Sunday, October 10, 2010

Morocco In the News - Back to School Edition

Life expectancy at birth in Morocco jumps to 73.1 years in 2010.
Rabat - Life expectancy at birth in Morocco moved from 62 years in the 1960s to 73.1 years now, the High Planning Commission (HCP) said.
    The number of 60-year-olds and over moved from 833,000 to 2.4 million over the reporting period, an annual rise of 2.3%, the HCP said in a statement on the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons, celebrated on 1 October.
   The Day is celebrated this year under the theme "Older persons and the achievement of the MDGs".
   It added that it forecasts the number of older persons to grow by 3.5% yearly between now and 2030, compared to 0.9% for overall population, to reach 5.8 million by 2030.
    This, it continued, accounts for 15.4% of the population as against 8.1% now.
    The statement noted that the average number of children per woman declined from 7.2 to 2.4 between the start of the 1960s and 2010, which resulted in population ageing.

Morocco youth leaders hone social media skills. By Siham Ali 2010-10-03
The Middle East Partnership Initiative showed the next generation of Moroccan leaders how the internet can help effect social change.
A new programme in Morocco aims to empower youths to take charge of their future. The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Alumni Network's "Be Heard Now" project provided young leaders with a week-long training course in social media that ended Friday (October 1st) in Rabat.
Eighteen young representatives of civil society attended the course, which illustrated ways to use modern technology to initiate social change.
Abdallah Yassine Boukrizia national co-ordinator of MEPI's Moroccan division, told Magharebia that young people are used to using web-based social networks to post photos or chat, but that they could also use them to run high-impact awareness campaigns.
The training covered three areas: the fight against corruption, social entrepreneurship and promoting the image of Moroccan women. According to the event's organisers, the topics were chosen for their ability to affect the lives of Moroccans directly.
The young beneficiaries learned easy ways to convey civic messages via podcasts over the internet. For social entrepreneurship, simple graphics were used to encourage business owners and investors to increase profits and efficiency by providing better work environments for employees.
Manal Elattir, the MEPI Alumni Network co-ordinator, stressed that the Morocco programme focused on empowerment. "We're not pushing forward," she said. "People fear risks; we need to build up our young people's faith in their own abilities."
Response to the training appeared positive.
"The enriching training... changed my view of the internet and ways of raising awareness," said Rachid Dib, a 22-year-old student of English literature. "Just a few days are all it takes to change people's view of the future."
Dib said he intends to pass on the benefit of the experience to others when he returns home.
A similar view was held by Loubna Ghidou, a 19-year old from Casablanca who is in her second year studying applied mathematics. She said that young people need to be guided in order to have a greater impact on society. "I'm a member of the Idmaj Association," she said. "This training will help me a great deal in my community work, which will definitely be more effective."
Mohamed Bachir, an Egyptian expert on new technologies who supervised the training, said: "Morocco and Egypt are similar in terms of the use of new technologies, but one difference is that young Moroccans are much more active in civil society and can do a lot of things on the internet."
The impact of programmes like this is very important, said Judith Chammas, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Rabat, because if young people have the right tools, they can make a real difference in society.
Manal Elattir revealed some of the successes made by MEPI and the Alumni Network in this regard.
She told the story of a young schoolgirl named Jihad who visited one of MEPI's awareness caravans: "[She] was silent and did not dare to express herself during the training," Elattir said. "After she returned to Fes, she and her friends started up a club for young people. The cost was nothing in comparison with the result."
According to Abdallah Yassine Boukrizia, "Be Heard Now" exists for now only in Morocco but could be implemented in other countries if successful.
Morocco launches dialogue between officials, youth
By Naoufel Cherkaoui 2010-10-05
A youth association in Morocco has created a new initiative designed to encourage communication between young people and their political representatives.

A new project in Morocco aims to bring youth face-to-face with government officials.
'We came to the conclusion that there was a lack of communication between officials and youth, as well as the lack of true information among young people, so we decided to launch our project in order to fill this gap," Association of Young Citizens chief Mehdi Zouat said at the September 27th debut of the "Citizen Link" project.
The association, which was established in 2009, is inviting a variety of government officials to its future seminars. They also hope to attract concerned ministers.
"We as young people need to organise our work, we want to meet an official once a month, and we already received the approval of many ministers. Our conclusion is that officials and young people are eager to speak to each other," Zouat said, noting that his group already met with Industry Minister Ahmed Reda Chami.
Zouat said that the goal of his organisation was to help find young citizens willing to participate in their government. Furthermore, he hopes to educate young people on their rights and duties with regards to public policy.
"I can only encourage such initiative, I think it is beneficial for Morocco when the youth contribute in making the decisions in all areas, this category must be engaged in the service of civil society, and also within the political parties," Industry Minister Chami told Magharebia.
Najah Idrissi, who is a student in economics, sees the initiative as a way to bridge the gap between young people and government officials.
"We as young people, lack that link with them, and we do not know our position in the political management of the government, I hope there will be more initiatives like this, and I hope we will host ministers, the closer we are to officials the better we can understand the visions adopted by each sector on the political end."
"The youth were excluded from the priorities of political officials in recent decades. So young people, instead of serving their country, they were in a state of despair with regards to the absence of mechanisms for raising awareness, and therefore, the initiative of Citizen Link is of great significance in this direction as it can change the perception of young people about the issues of their country in general," Osama, an engineer, told Magharebia.
"It is the first time I met a high-level official in Morocco, while I have attended a number of meetings in Arab countries with officials from that level and I was wondering about the absence of such initiatives in Morocco. Now I can only pay tribute to the initiative launched by the Association of Young Citizens, which will create hope for deep discussions between the two sides," said Nabil Lahabib, a political activist.
Morocco draws on the elements for its green energy project.
By Anthony Lucas (AFP)
DHAR SAADANE, Morocco — Water, sun and wind: Morocco has launched an ambitious programme to harness the elements to produce "green" electricity to reduce its dependence on energy imports. And eventually it even hopes to export the energy produced.
Lining the hills of Dhar Saadane, 126 windmills overlook the city of Tangiers, in what site manager Loubna Farabi says is the largest windmill park in Africa. King Mohammed VI himself launched the site in June, one of the first steps towards Morocco's avowed aim of exploiting renewable energy sources. It has a capacity of 140 megawatts (MW).
But to get that green energy requires a lot of money up front, especially when you are dealing with relatively new technology.What has helped however, is the growing interest along the southern Mediterranean coastline among not just businesses but some European governments.
This has sparked interest in the Mediterranean to develop one of the region's most abundant resources: the sun.Ten years from now, by 2020, the plan is to generate 20 gigawatts (GW) of power in solar power across the southern Mediterranean countries, a quarter of which could be exported from Morocco into Europe.
Morocco's project then, as ambitious as it is, is only part of a much larger plan put together by the 46-nation Union for the Mediterranean, which comprises the 27 European Union members and 16 Mediterranean countries. For Mohammed Yahya Zniber, secretary general of Morocco's energy ministry, this represents a real economic opportunity for the country.
And Energy Minister Amina Benkhadra puts it this way: by diversifying its energy sources Morocco can ensure energy security. The growing demand for energy in Morocco, on average up 6.5 percent a year, makes that argument all the more convincing.
At the moment, Morocco is importing more than 95 percent of its primary energy materials -- oil, coal and gas -- for the country's energy needs. And it imports 18 percent of its electricity from Spain. And while the country's leadership has not ruled out looking at nuclear power, for the moment it has set itself the ambitious goal of increasing the share of renewable energy in its total output to 42 percent by 2020.
The plan is to share that out equally between hydroelectric, wind and solar energy: the wind park at Dhar Saadane then, is just one link in the chain and not enough in itself to meet the wind energy targets. Morocco wants to produce 2,000 MW in wind energy alone by 2020 and for the moment, its windmills are only producing 280 MW year -- and that will require an investment of some 2.2 billion euros (three billion dollars).
It will also have to build three dams to increase its hydroelectric production to 2,200 MW by 2020, said Zniber at the energy ministry. But the real work will have to come in solar energy, a resource that until now has been underexploited.
Morocco is putting 6.6 billion euros into plans to produce 2,000 MW in solar energy by their stated deadline, said Mustapha Bakkoury, president of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN).And given the amount of sunshine the kingdom enjoys, Morocco can expect to get a good return on its investment in this area, said Bakkoury: for the yield from its site would be 20 to 30 percent than equivalent installations in Spain.
Five sites have been chosen for this part of the programme, the first of which will be developed in Ouarzazate. Deep in the heart of Morocco, the desert city is perhaps better known for some of the films that have been shot there: from David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" to "Star Wars" and Ridley Scott's "Gladiator".The plan is to have the Ouarzazate producing 500 MW by 2015. Morocco will put the first part of the project out to tender before the end of the year.
The problem with solar energy, said Bakkoury, was that it was a lot more expensive that conventional energy. "This effort could only be justified if we put it in a larger economic context: the aim of the solar plan is to establish a real economic sector."
Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved
PM announces 'British Peace Corps'
Thousands of young people will be funded to volunteer abroad, Prime Minister Cameron announced at the Conservative Party Conference. Inspired by the US Peace Corps, the International Citizen Service is an extension to the National Citizen Service, and will provide overseas volunteering opportunities for 18 to 22-year-olds.
In 2011/12 places will be offered to 1,000 young people and to 250 more experienced older people. The means-tested scheme will give volunteers the chance to help out in some of the world’s poorest countries. Graduates from the National Citizen Service will be able to apply in 2013. David Cameron said at the conference in Birmingham that the International Citizen Service will “give thousands of our young people, those who otherwise couldn't afford it, the chance to see the world and serve others.”
The programme will be run by The Department for International Development in conjunction with charities and volunteering organisations. It will include opportunities for older volunteers and people at the end of their careers to share their skills and experience and mentor and support young volunteers.
Volunteers could be involved in wide range of projects, such as those tackling HIV/AIDS in South Africa, supporting carers in orphanages in Haiti, or carrying out environmental conservation work in Bangladesh.
David Cameron said:
"Last century, America's Peace Corps inspired a generation of young people to act and this century I want International Citizen Service to do the same."
Morocco excels in mathematics. By Aida Alami- Special to Globalpost. October 7, 2010

