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Libya faces many structural problems including a lack of institutions, weak governance, and chronic structural unemployment. The economy displays a lack of economic diversification and significant reliance on immigrant labor. Libya has traditionally relied on unsustainably high levels of public sector hiring to create employment. In the mid-2000s, the government employed about 70% of all national employees.

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Libyan Exports Treemap

Unemployment rose from 8% in 2008 to 21% in 2009, according to the census figures. According to an Arab League report, based on data from 2010, unemployment for women stands at 18% while for the figure for men is 21%, making Libya the only Arab country where there are more unemployed men than women. Libya has high levels of social inequality, high rates of youth unemployment and regional economic disparities. Water supply is also a problem, with some 28% of the population not having access to safe drinking water in 2000.

Libya imports up to 90% of its cereal consumption requirements, and imports of wheat in 2012/13 was estimated at about 1 million tons. The 2012 wheat production was estimated at about 200,000 tons. The government hopes to increase food production to 800,000 tons of cereals by 2020. However, natural and environmental conditions limit Libya’s agricultural production potential. Before 1958, agriculture was the country’s main source of revenue, making up about 30% of GDP. With the discovery of oil in 1958, the size of the agriculture sector declined rapidly, comprising less than 5% GDP by 2005.

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Irrigated Crops in Kufra

The country joined OPEC in 1962. Libya is not a WTO member, but negotiations for its accession started in 2004.

In the early 1980s, Libya was one of the wealthiest countries in the world; its GDP per capita was higher than some developed countries.


Libya has had no railway in operation since 1965, all previous narrow gauge lines having been dismantled. Plans for a new network have been under development for some time (earthworks were begun between Sirte and Ras Ajdir, Tunisia border, in 2001-5), and in 2008 and 2009 various contracts were placed and construction work started on a 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge railway parallel to the coast from the Tunisian border at Ras Ajdir to Tripoli, and on to Misrata, Sirte, Benghazi and Bayda. Another railway line will run inland from Misrata to Sabha at the center of a mineral-rich area.

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Road Map of Libya

There are about 83,200 km of roads in Libya, 47,590 km of which are surfaced. 483 out of 1000 Libyans have cars, which is the highest rate in Africa. The best roads run along the coast between Tripoli and Tunis in Tunisia; also between Benghazi and Tobruk, connecting with Alexandria in Egypt. A fairly efficient bus service operates along these routes, with two main bus transport companies. One covers long-distance, international routes, while the other is chiefly engaged in shorter trips between towns. Bus fares are low and the standard of comfort, particularly on international routes is good, with air-conditioned vehicles and good service.

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