Thursday, September 29, 2011

Morocco in the News, Sept 29th

Health PCV Nehemiah Waterland and the kids’ baseball team on CNN.
From Morocco: Q & A with a Moroccan teen.
Friday, September 23, 2011,
Meet Rababe Saadoui. She is a 16-year-old high school student in a small town in Morocco. She is in her final year in high school, graduating next June.

Alexandra Cash: What is your typical school day like?
Rababe Saadoui: It's normal. We go, we study.
A.C.: What is normal?
R.S.: It's nothing special. We go and study boring school subjects. School in Morocco is not a place we feel comfortable. In my town that is. We go there because we have to.

A.C.: What do you like to do outside of school?
R.S.: Play sports, meet with my friends, watch movies, and sleep. There are no places to go and have fun here. I spend my time watching my movies mostly.

A.C: What is your relationship with your parents like?
R.S.: Amazing! I can say whatever I want to them. They never say no. They understand what I want. They do their best to keep me safe and comfortable.

A.C.: What are some of the stresses that Moroccan teens face?
R.S.:They need to hid their romantic relationships from their parents. Money, they can't have a lot. Extra tutoring hours and teachers. You have no relationship with them [teachers].

A.C.: What kinds of things can teens do in your town?
R.S.: Go to the Internet cafe. Boys can go to the place to play pool. This is their favorite place. They hide in some places to take drugs. They can go to the river. Most of these things are only for boys. Girls can't go to these places.

A.C.: What are some of the problems Morocco faces right now?
R.S.: Violence. People don't respect women. Drugs, corruption. You can't get a job unless you know someone.

A.C.: What is one thing you would like to see happen to make Morocco change for the better?
R.S.: I want all the universities to be free so everyone can have a chance to go there and study.

A.C.: What is one of your biggest dreams?
R.S.: To see all the world. To buy something from each country.

A.C.: What is one thing about America you are curious about?
R.S.: I am curious about American high schools. I only see them in movies and I am curious to see how they are. And the parties. There are so many parties like prom. We don't have these here.

A.C.: One final question. What is one thing you want American to know about Morocco?
R.S.: It is a great country, we love our king. Everyone should come visit this country.

