Lifting Libyan sanctions, lifting Libyan spirits

The Security Council at the United Nations has had both institutions on a sanctions list since February when the rebellion began.

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    Friday will see a key development in Libya's bid to rebuild its war-torn country.

    Diplomats have said the central bank of Libya and the Libyan foreign banks are free to do business again.

    The Security Council at the United Nations has had both institutions on a sanctions list since February when the rebellion began.

    The figures are mind boggling: Some $150bn has been frozen.

    That money is desperately needed. Libya cannot function without it, and its oil revenues are not enough at the moment to run even the most basic services.

    Those who used to work in the banking sector have had to find alternative work.

    Sulieman El-Dressi used to work for one of the Libya's biggest banks. Since the revolution began he has not been able to go back.

    He says the effect has been devastating for the vast majority of Libyans.

    "The system just stopped, and that meant no money was flowing through. People kept what little money they had in their houses. This is no way for a modern economy to function, much less flourish. Without money people are starving." 

    He is hopeful that the lifting of the sanctions will provide a much needed kick-start. 

    "Of course, it will  help the economic and financial sectors. Businessmen will be able to get loans, simple transactions will get done, foreign investors will have confidence, it will help money go round the system."

    It's a relief to many here. Since the former Libyan leader's death in October, only $18bn has been released and of that, only $3bn has been given to the ruling NTC.

    The process has been slow.

    The NTC, under the stewardship of the current chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, had to write a letter to the Security Council asking for the funds to be released.

    Many in Libya are simply relieved that this move has finally happened.

    But the $150bn will not arrive suddenly and transform Libya overnight.

    Members of the Security Council can still object, although most observers say that's unlikely.

    What is likely is that the  money will come in stages - and there will be strings attached. Also those foreign banks holding Libyan assets may well seek permission from their own governments before they release anything.

    While all of this might sound like a good idea in the corridors of power worldwide, any further delays will have an impact here, only adding to misery already felt by many.

    Teachers go to school not knowing if they will ever see a salary the only thing they have is the thought that they are educating the future.

    Nurses and doctors work to save lives and look after society's weakest. And care givers who themselves may soon be unable to feed and clothe themselves.

    On every street corner members of the brigades that fought Gaddafi forces sit around.

    They smoke and spit each man holds his AK47 machine gun close.

    These men have also not been paid.

    To quote Jamaican Reggae legend Bob Marley: "A hungry man is an angry man."  

    What Libya doesn't need are hordes of angry men with guns.


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