Moroccan king sacks minister three days after urging action on social, economic problems

Boussaid is the fourth minister in the current government to be sacked.
Sunday 05/08/2018
Political tremors. Former Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance Mohamed Boussaid speaks during an interview in Marrakech. (Reuters)
Political tremors. Former Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance Mohamed Boussaid speaks during an interview in Marrakech. (Reuters)

TETOUAN, Morocco - The dismissal of Moroccan Economy and Finance Minister Mohamed Boussaid by King Mohammed VI three days after the monarch’s speech to mark the 19th anniversary of his accession to the throne was expected, analysts said.

Last year, King Mohammed VI slammed the government for failing to implement a development programme called “Al Hoceima, Manarat Al Moutawassit” (“Al Hoceima, the Lighthouse of the Mediterranean”), which was signed in 2015.

The Moroccan monarch’s decision to dismiss Boussaid, which was taken in consultation with Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani, was “part of the implementation of the principle of accountability which His Majesty is keen to apply to all officials, whatever their ranks or affiliations,” the Royal Cabinet said in a statement August 1.

Boussaid is the fourth minister in the current government to be sacked. In October 2017, the king fired the ministers of education, planning and housing and health for failing to improve the economic situation in the Rif region, which was shaken by protests in late 2016 and early 2017.

Rachid Aourraz, a researcher at the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis, said the Manarat Al Moutawassit development programme was probably one of the major reasons behind Boussaid’s dismissal.

Le360.ma, a news website considered close to the palace, reported that Boussaid, a member of the co-ruling liberal National Rally of Independents (RNI) party was sacked because of his ministry’s delays in releasing funds provided for the Manarat Al Moutawassit programme.

Aourraz said Boussaid failed to manage the liberalisation of fuel prices, which have soared, prompting consumers to boycott Afriquia petrol stations, which are owned by RNI chief and Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch.

“Another reason could be the sale of the insurance firm Saham Assurance owned by Minister of Industry Moulay Hafid Elalamy to South African firm Sanlam, which resulted in a loss of more than [$42 million] of tax revenue to the government,” Aourraz said.

Le 360.ma said Elalamy benefited from a tax measure, introduced in the latest draft of the 2018 Finance Law and tailored by the Ministry of Economy and Finance in a way that it exempted Saham Assurance from registration fees on the sale of shares.

“The application of this measure to the Saham-Sanlam transaction automatically results in a loss of 420 million dirhams ($44 million) of tax revenue (equivalent to 4% of the overall volume of the transaction),” the news site said.

Aourraz said he expected more public officials to be dismissed.

“It is just the beginning of a political earthquake whose replicas will likely hit several public administrations,” warned Aourraz.

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