The vultures are circling

by Omar Shtewi


With the news that the Transitional National Council has established the sovereignty of the people almost entirely over the Libyan capital, oil prices are reported to have fallen in anticipation of the resumption of the flow of Libya’s oil to the industrialised nations.

Fine.  Libya’s wealth is entirely in its natural resources and the new government needs money to establish the state that Libyans deserve – a state of excellent hospitals, schools and infrastructure – which Libya can easily afford.

The new government must not forget who stood by the Libyan people when they demanded freedom and who threw in their lot with the dictator Gaddafi.

While Gaddafi comfortably ran Libya as his own fiefdom, treating the treasury and Libya’s resources as his own, Chinese and Russian companies were well represented among those who were pillaging Libya’s wealth while the people lived liked dogs.

Al Jazeera reports that

the prospect of oil reserves are whetting the appetite of hungry industrial nations.

About 75 Chinese companies operated inLibyabefore the war, involving about 36,000 staff and 50 projects, according to Chinese media.

Russian companies, including oil firms Gazprom Neft and Tatneft, also had projects worth billions of dollars inLibya. Brazilian firms such as Petrobras and construction company Odebrecht were also in business there.

Italian oil company Eni led the charge back intoLibyaon Monday as rebels hailed the end of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule and as traders watched for the return of Libyan crude to the market.

Democracy and freedom are good enough for Brazil, but not, it seems, for the Libyan people.  Brazil’s response to the rebellion was cold to say the least.  It would be shameful in the extreme to allow Brazilian corporate entities to simply resume operations where they left off.

In particular though, the Chinese and Russian contracts should be reconsidered.  While the Chinese were characteristically ambiguous as to their view of the anarchic uprising, the Russians made clear that they were in bed with Gaddafi and that was where they intended to stay.

Al Jazeera adds that

Gaddafi’s fall will reopen the doors to Africa’s largest oil reserves and give new players such as Qatar’s national oil company and trading house Vitol the chance to compete for lucrative contracts, but rebels warned Russian and Chinese firms may be frozen out for failing to support the rebellion.

Surely Qatar deserves the lion’s share of any new contracts awarded.  In a true demonstration of Arab and Islamic solidarity, it is Qatar that was unambiguously behind the Libyan people – in spirit and in deed.  It was Qatar that made available medical and military resources to the rebellion and they should surely be rewarded.

We should keep a careful eye also on the Libyan Central Bank.  Libya has, per capita, among the highest gold reserves on earth, in addition to massive foreign currency reserves.  These should remain in place.  Any moves to privatise the Libyan Central Bank along the lines of the UK’s Bank of England and US’s Federal Reserve would render any victory for the Libyan people null and void.

The only independence is economic independence.

Libya must not function as a playground for exploitative corporations.  The Transitional National Council and any economic laws they pass in the eight month interim period before elections, should be closely watched to ensure that they do not turn Libya into another powerless Third World cash-cow for foreign corporations.