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A FRESH NEW START? What the elections mean for the Libyan economy?

The election is expected to lead to reforms and investors want to know what those policies will be. In May, the economy ministry issued a decree enabling foreign companies to set up joint ventures, branches and representative offices in most sectors, more easily.


July 5, 2012 5:23 by

Gaddafi isolated Libya’s economy from much foreign competition, reserving licences and contracts for his own circle, so the prospect of a more open market is attractive to new entrants.


Dependent on oil, Libya needs basic infrastructure development as well as investment in property, consumer industries and telecoms after a fifth of transmitter stations were destroyed in the war. It will also need foreign investment and expertise to increase oil and gas production.


Its tourism industry is largely unexplored, despite stretches of beaches and well-preserved Roman ruins.


Various fairs drawing international businesses have allowed companies to cultivate relations. Industry Minister Mahmoud Al-Ftise said there were plans to increase privatisations, and Libya was interested in more foreign investment.


“We would like to have a participation from foreign and local private business so we can see results because we would like to have competition among the business,” he told Reuters.


However security remains a concern. Bouts of violence are deterring foreign firms from bringing back all their expatriates on the ground for now. For those who were once used to living in villas or flats in Tripoli, they now find themselves confined in secure compounds without their families.


Many businessmen travel with security advisers.


Libya’s interim government has struggled to impose its authority on a country awash with weapons. Attacks on diplomatic and aid missions in the east have highlighted the ongoing volatility.


Last month, Tripoli’s international airport was seized by an armed group for several hours.


“Security is a concern and when you hear of such violent incidents as we have recently, you worry and it may deter some foreigners from coming here,” one European businessman said during a recent trip to Tripoli.


“But you have to weigh the risks against the opportunities.” (Additional reporting by Ali Shuaib; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)



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