In response to a request from the then United Nations Commissioner in Libya, the International Monetary Fund in 1950 seconded two of its staff members to advise him on the unification of the Libyan currency in anticipation of independence. Their work in Libya and elsewhere extended over the period from September 1950 to June 1951, and two progress reports were submitted in November 1950 and May 1951. The present paper reproduces their final report to the UN Commissioner in Libya with minor editorial changes. The final report was submitted after several meetings of experts representing the Governments of the United Kingdom, France, Egypt, Italy, and the United States. The current situation to which the paper refers is the situation in the summer of 1951, when the report was completed. An economic survey of Libya was also undertaken by the authors as part of their investigation, since little of the economic information necessary as a basis for their recommendations was then available. This survey is not reprinted because later economic studies of Libya can now be obtained, in particular, the reports of the UN Mission of Technical Assistance to Libya.


In response to a request from the then United Nations Commissioner in Libya, the International Monetary Fund in 1950 seconded two of its staff members to advise him on the unification of the Libyan currency in anticipation of independence. Their work in Libya and elsewhere extended over the period from September 1950 to June 1951, and two progress reports were submitted in November 1950 and May 1951. The present paper reproduces their final report to the UN Commissioner in Libya with minor editorial changes. The final report was submitted after several meetings of experts representing the Governments of the United Kingdom, France, Egypt, Italy, and the United States. The current situation to which the paper refers is the situation in the summer of 1951, when the report was completed. An economic survey of Libya was also undertaken by the authors as part of their investigation, since little of the economic information necessary as a basis for their recommendations was then available. This survey is not reprinted because later economic studies of Libya can now be obtained, in particular, the reports of the UN Mission of Technical Assistance to Libya.

G. A. Blowers and A. N. McLeod *

LIBYA is a country with a small but growing population heavily dependent on agriculture, and with resources that are meager and difficult to develop. The people are almost entirely inexperienced in administration, finance, and industry. Education standards are low. The soil is poor, the rainfall is small, and droughts are frequent. Major droughts have occurred in the western area (Tripolitania) on the average of every 10 years with astonishing regularity, and minor droughts more frequently; the eastern section (Cyrenaica) is less subject to drought, but the cultivable area there is smaller. This combination of circumstances results in a very low per capita income, a low taxable capacity, and a low level of savings.

The devastating effects of the recurring droughts in Tripolitania are dramatically illustrated by the events of 1947 and 1948. In 1946, a good average year, barley production for Tripolitania has been estimated at 125,000 metric tons, of which 36,000 tons were exported. In 1947, a drought year, production totaled only 1,800 tons, and it was necessary to import cereals on a large scale to prevent starvation. In 1948, another drought year, production was only 22,000 tons and further cereal imports were necessary. During these two years of drought, 30,000 tons of grain were issued on loan to the populace, and approximately the same amount was sold for cash by the Administration. During this period some 650,000 people out of a population of only 800,000 received grain loans or some form of relief. By the end of the drought, it is estimated that 40 per cent of the livestock population had perished.

Even the present relatively low standard of living is heavily dependent on foreign support. During the Italian regime (1911-42), there were considerable military expenditures and extensive colonization schemes, which meant relatively large capital expenditures financed from Italy. During World War II military expenditures sustained the population, and since then the Administering Powers (Britain and France) have subsidized the local governmental budgets. Military expenditures by the Administering Powers and their allies have also continued since the war, though on a reduced scale. Even so, the importance of foreign support, in the form of governmental subsidies, local expenditures for military purposes, etc., is striking. Such support amounts to perhaps one fifth of the national income; it is roughly equal to the total value of all exports, and indeed in some years has exceeded the value of exports. Even this understates its importance in some respects, however, for the large-scale cereal imports during the drought years would have been impossible without foreign aid; various relief measures cost the Administering Powers about £1 million during this period. Since this foreign support represents a substantial invisible export, Libya’s balance of payments shows a large deficit on merchandise trade account. In fact, Libya has a deficit on merchandise trade with most of the countries with which she trades; exceptions are Greece and Malta, and, in some years, Italy.

The present administrative arrangements in Libya have arisen largely out of the war. Cyrenaica, the eastern part, and Tripolitania, the western coastal area, are administered by the United Kingdom, as a result of the successful campaign of the British Eighth Army which drove the Axis forces from this area in the winter of 1942-43. These two regions are administered quite independently, however, because their centers of population are effectively separated by several hundred miles of desert. The Fezzan, the southwestern section, is administered by the French; the Free French, under General Leclerc, liberated this area in their historic march northward from Lake Chad. Three separate currencies circulate in these areas. In Tripolitania there is the Military Authority Lira. In Cyrenaica the Egyptian pound circulates, this unit having been brought in by the troops of the Eighth Army. In the Fezzan the Algerian franc is the currency unit.

Money and Banking


Prior to World War II the Italian metropolitan lira circulated in Libya; there is no information available on the amount of currency held within the territory, as it was not distinguished from the total Italian circulation. 1 Some banking statistics are available, however.

At that time there were branches of four Italian banks operating in Libya (Banca d’Italia, Banco di Napoli, Banco di Sicilia, and Banco di Roma), together with the Savings Bank of Libya (formed in 1935 by the amalgamation of the Savings Banks of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica) . There was also a small local institution, Banca Populare di Tripoli, with deposits of about 1 million lire. The activities of the five major institutions in Libya up to 1938 are summarized in Table 1; complete data are not available for the other banks, but by 1941 deposits at the Savings Bank had risen to 201.9 million lire, compared with 87.4 million in 1938.

Table 1.

Investments and Deposits of Libyan Banking Institutions, 1934–38

(In millions of Italian lire)

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Source: Unpublished data supplied by the Banca d’Italia.

Mostly arising from commercial transactions.

Including loans to public entities.

Excluding the investments of the Savings Banks of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica for 1934 and 1935, for which no figures are available, though deposits of these institutions are included in total deposits.

All the former Italian banks have remained closed since the occupation. Immediately prior thereto they had paid over all their cash to various institutions in accordance with the orders of the then Vice-Governor, and thus had no funds with which to reopen. A limited staff has remained in Tripoli for administrative purposes, but their buildings have been taken over and used by the Administering Powers. Their deposit liabilities have not been freely available to their customers, but nevertheless they have been liquidated to the extent of over 70 percent in various ways, as can be seen from Table 2, which shows a decline from 517.9 million lire on January 23, 1943 to 148.5 million at the end of 1950 (equivalent to about £90,000 at present rates of exchange). This has come about mainly by the Italian offices of the banks honoring their obligations for repatriates.

Table 2.

Libyan Banking Institutions’ Lira Deposits in Italian Banks, 1943–50

(In millions of Italian lire)

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Note: Because of rounding, detailed figures may not add to the totals shown.

Circulating and Ordinary checks on which the bank says it is still liable.

Excluding the Banca Populare, which had 1,122,000 lire in outstanding deposits on January 23, 1943 and 1,120,000 on December 31, 1950. Also excluded are check liabilities of the other banks.

As of November 30, 1950.

n.a=not available.

