Friday, 20 May 2011

Libya: NOC after Shukri Ghanem's departure

The apparent defection of the head of the National Oil Company (NOC) chief, Dr Shukri Ghanem, from Colonel Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi's camp to the opposition was announced in mid-May. Reuters reported on 16th May that Arab TV stations, including Al-Arabiya, were announcing his departure from Libya.

There was at that time no official confirmation of this other than a news item put out by the Interim Transitional National Council (ITNC) in Benghazi declaring this change of allegiance. He escaped through Tunisia before flying out of Jerba to a European destination.

Ghanem has always acted as his own man, beginning with a post in the Ministry of Economy in the 1960s and culminating with his appointment in 2004 as head of the General Peoples Committee (GPC) or prime minister. He has also always had his own views of the path forward for the Libyan economy to which he adhered.

This was despite their general unpopularity because they included the gradual removal of the expensive consumer subsidies. At one time he had the nickname “Shukri Tomato Paste” because of his plans to remove the subsidy on such an important and basic foodstuff.

He was one of Colonel Qadhafi's few Libyan advisers who was professionally qualified, highly experienced in oil affairs through many years at OPEC headquarters in Austria, and had the intellectual strength to manage an oil-based economy with some élan.

Ghanem's became Colonel Qadhafi's prime source of influence on the awarding of oil exploration and production agreements by installing his own competent and preferred personnel in key posts in the NOC system.

It is believed by oil industry sources that his loss will mean substantial co-option of new cadres and an internal struggle among NOC's ambitious men to try to recapture Ghanem's former role. If the Libyan clients-patron system persists in whatever new government structure is formed after the civil war, an altogether different clutch of individuals will be in power and a scramble for influence will begin.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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