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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    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!

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.