Photo caption: Moroccans pride themselves on a tradition of excellence in teaching mathematics in schools. Here Moroccan schoolboys play in the Tangiers Casbah, or Old City. (Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images)
CASABLANCA, Morocco — Moroccans pride themselves on a tradition of excellence in teaching mathematics.
Indeed, for decades, the North African country has chalked up high achievement in math — a discipline that does not require lots of material means and relies instead on the students' mental abilities to deal with abstract concepts.
“An ambition to succeed came with the independence [from France in 1956]. Mathematics because they were so difficult and theoretical, fascinated people,” explained Abdelghani Zrikem, a retired math professor. “People can study maths anywhere and anytime. It doesn’t require any mean or actual conception.”
Thousands of Moroccan students — mostly males — are pursuing a scientific education in some of the most prestigious schools in the world.
For instance, Ali Aouad, 20, started his second year at the world famous Ecole Polythechnique de Paris, reputed for recruiting the finest students in the world and for its extremely difficult admission process. Morocco's academic curriculums are very similar to the ones in France, because Morocco was under a French protectorate from 1912 to 1956.
Morocco is the second nationality most represented in the Grandes Ecoles (name given to the elite schools in France) after China, according to the most recent statistics released by the SCEI, an organization that keeps track of admissions in engineering schools in France. At the University Les Mines — another prestigious engineering school — five times more Moroccan students are admitted than their Tunisian neighbors.
Getting into these schools is extremely competitive. After two years in preparatory schools that provide an intensive training for a nationwide test, tens of thousands of students compete for only a few hundred spots at the top schools.
Karim Arji is an engineer based in Marrakesh. He first went to high school in the French school of Marrakesh before attending a Moroccan preparatory school that allowed him to be admitted at L’ESTP in Paris in 1996. The abrupt switch from the French to the Moroccan system meant that Arji was in faster paced courses and was surrounded by students more advanced in mathematics.
“The students from the Moroccan high schools had a particular easiness with maths. There are concepts in maths that are completely abstract and impossible to explain but they had this ability to instantaneously solve a problem,” said Arji. “They had studied chapters in high school that were already very advanced.”
However, he also noted that Moroccan students were still somewhat behind in other areas such as languages and social sciences, which lowered their chances to succeed in university.
But the golden age of mathematics in Morocco has long ended, according to Zrikem. For half a century, generations of Moroccans were trained under the Bourbaki influence, a collective of mathematicians in France that revolutionized the discipline in the 1960s and 1970s. But Zrikem insists that Morocco no longer provides the necessary means for the new generations to prosper and he said that a great deal of potential is wasted.
“One of the main problems started when the Moroccan school system went back to teaching everything in Arabic. The students no longer have access to great works in French or English and the professors were not given the means to write books in Arabic that the students can work with,” he said. “The books they now use are badly written and the quality of the teaching has also degraded.”
He also argued that the excellence in math is often of no use in the country and that those who are particularly gifted have the choice to either study abroad or to seek a career in engineering.
“In Morocco, there is no research financed. A lot of great talents do not pursue careers in mathematics but rather use their skills to practically apply them in other fields,” explained Zrikem.
Aouad is the vice president of the AMGE-Caravanne (Association des Marocains aux Grandes Ecoles), an association of Moroccan students who attends the elite schools in France. One of their goals is to meet with students in Morocco in order to stimulate their ambition and help them make wise choices.
“A professor in Paris once told me that although the Moroccan students had a particular ease in maths, they were not so much interested in the beauty of the knowledge, but seeing it more as a mean to be admitted into a school,” Aouad said.
Zrikem is pretty pessimistic about the possibilities for great mathematicians to grow in the country.
“Our level is very low because we have been failing at stimulating the students,” he said. “These days, students go to class, work on their math books, get out of class and throw them away because they’re not interested much in it.”
Moroccan parents divided on new child-rearing methods.
By Siham Ali 2010-10-08
Young Moroccan parents grant more freedom to their children, an approach that puts them at odds with the older generation.
Child-rearing techniques in Morocco have changed significantly in recent years. Some Moroccans laud the modern methods of upbringing as a way of emancipation for youths. Others, however, express scepticism and see new methods as an affront to their traditional set of values.
Relations between family members have changed, particularly in middle and upper class families. Sociologist Ali Chaâbani tells Magharebia that in the past, child-rearing methods were founded on oral culture and customs.
"Until very recently, schools and the media in Morocco did not have the influence they have now. Educational methods have changed, and parents are better educated and more open to other civilisations. They become more involved in their children's lives by choosing to enter into dialogue with them and guiding them in their studies," he says.
Many young people no longer follow the old traditional way of raising children. Jamila Nourani, 28, a sales assistant, does her best to pay special attention to the psychological development of her two children, aged six and four. Since their birth, she has developed a real taste for books on bringing up children.
"Our parents paid no attention to what their children felt. They thought it was enough to feed them and send them to school, whereas a good upbringing is a combination of many different elements," she says. She considers mental health to be a key element in a person's success, criticising previous generations for ignoring this crucial point.
"I try not to make the mistakes my parents made. I listen to my two daughters. I always ask them to tell me about their day at school, and even what they've been dreaming about at night," bank clerk Karim Bachtioui tells Magharebia.
"My mother and father never asked me those kinds of questions, while I was having lots of problems in school. For them, school results were all that mattered. For me, it is the According to Bachtioui, Moroccans these days have become aware that bringing up a child requires a huge effort from parents, who are now more attentive to their offspring's development at all levels.
Some parents among the older generations, however, criticise the new methods, which they fear could compromise the respect between parents and their children. El Haj Brahmi, a father of six aged 25 to 38, says that the younger generations have gone astray because of the new kind of upbringing, which ignores the values of Moroccan society. He deplores the fact that girls are brought up in the same way as boys, whereas in the past families were very conservative.
"We knew perfectly well how to bring up our offspring. My children thank me for it; the boys have become real men now and the girls are respectable women. And that's the most important thing," he says. He reproaches his sons for having adopted a different methodology in his grandchildren's upbringing.
Brahmi also criticises freedom of expression "which is available with excess" to young people, explaining that little ones must learn to fear their parents in order to follow their instructions.
His son, Omar, a teacher, says his father believed he was doing the best thing by opting, like the majority of parents at the time, for a strict disciplinarian approach. He says that he and his friends of the same age laugh as they remember the "punishment sessions sometimes inflicted by our mothers, and sometimes by our fathers".
"They didn't understand that violence is not the solution, and there are other ways to punish children.
They would deliberately treat a boy roughly to make him strong. They were very strict with the girls to avoid any dishonour. They did not know that dialogue is the quickest way to good upbringing," he says. For Omar, today it is a different world, founded on the virtues of dialogue with children from the very first months.
"Many are aware that the traditional education founded on violence frequently produces adults who are unable to use initiative and to express themselves freely," says psychologist Nouzha Fatihi. She mentions that parents are more willing to consult specialists to resolve their children's psychological problems and ask for practical advice to help them run a stress-free household.
"Today, many young people are very particular when it comes to their children's development. Only this can create citizens who are capable of taking the initiative and taking their fate into their own hands," she explains.
Apart from the psychological aspect, people think a lot about their children's future. Parents start saving money from their children's early years to provide for a good higher education. Farida Mhemsi, a civil servant, says it is essential to plan the future in advance so that they can succeed in their professional lives.
"The majority of parents from older generation had no vision for their children's future. The children were left to their own devices and took the first route available to get a job," she says.
Even parents who lack the resources still try to provide a good education for their children and guide them. Badiaa Marouti, a housewife, works hard to pay tuition for her two children, Taha and Meriem.
"They must be among the best from the time they start in primary school, so that they can get grants and land in the best higher education institutions. I'm not going to spare any effort to make sure they are well taken care of psychologically, despite our very modest income," she tells Magharebia.
Ali Chaâbani, however, warns that the new way of bringing up children has some negative points too, since some parents are overly involved in their children's future choices, which may force them to follow a route contrary to their aspirations.
"Parents want to live out their dreams through their children but they must also bear in mind their children's gifts and personal ambitions. Otherwise, the consequences could be the opposite," Chaâbani says.
Moroccan association receives WHO's Down Syndrome Research prize
Cairo - The World Health Organisation (WHO) awarded the Down Syndrome Research prize to the Moroccan Association "Anaïs" in recognition of its efforts to integrate Down syndrome children.
    This award was handed to Chairwoman of the Association, Sabah Zemmama Tyal, in recognition of the efforts to provide psycho-pedagogical care for mentally challenged people, and promote their social, scholar and professional integration.
    Tyal, who received the prize on the sidelines of the 57th session of the WHO regional committee, expressed determination to double efforts to ensure better care and integration for People with Down syndrome. 
Vegetable Stew with a touch of Morocco
By ANNE HILTON Monday, October 4 2010
This recipe that calls itself “Vegetarian Tagine” must have made any self-respecting Moroccan cook or chef blasted vex because (as loyal readers of this column may remember) ‘tagine’ refers to the weird-shaped clay-glazed pot to be found in every Moroccan kitchen.
If it ain’t cooked in this special pot, it ain’t ‘tagine’. Which this recipe is not — although it tips its hat at Moroccan cuisine.

Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off. Most of this recipe is my own work because I did more than just ‘tweak’ it. To begin with I couldn’t afford zucchini (and there weren’t any in St Ann’s Hi Lo when I went shopping for ingredients — so there).

The original recipe claimed this dish served four. I halved the quantities, only to discover I had four large servings of this vegetable stew so I ate (and mildly enjoyed) one and froze the rest in separate containers. When I defrosted a container and reheated the stew the following week I was astounded. Surely this wasn’t the pleasant, if a little bland, vegetable stew I’d tasted the week before? It was — and this time it was delicious.

It seems that freezing did the trick, I reckon it intensified the taste of the herbs and spices and gave them a chance to permeate throughout the dish. Whether I’d have got the same result by increasing the seasonings I leave for you to work out.

All I know is that when next I make this economical, healthy stew I’ll freeze the lot to eat later at my leisure — and I’d advise you to do the same if you want the same result.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this healthy vegetable stew, Moroccan style.

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium brown onion, chopped

2 pegs garlic, crushed

3/4 tablespoon roasted ground gheera

1/2 tablespoon ground coriander

(available from The Little Store)

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 medium large melongene

1 butternut (is it?) squash or pumpkin

(about 1/4 lb)

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 can channa, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon lemon juice

(I buy mine in a bottle)

1/2 cup vegetable stock

2 shakes cayenne (hot) pepper

(or more to taste)

6-8 leaves chadon beni, chopped


Heat a — preferably cast iron — pan over a medium-high heat, add the oil. When it’s heated, add the onion, the garlic, gheera, coriander, caraway seeds, cinnamon and melongene, cook and stir until the onion is softened (about 5 minutes).

Add the squash or pumpkin, tomatoes and channa. Cook, stirring until the squash/pumpkin is just tender. Stir in the lemon juice, cayenne pepper and the stock. Cook, stirring from time to time until the mixture boils and thickens.

Freeze in 1 large or 3-4 single-serving sized containers. To serve, defrost the vegetable stew in the microwave, pour into bowls (a bowl) and serve sprinkled with chopped chadon beni.
An authentic taste of Morocco in a Berkeley setting
Oct 7th, 2010  by Guest contributor.
By Anna Mindess
The haunting strains of North African music float from the strings of an Algerian mandol and the soulful voice of acclaimed musician, Maestro Omar Mokhtari. As I enter a sun-dappled garden ringed by tents draped with colorful carpets, I head straight for the blue-and-white tile tables set with bowls of olives, hummus and pita triangles. Meanwhile, the sizzling scent of spiced meat wafts from the rotating shawarma spit.
Is this an exotic corner of Casablanca? Actually, I’m in the middle of Berkeley. Here in the back of Sahara Home Décor, an Ashby Avenue shop, owner Mostafa Raiss El Fenni orchestrates Moroccan-style celebrations. At this birthday party, I join the guests to sample appetizers and drinks while relaxing on low cushions edged by engraved brass trays atop carved wooden tables.
Against one garden wall, caterer Chef Mohammed Hicham, in his white chef’s jacket, tends the vertical rotisserie, shaving off delicately golden brown shards of a lamb and beef mixture. “The most important ingredient is the spices,” he says, reluctant to divulge the details of his secret blend. “My mother in Morocco sends me boxes of organic spices that she has ground herself: saffron, ginger, red and black pepper. I spice the meat and then put it two days in the freezer where the spices get absorbed into the meat.”
Mostafa Raiss El Fenni, a former Cal student and research chemist who found he missed his homeland, opened this shop in 2005 to promote the works of contemporary Moroccan artists. It features handmade mosaic table-tops, blue and white Fes ceramics, leather ottomans, embroidered textiles, elaborately framed mirrors, multi-faceted brass lanterns as well as classic, conical clay tagine pots and delicately painted tiny tea glasses.
El Fenni rents out the store’s back garden for parties — from a bridal shower with a Berber henna artist who created intricate designs for guests as they sipped mint tea and sampled Moroccan pastries, to a full dinner for a group of up to 40 friends.  In his role as host, he does much of the cooking himself. Tonight, dressed in a black caftan, he carries in platters of traditional Moroccan dishes: zaalouk, a melt-in-your mouth cooked salad of eggplant and roasted tomatoes, creamy lentils and onions, pungent roasted peppers and a green salad with fresh mint.
“The food, the music and the art all work together,” he says, his warm smile framed by a neat goatee, “to create a corner where you can get away and experience North African culture, right here in Berkeley.”
Anna Mindess is a freelance writer and sign language interpreter who lives in Berkeley. This article was first published on her recently launched food blog East Bay Ethnic Eats.
Wild, Not Woolly, Berber Rugs.
By HOLLAND COTTER Published: July 22, 2010
A version of this review appeared in print on July 23, 2010, on page C23 of the New York edition.

In the souks of Fez and Marrakesh, you rarely walk alone. Shopkeepers in these Moroccan cities become your companion-guides, none more attentive than the rug merchants. Shake one off, another is there. Leave that one behind, and the first one awaits you again farther on: Please. Come. Sit. Have tea. Let me show you this, and this. Carpets are unrolled, flung down, six, a dozen, one atop another. And some, if you can unclench long enough to relax and look, are beauties.
Morocco has become particularly known for wool rugs made by semi-nomadic Berbers. Herders and farmers, these tribal peoples historically stayed clear of urban centers, and their weaving reflects their independence. It is little influenced by the classical symmetries of Middle Eastern models, running instead to unruly, improvisatory styles, none more idiosyncratic than the one highlighted in “Rags to Richesse: Rugs From Morocco,” a live-wire summer show at the Cavin-Morris Gallery in Chelsea.
The style in question is called boucherouite, (pronounced boo-shay-REET) a word derived from a Moroccan-Arabic phrase for torn and reused clothing. The carpets it describes, made by women for domestic use, are basically variations on the humble rag rug, without the humility. With their zany patterns and jolting colors, these household items look dolled up and ready to party; they seem more suitable for framing than for trampling underfoot.
The style developed fairly recently, a result of socio-economic changes. Since the middle of the 20th century nomadic life in Morocco has been seriously on the wane, and production of wool from sheepherding has been much reduced. During the same period, though, Berber culture has come to the attention of the global market, and Berber carpets have been ever more in demand.
Faced with a call for increased output and a scarcity of natural materials, Berber weavers have had to rethink aspects of their craft. This has meant, among other things, supplementing wool with recycled fabrics and cheap synthetic fibers like nylon and Lurex, and various plastics.
With the synthetic fibers came new colors and chromatic intensities. Where old-fashioned vegetable dyes tend to look savory and subtle, machine dyes are emphatic and bright. The first things you notice about the Cavin-Morris show is how visually assertive it is. Yes, there are ranges of earth tones, but it’s the fire-engine reds, the Day-Glo oranges, the post-punk pinks that pop out.
Asymmetrical patterning is the norm in boucherouite work, free-form shapes the rule. One of the show’s more subdued carpets is composed of thin, broken, painterly lines of purple and green that bring to mind traces of beached algae left behind by a tide. In another rug a fairly staid stack of royal-blue and brick-brown stripes is interrupted by a set of nested turquoise and chrome-yellow diamonds that seem to have arrived from nowhere. And things get wilder from there.
Surfaces fill up with fat lozenge and chevron shapes that melt and ooze, Dalí-clock style. Top-to-bottom zigzag bars form gawky, out-of-synch chorus lines. Dense passages of pointillist speckling suggest plates of couscous or Jackson Pollock paintings.
Boucherouite rugs make the tough art of weaving look like fun. The aesthetic seems to be: If you think it, do it. The only logic is the jazz logic of directed chance, exploded convention. Utterly unalike elements come to together because — well, just because. A rug that is two-thirds the soft, empty blue-gray of an evening sky is suddenly chocolate-brown with amoeboid blobs at one end. It’s as if two weavers with totally different sensibilities had been working opposite each other on the same piece.
The most extravagant display of eccentricity, though, is in the varieties of surface textures. Some carpets are tightly knotted and matte, with a moderate amount of pile. A few are not woven at all. In some cases sheets of plastic cut from grain-transport bags or packing materials are used as a ground for a stitched rug, essentially a form of embroidery.
And woven or stitched, many of the carpets sprout loops of yarn and ribbonlike fiber strips in a shag-rug effect that makes them resemble small plots of weedy, untrimmed grass. They look as if they were growing, spreading, changing shape.
Beautiful isn’t exactly the word for these things; I’m not sure what is. Some of them are garish and weird, though their exuberance is irresistible. Far more resistible is some of the promotional pitch spun around them, a kind of high-ground version of the souk hard sell, most of it derived from a slim catalog produced by the Austrian dealer Gebhart Blazek, who first put boucherouite on the map, and with whom Cavin-Morris collaborated on the show.
Much is made of the fact that women are the creators of these carpets, though this is hardly an exceptional circumstance. Most Berber rugs in Morocco have been produced by women, and are made, at least initially, for family use. The catalog speaks of these rugs as representing a “liberation from tradition” for these women, a notion that is surely to some degree true but also one that conforms to a Western assumption that women in tribal societies are by definition repressed: unwilling captives, rather than inventors and inflectors, of conventions.
At the same time, little or no mention is made of a specific tradition that these women and their weavings are part of: the Western modernist tradition of taming the exotic by repurposing it as domestic and corporate boutique design, a process that often entails the attenuation of original meanings.
And while the idea of non-Western art made with recycled synthetics has acquired certain postmodern chic, it inevitably embodies reference to malignant aspects of globalism, like the offloading of waste by rich countries onto poor ones, whether those poor countries want it or not.
True, in the best boucherouite work, refuse has been transmuted into richness. But why undersell the complex histories, negative as well as positive, that weave through that richness? It is at least in part history, rarely a happy subject, that makes these rugs more than just a splash of color on a New York apartment wall.
“Rags to Richesse: Rugs From Morocco” runs through Aug. 20 at Cavin-Morris, 210 11th Avenue, Suite 201, at 25th Street, Chelsea; (212) 226-3768;