Born and raised in Jackson, Michigan Alexandra Cash is a graduate of Jackson High School, Jackson Community College, and Michigan State University. At MSU she earned a degree in journalism with a focus in international relations. Alexandra is currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small town near Casablanca in Morocco, North Africa. She will be working in youth development until November 2011.
Morocco Wins Credit for Economy-Boosting Reforms: Arab Credit.
By Ahmed A. Namatalla and Mahmoud Kassem - Sep 22, 2011
Bank lending to Morocco rose at the fastest pace in the Arab world as the kingdom steers clear of political turmoil that toppled regimes in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.
International loans to the country climbed $1.3 billion, or 14 percent, in the first quarter, compared with the 0.3 percent increase in total credit to Africa and the Middle East, the Bank for International Settlements in BaselSwitzerland, said in a report published Sept. 18. Advances to Libya dropped 37 percent and those to Egypt fell 14 percent. The yield on Morocco’s 4.5 percent eurobond due October 2020 declined 11 basis points to 5.99 percent today from the peak in February.
Moroccans approved constitutional changes in July proposed by King Mohammed VI to transfer more power to the parliament, forestalling uprisings similar to those that oustedLibya’s Muammar Qaddafi and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. The International Monetary Fundpredicts political reforms will help the nation’s economy grow 4.6 percent this year, up from 3.7 percent in 2010.
“Morocco is perceived as one of the most stable countries in the region and it proved to be so when protests started,” said Mohamed Abu Basha, an economist at Cairo-based EFG-Hermes Holding SAE, the biggest publicly traded Arab investment bank. “The king was quick to react with reform initiatives.”
Constitutional Changes
The BIS report tracks fund flows from global banks to regional ones, including country-specific units of international banks from their parent companies, which they can use to lend domestically.
The amended constitution allows for the prime minister to be chosen from the party that wins elections even as the king retains the power to overrule or dissolve parliament, along with his role as “commander of the faithful” in the Islamic nation. Elections will be held Nov. 25, state-run Maghreb Arabe Presse news agency reported last week. The Group of Eight nations along with Persian Gulf countries pledged this month to help Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan make the transition to democracy by mobilizing $38 billion of international financing.
The country retained its BBB- credit ratings from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, the lowest investment grade in both scales, and the Ba1 by Moody’s Investors Service, the highest non-investment level. Egypt’s creditworthiness was cut twice by Moody’s this year to Ba3 and once by Fitch to BB due to political instability.
Morocco’s inflation rate was 2.2 percent in the first eight months of this year, according tocentral bank data, compared with 8.5 percent in Egypt. The central bank has held its benchmark interest rate at 3.25 percent since March 2009, when it was lowered by a quarter of a percentage point.
Enduring ‘Unrest’
“Thanks to sound macroeconomic policy and political reforms, Morocco was well-equipped to respond to the social unrest,” the IMF said in a report in July. “In this challenging environment, Morocco has performed well economically and has seen its social indicators improve.”
The country of 33 million people, which was invited to join the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, is investing in infrastructure projects including an allocation of 31.5 billion Moroccan dirhams ($3.83 billion) to expand wind-power capacity by 2020, high-speed rail to connect its main Atlantic coastal cities, and a seaport and logistics facility in Tangier. Morocco allocated17 billion dirhams in this year’s budget to build and upgrade highways, railways and seaports.
“Foreign investors now prefer to invest in Morocco rather than Egypt or Tunisia,” said Alae Yahya, an analyst at Casablanca-based Sogecapital Bourse, a unit of Societe Generale SA. “Even compared to a country like South Africa, there is good investor confidence here. Of course there are structural and administrative problems but the government has undertaken initiatives to make things easier for international investors.”
U.S. Slowdown
Still, Morocco’s credit risk has risen to the highest level in more than two years as Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis and an economic slowdown in the U.S. threaten to stall the global economic recovery. The cost to insure the nation’s debt against non-payment for five years using credit default swaps jumped 65 basis points, or 0.65 percentage point, this quarter to 238 basis points yesterday, the highest level since June 2009, according to data provider CMA, which is owned by CME Group Inc. (CME) and compiles prices quoted by dealers in the privately negotiated market.
Morocco’s 10-year eurobond underperformed its counterparts in the region this quarter. The yield on the Moroccan notes rose 21 basis points since the end of June, compared with a 40 basis- point decline to 4.67 percent in the average yield for sovereign Middle Eastern debt, according to the HSBC/NASDAQ Dubai Middle East Conventional Sovereign US Dollar Bond Index.
The Moroccan economy is facing increased risk due to ties with its main trading partners in Europe, including France and Spain, Keren Uziyel, an economist at the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit, said in a Sept. 20 e-mail. The European Union is the North African nation’s largest trading partner, according to European Commission data.
Stocks Slide
The benchmark MADEX Free Float Index (MOSEMDX) retreated about 9 percent this year, compared with a 39 percent plunge in Egypt’s EGX 30 Index. (EGX30)
International banks can be expected to continue to support projects in Morocco, Simon Kitchen, Cairo-based strategist at EFG-Hermes, said by telephone on Sept. 20. The capacity of local banks to finance such projects may be limited given a loan-to- deposit ratio of 80 percent in July, central bank data show.
“From a banker’s perspective, you’d be happier financing an investment rather than financing current spending because the investment should generate its own returns to pay you back,” Kitchen said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Ahmed A Namatalla in Cairo; Mahmoud Kassem in Cairo at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Maedler at
Distinctive Mission for Muslims’ Conference: Remembering the Holocaust.
By SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN Published: September 23, 2011
One afternoon this week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran addressed the United Nations General Assembly, once again casting doubt that the Holocaust had occurred. Almost exactly 24 hours earlier, an otherwise obscure college student in Morocco named Elmehdi Boudra was convening a conference devoted not to denying the Holocaust but to remembering it.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech, not surprisingly, made major news around the world, as had his similar pronouncements in earlier years and his Tehran convention of Holocaust deniers. Mr. Boudra’s conference, meanwhile, attracted virtually no media attention of any kind.
Yet it should have been trumpeted, all the more for its coincidental timing. While Holocaust denial or denigration in the Muslim world is a sadly familiar phenomenon, hardly news at all, the conference put together by Mr. Boudra and several dozen classmates, all of them Muslim, may well have been the first of its kind in an Arab or Muslim nation, and a sign of historical truth triumphing over conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic dogma.
The conference — held at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, a town in the Atlas Mountains about two hours south of Rabat — brought together Holocaust scholars and survivors, leaders of Morocco’s Jewish community and American Jewish and Moroccan Muslim students. Its twin mandates were to teach about the extermination of European Jewry and to pay homage to the courage of Morocco’s wartime king, Mohammed V, in resisting the orders of the Vichy French occupation government to round up and turn over Jews for internment and probable death.
