Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Morocco In the News: April 1st - 7th

- Amal Hasson    Sunday, 27 March 2011

Washington - Trade exchange between Morocco and the United States, which are bound by a free trade agreement (FTA), stood at more than 2.6 billion dollars in 2010, with Morocco's exports to the US market rising by 54% since the entry into force of the agreement in 2006, the US Department of Commerce (USDC) said on Friday.

Bilateral trade has, thus, markedly risen in 2010 from a year earlier when it had stood at 2.1 billion dollars, according to figures released by the USDC.

Moroccan exports to the United States reached 685 million dollars in the year under review, posting a 46% over 2009, it said.

The two countries' officials say the USA-Morocco free trade agreement, the unique such agreement signed by the USA in the entire Africa, attests to the excellent, special bilateral relations.

"We have a long history of friendship and partnership on almost every level, from economics to educational exchanges, from trade to development, and security," Clinton said two days ago at a joint press conference with her Moroccan peer Taib Fassi Fihri.

Fassi Fihri, for his part, had emphasised the “long-standing, very fruitful” Moroccan-US ties. (MAP)

WB grants Morocco two loans of $342m
Washington - The World Bank's board of directors approved, on Tuesday, two development policy loans (DPL) in the amount of 352 million dollars for Morocco, Bretton Woods announced.
     The first loan, worth 205 million dollars, is aimed at supporting the implementation of Morocco's Green Plan in order to improve local markets' efficiency, the impact of projects aimed at small farmers, the services of the farming sector, water management and the planning of irrigation infrastructure.
   The same source said the Green Plan constitutes an "ambitious" investment programme in agro-food industry and steps up a roadmap to carry out a series of systematic public sector reforms.
    The second loan, worth 136.7 million dollars, is meant to enhance the effectiveness of urban traffic in Morocco's big cities through a good governance of the transport sector and the improvement of urban transport services and infrastructure.
    It will support the reform programme of urban transport and speed up its implementation.

Japan grants over 6 mln dirhams to support micro project associations
Rabat - Japan granted, on Wednesday, a donation worth around 6.575 million dirhams benefiting ten Moroccan associations operating in the field of local micro projects.
This financial support will allow for funding projects relating to providing drinking water, enhancing road infrastructure, improving women conditions as well as promoting agricultural project and educational and health services.
The grant agreement was signed by Japanese Ambassador to Rabat Toshinori Yanagiya and representatives of the aforementioned associations.

 Morocco to build five culture centers worldwide, official
Friday, 28 November 2008 Morocco will launch five cultural centers in the world's major cities that have a large number of Moroccan expatriates, said Minister in charge of the Moroccan Community living abroad, Mohammed Ameur. Speaking at a meeting with representatives of the Moroccan expatriates in Montreal, Canada Ameur said the latter will to host one of those centers that are meant to be not only a symbol of Moroccan culture and identity, but also an opportunity to open up on other communities, and promote the Moroccan culture 
    Ameur, who is on a visit to Canada to enquire about the situation of Moroccan immigrants there, announced a number of measures taken by Morocco to assist Moroccans living abroad, including covering the costs of repatriating corpses of expatriates with limited income, and conducting a study on the needs and expectations of Moroccans as well as new investment areas, mainly in IT, off-shoring, and eco-tourism.
   Ameur said Morocco is aware of the importance of religion for Moroccan expatriates, adding that there is a will to foster a moderate Islam in collaboration with the ministry of Islamic Affairs and the Moroccan Council of Olemas (religious scholars).
   The Arabic language is also an essential component in the Moroccan identity, the Moroccan official said, noting that there are a number of measures to promote its teaching in hosting countries.


Almost all Moroccan enterprises are small and medium sized, Industry Minister
Berrechid - Around 95% of Moroccan enterprises are small and medium sized and account for 50% of employment, said, on Wednesday, Industry, Trade and New Technologies Minister Ahmed Reda Chami.
The Moroccan small and medium sized enterprises contribute by 20% of the added value, 30% of exports, 40% of production and 50% of investments, said the Minister at a conference in Berrechid on industrial productivity and the enterprise support programme.
These enterprises face challenges relating notably to technical means and human resources as well as information and training mechanisms, he noted.
In this respect, Chami shed light on several financial and vocational training promotion measures taken within the framework of the National Pact for Industrial Emergence to bolster the small and medium sized enterprises.
Morocco, US to boost cooperation
Casablanca - Morocco and the United States discussed, on Wednesday in Casablanca, means to promote cooperation at a meeting between Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Promotion Suresh Kumar and Chairman of the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM), Mohamed Hourani.
    The meeting was an opportunity to assess Moroccan-US partnership especially in the fields of renewable energy, information technology, basic infrastructure and transport.
     "We are ready to help Morocco diversify its exports and work together with the CGEM to inform large companies of projects underway in Morocco," said Kumar, who is leading a US commercial delegation, composed of representatives of 18 large American companies operating in various sectors.
    Kumar is also Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service.
    For his part, Hourani stressed the importance of promoting trade between the two countries, which are linked by deep friendly relations for decades.
    He also highlighted investment and partnership opportunities in Morocco in several sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure, industry, handicrafts and Communications and Information Technology.  

