Morocco’s 2019 finance bill to prioritise social issues

100,000 additional students would be enrolled in preschool education programmes.
Sunday 04/11/2018
A focus on health and education. A Moroccan professor works with his team at the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University in Fez.     (AFP)
A focus on health and education. A Moroccan professor works with his team at the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University in Fez. (AFP)

CASABLANCA - The Moroccan government’s $46.5 billion 2019 finance bill is a follow-up to Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s call for urgent action addressing social issues, in particular health and education, in the country.

The government allocated $10 billion to health care and education, Minister of Economy, Trade and Finances Mohamed Benchaaboun told parliament. Some $7.1 billion is to go to education, including $220 million for the Tayssir programme for children, he said.

Benchaaboun said the government “is paying special attention to the implementation of the reform of the education and training system, with a focus on the qualification of young people to facilitate their access to the labour market, while giving priority to job-generating specialties and adopting an efficient approach to early orientation.”

The plans call for the construction of 137 schools and 15,000 budgetary positions to boost human resources in the education sector.

The sector has gone through many reforms through several decades, without much improvement. Data indicate that three-quarters of Moroccan children cannot read or write after four years of primary school.

“Reforming education with more schools and teachers is not the solution. The government needs to properly address and assess the chronic problems that were behind the crisis in the education sector,” said financial expert Lotfi Abourizk. “The quality of education needs a thorough re-evaluation. The finance bill seeks to punctually reform education but is there any visibility in the future?”

Benchaaboun said 100,000 additional students would be enrolled in preschool education programmes and vocational training will be revamped to meet changing needs of employers.

New youth training and qualification centres will be opened with the support of the Hassan II Fund for Economic and Social Development in accordance with royal instructions.

The government allocated $2.9 billion to the health-care sector, including $732 million in the form of commitments for the construction and equipment of the University Hospital Centres of Rabat, Tangier, Agadir, Marrakech and Oujda, as well as the creation of 4,000 budgetary positions.

Moulay Abdellah el-Montadar Alaoui, secretary-general of the Independent Union of Public Sector Doctors (SIMSP), welcomed the move but said the proposed

budget amounts were not enough to solve the problems in the health-care sector.

“The budget allocated to the health-care sector is still shy of the 10% required by the World Health Organisation,” said Alaoui.

SIMSP earlier issued a statement that the health-care sector was going through a structural crisis that “does not respond to the aspirations of the citizens and led to severe and chronic structural defects and imbalances.”

“We have been militating for more than a year to improve our conditions, including security at the hospitals, the hiring of more doctors and the acquisition of equipment to fulfil patients’ increasing demands,” said Alaoui.

He said several doctors across the country submitted collective resignations because of the government’s failure to meet their demands.

Benchaaboun said 2019 would mark the beginning of the implementation of the “Health 2025″ plan to promote citizens’ access to quality health services and improve reception conditions in hospitals through strengthening hospital infrastructure and mobilisation of medicine.

The government will pay particular heed to supporting the programmes of the National Initiative for Human Development by allocating $190 million a year to reduce the deficit of infrastructure and basic services in underequipped areas, support people in precarious situations and improve the income and economic integration of young people.

The bill allocates $360 million in payment appropriations and $420 million of commitment appropriations to the programme for combating spatial and social disparities in rural areas through the Rural Development Fund.