Uncommonly among Arab and Muslim nations, Morocco has accepted the reality of the Holocaust, rather than either dismissing it outright or portraying it as a European crime for which those countries paid the price in the form of Israel’s creation. Partly, no doubt, because of Mohammed V’s stand against the Vichy regime, the current king, Mohammed VI, called in a 2009 proclamation for “an exhaustive and faithful reading of the history of this period” as part of “the duty of remembrance dictated by the Shoah.”
Still, the recent conference would never have occurred without Mr. Boudra. Now 24 and majoring in political science, Mr. Boudra grew up after much of Morocco’s Jewish population had moved to France or Israel. But he heard from his grandmother about her childhood in the Jewish quarter of Casablanca, and a grandfather still had Jewish neighbors in his apartment house.
Those few personal connections kindled a broader curiosity. That curiosity ultimately led Mr. Boudra to study with Simon Levy, a scholar who directs the Museum of Moroccan Judaism of Casablanca, and to read such classic Holocaust memoirs as “If This Is a Man” by Primo Levi and the diary of Anne Frank.
“What upsets me about this subject,” Mr. Boudra wrote in an e-mail message last week, “is some people’s claims that the Holocaust never took place. It is simply absurd to hear such claims in the light of the historical evidence the world has today.”
As a student at Al Akhawayn, an elite university with an international orientation, Mr. Boudra and several dozen friends formed a club around their shared interest in Morocco’s Jewish culture and heritage. They named it Mimouna, after the holiday that Moroccan Jews celebrate on the final day of Passover.
Through Mimouna and Al Akhawayn, Mr. Boudra met another barrier-breaker named Peter Geffen. The descendant of a distinguished rabbinic family, Mr. Geffen had founded a Jewish day school in New York and an organization, Kivunim, that provided students and teachers with study and travel in Jewish communities around the world.
Last December, Mr. Geffen took 60 Kivunim participants to Ifrane to meet with the Mimouna Club. As the session ended, Mr. Boudra pulled him aside to say that the club wanted to hold a Holocaust conference and to ask if Mr. Geffen could help.
“The whole power of it is that it was their idea,” Mr. Geffen said in a recent interview, recalling the conversation. “This is before the Arab Spring, and here’s a group of Muslim students, 20, 21 years old, on an Arab campus in the Arab world. And to have an intuitive recognition that opening the discussion in the face of widespread Holocaust denial is a major human step forward.”
In the intervening months, Mr. Geffen and Mr. Boudra worked both separately and together to assemble financial support, formal sponsorship and a schedule, which included scholarly presentations, panel discussions, first-person testimony, museum visits, a concert of Moroccan Jewish music and scrupulously kosher meals.
So it was that on Sept. 21, the eminent Holocaust historian Michael Berenbaum spoke of the Jewish genocide in Europe, the tide that Mohammed V succeeded in holding back in his nation. An 80-year-old survivor, Elisabeth Citron, recounted her childhood in Romania and Hungary — wearing the yellow star, being deloused with gasoline in front of a laughing first-grade class, being deported to Birkenau, watching the daily selection of inmates for the gas chambers and ovens.
“I don’t expect any of you to understand how today I’m here standing in front of you,” Ms. Citron said. “I have no clue why I am here.” By which, of course, she meant alive.
For their part, the Moroccan students asked questions and got answers. Were there any German Jews powerful enough to intercede with the Nazis? Was propaganda the way the Nazis justified the Holocaust to non-Jews? Why hasn’t Mohammed V been listed among the righteous gentiles in the Holocaust museum of Yad Vashem?
At one point, a Jewish adviser to the current king, Andre Azoulay, addressed Mr. Boudra and the Mimouna Club directly. Mr. Azoulay was born in 1941, during the Vichy occupation, which made him a half-century older than the students. To make sure all the visitors, too, would understand him, he switched from French into English.
“You have decided by yourself,” he said. “No one asked you to do it. It was your decision, your vision, your commitment.” He mentioned the significance of naming the club for Mimouna with its connection to the Exodus. “You Muslim students decided to be identified with our liberation,” he said. “It’s not something usual.”
Morocco's inflation hits year-high in August.
Tue Sep 20, 2011
* Annual inflation hits 2.2 pct in August on food, education
* Inflation is above 2011 f'cast for second straight month
* expected to keep lending rates unchanged
(Adds details and background)
By Souhail Karam
RABAT, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Higher food and education costs drove inflation in Morocco to 2.2 percent in August, from 1.8 percent in July, official data showed ahead of a central bank meeting expected to keep benchmark interest rates unchanged.
Inflation has now stayed above the central Bank al-Maghrib's full-year forecast of 1.4 percent for two straight months.
The bank holds on Tuesday its quarterly policy board meeting to decide whether to change its benchmark interest rate which has remained at 3.25 percent since March, 2009.
Consumer food prices rose 4 percent in August from a year earlier, the state's High Planning Commission (HCP) said, accelerating from 3.1 percent in July and 0.6 percent in June.
Food products account for about 40 percent of the consumer price index' total weighting.
Education costs, weighing about a tenth of food items, rose 4.6 percent from August, 2010. Demand for private education is posting double-digit growth in Morocco due to a prevalent perception of inefficiency in public education.
HCP did not explain the rise in food and education costs.
Analysts point to combined effects of wage hikes the government agreed to in late-April, the arrival from abroad of close to 1.5 million Moroccan expatriates for the summer holiday and higher demand for food products during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which coincided this year with August.
Wage hikes for public sector employees and an increase in the minimum wage for the private sector, involving a larger number of Moroccans, kicked in in July.
Anxious to avoid the kind of unrest seen in other parts of the Arab world and worried about increases in global commodity prices, Rabat has raised salaries and almost trebled funds for food and energy subsidies to 48 billion dirhams ($5.84 billion).
The wage hikes and the state's push to keep prices unchanged through subsidies may have encouraged shopkeepers to raise prices ahead of the of Ramadan, analysts say.
On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose by 1.4 percent in August, the sharpest month to month increases in over a year.
Underlying inflation, a gauge used by Morocco's central bank to set the benchmark interest rate that excludes state tariffs and volatile prices, stood at an annual 1.3 percent in August, unchanged from the three previous months.
"An inflation rate of 2.2 percent will not force Bank al-Maghrib to tweak its benchmark interest rate. It's (inflation) still at an acceptable level," said Mounir Mellouk, head of capital markets at Casablanca Finance Markets.
The central bank, he noted, raised interest rates in 2007 and 2008 when inflation hit 4 percent.
"From a monetary perspective, the (benchmark interest) rate should remain unchanged: Loans and money supply growth rates have eased recently. Money supply is now growing at an annual 4 percent while we had a double-digit growth figure two years ago," Mellouk said.
The central bank is expected to release a statement on the outcome of its policy board meeting at about 1400 GMT before Governor Abdellatif Jouahri meets reporters at 1530 GMT. (Editing by Ron Askew)
($1=8.215 Moroccan Dirham)
Eastern Region Receives Environmental Award in New York.
20 September 2011
