Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Friday, October 28, 2011

Paradise Under Qaddafi?

An email has been circulating lately, stating how life was beautiful under Qaddafi:

 

16 Things Libya Will Never See Again

Great Manmade River
  1. There is no electricity bill in Libya; electricity is free for all its citizens.
  2. There is no interest on loans, banks in Libya are state-owned and loans given to all its citizens at zero percent interest by law.
  3. Having a home considered a human right in Libya.
  4. All newlyweds in Libya receive $60,000 dinar (U.S.$50,000) by the government to buy their first apartment so to help start up the family.
  5. Education and medical treatments are free in Libya. Before Gaddafi only 25 percent of Libyans were literate. Today, the figure is 83 percent.
  6. Should Libyans want to take up farming career, they would receive farming land, a farming house, equipments, seeds and livestock to kick start their farms are all for free.
  7. If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need, the government funds them to go abroad, for it is not only paid for, but they get a U.S.$2,300/month for accommodation and car allowance.
  8. If a Libyan buys a car, the government subsidizes 50 percent of the price.
  9. The price of petrol in Libya is $0.14 per liter.
  10. Libya has no external debt and its reserves amounting to $150 billion are now frozen globally.
  11. If a Libyan is unable to get employment after graduation the state would pay the average salary of the profession, as if he or she is employed, until employment is found.
  12. A portion of every Libyan oil sale is credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens.
  13. A mother who gives birth to a child receive U.S.$5,000.
  14. 40 loaves of bread in Libya costs $0.15.
  15. 25 percent of Libyans have a university degree.
  16. Gaddafi carried out the world’s largest irrigation project, known as the Great Manmade River project, to make water readily available throughout the desert country.

Is it true? Did NATO demolish an Eden on earth, and was Qaddafi actually a really nice, generous guy? Hmm, let check some facts, shall we?

Note that I cannot find confirmation for some of these 16 assertions nor evidence against them. In those cases, I tend to think of them as something the writer pulled from the thin air, but then again, I would love to have a real native Libyan to check this list and correct me if I am wrong.


1. There is no electricity bill in Libya; electricity is free for all its citizens.

According to the website Expatarrivals, "Quarterly electricity charges are around LYD 300-400 for a 3 bedroom villa."
Well, still cheap, considering even at its worst days of fighting, the exchange rate was still stable at around 1.2 Dinar for a US$1.
But wait, the free electric is only for citizens, right, so expat website may not show the real price here. So let's look at the COMPARATIVE STUDY OF ELECTRICITY TARIFFS USED IN AFRICA, published by UPDEA:
Well, there was an electric tariff back in 2010! Plus, according to Mbendi.com, a privately owned Internet business publishing company founded in 1995 and based in Cape Town, South Africa.:
During the summer of 2004, Libya was hit by widespread blackouts as power plants could not keep up with demand. To prevent such blackouts in the future and to meet surging power consumption, Libya's state-owned General Electricity Company (GECOL) has plans to spend $3.5 billion through 2010 building eight new combined cycle and steam cycle power plants. As of late 2004, however, construction had started at only one of the new plants, in part due to the fact that GECOL has serious financing issues due in part to low, subsidized electricity prices (around 0.02 Libyan Dinars per kilowatt hour) and also to the fact that only 40% of Libyans pay their power bills.
Whaddya know. They did have to pay power bills, though only 40% paid them. Plus, as the old adage that "there is no such thing as a free lunch," the low electricity bill made it difficult for the power company to invest in new generators.


2. There is no interest on loans, banks in Libya are state-owned and loans given to all its citizens at zero percent interest by law.

Really? Check its central bank's website on the fourth point:

4.     The board of directors of the Central Bank of Libya has taken several resolutions , in which it reconsidered some of the utilizations and rates of monetary policy tools that have been applied prior to the year 2004, including the following:

-        Resolution no. (8) of the year 2004 related to cutting down the rediscount rate applied by the Central Bank of Libya from 5.0% to 4.0%.

-      Resolution no. (16) of the year 2004 related to cutting down the minimum interest rate on loans and credits granted for productive  purposes from 7.0% to 3.0%.

