photo: AP / Jacques Brinon

10 Things the Prime Minister Can Fix Right Now

Today, Libyans await the General National Congress to approve Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s proposed cabinet and take the reins from a temporary government that has failed on an overall scale to provide the most basic necessities that Libyans need to begin the rebuilding stage of their country.  Over a year has passed since the country’s liberation and the government has had no real progress in bringing security or forming a national army and police force. And so, optimistic as ever, the Libyan people anxiously await the beginning of a new phase, a phase where the GNC forms a board to put down a constitution and form laws. In order to succeed in establishing a constitution that the majority of Libyans would accept,  a strong government must work in order to bring much needed stability to the country and allow the GNC to to focus on and carry out the tasks they were elected to do. However, in order for the government to be successful, the Prime Minister must display a strong character and willingness to push himself; the incompetence of the government was not due to a failure of knowledge —there is no shortage of prestigious diplomas and hefty resumes to grace the Congress Building walls—but due to a total lack of action and implementation of said knowledge to benefit the country. There are many things the Prime Minister must consider —no, do— if he is to steer the country towards real development, and very few of them are likely to happen even within the next decade. Here, however, are ten things he is very able to focus on right now:

  1. Strengthen the positions of elected local councils and involve them in the government. Regional sensitivities have not healed yet, and each city seems to be in steady competition with another in voicing grievances of neglect and under-appreciation. The Prime Minister has plenty to deal with and strengthening local councils could help get a lot of smaller issues off of his hands, perhaps into even better ones. Local councils need to be allowed to make their own decisions in certain fields without the consultation of the government.  The Libyan people want and need an end to bureaucracy, and in order to be efficient a local council cannot wait for confirmation from Tripoli to arrive before it can carry out action in a certain field. There would naturally have to be an accountability system that the council would be held to for their actions, but they can only be taken to task for their actions if they’re first given the chance to perform them. Local councils must be made up of dedicated Libyans who could then progress organically through civil positions and eventually be eligible to run for a seat in the parliament.
  2. Have a set plan of action and take initiative in addressing the grievances of the Libyan people, rather than reacting sloppily to expressions of discontent with too-late press conferences and impassive promises. The previous government has been very slow when it comes to taking action. As we have seen the previous government has been, as a certain politician put it “a fire truck at work,” getting involved in the public sphere only when things go up in flames. The Prime Minister must have a clear list of specific rather than general issues and must start setting quick and agile strategies to delegate and tackle these issues as fast as possible rather than waiting for them to escalate.
  3. Security, Security, Security. With all the weapons on the street and in every household problems are just waiting to happen. Perhaps the government could criminalize unlicensed weapons or come up with innovative ways to have citizens hand in their weapons (tip: “innovative” does not mean trading in weapons for cash prizes.) Most of the men holding weapons are jobless and have sacrificed so much for the freedom of this nation. The government needs to provide viable and sustainable career opportunities for these young men if they are to expect any degree of cooperation in weapon returns. Unfortunately, the government’s slow, reactionary attitude has served only to reinforce the idea that violence and uproar are the most productive means to change. People need to be reassured that their efforts have not been hijacked before they will consider relinquishing the weapons that have proven to be their best assets.
  4. Be as transparent as possible. The government would do well to consider having weekly briefings on what has been accomplished in each ministry, as well as inform the people of the obstacles the government might be facing. Not only would this give the public a sense of what sorts of progress they can expect in reasonable time frames,  but it could also serve to unify and empower people who would be capable of alleviating some of these obstacles, if anyone had cared to ask. While the current attempts at social media integration have been novel and exciting, accessibility is not the same as transparency. Keeping people informed eases up the operations of the government and also people would want to help out ease these obstacles for the government in order to see Libya advance.
  5. Be a man of the people. The Prime Minister must come down to the streets whenever the opportunity to do so is available. The people want a Prime Minister who feels their pain and struggle, a person who can come down to the street assure them everything is OK and then prove it. The PM must remember that visiting a large protest that is calling for a certain cause, would have positive implications not only in hearing out the problems these people may face, but also these protesters would feel as if the government cares and the PM himself cares and will personally see to that their demands are considered in the cabinet meetings and delegated quickly to the corresponding ministry.
  6. Honesty: The Prime Minister and his cabinet must be honest with the people. If a mistake is committed then step up and claim responsibility and face the consequences. Own up to your mistakes. Be blunt. Earn the respect of the people. People respect those who take responsibility for their mistakes and work quickly to fix them.
  7. A team is as strong as its weakest link. The Prime Minister must not hold on to weak and incompetent ministers who are failing at their jobs; now is not the time for sheepish formalities. If a minister is repeatedly failing at his/her mission then fire them. We have witnessed this with a particular ministry whose minister was dragged along not only pulling back the progress of the government but the entire nation.  Ministers who oppose you and bring forth debatable reasons are ministers who care about their country and add much-needed dimension to the governing body.
  8. Involve civil society. The Prime Minister must be a man who is willing to work with the civil society accepting their ideas and working upon them. The Prime Minister must have regular or monthly meetings with successful LIBYAN NGOs and other organizations in order to show the appreciation and support of the government towards these people who have devoted their time and effort to helping ease the problems many cities face such as housing of refugees, providing food items to those in need, and providing school bags to children who cannot afford to buy their own. The government must sit down with these organizations and discuss issues and obstacles these organizations may be facing as well as offer financial support for their projects.
  9. Fear Allah more than you fear failure and judicial actions against any mistakes you may commit. A Prime Minister who fears Allah and knows that Allah is watching him in every move and decision as a Prime Minister. Not only will this earn him the respect of the Libyan people but also the respect of the international community as well. The Libyan people are an “Ammanah” (Responsibility) upon you, and you shall be held accountable in front of Allah on the Day of Judgment. Seek fulfillment rather than power.
  10. Remember our martyrs every day. The Prime Minister needs to remember the struggle Libyans have been living for the past 42 years and think of the mothers who have had their sons taken from them and think about how it would feel to walk into his martyr sons room and go through his clothes and the pain many Libyan families—especially the mothers—go through every single day. The Prime Minister must remember the blood that has been shed and tears that have dropped down the cheeks of every mother  and make sure that his number one goal is that the Libyan people will never see another dark day be it another dictator or the killing of another soul.
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