New York — Morocco's Eastern region received, on Monday in New York, an environmental award from the R20 Regions of Climate Action, a non-profit organization founded in 2011 by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other global leaders in cooperation with the United Nations.
The award recognizes the pioneering role of the Eastern region in launching environment friendly policies, said Schwarzenegger, the President of the R20, who handed the prize to the President of the Eastern region Ali Belhaj.
The Eastern region may stand as an example for other regions in the Kingdom and in the world, added Schwarzenegger.
The R20 is a coalition of partners led by regional governments that work to promote and implement projects that are designed to produce local economic and environmental benefits in the form of reduced energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions; strong local economies; improved public health; and new green jobs.
"A Recognized Microcredit Champion" - Focus
20 September 2011
Addis Ababa — Morocco is a recognized microcredit champion, boasting 40 percent of client outreach in the Arab world and host to some of the best performing microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the world, a Focus note said.
According to this note, distributed during the fifth African micro-credit conference (September 19-22) in Addis Ababa, the Moroccan microcredit sector has enjoyed one of the most extraordinary growths seen in the microfinance industry.
In this regard, it noted that in just four years (2003-2007), MFI loan portfolios multiplied 11 times and client outreach by four.
This exuberant growth was driven by four leading MFIs-Zakoura, Al-Amana, Fondation des Banques Populaires, and Fondep, it said, adding that these institutions scored remarkably well on all microfinance performance metrics, including scale, depth of outreach, asset quality, and profitability.
The note said that thanks to these impressive results, Al-Amana and Zakoura were awarded several international prizes (including MIX's world's best performing MFI and the European prize for microfinance).
Corruption fight focus of Morocco campaign.
Both businesses and politicians must play a role in Morocco's anti-graft campaign, analysts say.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 20/09/11
As Moroccans prepare to head to the polls for the country's November 25th legislative elections, corruption is resurfacing as a key issue for voters. Politicians recently met in Rabat to discuss new government proposals aimed at tackling the problem.
A united effort is needed to fight corruption in its various forms, both in the political and economic spheres, according to Habib El Malki, a member of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) policy committee, which sponsored the September 10th seminar. El Malki said that his party has embarked on discussions with various officials to push for improved ethical standards in public life.
Graft has long been a primary concern of young people in the kingdom, particularly among members of the February 20 Movement. Many hope that the use of tainted money will diminish in the coming election cycle with the threat of punishment from authorities.
Political analyst Hamza Charafi said that the political parties bear responsibility in this matter by bringing candidates on board who can attract a large number of voters, particularly from among the younger population. On the other hand, Charafi said that the state needed to set an example by prosecuting those who break the law.
The interior ministry presented parties with a charter on electoral ethics on September 10th with the aim of improving transparency and fairness for the upcoming vote. Authorities hope to dissuade politicians from vote buying and avoid violence during the campaign. The parties must also commit themselves to nominating competent, honest candidates.
But the public remains sceptical in light of repeated government efforts to root out corruption.
"Until we see real action being taken to make changes, we need to remain on our guard. Up until now, experience has shown that all this talk has little to do with reality,” student Ilham Boussata said. “But at the same time, the public also needs to take some responsibility and not play along with the corrupt people."
Boussata added that the anti-corruption campaign should not be just temporary and must extend to all sectors, including the economy. Indeed, many have questioned the practices linking the administration to business.
Businesses have done little to speak out against corruption, according to Abdessamad Sadouk from the General Confederation of Moroccan Business. Sadouk said companies were hesitant to condemn bad practices linked to public tender operations because they want to remain on good terms with the project manager. He believes an effort needs to be made to raise awareness and encourage companies suffering from different forms of extortion to keep silent no longer. Sadouk was also critical of complicit businesses, which he said need to be named and shamed.
Many have called for greater powers for the control bodies, particularly the high committee on competition, to put an end to unhealthy practices.
The body's chairman, Abdelali Benamor, said there was little more it could do to fulfil its mission unless it could move beyond purely consultative powers. He said he was working on a bill to give the committee decision-making powers to enable it to take part in improving ethical standards across the economy.
Aspiring entrepreneurs struggle in Morocco.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia 2011-09-21
Obstacles to entering the job market make it increasingly difficult for young professionals to gain much-needed experience.
The number of young Moroccan graduates who dream of setting up their own businesses is at an all-time high, a study published September 13th by online recruitment site Amal Job revealed.
Out of a sample of 7,056 men and women aged 18 to 27, from all regions across Morocco and abroad, and covering all educational profiles, 79% dream of becoming entrepreneurs.
According to Youth and Sports Minister Moncef Belkhayat, the State needs to make a bigger effort to enable young graduates to set up their own businesses and avoid the obstacles which could get in their way.
These obstacles begin to emerge from the very moment they receive their degree.
Many graduates want to gain work experience before striking out on their own, but many available positions require candidates to already have experience. Would-be young professionals also suffer from a lack of job-specific training, foreign language skills and are constrained by the geographic concentration of jobs between Rabat and Casablanca.
As a result of these difficulties, 27% of those surveyed are pessimistic about their prospects of getting work. The older the graduates, the more pessimistic they become because of difficulties in landing their first contract.
Many blame the higher education system, which pays little heed to professional requirements.
"They should be guiding us towards the skills sought by the labour market so that everyone can know what route they're taking," one law student complained.
Houda Sebri told Magharebia that she has been unable to find work with her economics degree. As a result, she has had to take a further two-year management course to find work in a private sector company.
"You have to hang on and not give up hope," she said. "The most important thing is not to think twice about training yourself and following other courses of study which could lead to the work you want so much."
Several experts suggested that there should be a focus on career guidance, since certain fields of study lead to employment more easily than others. The Amal Job study has shown that graduates from engineering and business schools, as well as foreign graduates, find work more quickly than others.
There is a need to facilitate access to employment for young people, the youth minister said. His department is partnering with other ministries to create a number of career guidance and jobseeker centres to help young people find first job.
Morocco pioneering solar energy.
2011-09-18 18:33
Chartering through the renewable energy sector has become a necessity for many countries.

