By: Abdelkader Assad
At the very hour the Libyan 40-year+ ruler Moamar Gaddafi died, Libyans had a very wide grin on their faces. Those in the field, the men and women in the houses, children, and the elderly all had the thought that their country will be greater in time, at least on the economic level.
However, it did not take that long for Libyans to start losing the grin and replace it with an everlasting frown on their faces. A frown that explains a thousand words, which all speak of how disappointed they were in the consecutive governments that took power in Libya since the fall of Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.
To all appearances, the disappointment comes from a very deep-rooted cause – conflict for power.
The conflict for power in Libya did not take a political stance and left the rest intact, but rather it took an all-out shape destroying the country’s economy and infrastructure all the way through.
Libya’s economy depends primarily upon revenues from the petroleum sector, which combines practically all export earnings and over half of GDP. These oil revenues and a small population have given Libya the highest nominal per capita GDP in Africa.
However, with the continuous smuggling of fuel and gas from Libya to neighboring countries, especially Tunisia and Algeria, Libya is shockingly losing lots of its reserves of fuel and gas to that illicit trade.
This month, the Committee of the Fuel and Gas Crisis has announced a new operation that aims to end the smuggling of gas and fuel from Libya to Tunisia via Nalut city, which lies in the Nafousa Mountain region, near Wazin Border Crossing between Tunisia and Libya.
The operation is said to include forces from the Libyan air force and naval force along patrols on the ground to thwart any upcoming smuggling attempt by the smuggling gangs that are using the area as a hub.
The committee vowed to strike or shell any fuel and gas smuggling vehicle or tanker that is getting out of Libya illegally.
This step came days after the committee shut down over 20 gas stations in the city of Nalut and other Nafousa Mountain areas in an attempt to crack down on the fuel smuggling business, which is a collaboration between Libyans and Tunisians as well as other clandestine players.
In the wake of the strict measures, Tunisian nationals blocked the roads of Wazin border crossing between the two countries disallowing Libyans from entering Tunisia in protest of “bold decisions by fuel and gas committee” that affected their illicit business works.
This kind of smuggling – among many – added to Libya’s faltering economy and led to a loss of millions of dinars every time a smuggling operation succeeds, according to a number of statistical data published by the Committee of Fuel and Gas Crisis, which is part of Brega Oil and Gas Marketing Company.
Money Laundry and Black Market
While the exchange rate of the one Libyan dinar against the one US dollar is 1.44 at the Central Bank of Libya (CBL), the rates in the black market have hit 8.5 Libyan dinars for one dollar on Sunday, marking a new era of suffering for the Libyan citizens.
This new hike in the dollar rates is no surprise to Libyans as they are suffering from the aftermath of the control of corruption, nepotism, regionalism and tribalism as well as political favoritism in all the economic sectors, with the businesspersons being favored for banking transactions, credit cards and other facilitations for them to obtain foreign currencies with the official rate, while ordinary people are left to sleep at the door of banks every day waiting to cash out their salaries.
The big shots in Libya, those who own militias, factories, have solid political contacts, and the like, are the ones controlling the black market, where hundreds of thousands of dinars are made on a daily basis in rate-exchange ups and downs, which are in fact created by the bosses of the big shots, according to several Libyan analysts.
Yet, where are the governments in the east and west of Libya? Why cannot they resolve this issue? Why actions are not being made to shut down or even bring down the whole black market, which all Libyan know where it is in Tripoli. The answer is crystal clear, maybe because they don’t want to! Or, maybe because they want it to be like that.
With all this hustle and bustle, the Libyan people are not moving along. They are not thinking of revolting over the destruction of their country economically more than anything else. They are oblivious to the fact that this country is theirs as much as it is the businesspersons’.
Abdelkader Assad – freelance journalist