Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Libya faces bankruptcy if low global oil prices, falling Libyan production, and the unstable situation in the country continue, Western powers warned on Saturday.
In a joint statement, the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany and Italy said they were “deeply concerned” about the impact Libya’s current political and security crisis was having on its future economic prosperity.
“In light of low oil production and prices, Libya faces a budget deficit that has the potential to consume all of its financial assets if the situation does not stabilize,” the statement said.
Global oil prices have fallen by over half since highs of more than 100 US dollars a barrel were recorded in 2014, with observers predicting prices will not return to these levels for several years until the oversupplied global market balances out.
Like other oil producers, oil is Libya’s main source of income, with with oil and gas contributing to almost 96 percent of government revenues and 98 percent of export revenues in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
A budget deficit of 8 billion dollars was forecast for Libya for 2014, but some observers believe this figure may now have doubled due to falling prices and lower production.
Prior to the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the country’s oil production stood at 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd), but it has struggled to return to these levels since then, and production fell to 350,000 bpd in December of 2014.
Since the uprising ended, a number of rebel groups have attacked and attempted to control some of the country’s most vital oil facilities, most recently in December when some rebel groups set fire to oil tanks, including those at Libya’s largest oil port, Sidra.
The port, like the other prominent oil export hubs of Ras Lanuf and Zuetina, was closed for almost a year during 2013–2014 due to being held by rebels.
Last week an oil field owned by global oil giant Total, lying about 106 miles (170 kilometers) south of Sirte, was also attacked by rebels, with 13 of the company’s employees killed during the operation.
On Saturday, the country’s last functioning onshore oil export terminal was shut down by a strike, according to reports.
Security guards at Hariga, close to the eastern city of Tobruk, refused to allow a Greek-registered tanker to dock, claiming they had not been paid. Previous bouts of industrial action have temporarily closed the terminal in previous months, but had been resolved relatively quickly.
It is not known how long the current shutdown will last.
Meanwhile, a coordinated assault by Libyan army forces on Islamist rebel factions in Benghazi is now currently underway to free the city from their control, the country’s military announced on Saturday.
“There is not long left until the city of Benghazi is liberated from the Kharijites,” it said on its official Facebook page, using a term denoting a 7th century Muslim rebel group often used in the Islamic world to refer to extremist–terrorist elements. It also said army forces were now in control of the city’s main port.
Libya is currently the scene of a violent struggle between various rebel factions, Islamist and otherwise, and the political turbulence caused by two different parliaments vying for power in the country.
The former General National Congress (GNC) was dissolved in August 2014 following the end of its 18-month transitional role and was replaced by the new House of Representatives. However, MPs and rebel forces loyal to the Islamist-dominated GNC immediately announced they were re-forming the parliament and basing it out of Tripoli.
The newly elected House of Representatives was then forced to move to Tobruk, from where it continues to hold its meetings in a hotel in the city.
Saturday’s coordinated operation in Benghazi is part of a wider effort, known as “Operation Dignity,” launched by retired army general Khalifa Haftar in 2014 to quell the rebel presence throughout the country but especially in Tripoli and Libya’s second city Benghazi. Haftar’s campaign has since been endorsed by the Tobruk-based government, though reports of tensions between the general and senior members of the Tobruk government have surfaced.