Morocco co-operatives strengthen female independence.
By Siham Ali 2010-09-30
Co-operatives are changing the lives of women, teaching them new skills and rewarding them with financial freedom.  

Many women in rural areas of Morocco have joined female-only co-operatives and taken their destiny into their own hands. The businesses have changed their lives completely, providing the women with their own income and increasing their self-esteem.
In the Souss-Massa-Draa region, for example, thousands of women have joined forces for a tree cultivation project.
Nezha Aktir, a graduate of Agadir University, decided in 2004 that she would help women in her region by setting up the Tifaout Women's Agricultural Co-operative, which has 72 members. She admitted that revenue is still modest, but previously these women were earning virtually nothing.
"There are no clubs for women. They go the whole year round with nothing to do. Hence the idea of setting up this co-operative so that they can receive a financial benefit and meet other people," said Khadija Benchich, chairperson of the Adrar co-operative.
Sociologist Hamid Bekkali says that co-operative work enables women in rural areas to open up to the outside world and to build on their skills, even though the men were reluctant to accept the idea at first.
"Women had to be patient in order to change their daily lives," Bekkali explained. "Women in rural areas have always worked hard, but have never been able to have a tangible income."
"The organisation of women into co-operatives is an important turning point which has given women financial independence and the power to take decisions," she added. "This has a positive effect on family life and children's education. Women in rural areas have become real actors in local development."
The co-op employees also receive tuition for literacy classes and training in other skills, including business organisation and marketing for their products.
"At the start, my husband was suspicious. He didn't want me to work in a co-operative. Despite that, I decided to go down this route. After a few months, he came to realise the value of my decision," Zahra Tasskifet, a mother of four, said. She added that the income she earns helps to provide education for her children.
According to Moroccan government statistics, the proportion of co-operatives run by women has risen from 2.14% in 1995 to 12.5% in 2010. There are now more than 7,000 co-operatives in the Kingdom, representing 360,600 members.
"The ministry of economic and general affairs has shown a great interest in the sector. The idea is to promote local products and enable co-operatives to market their products with much greater room for manoeuvre than in the past, when intermediaries would minimise the workers' earnings," said economist Reda Bachaoui.
Fatima, a mother of three, was desperate to tell Magharebia how she became a different person after starting work with the co-operative, earning around 1,000 dirhams (90 euros) a month.
"In the rural area where we live, that's a very attractive income for a woman. I feel my life has changed. I'm not totally submissive any more. I feel stronger and I've got a lot more self-esteem because my efforts are being rewarded," Fatima said.

- Hannan Taha    Thursday, 30 September 2010

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has worked with Morocco on a range of water reforms to address challenges in managing its water resources that contributed to a jump in the number of rural people with access to potable water, and in the number of poor peri-urban households connected to piped water and sewage services. As a result of acceleration of rural water supply programs, potable water access had risen to over 87 percent in 2009 from 50 percent in 2004, reports Global Arab Network according World Bank study.

Scarce and unevenly distributed rainfall has made water a key economic and social development issue in Morocco. The country has invested heavily in dams, water supply capacity, and large-scale irrigation systems to secure water for urban and agricultural demands. While largely successful, this strong supply focus was not accompanied by balancing policies aimed at sustainability, such as water demand management, water resource conservation and protection, and equitable service development in rural and poor communities. Morocco’s water management strategies needed to adapt to meet a number of challenges: growing water deficits, persisting gaps in service access, slow changes in legislation, limited infrastructure programs, pressing demographic growth, and climate change.

Currently, about 2 million Moroccans remain without access to water supply and sanitation services in semi-urban areas around Morocco’s main cities. In the Casablanca metropolitan area alone, an estimated 145,000 households (or 900,000 inhabitants) do not receive adequate water supply and sanitation services. These residents get water from contaminated shallow wells, water providers who charge a relatively high unit price, or standpipes which often require women or children to queue for several hours.


The 2006–2009 Country Assistance Strategy for Morocco substantially contributed to the evolution and implementation of water policies and infrastructure priorities in Morocco, covering sector governance, water resources management, irrigation and water supply and sanitation aspects. In parallel to policy reform, the country’s water sector investment program was designed to build infrastructure while supporting implementation of new policies by central and decentralized agencies on the ground. The Country Partnership Strategy for the 2010-13 fiscal years confirms the commitment of the Bank to the water sector, with a broad program of investment and technical support laid out.


Morocco is now on track to exceed the targets for water and sanitation services contained in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Between 2005 and 2009, public expenditure in support of urban, peri-urban, and rural water supply and sanitation infrastructure programs rose to 25 percent from 5 percent of the total public expenditure for water (which also covers water resource management and irrigation). As a result of acceleration of rural water supply programs, including a US$60 million IBRD-financed project, potable water access has risen to over 87 percent in 2009 from 50 percent in 2004.


Practically all Morocco’s development partners are active in the water sector given its importance to the country’s economic and social development. In the case of the Bank-financed operations, the projects approved are being implemented in close collaboration with Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) the German Development Agency (KfW) and the African Development Bank.

Bank Contribution

In 2007, a US$100 million Morocco Water Sector development policy loan supported comprehensive water reform to address legislative, institutional, financing, and planning gaps, and inefficiencies in Morocco’s water sector. Prior to the loan, IBRD supported extensive analytical work and capacity building with US$2.2 million and another US$8.5 million in trust fund grants. This analytical work, along with unprecedented levels of inter-ministerial dialogue, led to a reform program in which water-demand management, conservation and resource protection became new thrusts in Morocco’s water strategy. IBRD also provided support through different instruments. In FY06, the Bank approved a Rural Water Supply and Sanitation project which supports the national program to increase sustainable access to potable water in rural areas, while promoting improve wastewater management and hygiene practices.

In 2007, the Bank supported an innovative and successful large-scale pilot in poor un-zoned peri-urban neighborhoods of 3 big cities to demonstrate Output Based Aid (OBA) mechanisms for the promotion of water and sanitation service connections in chronically under-served areas. The aim of the pilot is to connect 11,300 households to piped water and sanitation service. The pilots are funded through a US$7 million grant. The OBA pilot breaks new ground, as it is the first: (i) OBA project in Morocco and in the Bank’s MENA region; (ii) Project involving multiple incumbent operators, piloting the same approach with terms adapted to the specific situation of each city; (iii) Project involving a public operator. Although initially designed to work with private sector operators, GPOBA has broadened its scope to work with any commercially viable entity; (iv) World Bank-administered OBA involving connection to piped sanitation, aiming at developing simultaneous connection to maximize efficiency gains and health impacts.; (v) World Bank-administered OBA project in local currency, to avoid adding a foreign exchange risk to the technical and financial risk taken by the operator.

The World Bank Group also is assisting with the development of an innovative desalination private-public partnership in the Souss-Massa region, to complement irrigation resources and conserve groundwater.

During FY10, the Bank approved three new water-related projects for a combined total of US$285 million – Oum Er Rbia Sanitation Project, Oum Er Rbia Irrigation Project and Regional Potable Water Supply Project.


As previously mentioned, the OBA pilot projects target 11,300 households in peri-urban areas that have been to date chronically under-serves with the goal of increasing piped water and sanitation services. For the Oum Er Rbia Irrigation project, the beneficiaries are farmers in the targeted project areas. The project supports participating farmers to increase their productivity and to promote more sustainable use of irrigation water to overcome current and future water deficits. In the case of the Oum Er Rbia Sanitation project, it supports the government’s goal of increasing the overall rate of sanitation access and the reduction of pollution in the natural environment, thus improving the living and health conditions of the population in the areas covered by the project. Finally, the objective of the Regional Potable Water Supply project is to increase access to potable water supply for selected local communities.

Moving Forward

Besides the implementation of the new and ongoing projects, next steps in the water partnership with the Government of Morocco may include policy dialogue and lending to accompany further reforms and investment for climate change adaptation of water resources management and nationwide replication of peri-urban connection pilots.

Global Arab Network

Morocco inflation eases to 0.6 percent in August
Mon Sep 20, 2010

RABAT, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Morocco consumer price rises slowed in August from the previous two months as food costs eased, the state High Planning Commission (HCP> said on Monday.
Consumer prices were up 0.6 percent in August year-on-year on a 0.2 percent increase in food prices, the HCP added.
That compared to increases of 1.9 percent in June and 1.1 percent in July, driven largely by food price rises.
Food prices, which account for more than 40 percent of Morocco's consumer price index, rose 1.6 percent in July and 3.2 percent in June.
On a monthly basis, consumer prices were up 0.9 percent compared to July, due to a 2.2 percent rise in food prices.
Underlying inflation, a measure used by the country's central bank to set the benchmark interest rate that excludes volatile prices and state tariffs, edged up 0.2 percent from a year ago and 0.4 percent from the previous month.
The government and the central bank expect an inflation rate of less than 2 percent for the whole year. (Reporting by Lamine Ghanmi; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Posted by Ayman Khalil    Saturday, 18 September 2010

Morocco (Rabat) - Morocco reiterated its commitment to protecting the environment and preserving biodiversity resources, during a high-level pan-African conference on biodiversity, held in Libreville, Gabon, from September 13 to September 16.

The kingdom was represented in this conference by the State Secretary in Charge of Water and the Environment, Abdelkebir Zahoud, and the State Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Mohamed Ouzzine.

"This strong presence also reflects Morocco's commitment to consolidating the African states' awareness of the importance of preserving biodiversity resources and protecting the environment", Morocco’s embassy in Libreville said in a statement.

The conference, which was held under the theme "Biodiversity and the fight against poverty: Africa's opportunities", adopted a declaration that set out concrete actions in terms of valuing biodiversity, ecosystemic services and renewable natural resources as promoting factors of economic growth and poverty reduction.

It allowed African countries to adopt a common attitude before the upcoming conference on diversity, due in New York on December 22, 2010, on the sidelines of the 65th session of the United Nations’ General Assembly, and the 10th conference of state parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), due in Nagoya (Japan), between October 18-29, according to the statement.

