Creative destruction in Libya

Oil Wealth Fuels Gaddafi's Drive For Reinvention:

TRIPOLI, Libya -- Brother Leader Moammar Gaddafi still exhorts his people to greatness from billboards, banners and murals. But these days a different kind of command is driving Libya's transformation as the newly opened country taps into oil wealth: "izala," Arabic for "raze it to the ground."

Surveyors are spraying the word in red paint up and down Libya's Mediterranean coast. The orange-vested road crews are tagging for demolition the old Libya -- low-rise, stucco Libya, sleepy under decades of Gaddafi's socialist economy and international sanctions.

To rise in its place, Gaddafi's officials say: the increasingly capitalist Libya, with new buildings for the country's new stock exchange. Airports to ferry in and out a dreamed-of annual flow of 30 million oil workers, tourists and other travelers. The world's second-largest port after Singapore. Railways. Highways. Hospitals. Schools. Luxury beachfront hotels.

Libyans and Westerners here cite a statement attributed to Gaddafi: Libya must destroy in order to rebuild.
This Muammar al-Gaddafi: every few years he gets some grand idea, forces it onto everyone for a while and then his ministers finally convince him maybe it's not the best way to do things. In this case, though, I'm sure a lot of foreign contractors will be very happy about his grandiose visions.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.