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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid