Several definitions try to determine his personality: man of reconstruction, of major projects, businessman, man of Saida, of Saudi Arabia, the man who changed history … Hariri is all that but … we wanted to know where the leader starts, where the man ends. Punctual, master of all situations, charismatic. He mainly has the talent to convince without advocacy. Is it in fact there where lies the mystery of his success?
You are surrounded by a competent and loyal team. What qualities are required to be your close collaborator? Competence and loyalty are two inseparable qualities. A person with heavy responsibilities, must be surrounded by a competent team that can assist effectively.
Is President Hariri tolerant or firm with his family? We can not establish a boundary between two attitudes. One is soft or rigid depending on the circumstances. I do not believe in well-defined qualities, a really responsible person must be able to adapt his responses to each situation …
President Chehab was honest but his family took advantage of his indulgence. Does it happen to you? I do not want to go into details of history. But every important person and his entourage invariably suffer criticism and blame. Most rumors are just fabrications for political reasons. It happens everywhere, not just in Lebanon.
Rafik Hariri never forgets his friends despite time and distance. Your loyalty to your friends is famous … but what do you do to your enemies? (Mischievous smile). I’m not resentful at all, it is also one of my weaknesses in politics.
But you are often hard and sharp. I like to give everyone a chance to fix things but when there’s really nothing more to do, if you’re desperate of someone’s attitude, and there is no way to discuss, I change at the time my attitude.
You are a man of great projects … Which you take to heart the most?
First, the Hariri Foundation which I am very proud and became a family commitment, the second is obviously the reconstruction of Beirut.
Have your plans changed? We still follow the original plan and until today it is faultless.
So you’re optimistic? Yes, I do not think there are problems, but still a lot of criticism, which is perfectly normal. We let all the freedom of expression. Any person may speak on TV and express opinions, challenge the facts. We take criticism into account, provided they come from an analytical mind, someone who has made an effort to propose a new idea. For it to be worthy to be listened to, and to the benefit of the whole country.
It is very important for a public figure to listen to the opinions of people, since his decisions affect the whole country. But in Lebanon, we get to the point of not listening to anything because reviews are based on hard and incredible facts, often we only hear vain criticism and inaccurate facts.
Relatives of Rafik Hariri have they the right to criticize him? I do not like hypocrites, there is not around me these flattering people that make you dizzy with their rhetoric. This kind of people does not serve a leader, on the contrary, they are misleading. I only stop on well balanced and studied views.
Your decree on imports sparked a public outcry. Before the war, 350,000 vehicles were in Lebanon. Today, we have more than 1 350000 for the same number of people (given the number of emigrants)! Why ignore the 40,000 taxis and public transport? It is ridiculous to think that tax increases will replenish the Treasury. But people will think twice before buying a car. We need 3-4 years to complete the rehabilitation of the road network. Finally, the decree was created in the public interest.
Once passed, can a decree be canceled, just after three years?
With the entry into Gatt by Lebanon who became a partner of Europe, all these fees should be canceled. We are forced to reduce the number of imported cars to give people the chance to move more easily … Everything is planned, nothing is random. Anyway, this is the government’s opinion, it may not be the opinion of everyone. Finally, to date, in addition to the reviews, no one offered us a coherent solution to the problem of road traffic.
Where are your projects? All are running: water, electricity, airport … Our government is one that has done the most for public works and infrastructure, we are supposed to receive 3 to 5 years 3 million tourists. Today, their number is still very small we have to build an infrastructure for them. Tourism services in other countries have evolved. Greece receives every year some 30 million tourists. All, with their proper means activate the economy. If we consider that the largest incomes of Lebanon are provided by tourism, the state should encourage private investment in this sector.
You have long been absent from Sidon and on your return, you got a walkabout. What memories do you keep? Sidon is a city where people of good family show a spirit of support, which is a major character.
The Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in a family picture, with his wife Nazek, his son Ayman, the youngest Hind, Oday, Joumana and her husband Nizar Dalloul, Fahd.
Abroad, what did you miss the most in Lebanon? All. We only realize the importance of the country when we are gone.
As a child, what was your dream? It is certain that I never dreamed of two things: be rich and become prime minister. Working in politics never crossed my mind. Finally, I always wanted to work in the public service. But getting rich … so far I do not believe it.
How did you get the Saudi citizenship? King Fahd, a dear friend, granted it to me. I lived 28 years in Saudi Arabia, my relationship with the Saud family is old, there is a special relationship between King Fahd and myself. When he had health problems, I did not sleep for 15 days. The Saudi royal family is unique for its loyalty, I owe them a lot and I will always be grateful.
What did you do so special? I worked hard. The secret I think is loyalty, sincerity, honesty in relationships. In addition to these qualities, there is a certain chemistry, a certain understanding…
I also received the insignia of King Faisal. A decoration almost never awarded to a foreigner. They gave it to me to have completed negotiations for a cease-fire.
Is it true you were always there, in the shadows, during the negotiations for peace in Lebanon. When did you decide to enter in politics? In 1983, and to be precise, since the Israeli invasion. To carry out my humanitarian mission, promoting education, it was necessary first to establish peace, stability, because without peace, it was impossible to make any project in this direction.
We started to build in Kfarfalous a large medical center with 360 beds, a school of nurses for 200 students, an accredited university of 800 students, primary and secondary school, sports center … Today the complex is half destroyed and located in the territories occupied by Israel. So you understand my decision to start negotiations, dialogue between the combatants under the auspices of the Arab nations. I thought it was not enough to help students but needed a new role of mediator, not quite political, and try to get the country out of the turmoil. I first worked in the shadows then I had to take things in hand more formally. I helped in all initiatives of cease-fire and armistice.
Council of Ministers under the chairmanship of Mr. Hariri.
Now are you still optimistic? Yes, I am optimistic and confident about the future of the country. I believe in the people of Lebanon, a lively and courageous people. There is no fear for them. If we provide peace and stability, the Lebanese people are able to accomplish great things. We find in Lebanon all specializations, girls and boys are educated, cultured. When the president of the World Bank, who had worked 20 years in collaboration with developers, came to Lebanon, he was fascinated by the work accomplished. I told him that this was not the work of Hariri but the Lebanese people. It is true that I started the works and I supervise them by myself, I visit the sites every day. In addition to the problems inherent to the public administrations, I think the country is moving at high speed.
We can therefore reassure young people. Rumors, comments, everything you read in the media, crush the population and undermine their enthusiasm, determination, but no one has ever stood up and said: “I think the government has acted badly for the following reasons … it is more accurate to do one thing or another. ”
We are accused of dealing more with stones than with men. But I say that our government is the first since independence to date that have spent so much on Health, Education, Transport. Never, ever, even when the Lebanese state was prosperous, not under debt and receiving interest from the World Bank, it never allocated much money to health and education. There has never been as conscripts in the army. The reconstruction project encourages investment and encourages people, it is the effect of “snowball”. Young people will without any doubt have full of opportunities and the coming days are much better than those who have passed. I do not mean that because I am an optimist. I also perceive difficulties but I can not listen to the words of the naysayers and those who insinuate: “There is no democracy, no freedom, no independence. “What is this nonsense? It is true that there are problems, but they can be solved. But to pretend that there is no democracy …
This is a great mistake to repeat, because people get used to the idea and lock themselves. I cannot help thinking, “If they say it’s going so badly, why do people remain in Lebanon and why so many emigrants return home?” Because we live better than elsewhere. A great Egyptian journalist told me once: “Why do Lebanese practice self-flagellation?”
The Hariri Foundation gave grants and loans for studies abroad. Hence was born this commitment?As Children, we faced many difficulties to continue our studies. And we have not been able to study in important universities. We realize the importance of education for both parents and children. I did not create the Hariri Foundation by interest. I could not know all the people who have been awarded! And sometimes during an evening, at an event, young people approach to thank me for helping them to complete their studies.
26200 students were able to continue their education through the foundation.
You leave your professional concerns on the threshold of your home? It is not a question of “on” and “off.” Friday and Sunday, I work at home, and sometimes on Saturdays, I do not go down to the office. During the four working days, I carry the office home and vice versa. My bedroom is stuffed to the brim with folders.
It is said that Sitt Nazek brought you happiness. I married Nazek when I was just barely getting into the business. My wife has a good intuition, good judgment. She has always brought me happiness.
Would you like your children getting into politics? No, and I would not encourage them at all, we are not a political family and I do not want to start political dynasty, I do not believe in political legacy. I consider pursuing a patriotic mission for some time.
