Just how much money did Gaddafi steal?

 If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past couple of months, it’s that oil=money. But how much?

 I thought I’d take a closer look at the potentially huge amount of money that the Libyan state must have earned over while Gaddafi was in power- or put another way, the amount of money that Gaddafi stole from Libya… and the results were pretty shocking.

 From 1970 to 2010, the Libyan state earned over a trillion dollars.

 Take a look at Libya in 2011, and it’s clear that that money did not go to the Libyan people. Obviously, he can’t have stolen all of that- there have been ‘regular’ state expenses, development of industries at a basic level, and corruption at various leakage points along the way. Either way, if I were a Libyan national I’d be pretty annoyed at how little of that trillion the vast majority of the country actually saw.

 And for those of you who are interested, here’s how I calculated the figure of a trillion dollars.

 Luckily for me, the US Energy Investment Administration (EIA) have produced various data collections about the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which Libya has been a member since 1962.

 As well as including overall data about OPEC, they have produced a spreadsheet available for download with a breakdown of the oil revenues of individual member countries. Although, for Libya, the figures for oil revenues only begin in 1982, I calculated that between 1982 and 2010, Libya received over half a trillion dollars in oil revenues. $512.3 billion, to be exact.

 Incredible! Bearing in mind that that figure isn’t including the years 1970-1981, between which time Libya produced over 9 million barrels of oil in total, according to the 2011 BP Statistical Review.

 To calculate the remainder, I’ve done a DIY version:

 From the BP Statistical Review, we can see annual oil production in Libya as far back as 1965. But as I’m only interested in how much oil money came into the state piggy bank from when Gaddafi was in power, I’ve just taken the data from 1970-1981 (as that’s when the EIA data on oil revenues begins).

 Unfortunately, I couldn’t find data on the price of Libyan oil (which, as it’s light and sweet,  is generally among the most expensive grades -nb with exceptions) so I’ve taken the only prices I could find, again from the BP Statistical Review, which includes a spreadsheet of crude oil prices (I assume the average of different grades) since as far back as 1862! It even has a column taking inflation into account; so I’ve used their prices to come up with a rough “guess-timate” of how much the oil produced in Libya between 1970 and 1981 was worth…and here’s what I came up with.

 The total amount of calculated revenues, from 1970-1981, that I calculated as outlined above, was over a trillion dollars in itself.

However, please bear in mind the limitations of these calculations:

 1.I have not included the fact that the Libyan state would not have been owner of all of the oil produced. The government take would have varied depending on the proportions agreed in the production contracts with the International Oil Companies who produced the oil. According to Don Hallet in his book, Petroleum Geology of Libya, the state took an 81% share in an offshore block with Agip under the EPSA I round of contracts, but then took 85% also in an EPSA I contract, but with Occidental. Without seeing all of the contracts, it’s almost impossible to know exactly what share the government negotiated in the 1970s.

2. The calculation also does not take into account domestic consumption; ie, the oil that would not have been sold, but used in Libya itself.

3. As I said before, the price of the crude oil used here isn’t that of Libyan crude, but of what I assume is the average global crude oil price.

 I’m sure there’s other holes in those calculations, but for an estimate, I don’t think it’s too bad. Even if we assume that the state took only 50% of the oil money produced from 1970-1981 as actual oil revenues, (which is a modest estimate), if we add that to the oil revenue total from 1982-2010 from the OPEC report, that’s still over a trillion dollars.


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