| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

Rafik Hariri: From the devastation of war to prosperity and growth

With Lebanon reaching its bottom and after the World Bank described the financial and monetary economic crisis as one of the three worst crises in the world since the mid-nineteenth century, it is necessary to recall or sympathize with the period of economic boom that Lebanon witnessed during the days of the martyred Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri assumed the premiership in 1992, when the economic situation was somewhat similar to what Lebanon is going through today, including a state of deflation, a rise in the rate of inflation and unemployment, a collapse in the local currency exchange rate, and complete economic paralysis.

The strong man came during the days of the Syrian tutelage, and assumed the task of stimulating the economy and succeeded in restoring prosperity and growth. As soon as he became prime minister, the lira regained its momentum within days, rising 15%.

With the end of the civil war, the Lebanese economy was suffering from very large distortions, in addition to the almost complete destruction of the infrastructure and the basic productive sectors. Prime Minister Hariri came with a major project for reconstruction and economy building, based on rebuilding advanced infrastructure including communications and transportation networks, buildings and power generation centers, which led to an accelerated growth of GDP between 1993 and 1997 at an average of 8 percent. During that period, inflation decreased from 131% to 29%, and Hariri succeeded in imposing the stability of the exchange rate of the lira and restoring the lost confidence in it. With it, Lebanese banks regained their leading role in the region and the sector flourished with the doubling of its deposits from $7 billion in 1992 to $30 billion at the end of 1998.

Prime Minister Hariri launched the plan for the reconstruction of Lebanon, known as “Horizon 2000”, which focused on rebuilding Beirut, the capital, and rehabilitating the Solidere commercial district and its vital facilities. It also rehabilitated the infrastructure and state facilities that were destroyed by the war, most notably Rafic Hariri International Airport and Beirut Port. In a short period of time, he was able to raise Lebanon from an economically, security and institutionally devastated country to the center of services in the Middle East, and established its economic and tourism position in the Arab and Western worlds.

Thanks to the return of confidence in Lebanon, Hariri was able to attract Lebanese, Arab and international investments to various sectors, from tourism and real estate, to money and banking, to industry. During his reign, Beirut became the capital of investment conferences and forums that attract hundreds of businessmen, investors and companies, as well as leaders, heads of government and senior officials in Arab and foreign countries. He is the first to be able to host the Arab Summit and the Francophone Summit in Lebanon, in addition to the OPEC conference, and he is the one who signed with the European Union the European Association Agreement.

He was known for his assistance and support to the Lebanese people in improving their living conditions, and among his most prominent achievements is his permanent support for NGOs and building health centers. Hariri provided educational opportunities for more than 36,000 Lebanese to study abroad, and 120,000 educational grants at home. He was also keen on developing many schools, and established the “Hariri Canadian University” in 1999.

Hariri’s effort focused on motivating the Arab and international world to support the process of rebuilding Lebanon, and he often succeeded.

During his tenure as prime minister in the year 2000, the martyred president set out to work to revive the economic movement by completing the program of economic, financial and social reforms that he had begun. He took the initiative to put forward the idea of ​​holding an international meeting to support Lebanon economically and financially. The international community and donor organizations responded, and the Paris Conference “1” was held in February 2001, which resulted in the international community’s pledge to provide 500 million euros in aid and soft loans to Lebanon. They also agreed that a conference would be organized The last one was expanded with the participation of the European Commission and international financial institutions and with the participation of a number of donor countries, a conference known as the Paris 2 Conference, which was held in November 2002, in which Lebanon obtained financial promises of $4.4 billion.

Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri never surrendered to crises, but rather worked to restore and strengthen Lebanon’s Arab and international relations and use them to serve the Lebanese economy. Will the experience of Rafik Hariri be repeated, which Lebanon needs today to get out of the worst crisis it is going through?

  • Sawt Beirut International