Mr. Rafic Hariri has been at the helm of five governments in Lebanon since 1992. For over a decade, Prime Minister Hariri has presided over the physical and economic reconstruction of a Lebanon torn by war. No such work has ever been accomplished under this limited time frame and conditions. Prime Minister Hariri is heading the current government after having been elected to office in April 17, 2003 and having received the support of 93 out of the 128 Members of the Lebanese Parliament.
Mr. Hariri was born in Sidon, Lebanon, in 1944, to parents who were dedicated to their three children, Rafic, Shafic, and Bahia. Mr. Hariri studied at elementary and secondary schools in Sidon, and pursued university studies at the Arab University of Beirut, majoring in commerce. He moved to Saudi Arabia in 1965 in search of a better life, working there as a school teacher, and as an accountant before starting his business as an entrepreneur, which took him very far thanks to his hard work, perseverance and ethics. He was able to build and deliver a hotel in Taef, Saudi Arabia in six months, a task rather impossible. There he married Mrs. Nazik Audeh Hariri and are parents to seven children and now seven grandchildren.
Mr. Hariri is a philanthropist, a self-made man who built his businesses single-handedly on the basis of his reputation as an honest, credible and trustworthy partner in all his endeavors. He believes that trust is the most important asset that guides people, personal and business relations alike. He is also renowned for his efficiency and dedication to his work and to every cause he champions as his quick rise in Saudi Arabia shows.
Mr. Hariri began his involvement in the political and economic life of his country long before he became prime minister. As a Lebanese businessman living in Saudi Arabia, he was concerned about the ongoing strife in Lebanon and he played a behind-the-scenes role as a mediator, advisor and promoter of cease-fires and agreements to end the civil war. He invested his time and contacts in the Arab world and outside to bring peace to his war-torn country. In 1982 for example, after the Israeli invasion, his firm, Oger Liban, became actively involved in the removal of destroyed buildings, the opening of streets and roads littered with roadblocks and sand bags, which paved the way for the resumption of normal life in the Lebanese capital.
In 1984, Mr. Hariri participated in the Geneva and Lausanne conferences to bring about political reconciliation in Lebanon and helped broker initiatives to put an end to the civil war.
In 1989, Mr. Hariri was the power behind the Taef Agreement, which succeeded in ending the war and the drafting of a new constitution for Lebanon. This agreement was the political contract that laid down the principles of national reconciliation, which governs political life in Lebanon today.
THE YEARS OF PREMIERSHIP
Mr. Hariri returned to Lebanon in 1992 to assume office as prime minister after 28 years of living and working in Saudi Arabia. He formed his first government on October 22, 1992. He shouldered the responsibility for helping guide a country that had just emerged from 17 years of civil war with all the legacy of that conflict: massive physical damage, an economy in tatters, and political divisions.
As President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Hariri took up the challenge. He immediately ushered Lebanon into the post-war era, starting a massive reconstruction effort that transformed Lebanon, in less than six years, from a war-torn country to a huge reconstruction site domestically, and a respected player on the international scene. Prime Minister Hariri declared everything a priority when he was faced with the question of what to start rebuilding first: schools, hospitals, infrastructure, or the economy?
At the same time, the government focused on stabilizing the Lebanese pound and rebuilding infrastructure through restoring basic services in the country, i.e. water, electricity, phones, and cleaning Beirut of the debris of the war. The President of the Council of Ministers also paid special attention to the social, educational and health problems that Lebanon was facing as a result of the war.
In April 1993, Mr. Hariri, established the Ministry for the Displaced to help thousands of people who were forced to flee their homes during the war to return to their towns and villages. In that same year (July 25, 1993) however the country became the scene of a seven-day bombing campaign against Lebanon and its civilian population. Prime Minister Hariri called for an emergency Arab meeting, held in Damascus, and secured Arab support for Lebanon.
