Country Listing

Libya Table of Contents



The development of internal trade has been severely restricted by government actions during the late 1970s that were aimed at curbing the activities of private sector merchants (see Role of the Government , this ch.). In general, domestic trade remained in a state of limbo in the mid-1980s. Government policy was extremely hostile to private trade, but because of declining oil revenues the government was unable to keep up with the demand for most goods, subsidized or not. Reports that the state-run supermarkets were experiencing supply problems proliferated during 1985 and 1986. Shopping was said to be a major daily activity that demanded time and perseverance. The confusion reigning in the retail sector in 1985 pushed the government to announce the opening of yet another chain of state-run shops--the "green market" (aswaq al Khadhra)--to sell subsidized goods. It was unclear, however, how much of a force these shops would be, or whether they would receive the funds necessary to sell goods at subsidized prices.

Beyond the urban areas, rural markets were held every Tuesday and Friday. Most farmers bought and sold in local markets, rarely traveling to distant ones. Although Libya officially adhered to the metric system, everyday practice continued to favor Arabic measures. A common measure used in wholesale trade was the marta, equivalent to about kilograms.

The government's imprint on other areas of domestic trade was strong. Storage facilities for agricultural commodities and general goods, including perishables, were provided by a state-owned storage and refrigeration company. Moreover, all advertising was done through the only advertising firm in the country, the government-owned General Company for Distribution, Publication, and Advertisement.

A potential source of income for Libya is tourism. Libya's warm and pleasant climate in coastal areas, together with the presence of a large number of Greek and Roman ruins (particularly at Leptis Magna or Labdah, east of Tripoli), would seem to indicate at least a modest potential for tourist development. In April 1972, however, Qadhafi publicly declared that he opposed public investment in the tourist industry. Despite this pronouncement, by the late 1970s several tourist complexes were planned both on the coast and in the interior. The number of tourists visiting Libya at that time was in the 300,000 a year range. Most came from other Arab countries. Because of the prohibitions against alcohol, the lack of nightlife, and the strained political climate, foreign observers doubted that the tourist industry would expand.

Data as of 1987