Magical Morocco - a Cultural Festival Celebrating the Beauty of Morocco, UCONN Stamford, CT

The Saida Fikri Foundation in collaboration with the Washington Moroccan American Club has organized and is hosting a cultural festival celebrating the splendor and generosity of Morocco.

Stamford, CT, March 30, 2011 --(PR.com)-- The Saida Fikri Foundation in collaboration with the Washington Moroccan American Club has organized and is hosting a cultural festival celebrating the splendor and generosity of Morocco. The event will enrich the senses with Moroccan foods, traditional handmade Moroccan artisan wares, a Bazaar market, henna tattoos, live music and dance, fashion and costumes. Saida Fikri's motivation for the event is to convey her hope for a more united and tolerant world by sharing the Moroccan culture.

The festival is open from 2:00PM - 8:00PM, Saturday, April 16, 2011. Entrance Fee: $5.00, children under 12 Free. Event location: University Connecticut Stamford, Washington Boulevard, Corner of Washington Boulevard and Broad Street (Main Floor), Stamford, CT. For more information please visit here.

By sharing the beauty of Morocco, the Saida Fikri Foundation and over 30 volunteers hope for all people of all races, religions and cultures to come together in a joyous celebration. “Morocco is a beautiful country, not only in the visual sense, but in its people’s tolerance, generosity and hospitality,” says Fikri. A Moroccan singer and songwriter, Saida Fikri is nicknamed “The Voice of the People without a Voice” due to her work for human rights and liberties in Morocco and she is recognized as a social pioneer in the Middle East and North Africa. She has written a song about peace, love and unity specifically for the event which she will perform live.

Some attractions at the Magical Morocco celebration will include a Bazaar with typical products and wares, presentations and history of Moroccan tribal rugs, a depiction of a Moroccan wedding, and traditional music and dance performances. Visitors can experience Henna tattoos ($5) and an authentic meal such as Moroccan Pastella or Margaze (sausage) for $7 and Moroccan tea with pastries and cookies ($3). All shows and entertainment are free of charge. Children are very welcome.

Organizer: The Saida Fikri Foundation
Tolerance, love, peace, acceptance, respect, unity, are only some words that Saida Fikri's music stands for. The Saida Fikri Foundation is dedicated to the promotion of these messages across the oceans. The foundation will host events centered around the unity of a rainbow of cultures and religions, to bring together people in the name of creativity, communication, and through the power of music which has no language.

One of their major projects currently is called "Creativity For A Better Future." The project is focused on the establishment of educationally based after school programs in third-world countries, starting with Morocco. The purpose is to develop the minds of the youth and in this way develop the future generations of the society. The children will have a creative outlet involving sports, music, and the arts, thus keeping them from drugs, gangs, and crime. Making a difference in the lives of the children of tomorrow will be the drive they need to make a difference in their own countries and this will fuel the change we want to see in the world. http://www.saidafikri.net

Aicha des Gazelles: Gazelles prepare for two days in the Morocco Desert.
The dunes of Merzouga are not just any dunes. They are the largest sand mountains in Morocco. Teams had three options yesterday when choosing their route: "X" checkpoints - Most difficult, no penalty points, "X-bis" checkpoints - Intermediate, penalty points per checkpoint and "Normal" checkpoints - Easy, penalty points per checkpoint.

Team 109 hit every "X" checkpoint and was back to the bivouac before most of the media vehicles were. "The dunes are why I compete in this event," Emily Miller comments. "It pushes you to your ultimate limit and your vehicles as well."

Most first year teams choose to stay out of the dunes for safety purposes but Team Lerner Reina came to compete. Hitting two of the five "X" checkpoints Team 107 ranks in 31st place overall. An incredible accomplishment for the novice team.

Sharing and solidarity are two very real values shared by the Gazelles. The rally puts its strength and its image to the service of Moroccan locals through the Heart of Gazelles, a registered non-profit organization in existence since 2001.

Staff and media joined the founders of the rally to visit two local schools the Heart of Gazelles built. The day was very special for everyone in attendance, children now have a place to build knowledge and self-esteem.

