The Libyan people sacrificed to build a better Libya for themselves and their children. They rose up because of the love for their country, their hunger for dignity and their hope for greater prosperity. The Libyan people are desperate for leaders who have a credible plan to deliver the foundation of a stable, secure and supportive environment. The Libyan people want to move forward with their lives and build their future on the firm foundations of a well-functioning nation state.
Delivering the basics of a well-functioning state will not be easy. We have suffered 42 years of dictatorship and 2 years of post-revolutionary struggle. Our starting position is poor – according to the World Bank our government effectiveness is in the bottom 5% of the world and has been getting worse for the past decade. In terms of corruption the World Bank indicates we are in the bottom 2% for corruption and getting worse. Our economic performance is poor. According to the World Economic Forum Doing Business Report we are ranked 113 out of 144 countries one position below Cameroon and far behind our peers like Morocco. The World Bank Doing Business Index is ever harsher. Libya is ranked 187 out of 189 countries and bottom of the list on multiple dimensions.
Libya was a pariah state for most of our lives. We have been isolated and shut out of the mainstream of a globalizing world. We are one of the few countries not a member of the World Trade Organization, unlike our neighbours we have not negotiated any Free Trade Agreements with the EU or the USA.
Unlike most of our Arab neighbours we do not take part in international education organizations such as TIMSS, so we have no way of knowing what quality of education we are delivering to our children. We do know however, that adult female literacy in Libya is 83% which compares poorly to Jordan where it is 94%. We are also one of only 8 countries that is not ranked in the Economic Freedom Index.
Our starting position may be poor, but I have hope. I have hope in the greatness of the Libyan people and the strength of the Libyan state. A generation ago we outshone what is today the UAE. We have a similar population size, a similar oil production. What we lack is effective leadership with a clear vision plus a credible plan.
I am confident that Libya can be resurgent and a source of pride for the Arab world. The planet is full of examples of countries that have turned themselves around. Georgia emerged from a generation of Communist rule. In 2006 it was ranked 100 in the Doing Business Index, today it is in the top 10. Colombia is a wonderful example of a state that recovered from civil strife and powered ahead. The only thing between success and failure is effective leadership and a clear set of priorities.
To move onto the path of security and prosperity we are going to have to pull together as a nation and focus on the future more than the past. As a nation we are going to have to value forgiveness more than revenge, reconciliation more than settling scores. We want to learn the lessons of South Africa not Iraq.
Forgiveness and reconciliation will not be easy. Many bad things were done by a small number of really bad people. These criminals will have to be brought to justice. We need to accept, however, that for a generation this country was captive to a corrupt regime. The vast majority of Libyans simply wanted to get on with their lives and had to find ways to survive in a harsh environment. No doubt there are many who are not proud of what they had to do to get by. They now have the opportunity to do better – to be proud of who they are and what they can do for their country.
Nation building is hard. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) faced similar challenges in his quest to transform a faith into a people. He says that it is essential to achieve ‘closeness of the hearts before closeness of efforts’ and that when it comes to the response of the people to leaders who are trying to build a nation that they should: ‘Forgive them, pray and work for their well-being and success’.
‘The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and to expect a different outcome.’Albert Einstein
Two years after the fall of the regime conditions on the ground in Libya are getting worse. No doubt some things are working but many of the most important things are not. We have to learn the lessons of failure, we do not want to do the same thing over and over again and hope for a better outcome.
What Libya needs more than anything else is a shared Vision coupled to a coherent and credible plan. A credible plan has three key characteristics: First it sets clear priorities – what is not a top priority is as important as what is. If everything is a priority then nothing is a priority; Second it balances the short and the long term. The short term is critical to create positive momentum and to visibly demonstrate that progress is being made. Long term is essential to move the country forward on strategically important dimensions; third a powerful, well-funded ‘delivery’ mechanism needs to be created to ensure that good intensions become reality.
