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Viewing cable 09TRIPOLI223,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TRIPOLI223 2009-03-15 13:01 2011-01-31 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tripoli
VZCZCXRO9804
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHTRO #0223/01 0741318
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 151318Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4615
INFO RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1030
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0716
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 0045
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHVT/AMEMBASSY VALLETTA PRIORITY 0396
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5141
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000223 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EEB (EGAN) AND NEA/MAG; ENERGY FOR GINA ERICKSON, 
COMMERCE FOR NATE MASON; CAIRO FOR TREASURY LIAISON ALEX 
SEVERENS; LONDON AND PARIS FOR NEA WATCHERS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/11/2019 TAGS: ECON ECIN LY ELAB EPET PGOV BBSR PTER

1. (C ) Summary: Secretary of the General People's Committee al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi (PM-equivalent) recently officially opened the first "business incubator" in Tripoli to assist small- and medium-sized businesses (SME's), diversify Libya's petroleum-dominated economy, and reduce the high unemployment rate among Libyan youth. Participants in the Business Incubator program will receive training, such as in preparing business plans, conducting feasibility studies, and access to credit if needed. End note. LIBYA EARMARKS 16 BILLION DOLLARS TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES

2. (C) On March 10, Secretary of the General People's Committee al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi (PM-equivalent) officially opened the first "business incubator" in Tripoli to assist small- and medium-sized businesses (SME's). Also present at the opening were Secretary Matuq Matuq (head of the General People's Committee for Facilities, an agency created in last week's cabinet shuffle reported in Ref B), the director of the National Economic Development Board (EDB), Mahmoud Jibril, as well as members of the diplomatic corps. As part of the Libyan government's efforts to reform and diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons, al-Mahmoudi's EDB has spear-headed the creation of "business incubators" with the hope of reducing unemployment (estimated at 20 percent) and creating opportunities for Libya's unemployed youth. Participants in the Business Incubator program will receive training, such as in preparing business plans, conducting feasibility studies, and access to credit. The incubators will also provide information and communication technology, office space, workshops, business and financial management training, and help entering new markets. (Note: The Embassy is currently working with the EDB to provide technical assistance to the Business Incubator program managers by partnering with the U.S. Department of Commerce's Commercial Law Development Program. See Ref A. End note). In his remarks at the opening ceremony, al-Mahmoudi said the Government of Libya (GOL) had earmarked 20 billion Libyan dinars (about 16 billion USD) for the promotion of small- and medium-sized businesses and for a "Financial Fund" as part of the program. In a follow-up conversation with EDB staff, Econoff asked for more details on the "Fund" but staff said the modalities of how small loans would be disbursed were not yet known. In all, five incubators are planned to be opened nation-wide with some focusing on agriculture and some on industry. They will target new graduates, the unemployed (especially youth), and women. WORKING IN COOPERATION WITH THE EU, TUNISIA, EGYPT, AND JORDAN

3. (C) At the opening ceremony in Tripoli, al-Mahmoudi said that Libya was working in cooperation with the European Union, and bilaterally with Italy, to promote small business development. He noted the recently-ratified Libyan-Italian partnership agreement "required" Italy to open its markets for Libyan goods that would be produced by the new entrepreneurs from the business incubators. He said Libya hoped to exchange experiences in promoting small businesses with neighbors such as Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. The Jordanian organization, Jordanian Expertise House (JEH), is assisting the Tripoli Business Incubator in its early stages. No mention was made of plans for American technical assistance via the Commercial Law Development Plan but this could be because joint-activities are not slated to begin until this coming June. Dr. Mahmoud Jibril of the EDB also made remarks at the ceremony, in which he said the opening of Tripoli Business Incubator represented an important step in preparing youth to run their start-up businesses successfully. He noted the incubators were especially important in oil-producing countries, like Libya, where the culture of self-employment and private initiative was almost non-existent. A change in the "work culture" of Libyan youth would be a great accomplishment of the program, in his view. BUT IT'S NOT THE FIRST TIME LIBYA HAS TRIED THIS

4. (C) At the reception following the ceremony, the German DCM asked whether the incubators would connect Libyan entrepreneurs to foreign companies, noting that many small- and medium-sized German firms were looking for Libyan partners. A member of the EDB staff said this had not figured into the initial plans but that eventually the incubators could serve as a clearinghouse TRIPOLI 00000223 002.2 OF 002 for matching Libyan and foreign SME's. The French Economic Counselor told Econoff that this program was at least the third attempt to assist SMEs in Libya and his predecessor had tried to link the EDB to French organizations that help SMEs by sending Dr. Jibril to France on a study tour. He said this had not been fruitful due to the lack of institutional structures and bureaucratic capacity to help SME's in Libya. POST-CABINET SHUFFLE: AL-MAHMOUDI TRYING TO SHOW RESULTS?

5. (C) Comment: Will the business incubator program succeed? This is not yet clear but it won't be for lack of funding. The reported budget of 20 billion dinars (16 billion USD) is huge but it is unclear as to how it will be allocated and whether some portions will be loans or loan guarantees. Another unknown is how micro-loans would be disbursed given that the Libyan economy is largely cash-based and banks are not widely-used, except for disbursing payrolls. Whether or not the loans would be paid back is another question mark, particularly in a country where loans from state-run banks have traditionally been given based on patronage and where there is no nation-wide credit bureau. The roll-out of the incubator program also coincides with the General People's Congress' decision to postpone al-Qadhafi's much-touted wealth distribution program. The announcement of the incubator program could be an effort to demonstrate that the government will help Libyans in other ways than distributing the country's oil revenues directly to the people. The undertone to the talk of helping unemployed youth is that the regime is under pressure to provide meaningful options for young people lest they turn to extremism and terrorism. Setting up business incubators elsewhere in Libya, particularly around Benghazi, will be especially important there since rates of unemployment are even higher than the nation-wide average of 20 percent, a potential driver of extremism in a region that has historically provided foreign fighters to al-Qaeda in Iraq. End comment. CRETZ