News / Africa

Richest Businessman Says Libya Better Off

FILE - Women shop in the souq (market) of the old city in Tripoli, February 13, 2012.
FILE - Women shop in the souq (market) of the old city in Tripoli, February 13, 2012.
Despite problems buffeting the country, Libya’s richest businessman says all Libyans are better off now than they were under Moammar Gadhafi.

However, Hesham Husni Bey's optimism is tinged with frustration because he believes Libyans don't understand free markets and feel the government should provide everything.

As Libya’s top businessman, Bey has a habit of speaking his mind. He did so both times he met Gadhafi’s son and heir-apparent, Saif al-Islam, upbraiding him publicly for his vaunted reform process in the years before the country’s Arab Spring uprising.

His complaints that proposed reforms wouldn't unshackle the private sector earned him time in jail, one of the several times he was imprisoned by the Gadhafi government.

“This young man comes to the podium and started to talking about sovereign funds, about big projects, about things that did not sound right. It is not anything to do with the private sector. It was about big money slushed on the side that he wanted to control," Bey says. "They want me to come up and I said, ‘Sorry, I don’t believe you.’ They didn’t like it. I was imprisoned seven times and one of them was two weeks after this statement.”

For much of the Gadhafi era, the private sector wasn't allowed to operate, but after 1986 there was some opening up. Bey’s HB Group, started by his Turkish-born grandfather as a maritime transport company, began to take off, although Bey tried to avoid trading with the government.

Today, there is little going on commercially that Bey isn't involved with. He has shareholdings in most Libyan banks and is the country’s major distributor of retail goods. He owns many of the franchised Western brand stores sprouting up in the capital, Tripoli, and in the eastern city of Benghazi.

In the driveway of his Tripoli compound on the Mediterranean Sea sits a gleaming Porsche Panamericana, one of the few distractions he allows himself. The others are his family, he has a son and two daughters, and sailing.

While the Italian-educated businessman is encouraged by Libya's post-revolution spirit, he is frustrated with the lack of understanding about how free markets work, and worries that everyone wants to feed at the public trough.

Bey worries the potential of the private sector could be thwarted by a national mentality that wants everything from the government.

He believes Libya’s new leaders are involved in mass institutional bribery, arguing that half the budget is spent on government operations and the salaries of 1.2 million public employees, with about another quarter devoted to subsidizing housing, food and energy.

This continues the dependency of the Gadhafi years and doesn't help educate Libyans about the economic facts of life, according to Bey.

He suspects that post-revolution politicians, many of whom are Gadhafi holdovers, want to carry on with business as usual to protect their interests.

Above all, Bey is appalled by the failure to kick-start the economy by unleashing the real estate market, which he describes as being held back by restrictive regulations and chaos about property rights.

Bey believes free market begins in the housing market and feels housing transactions need to be freed from under government regulations and handled by the free market.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Alexander Hagen
March 05, 2013 1:23 AM
Leave it to VOA to tout neo liberalism in Libya through the prism of the biggest businessman in Libya. I wait for the day when VOA runs an article leads with "Libya worse off due to NATO intervention". One 1 article describing that side of the argument and you will have credibility. IMHO one can have strong social services and economic freedom, and in fact it may be a pre requisite of economic freedom.


by: Alexander Hagen from: SF Bay Area
March 04, 2013 9:29 PM
Leave it to Voice Of America to interview the biggest capitalist in Libya - who wants surprise - more capitalism! The question is will a market economy serve the average person? It sure isn't doing a very good job here in the states. With severe wealth inequality growing, why not allow countries like Libya to provide for their citizens (utility industries) and have a market economy, similar to a Sweden with oil. I know a girl here who has to drop out of UC Berkeley and go to junior college instead, here in what was known as the richest country on earth!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid