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29 Dec, 2011 06:27

From shelling to selling: The scramble for Libyan contracts

While Libya is going through a tough period of post-revolutionary development, after its infrastructure was badly damaged, countries which first bombed Libyan cities are cashing-in on rebuilding them.

They may have helped bring down the house, but they were very careful not to burn bridges. As Libya rises from the ashes of civil war, the countries that poured oil on to the fire are now lining up to cash in by undoing the damage. The belief that Russia benefited a great deal from trading with the Gaddafi regime is very widespread in Tripoli, but it is simply false. In 2010, Moscow was number 17 on the list of Libya's main trading partners, accounting for just 0.4 per cent of its international trade. The countries that had the largest trade volumes with Gaddafi's Libya are precisely the ones that spearheaded the campaign against him – the European Union, the United States and Turkey. And they all are now jostling for contracts to rebuild Libya.American business style is still a bit of an oddity here, but is already catching up. Construction firm owner Richard Peters arrived in Tripoli just before the uprising to seal a multimillion dollar contract with Gaddafi’s government. The war and Peters' subsequent incarceration threw him off track, but now he hopes to make up for it. “I don’t condemn anyone for working with Gaddafi, you didn’t have a choice,” he told RT.For Peters, whose company is also involved in rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan after the US-led invasions, Libya is familiar turf. He even says the country’s business potential may trample all over other post-conflict areas. “There is nothing they don’t need here. These people didn’t have any entertainment all these years. You can imagine building here a little theme park or a Disneyland,” mused Peters.Americans are not the only ones jostling for a foothold. Turkish Airlines was the first to resume commercial flights to Tripoli, and they are now packed with businessmen scouting for opportunities.Even during Gaddafi’s time, Turkey was pretty comfortable doing business in Libya, and was Tripoli’s fourth-largest trade partner last year. But many now hope for even better deals following its early recognition of the rebel authorities. “Definitely, if you have strong political relations it’s good, it will be an instrument for the business,” Yusuf Yildiz, commercial councilor at the Turkish Embassy in Tripoli told RT.The only ones who are so far slow on reclaiming their business interests in Libya are Russia and China. Both countries were vocal in their opposition to the use of force in Libya – a stance that has already backfired. But the ones losing the most are the Libyans themselves. In 2010, their economy grew by about 10 per cent. Reaching anything like that growth now seems as heavy a load as rebuilding the country from scratch.