Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Monday, August 27, 2012

Libya's promised reconstruction bonanza fails to materialise

Regatta is a large gated compound set aside for foreign business executives on the coast west of Tripoli. Most of its homes lie empty, many ransacked by militias, and sand blown in from the seafront forms little dunes on its roads. It wasn't meant to be like this.

It is now a year since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship, which triggered seemingly endless predictions by the likes of UK defence secretary Philip Hammond that British executives would be "packing their suitcases" to share in a reconstruction bonanza. Yet Regatta stubbornly refuses to become anything but a ghost town – if not a laboured symbol for the state of Libya's business life.

"Nobody is coming back here: it's not safe," admits one of the compound's few residents, a German engineer. Those foreign companies that are again operating skeleton staffs say their executives refuse to bring their families.

In April, the UK's ambassador to Libya, Sir Dominic Asquith, addressed a delegation of the Libyan British Business Council (LBBC) in Tripoli. The trade body reported to members that he "spoke vehemently of his surprise and disappointment at British firms' slow response to the business opportunities".

Then in May, UK-listed oil giant Shell added to the sense of disengagement when it said it was abandoning its wells and stopping exploration in Libya. Read More