February 22, 2009 / 8:11 PM / in 10 years

Libya extends meetings on oil distribution plan

TRIPOLI, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Libyans were given an extra day to consider a plan by their leader Muammar Gaddafi to disband the government and hand the country’s oil money directly to its 5 million people.

Five-day gatherings had been due to finish on Sunday but can now continue on Monday, state media said.

“The authorities have permitted the people to pursue the debate on Monday as some congresses needed one more day to complete discussions on the oil wealth issue,” said an official statement read on state radio.

Gaddafi argues corruption is so deeply entrenched in the government that the only way to cure Libya of graft is to disband the ministries and hand out more than $30 billion in annual oil revenue directly to the people.

Libyans have gathered in public places in villages and cities for meetings of Libya’s Basic People’s Congresses (LBPC).

Debate focused on scenarios drafted by government experts on the means of distributing oil money. The scenarios divide the population into five rungs of income and wealth.

About one million Libyans ranked on the bottom rung might be entitled to get up 30,000 dinars ($22,990) each per year.

Around half a million people on the top rung might get only 1,288 dinars each.

The LBPCs are the backbone of Libya’s Jamahiriya regime. They are effectively the top executive and legislative bodies, representing people at district and village levels, and vote on laws and government policy.

In practice, however, Gaddafi decides on key policies, particularly oil.

The General People’s Congress, the umbrella body, is due to collect the LBPC decisions at the end of the debates and announce whether a majority backs Gaddafi’s proposal, a foregone conclusion as his supporters dominate all levels of power.

Gaddafi’s scheme has been opposed by senior officials who stand to lose their jobs if government is purged.

Officials warned Gaddafi in November the move could wreak havoc in the OPEC member country’s economy by fuelling inflation and spurring capital flight from Libya. (Writing by Lamine Ghanmi; editing by Robert Woodward)

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