Was Gaddafi a dictator? Yes! However, he also had a heart for his country and the world conveniently skips that part every time.
Libya under Gaddafi was not entirely hellish as the world has been made to believe. The citizens did not have the luxury of voting but Gaddafi made sure they had a high standard of living to compensate for curtailed freedoms. Was this enough? That is a moot point but the fact remains: Libya was a great place to stay under Gaddafi (provided one did not try to usurp power).
Under Gaddafi, education and health care were free for all. A response to this claim by Masareef Edareeya, a Libyan citizen claimed the quality of education and health was appalling but that does nothing to the fact that it was free. No system is perfect but most are imperfect and still expensive. Gaddafi made sure his system was subsidised and even Mercy Corps attested to the fact in its Beyond Gaddafi: Libya’s Governance Context. That is more than the so-called “democratic leaders” can say for their countries.
Gaddafi’s government had legislation providing for a grant to newlyweds to buy their first apartment so as to help start a family. Claims are that the process was tedious and bureaucratic to the extent that not many people bothered to follow it through but the $50,000 was there if one followed through. Again Mercy Corps confirmed Gaddafi provided housing for newlyweds. Criticising the grant on grounds of tedious processes is a vindictive trial at attacking every good Gaddafi stood for. It is a personal attack rather than an attack on policy.
The Gaddafi regime embarked on one of modern man’s edifices of development: the Great Man-Made River Project to make water available to the whole country. As is known, Libya is in a desert region and Gaddafi’s plan to ascertain every citizen of access was the Great Man-Made River Project.
Libya was a well-endowed state. To put this into perspective, the self-acclaimed champion of democracy and capitalism, the USA has a debt of over $18 trillion. Libya had none. Enough said.
In 2011, Staveley Head, a UK-based provider of insurance products compiled a list of countries with the lowest petrol prices in the world. China.org.cn reported the listing which put Libya at third position with its low $0,14.
Gaddafi’s Green Book categorically stated, “The house is a basic need of both the individual and the family, therefore it should not be owned by others.” The Green Book was Gaddafi’s bible of political philosophy and had first been published in 1975. He vowed that he would not secure a house for his own parents until every citizen had one.
Women in Libya were free to work and dress as they liked, subject to family constraints. The “dictator” did not impose any particular repressive canon on women and considering the sensitivities of the Arab community to gender roles, this was a big feat. Universal access to primary education was achieved in a relatively short space of time under Gaddafi.
The Human Development Report has been published since 1990 and it is in the report that the HDI is found. The last time the report was released with Gaddafi in power, Libya was ranked 53 of 163 countries with comparable data. The HDI of Arab states was 0,641 while Libya’s was 0,760. Libya was therefore better off than most Arab States. The HDI provides a composite measure of health, education and income. Does being placed above the Arab States average mean all was rosy? By no means! It simply means there were worse countries that the Western “whistle-blowers” did not “rescue”. In 2009, Libya was reported to be on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
This does not need to be qualified. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) confirmed that undernourishment was less than 5% with a daily calorie intake of 3144. This was one “oppressor” whose subjects had enough. With the Great Man-Made River Project, Gaddafi was securing an even brighter agricultural future to feed his nation. Pessimists can be claimed he was feeding citizens for the slaughter.
On 21 February 2011, Gaddafi launched a programme to privatize all Libyan oil to every citizen of Libya. This would initially provide $21,000 to every citizen from a total of $32 billion in 2011 and effectively lead to the dissolution of the ministries of health, education and others to eliminate corruption, theft of oil by foreign companies and to decentralise power.
Was Gaddafi a dictator? Yes. Did he violate the human rights of some citizens? Yes. Did he keep his dead victims in coolers as trophies of his macabre exploits? So they say! However, he also had a heart for his country and the world conveniently skips that part every time. How one man could be such a paradoxical figure is a wonder.
Image Credit: Daily Mail