On the sidelines of the Libreville conference, Zahoud and Ouzzine had talks with ministers and heads of African delegations on ways and means to incorporate biodiversity and ecosystemic resources into the process of economic development.
Morocco receives UN award for housing programmes.
By Siham Ali 2010-09-23
Despite Morocco's efforts to eradicate shantytowns, many say more needs to be done to make people's living conditions suitable.
Morocco received the 2010 UN Habitat Award. The news was announced on Monday (September 20th) following a meeting between King Mohammed VI and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of a Millennium Development Goals (MDG) summit in New York.
Morocco is being rewarded for its shanty town eradication programme, launched in 2004.
According to figures from the Ministry of Housing and Town Planning, a total of 820,700 of the 1.63 million citizens living in shanty towns had been re-housed through the plan by July 2010. Nearly 340,000 more are subject to clearances that are currently under way or awaiting transfers.
The remaining 474,000 people will benefit from programmes that are at the contracting stage or operations whose target areas are currently being determined. At present, around 40 of Morocco's 83 cities do not have shanty towns.
Many people feel that although the United Nations award is commendable, much remains to be done in the Moroccan housing sector, in particular with regard to shantytown eradication.
"It's all relative, given that the prize was awarded to Morocco on the strength of comparison with similar countries, but this does not mean that the Moroccan sector is strong," Lahcen Daoudi, a member of parliament representing the Party of Justice and Development, told Magharebia.
He claims that the award is honourable from an international perspective, but many needs remain unmet on the domestic front. In his view, privileges should be given to small and medium-sized developers, as they are to the big investors who receive tax breaks and other advantages, so that the number of beneficiaries all over Morocco can be increased.
"The prize is a good omen for the Moroccan housing sector, but the desired aims have not yet been reached," said Mohamed Ansari, a member of the Chamber of Councillors. "The road ahead is fraught with difficulties, given that rural migration towards the cities has been occurring for several years."
"The delay is also due to fraud and laxness within both local councils and regional authorities, as a result of which shanty towns are springing up like mushrooms in some areas," Ansari added.
He feels that the law needs to be toughened up to combat the problem of antiquated housing and the proliferation of shanty towns.
Fatima Moustaghfir, a lawyer who sits on the Interior Committee within the Chamber of Representatives, told Magharebia that the award is a commendable achievement crowning the work that has been done within the sector over the past few years. However, efforts to improve living conditions for the shantytown inhabitants who have been re-housed are still needed.
Moustaghfir said that entire districts have been built without much attention being paid to green spaces or aesthetics.
"We need to focus on building upwards to allow enough space for gardens and other infrastructures such as play areas for children… the United Nations award should encourage Morocco to do better and speed up the process of shantytown eradication," she said.

- Asmaa Malik   Friday, 24 September 2010

Getting — and keeping — boys and girls in school, particularly in underprivileged areas, is a key development priority for the Government of Morocco. The World Bank is assisting in this effort advising on the design and implementation of targeted cash transfer programs, as well as by evaluating results to facilitate optimal scale-up in the future. The conditional cash transfer (CCT) pilot program now reaches more than 160,000 households and nearly 300,000 students.

Morocco recently achieved close to universal primary enrollment rates. However, in rural areas only 40 to 50 percent of first graders actually complete the six years of primary school, with significantly smaller rates for girls. The baseline value of school drop-out was 23 percent per school sector on average in school years 1-5. The government’s CCT pilot program target value is 16 percent or lower in beneficiary school sectors.

The pilot provides a comparative test of different ways of administering the transfer. A first treatment group receiving cash transfers of about 60 school districts benefits from unconditional transfers to parents for each primary school-age child, whether registered in school or not. In three other treatment groups of another 60 schools each, the government administers conditional cash transfers to the parents of children in grades 3-to-6, provided the child is attending school.

In order to experiment with various levels of monitoring school attendance, three treatment sub-groups have been created: In the first group, ‘Light-handed’ monitoring will confirm attendance from the teacher’s presence register, which is the current information system in place in Morocco. Above a certain number of days of absence in a given month, the corresponding transfer will not be disbursed.

The second group will undergo ‘Intensive Monitoring’, in addition to the register verification, with inspectors conducting monthly surprise visits to verify attendance.

The final ‘Full monitoring’ group has a sophisticated system of continuous monitoring through biometric fingerprint machines.. The rationale of testing different monitoring mechanisms is to find the most effective one. Similar programs in other countries (e.g. in Eastern Europe and Africa) had found that relying on teacher monitoring of attendance alone could lead to collusion between teachers and pupils and therefore low effectiveness. We consciously test two external supervision methods (inspectors and biometric machines) to take care of this issue.

Moreover, in order to identify who in the family would be the most appropriate recipient of the transfers is randomly administered, in each treated classroom, to either the mother or the father. Under this approach, the Government of Morocco finances and organizes the benefits, while the World Bank advises on the design of the activities and carries out their rigorous impact evaluation.

The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) pilot got underway in the final semester of 2007 and covers 53,288 households and 93,536 primary pupils, randomly selected for evaluation purposes in poor regions with high school drop-out rates. The government has already expanded this program (into non-control areas), covering an additional group of 109,908 households and 206,434 primary pupils. Results from the baseline show that the program reaches indeed those most in need.

The baseline value of household annual per capita consumption is 5208 Moroccan Dirham (US$590), indicating the poverty of the target regions. This is projected to increase to at least 5720 Moroccan Dirham (US$657) by the end of 2010 with the help of the CCT program. The program also benefits families with currently extremely low education: 73% of the sampled household heads cannot read or write, as well as 95% of their spouses.
Bank Contribution

An initial grant from the Spanish Impact Evaluation Trust Fund (US$500,000) financed the baseline quantitative survey of schools and families. The grant was completed with Bank resources to allow for staff time. The team subsequently won a US$93,500 allocation from the Gender Action Plan, and a share of a US$386,000 Korean Trust Fund grant for Information Technology-based projects. It also received a share of a US$750,000 grant from the Governance Partnership Facility. The trust funds have jointly financed the substantial data collection work of this pilot activity, as well as the Bank’s own and facilitated technical assistance. They have also directly financed the pilot program when government procurement could not move fast enough. The Bank has also secured a 50 percent share of US$2.2 million of a Japanese Social Development Fund grant, to ensure the sustainability and continuation of the pilot, its evaluation and scale-up preparation.

The transfers are wholly financed by the Government of Morocco, through the Ministry of National Education, and with the guidance of the Conseil Supérieur de l’enseignement. The logistical administration of the benefits has been ensured by Poste Maroc, through their network of branches. Mobile branches have been arranged in areas with weak infrastructure and a World Bank team has provided technical assistance to design, implement and evaluate the pilot, supported by Innovations for Poverty Action, a non-governmental organization with an office in Morocco.

Moving Forward
The final impact evaluation of the pilot is underway and will be completed towards the end of the 2010 calendar year. In addition, the Government of Morocco has requested the Bank technical assistance to expand the activity throughout the education sector, and possibly into other sectors such as health.

The direct transfers to households address poverty directly, and are conditioned on the children regularly attending primary school. Anecdotal evidence has been overwhelmingly positive, but needs to be confirmed by the rigorous impact evaluation expected end of 2010. The team witnessed a distribution session at a post office, and interviewed mothers and fathers, and teachers at neighboring schools.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

New York (United Nations) - Morocco's achievements in the area of development over the past ten years have been remarkable, said Simon Serfaty, director of the international institute for strategic studies.

"Morocco's achievements over the past ten years have been remarkable in every respect," he told MAP on the sidelines of a meeting on the MDGs.

He said the Kingdom’s accomplishments at the level of the MDGs and economic development can make Morocco a world "hub of influence."

The meeting examined the interdependence between MDGs and economic growth as well as development, with lessons from Morocco's experience.

Morocco's INDH
The National Initiative for Human Development (INDH) has had a "very impressive" effect in Morocco, said William Zartman, professor at Johns Hopkins university in Washington.

"The changes brought about in Morocco as part of the INDH, launched in 2005 by HM King Mohammed VI are very impressive," the US expert said in a meeting in New York on the MDGs.

For Zartman, "Morocco's most important accomplishments" have been made particularly in the areas of rural development and primary education.

"These results are very telling," he said, citing the "significant changes" and "far-reaching reforms" undertaken by the Kingdom.

The meeting, held on the sidelines of the 65th session of the UN General Assembly, examined several issues related to interdependence between the MDGs and economic growth and development, with lessons from the Moroccan experience.
Morocco will manage to achieve MDGs by 2015

New York - Morocco will manage to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline, Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri said on Thursday in New York.

"Morocco has already met the MDG on poverty in 2010. As for the other objectives, we will manage to achieve them by 2015," Fassi Fihri told the press on the sidelines of the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly.
Touching on Morocco's development efforts, the Minister highlighted the significant and remarkable progress which has been made thanks notably to the large-scale anti-poverty programme, the national initiative for human development (INDH), launched by HM the King in 2005.
"Thanks to the INDH, we made significant progress not only at the government level, but also in terms of close cooperation with organizations and elected authorities at the national and local scales," he underscored.
Fassi Fihri stressed that "developed countries should earmark 0.7% of their GDPs to support south countries" in order to help achieve MDGs, underlining, in this respect,  the need for south-south cooperation.
Morocco has been cooperating for years with African countries to achieve MDGs, he said.

UNDP poverty index raises controversy in Morocco.
By Siham Ali 2010-08-31
Morocco complained against recent UNDP results on poverty and is seeking to stop its publication in its international report.
Moroccan officials are reacting strongly to a recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). High Commissioner for Planning Ahmed Lahlimi held a press briefing in Casablanca on August 25th to criticise the "weaknesses" of the indices used by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), the UNDP's partner in the compilation of the report.
The press conference followed an August 20th statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which challenged the accuracy of the findings and the indicators used in the UNDP's reports.
The new study puts the poverty rate in Morocco at 28%, whereas the High Commission for Planning (HCP) reports just 9% in its 2007 report on family living standards. The OPHI's researchers analysed data from 104 countries.
The multinational poverty index (MPI) is based on ten indicators including school enrolment rates, infant mortality, child malnutrition, access to electricity and ownership of certain consumer goods (radio, TV, telephone, bicycles and motorcycles, cars and tractors, cookers, toilets and other items).
According to Lahlimi, the researchers relied on figures from 2004, and although the factors used in their calculations were desirable from the point of view of their large number, they do not cover all socio-economic priorities, such as those that develop the ability of individuals to protect themselves from poverty.
Lahlimi also said that the reference periods of the data lie between 2000 and 2008 and thus make classification of countries according to the MPI unjustified. For instance, the established classification compares the Morocco of 2004 with the Egypt of 2008 and the Jordan of 2007.
"None of the efforts made by Morocco between 2004 and 2008 were recognised, whereas in fact Morocco did launch structural plans and the National Human Development Initiative," Lahlimi noted. "The OPHI's approach does not reflect the current level of poverty in Morocco."
He pointed out that the research centre did not take the income of families into account. According to the indicators used, he asserted, a family that loses a child (as reflected by the infant mortality index) can be regarded as poor despite having a high income.
All of these criticisms have been referred to OPHI's Director Sabina Alkire.
The Moroccan government is also objecting to the publication of the results in the UNDP's next development report.
The statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reads, "The validation by the UNDP, a UN institution, of such studies shows a lack of rigour and professionalism and is detrimental to Morocco and the efforts it is making."
Economist Mohamed Chamali said that Morocco must recognise there is a high poverty rate among its citizens, especially in rural areas.
"Last year, a similar controversy erupted following the publication of the Development Report. On that occasion, the UNDP's representative said that the poverty level can only be measured by means of the basic criteria of improvement in living standards, namely food, education and health", he said.
Mohamed T., a civil servant, feels that the poverty level recently declared by the UNDP in its report must be accurate, and believes that it is not sufficient to consider merely Rabat and Casablanca as examples; instead, the difficult daily lives of Moroccans in rural and remote areas should also be examined.
"I find that the criteria used in the latest report are broadly sufficient to give an idea of the level of poverty in Morocco. Health and education give a fairly clear picture of living standards," added Farid Matioui, a bank clerk.
Afaf Marzouki, a student, agreed with the Moroccan government's response, as the launch of the National Human Development Initiative in 2005 has made a difference in the daily lives of hundreds of families.
"The figure of 28% announced by the UNDP is alarming," she said. "Maybe that was the reality in 2004. A new analysis must be made with recent figures to ascertain whether the situation has changed."
 Young Arab Entrepreneurs Competition set to take place in Morocco. August 31st, 2010
The final preparations are well underway for the exciting fourth installment of the Young Arab Entrepreneurs Competition 2010. INJAZ Al-Arab will host this year’s competition in Morocco from 23rd until 25th October 2010. Students from 13 Arab nations will meet to contend for the winning title before their peers and a high-profile panel of judges.
Concluding four months of vocational, experiential education and training in work readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship, high school and university students from Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen will submit written reports of their real life businesses and present their innovative products to the judges and INJAZ al-Arab board members and other contestants.
Soraya Salti, INJAZ Al-Arab Regional Director and Junior Achievement Senior Vice President MENA said, “It is no secret that the Arab world is home to talented, determined and malleable young people that are eager to learn and be equipped with basic yet necessary entrepreneurship tools . In light of the current economic challenges, it is vital that we, professionals, entrepreneurs and academies, pull together all efforts to conquer a challenging business world characterized with an absence of a formalized education system that addresses entrepreneurship.”
The INJAZ al-Arab Young Arab Entrepreneurs Competition has served as an annual platform for the past four years for students to cross cultures and meet with peers and professionals from all over the Arab world. The first regional competition was held in 2007 in Amman, Jordan under the patronage of HM Queen Rania of Jordan. The competition was later duplicatied in Oman and Lebanon in 2008 and 2009, respectively, to build on the success of the first event.
During the regional competition, a group of leaders and professionals will pilot a panel of judges that works closely with INJAZ al-Arab to encourage and promote Arab youth and their entrepreneurial skills and drive. The competition will involve socially engaging activities for students and mentors and an exclusive gala dinner finale’ where the judges will assess students’ products or services based on criterion that address marketing plans, management reports, thorough net profit and loss statements and environmental considerations.
While young people constitute a third of the working age population in MENA, they account for half of the unemployed, the highest rate in the world.  INJAZ al-Arab works to combat this problem by recognizing the validity of self employment as a career option and by teaching practical business and economic courses.
Salti added, “The support of INJAZ programs provides an opportunity for the private sector to contribute to the development of youth in this area.  Our 4th annual competition is testament to the success of our programs in efforts to alleviate the employment challenges in our region and empower youth to take reigns of their economic future.   Our success is an outcome of our ongoing partnership with the private sector.”
“We are looking forward to meet in Morocco this year to be in the presence of a talented group of students that have come a long way to pioneer entrepreneurial start ups and represent their countries most positively. We are confident that the caliber of the these student enterprises will astound all of us!” concluded Salti.
INJAZ Al-Arab is a non profit confederation of national operations collaborating with corporate volunteers and Ministries of Education to provide entrepreneurship education and experiential training to Arab youth. Operating in 13 countries across the Middle East and North Africa region, INJAZ al-Arab is an affiliate of Junior Achievement World Wide and with the help of 16,691corporate volunteers INJAZ al-Arab has already trained 678, 487students from schools since its inception in Jordan in 1999.
Tanning is an ancient art in Morocco, but it pollutes the environment heavily. Chouara is part of this tradition. It is one of the three tanneries in Medina and Fes that continues to use organic materials, a method that is dying out as modern tanneries use chemical processes. Waste products all go to the same place, the Sebou river system, which also gathers all the city’s untreated water and other local industrial waste.
“Most of the raw materials we use here are natural products, quicklime, grenadine, pigeon droppings, wheatbran, or tree bark,” says the Tanner’s Association President El Ghali Rahali.
The new generation tanneries are much dirtier, and have delocalised to the modern industrial outskirts. There are 58 today in Fes alone. Modern techniques have increased production, although purists scoff that tanning quality is not what it was with the traditional methods. The Sais tannery can process 2000 sheepskins a day.
“Here we work with sulphur, quicklime, sulphate, formic acid, sulphuric acid, and chrome; it’s a tanning revolution. In the past we needed between 40 days and two months to finish tanning a skin. Here we now need only two or three days,” says El Ghali Rahali.
Chrome-laden water from this tannery and 17 others like it in the Dokkarat district does not go in the river. Three kilometres of piping take it to Morocco’s first chrome removal plant, which opened in 2003. 50 cubic metres of water can yield around two and a half tonnes of recycled chrome.
“We can handle about eight cubic metres of water a day that come here from the Dokkarat tanneries.
This recycled chrome, once separated with sulphuric acid into a liquid form, is sold back to the tanners who can use it again. At four dirhams, or less than half a euro, it makes economic sense, too, as non-recycled powdered chrome costs between 11 and 13 dirhams a kilo,” says the director of the Sais tannery Mohammed Berrada.
The setting up of the chrome removal station is just part of a far more ambitious programme; to restore Fes’s sewage system and, between now and 2012, build a new sewage works. The project will cost 90 million euros, and should slash pollution going into the Sebou, one of Morocco’s dirtiest rivers.
Getting rid of the chrome first is vital, as it inhibits the treatment of sewage. Today around 40 tanneries still pump untreated waste into the Oued Sebou.
“Around 100 tonnes of chrome gets dumped in the Sebou every year. The chrome removal plant can only deal with around forty percent of this,” says the head of the Radeef cleanup operation Saidi Bouchra.
Eventually the plant should be able to deal with all of Fes’s tannery waste water, alongside the National Programme for Water Treatment, whose objective is to cut industrial and domestic water pollution by 60 percent by 2020.
Copyright © 2010 euronews
Music and Culture Converge as 23rd Army Band Performs in Morocco
By 1st Lieutenant Ryan Sutherland / Utah National Guard Public Affairs
KENITRA, Morocco, 
Sep 14, 2010 — With the historic landing site of U.S. and Allied forces in World War II as the backdrop, the Utah National Guard's 23rd Army Band performed one in a series of memorable patriotic concerts throughout Morocco July 1-7, 2010.

