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Interview with Libya's Prime Minister: 'We Will Not Become Like Somalia'
Somali News

Interview with Libya's Prime Minister: 'We Will Not Become Like Somalia'

Fifty-six-year-old Libian Prime Minister Sarraj, an architect, is one of these people. His father had been a minister during the times of the monarchy, before Gadhafi came to power in 1969. Sarraj himself had been a member of parliament in Tobruk. The UN and Libya's international partners appointed him as prime minister specifically because he isn't closely aligned with any group, he has no criminal background and because he appears to be entirely free of corruption. All these factors are simultaneously strengths and weaknesses, because Sarraj appears to be independent, but also lacks a strong connection to the people he is supposed to be governing. Nor has he been elected in any election or vote by parliament. Sarraj receives two editors from SPIEGEL to conduct an interview at a navy base. Pictures of sea battles are hanging all over the place, images of things that are burning or exploding. What will happen to Libya? Will the country disintegrate into two or more parts that will be forever at war with each other because they all want power over Libya's oil? Will it become a second Somalia controlled by pirates, thieves and jihadists? Or will Prime Minister Sarraj succeed in establishing a conciliatory dialogue that can result in rebuilding Libya into a normal country? SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, are you really the right man to lead Libya? Sarraj : It would be better if you posed this question to the people of Libya -- they are qualified to answer it. The situation here is complicated, and when I was appointed chairman of the Libyan presidency council, I was in any case ready to accept the assignment. We are hoping for support, both locally and internationally. SPIEGEL: It is said that you are a good listener, that you're well educated, that you're not corrupt and, if we may say so, that you're a pleasant man. Will you be taken seriously in a country as armed and brutal as Libya? Sarraj: The Libyans have experienced a great deal of unrest and difficulties during the past five years, as well as a delicate security situation. They need a bit of peace and reflection. SPIEGEL: You don't have any apparatus of power -- you don't even have the power base to govern in Tripoli, not to mention the east. We're sitting here at a naval base at the port, and you are relying on a militia to provide you with protection. Do you have any connection to your people whatsoever? Sarraj : This here was our first stop when we arrived in Tripoli in the spring. The new seat of government for the prime minister is now located in the original government building. We work there often. But now and then we get a longing for the naval base. SPIEGEL: It offers a great view of the sea. Sarraj: (Laughs.) The sea air! And seriously: I meet with the people often. SPIEGEL : Do you feel safe? Sarraj: Most of the time. SPIEGEL : There haven't been any attempted attacks yet? Sarraj : No, as we Arabs say: Whether you live or die lies in the hands of God. One should not have too much fear. SPIEGEL : So you still consider the probability of terrorist attacks to be very likely? Sarraj : The threats will increase as a result of our fight against terrorism, but we have to play our role and take responsibility in this battle. That is our fate. SPIEGEL: When you traveled in a ship from Tunis to Tripoli in March, to get started with the business of governing, you had the support of the people. Unfortunately, that backing is now dwindling because the situation is so difficult and unstable. Why can't you offer your people more? Sarraj: I didn't take office until March 30, 2016. We were immediately confronted with numerous problems that were produced by former governments and the old regime, not by us. We have a difficult environment here and no financial resources. Oil exports have stopped. The government has no revenues. SPIEGEL : No taxes, nothing? Sarraj: No. We have been working here for months without a budget. We first got access to a small amount of resources two weeks ago that we have been able to pass along to the ministries, making a few things easier. SPIEGEL : How much money? Sarraj : 1.5 billion Libyan dinar. SPIEGEL: That would have been worth just under a billion euros in 2009, but the value of the dinar is falling. Sarraj : Anyone who is familiar with economics knows that this is not enough to enable a country to function -- particularly in a postwar situation in which there is so much damage all across the country. SPIEGEL : Where will you start with rebuilding? Sarraj : Everywhere at once, but of course it won't happen quickly enough for the people anywhere. Sometimes we are only able to mitigate the impact of the problems, not solve them. SPIEGE L: No, the problems actually seem to be getting bigger right now. Sarraj : Let's take electricity as an example. The war and the lack of maintenance and repairs have triggered a mechanical crisis that has in turn resulted in many power plant outages. Foreign firms had to leave the country because of the security situation. There were no replacement parts. And the demand increased. SPIEGEL : Through flight and migration?   Sarraj: That too. But also because of the summer heat. In any case, we contacted numerous companies, including Siemens, in order to get the plants working again.   SPIEGEL : Was it successful?   Sarraj: Yes, an improvement will soon be felt by the people. Or look at the liquidity crisis: It was created because oil exports, already hit by falling prices, fell to a minimal level and because citizens and businesspeople pulled close to 24 billion dinar out of the banks. The banks almost collapsed. SPIEGEL: What are you doing to counteract this? Sarraj : We have contacted the two central banks in order to solve the problem. During Ramadan, we supported businesspeople both financially and in terms of easing imports so that prices wouldn't continue to climb. We also printed dinar abroad. SPIEGEL : Young men continue to join the militias. Schools and universities are open, but there is no work. Sarraj: We only have a limited number of jobs that can be offered in the public sector. In order to create jobs, we need an economic upswing, and for that to happen, we need to recommence our oil exports. They are the decisive motor for our economy. SPIEGEL : Do you have a plan for the rebuilding the economy? Sarraj: The presidency council and I have ordered the resumption of oil exports and the repair of the important ports. Once the country has revenue streams again, we will carry out infrastructure projects, build the factories and revive trade.