Libya Population and Economy 1984

The constitutional reform of 1977 changed the name of the state to the People’s Socialist Libyan Arab Republic (Ǧamāhīriyya), investing the General People’s Congress with power. The Libya has long claimed a strip of territory (strip of Ūzū) currently under the sovereignty of Chad; the controversy culminated in military actions (1987-88; see below: History), before the countries involved decided to refer the judgment to the International Court of Justice (1990).

The 1984 census attributes to the 46 current administrative districts a total population of 3,637,488 residents (increased to 4,000,000 according to 1990 estimates), with an average density of about 2 residents / km 2. Population growth (over 60% compared to the 1973 survey) is supported by a strong positive natural balance, which is around 2.5% per year. Throughout the seventies conspicuous migratory currents were added, which brought to Libya over 580,000 foreign workers (in particular Arabs and Turks) attracted by the industrialization effort and by public works programs. Later, some economic difficulties and conflicts in international relations led the Libyan government to expel part of these contingents.

The urban population is expanding considerably, especially in the Greater Tripoli area, which now gathers around 1,000,000 residents, and in the agglomeration of Benghazi, which hosts almost 500,000. In addition to these two cornerstones of the productive apparatus and of the trade network, the Mediterranean belt includes seven other centers between 20,000 and 50,000 residents, among which Misrata (Miṣurātah) and al-Bayḍā ’emerge; in the interior only Sabhā is placed at these levels. To rebalance the dominance of the coastal population (and also for strategic reasons), the transfer of administrative powers from Tripoli to Hūn, a small town 650 km south-east of the old capital, was started in 1987.

Economic conditions. – The considerable dependence on oil revenues generated delays in the implementation of development plans when – in the 1980s – crude oil prices fell and the exploitation of resources was more contained. Stormy political relations with some industrialized countries and with neighboring states have also led to economic boycotts and difficulties in accessing technologies essential for development. Government programs place great emphasis on agriculture, which now employs only 15% of the workforce and provides less than 2% of the gross national product. The agrarian reform launched in 1969 has installed 15,000 new owners, but has in no way halted the exodus from the countryside. For Libya business, please check

Despite the efforts, productions stagnate: in 1990 the cereal harvest was just over 3 million q and those of dates and citrus fruits gave about one million q each; no more than 210,000 q of oil were obtained from the olives. The crops of tomatoes (2.2 million q), potatoes and some fruit and vegetables gave more comforting results. Investments in the livestock sector made it possible to bring cattle to 250,000 heads, sheep and goats to 6.8 million, and camels to 193,000; notable results have been achieved especially in the poultry sector, with a view to increasing the availability of meat and eggs. Overall, however, it is estimated that the agricultural sector guarantees just 20 ÷ 30% of the country’s food needs.

The hydrocarbon sector still ensures 97% of exports with an income that in 1990 was estimated at 9 billion dollars; its incidence on the gross national product, however, tends to drop to around 30%. Oil production reached, again in 1990, 67.2 million tons per year (it was 50 in 1988); to support the value of sales, an increasing part of the crude oil is treated in the refineries currently operating (about twenty). A liquefaction plant near Marsa Brega allows large quantities of gas to be sent abroad (7 billion m 3 extracted in 1989). Especially in the vicinity of the oil terminals, numerous chemical factories have been built.

A plant is under construction near Misrata which is expected to produce 1 million tonnes of steel per year from iron ore from the deposits discovered at Wādī al-Šāṭī ‘, about 900 km south of the Mediterranean coast. The cement industry appears to be in great expansion (3 million tonnes in 1988), which supports the considerable program of residential construction and public works with numerous plants (the largest is in Homs).

The industrial apparatus is destined for upgrades and diversifications as the ambitious programs formulated by the Libyan government are completed, which has also paid great attention to communication routes, equipping the country with new asphalted roads (for a total of 8700 km in the 1986), more modern ports and a railway network that should soon reach 3000 km. Numerous foreign companies are involved in such a fervor of realizations, among which the Turkish presence is particularly significant. After the drastic decline in exports to the United States caused by serious political tensions, Italy’s main trading partner remains Italy, which is also the main supplier of capital goods and consumer products.

Libya Population and Economy 1984