TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Saturday called on Libyans to endorse his proposal to dismantle the government and give the oil wealth directly to the country’s 5 million people.
His plan to hand oil revenues directly to Libyans had run up against opposition from senior officials, who stand to lose their jobs in a government purge Gaddafi wants to rid the state of what he says is entrenched and widespread corruption.
Officials including Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi and Central Bank Governor Farhat Omar Bin Guidara had told Gaddafi in November the move could do long-term damage to the OPEC member country’s economy.
“Do not be afraid to take directly the oil money and the responsibility to create the right government structures that further the interests of the people,” Gaddafi told representatives of Libya’s Basic People Congresses (LBPCs).
LBPCs are the backbone of Libya’s Jamahiriya regime. They are effectively the country’s top executive and legislative bodies. They represent people at district and village levels across the country and vote laws and government’s policy.
But in practice, Gaddafi decides on key policy, particularly on oil.
LBPCs are due to meet in the next few days. It is the first time that Gaddafi has called on them to back his idea on oil income and government reform.
Many Libyans say they have not benefited from rising oil revenues and foreign investment after Libya in 2003 abandoned prohibited weapons programs and ended its international isolation. Gaddafi estimated the oil revenue to be handed out to Libyans at $32 billion per year.
“The administration has failed and the state economy has failed. Enough is enough. The solution is we Libyans take directly the oil money and decide what to do with the money,” said Gaddafi, whose speech was broadcast on state television.
Gaddafi urged a sweeping reform of government bureaucracy, saying the whole cabinet system should be dismantled to free Libyans from corruption and mismanagement.
“These popular committees (ministries) should hand over the people the schools, manufacturing plants, farms, all state enterprises and the oil money before they were dismantled,” he said.
Gaddafi said corruption has become widespread in the government and just reshuffling cabinet would not cure the state of graft and mismanagement.
“You would fail to stop corruption as long as the state owns the oil wealth, makes contracts with companies to carry out projects, manages health care, education and other services and economic projects,” he added.
Gaddafi accused successive governments of failing in every field, whether it be education or the economy. He gave the example of a Libyan student who could not write correctly in Arabic after nine years at school.
“It is the same in other fields, not only in education,” he said, urging Libyans to embrace without fear the consequences of changes he proposed.
“We are not afraid that people enjoy freedom on every street and every place, to appoint the officials of their liking, create associations, set up business and companies as they like,” he said. (Writing by Lamine Ghanmi)