Interview: Arezki Daoud on challenges faced by a post-Gaddafi Libya

To gain a better understanding of the impact of recent events in Libya, I spoke with Arezki Daoud who is editor of The North Africa Journal.

In a post-Gaddafi Libya, what issues will the government need to focus on through next year for a successful transition?

This weekend’s events were predicted. We forecasted a protracted conflict, one that would end with the slow extinguishing of the regime in the manner that we have been witnessing. In essence, despite the bloody outcome, the terrible loss of life and wholesale destruction of the country, what’s coming could potentially be a more difficult period for the Libyans. Their fight against Gaddafi was a unifying factor. Now that that factor is gone, differences are likely to emerge on a host of issues, starting with drafting a constitution, establishing institutions, empowering political leaders to take proper action within a new framework of a proper rule of law, etc. But more importantly, the challenge for the Libyans would be to avoid falling into the trap of tribalism. In this conflict, many won, a few have lost and those who have lost could pay dearly if the spirit of revenge takes over.

In addition, we are assuming in the short term that rogue elements will operate under the radar to undermine any progress on the political front. They will work hard to pit tribes against other tribes. The use of shadowy agents is common practice in the Arab world. We have seen it in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, etc and we believe Muammar Gaddafi has developed some of the strongest underground destabilization networks in the Arab world.

So in terms of what to do, it is critical that security be under the control of a single authority and that a process starts quickly to establish a constitution.

Do you expect the transition timeframe to last longer than in Egypt or Tunisia due to Libya’s lack of government institutions?

The likely scenario is one that looks at a much longer transition period for all the reasons mentioned above. But in a virgin territory where there has been no supreme law, there is also a slim likelihood of a faster political transition. We should assume that political stabilization could take more than one year.

What does this mean for regional stability? Do you think this will lead to a significant decrease in global oil prices?

The market may respond positively purely on the news of the end of Gaddafi, but the impact of Libyan oil in the world’s supply system will be limited given the economic crises affecting consuming markets. Even without Libya, oil prices have been dropping with the weakening global economy, therefore we expect the end of this crisis will have limited impact on the oil sector.

What types of challenges do you see for foreign businesses in a post-Gaddafi Libya?

Corporate executives hate uncertainty and so the lack of clarity around the existence of central authority could be a major inhibitor to foreign investments at this stage. Executives we talk to often say they will take a wait-and-see approach and will move into the country as soon as a strong authority is in place, which would create the right conditions for operating in the country. Libya has many experts that could help shape up future business legislation, but this is too premature to speak of such business environment as the political environment remains volatile.

What types of opportunities do you see for foreign businesses in a post-Gaddafi Libya?

Business opportunities are likely to arise within 6 months after the official end of the hostilities. Given the Western support to the insurgents, Western companies are likely to be the first to take advantage of the reconstruction, modernization that the country will undergo. This would positively impact the obvious sectors, namely infrastructure, oil and gas but also services as tens of thousands of foreign workers left the country and now a foreign workforce will be required to bring services back. Other industries, from consumer goods to pharmaceuticals will have to wait yet the country will likely resort to import, providing opportunities as well.

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