-       Resolution no. (28) of the year 2004 related to the permission to the commercial banks for granting loans and credits for the foreign companies executing projects in Libya.

-       Resolution no.(15) of the year 2005 related to cutting down the interest rate given by the Central Bank of Libya on the commercial banks deposits with the bank from 2.5% to 1.75%, in order to motivate them to seek other domestic investment and finance areas that help in achieving the desired economic growth.

-        Resolution no.(36) of the year 2005 related to the liberalization of the interest rates on deposits, letting the negotiations over these rates to the bank and his customers.

-      Resolution no.(39) of the year 2005 concerning the uniformity of debited interest rates on all loans and credits granted by the commercial banks to be equivalent to the rediscount rate of the Central Bank of Libya plus a percentage not exceeding 2.5%.
Even Islamic Banking had to generate some profit and use various means to disguise loans in their operations, as noted in Wikipedia's article on Islamic Banking:

Because Islam forbids simply lending out money at interest (see riba), Islamic rules on transactions (known as Fiqh al-Muamalat) have been created to avoid this problem. The basic technique to avoid the prohibition is the sharing of profit and loss, via terms such as profit sharing (Mudharabah), safekeeping (Wadiah), joint venture (Musharakah), cost plus (Murabahah), and leasing (Ijar).

3. Having a home considered a human right in Libya.

Yes. According to Global Property Guide:

Property ownership is a public interest. But according to Qadhafi’s Green Book (Manifesto), private ownership is recognized as long as it is non-exploitative. In May 1978, a law was passed granting each citizen the right to own one house.
Sounds nice, until you read the fine print:

The Libyan government eliminated all private property rights and most private businesses in 1978. The renting of property was declared illegal, and ownership of property was limited to a single dwelling per family, with all other properties being redistributed. The judiciary is not independent, the private practice of law is illegal, and all lawyers must be members of the Secretariat of Justice. There is little land ownership, and the government has the power to renationalize any property that has been privatized.
Plus, why don't you check this house and this description, and wonder if everyone in Libya could live in places like that.

4. All newlyweds in Libya receive $60,000 dinar (U.S.$50,000) by the government to buy their first apartment so to help start up the family.

I cannot find anything confirming or disproving this sentence. That's what annoying about claims like this: you cannot trace the insinuation back to its source.

5. Education and medical treatments are free in Libya. Before Gaddafi only 25 percent of Libyans were literate. Today, the figure is 83 percent.

From an article in the Tripoli Post, dated on May 24, 2009:

The reality of Libya’s health sector to those who know it is far from it. In fact the GPC for Health’s own website - www.health.gov.ly – carries an attachment of a United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) 2007 report on the Libyan health sector which is very critical.

The report which engages in detailed analyses of Libya’s health sector informs that ‘in comparison to its MENA (Middle East North Africa) peers, Libya spends much less on health care as a % of GDP - about 3.3% - but a similar amount in absolute terms. When adjusted for purchasing power differences across countries, Libya spends only USD 222 per person per annum’.

It goes on to reveal that ‘the Government spends 60 million Libyan dinars (LD) annually for medical treatment of Libyan citizens abroad. More is spent out-of-pocket (privately) by Libyans traveling for treatment to Arab countries and Europe’.

‘Despite guaranteed free medical care in the public sector, Libyans are opting to purchase private medical care, in order to receive a higher level of service. This money is spent in two main areas. There is a small but growing private health care sector in Libya.

This mostly provides primary and basic secondary care through 431 outpatient clinics and 84 inpatient clinics, with the bed capacity of 1361’.

However, the report concludes that this ‘small but growing (Libyan) private health sector continues to be hampered by the lack of an overall policy approach to the sector from the health authorities.’
On education, according to an article written by Mustafa el-Fituri in the NewAge Islam:

According to a UNESCO report from 2007, Libya ranks 113th in the world in terms of illiteracy levels. And although Libya's illiteracy rate of 17.6 percent is one of the lowest in North Africa, and although it has the third highest number of people in higher education of any Arab country apart from Jordan and Palestine, this oil-rich, sparsely populated country has a real problem when it comes to its education system – and that is its low quality.

