The divergent characters of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) reflect the different roles that they each played during the Qadhafi era.
As the country’s principal source of income it was essential that the NOC remained professional and effective throughout Muammar Qadhafi’s mercurial and unpredictable rule.
By contrast the LIA, only established in 2006, was designed not only as a sovereign wealth fund but also a slush fund that Qadhafi could use to finance his political machinations. Events last week illustrate how these legacies have resulted in two institutions with completely different simultaneous experiences in the same country.
During 2019 Budget negotiations in Tripoli over the last few weeks, the NOC and its chairman, Mustafa Sanalla, have confidently pressed for a greatly enhanced capital expenditure budget for its projects. Sanalla met senior NOC officials — after Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeg announced that NOC will receive US$1.8 billion as part of the 2019 Budget — to discuss progress on the corporation’s mega-project in Benghazi. It includes new administrative facilities for the NOC and an office for the Benghazi branch of the central bank.
The huge project will include an integrated conference centre, heliport, five-star hotel to accommodate IOC executives and a separate IOC investment building. Whenever the discussion has been revived about relocating the NOC’s headquarters from Tripoli to Benghazi the IOCs have always voiced their concerns about the city’s security situation. However, with security conditions in Tripoli deteriorating, Benghazi could become a more attractive location for the IOCs operating in Libya.
By contrast the LIA was dogged last week by accusations that it remained a corrupt institution that had failed to protect and properly invest the wealth of the Libyan people. It is telling that Sanalla has decisively been able to resist any division in the NOC while there are at least three rival chairmen vying for control of the LIA. In the wake of a scandal involving the potential misuse of frozen LIA-associated Libyan assets through Belgian intermediaries, the GNA-affiliated leaders of the sovereign wealth fund announced that it had hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit its financial statements.