The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

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.