Despite these events, Mr. Hariri launched in May of 1994 the project to rebuild the Beirut Central District (BCD), which was totally destroyed during the war. Mr. Hariri believed then, and still believes today, that rebuilding the heart of Beirut would bring life to all of Lebanon. He proved to be right. The heart of Beirut is now the meeting place for all Lebanese and also for Arabs and foreigners at large, who come by the thousands to enjoy Beirut. It is now the financial district and centre of the countrys institutions. Among all of the reconstruction projects launched by his governments, the reconstruction of downtown Beirut is the closest to Mr. Hariris heart and the one he worked on long before becoming Prime Minister. The reconstruction process was undertaken during the continued Israeli occupation of South Lebanon and the constant threat of Israeli attacks against the countrys infrastructure, especially its electricity sector.
In May 1995, the President of the Council of Ministers Mr. Rafic Hariri formed his second government and he set about continuing the process of reconstruction.
In the spring of 1996, Israel launched an attack against Lebanon, killing more than one hundred Lebanese civilians at a UN post in Qana in South Lebanon, as part of a military campaign that Israel called the Grapes of Wrath. Prime Minister Hariri launched a diplomatic campaign to stop the Israeli aggression. His efforts succeeded in focusing world attention on the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon and culminated in a ceasefire agreement, known as the April Understanding. This understanding forced Israel to accept, for the first time, keeping civilians out of the military confrontation in South Lebanon. The parties to the understanding formed a Monitoring Group to oversee compliance with the ceasefire, and agreed on a framework to assist in the reconstruction of Lebanon. Since then the overall situation has stabilized and the country has registered positive signs of growth.
On September 1, 1996, Lebanon held a round of parliamentary elections and Prime Minister Rafic Hariri was elected a Member of Parliament along with thirteen candidates on his electoral list. He formed his first parliamentary bloc. On November 25, 1996, Prime Minister Hariri was asked to form his third consecutive government. Under this government, in the summer of 1998, Lebanon held its first municipal elections for 35 years. The government reopened the new Beirut International airport and succeeded in breaking down international isolation through the lifting of American travel restrictions.
On October 23, 2000, the President of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Rafic Hariri, was designated to form his fourth cabinet, after his parliamentary bloc won all of the seats in Beirut on September 3, 2000. The Prime Minister won the support of 106 out of the 128 MPs to form a government.
Reviving the economy has been at the core of Hariris strategy and attracting foreign investors back to Lebanon after a long absence was seen as primordial.
On October 20, 2004, Mr. Hariri presented the resignation of his government, declining to form a new government.
Former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri was assassinated in an explosion that targeted his motorcade on a Beirut waterfront road, killing the late Lebanese leader, seven of his bodyguards and bystanders. Dozens were also injured. Mr. Hariri had just left Parliament when the attack took place.
The late Lebanese leader's family issued a statement describing the attack as a criminal act and declared Mr. Hariri a martyr for the entire nation (The Hariri family statement is attached).
Lebanon and the whole world paid farewell to Martyr PM Rafic Hariri and his seven companions in a huge popular and historic funeral procession that went through the streets of Beirut heading toward Mohammed Al Amin Mosque in Beirut's Central District, where they were laid to rest. An outstanding Lebanese, Arab and international participation characterized the procession, which hardly went through the huge crowds, who came from all Lebanese regions and sects, raising Lebanese flags and pictures of Martyr Prime Minister and his companions. During the procession, Church bells were ringing in the capital, while verses from the Quran were broadcasted from the mosques.
Many Arab and international officials attended the funeral and countless eminent figures and dignitaries shared the grief and sorrow of Hariri family and the Lebanese people by paying tribute to Martyr PM Rafic Hariri. French President Jacques Chirac and his wife, many members of the Saudi royal family as well as members from the Kuwaiti ruling family and numerous Arab and international political figures also came to present their condolences.