The currency now circulating in Tripolitania is the Military Authority Lira (MAL), having an exchange value equal to an English halfpenny (480 to the pound sterling). It was originally issued in exchange for the Italian lira on a one-for-one basis. At the beginning of the British occupation early in 1943 the British Military Administration Pound was introduced, but the metropolitan Italian lira was allowed to continue in circulation at the arbitrarily fixed exchange rate of 480 to the pound sterling. Beginning on September 15, 1943, however, the Military Authority Lira was introduced. The British Military Administration Pound and the metropolitan lira were retired, ceasing to be legal tender in the territory on November 30, 1943. In order to meet the need for small change, however, denominations of five lire or less were permitted to continue in circulation, being accepted at their face value as equivalent to Military Authority Lire. As of December 31, 1946, some 363.4 million Italian lire had been withdrawn from circulation, including about 1.2 million in denominations of five lire and under, which are still legal tender. Since then a further net reduction in the circulation of these small denominations has occurred, amounting to about another 1.2 million lire. The Italian currency so withdrawn was directly or indirectly used by the military authorities in financing the Italian campaign. What is in effect a 100 per cent reserve in sterling is kept against the MAL, in the form of a British Government deposit with the Bank of England in London. It is estimated that the circulation of small Italian coins does not exceed £2,500 to £3,000.

The commercial banking system is going through a process of reorganization. A branch of Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas) was opened in April 1943 in the premises of the Banco di Roma, but operations have been very limited. It deals in foreign exchange and receives deposits from the Administration, from the military, and from civilians. Loans granted are very small relative to deposits, and a substantial portion of them consists of agricultural loans carrying a guarantee of 85 per cent from the Administration. Plans are well advanced for the opening of other banks, however. Proclamation No. 211, published in the Tripolitania Gazette of November 15, 1950 and effective that same date, details the conditions under which banks may operate in Tripolitania. It is understood that at least three of the former Italian banks will apply for permission to reopen, although some or all of them may pool their resources in a single Libyan institution. In addition, it is understood that the Arab Bank will apply to open a branch in Tripoli, and possibly some other banks with head offices in Arab countries.


In Cyrenaica the Egyptian pound, which had been used to pay the British Eighth Army while operating from bases in Egypt, was introduced at the time of the occupation late in 1942 and early in 1943. Throughout the first nine months of 1943, the Italian lira was accepted for the purchase of foodstuffs, that is, for the majority of the payments made by the local populace to the Administration, as at that time lire were required by other branches of the Army and the amounts acquired in Cyrenaica were easily disposed of. Beginning in September 1943 the percentage of payments for foodstuffs acceptable in lire was gradually reduced, the remainder being payable in Egyptian currency. Italian lire in denominations of 50 lire and less (later reduced to denominations of 10 lire and less) continued to be accepted because of the shortage of small change. Late in 1944 an attempt was made to require all payments to the Administration to be made entirely in Egyptian pounds. This proved unenforceable at the time, but the change was made effective from October 1, 1945 without serious difficulty; as of September 30, 1945, some 437.8 million Italian lire had been withdrawn. 2 The shortage of small change in Egyptian currency continued, and limited amounts of Italian money in denominations of one to ten lire continued to circulate. The lira had been revalued at 500 to the Egyptian pound for this purpose, although by December 1945 the rate of exchange in open markets was 1,500 to the Egyptian pound. By 1947 the Italian lira had practically ceased to circulate in the territory.

It is of course impossible to determine with accuracy the amount of currency in circulation in Cyrenaica, since there is no way of distinguishing it from the general circulation of the Egyptian pound. For 1950 the Cyrenaican Ministry of Finance estimates that it was somewhere between 750,000 and 1,500,000 Egyptian pounds, but banking circles put the figure at between 750,000 and 1,000,000 pounds.

In Cyrenaica, as in Tripolitania, the only banking institution in operation is a branch of Barclays Bank (Dominion, Colonial and Overseas). Its lending operations are small, its principal activities being the handling of exchange transactions and the administration of deposit accounts. A general banking law is in the early stages of being drafted. There is no prospect of any of the former Italian banks reopening under its own name in the territory, although it is possible that one or more may wish to resume operations through the agency of an Arab organization. It is also understood that the Arab Bank plans to open a branch in Cyrenaica, and other banks from Arab countries may do likewise.

The Fezzan

In the Fezzan area the Algerian franc (equal in value to the franc of metropolitan France) circulates. No data are available on the amount in circulation in the area, but the population is so small in numbers and has such a low standard of living that the amount cannot be large. There are no bank facilities other than those offered by the postal savings system. It is understood, however, that the postal savings system is extensively used for remittances of money arising out of trade with Tunisia, Algeria, and the Chad.

The Problem

As we saw Libya’s situation in the fall of 1950 (and our subsequent work has confirmed our opinion), dependence on foreign support was the major factor in determining the well-being of the economy, and would remain so for the immediate future at least. If this support were withdrawn, or if Libya chose to reject it, and the country was forced to live on its own resources, it would necessarily revert to a “camel economy.” Such a retrogression would lead to terrible hardship in Libya, especially if the change were to occur suddenly. It would make it impossible to establish any orderly government or economic stability for years to come. A large portion of the urban population would have to seek homes abroad or return to a seminomadic rural life or perish. Undoubtedly, a major part of the public and private capital investments made during the past generation would be a complete loss. Nevertheless, we felt that with aid there were prospects that Libya might eventually become self-supporting. Much could be done to improve productive methods, thus raising real income; a substantial increase in the real income would raise the taxable capacity and would increase the amount of savings, from which further development programs could be financed.

The problem, therefore, resolved itself into three parts: (1) maintaining the existing levels of production and real income, (2) the initiation and carrying through of a development program which would enable Libya to become economically as well as politically independent at some future date, and (3) provision for the building up of reserves to carry the country through periods of drought.

The first part of the problem, i.e., the minimum aim of simply maintaining the economic status quo, would require outside aid in excess of what was then being received. This seemed to be so because:

(1) While there might be a continued increase in governmental revenues resulting from present tax rates through improved collections, and perhaps through gradually increasing tax rates, it could not be expected that over-all tax revenues could on the average greatly exceed those for the fiscal year 1950-51 which promised to be exceptionally favorable.

(2) Immediately upon becoming independent, the people of Libya would have to bear the expenses of three additional legislative bodies, that is, the central legislature and the legislatures of Tripolitania and the Fezzan. Undoubtedly, also, there would be additional expenses in connection with an expanded executive and judiciary, a diplomatic corps, and other necessary trappings of a sovereign state.

(3) The administrations had operated until very recently on a care and maintenance basis, resulting in an accumulation of depreciation which should be made good.

(4) The technical assistance programs of the United Nations and the United States, if they were to have any meaning and bear fruit, would have to result in increased government expenditures for schools, health, and agricultural extension work. There were some 50,000 children in school in Tripolitania, while the development of a sound democracy would require that there be 100,000 to 200,000.

