Neemat Frem, the engineer who aspires to fix the republic bugs

Denise Atallah – Almodon

 September 16 2022

Neemat Frem did not announce his candidacy to the presidency of the Republic; however, he never acts prissily when asked about this matter. "I am ready to assume this responsibility if the deputies choose me to."

Neemat’s “profile” is his strength and weakness at the same time.

He is from Keserwan, heart of the Maronite Mount Lebanon; he is a popular member of the parliament, close to Bkerke and the clergy in general. He constantly tries to maintain his relationships with all political parties and has a good international friendship network. Frem is an industrialist, president of "INDEVCO" group, which employs more than 10 thousand people around the world. Thanks to his wealth, he is able to provide a large amount of aid and services to his region, all the way to the American University of Beirut.


An engineer's brain

He works diligently, searching for formulas and creating gatherings to fix Lebanon's "bugs," --the engineer who “cannot help himself from fixing anything that is broken,” as he tells Al-Modon. “I always loved fixing things, since I was a little boy. From watches to televisions, and from the machines in the factory to the bugs in the Lebanese system," he adds.

But this "profile" is seen differently by Frem’s detractors, who are many at the time of the presidential elections.

Indeed, the "Christian" parties are not really in favor of a Maronite enjoying a great popularity that may grow if he becomes president.

In addition, because of his wide networking connections and his outstretched hand, some of his decriers consider him a “less powerful Maronite”, according to one of the aspiring presidents, while some others raise question marks about his relations and accounts with the "system,", whether political or financial.

Even his professional success and his reputation that has reached an international level in this field, are questioned: Does he dare to make independent decisions, he who has “interests” in the United States of America and Saudi Arabia?


100% made in Lebanon

Neemat Frem is proud to be “100% made in Lebanon.”

“I don't receive instructions from anyone. I want nothing and am ready for everything. If the next president is required to build a country and some see me fit for this task, then I am up to the challenge. But if they want to continue running the banana republic, then I am not the right person. I have a lot to accomplish on a personal level,” he explains.


Frem grew up in Keserwan and studied in its schools, before graduating as an electrical engineer from the American University of Beirut, and majoring in business administration at Stanford, Harvard and Georgetown universities. But over the time, Keserwan remained his favorite sphere, from Jounieh to Ghosta to Kleiat and Ouyoun al-Siman. Each of these towns and villages is a special place and holds precious memories to him.

The open-minded man from Keserwan, who is smitten with Lebanon, concedes that “there is no Lebanese nationalism.”

“Lebanon is a group of large and small sects. To bring all the Lebanese together, we must build a modern, productive state that respects human freedom and works for its prosperity. This state should produce a solid social contract that will develop later into a national one. This may require 20, 30, 40 or maybe 50 years, but we have to start working," he declares.

Based on this background, he launched, with a group of people, “Project Watan”, which slogan is "freedom, modernity and prosperity for the sake of human happiness, through the state of productive and pioneering institutions, and the state of superior services."

Frem considers that "the fading of values and the lack of any commitment to principles are behind a great part of the Lebanese tragedy. If we clung to freedom as much as we clung to Lebanon, then rights, duties, and living in dignity would be at the core of values. As for our principles, they are modernity, productivity, equal opportunities and prosperity."


On the verge of politics

Neemat ran for the 2018 parliamentary elections on the Free Patriotic Movement’s list in the districts of Keserwan and Jbeil, and resigned in the wake of Beirut port explosion “in protest against corruption and the lack of productivity of the political system that led to the financial collapse and the port blast, while the truth about this catastrophe is still unknown and no one has been held accountable to this day.”

He was re-elected in the 2022 parliamentary elections after forming an independent list in alliance with the Kataeb Party, though he always seems to be on the verge of politics, as per the Lebanese concept of it, rather than in the midst of it. Perhaps because he views the country as "an institution that must be well managed with transparency, organization and a clear system to which all its members are committed. Institutions are living organisms. Therefore, coordination, interconnection and integration are necessary to create a homogeneous, productive and scalable system."

Neemat has an integrated vision for Lebanon’s recovery that begins with an “emergency social protection plan, starting with the health and ration cards, in addition to many other details. Laws to boost production, rebuilding the institutions and returning depositors’ money.” He talks lengthily about the "Lebanese State Assets Investment Fund Project." He insists that "the state is pillaged, and that theft, waste and corruption can indeed be stopped.”

“For example, I do not accept that backup power generators’ [owners] make profits while the EDL loses,” he says.


The Prime Minister under my mandate

Asked about who he would like to have as prime minister if he were the president of the republic, Frem affirmed that he respects the constitution, which delegates this prerogative to representatives and parliamentary blocs. Yet he expressed his wish to "cooperate with a personality who shares the aspirations to build a modern state that stands at an equal distance from all the Lebanese. So, we could cooperate together to build institutions and create additional, renewable value for the country, where there will be no disruption but positive work instead. I believe that Lebanon has plenty of women and men who deserve this position, whether they live in Lebanon or abroad.”


The Prime Minister of my home

That was for the public sphere. But when it comes to the private one, Neemat’s wife, Zena, is the "president of the government" of his small family consisting of his children Nour, Hayat -- named after his mother Hayat Al-Khazen --, Georges -- named after his late father former deputy and minister Georges Frem --, and Charbel.


Their appearances together at public events reflect to many the "beautiful" image of the politician who is, at the same time, a husband, a father, and most of all, a human being.

But Neemat family ties and commitments extend beyond his small family, for he heads the "empire" of the Frem family, which includes brothers, uncles, children and the third generation. He smiles and says, "I am the product of a tight-knit and loving community. I am the tip of the iceberg, but the invisible part of it is even bigger and stronger."

He believes that "the best leaders and officials are the ones who inspire others. It is not reward and punishment that distinguishes a leader, but his ability to bring out the best in others. In the true sense of the word, and in its Christian depth, a leader is a servant."


We can find in this approach some of the “Chehabi” thinking that is inherited in the family; its concept lies in building institutions, serving the state, and raising the bar for dealing with public affairs.

Will Neemat Frem, Chehab's geographic neighbor, succeed in being the "servant" of the Lebanese Republic and the captain leading the ship towards modernity, productivity and prosperity?

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