By Monia Ghanmi
Projects to construct public utilities and infrastructure in Libya will start within the upcoming months as per the priorities set for the government.
For the time being, weapons and resolution of the armed militia problem remain the top priorities for Libya’s interim authorities. Tunisian and Libyan companies need to intensify co-operation to win their share of Libya’s reconstruction projects and compete with foreign enterprises.
This was the main message of a two-day Tunis conference which ended on Thursday (December 29th).
“The infrastructure and reconstruction projects that Tunisian contracting companies have executed in Libya throughout the past period attest to the skill and experience of Tunisian cadres in these fields,” said Ali Dhaouadi, manager of the Tunisian-Libyan Economic Chamber.
The Tunisian-Libyan Building and Reconstruction Forum aimed to bring together contractors from both countries, owners of engineering consulting firms and people involved in the building sector so as to boost partnership opportunities between them.
Participants stressed the need to enact transparent and effective laws to encourage Tunisian and Libyan businesspeople to invest in Libya and contribute to the interim government’s reconstruction efforts in the country.
Tunisian contracting companies entered the Libyan market in 2005 and were active until the outbreak of revolution. More than 2,800 Tunisian firms helped build residential units and infrastructure projects. They specialised in electricity, air conditioning, public works, infrastructure, bridges, roads and installations.
To resume their role after the end of the months-long war, these companies will now have to compete with major global companies.
As such, they need to partner and merge in well-structured consortiums, said Abdelhamid Kchir, head of the Libyan Building and Construction Union.
The partnership will be beneficial to the two countries’ economies, he said, as it will strengthen opportunities for these consortiums to win Libya’s reconstruction projects and major deals as well as will boost their chances to compete against giant foreign companies.
Ameur Ali Massroub, Chairman of the Technical Committee in the Libyan Building and Construction Union, stressed the need to remove all structural obstacles that stand in the way between the two countries by reviewing the previous agreements and legislations and establishing new mechanisms governed by transparent laws.
Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) estimated reconstruction costs at $480 billion.
In the meantime, Tunisian building contractors stressed the need to involve them in the first stages of rebuilding and enable them to resume their projects that were halted as a result of the war. They also pressed for compensation for the damages that their projects sustained.
Tunisian firms need to be able to contribute to cleaning cities of war debris and involve Tunisian workers in the fast maintenance work of vital facilities, according to Chokri Idriss, head of the National Union of Building and Public Works Contractors.
Meanwhile, Libyan businessmen invited their Tunisian counterparts to form joint ventures between the two countries.
“We’re ready to deal with our Tunisian brothers,” said Abdel Hafidh Said. “We’re inviting them to come intensively to Libya so that we may work side by side and rebuild our country together.”