Thursday, 10 November 2011

Libya: Treatment of foreigners' personnel and assets should remain benign

The treatment of foreigners' personnel and assets should remain benign, and none of the political parties has made any strong declarations against the presence of foreigners. This is, however, provided that they are in the country to help develop the economy and thereby help bring down local unemployment levels and increase productivity to satisfy the expectations for improved living standards harboured by the majority of Libyans.

It should be noted, however, that this benign attitude is not universal and there is considerable hostility towards Sub-Saharan economic migrants for two reasons. Firstly, because they allegedly take jobs from working class Libyans – although how many Libyans would be prepared to do hard manual labour is debatable – but also because so many of the Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi fighters were black African mercenaries. It is, therefore, likely that the majority of Third Country Nationals who work on the major infrastructure projects will be Asians rather than Africans.

The war did not produce any well-defined areas of difference with respect to the use of foreign technical expertise and management training. The current assumption must be that most Libyans expect that there will be a continuing and sensible input into national economic development.

Certainly, the oil and gas industries will need a thorough overhaul which, as shown by Kuwait's experience of damage to oil fields in the 1990-91 Gulf War, could be a slow and expensive process. There can be little doubt that the argument made by the various returning IOCs is correct and that Libya's oil sector will recover best and earliest if the financial terms are realistic. If not, then the herd will likely move on elsewhere, to countries with a better combination of geological prospects, security and financial returns.

There are some Islamist radicals in the National Transitional Council (NTC) whose policies will appear to be aggressive and who will use the oil sector, as it was always used in the past, as a political lever. No political leader has yet taken the energy sector into the public domain for debate. It is, therefore, very likely that ideology will dominate the short term political jousting but then fade in importance providing that the oil revenue harvest is sustained using foreign expertise.

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

© 2011 Menas Associates

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