One of the standard techniques to verify whether an economy has indeed created large enough output and value to lift itself from underdevelopment, is to measure how fast its output (the GDP) catches up with a reference time series. Because the US have been a most important economy over the last 50 years (the new post-1945 gave the victorious United Sates such a leverage on economic matters), and because data is much more available to this particular country [we might also add, because academia is concentrated in the US, too. stands to reason, that...] it is conventional to consider US GDP as a reference to those countries one is surveying.
 It is interesting to note that for all the boasting in growth effects and figures, Moroccan GDP  relative to that of the US has remained low, if not markedly decreasing to 1990′s and 1950′s levels. Other countries, on the other hand, fared better.
The graph compares relative GDP for Morocco and a benchmark group of countries shows that Morocco is behind in terms of convergence. it shows that for the last 50 years, relative GDP in Morocco gained a meagre 2.75% over US GDP growth.This is, quite simply, a blow to the razzmatazz of Hassan II and even Mohamed VI‘s propaganda era about ‘grand designs’. It also shows that even on that basic policy so relied upon, i.e. economic growth, results have been well below expectations.
This policy, quite simply, that to overcome the crippling effects of poverty and inequality, the surest mean to achieve such objective is basically to accumulate output, i.e. sustain rapid and durable growth. All of this at the expenses of any noticeable redistributive attempt (progressive or liberal taxation system for instance). Not only it failed, but our growth rate has been chaotic over the last half a century, and as such, failed to improve markedly when compared to that of the US. Though GDP growth volatility abated a bit with the late 1990s, but it is still too high to rely on it as an indicator that Morocco is successfully catching up.
The principle of convergence is a powerful tool to assess, on a long term basis, the efforts put in an economy to ‘develop’. One can argue that considering capital accumulation is a very crude, even simplistic criterion to assess Moroccan growth.
And it is a perfectly valid argument. However, the alternative explanation is that of endogenous growth: human capital, scientific research and knowledge, which unfortunately finds its limitations verified in our case (unless there are some top secret research facilities in Morocco, whose applications are jealously kept secret in case of a Nuclear Armageddon…) and in any case, the classic theory of capital/output accumulation fits perfectly the strategic direction our policy-makers chose for Morocco.
What about the institutional variable? There is extensive literature on how institutions can affect capital accumulation (the well-know Lucas’ paradox) and I will not venture into describing these papers, but I would like to bring about a point so much invoked as a justification for status-quo: the pace of change.
Now, according to a seemingly valid point, we radicals and nihilists should not be too hungry for change. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and change takes time to settle. The underlying justification is that history shows progress is better when slow, or quite simply that it should be so, because history shows it.
It might be true, but when I try to compare Morocco between 1956 and 1962, and the last decade, we are, quite simply, way behind the exponential changes Morocco sustained after the French protectorate was dissolved. The Moudouwana? We had a much more liberal and progressive piece of legislation passed in 1957-1958 (and amended to a more conservative setting less than 5 years ago). Legislative production before the 1962 constitution was more fruitful and with a higher quality, especially those pertaining to essential legislation, e.g. Labour regulations (the brain child of then-Labour minister Abdellah Ibrahim) Furthermore, even if levels of illiteracy were higher compared to these we are experiencing today there was a higher positive perception of liberal agenda: gender equality, individual freedom and ultimately the formalized secularization of Moroccan society.
Rapid change can and will take place. The society’s resistance is not due to its tradition, nor is it due to some ideological commitment. In my view, it is simply fear of change.
Moroccan students launch university basketball tournament
By Naoufel Cherkaoui 31/03/11
International university athletes are in Casablanca for a sports event that will raise money for charity.
A group of university students in Casablanca organised an international basketball tournament to raise money for charity while promoting their sport and their values. The competition will kick off on Sunday (April 3rd) and will last through April 8th.
"The goal of this event is to develop university basketball in Morocco, including girl basketball. This is in addition to trying to instil some noble values among young people, such as discipline, team spirit and spirit of challenge," Amine Zariat, head of the organising committee, told Magharebia.
Fifteen teams from six countries, including seven from Morocco, will compete in the event. There are nine men's teams and six for young women. Revenues from the exhibition will be donated to an association that cares for children with cancer.
Zariat said that the students chose basketball league because it was a sport that they've been playing for years. The tournament launched last year was the first of its kind in Morocco.
"As far as the Moroccan teams are concerned, we organised open meetings to explain all the details of the contest. After that, we accepted the participation of the first teams that applied. As to the foreign teams, we contacted a number of them, and then we also chose the first ones who confirmed their participation," Zariat said.
He added, "We're thinking about organising huge events. However, we need some more time, and we also need to make this second edition of the league a success. We're optimistic, and there will be significant surprises in the future."
The competition was sponsored by the Casablanca-Chicago Twinning Association. "Providing support and encouragement for young people is the goal of our association," group chief Boubker Mazoz said.
"We were hoping to attract a team from Chicago to take part, but their ties in the US college basketball championship and the approaching date of examinations prevented it," Mazoz added.
"I attended some games in the first edition, and I was impressed by the extent of young people's love for this sport in a city that adores such a sport," said Abdelhak Zaoui, vice-president of the Moroccan Royal Basketball Federation.
Meanwhile, former Moroccan runner Nezha Bidouane said that she supported the initiatives organised by young people. "I hope that this initiative will continue because the league carries important values, such as hospitality, generosity and tolerance."
"They are very enthusiastic young people who have been working for months to make this event, which is important for both this sport and the host country, a success," said Antony Joubert, a French coach advising the tournament. "This is because it allows a group of student athletes to get together and share the core values of basketball, such as solidarity, commitment and brotherhood."
Moroccan coach Hamid Ibrahimi Idrissi told Magharebia that the event "will have a positive impact on this sport in Morocco".
"The added value here is the participation of young women, who lack their own league in Morocco," he said.

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