Libya Population and Economy 1998

The second last population census dates back to 1984 (3. 642. 576 residents), while the last, which we have so far only provisional data available, was made in 1995 ; according to estimates in 1998 the residents were 5. 339. 000 (excluding foreigners). Population growth continues to remain at high levels, even if birth rates are falling; consequently the average annual rate of increase, which in the first half of the 1980s was around 40 ‰, is now around 23 ‰.

There are numerous immigrants (more than 2 million, almost one every two Libyans), but in recent years a certain discontent towards them has grown, as they are accused of stealing jobs from local labor (according to unofficial estimates, in 1997 the unemployed accounted for 20 % of the active population). A law of June 1995 ordered the expulsion of foreign workers who do not have a regular employment contract: this measure affected about one million people, mainly Palestinians, Sudanese and Chadians.

The average density, if on the one hand it denounces that it is a sparsely populated territory, says nothing about the actual spatial distribution of the population, even more concentrated than in the past in the main cities and in the northern part of the country. In 1995, according to an estimate, the capital Tripoli had a population of 1,682,000 residents (but it is estimated that the urban agglomeration exceeds 3.2 million). In 1984, Benghazi (about 446. 000 residents) Was the second city in the country; other important cities are Misrata (Miṣurātah), al-Zāwiyya and al-Bayḍā ‘.

The embargo decreed by the UN in April 1992 against Libya, which had not agreed to collaborate with Washington, London and Paris in the investigations on the Lockerbie (Scotland, 1988) and Ténéré (Chad, 1989) air attacks, as well as the cold relations existing with the neighboring Arab states have confined the country in a progressive international isolation, which weighs on the economic profile, and has profoundly altered the social framework and territorial balances of Libya. An example of this is the government decision (March 1997) to institute collective punishments for the accomplices of certain ‘crimes’, such as subversive acts, armed violence and religious ‘deviance’. Given that tribes play a decisive role in Libyan society, members of these communities are required to report those whose behavior is judged uncivil: if they did not do so, entire groups would run the risk of being deprived of running water, electricity., telephone and social services.

Economic conditions

The excessive dependence of the Libyan economy on the hydrocarbon sector led, during the 1980s, to a severe recession that led the government to a drastic cut in spending, the abandonment of development projects and the return of many investments made. abroad. This crisis has worsened further following the embargo proclaimed by the UN in 1992, although the latter does not concern oil, which continues to supply over 90% of exports. Consumer prices have risen sharply, unemployment is very high especially among young people, while budget restrictions have reduced the possibility of creating new jobs and are responsible for a serious drop in the level of public health and education services. Furthermore, economic sanctions have led to a deepening of social inequalities, with a consequent growth of internal dissent. For Libya economics and business, please check

Regarding the productive sectors, agriculture, despite the considerable investments to extend the irrigated area, continues to have a completely negligible role: most of the fertile lands are used to cultivate products intended for self-consumption; however, given the significant increase in domestic demand, linked to the rapid demographic growth of the past few years, there has been a significant decrease in the country’s self-sustaining capacity. The industry has remained largely anchored to oil processing; the steel sector was strengthened, considered of strategic importance by virtue of its propulsive characteristics towards other industrial sectors, but the current steel production of

The real fulcrum of Libyan economic activities continues to be hydrocarbons: in 1997 70,200 were extracted. 000 t of oil and 6298 million m³ of natural gas; in the same year, reserves of the first amounting to 4025 million t and the second for 1310 billion m ³ were ascertained. A 175 km oil pipeline connects the Ziltin wells with the loading terminal in Marsa Brega (Marsa al-Burayqa), on the Gulf of Sirte; another pipeline of 200km feeds the oil extracted from al-Rāqūba into the Ziltin-Marsa Brega pipeline. The Sirtica oil pipeline is connected to the Ra’s Lānūf terminal, fueled by oil from the al-Ḥufra and Ora fields and also connected to the al-Bayḍā ‘, al-Samāḥ, al-Wāḥa, Ǧālū fields. Other pipelines connect the Amal field with the Ra’s Lānūf terminal, the Sarīr field with the al-Ḥarīqa terminal, near Tobruch, and the Awǧila field with the al-Zuwaytīna terminal.


Founded in 1969, following the overthrow of the monarchy by a group of young nationalist officers, the Libyan republic saw its leadership uninterruptedly since 1979with the role of ‘leader of the revolution’, Colonel M. Gaddafi (al-Qadhdhāfī). The intense activity deployed on the international level, inspired by an Arab nationalism with strongly anti-Israeli characteristics, if on the one hand made Libya one of the main promoters of anti-colonialism and pan-Arab ideals, on the other it placed it in contrast with different Western states and some countries of the Arab world itself, but also, in some phases, with the same Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). While from the second half of the 1980s there was an improvement in relations on a regional level, it was above all the conflicts with the United States and other Western countries, which accused Libya of being involved in episodes of international terrorism, which determined its growing isolation.. In the second half of the 1990s, this isolation aggravated the economic difficulties which, linked to the drop in oil exports, marked the crisis of the modernization program promoted since the 1970s, fueling social imbalances and tensions. In1991 The United States and Great Britain requested the extradition of two Libyan nationals, accused of being responsible for the explosion of a US airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988.

Opposed to extradition, Tripoli appealed to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and, referring to the Montreal Convention of 1971, claimed the right to judge the two Libyans or, in the alternative, to submit them to the judgment of the International Court itself or in any case of an independent court. The position of London and Washington was nevertheless accepted by the UN Security Council, which launched economic sanctions against the Libya, regularly renewed starting from 1992. While the two Western countries contested the competence of the Hague International Court to rule on a dispute already the subject of several UN Security Council resolutions, the Hague Court itself issued in February 1998 a ruling that established its own competence to judge the Libyan thesis, and the following month set the maximum limit for the filing by the United States and Great Britain of their ‘briefs’ against Tripoli as of December 30, 1998.

The sanctions passed in 1992, in particular the ban on air connections and the embargo on the arms trade, were extended in 1993, when the Security Council banned the sale to Libya of machinery intended for the oil industry and decided to freeze some Libyan properties abroad. Instead, the US call for an expansion of the oil export embargo was not met by the UN Security Council, and since 1995 Washington unilaterally imposed further economic sanctions. A growing support for the Libyan position emerged in 1997 – 98 by the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League, and in August 1998 the governments of Washington and London accepted the Libyan proposal to have the two accused tried in a third country (the Netherlands). In the following months, however, the situation remained blocked due to the refusal of the two Western countries to discuss the security measures requested by Tripoli, together with the guarantee that a possible sentence would not be served in Great Britain but in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, there was a marked improvement in relations with Chad, after the International Court of Justice in The Hague recognized the latter’s sovereignty over the Ūzū strip (January 1994);the Libyan forces withdrew from the disputed area and in June of the same year the two countries concluded a treaty of friendship and cooperation. The problematic international situation had repercussions on internal stability, strengthening dissent against the regime: there was in particular a growth in Islamic fundamentalist groups, against which the Libyan regime adopted a repressive policy, alternating with conciliatory measures and the Islamization of society, by virtue of a tighter application of the provisions inspired by the šarī῾a. However, relations between the regime remained difficult, which with a somewhat reformist interpretation of Islam had undermined the power of the elite. traditional religious, and the latter, which claimed greater control over the religious life of the country. In April 1999, the government extradited the two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing to the Netherlands for trial by a Scottish court in the presence of UN-appointed international observers. At the same time the sanctions in force since 1992 were suspended. In July 1999, Libya and Great Britain completely re-established diplomatic relations.

Libya Population and Economy 1998