Analysis

Libya in limbo

Optimism about a quick restart in Libya was misplaced. The speed and the scale of the uprising in Libya caught the industry by surprise. In the chaos that ensued, construction sites were abandoned with machines left to the elements and at the mercy of mobs  looking to loot. Some members of the army of machines […]

Optimism about a quick restart in Libya was misplaced.

The speed and the scale of the uprising in Libya caught the industry by surprise. In the chaos that ensued, construction sites were abandoned with machines left to the elements and at the mercy of mobs  looking to loot. Some members of the army of machines in the country even became weapons in the power struggle.

The report said: “More than a dozen small business delegations from the UK have already visited. Areas of interest include healthcare and education as well as oil and gas.”

Soon after the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, the country’s re-opened airports saw an influx of company representatives keen to evaluate the damage and scale of the theft of their equipment.

South Korean companies were at the vanguard. Keen not only to find their deserted assets but also to pronounce they were willing to do business in the civil war torn country.

Getting back to Libya became a national  obsession especially as the value of the contracts they had in the country ran into billions of dollars. Despite assurances from the transitional government being swiftly sought and given, South Korea was concerned that, as it had little to do with effort to oust Gaddafi, that it would fall back in the pecking order with the new regime. However a year on – some oil and gas contracts notwithstanding – from the start of the uprising few South Korean representatives are seeing their machines back in action.

The transition to a post-Gaddafi Libya, a country he ruled for four decades, has not seen the stability that was hoped for. In fact the country appears to be further away from being ready to stabilise than any time since the civil war ended.

Korean company Shinhan Engineering and Construction was building 10,000 homes in the country, but its only workers active in the past month were a team of volunteer doctors sent to provide medical aid to Zawiyah Teaching Hospital.

South Korea’s boldness is normally matched by China, but even its ministry of commerce said last month that due to “personnel safety, losses and damages, contract payment, bank accounts unfreezing, visa issuance, goods clearance”.

The irony of the Libya situation is that the country had been slowly opening up to the world, especially its oil and gas industry prior to the conflict. In many ways Libya has now gone back a decade and the only people going into an out of the country are tentative trade delegations.

According to a report in the Financial Times the UK’s Middle East Association has scheduled a trade mission in the coming weeks, coinciding with oil and gas and infrastructure expositions in Tripoli, to pursue potential multibillion dollar deals.

The report said: “More than a dozen small business delegations from the UK have already visited. Areas of interest include healthcare and education as well as oil and gas.”

“There are some areas where they clearly need some new equipment urgently like healthcare,” said a senior western diplomat in Tripoli told the newspaper. “But for the most part, it is resuming suspended contracts.”

Unfortunately, for the moment, the world must wait for Libya.

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