15 November 2008

What is Gaddafi up to?

In March of this year, the head of state in Libya, Colonel Muammer Gaddafi, announced that he planned to dismantle most of the ministries of his government, leaving oly interior, defense, and foreign affairs.

With the savings from this radical cost cutting he would distribute money to the common folk. [Gaddafi's history notwithstanding: the proposal would sound good to me were I Libyan -- though I would prefer such enlightened government-reducing measures come about from the grassroots rather than by dictatorial decree.]

A story in The Financial Times yesterday suggests that Gaddafi (I use the FT's spelling of his name) is ready to back away from this proposal, though he is backing away in a typically theatrical manner.

The story says that Gaddafi appeared on television this week to debate the merits of his plan with two of his own government officials: the governor of Libya's central bank, and the prime minister.

The bank governor warned that such a plan would cause inflation and create a balance-of-payments deficit.

The prime minister said that if Libyans are to receive such a payment, they should get it not in cash but in the form of stock in the country's banks, telecomm, and manufacturing companies, through portfolios to be managed on their behalf by its financial institutions.

Gaddafi sounded unpersuaded. Still: why did he feel it necessary to hold such an event? That is what the FT's Heba Saleh tries to figure out.

Her view -- expressed in typical reportotial fashion through quoting and paraphrasing the views of others -- seems to be that there is no enough of a technocracy in Libya that even a Gaddafi can't push through a Grand Plan in defiance thereof. He is preparing to back away frm his plan and, in so doing, he wants his constituents to know that he is doing so with regret.

In the words of Dirk Vandewalle, a Libya specialist who teaches at Dartmouth and whom Saleh quotes: "He is trying to portray a potential setback as a democratic move."

You don't have to be a weatherman to know ....

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.