The second part of the problem was to apply foreign financial assistance in a way which would ultimately make such aid unnecessary. It seemed unlikely that sufficient capital for this purpose would be forthcoming from Libyan savings, which are small and are usually held in the form of stocks of grain or precious metals as a protection against the possibility of bad harvests, or in the form of increases in flocks and herds. The combination of relatively high population increase, low national income, and meager national resources (and even these expensive to develop) makes the cost of development in terms of the percentage of the national income which must go into capital formation prohibitive. This is so even if the development program is designed only to maintain, not to improve, the standard of living. If this deficiency is met by sufficient foreign financing for the necessary capital expenditures, there would nevertheless remain the problem of carrying through the development program in the face of an almost complete absence of trained personnel to carry out the tasks involved. Indeed, this problem of personnel might prove to be a more serious limitation than the problem of finances. Without trained indigenous personnel, capital from external sources might either be wasted or result in damaging dependence on foreign skilled workers and managers. The solution of this problem would call for careful planning over a very long period, with the emphasis for the first fifteen or twenty years on an extensive educational and training program. While a corps of skilled workers, managers, entrepreneurs, and administrators was being built up, the best that could be expected of the Libyan Government would be that it maintain the existing standard of living. This would mean some increase in production to keep pace with the population increase. There is no quick and easy way to raise the production level and living standard of the people of Libya. Indeed, to raise hopes of a spectacular transformation would only invite disillusionment. The nomadic population in particular cannot be hurried, and the process of settling considerable numbers of them as respectable cultivators will require a considerable period of time.

Finally, it seemed of utmost importance that some provision be made to create a reserve fund to ensure grain supplies during severe droughts. Since Libya would require outside aid even in good years, it followed that she would require additional aid when the failure of her crops resulted in insufficient grains for home consumption. We felt very strongly that provision to meet such a certain contingency should be made in advance. To leave it until the emergency existed might mean that aid would be tardy and would give the Libyans an undue sense of dependence upon the charity of others.

We felt that these problems and the problem of the currency should be treated together, for there would be little use in instituting a currency, however sound, if the economic conditions were such that the economy itself was unstable. Unless adequate institutional provision is made for meeting economic crises, one of the first things that is likely to happen when difficulties arise is that the monetary reserves will be raided.

Faced with this situation, there were a number of possibilities that suggested themselves to us. No institutional set-up can change the basic realities of the Libyan economy; however, well-chosen institutions can do a great deal to mitigate the harmful effects of sudden changes in the economic situation. One possibility would have been to establish a central bank. Other countries, including many countries as dependent on foreign trade as Libya, have achieved considerable success in adopting internal monetary policies to offset the effects of cyclical and other changes in their economic conditions. In Libya’s case, however, we felt that this would be unwise at the present, partly because the people have had no experience in managing their own financial institutions. The currencies that have circulated in Libya for generations have been foreign currencies, and the banks have been branches of foreign banks. Successful central bank policies require skilled and experienced management which Libya could not provide; unwise or incautious policies may be worse than the ills they attempt to cure. On the other hand, it would be highly inadvisable in a new sovereign state to establish a central bank that would be controlled by foreign interests. Nevertheless, we do expect that a central bank will eventually be established in Libya. We would not hazard a guess as to how soon this might occur, for it will depend on the growth of the economy and on the financial aptitude of the people. In general, however, it may be said that the establishment of a central bank will come naturally when the growth of the banking system is such that conscious coordination becomes necessary between the policies of the currency authorities, the treasury, and the authorities responsible for the supervision of banks. For the present, a central bank could accomplish nothing that could not be done equally well and with less risk in other ways.

The Libyan economy calls for a simple monetary system. The main difficulty with most simple systems, however, is that they are too rigid—they tie the money supply too rigidly to the fortunes of the balance of payments. Our proposals for a unified currency are made with all these points in mind. As a result of our meetings and the exchange of views which we have had with the officials of various Powers interested in Libya, we are assured that the reasonable budgetary deficits of Libya will be covered by subventions without resort to deficit financing. We also feel assured that adequate assistance will be given to finance a development program which should provide for the public and private capital that Libya can absorb and which should eventually make her self-sufficient. Finally, we feel assured that Libya will be assisted to provide adequately for meeting the recurring droughts. Our aim, therefore, has been to devise a currency scheme which would meet what we consider to be the main problem of the next generation, that of holding the economy together while the necessary human resources can be developed. We believe that our proposals, with their clearly anti-inflationary bias, will provide the necessary financial stability during the tedious period of slow and cautious development which lies ahead. Under these circumstances, we can see no advantage in recommending a fractional reserve system when the amount which could thus be freed for other purposes is probably less than the anticipated annual deficit on current account.

Our recommendations may be briefly summarized as follows:

(1) The currency unit should be equal in value to four shillings sterling, or US$0.56, and should be divided into 100 parts. Notes would be issued in denominations of 500, 100, 50, 10, 5, and 1 unit, and coins struck in denominations of 0.50, 0.10, 0.05, and 0.01; but the Currency Authority should have power to withdraw any of the denominations or to issue others, as the needs of trade determine.

(2) The par value of the currency unit should be defined as 0.497 656 grams of fine gold.

(3) Administration of the system should rest with a Currency Authority domiciled in Libya and composed in part of Libyan nationals and in part of foreign experts. Meetings might be held outside Libya at the Authority’s discretion, however.

(4) The currency should be on an exchange standard. At least 75 per cent of the reserves should be made up of sterling, gold, and convertible currencies (as defined in Article XIX (d) of the Fund’s Articles of Agreement), and not more than 10 per cent of the total should be in any one soft currency, other than sterling.

(5) A 100 per cent reserve in foreign exchange should be maintained at all times.

(6) An institution or institutions should be established to finance economic development and to operate a stabilization scheme to maintain income during periods of drought. This institution should be financed by annual grants from nations having a particular interest in the development of a strong Libya, with respect to the capital needed for long-term development involving expenditure that would yield little or no direct return. It should also have sufficient subscribed capital for financing medium- and long-term private capital expenditures on a commercial basis.

Recommendations for a Unified Currency for Libya

The monetary unit

We have found that such thinking on currency matters as has occurred in Libya is centered around a currency unit approximately equal to the pound sterling and divided into 1,000 millièmes, as in Egypt and Iraq. This preference is clearly and expressly based on a desire to have a unit approximately equivalent to that of other Arab and sterling area countries. If the Libyans, themselves, decide that a one-millième coin would be of real use, there would be this psychological advantage in adopting a pound-millième system. We feel, however, that the advantage would be short-lived and would apply only to the initial period. For the expected long life of the currency, it would saddle the people of Libya with a cumbersome and expensive currency. If the unit were equal in value to the pound sterling or the Egyptian pound, a wide range of fractional notes and coins would be required. This would create a difficult problem of striking coins or printing notes for the fractional issue which would be serviceable but not too expensive.

When the Egyptian pound was devised, prices were much lower and the division of the pound into millièmes was necessary. At that time the millième had real purchasing power and was a useful coin. Our investigations, however, have led us to the opinion that the millième is too small a minimum unit to be useful in Libya. In some Arab countries where coins of that value are minted, the shopkeepers and other businessmen simply refuse to accept them. In Tripolitania, it appears that there is little demand for anything smaller than the present MAL, which is approximately equal to two millièmes. In Cyrenaica, the smallest coin commonly met with is the five-millième piece. We were given to understand that nothing could be bought for one millième, though a two-millième piece would have useful purchasing power. In the Fezzan, we did find some use of coins as small as one Algerian franc, which is very close in value to a millième, and even smaller coins. In some cases, we found that small amounts of foodstuffs were actually offered in Arab markets for one franc. In other areas, however, where the standard of living was actually considerably lower, we found that the smallest purchasable unit was priced at five francs. We therefore feel that withdrawal of the one-franc piece and fractional coins would probably not cause any hardship, and that a minimum unit equal to about two millièmes or one MAL would meet the needs of all areas in Libya. If the minimum unit is too small, the tendency is to use the next higher denomination, which usually works to the advantage of the shopkeeper and to the disadvantage of the poorest buyers.