Mankind did not land on the moon in a biplane. Transforming Libya will require substantial and sustained resources. The early years will be particularly critical. It will demand the equivalent of a ‘booster rocket’ to break free of Libya’s business as usual ‘gravitational pull’. We will need all the help we can get from the best of the world as well as the best of what Libya has to offer. America after all turned to Wernher von Braun who spent his early life fighting the Allies in order to put an American into space. Libya needs the best and can afford the best. We should take pride as a nation in attracting world leaders to our shores.
The vision for Libya in the next 5 years is anchored around 3 ideas: dignity; security and prosperity.
To realize this vision there is a 10 point action plan for the next 5 years.
We must however defend what is most important and bring security to the major centres of population and our economic heartland. We cannot wait any longer and hope that we can talk our way to peace. The reality we have to deal with today is that the government has little power and the militias do. The State cannot negotiate an acceptable peace for all of its people from a position of weakness. Our reality is that we have to impose security where we must and create the space to negotiate from a position of growing strength.
We are not the first country to face this problem. We have to learn the lesson from what has and has not worked at home and abroad. We should have the confidence to draw in those individuals and institutions with relevant experience in countries where security has to be earned rather than granted.
What has not worked is appeasement. We have tried to buy peace. All this has done is to strengthen the militias.
What has worked elsewhere are secure areas of strategic importance. These secure areas allow government leaders and most citizens to get on with their lives in peace for most of the time. These areas are a burden, they are inconvenient and expensive. They are unwelcome, but necessary until such time when we can embrace all of our people into a unified security system. Militias have to believe that they will be better off defending the people of Libya rather than fighting them.
In order to do this we will have to engage in a sustained and systematic national and international dialogue with all parties interested in helping Libya achieve its Vision.
To protect the people’s wealth we need to reform the Libyan Investment Authority and the Central Bank. We need to create the appropriate laws, institute best practice governance and attract and develop world class skills to manage one of the world’s largest pools of Sovereign Wealth. We can look to the best examples in the world: Norway, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait.
Libya needs world class companies to help us become a role model. We need to create a world class regulatory environment, with transparent contracts and a commitment to creating opportunities for our citizens in exploration, development and refining. A complete overhaul of the current model will be essential to attract the best to make the best of our gifts.
Libya has its own culture and values that we must respect and promote. We are a proud people that are hungry to learn from the best.
It is hard to say how good our education system really is because we have not stopped to compare ourselves to others and to learn the lessons from our peers. What we do know is that most of our neighbours – Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and others – are all part of international organizations like TIMSS that measure educational performance and help countries do better for their children. We should join them because if there is one thing we know, it is that we can do better.
Libya has the wealth, space and the need to create a new Libya. We do not have to settle for jammed roads, worn out offices, poor infrastructure, power cuts and water shortages. We need to attract global capital and world class players. We need to create a Master Plan and an organization to make sure that the $100bn that the government will spend over the next 5 years will be invested wisely.
The World Economic Forum Competitiveness report places Libya at 113 out of 144 countries one position behind Cameroon. In contrast, Morocco is ranked 70.
Libya is one of the few countries not to be a member of the World Trade Organization and unlike the majority of our neighbours has not negotiated Free Trade Agreements with the EU, the USA or any other important trading partner.
We know what we need to do. All the major international organizations have provided advice. Most recently the IFC in September said: “In the short term, creating access to finance for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises is an immediate area to work on.”
Libya’s future lies with the private sector. Many Libyans are businessmen and entrepreneurs. The government must create the environment and institutions to encourage the entrepreneur to take risk and get the funds to invest behind good ideas.
A country like Georgia points the way. Georgia went from the bottom 100 to the top 10 in ten years. Closer to home the UAE went from number 69 to number 23 in ten years in the ‘Doing Business’ Index.
What did these countries have in common? Strong leaders. Clear vision. Credible Plan.
What does Libya need? A strong leader. A clear vision and a credible plan.
20th November 2013