 6. Should Libyans want to take up farming career, they would receive farming land, a farming house, equipments, seeds and livestock to kick start their farms are all for free.

Really? Check the property law that I mentioned above, plus this interesting article:

Some state farms have maintained a degree of commercial production but others have reverted to subsistence level, say local consultants.

A key impediment has been state interference in the input supply chain, leading to inefficiencies.
Another note from Wikipedia:

Since 1977 families receive enough land to satisfy their personal requirements; this policy was designed to prevent large private sector farms and end using fertile "tribal" lands for grazing. Partly as a result of these policies and Islamic inheritance law, which stipulate each son receive an equal share of land upon the father's death, in 1986 farms tended to be fragmented and too small to efficiently use water. This was especially severe in the Jifara Plain, which has been Libya's single most productive agricultural region.

7. If Libyans cannot find the education or medical facilities they need, the government funds them to go abroad, for it is not only paid for, but they get a U.S.$2,300/month for accommodation and car allowance.

I cannot find anything supporting or disproving this assertion.


8. If a Libyan buys a car, the government subsidizes 50 percent of the price.

Nothing on this either. Though, to be honest, I think this assertion is stupid. If true, this could be the worst policy ever thought by any paper-pusher in any ministry because this encourages gas-guzzling culture and traffic jams, not to mention a huge drain on foreign reserves due to the lack of domestic car industry in Libya.

Besides, if the price of cars are really low in Libya, why doesn't everyone there ride in expensive Ferraris or Jaguars? And even with the 50% discount, the rate of car ownership is still low. I'd say something is wrong with the economy.

Still, read an interesting quote here:

In 2000, Qaddafi lifted a longtime ban on S.U.V.s, and prosperous Libyans went out and imported Hummers and Range Rovers. Three months later, the Leader decided that he had made a mistake, and he outlawed them again, leaving a large number of privileged Libyans owning vehicles that it was illegal to drive. “You can tell if you’ve reached the top,” a young Libyan told me, “if you listen to a lot of conversation about S.U.V.s rusting in the garage.”


9. The price of petrol in Libya is $0.14 per liter.

Not quite, but let just say it's true:

Petrol is very cheap in Libya, which compensates for all the above costs: one of the cheapest in the world. Some tourists find it "bizarre" that alcohol-free beer costs 5 Libyan dinars, when 10 litres of petrol cost 2 Libyan dinars. As in any other country, imported goods are generally more expensive than goods produced locally.

Petrol : 20p a litre (0.20 LYD).
Diesel : 15p a litre (0.15 LYD).

Update: (March 2011):
Libya has slashed petrol prices in Libya by 25%. The price of one litre of petrol is now 15 pence, down by 5 pence from 20 pence.
Still, this does not prove that life was beautiful under Qaddafi. Many authoritarian countries have learned to keep the price of both bread and gasoline low, in order to prevent social unrest.

10. Libya has no external debt and its reserves amounting to $150 billion are now frozen globally.

Mostly true. (PDF report from Rabo Bank). However, the total amount of reserve is US$100 billion.

11. If a Libyan is unable to get employment after graduation the state would pay the average salary of the profession, as if he or she is employed, until employment is found.

Yes and no:

The civil service, which employs about twenty per cent of Libyans, is vastly oversubscribed; the National Oil Company, with a staff of forty thousand, has perhaps twice the employees it needs. Though salaries are capped, many people are paid for multiple jobs, and, if those jobs are overseen by members of their tribe, failure to show up is never questioned. On the other hand, because food is heavily subsidized, people can get by on very little money, enabling them to refuse jobs they consider beneath them. Heavy labor is done by sub-Saharan Africans, and slightly more skilled work by Egyptians.

“We have a paradoxical economy, in which we have many unemployed Libyans”—the official unemployment rate is almost thirty per cent—“and two million foreigners working,” Ghanem said. “This mismatch is catastrophic.” The combination of an imported workforce with high domestic unemployment is typical of oil-rich nations, but the problem is especially urgent in Libya because its population is growing rapidly—it is not unusual to meet people with fourteen children in a single marriage. Roughly half the population is under the age of fifteen.
In essence, Libya's job market under Qaddafi was simply so messed up thanks to nepotism and low quality of education.