Having reached the conclusion that the minimum unit should be equal in value to two millièmes, it follows that a division into 100 parts, instead of 1,000, is necessary and desirable for the major unit. If the minimum unit were equal to two millièmes and were one thousandth of the major unit, the major unit would then be equal to two Egyptian pounds, which, in our opinion, is too large. The populace is familiar with a unit which is divided into 100 subunits. The Italian lira, which circulated in the whole territory for the past forty years, and the Turkish currency, which preceded it, were both divided into hundredths. Even the Egyptian pound, which has circulated in Cyrenaica since the war, is divided into 100 piastres, and the pound is little more than a useful name for 100 piastres.

We have based our recommendation concerning the size of the unit entirely upon considerations of convenience to the majority of those who will be using it. The argument that the Libyan unit should be approximately equal in value to those of neighboring countries carries little weight. First, the Libyan unit cannot be equal in value to both the Egyptian pound and the Algerian franc since these two are not identical in value. No matter what value of the unit is decided upon, computations of equivalents will be necessary for a substantial part of the country’s trade. Second, the establishment of a close relationship, by making the Libyan unit of the same value as the Egyptian pound or the pound sterling, is no guarantee that through the years they will remain at equivalent values. As a matter of fact, it may be undesirable to keep them equivalent in value because differences may develop in the economies or trade positions of the two countries. Third, it may create an unnecessary and unwise bias for keeping them equal in value. Such a bias may at some time in the future lead to a devaluation of the Libyan currency simply because the Egyptian pound (or sterling, as the case may be) is devalued and even though there may be no economic reason for devaluing the Libyan currency.

We have therefore come to the conclusion that the most suitable and convenient size for the currency unit would be one having a value equal to four shillings sterling, or US$0.56, and approximately equal to 200 Egyptian millièmes. We further recommend that this unit should be divided into 100 parts, each having the value of approximately two millièmes. We would suggest that currency notes be printed in denominations of 500, 100, 50, 10, 5, and 1 unit. The large note we believe is necessary since checks are not widely used. Coins in the denominations of 50, 10, 5, and 1 subunit should be struck from an alloy of 12 per cent nickel, 65 per cent copper, and 23 per cent zinc. This gives an attractive, serviceable white coin without requiring an undue amount of nickel which is expensive and in very short supply. The Currency Authority, however, should be empowered to withdraw any of the denominations of notes or coins, or to issue others, as the needs of trade may require. The alloy composition of the coinage should also be variable at the discretion of the Authority, because the availability of various metals may change from time to time and improved alloys may be developed.

It seems to us that the unit we have proposed would exchange at least as conveniently as any other unit that has been proposed, both in respect of the replacement of the three currencies now circulating in Libya and in respect of subsequent trade with neighboring territories or, in fact, Libya’s international trade in general. In addition, it would tend to produce a modest price reduction at the time of conversion. One unit of this currency would be given to the general public by the agents of the Currency Authority in exchange for 96 MAL in Tripolitania, 195 millièmes in Cyrenaica, and 196 francs in the Fezzan. No one would lose anything on the transfer, for exact change would be made down to the equivalent of one MAL or two millièmes or two francs. On the other hand, the tendency would be for merchants who formerly quoted an article at, say, 100 MAL, to quote the same article at 1.00 of the new unit, which would really be equivalent to only 96 MAL—representing a tendency toward a reduction of 4 per cent in the price the public would have to pay. Similarly, articles formerly priced at LE 1.000 in Cyrenaica or 1,000 francs in the Fezzan would tend to be priced at 5.00 new units, equivalent to only 975 millièmes or 980 francs in the old currency. Much the same effects would occur if the new currency were equal in value to the pound sterling (for example, the tendency would be to replace a price of 500 MAL with one of £1.000, equivalent to only 480 MAL), but the public in Tripolitania would probably face a price increase if a currency equal in value to the Egyptian pound were introduced. In that case the tendency would be to replace a price of, say, 1000 MAL by a price of LE 2.000, which is equivalent to about 1,025 MAL.

We have not made a firm proposal for the name of the new Libyan currency unit. Suggestions that have been made for the main unit include dinar, rial, geeni, and gherusc; and, for the subunit, bara (or para) and piastre. There might be something to be said for a name embodying the root of the word “Libya,” as a distinctive appellation befitting the currency of a new state. We feel, however, that the name should be chosen by the Libyans themselves.

Definition of par value

The par value of the currency unit should be 0.497 656 grams of fine gold. We strongly recommend that the Libyan currency be defined in terms of gold rather than in terms of sterling or any other currency even though the obligation to redeem the currency should be limited to an undertaking to deliver the currency in which the major portion of the reserve is held. This is in line with the standard practices agreed upon by members of the International Monetary Fund. It also leaves the country free to make its own decision on depreciating or appreciating its currency if the currency in which reserves are held is depreciated or appreciated, giving Libya the same equality of status in the monetary field as independence will bring in the political field. This freedom may be quite limited in practice if Libya’s trade is heavily concentrated in the sterling area, as seems quite likely, but it may be of real significance nevertheless. For example, when sterling was devalued in 1949, the Egyptian Government promptly devalued its currency by the same amount even though the two currencies were formally independent. At the same time, however, Ethiopia decided to maintain the gold value of its currency, and weathered an extensive domestic deflation to accomplish this result. A further interesting contrast is provided by the cases of India and Pakistan; the Indian rupee was devalued to the same extent as sterling, whereas the value of the Pakistan rupee was not changed. Without entering into the economic arguments for and against the policies pursued by each of these countries, the point we wish to make is that they were able to make their own decisions according to their own evaluation of the best interests of their countries.

Composition of Libyan Currency Authority

The management of the Libyan currency should be in the hands of a Currency Authority composed of both Libyans and foreigners. An Authority composed wholly of Libyans is undesirable because of their financial inexperience. On the other hand, an Authority wholly composed of foreigners would deny to the Libyans the privilege of a voice in the management of their currency and thus opportunity for some of their nationals to gain experience and develop toward financial maturity. It would be our recommendation, therefore, that two Libyans, to be designated by the King or the King-Designate, should be members of the Authority. They should be selected from officials who are taking part in day-to-day Libyan financial affairs and who enjoy the complete confidence of their people. The development of well-rounded experience among the high officials of the Government is almost as important an objective as providing for a voice by the Government in the management of the currency. Foreign representation on the Authority should consist of three members of British nationality and one each of Egyptian, French, and Italian nationality. The foreign members should not be responsible to or represent their respective Governments but should serve as independent experts; preferably, they should be named by their central banks and should be men of broad financial experience. We would further recommend that the Chairman be elected by the members of the Authority but that the first Chairman be elected from among the U.K. members. The Currency Authority would, therefore, consist of eight members. It would be highly desirable to keep the number of members to a minimum, and an Authority of as many as eight members is recommended only because of the multinational character of the aid which we expect to be extended to Libya.

