By Essam Mohamed
Libya’s interim government on Wednesday (March 15th) approved a 2012 budget of 68.5 billion dinars (42 billion euros). The bulk of it will be allocated for salaries and subsidies, whereas the rest will go for reconstruction and development, government spokesman Nasser al-Manaa said.
The funds will let the government “put in motion plans and programmes developed by different ministers”, according to al-Manaa.
About 19 billion dinars will be used to pay government wages, whereas 15 billion will go for food and fuel subsidies.
“The government seeks to achieve decentralisation,” he said. “The presidential office will be launching its branch in the city of Benghazi within a few days. Another will be opened in Sabha so as to facilitate communication between the public and the government in those ministries and to limit the need to travel to the capital.”
The National Transitional Council (NTC) is also preparing to transfer some companies and government offices from the capital, the spokesman added.
The interim government met with rebel leaders on Wednesday, where former fighters agreed to hand over control of international airports in Tripoli and Misrata. The Ras Jedir border crossing with Tunisia and Ghadames with Algeria will also come under government control.
In another move to re-take control of the war-scarred country, the NTC took over seven prisons in different cities that can accommodate more than 23,000 inmates.
“The justice ministry hopes to integrate 6,000 rebels in the support unit of the judicial police so as to protect courts and prisons and enable the ministry to resume its work,” al-Manaa said.
At the end of this month, Libya will host a training course on transitional justice in co-operation with the United Nations. About 300 international experts and judges are set to participate.
Concerning federalism, al-Manaa reminded reporters that “no decision had been taken” and that decision-making only “takes place in state institutions and within the framework of the constitution”.
“We appreciate those who propose ideas, and respect the freedom of expression, provided that the decision remains up to the state institutions,” he said.
In terms of reconstruction work, he noted that 80% of the power grid restoration had been completed. Libya is now linked to an electrical connection network. The load for the city of Kufra was restored last week. Moreover, it was agreed to complete 6,500 residential units pending signing the contract, so as to proceed with the restoration of damaged and destroyed cities.
Al-Manaa denied rumours about a possible government reshuffle, saying that the country was “at a critical juncture” and the “NTC is monitoring the performance of the government”.
“We hope to be able to succeed in this supervision role,” he said in response to a question from Magharebia. “We need to stay away from rumours and focus on construction and development. Hopefully, everyone will assume responsibility and concerted effort would manage to bring about the development and stability.”
On the issue of migration, al-Manaa commented that his country was co-operating with “international institutions and discussing with the international community the problem of illegal immigration”.
“The agenda of the ministerial conference on border security, which was held recently in Tripoli, comprised operational co-operation meant to control and prevent illegal immigration,” he specified. “A dialogue was conducted with representatives of the European Union and the United Nations.”
Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim El Keib met with Algerian Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia at the March 9th-10th conference. Al-Manaa said he expected to see intensified visits between the two countries to combat issues of migration and security.
“We need to co-ordinate with Europe and neighbouring countries,” he said.