Kenitra, known under French rule as Port Lyautey (1932–1956), was captured by the U.S. Navy from the Vichy French in November 1942 during the American invasion of North Africa.

Nearly 70 years later, beneath the shadows of the Kasbat Mehdia, was a top-notch music ensemble featuring the ceremonial 23rd Army Band and crowd favorite Rock Band, performing under the direction of Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class Denny Saunders.

The contrast in cultures was evident as a group of horsemen wearing traditional clothes, gave an honorable welcome as they charged in unison past the Americans in attendance, a performance inspired from historical wartime attacks of Berber and desert knights.

There was nothing remotely resembling American pop culture at this historic venue, yet the packed venue came to life as the Rock Band played Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." The crowd gave ovation after ovation as the show went on late into the evening.

"Given the historical significance of the location, the way we were received and treated by the local people, the national attention the event attracted, it was then that I realized what a big deal this trip really was," said Saunders.

"The significance of the event cannot be understated," said Lieutenant Colonel Brent Baxter, executive officer of 97th Troop Command, the unit that oversees the band. "Ultimately, fulfilling the request of the U.S. ambassador to Morocco and performing at nine venues in a 10-day period was an amazing feat."

One of many challenges in coordinating the trip was making arrangements for a Utah Air National Guard KC-135 to fly the nearly 40 band members and their equipment to Morocco.
The Utah Guard began its relationship with Morocco in 2003 through the National Guard's State Partnership Program. Since 2004 the Utah Guard has participated in more than 75 events with the Moroccan military in Morocco and in Utah.

But this trip, in particular, offered a glimpse of the diversity, traditions and social customs found throughout Morocco and how the common-shared love of music unites us all.

Nestled in the sprawling streets of Rabat, the capital of Morocco, the Band's tour officially kicked off with a night under the stars at the U.S. Embassy. Full of the same glamour and glitz of a Hollywood red-carpet event, guests were swept through security checkpoints, and the flashing of cameras lit up the night as the greater diplomatic community descended upon the Embassy's grounds. What more appropriate venue than to perform for the person who helped make this all possible, Samuel Kaplan, U.S. ambassador to Morocco.

With one prominent exception, the evening belonged to the Band's jazz combo. In Kaplan's own words, "a band rolled in from the State of Utah and took Morocco by storm." Guests danced well into the night, and as the set came to a close they were asked for one, two, and then three encores.

"Your team brought the spirit and joy of America to this far-off place in Africa," Kaplan told the Band. "[You] made me and everyone else smile; [you] made us all proud."

Prior to the performance at Sidi El Abed beach, each Band event had intended to draw in visitors, but here on the coast a few miles southwest of Rabat, it was clear that the 23rd Army Band were in fact the visitors. Here was a secluded beach, hidden from the general population and city traffic, beachgoers lay soaking up the sun, and out of nowhere emerges a sizeable group of Americans carting loads of musical equipment.

It was clear that many of the locals were caught off guard by the American "invasion," but the ear-catching rehearsal drew in curious beachgoers, and their wonder quickly turned to fascination as the Rock Band's electric energy engulfed the listeners.

A vivid ocean sunset complemented the Band's musical score with the crowd silhouetted against the Atlantic backdrop. What began as a seaside anomaly ended as an intimate and memorable experience shared by all.

There is much to be said about celebrating America's birthday in Morocco. First, the significance of the day underscores the long-standing relationship between the U.S. and Morocco, which began in 1777 when this African nation was the first to recognize the independence of the U.S. from Great Britain.

But more importantly, this was a day shared with other Americans abroad, where one truly felt what it is like to be an American.

Baxter, who has spent the Fourth of July away from home numerous times in the past, may have put it best: "Despite being a long way from [Utah], I felt at home that day, celebrating with other Americans," he said. "It was nice to be with a group of people who were unified in purpose. For once, I felt at home in a country so far away."

The trip concluded amidst a sea of children at the Harhoura Summer Camp in Temara. The Rock Band played with an extra zip and attentiveness beyond its usual high level as they performed for more than 1,000 raucous youth.

After all was said and done, soldiers of the 23rd were all excellent ambassadors and performed their mission above and beyond anyone's expectations.

Major Karen Nuccitelli, coordinator for the Utah National Guard's State Partnership Program, expressed that the benefits went beyond the typical band mission.

"I witnessed firsthand the numerous benefits bringing the band overseas paid," she said. "They drew a large amount of positive press exposure on Moroccan television helping to further the strong relationship Utah has developed with Morocco."

"But even beyond the obvious benefit of offering morale to the U.S. service members and their families stationed in Morocco and the goodwill performing for the Moroccan public delivered," she continued, "the Band had the opportunity to receive training such as attending pre-deployment briefings, immunizations and completing other Soldier-readiness tasks."

Looking back on the trip, the performance that resonated most with Saunders was the concert in Kenitra.

"The part of that event that was most touching was at the end of the concert when all those little kids were dancing to the music of the Rock Band," he said. "It was as if all language and cultural barriers had come down, and we were able to come together and enjoy the international language of music."

Perhaps most important of all is the lasting impression that the 23rd Army Band left on its audiences, a shared experience between Moroccans and Americans that will last a lifetime.

To view photos of the Utah National Guard's work in Morocco, visit Utah National Guard on Flickr.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010
USA (Washington) - Morocco is well positioned to become North Africa's leading provider of renewable energy, especially solar-thermal power, the US magazine Newsweek wrote.

"A year and a half ago, the country shifted gears and turned to a resource that exists in abundance across the region: the sun," underlined the Newsweek, which is one of the largest weekly magazine in the U.S.

The magazine recalled HM King Mohammed VI's decision to make the development of alternative energy one of Morocco's "top priorities", putting a legal framework in place to encourage European investment.

In this regard, the magazine said that Morocco is privileged by its Sahara and geography, noting that "what distinguishes the country from its desert-dwelling neighbors is its close proximity to Spain."

The two countries, which are connected by an energy transmission line, are separated by less than 16km at some points, the same source underlined, adding that "the line's existence gives Morocco an edge over its neighbors for access to the European market."

Europe, which has depended for a long time on Middle Eastern oil and Russian natural gas, has begun to look toward Morocco's solar energy for some of its long-term energy needs, the Newsweek underlined, noting that 15% of European energy could be generated by wind and solar-thermal power by 2050.

The US magazine also noted that Morocco "hopes to invest several billion dollars in solar-thermal power and use the technology to drastically increase its domestic energy production."
Morocco: where the days are hot, and the camels delicious.
September 16, 2010 – 4:36 pm, by Kevin O’Faircheallaigh
I know a guy who insists that the only way to truly experience a country is to organise yourself a homestay. He feels that it’s homestays alone that enable us to understand how the average citizen of any particular country lives, and anything else is really just shallow surface tourism. I think we can all agree that this idea is unadulterated horseshit.
I’ve experienced two types of homestays in my travelling life. The first was in Japan, and was the more traditional variety in which you live in an environment that is supposed to be reminiscent of Japanese life 100 years ago. Sleeping on mats, tea ceremonies and what was definitely an inordinate amount of pressure to dress up in a kimono. It would be remiss not to mention the few things that made this experience not quite accurate. There’s the highly packaged and processed breakfast and the sound of the Japanese owners TV blasting soap operas through the paper walls at you for a start. Hardly indicative of the experience of an average Japanese citizen from any time period I would venture.
The other type is when you go and stay with someone who is actually a modern citizen of the country and therefore should give you the perfect experience of life in your chosen destination. But obviously that doesn’t work either. Anyone who invites you to stay with them is going to be on far better behaviour while you’re around, and will probably show you the best of their home city, leaving out the tour of the outer suburbs and the unfortunate local skinhead population. Even if they do drop some truth bombs on you, it’s still just going to be the experience of one person. Just as no one actually has 2.5 children, there is no such thing as an ‘average’ citizen. My family/friends/co-workers/life partner have spent years telling me I’m distinctly average, but if someone were to stay with me for a week they’d leave our country thinking “My God, all these Australians do is watch Futurama reruns and eat Christmas puddings for dinner.” Not entirely representative I’m sure, but I do maintain we’d all be a lot happier if it was.
Two weeks in Morocco has thrown a spanner into the works however, for I have now experienced The Riad. Riad’s are basically traditional houses in Morocco built around a central courtyard. I say houses but in reality they are more like palaces, so referring to them as in any representative of the average would be woefully inaccurate. Covered in intricately painted tiles and artwork they would have to be my favourite type of accommodation we’ve encountered thus far.
We stayed in about four of them in total while we travelled around the country on Morocco’s surprisingly excellent train service. There is of course some discrepancy in the quality between riad’s but they all have some common traits that make them so wonderful. Straight off the bat, it’s just nice to have an open air courtyard in the middle of the house. You have all the benefits of being outside with zero of those pesky hassles like showering, or having to see other people. They also have any number of rooms, halls and sets of stairs which all lead to different places, giving you the impression that you are living in a colourful Escher print.
They are uniformly about 10 degrees cooler than it is outside, which I’m sure anyone who has been to Morocco, or in fact anyone who’s been in a hot place anywhere will appreciate the benefits of. They are often situated in the middle of the medina, which is generally speaking the oldest and most lively part of the city, making for easy day trips. Crucially, this avoids the curious experience of having your cab driver pull over and pick up more and more passengers until you feel compelled to apologise to anyone in the cab you may have accidentally touched inappropriately during the crush.
The only problem I found was that living near the medina meant you were exposed to more market hustling than usual, but even that could be a recipe for hilarity. While staying in Fez we had one particularly insistent man who owned a silver shop and every time we passed him he would insist we came in, no pressure, no need to buy, just for a look. We always demurred, largely due to the fact that we are exceedingly poor and not particularly good at withstanding intense Moroccan sales pressure. This continued on, growing more extravagant until he was laughingly offering us free things if we just came in and looked. Eventually on our last day, he threw himself on his knees in mock anguish and bellowed “WHY?!? Just tell me why!” So even the things that I would normally find a bit annoying were made somewhat less so by the riad.
Our riad in Fez was in fact my favourite of the four we visited. Not just because of the ancient medina, the innumerable cute kittens or the enormous camel burger at the Clock cafe. Nor even the terrifying severed camel’s head that hangs outside the butcher to let you know that yes, you are indeed buying camel meat.
The reason dawned on me on our first night when the parents of the young man who worked at the riad cooked us a traditional tajine dinner, with lentil salad and soup to accompany. The food was delicious, the old couple adorable and after they served us on the riad rooftop, they retired to the far corner where he whispered what I can only assume were hilarious jokes and she giggled like a school girl. It was right then, looking out over the 1000 year old medina, lit up under the black Moroccan sky that I realised I was in the middle of one of those rarest of life’s gifts. An absolutely perfect travel moment.

