By Monia Ghanmi
By Monia Ghanmi
Tunis, October 18, 2011
As war-torn Libya makes a transition toward peace, officials are expressing the need for assistance. Mohamed Abdelkarim El Raaidh, member of the Executive Board of the Libyan Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, asked Tunisian labourers to come to Libya to help rebuild.
El Raaidh called on the Tunisian government to facilitate Tunisian workers’ travel to Libya, so as to give them priority over other foreign labourers. He made his comments at a conference on Libya’s economic ties to Tunisia, which took place in Tunis on October 8th.
“Libya is rich in natural resources and needs the Tunisian human resources. We need them to contribute to the reconstruction of what war destroyed in our country,” he said, adding that Tunisians do not require a visa to work in Libya.
Libya is Tunisia’s second largest trading partner, with $1.25 billion of commercial exchange in 2009, according the African Development Bank.
Before the start of the Libyan revolution, some 200,000 Tunisians were estimated to work in Libya. Tunisian officials see the reconstruction of Libya as an opportunity to relieve some of its unemployed citizens.
Tunisian Minister of Planning and International Co-operation Abdelhamid Triki claimed in August that Libya could support about two hundred thousand entry-level jobs for Tunisians, in addition to some senior-level positions.
Triki added that he believed that Tunisian companies could assist by acting alone or by partnering with foreign firms.
Libya is the “economic lung for Tunisia”, according to Wided Bouchmaoui, Chairwoman of the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade, and Handicrafts (UTICA).
“Everything needs to be rebuilt. We have to win that market again and take advantage of the cultural and geographical proximity,” she said.
Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil previously declared that the countries that had helped the rebels, Tunisia among them, will be given priority in reconstruction deals.
Economics professor Abdeljalil Badri expressed his opinion that the first step in the return of stability to Libya would be the return of Tunisian labour.
Tunisia’s “demographical shortage”, due in large part to its geographical size and extensive natural resources, will “oblige Libya to seek a large labour force to participate in the construction of its infrastructure”, explained Badri.
He added that it is easier for Libyans to communicate with Tunisians and Moroccans and thus Libyans prefer to work with personnel from the Maghreb as opposed to sub-Saharan African or Asian labourers.
“Tunisia should take advantage of this factor if it wants to get the biggest possible number of jobs for its unemployed citizens”, he said.
Some Tunisians are eager to capitalise on the advantages they have getting work in Libya, but hesitate due to the unrest there.
“The Tunisian labour has a good reputation in Libya thanks to its skills and experience. It will be easy for Tunisians to restore their place in the Libyan market again,” said Walid Kssour, who has a diploma in electronics.
Kssour was unable to find in job in Tunisia, but his primary concern is the unrest in Libya. When it ends, he says he will relocate there and look for a job.
He added that the Libyan market presents an opportunity to relieve Tunisian unemployment.