Future Movement: When Will We Get Paid?
By: Maysam Rizk
Published Saturday, August 11, 2012
Saad Hariri’s self-imposed exile from Lebanon is not merely due to security concerns. Unpaid bills and salaries also are a major reason why the former prime minister chooses to avoid his followers for whom he has no answers on when cash will become readily available again.
Security personnel in a number of Saad Hariri’s companies found a savior in Jihad al-Arab. “He paid part of the wages that have been held for more than two months. It was not a large sum of money, just 35 million Lebanese Lira ($23,300).”
Jihad is the brother of Abed al-Arab, the head of Hariri’s personal security, and relative of Yehia al-Arab who was killed alongside Rafik Hariri.
He had started out in the contracting business, before taking care of large projects related to clearing rubble and building roads. He eventually became a prominent financier who profited immensely from close ties with the Hariri family. Now is his chance to pay Hariri back.
The current financial situation of the billionaire former prime minister is dire. There is talk about Saad Hariri selling property in Tripoli and Akkar. This makes Future Movement members feel uneasy.
The future of their leader is unknown. “Questions are forbidden,” comes the cold answer from the leadership to their boiling anxiety. This is what became of the Future Movement.
Around a year ago, the signs of an impending crisis became apparent. But very few knew the details other than what was apparent in the pay delays for the employees of Hariri’s media, social organizations, and administrative offices. Around 300 families started to feel the effects of the young leader’s lean years.
As usual, the Saudis, six months after cutting off the financing of Hariri’s activities, decided to help again. But the crisis re-appeared three months ago. This time, it not only affected the media firms but rather all the businesses owned by Hariri.
The financial squeeze is being felt by some of the movement’s main figures, even some within Hariri’s inner circle who have relatively high incomes.
Several administrative staff, personal guards, and the security personnel guarding Hariri-owned establishments and offices have recently started to express their discontent. Their salaries stopped coming around five months ago. Some are worried about their delayed wages but others are facing growing fears that their sources of income will be closed for good.
Employees cannot even discuss the issue amongst each other or definitely cannot question those in charge. The latter consider such acts as “madness,” since they believe that “serving the political project represented by Hariri requires accepting the status quo.”
But those who work in Future Movement’s administration and institutions are only asking for a clear explanation of the crisis. They could then go look for an alternative source of income somewhere else.
Some are saying they have become prone to ridicule. Nobody agrees to lend them money anymore just for being members of the movement. “The money will never come back,” they scoff at them.
Future Movement employees now have to cope with Hariri’s bitter reality. The wound in his biggest money making business, Saudi Oger, has not healed yet.
The Saudi bailout of Hariri’s company came with a condition forcing him to lay off 30 percent of the Lebanese employees and replace them with Saudi nationals. This move has hurt him politically in Lebanon.
Hariri is not fearing for his life merely for security reasons. His political and financial debts are also forcing him to run away.
While Saad Hariri sails in his yacht away from the noise, he distances himself from those who supported him and pledged allegiance to the young Hariri after the assassination of his father.
A small group of people stands between them and Saad Hariri and prevents them from even talking to him. They have the exclusive right to meet with the man and communicate with him directly.
These include some relatives like Nader and Ahmad Hariri, a few consultants like Bassem al-Sabeh and Hani Hammoud, in addition to Marwan Hamade, a lifetime political friend. But even they tend to avoid meeting with delegations coming to inquire about the situation, especially Ahmad Hariri.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.