The government has made gains in improving Libya’s volatile internal security, and although pockets of resistance remain across the country, the Libyan prime minister Ali Zeidan assured attendees at a conference in the UK that the government would safeguard their wellbeing and assets in Libya. Speaking to delegates at a Libya FDI conference held in London in late September, Mr Zeidan was frank in admitting that Libya was “under threat from terrorism”. But he assured attending delegates that the government has reinforced security in Libya’s oil-producing regions, and said that incidents involving attacks on foreigners were still relatively rare. “I expect that by the end of this year, the security situation will be much better,” said Mr Zeidan.
Attacks on oilfields in south-west Libya in recent months, led by disparate rebel groups opposed to the current transitional government, have caused the country’s net oil production to fall sharply. By early August, most of the country’s main export terminals were closed, however, some terminals have reopened since. The Financial Times estimated that the country’s output declined from 1.4 million barrels per day at the start of this year, to fewer than 200,000 barrels by September. And in early September, ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly traded energy company, announced that it would cut back its operations in Libya, as increasing instability no longer justified a major presence.
Despite this, the Libyan prime minister assured investors that the government had made significant gains in re-establishing security in key parts of the country. “We [secured] Tripoli and Benghazi, and the government will spread its presence elsewhere,” said Mr Zeidan. “Things are not so bad and many foreign companies are still operating in Libya. We will continue to offer concessions and protections, and we hope that in three to four months, there will be advances in security [across Libya].”
He called on the international community to help in providing military aid and training to the Libyan army and police force. Although the writ of the transitional government is widely established, the flow of weapons which entered Libya during the armed conflict in 2011 that ousted the country’s former ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, continues to be a destabilising force. Although the government has worked to stem the flow of weapons, Mr Zeidan maintained its resources were highly limited. “We need practical assistance from the international community,” he said. “It is difficult to build an army and a police force, if the international community does not help us.”
Pointing to Libya’s geographical positioning in the Maghreb, bordering the Mediterranean Sea on its northern coastline and the Sahara desert to its south, Mr Zeidan maintained that securing Libya was key in the battle against global terrorism. “Libya is under threat from terrorism, which has been making its way from Afghanistan, through to Somalia, Nigeria and Mali,” said Mr Zeidan. “[The terrorists] want to build a stronghold in Libya, but we are working hard to prevent this. We need assistance in this.”
Mr Zeidan was keen to point out that it was Libya’s international positioning that would make it a compelling investment case for companies. The government’s efforts in reforming and restructuring its financial institutions, as well as its oil sector, make it well-placed for economic take off in coming years, he said. Urging international businesses to remain patient in the short term, Mr Zeidan explained that the process of reform would be difficult, as it is a complex task of reversing more than 40 years of macroeconomic mismanagement.
“We are currently restructuring our banking institutions, our Libyan Investment Agency and the oil sector,” said Mr Zeidan. “Libya’s geographical position and its potential will make it an important player in the new order, following the Arab Spring. Things are changing slowly but surely. Forty years of destruction needs time in reconstruction. [The conflict] destroyed infrastructure and we want to create something out of nothing. This needs time.”