For Morocco, it is a matter of survival and one that might be beneficial to the countrys development.

Like Korea, Morocco imports most of its energy and when the price of crude oil breaks records, the economy of Morocco suffers a tremendous blow.

This is a great challenge for us, said Mustapha Bakkoury, president of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy.

Our objective is to double our necessary capacity, he said. This is for our future economic development and it has to be based on respecting environmental standards as well.Morocco started developing its renewable energy sector in the 1960s with hydroelectric dams, then in the 1990s, Morocco moved ahead with the development of wind energy.

Now, Morocco is suffering from the same problems many countries suffer, a high energy demand during peak hours and high oil prices.

But the North African country does not believe in just waiting to see how technology will advance in the renewable energy sector, it is taking advantage of friends in other countries like Korea to develop new technologies that will help fuel the energy consumption of tomorrow.

The idea is to be a player in this sector, a lot of countries are investing in research and development in this sector, he said.

Spain and Germany have made leaps and bounds developing new technologies used to manufacture renewable energy. The United States is also playing its card while new movers such as Korea, India, South Africa and Australia are also looking to the future.

Morocco is one of these pioneers in this field, Bakkoury said.

Concerning Korea, Bakkoury explained that both countries are looking to find the best way to move ahead.

There is a lot of research going on now for large scale battery storage. We could develop that together but storage will be a real issue for the future for all the countries who want to develop this sector, he noted.

Morocco is looking to increase its production of solar energy to 2,000 megawatts by 2020, a giant leap considering that the most being produced at the moment is 900 megawatts in Spain and the United States.

Bakkoury explained that this goal could be achieved by utilizing the Sahara Desert.

There will be solar panels peppered throughout the Sahara, he said.

In the world of diplomacy, 2020 is a magic year for many countries especially those in the European Union who are planning to cut greenhouse gases by 20 percent.

