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Springtime for Libya?

By Ding Gang (Global Times)

14:26, September 09, 2011

Edited and Translated by People's Daily Online

A photo on Libya in the latest issue of the U.K.-based Economist magazine has showcased the applause from scores of young women for the success of the opposition. It is reasonable to be happy for the Libyan people when looking at the delighted faces of those in the photo. They have finally overthrown the Qaddafi regime and won the spring of development.

However, could the real spring come so easily? A deeper contemplation of the issue will lead to a somewhat pessimistic view. The young women in the photo should stay at the most suitable places. They should enjoy their lives with their family members at home after work or diligently work at workshops and ship their products to the world market.

Muammar Qaddafi did not bring them such a life, but can the new government make it? The Libyan economy under Qaddafi’s rule depended on oil and it will remain the same after the opposition takes office. The key issue facing Libya is that it is so rich in oil. The more direct issue facing Libya lies in whether it can find its position in the global production chain.

U.S.-based Times Magazine reported on a Chinese girl called Liu Li six years ago who was from China's countryside and worked at a garment factory in Shenzhen producing clothes for American consumers. According to the report, the most important figures in China-U.S. relations in the future were not American leaders, such as Condoleezza Rice or Donald Rumsfeld, but those like Liu. Liu did not want to spend the rest of her life sewing clothes but rather saved enough money over the following two years for higher education in order to land a better job.

Liu's story gives people a glimpse into the driving force behind China's rise. I work in a Southeast Asian country, and often see local women working hard at shoe or clothing factories. They may have a harder life than Libyan women, but a country’s rise will be impossible without the hard efforts of its people.

Admittedly, Libya is an oil-rich country, and the Libyan women may not have to work as hard as the female workers in China or Southeast Asian countries. The Libyan rebels are also proud of the country’s huge oil reserves because they can use oil contracts to threaten countries that did not support them in the civil war and to reward countries that helped them topple the government. However, they should remember that oil alone cannot bring a democratic country.

There are many oil-rich countries in the Middle East, but none of them have achieved prosperity for all or evolved into a developed country. This is not because they do not have oil. Rather, it is because they have too much oil.
 
Libya does not have many industries and its lifeblood is the income from oil exports. The huge amounts of oil dollars can easily allow the Libyan people to hire foreign laborers to do the work that the Libyan people do not want to do. Libya has a population of more than 6 million, but just in the period of between February and August, 660,000 foreign laborers had left from Libya. If the foreign laborers still staying in Libya are added in, it is said that Libya had more than 1 million foreign laborers. It is hard to imagine what work the Libyan people do. This kind of structure meant Libya’s economy was destined to be unsustainable.

In fact, many Western scholars already expounded upon the problems of the oil countries a long time ago. The countries that rely on oil too much will not be able to form relatively comprehensive or diversified industrial systems and social divisions of labor and therefore will not be able to form the democratic system based on them.

Democracy is a beautiful thing, but working is more beautiful. No matter who will be the leaders of Libya in the future, one thing that they must do is to make a change from oil dollars to manufacturing and balance the economic structure of Libya gradually by reasonable distribution. However, it means more people have to go to colleges and factories and do the boring production line work willingly. It is not a goal that a revolution can realize. "Libya's new order: Can the joy last?" is the title of that article published in the Economist magazine.

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Canada at 2011-09-0970.36.49.*
To put it bluntly, the rebels are idiots.
  

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