Domicile of the Currency Authority

The issuance and control of the currency of a country is one of the most important and visible adjuncts of sovereignty. We feel, therefore, that the Authority logically should be legally domiciled in Libya. We are fully aware of the inconvenience this would cause some of the foreign members. We are also aware of the desirability of having the members in constant touch with the investment market of the country in which the major portion of the reserves is held. However, there are important psychological advantages in having the Authority domiciled in Libya. The successful issuance of a new currency is as much a matter of psychology as of finance. In a new small country it should be made as much a personal matter as possible, and this personal touch might be lost if the control of the currency were abroad. No single factor could be more important to the economic life of a community than the establishment of a sound currency, and no factor can be more important to the success of a new currency than the pride and confidence felt in that currency by the people using it. This can best be achieved and maintained if the public through its officials has some contact with Authority members. Secondly, a new Government will be most jealous of its prerogatives and will most certainly desire that the management of its currency be at home. It would, therefore, be our strong recommendation that the Currency Authority be legally domiciled in Libya. During the early stages it will undoubtedly be necessary for the Authority to meet frequently in order to resolve problems in connection with the printing of notes, minting of coins, and the issuance of the currency. Since the minting and printing will probably be done in London, it would seem inescapable that meetings be held in that city from time to time. We would suggest, therefore, that the Authority have full discretion concerning the place at which meetings will be held. The initial meeting could then be held in Libya where the members could themselves decide the place at which following meetings should be held. We would strongly recommend that the currency law provide that the annual meeting at least must take place in Libya.

Composition of reserves

We believe that the Currency Authority should be given some discretion to determine from time to time what currencies are eligible for reserve purposes, for the following reasons:

(1) The usability and the degree of hardness or softness of currencies, even in the case of the currencies of great trading nations, are subject to considerable and sudden change in the world of today. Therefore, legislation which designated any particular currency as the only one in which reserves could be held might soon get out of date and might prevent the Authority from acting in the best interests of the country for whose currency it is the guardian.

(2) The MAL circulating in Tripolitania will be redeemed by the delivery of sterling exchange, as will most if not all of the Egyptian pounds circulating in Cyrenaica. The Algerian francs circulating in the Fezzan will probably be redeemed in French metropolitan francs. Thus, although most of the reserve at the beginning will consist of sterling, and although it may prove advantageous to maintain all or most of the reserve in sterling in the future, nevertheless a substantial portion of it may be in other currencies (francs and Egyptian pounds), temporarily at least.

(3) There is a further problem of working balances. At the moment, working balances are held entirely in sterling by the banks operating in Tripolitania, and in Egyptian pounds by the banks in Cyrenaica. These banks have to go to the London market for all other currencies. In the future, however, the Currency Authority may find it necessary or desirable as a service to the community to hold working balances in currencies other than sterling, quite aside from the special situation that will exist during and immediately after the period in which the present circulation is replaced.

It will be perceived that the question of the composition of the currency reserve is closely related to the question of Libya’s future relationship to the sterling area. If she should become a member, she would have access to the sterling area pool of foreign currencies, and the need to hold working balances in other currencies would disappear or be greatly reduced. In the normal course of events, she would hold all her currency reserves in sterling. Libyan membership in the sterling area, however, is a matter to be decided by the Libyan Government at a later date, in the light of the conditions then obtaining. 3 We recommend that the laws, decrees, or proclamations establishing the currency system should be drawn up so that they would serve equally well whether Libya joins the sterling area or not.

Even if Libya does not decide to join the sterling area, she may, of course, choose to hold all her reserves in sterling. These matters, however, should be decided by the Libyan financial authorities as questions of policy, and should not be stipulated in the currency law. In practice, the discretion Libya will be able to exercise over the composition of her currency reserves may prove to be strictly limited, for she has a deficit in her visible trade with almost every one of her trading partners, and her balance of payments position is heavily dependent on subsidies from and other invisible trade with the present Administering Powers, but we feel that it is a desirable element of flexibility that should be included in the currency law.

We recommend, therefore, that the currency law provide that 75 per cent of the reserves be held in sterling and/or convertible currencies (as defined in Article XIX (d) of the Fund’s Articles of Agreement) and/or gold. The remaining 25 per cent might be held in currencies of Libya’s trading partners, with the proviso that no soft currency (other than sterling) could be held to the extent of more than 10 per cent of the currency reserve. In the case of soft currencies being held by the Authority for other than working balance purposes, we would strongly urge that they obtain from each Government concerned a guarantee of the exchange value of its currency in relation to the currency in which the major portion of the reserves is held or in relation to gold or dollars. The Currency Authority should be permitted at its own discretion to invest all or part of the reserves held in any given currency in securities issued or guaranteed by the Government of the country concerned, subject to prior approval by that Government.

One hundred per cent reserves

We emphatically recommend that reserves of 100 per cent in foreign exchange be maintained for the new Libyan currency. Such a reserve position will arise automatically from the initial replacement of the present circulation, and we believe that it should be continued as a matter of policy. We understand that the United Kingdom is willing to advance funds to cover the cost of printing notes, minting coins, organizing the Currency Authority, and issuing the currency. The first charge on the earnings from the investment of the reserves would be to defray the current operating costs of the Authority (which would be small) and to repay the advance from which the initial expenses were paid. Disposition of any further earnings should be at the discretion of the Currency Authority, but it would be our recommendation that they accrue to the account of the Libyan Government to be used for development purposes.

This recommendation, however, is made on the explicit understanding that it is linked with our recommendations concerning external financial assistance to Libya, as detailed in the next section of this Report. Specifically, it assumes (1) that Libya will receive an annual budgetary subsidy from abroad sufficient to maintain a satisfactory level of governmental services; (2) that she will have external financial assistance in building up a Stabilization Fund to combat the effects of the recurring droughts; and (3) that she will have access to foreign capital on moderate terms and in amounts commensurate with her ability to absorb it profitably. In the London and Geneva meetings with representatives of several countries interested in the welfare of Libya, assurances were given that adequate aid will be forthcoming for all three purposes. Were this not so our recommendations would be quite different, not only in respect of the 100 per cent reserve provision but also in other respects, in order to meet Libya’s basic monetary needs as fully as possible under the circumstances. It is our strong conviction, however, that assurance of outside help for the purposes indicated produces a situation in which the wisest course is to maintain currency reserves of 100 per cent. This will ensure a sound currency, and will inspire the confidence in it which is so desirable in the case of a new country desirous of economic development, and at the same time will ensure an adequate elasticity of response to changing economic conditions.

