencies including the general sense of insecurity until today. The sectarian divides have been magnified and have become the factor in its everyday life.
The immediate response to that is that Libya is basically quite a homogenous society. Media analysts as well as Al Qathafi and his followers have made much of the issue of tribalism.
The fact is; Libya has no real deep social fault lines. There are no basic sectarian or religious splits compared to say those found in other Arab countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Syria in varying degrees.
Libya has no Shia, Jewish, Coptic Christian or Kurd minorities. It is - or had been anyway - a moderate Sunni nation.
Tribalism exists, and no doubt once the unity fed by the hatred for the old regime wanes, there will be differences. That is normal and to be expected. But I think they are exaggerated and I hope these will be solved at the ballot box.
Moreover, many Libyans automatically sought refuge within their tribes as a last and only resort as a result of the lack of a democratic, meritocratic, transparent, fair, responsive, efficient regime and government.
Looking at some economic fundamentals, Libya is estimated to have net surplus assets of about US$ 160 billion - most of which are liquid assets according to Farhat Bengdara the former Central Bank of Libya governor. That is a huge contrast to Tunisia or Egypt which have no surpluses to draw upon and provide immediate solutions for problems.
Put crudely, the new Libyan regime has a lot of money to bribe the Libyan populous with – an advantage neither Egypt nor Tunisia can call upon.
Libya still has huge oil and gas reserves - around 3 percent of world reserves - located a stone throw away from Europe. Logistically, and very conveniently, it is estimated that a third of Libya’s production goes the short trip across the Mediterranean to Italy.
Nor did Libya suffer the infrastructure damage Iraq had to endure after its war. Indeed, in a news briefing in Benghazi on the 25th, NTC member Ali Tarhouni, in charge of oil and finance, confirmed that Libya hoped to start oil exports soon, saying that damage to oil installations was much less than feared.
‘Most of the fields are more than 90 percent fine. We can have about 500,000 to 600,000 barrels within two to three weeks. And then we ramp this up to the normal, which is about 1.6 (million). My expectation is that this will be done within a year or so,” he added.
You do the calculations. If these optimistic forecasts come true, five hundred to six hundred thousand barrels a day within weeks at around US$100 a barrel is quite a handy income to have.
This convenient income literally on tap does not exist in neither Egypt nor Tunisia. At 1.6 million barrels per day in a year to 18 months, Libya would be back to earning billions per annum.
Add to this Libya’s relatively small and youthful population of six million and you will get a huge spending power per citizen in the hands of the new Libyan authorities. As I said, any new Libyan authority, if they can just hold things together for a few months and avoid any unexpected bumps on the road - have got a lot of cash to throw at their citizens.
And if you want to be cynical again about the intervention of some of the nations in the Libyan war and say it had nothing to do with issues of humanitarian aid, democracy etc, it does help when the recipient of help has potential not only to help itself in the very short term, but may give something back too. Thank god we have oil, that’s all I want to say.
And finally, there is the case for saying that both Egypt and Tunisia actually experienced a very much shorter, shallower and milder revolution. In effect a publicly inspired military coup, with the old guard and army still very much in site. However, Libya’s revolution was more bloody, deeper longer and more cleansing.
Most of the old guard were removed and the army deconstructed. Indeed, because Al Qathafi was a one man government, getting rid of him has meant that Libya has got rid of the whole old regime in one stroke.
It is for these reasons that I believe that once Libya gets past the very tricky, vulnerable and sensitive transition stage in the first few months, it indeed has a better chance of making a clean break with the past and look forward to starting a new and bright future.
For Libyans there are many reasons to be cheerful and they can dare to dream.
Comment: Mr Zaptia knows well the Libyans and Libya. Libya and the Libyans are resilient, determined and confident people.
They have experienced the harsh reality of life by being unassuming and kind culture. They have always been optimisstic forward looking people. They never ever dwel on the past and its misfortune.
They are mature enough culture and nation that never ever let the distraction of others swey their far-sighted visions and plans to fulfil their aspirations by embrassing Democracy and the rule of law to manage their own people and limited resources effectively and efficiently with out leaving polluted and corrupt crooks take advantage of them any longer by perverting their own people and squandering their limited resouces which could otherwise utilized for developing their own people, resources and systems by exchanging, dealing and cooperating with responsible, civilized and well developed cultures and nations
Date: 10/01/2011 15:44:32
Comment: I see Libya building a ''bullet train between Tripoli and Benghasi in the near future and opening up to develop its great wind and solar power potential that would make it an exporter of oil ,natural gas and electricity agriculture ,without the central planning may expirience a boom as well ,not to mention very under developed services
Date: 10/02/2011 16:25:52
Comment: 2nd, October 2011 Dear Sir, Yes,I do agree with the whole stories that you have mentioned. I personally think that you and all of the Libyans need to inform to the remaining of people at Sirte and Bani Walid to understand about the real situation of change that has occured in Libya. How can you tell them that Libya has come to the point that can't return to the day before 17th, Feb 2011? What will they get from that change? I personally think the most important thing that need to be done right now is to bring an end to the fighting, stop killing, bring peace to the whole country through negotiation. I sincerely hope that peace will come soon through negotiation, you have to talk to the members of the old regime, let the voice of the Libyan people be heard by them. NTC’s mouthpiece need to communicate with the people more and more about the right things that will benefit all the people in the near future after the end of conflict, let them know that prosperity in lives, good education, better medical care and so on will come soon. Believe me, stop fighting, and no more killing, bring peace back to the country, the whole fighters of both the royalists to the old regime and the freedom fighters who have shared an important role in liberating the country need to joint hands in hands in developing of the country in all fields, they have to go back to rejoin with members of their families, the families’ institutes are also important. Parents are waiting for their sons to be back from the fronts, children waiting for fathers, wives are waiting for husbands….bring waiting to end…Libyans not only dare to dream but have to make your dreams come true…Inshaallah!!! To Libya with love…
Date: 10/10/2011 10:21:04
Comment: What is also needed are full blast education to all Libyan people esp. the youth. We must educate them to the fullest term and if possible the European style of education not just the old system that they use here in Libya. I am not a Libyan but I love and stayed here in libya for the past 17 years, I like to see a new and revitalized Libya for the next 25 years. It is like my second home. And invite more foreigners to re-build Libya just like what the US did in the 19th century.
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