Interview with

Deputy Secretary of The General People's Committee for Production

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After the government structure reforms in 2000 your position was created in order to organize the production activities of the public sector. Could you summarise your fields of activity and the economic sectors and companies you control?

Let me give you an overview of the organization of the Libyan Jamahariya. The two basic structures are the People's Congress and the People's Committees. The Congress decides, and the Committees execute. The committees start at a reduced local level, and then they get together in a much larger scale and they create the Sha'abiyas, or municipalities. The Sha'abiyas have all the authority to implement all the executive procedures in its area. The decisions that take all the Sha'abiyas in a combined way will affect the whole State. If some issue affects only locally, it will be treated by the Sha'abiya, if it affects all the country, the General People's Committee will treat it.

Two years ago it was dissolved what we call the Central Government, but we kept a reduced central management point to control the things that are common to all the Sha'abiyas, Foreign Affairs, African Unity, Finance, Economy and Trade, etc. My position is to assist the Prime Minister to follow up the production sectors in the whole country, and this means to manage five departments: Agriculture, Industry, Fisheries, Livestock and Water resources.

Due to the decentralization process, the activities of your Ministry must be coordinated closely with the different delegates in the Sha'abiyas (Municipalities). Which channels do you use to achieve the common goals?

Our role is the production. We make sure that these goods are produced and we give them to other ministries, like the Trade, to market. We prepare for the producers a plan that will detail the country's consumption needs and we try to solve within our possibilities the problems they might have to achieve those production goals. We share with the sha'abiyas this responsibility. If we talk about a strategic industry for the whole country we will take care of it (iron and steel, petrochemicals, wheat, car industry, electrical industry), but if it's a local light industry, with small-medium size which activity doesn't affect directly the national economy, then it is under the umbrella of the Sha'abiya.

We have had news of a 35 billion USD development plan designed by the Government to modernise and update Libya's economy. Could you explain to us the main guidelines of this plan, and how would your sector be affected?

In the next stage of the production sector we would like to emphasize mainly on three areas. You know the project of the Great Man Made River that brings large quantities of mineral water from the desert natural deposits. We would like to focus very much in investment projects using this water, basically agriculture and animal stock projects. For this sector it has been allocated already a high percentage of the development funds. For this reason, we are concluding several agreements with foreign companies that are interested in investing in these projects, like for example in the Benghazi plains. The second sector we want to focus on is enlarging the petrochemicals sector. It is very important that international companies get involved in the development of this sector. The third area is to review our precious policies in the production sector and implement our new strategy for the future. In the past 33 years of the Revolution we just depended on ourselves to produce what we needed. Now, taking into consideration the new reality of the globalisation, we have to join our local production sector with the international.

The key word in Libya's economy nowadays is diversification. The country is too dependent on oil. In your opinion, from all the economic sectors, which one has the greatest growth potential and why?
We think the agriculture and animal stock sector is very encouraging. Textile and clothing is important because we have a high consumption in this area. The automobile industry also provides with good investment returns, and finally the tourism industry, where we have made the first steps. It is a virgin country and there is a lot of potential.

The privatisation process is one of the current main issues throughout the world. What is the privatisation model that will be applied in Libya?

Let me clarify first one thing. In Libya there is not a clear difference between public and private sector, as in other countries. We have a board that is trying is to increase the number of shareholders in each company. We don't want companies owned by one or a couple of shareholders, as a monopoly, we want to get all the workers involved in the shareholdership. In case that a international investor is interested in investing money in the company and require a large quantity of shares in order to manage the company and its investment, we'll study the possibility and we will negotiate. We are open to this kind of agreement.

What is the situation of the Libyan industry in terms of efficiency?

Libyan industries were not designed for only the Libyan market. They were designed first for the whole Arab world, and in some cases to cover the demand of also the African world. Efficiency, or the relation cost/benefit, was not the final goal of the production sector. But now we have to study what is the demand, local and international, what part of that demand we can cover efficiently and focus on those industries. Now we have a great potential market, Africa, and we have competitive advantages in this market, as we are the first to enter and the leadership of our country in the African Union. We signed agreements with all African countries to liberalise trade and distribution, so we have a lot of possibilities there.

Our common goal is to attract Foreign Direct Investments into the country and to motivate partnerships. What role are you willing to give to international partners in the production / services sector, and what incentives do you offer?

We have a coordinating committee for investment, chaired by the Minister of Economy and myself, which is in charge of handling these matters and to lift all the obstacles that foreign investors may find. We consider this investment necessary to the correct development of the Libyan economy, and the country is now open for it. In the last two/three years we have taken the steps to help this investment. In fact we have joint projects with foreign investors worth several hundreds millions of dollars. Some of them have been signed already, some of them are still in negotiation.

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