We are fully aware of the criticisms that may be leveled at a 100 per cent reserve system. In our opinion many of these criticisms are exaggerated, and in any event we do not feel that they add up to a good case against the system as it will apply in Libya. In particular we question the fear that such a system will produce deflationary pressures in an expanding economy. Basically the argument is that an expanding economy is characterized by an increasing population and increasing real income, that it therefore requires an increasing money supply in order to avoid deflationary pressures, and that the 100 per cent reserve system hampers the expansion of the money supply and therefore creates deflationary pressures because it prevents the costless “creation” of the new money and requires that it be saved out of foreign exchange earnings. This line of thought implicitly accepts the quantity theory of money in its crudest form. It is true enough that as real income rises the community will normally wish to hold larger cash balances (in terms of real purchasing power), both for transactions purposes and as idle balances held because money is a liquid and desirable form in which to hold assets. 4 The fact remains, however, that the money supply a country “needs” at any given moment is simply the sum of the cash balances its people wish to hold in the given circumstances, and its distribution between currency and bank deposits is entirely the result of popular choice. An increase in the money supply in general, or the currency circulation in particular, can occur only to the extent that the people are willing (or are forced, e.g., by inflation or by import controls) both to refrain from spending a portion of their income or a portion of the liquid capital currently at their disposal and to hold these savings in this form; it follows that any increase in the money supply or the currency circulation automatically produces the “savings” (in terms of financial tokens at least) necessary to finance itself. Furthermore, this obtains irrespective of the backing behind the currency. If 100 per cent reserves are maintained, this merely affects the physical form in which the savings are embodied—they must be in liquid foreign exchange assets rather than, say, in the form of agricultural machinery or a power plant. If less than 100 per cent reserves are maintained, the method by which a portion of the savings becomes embodied in physical capital normally involves bank credit creation and is thus technically inflationary. In an open economy with a low standard of living, such as Libya, it is usual to find a high marginal propensity to import and a low marginal propensity to save. Under these circumstances, especially if a fixed exchange rate is maintained, inflationary credit expansion shows itself primarily as a using up of exchange reserves, so that the net effect is to “borrow” an equivalent amount of reserves and use them for capital expenditures. The 100 per cent reserve system is in this sense noninflationary, or even anti-inflationary, but it is not deflationary.

The difference between the 100 per cent reserve system and a partial reserve system, then, is that the former requires that any additional savings the community chooses to hold in the form of currency must be invested in foreign exchange reserves, whereas the latter permits them to be invested in productive physical capital (or, indeed, permits them to be squandered on increased consumption). Even this difference becomes insignificant if the country has access to adequate sources of foreign capital on reasonable terms—and, as we have already emphasized, our recommendations are based on assurances that this will be so with respect to Libya. In such a case, the gross foreign borrowing under a 100 per cent reserve system will be greater by the amount that could otherwise have been obtained from the use of the currency reserves. The currency reserves themselves, however, can be invested in foreign securities, and the net borrowing will be the same. The net cost of the system, then, will be the difference, if any, between the interest paid on foreign borrowings and the interest received on the currency reserve investments. 5 For what will be at worst a modest cost, Libya will retain her exchange reserves intact for use at some future date when increased financial maturity reduces the risks inherent in a less-than-100 per cent reserve system and when foreign capital may be less readily obtainable.

To our mind the really important criticism of the 100 per cent reserve system is that the rigid link it imposes between the country’s balance of international payments and its domestic money supply may subject domestic trade to undue stress when sudden economic disturbances occur, as distinct from more normal economic growth and change. If a country is confronted with an adverse development in its export markets, an internal drought, or some other economic disturbance, two things happen: both money income and real income are reduced as an immediate and direct result of the disturbance, and this loss of domestic income produces a secondary internal deflation through the well-known multiplier effects. Little or nothing can be done to remedy the direct loss (except that something may be done to assist in reallocating the country’s economic resources to make the best of the changed circumstances). A great deal can be done, however, to mitigate or even entirely prevent the secondary deflation by maintaining domestic money incomes. Coupled with this, much can be done to maintain the primary producers directly affected by the initial disturbance so that the unavoidable loss of real income is shared fairly by the entire population and not concentrated on one sector. Corrective policies of this type, however, normally require the injection of substantial amounts of new purchasing power into the economy. A 100 per cent currency reserve system virtually excludes the use of internal monetary expansion for this purpose; it can be used only to the extent that excess reserves of foreign exchange exist (e.g., as banking reserves against deposit accounts) and to the extent, if any, that a shift from the use of currency to the use of deposit-money can be induced.

This points up a very real and a very serious difficulty faced by open economies, but a less-than-100 per cent reserve system is far from being an adequate answer. We have already noted that monetary expansion in such a country immediately gives rise to an approximately equal exchange drain; this would be particularly true if the expansion were for the purpose of ameliorating the effects of drought. As the total currency circulation in Libya at present is equivalent to only about £3 million, the resources that could reasonably be freed by abandoning the 100 per cent reserve provision would be approximately equal to the necessary budgetary grant-in-aid during one bad year. The amount possibly available from this source, therefore, is relatively unimportant, and we believe the psychological disadvantages of reducing the reserve below 100 per cent would far outweigh any practical advantages. Furthermore, the problems of depression in a country like Libya differ greatly from those in an industrialized economy. In the latter case depression shows itself mainly in unemployment of human and other resources, and appropriate fiscal measures can result in a substantial increase in real income through a restored level of output. In Libya, depression does not show itself in unemployment so much as in a failure of real income to materialize out of the year’s work in her main industry, agriculture. Except as they may temporarily or permanently release labor and other resources for transfer to alternative employments, such as development projects, conditions resulting from drought or adverse export prices do not present opportunities for increasing real income through monetary or fiscal policies, because they are not caused by a deficiency of internal effective demand ; the possibilities of increased output are small and, at best, must be realized gradually. These considerations, together with the paucity of political experience and the lack of any past history of monetary and banking practice under domestic management, make us feel certain that inclusion of a discretionary element in the currency system is not desirable.

Deflation is now very much out of favor as a method of effecting economic adjustments, and for very good reasons. It is possible, however, that this reaction has gone too far, at any rate for economies such as Libya’s. Its main faults are that its incidence is likely to be unduly concentrated on certain groups, and that it is likely to result in unemployment rather than the necessary price-cost readjustments. The first of these faults can be greatly mitigated by appropriate internal policies, as has been demonstrated in certain countries in the past. The second, in our opinion, applies with much reduced force in Libya. A relatively severe deflationary process undoubtedly would be practicable, because the price and wage structure is likely to be much more flexible than in a more complex industrialized economy, because there is not the same volume of long- or medium-term contracts and other debtor-creditor positions, and because a substantial part of the population derives most of its livelihood from agriculture and animal husbandry on a subsistence basis and will thus be relatively unaffected by deflation. We therefore believe that when depression strikes, it is to the advantage of an economy such as Libya’s to tighten its belt in the first instance and enforce deflation as far as possible. It would, however, be unrealistic to ignore the fact that certain concessions will have to be made to prevent hardship, and that intervention will be necessary to protect certain economically vulnerable groups, such as debtors. Even then deflation cannot be carried out indefinitely—supplementary and alternative policies must be invoked on a substantial scale if the economic dislocation is severe. Development expenditures, financed from abroad in accordance with the recommendations made in the next section of this Report, can be accelerated, and, in the case of drought, the operations of a Stabilization Fund such as we recommend would automatically come into operation. In this way the deflationary policies would be partially offset by the injection of new purchasing power from abroad, and the necessary internal readjustments could be effected without sacrificing currency stability.