Do your children know Lebanon? Yes, well, they often come to Lebanon. They feel good in all Arab capitals. They were educated this way.
Your son Ayman says he is Saudi. Yes, he is a Saudi citizen, my children grew up in Saudi Arabia, and we owe a lot to this country, it would be disloyalty and ingratitude to deny this belonging, which does not mean they do not feel Lebanese. My children have two homelands.
You probably spoil your children? On the contrary, especially when it comes to education. Studies are sacred. I will not tolerate any delay. Sometimes children come for the weekend and Monday morning, they are back in class even if they have to travel at night. The school comes first. But I have “brotherly” relations with my children because I married young. Besides, I am already a grandfather.
«I never thought that I will become one day rich and … Prime Minister!»
You hold a special affection for your daughter Hind? Normal, she is the youngest.
Even when you were abroad, you have kept in constant contact and a strong relationship with your sister MP Bahia Hariri. There is a great complicity between the two of us.
Do you agree that a woman hold positions at the head of the state? I think the woman is equal to man and has the same capabilities. I encouraged my sister Bahia personally to stand for parliamentary elections.
Faced with an important issue, would you consider the solution in the context of a statesman or of a businessman, for you are a businessman after all? I was. Here I am for Lebanon, a statesman. Our businesses are large and of international standards. The turnover of projects in Lebanon is certainly not enough to cover our costs (smile).
You entered the history of Lebanon. How would you like to be evoked? First through the Hariri Foundation, as a man who has rendered service to the Lebanese youth, and contributed to the reconstruction of Lebanon.
Do you think that the Lebanese have been fair to you? Indeed, I have this feeling. But like any public person, I sometimes take unpopular though necessary decisions for the country. Then I’m prime minister since five years, a record in the history of Lebanon … Nothing has changed in me except the color of my hair. Whatever I had done, I could never stay long if I was a really undesirable Prime Minister …
And you intend to stay until 2020 ••• (He smiled at the reference)
Rafik Hariri, the man of many challenges … and yet you are rich enough to allow you to retire.
The country cannot only be a haven of well-being. We must understand that. Finally, my family tells me quite often: “Why don’t you give up, don’t you have enough of these attacks on all fronts?” As for me, I look above. I know I can still offer my services to the country. So I continue my mission. Against all odds.
Interviewed by MARCELLE NADIM
– Born in Sidon in 1944. Elementary and secondary Studies in Sidon.
– Beirut Arab University. 1965. Business Administration.
-1966, leaving to Saudi Arabia due to the financial difficulties of the family. He became professor of arithmetic in a local school.
– Is engaged in a contracting company.
1970: he founded his own firm of Construction (Ciconest) –Acqulert Saudi Oger Contracting and oger France rebaptised Oger International
– Diversified its commercial activities in 1981, acquires action in the Mediterranean Investors Group, a holding company based in Luxembourg and founded in Lebanon a commercial bank, Saudi Lebanese Bank.
-1983: He acquires all shares of MIG, diversifying its activities, from geographical points of view: USA, France, Switzerland and Lebanon and Financial:
banks, financial institutions, stock market, real estate … He will not forget Lebanon, nor Sidon his hometown. He creates jobs to his fellow countrymen in Saudi.
Later, he will support many charitable activities in Sidon, he will rebuild his old school. Determined to build the South Lebanon, he founded the Hariri Medical Center HMC, coupled with a university hospital school and a high school, a project of development for the region.
– Oger Liban is founded in the early 80s. Armed clashes lead to destruction of the Centre. During the Israeli invasion, President Hariri helps to cushion the impact of the tragedy and help rebuild many homes in Saida and assist the municipality in major infrastructure projects.
– After the invasion of the capital in 1982, Oger Lebanon takes the initiative to clean the city rubble.
– Today is the Foundation Hariri who carries the torch of its humanitarian mission. Established in 1982 This non-profit institution has the objective to obtain promoting culture and education in Lebanon especially among most deprived
Today the French Cultural Center opened in Khan el FRANJ A Sidon. The Hariri Foundation awards scholarships to more than 30 universities
worldwide and has initiated an association International IUT with the approval of the Ministry of Education in France. To day, 26,200 students received
grants or loans to pursue their studies in 23 Arab and foreign countries.