Free Libya a lucrative market for RI: Envoy

Libyans earned their freedom last year from the brutal regime of Muammar Qaddafi, but their victory came at a heavy price.

Thousands of lives were lost in the uprising, and cities, towns and infrastructure were severely damaged. Libya currently needs urgent help from nations like Indonesia to rebuild the country, a Libyan envoy says.

“We need everything. Our doors are open for Indonesian companies and investors. Some Indonesian companies were already in Libya prior to the revolution,” the Libyan Embassy’s charge d’affaires, Masoud S. El Koshly, told The Jakarta Post in the lead-up to the first anniversary of Libya’s revolution, which will be celebrated in Jakarta on Wednesday night.

Scores of European and Asian businesses have already flocked to the oil-rich country, which has more than US$100 billion in cash kept in various countries by Qaddafi regime, to participate in the massive reconstruction program. It seems resources-rich Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, is lagging behind its Asian peers in strengthening economic ties with the Northern African country. Bilateral trade plunged to just $15 million in the first 11 months of 2011, from $677 million in 2007.

“I did receive some preliminary enquiries from Indonesian companies. That’s all, no follow up so far,” Masoud said. “Indonesia can also help us in building democracy, in which Libya has no experience.

“We don’t have political parties, democratic institutions and even a constitution. We have to start from zero. We would like to share your experience with democracy.”

There has also been some apparent friction between the two countries, though the relations between Indonesia and Libya were never severely affected by the regime change in Tripoli.

Indonesia had abstained from voting to support Libya’s representation at the United Nations General Assembly, in a move that apparently upset some leaders within the Transitional National Council, which formed out of last year’s rebellion.

“Abstention was a fact, but I don’t think it will be an obstacle in developing the relations between the two countries,” Masoud said.

Major Indonesian private oil and gas company Medco Energi Internasional president director and chief executive officer Lukman Mahfoedz echoed similar sentiments.

“Libya is an important and strategic country in North Africa. It offers many opportunities for Indonesian companies. We should try to build a strong relationship with Libya,” Lukman said.

Medco has acquired a 50 percent stake in an oil block called Area-47 in Libya several years ago. The other stock is owned by the Libyan Investment Authority. “We have found oil and gas in 18 out of the 20 wells that were explored. Now we are preparing for the next phase of production, which will reach 50,000 barrels per day in 2014,” Lukman told the Post.

With the continuous flow of billions of dollars of oil money, Libya will be a lucrative market.

“We don’t need any foreign loans. We have enough money to rebuild our country. We have to buy everything now. So you can sell us your top products like rubber, cement, furniture, clothes, shoes, coffee, palm oil, electronic goods, automobiles and others,” Masoud said.

The question is: Will Indonesia be ready to grab a piece of the cake?

(Source: Jakarta Post)

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