12. A portion of every Libyan oil sale is credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyan citizens.

No information available, but I find it very doubtful. 

13. A mother who gives birth to a child receive U.S.$5,000.


Can't confirm or reject this claim. Again, no information available.

14. 40 loaves of bread in Libya costs $0.15.

Yes, thanks to Libya's oil revenue:

Oil money continues to make possible Libya’s subsidy programs—the socialism in the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya concept. NASCO pays twenty-six dinars for a hundred-and-ten-pound bag of flour and sells it to bakers for two dinars; you can buy a loaf of bread for two cents. Rice, sugar, tea, pasta, and gasoline are also sold for a fraction of their cost. Economic reform will involve scaling back these subsidies (which currently amount to about six hundred million dollars a year) without impoverishing or starving people—which is all the more difficult given that wages have been frozen since 1982. Meanwhile, there is little credit available in Libya: no Libyan-issued credit cards can be used internationally; no financial institution meets international banking standards.

As early as October 7, 2010, the Libyan Government had planned to raise the price of bread, causing protests already, well before the internal chaos of this year. Keep in mind, as noted in point #9, that in Arab states, including Egypt, bread subsidies are considered as something sacred, and riots tend to break over bread prices.


15. 25 percent of Libyans have a university degree.

Check Point 5 above. Plus an interesting quote:
Compounding the problem of graft is a shortage of basic operational competence. I went to a session of a leadership training program in Tripoli, organized by Cambridge Energy Research Associates and the Monitor Group, two American consulting firms that are advising the Libyan government. The foreign organizers had been determined to include the people they thought had the strongest leadership potential, but some local officials wanted to choose on the basis of connections. The compromise was neither wholly meritocratic nor purely corrupt. To some in the group, capitalism was still a novelty; others were ready for corner offices at Morgan Stanley. They role-played. They made speeches through crackly microphones under gigantic portraits of the Leader. Some described sophisticated financial instruments and drew flow charts; there was talk of “leveraged buyouts” and “institutional investors” and “a zero-sum game.” On the other hand, one participant, dressed in a shabby suit and a bright tie, was asked how he would fund a construction project, and replied, vaguely, “Don’t banks do that?” Another was surprised to learn that international backers usually expect interest or profit-sharing in return for risking their money. Libyan business, it’s clear, will be led by people of impressive competence and by people of no competence.

16. Gaddafi carried out the world’s largest irrigation project, known as the Great Manmade River project, to make water readily available throughout the desert country.

True.


Still, even people considered as horrible dictators still did many great public works. Autobahn during Hitler's era? Stalin's many public works? Oh, feel free to ignore some minor historical inconveniences such as the gulags.


-------------
So what's my conclusion?
1. Many of the assertions in the lists are either wrong or true only with qualification. Several of them simply have no basis at all.
2. What's really interesting is that this list omits the fact that there was an extreme lack of political freedom under Qaddafi.
3. People should learn to use a nifty tool called "google.com." By doing some research, people can easily find out many factual errors in the list that in the end bring into question the credibility of the assembler of this list.

In any case, anyone who wants to know more about Libya under Qaddafi should check this very nice article in the New Yorker.