Saturday, 04 September 2010
Morocco (Rabat) - The state Planning Commission (HCP) has prepared its exploratory economic budget that presents a review of the national economic growth in 2010 and prospects for 2011.

According to its forecasts, the growth rate would stand at 4% in 2010 and 4.3% in 2011.

The 2010 growth rate is attributed to the decline in the value added of primary sector by 7.5% compared to 2009, which was marked by a strong growth of 29%.

The HCP added that the gross non-farm product would grow by 5.9% in 2010 compared to 1.3% in 2009.

National savings are forecast to improve slightly in 2010, said the HCP, adding that the savings rate will reach 31.5% instead of 31% in 2009.

As to the national economic growth in the year 2011, it is attributed to an increase of 5.4% of non-agricultural GDP, according to the same source.

Regarding foreign trade, exports of goods and services would rise by 6.6% in 2011 due to the consolidation of world demand addressed to Morocco.

Despite the improvement in net income from the rest of the world, from 6.7% of GDP in 2010 to 7.6% in 2011, the national saving rate will increase only slightly, to stand at 31.7% of GDP in 2011, said the HCP.

Washington / Morocco Board News Service -    On August 27, 2010 , at its seventy-seventh session, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CRED) examined the reports submitted by Morocco in accordance with Article 9th of the UN Convention.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CRED) of the United Nations has issued the following requirements from Morocco.

1 – To provide information on the composition of its population, the use of mother tongues, languages commonly spoken, and other indicators of ethnic diversity, and any other information from targeted socio-economic studies, conducted on a voluntary basis, in full respect of privacy and anonymity, so that the committee can evaluate the situation of the Moroccan population economically, socially and culturally.
2 – To enshrine in Morocco’s constitution the principle of the primacy of international treaties over domestic legislation, to allow individuals to invoke in Moroccan courts the relevant provisions of the Convention.

3 – Add a provision in the Moroccan criminal code for those crimes committed with a racist motive to be considered as an aggravating circumstance of racial discrimination.

4 – To step up its efforts to promote the Amazigh language and culture and its teaching, and to take the necessary measures to ensure that the Amazigh people are not victims of any form of racial discrimination.

5 – To consider the inclusion in the Moroccan Constitution of the Amazigh language as an official language and also to ensure that the Moroccan government  literacy efforts are done in the Amazigh language.

6 – To put special emphasis on the economic development of the areas inhabited by the Amazigh people.

7 – To clarify the meaning and the scope in its legislation regarding the concept of " the Moroccan character of given names " and to ensure full implementation by the local administrations of the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior March-2010-circular relating to the choice of first names, to ensure the inclusion of all names, especially the Amazigh ones.

8 – To revise the Moroccan Nationality Code to allow Moroccan women to transmit their nationality to their foreign spouses on equal terms with men of Moroccan nationality.

9 – To take necessary measures to ensure the full implementation of the Family Code uniformly throughout the national territory and to protect the most vulnerable categories of its population, especially women and children living in remote areas, who can be victims of double or multiple discriminations.
UN report supports Moroccan Amazigh objectives .2010-09-14
Institutionalising the Amazigh language has once again become a focus for national debate.
By Imrane Binoual 14/09/10

Morocco's Amazigh community is reacting positively to recent report from the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
On August 17th and 18th, Morocco presented its report in Geneva on the efforts made to eliminate racial discrimination. Similarly, several Amazigh associations, including the World Amazigh Congress and the Amazigh Network for Citizenship (AZETTA), drew up their own alternative reports, which they submitted to the same committee.
The main recommendations made by CERD back up the Amazigh cause. In fact, "the Committee recommends that Morocco should step up its efforts to promote the Amazigh language and culture, particularly through teaching, and to take the steps necessary to ensure that Amazighs are not victim to any kind of racial discrimination, particularly in accessing employment and health services".
Additionally, the committee recommended that Morocco "consider including Amazigh in the constitution as an official language and also ensure that Amazighs are made literate in this language".
"Amazigh activists are now calling more than ever for the constitutionalisation of the Amazigh language," said Khalid Zerrari, vice-president of the World Amazigh Congress.
He added that the measure has been central to Amazigh demands since the Agadir Charter in 1991. The call now, he said, is for official recognition of the language.
The official delegation, which included representatives from the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior, was led by Morocco's permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Omar Hilal.
Hilal stated that the Amazigh language was fundamental to Moroccan culture and identity. Steps had been taken by IRCAM to introduce the language into the public arena, and particularly into teaching programmes and the media. He told the committee that
'Discussion concerning the possible inclusion of the Amazigh language in the constitution is ongoing," he added.
The Amazigh language is currently recognized in Morocco, and has been introduced into education. Through the creation of IRCAM, the Amazigh movement is working for it to appear in the constitution.
"International bodies have recommended to Morocco in 2006 and 2010 that the country write the Amazigh language into its constitution as an official language," explained Zerrari.
He added that Morocco, as a signatory to the international pact on socio-economic and cultural rights and the convention on the elimination of racial segregation, should honour its undertakings and resolve the Amazigh issue once and for all.
"This will lead indirectly to the institutionalisation of the Amazigh language and culture."
The delegation stated in its report that "the view that the Amazigh question is an ethnic or racial issue relating to an indigenous people in our country is an erroneous one, because this is a culture which belongs to all Moroccans without exception".
"The constitutionalisation of the Amazigh language is fundamental to the Amazigh movement," commented Ahmed Arrehmouch, a member of the executive body of the Amazigh Network for Citizenship. "This is the main way in which Amazigh culture can be exalted to its rightful place."
"Until it is recognised at constitutional level in the same way as Arabic, then there is no way forward," Arrehmouch added. "You only have to look at the budget and privileges accorded to the Arabic language at all levels to understand the need for the Amazigh language to appear in the constitution so that it can achieve the same status."
Mint tea in the Medina. Vidya Shah
The drive from Casablanca to Assilah is confusing; nothing to see on the way really except for occasional towns and hamlets. Also the monsoon hasn't yet arrived so the landscape is very dry. Somewhat like a train ride from Jaipur to Sri Ganganagar. But after a four-hour drive you begin to feel the sea breeze and the coastline starts to appear. Assilah is a fortified town on the northwest tip of the Atlantic coast of Morocco, about 50 km from the better-known Tangier. It is now becoming a popular seaside resort with modern holiday apartment complexes on the coast road.
 History, revealed
Story goes that this town was founded by the Phoenicians around 1500 B.C. It was a prosperous trading post until a group of pirates ransacked the place, turning it into a hideout in the early 1900s. The town suffered decades of decline and had fallen into disrepair. It wasn't until the late 1970s when Mohamed Benaïssa, the Culture Minister of Morocco, who was later elected mayor of the town cleaned up Assilah, restoring many of its historic buildings, including the Raissouni Palace, now a concert hall, and the Al-Kamra Tower citadel in the Medina. He also brought together a group of artists, invited them to culturally refresh the town with their ideas and creative inputs. This was really the beginning of the Assilah festival, one that has emerged and established itself as a popular International festival for over thirty years now.
 As in most towns in Northern Africa, life in Assilah revolves around the Medina. It is a bit of a maze, but since it is a small town it is difficult to really get lost in — one street eventually leads you to where you need to go. The shops sell everything from antique turquoise, coral and silver jewellery to hand woven Berber rugs. Hotels and vehicles aren't allowed inside the rampart walls making it a lovely walk through its cobbled streets. And around this time of the year the town is particularly alive and buzzing because of the Festival.
 This Assilah International Festival established in 1978, is an annual cultural extravaganza that takes place in the month of July/August. Both studio and performing artists from all over the world, journalists, writers, painters, musicians and dancers gather here imparting the setting with colour, exuberance and dynamism. Over the last three decades, the event has promoted cultural dialogue, exchange and solidarity. It hosts more than 100,000 visitors. There is a performance a day from across the world open for general public which included this year contemporary dance from Portugal, Jordanian trio on the Lute, an Andalusian Ensemble from Tangier and my music from India, making the spread vibrant.  Of course now every city in Morocco boasts of an annual Cultural festival, the most well known being the Fez Spiritual music Festival.
 Farid Belkaiah a well-known artist in Morocco informs me that the festival has grown considerably in content and numbers over the years. Where it began with artists, it now is much more encompassing and brings together major global figures from the world of culture, politics, diplomacy as well as the arts, including journalists, writers, painters, musicians and dancers to meet, share ideas and collaborate. Belkaiah who works with Henna, was most amazed at the “orange” beard of my accompanist Khan Sahib and incidentally has had the pleasure of listening to and knowing Pt.Ravi Shankar from the 70's.
 Land of music
Hamza Abdaless studying Business Studies, my transportation coordinator at the Festival over a cup of the famous Moroccan mint tea, tells me in great detail about the different kinds of music that comes from this beautiful country - Chaabi, Rai Andaloussie, Arabic, Gnawa, Berber, Reggada to name a few. He is embarrassed about the “Pop” music blaring out of the shops in the Medina that is busy, full of locals and tourists way beyond midnight. He laments about how music like the Gnawa - the slave music which came into the country in the 16 th century or the Rai  - which literally means an opinion, a form of protest music, somewhat akin to the Blues, lead by peasants in Algeria, subsequently banned in the country, or the rich and exuberant Berber music is getting displaced by “mindless” popular stuff!
 Haj Youness, the well-known Oud player, endorses this view. Haj who has been recognized by the Smithsonian for his contributions to Moroccan music, is quite a National hero, is very popular, every one wants an autograph and a photo with this director of the Music Conservatory, and says that television reality shows on which he is also a judge are no solutions to real talent. Young musicians need training, hand-holding opportunities, or else they end up playing in nightclubs and no more. A story only too familiar to the Indian terra, a refrain that is also very much a symptom of the satellite television in the globalised world.
 But in my travels through this town and then to Casablanca, Marrakesh and Rabat, the one thing that did become apparent, repeatedly is that Morocco is a unique cultural fusion of Middle Eastern, European, and African influences. You can have the opportunity to experience life in a Muslim country while exploring the distinct society and traditions of the Maghreb and the French culture as well. To venture in and out of shops in Morocco is a pleasure for the eye and the mind as diverse colours converge into moments of shopping, eating, and entertainment.  A mélange of the traditional and the modern is very visible within different societies and towns in Morocco.
 Whether sitting at a café in Casablanca enjoying a croissant and tea, or visiting Marakkesh, wandering through the medina's looking at apricots and prunes, or sitting at the train station in Rabat looking at a woman sweeping the platforms at ten in the night, every experience in Morocco makes one reflect on how irrational stereotypes can be. It is the simultaneous inclusion and exclusion of different cultures that makes the country even more fascinating. A young boy who sells me a little pellet of Indigo rummages through a pile of used plastic bags looking for the one that will be just enough for the portion I have bought. A young woman dressed in a pair of shorts and short top on Casa's Corniche Beach walks along with a more conventionally attired young girl in a Djellaba or a Gandora, this co-existence of modernity and tradition seems to be the face of Moroccan nationalism.
 Assilah is a case of political will in moving culture from a softer focus to an issue of cultural diplomacy between communities and countries, leaving me a craving for such approaches here – creating an international platform for not only performance, but on deliberating how culture can become a powerful vehicle to centre-stage syncretism in the sub-continent. Only I wish the wonderful people didn't call out to me on the streets as “Namaste Shah Rukh Khan”!
 Vidya Shah is a Musician.
ECONOMIC OUTLOOK 2009-2010. ZOUHAIR BAGHOUGH Saturday, September 04 2010