The Hariri family also received condolences at the late leader's residence in Majdelyoun (Saida) and later in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Abdullah Ben Abdel Aziz was among the first visitors to offer his condolences, expressing his grief and bereavement for the loss of a great Arab leader and friend. The Lebanese community in the Kingdom also came to extend condolences.
FRIENDS OF LEBANON
In December 1996, the first international conference whose only target was to help Lebanon was held at the State Department in Washington, under the auspices of the United States with Prime Minister Hariri as co-chairman of the conference. Representatives of international organizations, financial institutions and businesses of more than thirty countries attended the conference. Many of the participating countries pledged financial or technical help for Lebanon. It was crucial for Lebanon to return to the financial scene and continue to raise the capital needed to sustain the reconstruction and development effort. To that end two major conferences, PARIS I and PARIS II were held subsequently in order to request help from the international community to help Lebanon manage its public debt.
On February 27, 2001, Prime Minister Hariri headed the Lebanese delegation to the second Friends of Lebanon conference at the Elyse Palace in Paris under the auspices of French President Jacques Chirac. The conference was dubbed the Paris I meeting. This meeting was attended, in addition to Prime Minister Hariri and President Chirac, by EU Commissioner Romano Prodi, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, European Investment Bank Vice-President Francis Meyer, French Finance Minister Laurent Fabius, and other prominent European, French and Lebanese officials.
Key reform initiatives presented: Prime Minister Hariri presented his governments economic reform program, which was based on several basic elements:
Results of the conference: The Lebanese governments reform program won the support of the participants of the conference, and the World Bank and the European Investment Bank agreed to provide Lebanon with 500 million Euros to finance development projects.
Stimulating and modernizing the economy,
Following up the process of modernizing the tax system
Ensuring the structural improvement of general public finances
Preserving monetary and financial stability as well as price stability.
On November 23, 2002, President Jacques Chirac of France hosted the "Paris II" meeting at the Elyse Palace, entitled: After Construction and Recovery, Toward Sustainable Development. Paris II was attended by key officials from several countries and multilateral institutions.
Objective of the conference: To seek support of the international community in helping Lebanon in its endeavor to alleviate the burden of the public debt and to reverse the macroeconomic and fiscal imbalances of the Lebanese economy. The help would consist in extending long-term financing at interest rates significantly lower than the rates at which the government borrowed in the domestic and international markets.
Convening this conference was an unprecedented positive sign of the economic and political support made available to Lebanon. It reflected the consensus of the international community on the governments commitment towards Lebanon financial and economic program.
Key reform initiatives presented:
Structural reform of the various administrations and institutions
Boosting productivity of the public sector and improving competitiveness
Stimulating economic growth and improving the investment climate
Results of the conference: According to the Ministry of Finance, $10.1 billion of grants and loans resulted from Paris II. Funds amounting to $ 2.4 billion were provided by seven lending countries, $3.6 billion from a scheme arranged by commercial banks operating in Lebanon and $4.1 billion from the Central Bank scheme.
THE HARIRI FOUNDATION
If there is anything that defines Mr. Hariri and points to his proudest achievement, it is, by his acknowledgement, the Hariri Foundation. It is a testimony to the importance that he gives to education and future generations. He admits that the work of the foundation is the closest to his heart. He founded the Hariri Foundation in 1979, a non-profit organization that helped educate more than 33.000 Lebanese students in the best universities in Lebanon, the U.S., the U.K, France, and Canada.
The Hariri Foundation provides also health, social and cultural services to the needy in Lebanon as well as promotes cultural issues and childrens welfare. It maintains offices in Lebanon, Paris and Washington.
In recognition of the Hariri Foundation's commitment to education and culture, it has granted scholarships, built schools and colleges throughout Lebanon and sponsored efforts to preserve Islamic architecture and refurbished mosques, the Foundation won "King Faysal International Award for Serving Islam", for the year 2005, equally with the Islamic Bank for Development, in Jeddah.