UN delegate to Libya: Stability is tied to ending shadow economy in the country

UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame. (UNSMIL)

Libya’s conflict cannot be resolved unless the black economy and “predation of public money” are ended, the UN envoy to Libya said, calling on international actors to target “big traffickers” with sanctions.

“I think this is the most important issue today in Libya,” Salame said in an interview. “It is, at least in my modest view, the heart of the matter in Libya.”

Salame said tackling the shadow economy required a “determined effort” by the United Nations, international financial institutions and foreign powers.

He said he had been working to convince the international community that any political deal to unify rival factions based in Tripoli and eastern Libya would only be “cosmetic” if the shadow economy was not tackled.

“I tried my best to persuade them that if they want a political process they have to put an end to all kinds of traffic in this country. Not only traffic of human beings, but also traffic of fuel, traffic of subsidized (goods), traffic of drugs.”

“They need to address the black market. They also need to address the predation of public money,” Salame said.

“It’s a big challenge – I think we need to start blaming and shaming people. I think we need to look into money transfers.”

Action was also needed “through specific sanctions against big traffickers taken by the most important economic partners of Libya”, he said.

Salame has launched a dialogue with armed groups, and has said that he hopes to unveil a strategy for dealing with them by May.

“I think this is necessarily going to be a multi-year problem, because there are a lot of them, and also because the government is not necessarily optimally equipped to integrate them into an army or into police.”

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