Washington / Morocco Board News Service -   Morocco's Central Bank - Bank Al Maghrib - governor Abedellatif Jouahri presented the Bank’s Annual Report for 2009.The aim here is not only to provide a digest, but also to bring its figures together with those other facts and figures.The two would ultimately give an insight of how the Moroccan economy is likely to perform for this year.
First, the Bank’s report has a different “flavour”, if I may say so, from the other reports. 2009 was indeed a year of recession and economic difficulties, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit of ambivalence when I read the following lines about the national economy’s performance: “Cette évolution reflète la forte contraction de la demande extérieure, notamment de la zone euro, adressée à certaines branches industrielles, ainsi que le ralentissement dans le secteur du tourisme et du transport”. The evolution here is that of non-Agricultural GDP (a near-zero growth of 1.4% over the year)
Then, there was this: “la nécessité d’accompagner unatterrissage en douceur de notre économie en 2009 [...]“ This seemingly harmless sentence hides some pretty tough economic conjecture and even thougher future policies for the months to come. A soft landing is usually an euphemism for a recession, or, in our case, a very low economic growth, something we cannot afford in the present circumstances, I shall explain why.
That was the first impression on the preface. The dominant mood suggests that our economy is already unable to sustain the present global economic downturn, and the indicators show that we are quite vulnerable in terms of economic resilience. However, before we go any further, it must be pointed out that our overall growth for 2009 stood at a good level (BAM estimates are 6.9%, something about 5% of real growth) and inflation is in the process of being maintained to low and stable levels over a certain period of time. These are good news of course, but as shown later on, no one can claim credit for them.
Let us now take a closer look to the figures laid in the documents. The consensus is that the Moroccan economy, though it has somewhat successfully dealt with the global economic recession, remains quite weak in case another exogenous negative shock comes along. And even though the public authorities invested large sums of money to support and consolidate the economy, there remains structural hardships that are yet to be addressed. Why would one talk of economic weaknesses? Well, for instance, the report points out -and this is strictly about national economics- that financial markets are far too over-valued: “[des] fortes hausses, en décalage par rapport aux fondementaux, qu’ont connus certains compartiments du marché des actifs et de celui du crédit”. It is understandable why foreign investors were a bit averse to put their money in the Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE), mainly because the financial assets were over-valued. It spared us the painful effect of a financial meltdown (because of the toxic assets), but the speed foreign in which investments dropped down surely led to a climate of indecision and ultimately, doubts over the real values of bonds and shares on Casablanca stock exchange.
The essential thing to focus on was that it prevented the financial sector from being drown up by toxic assets, thus proving the Moroccan banks’ resilience: “Concernant le secteur bancaire, qui a fait preuve d’une grande résilience, il a vu ses indicateurs poursuivre leur orientation à la hausse en 2009. Le retour graduel de la progression du crédit à un rythme compatible avec la croissance économique n’a pas impacté la rentabilité des banques.” But it certainly has put a strain on the available liquidities: “Les évolutions monétaires et financières se sont caractérisées, dans un contexte de fonctionnement normal des différents marchés, par le ralentissement de la progression de la monnaie et du crédit“, something that prompted the Central Bank to lower the main rates and loosen a bit the required reserves: “S’agissant de la gestion de la liquidité, le Conseil a réduit le taux de la réserve monétaire à trois reprises, le ramenant à 8%, permettant ainsi aux banques de continuer à assurer un financement approprié de l’économie. Bank Al-Maghrib a, par ailleurs, mis à la disposition des banques sur le marché monétaire toutes les ressources requises et a mobilisé tous les instruments de politique monétaire disponibles, pour leur assurer un refinancement adéquat.
I. The Economic Growth for 2009. The bank admits it in its own words: the economy remained stable and relatively strong because of a remarkable harvest. And many, if not all foreign exchange-oriented sectors suffered severe repercussions from the economic difficulties our foreign markets had to deal with. The total 2009 economic growth breakdown looked as following in the graph proves the eminent role Agricultural GDP played.
There is no need to point out that the agricultural output is subject to none of the devised policies, as it is mainly function of the current climate. Therefore one can assert that no government body whatsoever can claim credit for those 5% growth. It is however quite alarming that the industry sector should suffer so much from a contraction in foreign demand. As indeed it was pointed out, export-oriented industries suffered from the present conjecture, such as chemical and para-chemical industry (-1,4% YoY) and electric/electronic industry (-0.8% YoY) and leather (-4.3% YoY).
The other sector that suffered from recession was construction. While domestic demand remained quite strong, it did not though sustain the drain on liquidities 2009 saw, therefore bringing to an end a constant growth for the past years (construction credit growth went down from 45.6% YoY to 12.8%). I am quite appreciative that our economy did quite good in terms of resilience and growth, but the intrinsic factors that made it so were unfortunately not the result of any policy, but rather the lucky coincidence of good harvest. In terms of consumption, growth was mainly of domestic nature, something our whole economic structure does not admit as such. As the reader might know, our economy is mainly, if not entirely export-oriented: we need foreign currencies for the huge projects the policy-makers are undertaking, for our imports and to fuel up our growth with larger exports, not to mention its role as a security pillow as it were, in case of unexpected changes in commodities’ prices. But now that foreign markets had shrunk to concerning proportions, domestic demand successfully got behind the national economy. That’s how it contributed in terms of GDP growth points:
II. The endogenous variables: workforce and productivity. It is true unemployment decreased a bit in 2009. But surely the present growth does not contribute in abating unemployment a bit, something that should be obvious yet does not compute in Moroccan reality. There is something else that bothers me about our own productivity. Before I go on about it, productivity is, as far as I am concerned, productivity remains one of the best indicators of how an economy is doing in terms of competitiveness and innovation. Plus it allows for scale economies, thus enabling wage rises with virtually no inflation. Morocco has quite bizzare characteristics in terms of productivity. the average relative labour cost has risen over the year. That’s a statistics that is akin to measure marginal labour productivity, something that the Bank did, and it turned out that in the last quarters of 2009, labour cost has risen beyond apparent labour productivity. That effectively means real destruction of wealth, but oddly enough did not contribute to inflation. Do let me explain: demand-driven inflation is fuelled up whenever a general or substantially located rise of wages is effective, without any form of increased productivity.
The figures here do not show any specific growth in terms of output per capita (something below 1% in 2009 YoY) but they do suggest that labour cost has risen (about 4%). However, it does not seem to have a sizeable impact on inflation (as shown later on). It does however show that we are losing ground to much more competitive countries in terms of labour productivity.
In other terms, we are dangerously losing the ground to international competition much more productive and less costly than our own labour force. It might have something to do with unions’ wage claims, but that remains to be proven. The report does not point it out, so the real source of the trouble is somewhere else. In any case, any wage rise in nominal terms is quickly blended and its effects swiftly abated. In facts, every time the minimum wage (SMIG) has been updated, real wage increased, but gradually declined until the next pay rise comes in. And remarkably enough, real minimum wage stood at a near-stationary level, as the graph suggests.
This proves that, even though labour cost handicapped our foreign exchange, minimum wage, the classic target oflaissez-faire partisans, had had nothing to do with. Out of contradiction though, the Bank points: “[...]Parallèlement, les coûts salariaux ont connu un accroissement, suite notamment à la deuxième revalorisation du SMIG[...]“.
III. Inflation and Unemployment: I already mentioned in an earlier post that Morocco dealt successfully with inflation (although only the core one is maintained to low levels) but that has come to the expenses of unemployment. the 2009 YtD inflation has even been made into a deflation, with CPI going as far as -5%, for an overall annual inflation rate of 1%. This has to do with the fact that commodity prices dramatically fell during the year (or in other terms, future prices went down, thus allowing Morocco to buy strategic commodities at a lower-than-expected price) and of course the positive impact agricultural output has on CPI. “Le ralentissement de l’inflation est également attribuable, dans une moindre mesure, aux prix des carburants et lubrifiants. En effet, leurs tarifs ont connu une première baisse mensuelle de 5% en février 2009, en raison de la révision des prix de certains carburants, puis une deuxième de 1,4% en avril suite à l’alignement du prix du gasoil 50 ppm sur celui du gasoil ordinaire auquel il s’est substitué.As for unemployement, I was a bit disappointed with the way they presented it. Basically, the graph shows a trend pointing to a possible negative correlation between unemployement and economic growth. ze3ma all we need is to increase output, and somehow unemployment will decrease. It is true there is a negative correlation between non-Agricultural GDP and unemployement (F-Test shows a probability of 11% both variances would be independent. Chi-2 test shows a 98% likelihood of statistical relation between both variables) but surely a linear regression cannot capture the exact relation between both variables. The regression’s R-Square is only 10.08%, i.e about only 1 out of 10 statistical couples (xi,yi) has been taken into account. In any case, the Bank admits implicitely a weak link between unemployement and economic growth: “Malgré le recul de la croissance non agricole, le taux de chômage urbain s’est replié de 0,9 point de pourcentage pour se situer à 13,8%. Parallèlement, l’essor de l’activité agricole n’a pas entraîné de baisse du taux de chômage rural, lequel a stagné à 4%. La baisse du taux de chômage a concerné essentiellement la tranche d’âge 25-34 ans et les diplômés, dont le taux a fléchi respectivement de 1 et de 1,4 point de pourcentage. Toutefois, le taux de chômage de ces catégories de la population demeure relativement élevé, se situant autour de 20%. On a different but related subject, I read something interesting in a digest the HCP published on poverty. En effet, si un point de croissance économique s’accompagnait, entre 1985 et 2001, d’une augmentation des inégalités de 0,13% et donnait lieu à une réduction de la pauvreté qui ne dépassait pas 1,7%, entre 2001 et 2007, une croissance économique équivalente (de 1 point) n’affectait que marginalement les inégalités (moins de 0,01%), et réduisait, de ce fait, la pauvreté de 2,7% [...]Il convient cependant de noter que cette dynamique de l’ensemble ‘Croissance, inégalité et pauvreté’ ne s’est pas opérée, dans les mêmes proportions, au niveau local, voire régional, provincial ou communal“. The good news are, we have less and less people living below or on the threshold of poverty, and the figures are encouraging indeed, but it has a drawback too: economic growth brings inequality too, and following these figures, every GDP growth point increases income inequality by more than just 0.01%. The HCP itself shows the figures: the 10% well-off get about 40% of the national income. This kind of income inequality does not allow for everyone to get a fair share of GDP growth, surely.
IV. Foreign Exchange:
2009 was quite bad in for our terms of exchange: Not only did we notice a worsening deficit commercial balance, but there was a drain on liquidities too, for the deficit took its tool from our balance of payment. Indeed, Les sorties nettes au titre des revenus des capitaux se sont établies à 7,4 milliards de dirhams, contre 4,1 milliards de dirhams en 2008. En effet, le solde négatif des revenus privés, passé de 6,7 milliards de dirhams à 9,4 milliards de dirhams, s’est alourdi de 40,6%, en raison de la hausse de 33,4% des sorties au titre de la rémunération d’investissements étrangers au Maroc“. That was the price to pay. Abdellatif Jouhari might have pointed out that our economy was resilient, however in times like these our foreign investors had to cash in their investments, and we need every hard currency dime we have. Why so? In 2009, our total national investments amounted to 265 billion MAD. ([...]“Compte tenu d’une variation positive des stocks de 38,8 milliards de dirhams, l’investissement global s’est chiffré à 264,8 milliards de dirhams, en quasi stagnation en termes nominaux, après une augmentation de 31,2% un an auparavant. Sa contribution à la croissance est revenue de 4,1 points de pourcentage en 2008 à 2,6 points en 2009 et le taux d’investissement brut s’est établi à 30,7%”.) Our national savings amounted to 228 billion MAD. It is clear that about 37 billion MAD need to be found in order to finance the huge investments our country is undertaking. That means 5% of our GDP, while the payment deficit amount to 20% of GDP. In other terms, Morocco needs to levy 195 billion MAD to a. finance its deficit, and b. to finance its investment. Perhaps the recent upgrade in Morocco’s sovereign debt could allow for new sources of finance, but again, in a time like this, and especially for the sort of investments we have, rates are going to be a bit steep I am afraid.
Now, I hope the picture made things clearer for 2009, so we can now move to the 2010 HCP figures.
These show signs of recovery, as it were: “La sortie de l’économie marocaine de sa phase de ralentissement conjoncturel se confirme de plus en plus en ce début d’année. Le redressement des activités non-agricoles s’est poursuivi au premier trimestre 2010, avec une croissance de 5,6%, en variation annuelle, après 5,4%, réalisée un trimestre auparavant. Cette performance a été confortée, en grande partie, par l’amélioration du secteur minier et, dans une moindre mesure, par celle de l’industrie et des branches annexes.” In other terms. the non-agricultural activities are recovering from the previous year. Domestic demand seems to be behind the green shoots: it grew about 4.7% Q1 2010, a bit low compared to Q1 2009, but nonetheless an important contributor to the expected GDP growth (3.6% for Q1 2010 so far). Things are on average going well.
There are however a few things that should be taken seriously: the present state in which public finances are is quite difficult, which might allow for cuts and austerity programs. Indeed, public income has fallen by 4.3% while expenditures rose by 13.4%. Public deficit is now 4% of GDP. Nothing urgently serious, but the forecast is that things will get rougher: because domestic demand is driving growth, there is an expectation of high levels of imports, an increase exports cannot match entirely. That means a further drain in our currency reserves as well as a worsening balance of commerce deficit. Finally, it seems the monetary market suffers from that as well: Le marché monétaire est resté déficitaire au cours de la première moitié de l’année 2010. Les interventions instantanées de Bank Al-Maghrib ont pu atténuer, quelque peu, l’écart entre le taux d’intérêt interbancaire (3,31%) et le taux directeur de Bank Al- Maghrib (3,25%). Le marché bancaire subit les conséquences de plusieurs facteurs restrictifs de liquidité, en l’occurrence l’importance du déficit de la balance commerciale et la baisse des recettes des investissements directs étrangers.”
To sum up, the Moroccan economy did well in these troubled times, and those of its sectors that suffered from the global crisis are on their way to recovery. However, most of the good results are not the effects of policies, and the present structural hardships, while being addressed with various policies, remain hindering every efforts to get our economy off the valley of the shadows and into the sun. There can be no worthy growth while the present unemployement rate is 9%, nor with income inequality Gini index of 0.46. In short, the present growth still benefits to the few, and not to the many. More radical policies, that’s what we need.

