After years as a pariah state, Libya is performing something of a turn-around. It is jockeying for a slice of the Middle East's rapid commercial growth by setting up a free trade zone.
The 300ha site bordering the Mediterranean port of Misurata is being fenced off and will soon operate as a tax-exempt haven from which national and, it is hoped, international firms will be able to conduct trade.
kins senior economist Camilla Bastoni has been helping Libyan consultancy NCB to prepare the country to open its door to world trade and foreign investment.
The first stage in this process - the production of an economic study, assessment of potential demand for a free trade zone and the physical planning of the area - has been a fantastic experience, says Bastoni.
'It is a very challenging and interesting environment to work in. Information is extremely fragmented. Having been closed for so long they haven't been exposed to Western ways of working, technology, or having transparency and quality information, ' she says.
She adds that it is unusual in Libya for a woman to be giving advice and directing operations.
Bastoni will speak about her experience and the opportunities for the construction industry in Libya at the International Construction Superconference in London on 19/20 May. The conference will address the changing face of risk encountered on construction projects, and will run a special session on women's experiences in and contributions to the industry.
'Libya is not known at all, it has been closed for so long. Aside from the obvious gender issue, I want to talk about the issues of getting to know the country, its procedures, and address the challenges for foreign investors.'
She will also explain the importance of economic planning and its relationship to construction in Libya.
The alignment of the physical environment with the socio-economic characteristics of an area is fundamental these days. When you build something you have to make sure the planning and design is linked with what you are going to use it for and whether the community needs it.' A native Italian, Bastoni studied economics at the University of Milan, 'to have a tool to understand reality around me'.
After spending three years working in economic development projects, largely in Latin America, her first job as an economist refocused her on real estate. She set up a research centre to allow her employer monitor market trends and growth. 'It was very basic, but it gave me a sense of and interest in urban issues and the spatial dimension of economics.' Inspired to develop her knowledge further, Bastoni came to the UK to take a masters degree in local economic development at the London School of Economics in 2001.
Work with real estate company Jones Lang Lasalle during her studies led to a research post with the company, studying the impact of the economy on the built environment. Bastoni took up her consulting role at Atkins in January this year.
At Atkins, Bastoni fi nds satisfaction in the fact that her work is part of a process that actually leads to changes in the physical environment.
'I have an opportunity to do things at a more implemented level - we are part of the project management. We produce things.' 'My work is about lowering the risk of getting a construction project wrong. That is the value that we add to construction'.
For information on the Construction Superconference contact Sandi Rhys Jones, (020) 7091 0007.