EDIT:
I received some comments from my email. Posted here:
--A libyan friend replied, clarifying the truth
1) electricity has never been free
2) we don’t have any Islamic banks , not even one, if u wanna loan, enjoy the interset because it’s ur only option. that’s way no one goes for this option
3) A tent?? Go count how many houses each of his sons have in every area in libya
4)the forth point is really funny,, if it was true I wud’ve been a madam now. It’s totally the opposite
5) yeah yeah that’s why we all run to Tunisia if we get a common cold…sad to mention but the education n treatment suck
6) hahahhahahahah yes good luck farming in the desert because all the lands r possessed by his relatives n ppl from his hometown
7) huh??? What the hell?? U r lucky if u could treat urself in the government hospital (one of ur relatives must be SOMETHING there )
8)well I would say that cars r a bit cheaper than here but never dream to get a RM ..I mean a Dinar from the government
9)yes Libya is the cheapest in terms of petrol but u should know that the whole petrol profit including the imported goes directly to gaddafi’s pocket n he declared it in one of his speech saying: the petrol profit is non of ur business
10) I’m not sure about that but,, the country lacks the basic n the simplest facilities so the external debts is the last thing to mention
11) WRONG! Look at the number of unemployed ppl ,, well my brother is oil engineer (in an oil producing country) n he’s not employed yet and there’s no onepaying him even one dinar.
12) hahahahahahahahahahahah
13) wow,, my mother gave birth 12 times(mashallah) n she never received a cent
14) well it’s cheap …to be precise 40 loaves cost 6 RM
15) 25% ????? I don’t understand ,, refer to the P-value
16)hahahahaha yes the contaminated dirty water that no one use …n that he calls ( the 8th wonder of the world)

This next reaction is edited. I hate all-caps answer.
Where do I start? I'm married to a Libyan and have lived here since 1983. Like everyone else in the country, 1. We pay for electricity. We average 34 Dinars a month. But that can double in winter because of heating and in summer with the use of air conditioning.
2. There have not been no-interest loans since the late seventies.
3. Having a home should be a human right but just less than half a mile form here, many Libyan homeless families live in dilapidated shacks abandoned by a company years ago. Some have lived there for years in squalor.
4. Newlyweds don't get one red cent towards an apartment, my son in low converted two rooms form his parents' apartment into a tiny studio for my daughter and he. This story is repeated nationwide for many couples, some with children.
5. No way is 83 percent of the population literate. Most women over 60 are not educated. Neither are about one fifth of the women beneath and many children leave without graduating, often languishing in same grade for years. School is not compulsory.
6. A select few were given farms in the late seventies. However, they weren't allowed to hire help, therefore making it difficult to break even.
7. If you need medical help outside or want to study, you need clout on the board as these things are decided by a committee. Lack of confidence in health system has resulted in pushing people into debt in order to get treatment outside popular destinations are Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia due to affordability.
8. The Libyan government pays nothing towards the cost of a car. But those in the right circles may get one at cost price.
9. Finally something close to the truth. Libyans pay no more at the petrol pumps than about 150 dirhams per liter depending on type.
10. Right again! Libyan assets abroad exceeded 150 Billion and they have no debt. Nether should they have, considering how little of its enormous wealth has trickled down to the marginalized majority.
11. Once upon a time, no one who graduated waited longer than a few weeks for a job within the civil service or the nationalized industries. However, I only know of benefit being paid where the father is unemployed, retired, or dead. However, I do know that undergraduates could apply for seasonal work and get paid sometimes without having to do the job. Corruption was rife this time of opportunity was kept on the down low and nepotism and cronyism meant that those in charge kept most of the money in the family, quietly sidelining many possibly entitled students.
12. That a portion of the receipts from oil sales is credited to every Libyan citizen's bank account is an outright lie.
13. And it is another outrages lie that mothers in Libya receives $5,000 every time she gives birth.
14. Bread is cheap. 40 small cost 1 Dinar in point of fact flour, rice, oil and tomato paste were all hugely subsidized by the government until a couple of years ago and the subsidies were being gradually reintroduced to try and avoid a backlash to the global price rises. Libyans eat meals that are high in carbohydrates because they are economical as opposed to high protein meals which are expensive. This has led to a high incidence of obesity and type-2 diabetes.
15. 25 percent of people do not have a degree but perhaps 25 percent of high school graduates go on to college but not all complete that.
16. The great man made river project was a white elephant that cost a fortune and hasn't delivered as it should. A bunch of desalinization plants up and down the coast would have sufficed at a fraction of the cost and consider how easy it was for Gadhaffi's militias to cut off the water supply of any city they attacked.

4 comments:

  1. Given the very short time period since the question first appeared, this article is a well-researched rebuttal. Kudos to Dr. Yohanes Sulaiman.

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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