We do not intend to imply that internal monetary expansion cannot be used at all in such an economy. We have already noted that it can be very useful in maintaining primary producers in times of stress so that the country’s loss of real income is not concentrated on one group but is spread over the whole population, and in preventing secondary deflation from bringing unemployment (or underemployment) in other sections of the economy. We wish to stress, however, that such action must be carefully controlled, and must be coordinated with other measures to prevent balance of payments difficulties resulting in a drain on reserves. Entrusting such a delicate matter to a politically inexperienced government and a financially inexperienced monetary administration would be little short of foolhardy. Leaving the money supply entirely to the harsh justice of a purely automatic system in times of economic difficulty would be disastrous, but government borrowing from the currency authorities is not a safe answer in the Libyan case. Our proposals avoid both difficulties.

In our opinion, there are additional positive advantages to be derived from a policy which combines 100 per cent reserves with foreign borrowing, even if the reserves themselves are pledged as security, in preference to running down those reserves (i.e., using them for domestic purposes). There is far more incentive to sound monetary policy from the pressure to repay a loan than from the pressure to reconstitute reserves once these reserves have been depleted. In private life one frequently finds individuals who refuse to withdraw money from their savings accounts to meet emergency expenditures, and who prefer to borrow money (against the collateral of these very savings accounts if necessary) and pay interest on the loan, because they know that they will respond to the pressure to repay the loan whereas they would probably never replace the savings once they were drawn down; the analogy holds good in public finance, as experience in various countries bears witness.

Currency boards have maintained reserves at 100 per cent and more in British dependencies, but they have been able to do so only because these governments had ready access to the London capital market for long-term requirements and to the resources of large British banks for seasonal demands through branches of those banks operating in the dependencies. In this way the apparently rigid relation between the territory’s balance of payments and its currency circulation has been modified to a very important extent and elements of elasticity introduced which greatly eased the seasonal and cyclical problems of these economies. Libya, however, will not have ready access to the London market or any other capital market for either short- or long-term borrowing for some time to come. Some substitute must therefore be found if the financial mechanism is not to break down during the first crisis. It would seem certain, therefore, that Libya must have a guarantee of an increased subvention during bad years, or guaranteed access to outside capital, or both, as recommended in the following section.

Financial aid for stabilization and development

Libya will require financial aid in several forms and our recommendations are predicated on the assumption that reasonable financial aid will be forthcoming. In the first place, Libya will require outside assistance to cover territorial and federal budgetary deficits because the taxable capacity is too low to cover even very modest standards of government services. Although there is a close interrelation among the various forms of aid, we consider any further discussion of assistance to meet budgetary deficits beyond that contained in the first section of this Report to be beyond the scope of the Report. We are here thinking of additional financial assistance, which is better handled outside the budgetary mechanism. It would be designed to enable the country to meet seasonal and cyclical needs without undue hardship, and to ensure that a program of private and public development is undertaken in order to raise real income and eventually to make foreign budgetary assistance unnecessary. In addition to grants-in-aid to meet budget deficits, therefore, outside aid must be forthcoming for the following purposes:

(1) To create a fund sufficient to provide assistance during the recurring periods of drought. This fund should be held in foreign exchange or in stocks of grain and perhaps other foodstuffs. 6 We feel that it is most important that aid should be given on an annual basis until a sufficient fund is built up, rather than on an ad hoc basis when the emergency arises. It is our view that annual contributions for this purpose should be made to a fund until an equivalent of £1 million has been accumulated. It should then be operated as a revolving fund to be replenished by proceeds of the sale of grain to the public during periods of drought and by contributions from the Government’s budget to compensate the fund for relief aid and uncollectible loans. It might eventually be converted into a system of crop insurance.

(2) To help the Government finance public development projects. Here, too, the aid should be on an annual basis. Funds used for this purpose may not be repayable at all or may be repayable over a very long period. A revolving fund, therefore, would not meet Libya’s needs. Such aid should be given to the Libyan Government or to a special authority set up for this purpose as gifts; any repayments that may be received from the projects undertaken should ultimately accrue to the Libyan State.

(3) To assist private development. Undoubtedly, the public development program will create opportunities for private enterprise and, thereby, the need for an institution capable of making loans to entrepreneurs. Such an institution would make bank loans but would pay more attention to the needs of the country and less to narrow considerations of profit than a private bank could do. It is obvious that the limited resources of Libya cannot be developed from the meager savings which will be mobilized by commercial and savings banks alone. This will be true first of all because such savings will be small, as demonstrated earlier in this Report, and, secondly, because in the absence of a lender of last resort the banks must follow an extremely conservative loan policy and maintain comparatively high reserves. Unless there is some institution having outside support, it will be practically impossible for entrepreneurs to find medium- or long-term money at reasonable rates since no institutions for the making of such loans now exist. That such Libyan private or national institutions might come into being in the near future seems unlikely. The Libyans are so completely lacking in experience in capital organization, technical, and management matters that the establishment and growth of institutions to perform this function simply will not take place without outside initiative and financial aid. We would strongly recommend that a bank or corporation be set up and that it be empowered to make medium- and long-term loans, take equity participations, and even establish new enterprises of its own if necessary. In the case of participation in, or ownership of, such new enterprises, the corporation should be required to sell its interests as rapidly as private buyers could be found. This would free the corporation’s funds for new activities and would have the desirable effect of dispersing ownership. In order to meet the possibility of fostering and aiding the growth of local credit institutions, the corporation should also be empowered to lend to commercial banks and to other credit institutions, e.g., mortgage lending institutions and cooperative credit institutions (provided these are able to grow up on a sound basis of mutual help by the Libyans themselves) . Institutions of this kind have proved very successful in other countries, which gives promise that they may be developed into a suitable means for making greater credit facilities available to the small firm and the small farmer in Libya. The corporation should also have authority to take measures to reduce some of the unusual risks of lending in Libya; it might at some time in the future act as the agent of the Government for such system of loan insurance or loan guarantees as may be established.

Financial aid for the above three purposes could be managed for Libya by various means. We are not prepared to recommend whether it should be managed by one institution or by two or three separate institutions. If the decision is to set up more than one institution, we do feel quite strongly that they should have a common Managing Director. In any event we would recommend that (a) the Board of Directors should include three of the senior technical members of the staff; (b) Board members should be selected by name and not by country, with the proviso that there must be one national at least from each of the contributing countries; (c) members should not be responsible to their home governments; (d) the Board should be self-perpetuating in that it should make its own selection of new members to replace retiring members, thus further freeing directors from control by their home governments; (e) Libyans should be included on the Board of Directors on terms of equality and some means should be found to enable Libya to contribute part of the capital funds from her own resources; (f) the United Nations or one of the specialized agencies should be represented on the Board of Directors or designated as advisors to the Board.

The Libyan economy will be dependent for its prosperity on its ability to sell a few primary commodities, such as olive oil, grain, almonds, animals, hides and skins, etc., in foreign markets at satisfactory prices. It will, therefore, be peculiarly dependent upon economic conditions abroad and especially sensitive to the business cycle. Naturally, no institution or institutions will be able to insulate the Libyan economy entirely against sharp fluctuations in the receipts of the major export industries or from all consequences of drought. Institutions such as we have proposed, however, will be able to alleviate most of the more serious effects of such events by making it possible to carry out fiscal measures for maintaining primary producers thus affected. In the long run they will undoubtedly prove to be a tower of strength and should contribute greatly to raising the standard of living of the Libyans. By helping to direct the savings and the credit resources of the nation as well as foreign capital into new agricultural development and new industries, they will be able to stimulate a planned diversification of the economy which would be much more difficult, or even impossible, if development projects were entirely dependent on sporadic loans from outside agencies or governments.

