New Morocco council to revisit social charter.
By Sarah Touahri 2011-02-23
Morocco established a new state institution to develop a new social charter, but people are not convinced that the body will wield real power.
Morocco's King Mohammed VI on Monday (February 21st) inaugurated a long-awaited advisory body to the government. The creation of the Social and Economic Council (CES) is enshrined in the constitution but was delayed for years.
"We intend it to be a new, open space, capable of enhancing what the state can offer institutions in terms of structures and bodies which will foster constructive dialogue, responsible expression and a positive reaction to the aspirations of various social categories across different generations," the king said at the opening ceremony in Casablanca.
The sovereign rejected calls for replacing the Chamber of Councillors with the CES or merging the two bodies.
"We are not inclined to allow this council to become some kind of third chamber," he said.
The new body comprises 99 members, including representatives of charities and union groups, as well as scientific experts and intellectuals. It aims to draw up a new social charter, based on major contractual partnerships.
The CES holds consultative powers and is tasked with proposing solutions to major socio-economic problems, such as the needs of the labour market.
"It is intended to serve as a permanent space for social dialogue and the best place for thinking across different fields of economic, social and environmental activity," Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi said in a press statement. "Before bringing draft bills before parliament, the government will seek the views of the council and take them into account."
Former Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa was appointed as the council chairman. The CES activities will make it possible to respond to the aspirations of the people, particularly young people, in terms of competitiveness, work, equal opportunities, governance and civil society, he said.
Through its judgments and proposals, the council will support the reforms upon which Morocco has embarked, Benmoussa pledged.
"The representation of business leaders, employees and civil society within the council is a guarantee of the effectiveness of its actions in the interest of everyone and the promotion of balanced economic development," said Moroccan Business Confederation chief and council member Mohamed Horani.
Another CES member, Abdelmaksoud Rachdi, commented that the body will open up new areas for consideration of the major economic and social directions taken by the country.
People have been looking forward to the creation of the council, but that it should not become just one more institution with no real powers, according to sociologist Choubali Jamal.
Despite its purely consultative powers, the CES can play an important role if its conclusions are taken into account by the legislative and executive powers, he added.
Moroccans, however, remain sceptical and wait for tangible action.
"We'd have liked this council to have decision-making powers so that it could do something," student Hakima Belaid told Magharebia.
Economic disparities divide Morocco
Economic activity in Morocco favours certain geographical areas, putting residents of other regions at a significant disadvantage. According to recent figures from the Ministry of Finance's forecasting and research division, a number of challenges are ahead, including deepening imbalances, especially in employment and social exclusion.
High Commission for Planning data for 2010 show that five regions generate more than 60% of the entire country's income: Greater Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, Tangier-Tetouan, and Souss-Massa-Draa. Most of the spending power resides in these regions.
Sociologist Mohamed Bouchaibi told Magharebia that the situation requires an intervention, as the divide continues to widen between the regions of diverse economies.
"Geographical disparities are synonymous with social inequality," he said. "The poorest regions are home to the most vulnerable citizens; wealth is concentrated in major cities, while small towns and villages live in another world."
Figures published in 2010 by the financial forecasting and research division confirm that inter-regional disparities stand out when it comes to GDP per capita income. In Greater Casablanca, for example, it is on average 3.6 times greater than in Taza-Al Houceima-Taounate, at 25,918 and 7,257 dirhams respectively during the period 2000-2007.