Europe has a large potential of wind but the energy generated from these plants is not enough to meet their 20 percent reduction, he said. So our intention is to develop projects where we can export that energy to Europe.
By Yoav Cerralbo (
Morocco faces fiscal crunch.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 18/09/11
Efforts to slash public spending in Morocco are raising fears about the potential for job losses.
Morocco needs to rein in public spending and curb the cost of government. That was the message from Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi to ministers earlier this month in guidance on the draft 2012 state budget.
With regard to employment, El Fassi called on his colleagues to make provision only for what was absolutely essential for the process of government. The state's fleet of motor vehicles, procurement, rental of buildings and communication services are other areas where the government will look to make savings. The prime minister also intends to cut spending on catering and accommodation and spend less on conferences and overseas visits. Less money will be spent on project studies.
Subsidies will be limited to 3% of GDP in order to "allow for extra leeway in the budget so that the government's books can be balanced".
In addition to the spending cuts, authorities are also exploring ways to raise new revenue to see the kingdom through its current financial difficulties. The government was reportedly looking into a wealth tax, something welcomed by many members of the public, but Communications Minister Khalid Naciri denied the reports on September 7th.
At the same time, efforts will be made to ensure that investment is not affected. The prime minister underlined that the various government departments must maintain an adequate level of investment while taking into account the need to support priority development areas.
Morocco is currently in a tough economic and financial position that calls for prudence, according to economist Adil Mahdaoui. In his view, government revenues have been stagnant for several years due to corporate and income tax breaks. He said the situation was exacerbated by the burden of subsidies.
Mahdaoui suggested that a solidarity tax and a policy of priority-based governance be introduced so that a balance can be maintained. He added that the next government will have a very difficult task on its hands and will have to draw up an emergency action plan.
The bid to cut spending is leading to fears of public-sector job losses, sociologist Moha Chirabi said. A number of pledges have been made and thousands of young people are still unhappy with the situation, he said, though the guidance memorandum stresses the need to create as many jobs as possible in the circumstances. Chirabi said he was concerned about the level of support being given to the most vulnerable members of society.
But Communications Minister Naciri dismissed the concern, saying the government was committed to the poorest in society. He stated that a desire to support society was central to the government's plans.
He has also pointed out that the government planned to create a social solidarity fund and to find ways of financing it in order to relieve the burden on Compensation Fund, from which all social categories benefit.
Letter from Morocco: revitalizing effect of Rabat's baths.
The cleansing effect on the skin of the ancestral hammam ritual rivals any modern beauty treatment
Cleo Cantone
s the middle of August in the month of Ramadan in Rabat – mercifully shielded from the harsh temperatures that affect most of the country – and my daughter and I have an appointment with Sama' and her daughter to go to the hammam.
I appear in my jellaba, a loose-fitting robe, and purple scarf (fruit of another expedition to the souk) with a grey rucksack and green money pouch that Sama' eyes disapprovingly as she slings her own green satin bag over her colour-co-ordinated jellaba and hijab. She carries a large blue bucket. We cross the road bustling with people, cars and the newly installed tram, slither through a diminutiveAlmohad arch that pierces the medina quarter's ochre walls and disappear into the bowels of sinuous streets teeming with shoppers.
Near the shop selling unbaked tagines we take a right into a lime-washed alley painted in a rainbow of pastel shades and enter an unassuming open door where we are greeted. As we start taking off our clothes, a large woman past her prime comes out and proceeds to lean against the wall as another semi-clad woman scrubs her back. Once I take my glasses off everything is pretty much a blur.
In the warm steam room, women fill buckets with water from a gushing tap on the wall, sit on plastic mats and the washing begins: splash yourself with copious amounts of water, soap, then more sloshing. At this point the tayaba is summoned, topless with a scarf wrapped around her head. She takes my arm and starts to scrub it. By the time I'm lying on the floor, I start to relax and enjoy this intimate experience with a complete stranger.
She turns to my daughter, who protests about her delicate skin. But then her body unwinds and cedes to the strong, methodical movement of the scrubber removing layer upon layer of dead skin and leaving a distinctly polished feeling, especially after a final gush of hot water.
No amount of creams and gels can compete with the "total exfoliation" effect of this simple, ancestral ritual. All wrapped up, we trudge home and Sama' comments that the hammam andRamadan do not make a happy combination: hunger and thirst are magnified and any trace of energy dissipates. Clean and contented we both drop off to sleep while the girls brush each other's hair.
New York / Morocco Board News--     The Crushing Weight Of The Debt … On future generations.This statement has no ideological content when it comes to the debt minister Mezouar accumulated throughout his tenure. Or perhaps it does. In any case, Salaheddine Mezouar, a herald of smaller government and other trickle-down economics has failed to live up to his principles:
he cut income taxes in 2008 – thus enervating public finances with some MAD 15Bn package gift to the richest households, and yet he obligingly expanded the compensation fund from 25 to 48Bn. He promises the IMF he is going to operate a 10% cut across the budget, but at the same time 
Makassibtrumpets the recruitment of 71,000 civil servants and the increase of minimum wage.
Now, it is to this country’s benefit to have conflicting views and heated debates on how to run an economy, but the constant flip-flopping on behalf of the bland finance minister just look ridiculous; as a matter of fact, his hesitancy and the apparent contradiction in his economic and fiscal policy only show that he cares only about his true constituency, one that has appointed him and to whom he is responsible. Not parliament, nor the electors who got his caucus some 68 seats during the last election.
But let us get back to the issue at hand: if not returning to his position, minister Mezouar will leave this country’s public finances in a worse shape than when he took over the finance ministry in 2007: the amount of national debt takes us back to the early 1990s, a time when economic growth barely sustained itself, a time of recession we still are paying for (the low growth observed after ending the structural adjustment program has put a strain on the cumulative wealth per capita, thus leaving us behind other emerging economies) and the taxpayer is likely to be still paying for it: while the efforts to keep the level of overall debt as low as possible are laudable, the package structure, so to speak, does not denote of similar shrewdness in public debt management: the ministry is taking on more debt in smaller instalments,  but fail to consider the implication of rising interest rates, thus making borrowings marginally more expensive, but markedly more expensive than they would have been a couple of years ago.
The consequence is, interest paid on debt service has picked up dramatically in less than two quarters from 12% late 2010 to 28% early 2011. The justification for this increasing reliance on debt is obvious: government policy sought to minimize likelihoods of social unrest, thus expanding subsidies on strategic goods. But then again, there is now a sizeable chunk of the public budget debt-funded, in a way that defies all financial orthodoxy the minister and his government said they were set on standing by.
Paid interest over service shoots up in less than 2 quarters to represent almost 1/3 of debt service
As a matter of fact, it looks as though minister Mezouar yielded to expediency over structural policies, and held forth to the most peripheral items of his politics: a refusal to end tax cuts to top income earners, and at the same time borrow money to keep the compensation fund afloat, both policies which deepen budget deficit and endanger the sustainability of government payroll and investments.
Total expenditure reached MAD 293Bn in 2011 for a MAD 54Bn total borrowing; that’s almost a fourth of expenditure financed by borrowings, where taxes would have done better. The claim here is taxpayers are better off paying stable taxes every year, instead of shouldering the interest on government debt. After all, every one of the 6.65 million households has, on average an outstanding debt of MAD 55,000 and annual instalments of MAD 3,650 including some 860 dirhams of debt. Incidentally, HCP standards considers the median monthly income of MAD 5308 to be a good indicator of Middle Class, and their income roughly equates the weight of debt on their finances, while they have to sustain a 6% annual drain on their gross income. That’s 3 basis points above Bank Al Maghrib main interest rates, 2 basis points above GDP growth and more alarmingly, more than 5 points above GNI growth in 2010. What does it tell about the government’s boasting it has improved standards of living, when its own fiscal and debt policy saddles households with an expensive debt? This is not a question of debt sustainability in terms of volume (after all, the MAD 55,000 stock debt has to be equated with households’ assets instead of annual income) but rather the cost at which this debt is bought, and the strain it puts on individuals’ finances.
National debt means every taxpayer is a collateral to the debt, commensurate to their income and wealth. But, taxation in Morocco is not equitable, nor is it progressive, especially since 2008 with the scrapping of the 42% marginal rate. To 50% of all households, debt on average 11% of their annual gross income, while for the top 10%, it represents less than 2% of their annual income. Again, debt stock and debt service puts a great deal of strain on the finances of the huge majority of Moroccan households: according to their income distribution, the bottom 10% contribution would pay for MAD 6Bn of service debt, while the top 10% contribute only MAD 500 Million. That means a household with an annual income of 21,800 dirhams would pays 9 times more than a household earning 186,000 per annum.
On a more macroeconomic tone, the level of stock debt is alarmingly going high, especially when compared to gross capital formation: sound economic policy suggests to compare total accumulated assets to the stock of debt (foreign and domestic) because it gives a good indicator on whether debt is managed properly. The evidence so far suggests otherwise: over the last two decades, the leverage ratio of total debt over domestic assets has gone down from 4:1 to 2:1. But, in the last two years, climbed 17% and basically wipe out any gains obtained between 2006 and 2010.
a bump of a dozen of bps in less than one year over specific terms is not good news.
The situation isn’t as black as I made out; first because growth is in line with the last 5 years-trend, foreign reserves are not in disarray (and as a matter of fact, we are doing pretty fine with MAD 173.3 Bn of foreign reserves) and debt-to-GDP ratio is at it lowest, certainly much lower than observed figures in the 1980s and early 1990s. But, and this are the early-warning signs of a pending debt crisis (with its cortège of budget cuts, austerity and social unrest) the interest paid on debt is increasing. The gross yield on domestic borrowings has gone up between 2009 and 2010 from 5.10% to 5.25% real yield on 5years treasury bills. Indeed, over longer terms, yield has increased from 2009 and 2010. No significant increases of course, but when considered over the course of only one year, and when these are most important on intermediate and medium terms, this means some policy is needed to address the frantic borrowings, and instead look for revenue enhancement. But then again, this is not minister Mezouar’s creed, he doesn’t believe wealthier individuals should contribute more in times of financial dire straits, or at least close up the obscene loopholes they directly benefit from, up to MAD 7.9Bn in the 2011 budget, that is more than a quarter of all tax cuts as priced in the budget law. So far, the trickle down economics doesn’t serve our government well.
David Takami
At the core of journalist Joseph Braude’s new book about a murder investigation in the  North Africa city of Casablanca is a mystery — not only of how and why the murder was committed, but about the profound enigma of what lies in the human heart.
As a way to better understand modern Morocco, the author of “The Honored Dead” has arranged to embed himself for four months with a unit of the judiciary police (roughly equivalent to the American FBI). These officers detain suspects, question witnesses, and investigate crimes, including murders and terrorist violence. “For the past few years I have been interested in the intersection of authoritarian states and the masses they patrol,” Braude writes. “The most poignant site of that intersection is a police precinct.” He is given wide access and surprisingly few conditions or restrictions.

