Rafic Baha El Deen Al-Hariri (November 1, 1944 – February 14, 2005, رفيق بهاء الدين الحريري), was a business tycoon and the Prime Minister of Lebanon from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 until his resignation, 20 October 2004.
He headed five cabinets during his tenure. Hariri dominated the country's post-war political and business life and is widely credited with reconstructing Beirut after the 15-year civil war.
Hariri was assassinated on 14 February 2005 when explosives equivalent to around 1000 kg of TNT were detonated as his motorcade drove past the St. George Hotel in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. The investigation, by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, into his assassination is still ongoing and currently led by the independent investigator Daniel Bellemare.
Hariri was born in a modest Sunni Muslim family, along with two siblings (brother, Shafic and sister Bahia) in the Lebanese port city of Sidon. Hariri attended elementary and secondary school in his city and pursued his business administration studies at the Beirut Arab University.
Rise to wealth
In 1969, Hariri established Ciconest, a small subcontracting firm, which went out of business soon. He then went in business with the French construction firm Oger for the construction of a hotel in Ta'if, Saudi Arabia, the timely construction of which brought him in good graces with king Khaled. Hariri took over Oger, forming Oger International, which became the main construction firm used by the Saudi Royal family for all of their important developments. As a result, only a few years after his first contract with King Khaled, Hariri had become a multi-billionaire.
Beginings in philanthropy
Having accumulated his wealth, Hariri started a number of philanthropic projects, including the building of educational facilities in Lebanon. Hariri became progressively more embroiled in politics. His appeals to the U.N. and services as an emissary to the Saudi Royal family won him international recognition on the political stage for his humanitarian efforts but also slowly caught him in the web of Lebanese politics.
In 1982, he donated $12 million to Lebanese victims of the 1978 South Lebanon conflict and helped clean up Beirut's streets with his company's money. After the conflict, he acted as an envoy of the Saudi Royal family to the country. He laid the groundwork that led to the 1989 Taif Accord, which Saudi Arabia organised to bring the warring factions together. Taif put an end to the civil war and paved the way for Hariri to become prime minister.
Hariri returned to Lebanon in the early 80s as a wealthy man and began to build a name for himself by making large donations and contributions to various groups in Lebanon. He was implanted as the Saudis' strong man following the collapse of the PLO and the paucity of any viable Sunni leadership in the country, as well as a response to the rising power of the Shiite militia Amal. In 1992, becoming prime minister under Syria's watchful military occupation of Lebanon, he put the country back on the financial map through the issuing of Eurobonds and won plaudits from the World Bank for his plan to borrow reconstruction money as the country's debt grew to become the largest per capita in the world.
1992-1996 economic political policies
Hariri implemented aggressive and reformative new economic policy. Perhaps Hariri's most important creation in the beginning of his career was "Horizon 2000" the government's name for its new rejuvenation plan. A large component of "Horizon 2000" was Solidere, the privately-owned construction company that was established to reconstruct post-war Lebanon. Solidere was owned by the government and private investors. Solidere was largely focused on redeveloping Beirut's downtown and turning it into a new urban center as quickly as possible as one aspect of the various infrastructure redevelopment plans that would be implemented by "Horizon 2000". Another aspect of the decade-long plan was the privatization of major industries. Numerous contracts were awarded in important industries such as energy, telecommunications, electricity, airports and roads. The last and perhaps most significant aspect of "Horizon 2000" was economic stimulus via direct foreign investment. Specifically, Hariri supported foreign firms and individuals taking an interest in Lebanon's developmental potential. Hariri simplified tax codes and provided tax breaks to foreign investors. Due to his previous successes in the private sector and the numerous resulting international connections, Hariri was able to garner a significant amount of low-interest loans from foreign investors. Hariri also pursued aggressive macroeconomic policy such as maintaining strict regulations on bank reserves and inter-bank interest rates to curb inflation and raise the value of the Lebanese pound relative to the dollar. Hariri's economic policies were a remarkable success during his first year in office. From 1992-1993 there was a 6 percent real increase in national income, the capital base of commercial banks effectively doubled, the budgetary earnings hovered at around a billion dollars, and commercial banks’ consolidated balance sheets increased about 25%. By 1998, however, real GDP growth was around 1%, a year later it would be -1%, national debt had skyrocketed 540% from two to eighteen billion dollars, and Lebanon's economy was in a miserable state.
On 14 February 2005 Hariri was killed, along with 21 others, when explosives equivalent of around 1,000 kg of TNT were detonated as his motorcrade drove near the St. George Hotel in Beirut. Among the dead were several of Hariri's bodyguards and his friend and former Minister of the Economy Bassel Fleihan. Hariri was buried along with his bodyguards, who died in the bombing, in a location near Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque.
The latest progress report by Brammertz has indicated that DNA evidence collected from the crime scene suggests that the assassination might be the act of a young male suicide bomber.
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