Unknotting Father’s Reins in Hope of ‘Reinventing’ Libya

RIPOLI, Libya — Prying open a closed economy is no easy job, especially if the country in question is Libya — a nation that has spent more than two decades with its back turned to the world. It becomes all the more challenging when doing so means taking on the legacy of your father and fighting an entrenched bureaucracy with little interest in serious change.

Yet that is the goal of Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the son and possible successor to Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, as he sets out to dismantle a legacy of Socialism and authoritarianism introduced by his father 40 years ago.

“It is hard work reinventing a country,” he said in an interview last month, as he slouched on a sofa in his villa in the hills above Tripoli, picking at a tray of fruit including fresh dates brought to him by a black-suited waiter. “But that is what we are doing. We will have a new constitution, new laws, a commercial and business code and now a flat tax of 15 percent.”

In the last few years, Mr. Qaddafi, 37, who has a doctorate from the London School of Economics, flawless English and a bold independent streak, has emerged as the Western-friendly face of Libya and symbol of its hopes for reform and openness. When he was nominated last year to lead a powerful government body overseeing tribal leaders, analysts saw it as a sign of his father’s endorsement.

But in Libya’s opaque politics, little is seldom as it appears. And it is far from clear to what extent the younger Mr. Qaddafi’s vision is official policy or wishful dreaming….read more

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