Many economists agree on the fact that the banking sector in Libya has yet to improve. The level of the Libyan banking sector is very low compared to what prevails in most countries of the world.
Looking at the reasons for such bad performance, observers tend to think that political divisions are the reason number one for this situation, along with the absence of an efficient legal framework.
To understand better where things stand, Stractegia had this exclusive interview in Benghazi with Ali Hebri (AH), the eastern-based governor of the Central Bank of Libya. Hebri was attending the “Second meeting for the development of the banking sector in Libya”.
AH – This is the second official meeting that aims at helping Libya reform its banking sector and operate a transition towards modernity. The first meeting was organized in Tunisia last year, where a great number of Libyan and non-Libyan specialists of the banking sector talked about what Libya was going through.
We thought that it was important that the second edition of this meeting be organized in Libya; our choice fell on Benghazi, and the fact is that the number of participants as well as the level of the debates prove how successful this initiative is.
I remember that last year, many high-level speakers participated to the meeting in Tunis; among them were very good specialists of the Libyan banking sector as well as key representatives of the Government of National Accord (GNA), such as the Minister of Planification, Dr Taher al-Juhaymi.
The very interesting discussions and debates that they had altogether were part of the reasons why we thought it was important to organize a follow-up edition of this meeting in Libya directly.
It is important that Libyans with different backgrounds have an opportunity to talk about the realities and the challenges of the banking sector.
S – What are the main topics that participants to this second edition are currently discussing?
AH – There are two main topics: the first one is related to electronic payments and how people could make use of credit cards and phone services for their transactions. This field needs companies to be willing to act as financial intermediaries; that way, they could help reducing the consequences for the current liquidity crisis by being an interface between consumers and sellers. The way ahead to achieving that is part of the discussions between participants to this meeting.
Second, how can we get banks to support projects that aim at fostering economic development in Libya, be it at the financial, the logistical or the technical level? This topic has also generated very interesting discussions, and the fact is that some participants to this meeting have already committed to concrete and binding steps and decisions.
S – What can you tell us about the obstacles that still stand against the unification of the Central Bank of Libya?
AH – There is only one obstacle to the unification of the Central Bank of Libya: it is Sadiq al-Kabir. The House of Representatives has dismissed him and replaced him with Mohammed Shukri, a highly-qualified person who originates from Western Libya; if Shukri was confirmed officially as the new Tripoli-based governor of the Central Bank of Libya, this would put an end to divisions.
That said, I prefer not to expand on this topic since what I really care about is seeing the prospects for having a unified banking sector.
S – But what are the reasons that are getting Sadiq al-Kabir to put obstacles to unification?
AH – I don’t know what the reasons are. All I know is that al-Kabir’s presence in Western Libya and his proximity to actors involved directly in the Libyan conflict are making things harder.
Talking about possible solutions, some key institutions are meant to have a positive contribution there: the Presidential Council, the High Council of State, and even the Libyan Banks Association. Libya’s interest should be above anything else.
S – Are there any countries that favor one of the actors at the expense of the other?
AH – There are no examples of this. All what we hear about this is nonsense. The reality is that the Tripoli-based governor of the Central Bank of Libya is backed by two main actors: the Presidential Council and the High Council of State.
S – What can you tell us about the Tunis meeting that was organized recently with the objective of unifying the Central Bank of Libya?
AH – The two central banks participated to the Tunis meeting, but they did not discuss anything related to unification. The talks only touched upon one thing: determining the office that will be responsible for overviewing both the activity and the spending of the two central banks.
Add to this that the eastern-based Central Bank of Libya decided to create an ad hoc committee that will be responsible for drafting financial reports.
This committee will give its recommendations taking into account international standards, and it will also work on having closer relations with the Tripoli-based Central Bank of Libya, ahead of a unification in the future.