Foreign firms have started to renew their business licences with Libya’s internationally recognised government to keep operating in the country.
In an interview with Reuters, Ali Abdulaziz Issawi, the Tripoli-based economy minister said this could appease Western concerns the Tripoli government will try to suspend oil and other firms as it fights for survival against an offensive by the eastern military forces of Khalifa Haftar
In May, the economy ministry suspended 40 foreign firms, saying their licences had expired, before granting a grace period of three months to seek new ones.
“There are companies working now on renewing their licences in Libya,” he said, adding that French giant Total was among them.
Issawi told Reuters that if a licence did not get renewed, “there are several oil companies to take (over) the oilfields in 24 hours. There is a lot of competition.”
Other firms required to renew their licences include French aerospace firm Thales, German engineering firm Siemens, telecoms equipment firm Alcatel-Lucent, now owned by Finland’s Nokia, and Microsoft. Total is most exposed, with oil operations on the ground.
Issawi also said Libya’s oil production was around 1.25 million barrels a day, in line with previously reported levels.
He also said ports and imports were working normally, adding Libya had four months of wheat reserves and that the Tripoli government would not incur new debt to fund the war, sticking to plans for a deficit-free 2019 budget.
Tripoli derives revenue from oil and gas exports, interest-free loans from local banks to the central bank, and a 183 percent surcharge on foreign exchange transactions conducted at official rates.
Issawi declined to say how much the government had spent on the war effort, but said humanitarian costs could be more than 2 billion dinars (£1.1 billion).