The Libyan people sacrificed to build a better Libya for themselves and their children. They rose up because of the love for their country, their hunger for dignity and their hope for greater prosperity. The Libyan people are desperate for leaders who have a credible plan to deliver the foundation of a stable, secure and supportive environment. The Libyan people want to move forward with their lives and build their future on the firm foundations of a well-functioning nation state.
Delivering the basics of a well-functioning state will not be easy. We have suffered 42 years of dictatorship and 2 years of post-revolutionary struggle. Our starting position is poor – according to the World Bank our government effectiveness is in the bottom 5% of the world and has been getting worse for the past decade. In terms of corruption the World Bank indicates we are in the bottom 2% for corruption and getting worse. Our economic performance is poor. According to the World Economic Forum Doing Business Report we are ranked 113 out of 144 countries one position below Cameroon and far behind our peers like Morocco. The World Bank Doing Business Index is ever harsher. Libya is ranked 187 out of 189 countries and bottom of the list on multiple dimensions.
Libya was a pariah state for most of our lives. We have been isolated and shut out of the mainstream of a globalizing world. We are one of the few countries not a member of the World Trade Organization, unlike our neighbours we have not negotiated any Free Trade Agreements with the EU or the USA.
Unlike most of our Arab neighbours we do not take part in international education organizations such as TIMSS, so we have no way of knowing what quality of education we are delivering to our children. We do know however, that adult female literacy in Libya is 83% which compares poorly to Jordan where it is 94%. We are also one of only 8 countries that is not ranked in the Economic Freedom Index.
Our starting position may be poor, but I have hope. I have hope in the greatness of the Libyan people and the strength of the Libyan state. A generation ago we outshone what is today the UAE. We have a similar population size, a similar oil production. What we lack is effective leadership with a clear vision plus a credible plan.
I am confident that Libya can be resurgent and a source of pride for the Arab world. The planet is full of examples of countries that have turned themselves around. Georgia emerged from a generation of Communist rule. In 2006 it was ranked 100 in the Doing Business Index, today it is in the top 10. Colombia is a wonderful example of a state that recovered from civil strife and powered ahead. The only thing between success and failure is effective leadership and a clear set of priorities.
To move onto the path of security and prosperity we are going to have to pull together as a nation and focus on the future more than the past. As a nation we are going to have to value forgiveness more than revenge, reconciliation more than settling scores. We want to learn the lessons of South Africa not Iraq.
Forgiveness and reconciliation will not be easy. Many bad things were done by a small number of really bad people. These criminals will have to be brought to justice. We need to accept, however, that for a generation this country was captive to a corrupt regime. The vast majority of Libyans simply wanted to get on with their lives and had to find ways to survive in a harsh environment. No doubt there are many who are not proud of what they had to do to get by. They now have the opportunity to do better – to be proud of who they are and what they can do for their country.
Nation building is hard. The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) faced similar challenges in his quest to transform a faith into a people. He says that it is essential to achieve ‘closeness of the hearts before closeness of efforts’ and that when it comes to the response of the people to leaders who are trying to build a nation that they should: ‘Forgive them, pray and work for their well-being and success’.