Wednesday, September 08 2010
Washington / Morocco Board News Service     According to the Moroccan government, the UNDP (United Nation Development Program) “ Lacks rigor and professionalism”.  Yes, Ladies and gentlemen, It makes sense, in this regard, considering the fact that “ the multidimensional index of poverty” (MIP) is a different and new tool of measurement which the University of Oxford had developed, and that the UNDP will find itself compelled to inevitably accept as a tool of research. 
Do we accept the MIP study, which asserts that 28% of Moroccans live under the threshold of poverty, or the Moroccan Government social and economic strategists and policy planners who only see 9%? 
Depending on whether we believe the first or the second statistic, will determine whether the National Initiative for human development  (NIHD), a social Plan backed by the King of Morocco, is an unfortunate failure or a successful plan.
We already know that the dreadful overseas agents, as seen by Moroccan Government officials, have to always be wrong, and the noble cavaliers of the Moroccan throne are always right.  So the disagreement about the latest 28% poverty figure (The PMI Poverty Multidimensional Index) of Morocco to be based on old data going back to 2004, before the launch of the NIHD, of which it denies the effect”, is therefore obsolete.

For now we should definitely consider that it is the researchers at Oxford who have failed, by calculating the performance of Morocco based on old data.  If they had made their calculations based on the 2007 data, Moroccan officials say, the poverty rates in Morocco would not have been as high as 28%, but only 11%.
Shame, then, on Oxford and glory to the government of his majesty!

You think then, since the Moroccan Government is right, at least this once, what would justify the ironic stance of this very article?
Here is why:
Such agitation from The Moroccan Government about an index, that is relatively new and is still in some sort of beta phase, is rather suspicious.
How many universities and institutes produce studies each year that people pay scant attention to?
Why has the Moroccan government chosen to make a mountain out of this one particular molehill?
Because as the Moroccan foreign affairs ministry’s outrageous communiqué of protest informed us, this particular Oxford Study was “validated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), a UN institution, Which brings prejudice to Morocco and its sustainable efforts as well as its recognized high esteem vis-à-vis human development.”  Ah, all right then!

Only that the UNDP, after verification… had validated nothing at all!  The Rabat office of the UN agency affirms categorically, “The study of Oxford doesn’t reflect in any case (our) position” A thing which reminds us, nonetheless, that there is always the Human Index of development (HID), an official tool of the UNDP combining health indicators, education and power of purchase, and whose seriousness and relevancy are recognizable  worldwide…

Only that the real problem had become incarnated in the repudiation that the HID brings each year to Morocco’s Government “meritorious efforts”.
But the truth of the matter is that in 2009, Morocco was ranked as 130th out of 182 countries in terms of human development.  Clearly less well than Algeria, Egypt, Botswana, Gabon… and even the Palestinian occupied territories that are under boycott!
And all this, with an indexe that no one dared to challenge!
Anyhow, the government of the kingdom of Morocco considers the criteria of the HID as “ largely outdated, clearly selective and certainly insufficient”! The problem is that we are the only country in the world to consider this. And this denial makes Morocco’s Government appear to feel sorry for itself.
Like a child, who didn’t do his homework, and explains his failures on delusional grounds. Similarly, that’s how we ought to read this story of Oxford: One totally thwarting and prejudiced argument that denies the truth of reality. 
But when the rating of 2010 HID emerges in the upcoming weeks, there is a fear that the statistics of HID would not make us happy again.
The shrug of Morocco's officials, who are making us the laughing stock of the world, will not succeed in hiding this naked truth that after 5 years of NIHD, the public health, national education and the level of income of Moroccans are shockingly still low.
And though it may have been improved since 2005.  Yet, “ little” progress in this field is just not sufficient.  Not when other countries of the world and their citizenry prosper very fast while we only slip backward each year in the world’s competition. 

In two words like in thousands:  The Royal politic doesn’t work.

And do you know why this drama is occurring? Instead of making a sound and lucid judgment about the results of the statistics, and try to correct the flaws in the social and human development statistics  (for it’s never too late), our officials prefer to waist time and energy in addressing the pitiful mirage and illusional smokescreens that never fooled anybody. 
The UNDP “ lacks of rigor and professionalism”?  Well, the Moroccan government in its turn, perhaps is worst, and lacks maturity.

Morocco (Marrakech) - Flying over the sky of Marrakech and the surrounding areas in a hot air balloon with a scenic background is another way to discover the magic and beauty of natural landscapes in this region as well as the diversity and authenticity of Morocco.

As soon as the preparations started to begin a journey aloft in a hot-air balloon at an altitude of one thousand meters, passengers are quickly impelled by a strong desire to live this unforgettable adventure and share with family and friends relaxation moments of sheer joy and pleasure.

Among all passengers as well as members of technical staff, one belief prevails: that Morocco is a wonderful country and the balloon ride is one of the most appropriate means to discover the secrets of this country, and experience the warmth, kindness and generosity of its inhabitants.

After this journey each passenger becomes excited to relive the adventure which offers a unique opportunity to enjoy a mosaic of picturesque landscapes of Morocco, and especially to relieve the everyday stress.

The originator of "Ballooning in Morocco", African Sky agency operates in this field since 1990 in Marrakech, providing a diverse clientele, mostly from English-speaking countries, France, Germany, Spain, Brazil and gulf countries, with the opportunity to discover the region, sales manager Imane Belhaite told MAP.

She added that this kind of projects also contributes to the development and diversification of tourist activities in the Red city and its environs.

Belhaite said that the agency operates in a well-defined area of flight in accordance with the laws implemented by the Civil Aviation Directorate of the Ministry of Equipment and Transport, noting that this area is located north of the Palm Grove of Marrakech at the geological area of "Jbilate".

The starting point of each journey, lasting one hour, is located at the village of "Ouled Al Garne" near Marrakech, before reaching "Ouled Mansour village, where passengers are often invited to enjoy a Moroccan breakfast prepared by the villagers.

"It is a way to contribute to improving the income of these people," said Belhaite, noting that the agency also employs a technical staff among the youth of local villages, who were trained on ballooning, and may even hire seasonal people depending on demand. The agency, she went on, has two balloons in colours of the national flag with a respective capacity of 6 and 12 passengers, adding that it was awarded in March 2010 in Madrid the "Golden Eagle for Prestige And Quality" international prize.
NGO moves to Syracuse, begins recruiting student interns.By Beckie Strum News EditorThursday, September 9, 2010
Far away from her office in Syracuse, Sarah Peterson explored, for the first time, the city streets of Casablanca, Morocco, this summer.

The sprawl of shanty houses, raw electric wires hooked up illegally and open sewage in the slums of the city’s outskirts brought home the importance of Peterson’s new job with the Near East Foundation.

“This was real life,” she said.

Peterson, who received a master’s degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in May, is the new program officer at the Syracuse University branch of NEF. The foundation opened an administrative office on campus this summer after being located exclusively in New York City for almost a century. 

NEF began in 1915 as a nonprofit organization working to stimulate economic development, public activism and education in Middle Eastern communities. The historic move to SU will open up a wealth of internship and volunteer opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.

NEF’s “board of directors wanted to affiliate with a university in order to engage the energy and excitement that students and faculty have,” said Charlie Benjamin, NEF’s president, whose new office is located in Crouse-Hinds Hall.

“We looked at several schools, but at the end of the search, SU was the very best fit,” he said.
SU attracted the foundation with its dedication to giving students hands-on field training abroad and in Syracuse, as well as its growing Middle Eastern studies and strong public administration programs.

“We want to have young people involved. They have a creativity, energy and idealism that is in line with the program’s goals,” Benjamin said.

NEF works by developing and implementing grassroots programs that are tailored for the community in need, he said.

Before becoming president, Benjamin worked as the country director in Morocco. A program began there in the 90s to help undo the stigma of sending girls of rural Morocco to school.

“Cultural and social norms prevented girls from going to school,” he said. “In very remote areas, there was an average of 10 percent of girls attending primary schools. For boys, it was in the 50 percent range. Many parents were reluctant to send their girls to coed schools. Parents thought they were protecting the honor of their daughters.”

The Moroccan branch of NEF evaluated the need and developed a program that would build schools, train older women as community role models and teach parents about the importance of sending their children to primary school.

By 2009, the number of girls enrolled in elementary school was at 98 percent, and the completion rate was 95 percent, Benjamin said.

Besides Morocco, NEF has bases in Mali, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan and the West Bank, as well as staff working in Armenia. Programs vary greatly from region to region, some enterprise-oriented, others focused on education or youth empowerment.

Benjamin said the foundation has been very flexible in how student interns and volunteers get involved.
An intern from Elon University in North Carolina received a grant to spend the summer with NEF in Jordan. She used the opportunity to take photographs, create photo stories and write a blog about her experiences in the developing area.

If they find the means, students from a range of majors and specialties can become involved in the organization, Benjamin said.

Other internships have been more conventional, such as paid and volunteer program managers.

Since coming to SU, Benjamin has taken on several undergraduate interns from the university who are project managers in the SU office.

Most internships are on a volunteer basis, but many of SU’s colleges and programs have grant money available that could provide the means to travel to and work at an NEF base abroad, Benjamin said. NEF also budgets for a number of grants for graduate students. 

NEF’s presence on campus will also benefit faculty, said William Sullivan, assistant dean of Maxwell. Sullivan predicts professors will become more involved with the organization over time and will be able to utilize the foundation as a teaching resource, he said.

“We also believe that as the partnership strengthens,” Sullivan said, “we will be able to collaborate on funding proposals from which both the university and the foundation will benefit.”


Tuesday, September 14 2010
The Clean Technology Fund Trust Fund Committee (CTF TFC) has endorsed the Investment Plan for Concentrated Solar Power in the Middle East and North Africa Region, which aims at mobilizing $5.6 billion (including $750 million from the CTF) to accelerate deployment of 1 GW of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) generation capacity, doubling the worldwide CSP installed capacity.
Morocco is the country with the largest proposed capacity in the MENA CSP CTF IP. The first plant to be developed under the CSP scale-up initiative is the 500 MW Ouarzazate plant in Morocco, which is the largest proposed CSP plant in the world.
Morocco imports nearly all its energy needs (97%) and its energy mix is dominated by oil and coal (87% of primary energy demand).  The challenge faced by Morocco is how to meet fast growing demand while at the same time reducing the carbon intensity of the power sector and enhancing security of supply. In this context, the Morocco Solar Plan, launched in November 2009, is the cornerstone of the country’s climate change mitigation strategy. The US$ 9 billion Solar Plan calls for the commissioning of five solar power generation plants between 2015 and 2020, for a total  capacity of 2000 MW,
Aided by a strong commitment to reforms and energy demand management, Morocco is ideally positioned to serve European markets and to use this positioning to take a technology and market lead, both through its geographic position and through the recent creation of enabling regulatory conditions for integration of RE in the energy system. 

The proposed project aims at increasing production of renewable energy through development of Phase 1 of a 500 MW CSP plant.   The project will also contribute to Morocco’s objectives of reducing import dependency and CO2 emissions, through increased penetration of renewable energy.  Other global and regional objectives include mitigating climate change through acceleration of global deployment of CSP, meeting EU’s renewable energy objectives, while creating a source of revenues for the Moroccan energy sector, and creating the Mediterranean regional electricity market.

The project will support a PPP between MASEN and a competitively selected private partner (s) to develop 125-250 MW (phase I of the 500 MW Ouazarzate plant which is part of the Morocco Solar Plan) of CSP (parabolic trough and/or tower) with 6 hour storage in order to contribute to peak load coverage at a site about 10 km East North East of Ouarzazate. The site is well suited for solar projects, especially for development of CSP, because of excellent solar resources and the availability of water.  The technical characteristics and size of the project have been determined after thorough analyses of technological options and market surveys by a reputable technical advisor. 
MASEN has hired transaction, tax and legal advisors (IFC is the transaction advisor) and a technical consultant.  The Moroccan Government requested use of CTF for the Ouarzazate plant. Other concessional financing is likely to come from the European Neighbourhood Investment facility (NIF) as well as from other countries.  Requests have been made for loans from several IFIs, and a steering group representing all concerned financiers meets monthly to review the status of project preparation
The preliminary environmental impact study is under way, as are DNI measures and various other related studies (seismic, water, etc). An expression of interest was launched in March 2010 and attracted over 200 responses.  A prequalification is in process to establish a short list in early fall.  Construction is expected to start mid-2011 for a commissioning by 2015.  Meeting MASEN’s ambitious schedule requires a well coordinated effort of all co-financiers, including the World Bank, as well as a streamlined processing.

Safeguard policies that might apply include Environmental Assessment (OP/BP 4.01), given that the project has potential (adverse) environmental risks in its area of influence, given notably the needs for water (for cooling and mirror cleaning). The choice of cooling technology may turn out to be decisive for the extent of water use from the project.

It is to be determined whether other safeguard policies apply, notably Safety of Dams (OP/BP 4.37), given that the project depends on an existing reservoir for water provision. Given the isolated desert environment, it is unlikely that the policies on Natural Habitats (OP/BP 4.04); Physical Cultural Resources (OP/BP 4.11); and Involuntary Resettlement (OP/BP 4.12) apply, but this will be verified.

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