We recommend that provision should be made for turning the corporation or corporations over to the Libyan Government at the end of, say, 50 years, with the possibility of that Government increasing its participation before that time.


Without any shadow of doubt, the essentials for instituting a sound currency are at hand. Sterling and other exchange sufficient to provide a 100 per cent reserve will be forthcoming from the retirement of the currencies now circulating in Libya. There will be no difficulty whatever in introducing the new currency and retiring the existing ones without the slightest inconvenience or loss to those now holding the currencies circulating within the three territories. Adequate aid is assured to maintain a sound and healthy economy and thus to pave the way for the continuation of sound currency practices.

We feel compelled, however, to sound a note of caution. First, during our stay in Libya we were often told by Libyans that they want a currency that will be good wherever they go. We must point out that such a currency is not easily or quickly attainable. A currency having international circulation attains this status only through years of use and, even then, as the result of the financial capital of the nation issuing the currency becoming an international financial center. This means that Libyans will have to exchange their currency for the currencies of the countries in which they wish to spend it through the agency of banks or merchants rather than using Libyan currency notes directly for purchases abroad. Second, we would strongly urge that the institutions we have recommended be kept entirely free of both foreign and domestic political influences. Finally, with proper financial and technical assistance from abroad, there is no reason why the proposed currency should not be maintained on a sound basis indefinitely. However, it should be pointed out that a sound Libyan currency, irrespective of everything else, depends upon correct policies being pursued by the Libyan Government.

Supplementary note

A meeting of experts representing the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Egypt, and the United States discussed the proposed new currency at a series of sessions from March 14 to June 9, 1951, in which the Fund staff members participated. The discussions were based on a draft report which differed only in detail from the final version reproduced here. The experts made recommendations 7 to the Provisional Libyan Government that closely followed those made by the Fund staff members; the principal change was to propose that the currency should initially be backed 100 per cent by sterling cover, but that the Libyan Currency Authority might, at its discretion and with the consent in each case of the competent authorities of the countries concerned, invest up to 25 per cent of its reserves in currencies other than sterling. 8 It was specified that the currency of redemption should be sterling. The Provisional Libyan Government accepted the recommendations of the meeting, except that it chose to make the monetary unit (which has been named the Libyan pound) equal in value to the pound sterling, and to subdivide it into 100 piastres and 1,000 millièmes. The Provisional Government elected to have Libya become a member of the sterling area.

The external financial assistance to Libya on which the recommendations of the Fund staff members were predicated has been assured. The necessary subsidies for the governmental budgets will be made primarily by the United Kingdom, but France also will make substantial contributions. Provision for a stabilization fund to combat the effects of the periodic droughts, and for capital to finance economic development, is being made through two institutions, the Libyan Public Development and Stabilization Agency and the Libyan Finance Corporation. The former will build up a stabilization fund and undertake development programs, operating with contributions to be made by other governments. The latter will extend medium- and long-term credit for agricultural, industrial, and commercial projects; it will operate with loan capital from other countries rather than with grants.

The new currency began to circulate in Libya on March 24, 1952. The system was established by the passage of a currency law 9 by the Provisional Government, which created the Libyan Currency Commission as the administering body. The Commission consists of a Chairman and seven members appointed by the Libyan Government. Of these seven, two are Libyans nominated by the Libyan Government, two are British nationals, and the other three are nationals of Egypt, France, and Italy, respectively. In the last five cases the nominations are made by the respective central banks. The Libyan pound is defined as equivalent to 2.488 280 grams of fine gold. 10


Mr. Blowers, Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, was until recently special advisor in the Exchange Restrictions Department. He is a graduate of Harvard University. Prior to joining the staff of the Fund, he had been General Manager, Bank of Monrovia, Liberia; Governor, State Bank of Ethiopia, where he was responsible for establishing the State Bank and organizing the issue of the Ethiopian dollar; and Deputy Director, Trade and Payments Division, ECA, Paris.

Mr. McLeod, an economist in the Latin American Division (North), is now on leave from the Fund to be associated with Mr. Blowers at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency. He is a graduate of the Queens University, Kingston, Canada and of Harvard University. He was formerly with the Canadian Department of Finance in Ottawa. He has participated in several missions to Latin American countries as a financial advisor, and has contributed to various economic journals.


The Report of the Four Power Commission of Investigation for the Former Italian Colonies, Volume III, Part Two, page 40, cites an unnamed Italian source to the effect that the average yearly monetary circulation in Tripolitania for the period 1936 to 1949 amounted to 5,709,000,000 lire. According to the International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics, however, the total Italian currency circulation was 17.5 billion lire at the end of 1937, and 24.7 billion at the end of 1939. It is hardly possible that the note and coin circulation of Tripolitania could have been one quarter to one third of the total Italian issue; the circulation in Tripolitania in 1950 was equivalent to about one half of one per cent of that in Italy.


It does not necessarily follow that this represents the amount of lire previously circulating in the territory, either in this case or in the case of Tripolitania. The arbitrary valuation of the lira made it profitable to bring in sums from abroad. On the other hand, especially in Tripolitania, it may well be that substantial amounts of lire were not turned in at the time of the currency conversion. The final victory of the Allies was not yet certain, and Italian residents may have retained some lire.


In Geneva, on May 30,1951, the Minister of Finance in the Provisional Libyan Government stated that Libya would become a member of the sterling area and would maintain all her reserves in sterling. Presumably, however, a formal decision will have to await the transfer of powers to the Provisional Government.


Changes in saving habits, “liquidity preference,” or other factors not directly related to changes in real income may, of course, offset this tendency by inducing people to hold more of their assets in less liquid forms than idle monetary balances. Domestic inflation or deflation would alter the number of monetary that would constitute a given volume of real purchasing power, and might affect the real value of the money supply by producing a net change in real income or by affecting people’s desires to hold money as an asset.


In any currency system, reserves equal to a certain portion of the currency issue must be kept entirely in spot exchange or short-dated securities, to meet normal and contingent fluctuations in the circulation. With reserves of 100 per cent, however, the remainder may be invested in long-term securities, which yield relatively high interest rates. If the country borrows at short term and at lower interest rates instead of sacrificing its reserves, there may actually be a net interest return rather than a net cost.


It should not be held as a local currency deposit in a bank in Libya; if it is not in physical stocks of goods, it must be available for external purchases in time of need.


Not all the recommendations were unanimous. Subsequently, the Egyptian representatives dissociated themselves from the recommendations of the other representatives.


For the corresponding recommendations of the Fund staff members, see pages 455-56.


Law No. 4, published in the Official Gazette, Vol. 1, No. 1, October 24, 1951, as amended by a Royal Decree dated April 3, 1952; both documents are reprinted in an English translation in Appendix IV to the report of the UN Mission of Technical Assistance to Libya.


For further details of developments since the submission of the Report, see United Nations, Second Annual Report of the United Nations Commissioner in Libya and Supplementary Report (General Assembly Official Records, Sixth Session, Supplement No. 17(A/1949) and 17A(A/1949 Add. 1), Paris, 1951 and 1952).