The Libyan economy depends primarily on oil, which contributes 95% to the value of exports. The first fields of commercial importance were discovered in 1955, but the commercialization of crude oil did not begin until 1961. The profits of the oil industry and the large inflow of foreign exchange ensure Libyan citizens one of the highest levels of income. capita of Africa, also due to the small number of the population. The sudden increase in national wealth translated into an improvement in infrastructures and services, which, however, was not matched, at least initially, by an adequate development of the other productive sectors, particularly agriculture. The timid industrial growth which manifested itself in the late 1980s was held back by the socialist policy of M. Gaddafi and subsequently by the isolation due to the heavy economic sanctions applied to the country on the initiative of the USA, convinced of Libya’s involvement in terrorist actions against Western targets. After the suspension of sanctions (2003-04), the Libyan government has shown signs of wanting to undertake a transition towards an economy more based on the market and largely open to the contribution of foreign capital, not only in the petrochemical and infrastructure sectors, but also in other sectors. Overall, the Libyan economic and social picture is better than that of other countries in the area, as is also attested by the position of Libya, in 64th place, in the world ranking relating to the human development index (calculated by the United Nations by combining three particularly significant indicators: life expectancy at birth, 76.9 years; literacy rate, 82.6%; per capita income, $ 12,300 in purchasing power parity [2006 data]). For Libya 2005, please check ehealthfacts.org.
In order to reduce dependence on oil as the only source of income, the Libyan government focuses above all on the development of agriculture; but the difficult climatic conditions and the poverty of the soils (over 95% of the country’s territory is desert) severely limit the productivity of the primary sector, while the concomitant increase in population and incomes leads to increasing food consumption. For self-consumption (the production of food covers just 25% of the needs), barley and wheat are important, as well as tomatoes, potatoes and peanuts, whose productions, like the others, are subject to quantitative fluctuations during the weather. The date palm is the most significant essence of the oases, where there is also a place for vegetable crops, citrus fruits, tobacco, forage plants; in the context of woody crops, the olive and fruit trees have a prominent place. Widespread a little everywhere, the breeding finds the most favorable environmental conditions in Cyrenaica. The patrimony is subject to numerical fluctuations in relation to the quantitative and distributive variations of the rains. The most numerous sheep and goats are followed at a distance by the cattle and camelids. The government gives priority importance to the enhancement of new water resources, in order to expand the cultivated area and ensure food self-sufficiency. To this end, the construction of a pharaonic project, known as in order to expand the cultivated area and ensure food self-sufficiency. To this end, the construction of a pharaonic project, known as in order to expand the cultivated area and ensure food self-sufficiency. To this end, the construction of a pharaonic project, known as Large artificial river, to convey the waters captured by deep groundwater in the subsoil of internal deserts. The network (almost 4000 km) of gigantic underground pipes was designed to transport 5 million cubic meters of water per day and allow to increase the cultivated area (which in 1991 measured 327,000 ha) by over 200,000 ha.
If we exclude oil, the Libyan subsoil has not yet revealed the presence of mineral resources that can be conveniently exploited. The era of oil began with the discoveries of 1955, but only in 1959, from the Zelten field (in the Cyrenaic hinterland), did the first jet of crude oil. Since then the discoveries have followed one another in a chain both in Cyrenaica and in Fezzan and elsewhere. The main fields are located in Mabruk, Hofra, Beda, Zelten, Augila and Serir, connected by oil pipelines with the boarding terminals on the coast (Sidra, Ras Lanuf, Marsa Brega, also equipped with a refinery, ez-Zuetina and Hariga, near Tobruk). Production registered a dizzying increase to reach 162 million tonnes of crude oil in 1970; later, due to the international energy crisis and, later, due to political events, it dropped to less than 50 million tonnes in 1988 (then climbed back to 83.8 in 2006), mostly directed towards Europe. With oil, natural gas is extracted from the subsoil, which a gas pipeline from Raguba-Zelten transports to Marsa Brega, where it is partially liquefied and then exported; another pipeline is in operation between Dahra and Sidra.
With regard to industrial activities, the oil refineries, chemicals, construction and related industries (cement factories) are among the most developed, alongside industries that produce small metal parts, steel pipes, components for electrical systems, sea water desalination systems and power plants. Among the traditional ones, in part already started at the time of the Italian colonization, the processing industries of agro-zootechnical products (food and textiles) have been strengthened, alongside tobacco factories, shoe factories, soap factories etc. Others, of artisanal dimensions, deal with the tanning of leathers, the processing of silverware, the manufacture of carpets and the making of traditional garments.
Land communications are ensured by roads, extended and improved: 25,000 km, of which 8700 are asphalted. The main axis is the coastal road which, built by the Italians and later modernized, extends for 1820 km from the Tunisian border to the Egyptian one; various penetration roads branch off from it (in the service of oil extraction, or for the connections of the most important oases, or directed towards the borders of Chad and Niger). Exports (crude oil and refining derivatives) have their main outlet market in Italy, which absorbs about 40% of the outgoing goods; imports still see Italy in first place. Thanks to the gradual reopening of international relations, tourism is on the rise, directed to archaeological sites (Leptis Magna, Sabratha) and in the desert.