Libyan wealth is wasted, U.N. envoy says

The United Nations Security Council hears that Libya is in a dire situation even though it sits on 'vast wealth.'
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Nov. 17, 2017 at 8:57 AM
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Nov. 17 (UPI) -- The humanitarian situation in Libya is in a severe state even though the OPEC-member sits on "vast wealth," a United Nations envoy said.

Ghassan Salamé, the U.N. special envoy for Libya, told members of the Security Council the situation in Libya has not improved much since the end of Moammar Gadhafi's regime in 2011. The envoy testified that, at one point, Libya was one of the top humanitarian donors to Africa, but can now barely take care of its own needs.

"It is outrageous that a country which stands upon such vast wealth has so many suffering," he said. "However, it does, and so we must [help] them tackle the urgent concerns."

Libya is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries that's exempt for a multilateral effort to balance an oversupplied market for crude oil with production cuts. The government said it needs the exemption so it can use oil revenue for national security purposes.

An October report from Wood Mackenzie found that damage from militant attacks and other consequences of war at the ports of As Sidrah and Ras Lanuf will constrain Libyan oil production at 1.25 million barrels per day, which the state oil company set as a year-end target. Wood Mackenzie said even keeping production at 1 million barrels per day would be considered a success, but enough of a win to keep Libya from spiraling deeper into crisis.

OPEC economists reported Libya produced 962,000 barrels per day in October, a gain of 42,000 barrels per day from the previous month.

In extending the mandate for its missing in Libya earlier this year, the Security Council said all parties in Libya were encouraged to support reconciliation and political outreach. A final security arrangement, meanwhile, was identified as "a critical step towards tackling Libya's political, security, humanitarian, economic and institutional challenges."

Salamé said there's a shadow economy that's flourishing in Libya, with billions of dollars lost each year in illegal money transfers. The gap between the official exchange rate between the Libyan currency in the U.S. dollar on the black market is almost 1-to-9.

"Libya is a textbook example of the apparition of instant millionaires, and of the extremely rapid tempo of middle class impoverishment," he said. "And it is the Libyan people who pay the highest price for this."

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