The unfinished reforms of Morocco

Friday 01/05/2015
Renault factory in Casablanca

Rabat - If efforts at political and socioeconomic reform in Morocco have achieved significant results, much remains to be done in vital and sensitive fields. The “good marks” that international financial institutions have lavishly granted as reforms and achievements were carried out show that the kingdom is on the right track, but massive obstacles hinder the process of meeting a number of objectives.
In any case, and for the sake of objectivity, both the achievements and failures of the reform plan should be highlighted. They even prompted King Mohammed VI to recognise in a speech in July that Morocco is adopting a two-speed policy.
His message was clear and directed at all Moroccans, including politicians, economic groups and civil society, so that they take up their joint responsibility. The monarch has apparently meant to focus on the reasons and on the main actors behind the failure of reforms that the majority of the population had been seeking for decades.
In terms of reform achievements, many people believe that they have started to bear fruit. It is the case of the Royal Institute for Strategic Studies (IRES), which is part of the programme of study on “global competitiveness.” Its experts say that reform has reached strategic areas such as changing the constitution, the Compensation Fund, the allowance system, the media, public finance, and mobilising civil society in a more global and effective manner, in addition to the progressive implementation of administrative de-centralisation.
What is most significant is that the reforms were achieved following consultations that occurred in the context of the amendments to the constitution. Then, the social support fund was created and the Tayssir programme was developed to support widows and divorced women living in precarious conditions.
In addition to these reforms, which were appreciated in particular by the middle classes and the poor, student scholarships were increased and a compensation fund was established for those losing their jobs. Then, a reform initiative, supported by the World Bank, led to the systematic elimination of slums around large cities, which the state will replace with low-income housing to ensure a dignified life for poor urban residents. In the first stage of this plan, to be carried out across the regions and to end in early 2017, 1 million homes will be built.
Meanwhile, economic reforms are steadily having a positive impact on GDP, despite the recession affecting Morocco’s main trading partners, namely EU countries, and despite years of drought. For the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which granted a credit line of $6.2 billion to Morocco — a source of funding that has not used for the past three years — the Moroccan economy is sound and able to provide leverage for achieving sustainable development objectives.
Some of the major economic reforms have a strategic scope. The most important among these is the extension project of Tanger-Med port. In addition to developing the country’s north, which has suffered from marginalisation for many decades, industrial exports from the free zone of the port reached about $40 billion in 2014 in the car industry, sectors of the aviation industry and electronic products.
In this respect, more than 700 companies of various sizes operate in this area with investments from the European Union, the United States and the Gulf countries; moreover, there are large-scale projects in the fields of sustainable and renewable energy and the massive “the water highway” project.
As for the failures of certain fundamental reforms, one must remember that Morocco continues to be hampered by obstacles to its reform process. Despite efforts by the government and even interventions by the palace, these obstacles are difficult to overcome due to the strong role of powerful lobbies with networks and senior officials.As an example, the judicial system, which lacks human resources and suffers from deeply-ingrained corruption, has yet to see reforms take root.
The education sector has also failed to benefit from the reform projects in place despite the persistent modernisation efforts by the Abdelilah Benkirane government; the same goes for the health sector.
Other setbacks include the system’s inability to fight smuggling and corruption in the bureaucracy, while the most dangerous problem remains unemployment, especially for college graduates, with thousands of them annually flooding into the labour market. As an example, statistics published on April 22nd indicate that fully one-third of female graduates are unemployed.