Braude is uniquely qualified for this assignment. Born into an Iraqi Jewish family, he is fluent in several languages, including Arabic and Hebrew, and once worked for the FBI as a translator in anti-terrorism cases.

In the post-9/11 world, Morocco has become a regional center of terrorists and drug dealers. On May 16, 2003, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda committed a series of suicide bombings in Casablanca that killed 45 and wounded hundreds of others. The attack, the worst in the country’s history, prompted a massive security crackdown and increase in intelligence gathering.

The Casablanca precinct where Braude is embedded is in one of the city’s largest slums, rife with poverty and crime. To delve even deeper into this world, he requests details about a recent murder case. He believes that researching the life and death of an ordinary individual will help tell the larger story of people and nation.

A man named Ibrahim Dey was beaten to death in a warehouse where he had been squatting. The killer has confessed to the crime and police present the case as routine and resolved, but as Braude goes through police files, and interviews officers and witnesses, he begins to have his doubts. Spurred on by the victim’s best friend, Muhammad Bari, he decides to launch his own investigation.

Bari accompanies Braude to the victim’s hometown, and introduces him to family members, friends and acquaintances to learn more about Dey. His queries eventually lead to a shocking revelation that throws previous evidence into question. The investigation also exposes him to lesser-known facets of Moroccan society — black magic, homosexuality and the remarkable cultural diversity of its people, made up of Arabs, Amazigh and minority Jews, among others.

Braude’s writing is appealingly cinematic, moving from street-level close-ups to wide-angle panoramas of city and society. He builds a framework of vivid characters and locations and weaves in big-picture background on history, culture and government. He also glides naturally in and out of the narrative at hand into personal reminiscence, waxing nostalgic, for instance, about his mother’s memories of pre-Saddam Baghdad.

