Bahaa Hariri, Horizon Chairman
Date of Interview: April 2008
The Hariri name is synonymous with construction and real estate development in our region. Bahaa Hariri, who inherited his father Rafik’s banking, real estate tourism, telecommunications, and media ventures in 2005, spoke to Venture in 2008, and discussed his latest projects. Planned developments in Aqaba and Abdali were on the horizon, and Hariri shared how he approached investment.
From the interview
Jordanians are looking for safe harbors for investment. We are not sure where the real estate market is going. Stocks have fallen off tremendously in the last three years. What is your investment strategy? And has it remained consistent?
I am sticking to the same perimeters. I believe that Jordan has all the prerequisites for a safe investment. First, Jordan is a very safe country; it does not have any problems with its borders. It has a strong military and a strong security apparatus. Second, you have seen the laws that have been passed in the last five or six years—over two hundred—that promote investments, especially foreign investments, in the country. It’s a step in the right direction. And what we have seen is that the spillover of the oil price—you see a positive trend. So through the direction of HM King Abdullah, we have seen a strong emphasis on promoting Arab investment in Jordan, especially the private sector.
Countries are giving the private sector virtually everything they need to be successful—whether it is [Build Operate-Transfer agreements] or real estate or infrastructure. And the private sector is being enriched more and more.
These investors are looking for safe investments too—whether they are in industries or tourism … But progress is being made, step-by-step. So I am not changing my strategy, in fact, I would like to invest more.
Considering the numbers behind Tabouk Economic City [a 161 square km development in Saudi Arabia], what is the value of bothering with smaller projects?
Small project or large project; it’s all the same. It is something that Rafik Hariri, God bless his soul, started and we are committed to continuing. The social contributions of these projects, whether it be Jordan or Lebanon or Saudi Arabia, are very important. So for me, creating 50,000 jobs in Abdali is very positive.
Do you think locals will really capture those jobs?
I think with time and the right opportunities, the Jordanians who are living outside will come back. Who wants more than to live in their nation? People want to come back to their origins. We saw that with the Lebanese. The challenge is to bring those that are up to the standard, rather than not having a job. That would provide them that long-term security.
What do we need to do to improve our business culture?
A mix of public policy and repatriation of that Jordanian business class with experience based throughout the Arab world. We need to promote for them to come back, to tell them there is true opportunity here. You don’t need all of them, but a portion—then they will be a kind of catalyst between the Arab investor and Jordan. In all its fields. Once the domino effect starts, then you will see the investments follow. The ones that are smart will prepare themselves for the stability of that anomaly called Iraq. Because once Iraq is stable, the first country that will benefit—tremendously—is Jordan.
What’s happened since?
Hariri’s investment in Jordan continued with the Abdali project, the new down town of Amman. His company, Horizon International for Development, which was established in 2002, is a partner in Abdali Investment and Development company which runs the Abdali Boulevard—inaugurated in 2014—the Abdali Mall—set to open its doors during the second quarter of this year—and the Jordan District Energy. The investment is progressing well with phase one nearly completed. Rotana tower is also set to open soon.
This is part four of a 10-piece story. Articles in the series of Venture at 10 also include: