Moroccan report warns against socio-economic inequalities

Approximately 86,000 jobs were created in 2017, which experienced a rebound in economic growth, with a rate of 4.1% against 1.1% in 2016.
Sunday 30/09/2018
Moroccan women porters carry bundles of goods on their backs on their way from the Spanish exclave of Ceuta to Morocco, on September 20. (AFP)
Worth their salt. Moroccan women porters carry bundles of goods on their backs on their way from the Spanish exclave of Ceuta to Morocco, on September 20. (AFP)

CASABLANCA - Social and economic inequalities have become unacceptable among Moroccans, said the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE), a constitutionally ordained advisory body, in its annual report.

The CESE’s report cited the persistence of dysfunctions that undermine efforts to revive Morocco’s economic momentum and boost social protection at a time the country is seeing a resurgence in clandestine migration among its citizens.

The report said economic inequalities were greater than the average of those in comparable countries.

“The social movements observed in our country during the recent period show that poverty, youth unemployment and inequalities are less and less accepted,” it said.

The social climate in Morocco has been marred by protests in the last two years with demonstrators calling for better standards of living.

Last year, protesters in the north-eastern city of Jerada demanded “strong” measures, including the creation of 5,000 jobs and an investigation to determine those responsible for the economic problems of the city after the death of two brothers in an abandoned coal mine.

Protests in Jerada came more than a year after the gruesome death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri, which sparked a grass-roots effort called al-Hirak al-Shaabi (Popular Movement) led by jailed Nasser Zefzafi in Al Hoceima, demanding social justice, jobs and health care.

Moroccan King Mohammed VI slammed the government for failing to implement a development programme signed in 2015 for Al Hoceima.

The CESE stressed that government action to correct economic, social and territorial inequalities was not enough. It called for boosting social justice, accountability, good governance and the fight against corruption and all forms of abuse.

“Moroccan society has changed and intolerance towards inequalities is becoming increasingly high, citizens being more aware of their rights and expressing more dissatisfaction, needs and expectations,” said the report.

It emphasised that young people were particularly intolerant of inequalities as they increasingly vent their anger in the virtual world, including social networks.

Ahmed, an unemployed 21-year-old who declined to give his surname, said many young Moroccans have turned to drugs to help them forget their daily problem of not being able to find a job after graduation from university.

“A bachelor’s degree in law now is not enough to get you a decent job to be able to live in the expensive city of Casablanca. Very few jobs for too many applicants,” he said.

Approximately 86,000 jobs were created in 2017, which experienced a rebound in economic growth, with a rate of 4.1% against 1.1% in 2016. However, only 7,000 jobs were created in the industry and craft sectors.

“This situation confirms that the national economy has not continued its transition to a higher growth level,” said the report.

Youth unemployment continues to haunt the Islamist-led government. The unemployment rate among young Moroccans is 2.6 times higher than the national average despite the various integration programmes.

The number of young Moroccans daring to reach Europe by sea has increased considerably in recent months, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights said. Videos showing smiling young people on small rubber boats sailing towards Spain have gone viral on social networks.

A Moroccan woman died and three people were injured when the Moroccan Navy opened fire September 25 at a speedboat with illegal migrants onboard after the driver refused an order to stop, an Interior Ministry official said.

Rachid Aourraz, a researcher at the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis, said the CESE report was very daring given the current situation in Morocco. “The government takes full responsibility for the social and economic inequalities,” he said.

“Despite a good economic growth in 2017, the blockage that occurred following the October 2017 elections has had a negative effect on small and medium enterprises that work with the public sector and saw their payments delayed by months while waiting for the formation of a new government,” he added.

The CESE report echoed Aourraz’s remark. It cited the lengthening of the payment periods to businesses, which reached an average of 99 days in 2017.

As a result, the pace of business creation slowed from 8.3% to 5.2% this year, prompting the CESE to question whether “the persistence of these blocking factors calls into question the effectiveness of the reforms undertaken.”

The CESE also cited corruption, lack of efficiency of the administration and difficulties of access to financing continuing to hamper the business environment in Morocco.

Aourraz called on the government to review its fiscal policy, promote entrepreneurship and encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to operate in a more flexible environment that will help them to prosper and create jobs since they are “the backbone of Morocco’s economy.”

The CESE called for a focus on entrepreneurship as the main lever of jobs for young people while considering the “heterogeneity of this category when designing employment programmes.”

“There is the importance of improving young people’s access to adapted forms of financing. This will have to be accompanied by the strengthening of the status of entrepreneur, as a model of inspiration,” the CESE report said.