Perhaps most fascinating is how this perceptive writer peels away the many layers of complexity in his story, only to uncover deeper, more confounding mysteries — which smacks, in the end, of the truth.
U.S. aid to Morocco worries California olive farmers
Sunday, September 18, 2011
The biggest threat to California's historic olive industry isn't the bad weather, disease, prohibitive harvesting costs and fierce competition already taking their toll, growers say: It's the federal government.
The United States has promised Morocco - one of California's main competitors - hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to stimulate agriculture in that country, including rehabilitating its more than 1 million acres of existing olive trees and planting 150,000 additional acres. This while California, the only state to commercially produce olives, has been battling Morocco and Spain for the black table-olive and olive-oil markets in this country for more than a decade, local growers said.
"We're struggling to survive, only to find out that our own country is subsidizing the very place that could put us out of business," said Dennis Burreson, who with his three sons has 500 acres of Manzanillo and Sevillano table-olive trees in Orland (Glenn County). He hopes that his grandchildren will someday run the farm, but worries that California olive growers could be a dying breed.
By now, his trees should be weighed down with fruit. But spring rains and winds destroyed much of California's olive crop this year; the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts the harvest will be down 67 percent. Although olive trees are alternate-bearing, that is, they yield a robust harvest only every other year, this will be one of the worst years for growers in recent history, said Adin Hester, president of the Olive Growers Council of California.
As Burreson walked through his Orland groves recently, he wondered whether the cost of picking the fruit was even worth it. But if he leaves it on the trees to rot, it might attract the dreaded olive fruit fly, which could be lethal. In the meantime, an abundance of highly subsidized and lower-priced olives and oil are being imported and inundating the U.S. market, he said.
Burreson knows that life as a farmer is never easy, but he said he never thought his own country would work against him.
Foreign aid
In 2004, Congress created the Millennium Challenge Corp., a foreign aid agency headed by the secretary of state, to help developing countries reduce poverty. Since its inception, the agency has authorized grants totaling more than $7 billion to help 23 African and Latin American countries.
In 2007 the agency agreed to give Morocco $697.5 million over five years to improve the country's employment rate and salaries by investing in its fruit-tree farms, small-scale fisheries and artisan crafts, according to Millennium. Nearly half of that money - $320 million - is earmarked for the Fruit Tree Productivity Project, with 80 percent of the cash going to olives and the rest to improve date, fig and almond production. Dates, figs and almonds are also key California crops.
Patrick Fine, who oversees such agreements as Millennium's vice president of compact operations, said he does not believe that the investment in Morocco will harm California producers. The project, he said, is designed to help poor rural families increase their incomes and to help develop a strong ally in an important region in the world.
Not meeting demand
"I sympathize with the point of view of the California olive growers," Fine said, adding that Millennium did research to determine whether the compact with Morocco would adversely affect growers here and found that California table olives were meeting only 50 percent of U.S. demand, and local olive oil only 2 percent. "We never want (Millennium's) investments to compete with America."
Furthermore, he said, Morocco's new trees won't start producing at a commercial level for another two to three years. And when they do, the fruit will be used for olive oil and sold to Spain and other European countries, he said.
But table-olive growers argue that Morocco's Picholine olive is dual use - for eating and oil - and is already glutting the American institutional food market. The oil-olive growers say there's no question it will hurt their business because oil sold to Spain is often refined there and later sold as virgin or extra virgin in the United States.
"It's disturbing," said Brendon Flynn, president of the California Olive Oil Council. "It's difficult enough competing with countries that are being subsidized by their own (governments). Now we have to compete with foreign countries being subsidized by our own country."
Reps. Wally Herger, R-Marysville (Yuba County), and Devin Nunes, R-Alpaugh (Tulare County) have contacted Millennium, concerned that their olive-grower constituents are getting a raw deal.
"U.S.-led efforts, however well-intended, to strengthen another country's economy should not come at the expense of American farmers - particularly when funded by their own tax dollars," Herger said in an e-mail, adding that he's worried that Millennium's efforts to reduce poverty in Morocco might weaken California's olive industry and undermine job creation.
As of June 30, Morocco had received nearly $94.5 million toward the tree project, Fine said. California growers said they've received nothing.
Although California is the top-producing agricultural state in the nation - $37.5 billion last year, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture - 93 percent of the state's crops, including olives, dates, figs and almonds, are ineligible for subsidies.
"If we even got a few million of what our government is giving Morocco for their olives, it could be a game-changer for us," said Michael Silveira, who, like the majority of Northern California's table-olive growers, has a small - 36 acres - family-run operation.
Over the past 30 years, table-olive growers have invested millions of dollars trying to mechanically harvest their trees. Because of the fragility of the fruit, the olives are traditionally hand-picked. But growers said they're closing in on new mechanical methods that will save money and labor - they just need capital. The farmers producing olives for oil have had better luck with machine harvesting because they are less concerned about the physical appearance of the fruit, which will be crushed. Both say even a pittance of the money being sent to Morocco could help them develop new technologies to strengthen their hold in the market.
Frustrated by hardships, longtime olive farmers are ripping out their ancient trees in favor of other crops. Last week, John Erickson, a third-generation olive grower in Orland, pulled out 20 acres of olives to plant walnuts.
"This Millennium thing tipped me over the edge," said Erickson, who like most of the growers only recently learned of the subsidies.
Two weeks ago, he, Silveira, Burreson and two members of the olive processing industry formed a delegation and went to Washington to meet with Millennium officials.
"We were greeted with blank stares," Burreson said. "I don't think they realized that we even grew olives in California."
Erickson's family, which came to Northern California to farm 100 years ago, has been growing them since the 1920s. They also have 1,100 acres of almond trees. So Erickson is not too thrilled that the federal government is subsidizing Morocco's almond crop as well.
But California almond growers, whose 2010 crop was valued at $2.8 billion, stand on firmer ground than the state's olive farmers, whose bumper crop last year of $113.3 million still pales in comparison.
Erickson's 27-year-old son wants to uphold the family's olive legacy by keeping 100 acres of his family's orchards. But like many olive growers who have decided to throw in the towel, Erickson has been slowly tearing out his other groves.
Shrinking orchards
The number of orchards in the state has shrunk by 38 percent in the last 10 to 12 years, said Hester of the growers council. Last year, California had 33,000 acres that yielded olives, according to the USDA. Twenty years ago there were eight processing plants that employed as many as 500 people each. Now there are only two - Musco in Tracy and Orland and Bel-Carter Foods in Orland.
There was a time when olive farming was profitable, Erickson said. But by the 1990s, the European Union was heavily subsidizing the olive trade there and it was getting more difficult to compete, especially in the institutional food market. Large chains used to buy California black ripe olives in bulk to serve on pizzas, tacos and sandwiches. Now places such as Subway say they're using Moroccan and Spanish olives. Morocco, which has a free-trade agreement with the United States, can afford to sell a case of its olives for $10 to $12 less than the U.S.-grown products, Burreson said.
Growers estimate that Moroccan table olives account for almost 35 percent of the U.S. market share. Moroccan exports of olives, almonds, dates and figs to the United States rose to 15,633 tons in 2010, nearly 20 percent of its total, according to the Global Trade Atlas.
"We were already at a disadvantage," Burreson said. "We at least need a level playing field."
E-mail Stacy Finz at
This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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