* Oil protest slashed output, vital state revenues
* Govt looking to cut subsidies, public spending
* Political turmoil also delays full budget approval
By Ulf Laessing and Feras Bosalum
TRIPOLI, April 23 Libya plans deep austerity
measures to tackle a budget deficit expected to reach up to 10
billion Libyan dinars ($8 billion) this year due to rebel
blockades which have strangled oil production, a senior lawmaker
Mohammed Ali Abdallah, who heads parliament's budget
committee, said this year's deficit could be covered by budget
surpluses accumulated in past years, a central bank loan and the
possible issuance of government bonds.
However, he outlined spending cuts which are likely to be
highly unpopular with Libyans, used to subsidised bread loaves
costing two U.S. cents, as the government and parliament
struggle to control militias which helped oust Muammar Gaddafi
in 2011 but kept their guns to claim a share of the oil wealth.
Parliament plans to freeze public salaries, halt new
development funding and slash the number of subsidised food and
basic products, Abdallah told Reuters in an interview.
"Our budget deficit is looking at around 9 to 10 billion
Libyan dinars in 2014," he said.
Libya traditionally runs large surpluses thanks to oil
export revenues. But last year the budget slid into an eight
billion dinar deficit when a wave of protests cut into the OPEC
Nine months of blockages at oil fields and ports have
reduced oil production to 220,000 barrels a day (bpd) from 1.4
million bpd before the trouble began last summer.
Earlier this month the government reached a deal with
rebels to wind down their occupation of four oil ports, imposed
to demand a greater share of Libya's oil wealth. Tankers have
already started loading at one port.
But the shutdown has cut oil revenues to less than $4
billion since the start of this year - less than 20 percent of
what was budgeted, said Abdallah.
Libya has no need to press the panic button yet as the
central bank sits on more than $110 billion in foreign reserves.
A fund of previous surpluses worth between 10 and 17 billion
dinars was available, plus unspent oil revenues held by the
central bank totalling 17 billion.
"The third option - which I hope we don't have to go to
because we are not ready for it - is to issue some government
(Islamic) bonds," Abdallah said.
"This is an option which we are studying with the IMF and
World Bank right now. We could look at doing a limited bond
issuance to local private and public banks."
Abdallah felt that Libyan banks, which are largely
state-owned and inefficient, were not yet ready for a market in
government bonds based on Islamic principles.
Libya hopes to raise oil production after the eastern port
of Hariga was reopened under the deal with rebels who want
greater autonomy and a share of oil revenues.
Output could rise by 400,000 bpd in the next few weeks
thanks to Hariga's reopening, bringing it close to a goal of
hitting 600,000 bpd by the end of June under a budget proposal,
By the end of the third quarter production needs to reach 1
million bpd to reach the budget target and pay back the central
bank loan, an uncertain plan as the government is weak and parts
of the country remain out of state control.
Libya needed to cut expenditures drastically to end billions
of dollars lost to waste, inefficiency, corruption and smuggling
of products from bread to petrol, Abdallah said.
The North African country suffers from a dysfunctional
public service, a legacy of Gaddafi who put most adults on the
payroll to discourage opposition. Many Libyans get two state
salaries, but public services remain highly inefficient.
To tackle the loss of oil revenues parliament will for now
approve only 44 billion dinars - eight to nine billion less than
last year - to cover public service salaries and other
government expenditures including subsidy payments, he said.
Total spending would be 55 billion dinars this year, down
from 66 billion dinars in 2013.
Libya will hold off on a second budget to cover development
plans until a new government had been formed. Prime Minister
Abdullah al-Thinni resigned a week ago after just a month in
office, saying gunmen had tried to attack his family.
Political groups in the deeply divided parliament, known as
the General National Congress or GNC, are negotiating over the
name of a new premier.
Abdallah said Libya had the world's highest fuel consumption
rate per capita because the subsidised prices encouraged waste
and smuggling. The state spends $7 billion on fuel subsidies
every year but hopes to save $2 billion by launching later this
year "smart cards" for citizens to buy limited amounts of fuel.
Parliament will also cut the number of subsidised food items
from 10 - such as rice or sugar - in phases to just grain by the
end of March 2015 to cut smuggling of products.
Prices for rice and other products will rise - a hard sell
to Libyans used to paying just $0.02 for bread, another idea
from Gaddafi to keep people happy.
Parliament wants to shift government work such as running
airports and hospitals to private companies under
build-operate-transfer contracts, which officials hope will
Abdallah said Swissport International, Turkey's TAV Airports
and Dubai-based Dnata had expressed interest in completing the
new Tripoli airport, a project which has been in the works for
($1 = 1.2320 Libyan Dinars)
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing and Feras Bosalum; Editing by David