By: Suliman S. Al-Shahomy*
It seems that rebuilding Benghazi, is a field of racing for
competitors to show skills and ideas, which are mostly imported from communities and realities, way far from the certainty of Benghazi and circumstances Libya is currently facing.
Many interested refer to the importance of launching Benghazi rebuilding fund, some proposed projects to be established, some raced to select names for the fund management and priorities, others used it for social and political bid, but everyone forgot that this fund, if even was born, will be dead with no possibilities, will be turned to a failure hanging peg.
Visions about rebuilding Benghazi via a fund is, in my assessment, only useless watering mouth talking. The fund depends on money provided by the Libyan state in the first place.
Due to the amount of destruction witnessed in the commercial center, Al-Sabery and Al-Laithy areas in Benghazi, and given the financial status of the Libyan state and the budget that suffers continued defection from almost two years, expected to last for at least another two years if fighting stopped, and oil exports began, the proposed fund will be definitely empty for at least five years.
Benghazi needs at least 50 billion Dollars of investment spending between infrastructure, residential, commercial and maintenance projects for most buildings, besides projects that promote the futuristic visions, so that Benghazi would become the economic capital of Libya, as the modern airport, port, free area and others. But nongovernment can afford or ratify such sum in the coming annual budget. It is not even realistic to distribute provisions for some years given a financial status of the Libyan state.
Another opinion suggests establishing investment fund, similar to the fund Hariry set in Beirut, as he turned destroyed buildings in the commercial center of ownership interests in the investment fund, which is (Solider joint stock company), the other part funded via Arab financial investments and rebuilding loans from financial corporations.
While the project partially succeeded in rebuilding the commercial center, which was destroyed during the civil war, and provided an important model for the role of the private sector in funding projects, it turned commercial buildings owners to shareholders in the company listed at Beirut stock market, beside that the project was limited to the commercial center of the city without finishing reconstruction works due to lack of funding and other political issues. Maybe factors that were available to Hariry, fund will not be available in Benghazi rebuilding fund like external financing.
Thus to avoid a project that may face organizational, funding and administrative blocks, that might lead to its failure, and Benghazi might lose its chance for rebuilding, but aside corruption that will be obstacle different projects, because of unstable conditions, it is appropriate to search for better method to avoid defects that may hinder reconstruction process.
I can assure that rebuilding Benghazi and promoting its role as economical capital for Libya is not accomplished through persistence to shift public managements to financial institutions; such move is useless in the wake of the technology period and digital information. The place is broken, what is more important, is planning and developing infrastructure, build the developed financial module and working spaces according to global methods to attract foreign and national corporations and campaigns to work inside Benghazi.
Rebuilding Benghazi program, from my point of view, should be based on fixed steps and stages via developed model for rebuilding focused on essentials that enable the program to move forward and achieve the desired goal. Proposed necessary steps could be summarized as follow:
First: Accurately encloses and specify damaged buildings, cite the fair value, owners, and beneficiaries.
Second: Regulate real estate ownership and update Land Registry, through modern technology, able to respond to individuals needs in proving mortgage ownership and transfer of property, as quickly as required.
Third: Adopt a civilized plan for the city of Benghazi, in the light of new vision, including integrated projects to 2030, the state should focus on linking schemes with infrastructure and public transportations.
Fourth: Establish governmental body for rebuilding Benghazi limited to ratify plans, and monitor implementation according to approved technical specifications; it has nothing to do with funding or expenditures.
Ratify compensations for owners of buildings destructed in the civil war, issue 20 years Islamic bonds guaranteed by the government with 5% revenue could be circulated at Libyan stock market, that in turn needs rehabilitation and reconstructing through which we can organize mortgage bonds for Libyan and foreign real estate developing companies, registered by the body, to execute rebuilding projects as a guarantee used by such companies to get required fund from local and foreign banks.
Fifth: Launch wide programs to develop minor and medium building and construction projects, under the supervision of the aforementioned governmental body, provide required training and coordination with banks and exchequers to provide loans and fund programs for instruments and assets needed to raise up and encourage minor and medium projects and assign them to maintenance and reparation, using Libyan youth.
Such module for rebuilding Benghazi, basically, depends on the State to manage organization monitoring and supervision and depends on the private sector through real estate developing corporations, closed or opened investment funds to build and invest, which is a real stimulate for the private sector to contribute in rebuilding Benghazi without waiting for the state budget, which would accelerate reconstruction projects, create real economic saleability inside the city instead of waiting for the state to accomplish the dream of rebuilding Benghazi alone, which might take a long time, as well as create real chance to establish real estate investment sector capable of contributing in building, activate and develop stock market.
Monetary compensation for owners of damaged buildings might not be worthy in the light of lack of the needed fund, which is a huge amount and might take a long time, not mentioning that “putting all points in the same basket” in the light of governmental widespread corruption and weakness of State revenues, might obstacle the needed rebuilding projects.
What I am suggesting needs social talks, in light of other traditional options. Such module might be generalized to other cities inside Libya that need rebuilding, but the start is always from Benghazi, rebuilding Benghazi is the beginning of rebuilding Libya.
*A Libyan Finance Expert and The Founder of Libyan Financial Market
Translated By LIBYAPROSPECT