Moroccan King tackles regional gaps
Casablanca - Moroccan King Mohammed VI has urged the government to improve living conditions in rural and remote areas as well as consular and diplomatic services for Moroccans living abroad and reform public education.
“All that has been achieved, no matter how significant it is, remains insufficient for our country, as long as there is a category of the population still living in dire conditions and feeling marginalised,” the king said referring to the 12 million living in poor conditions outside cities, from a total population of around 33 million.
“I am aware of the gaps and deficits that have grown in these areas over the decades, despite all the efforts and initiatives undertaken,” he noted.
The nationally televised speech on July 30th commemorated the 16th anniversary of Mohammed’s ascent to the throne.
The Moroccan monarch instructed Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad to identify basic social services and infrastructure needed in remote and isolated areas. Hassad’s study listed more than 29,000 villages across Morocco in specific order of priority to be given assistance.
The king’s initiative stems from the Islamist-led government’s failure to improve Moroccans’ lives in remote areas. The previous government led by the Independence Party had no ministry dedicated to rural development.
“All you experience in life is of interest to me. What hurts you affects me and what makes you happy rejoices me. Your worries are my top priorities,” King Mohammed said.
The precarious situation in many remote villages spurred an exodus of young people to major cities to seek a better standard of living, access to health care and education. Hence, the rural population finds its workforce depleted.
“Around 20,800 projects have also been screened. They target a population of more than 12 million people, living in over 24,000 douars [villages], with an overall budget nearing 50 billion dirhams ($5.04 billion),” the king said.
In a telephone interview with The Arab Weekly, Information Minister Mustapha El Khalfi said the government has been mobilised to achieve the king’s request.
“The authorities concerned are now working to provide the necessary financial assistance and set out a minute schedule in order to execute these projects,” Khalfi said.
“The king’s speech has launched a national mobilisation to face all the challenges in remote and rural areas.”
King Mohammed called on the government to develop an integrated plan of action, built on partnerships among all government agencies and the institutions concerned, with a view to providing funding for the projects and drawing up a precise timetable for their implementation. The king also highlighted the difficulties the Moroccan diaspora is facing in various consulates and called for the dismissal of negligent consuls.
“During my visits abroad and when meeting here with members of our community living abroad, I was able to have a clear idea about their true concerns and legitimate ambitions,” he said.
“I used to think that they only had difficulties while in Morocco. As it turned out, many of them also complained about the way they were treated on the premises of Moroccan consulates.
“There are consuls — not a majority, thank God — who neglect the mission they are entrusted with and focus on personal and political issues,” the king added.
The monarch’s remarks came after he met Moroccans in Europe who expressed frustration with the services provided by some consulates.
“Several members of this community expressed dissatisfaction with the treatment they were subjected to in some consulates and complained about the poor services provided, both in terms of quality and deadline, and about administrative obstacles,” noted the king.
“Those found to be guilty of neglecting their duties, flouting the interests of the Moroccan community abroad or mistreating its members should be dismissed.”
The king urged Minister of Foreign Affairs Salaheddine Mezouar to remedy the situation. Mezouar suspended consuls’ holidays until decisions were made to resolve the problems. In October 2014, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the Charter of Consuls, which was designed to significantly improve the quality of services offered by the Moroccan diplomatic representations in a bid to meet the expectations of its diaspora.
However, grievances of Moroccans living abroad conveyed to King Mohammed show that the charter’s promises have not been fulfilled.
The monarch also called for educational reforms in state-run schools.