The Moorish Wanderer

Failure to Lead or Failure to Think Outside the Box? A Reality Check for the Government

Posted in Dismal Economics, Flash News, Moroccan ‘Current’ News, Morocco by Zouhair Baghough on February 26, 2012

Time and again I like to listen to Abdelilah Benkirane statement to Parliament; the government’s roadmap is more comprehensive than that, but those issues Mr Benkirane talked about are obviously important for him to elaborate on, in his typical, florid style. The latest press conference did not deviate much from that spirit, it seems.

His speech was very much “Back to Basics” of sorts; it seems the PJD-led government’s talking points evolve around economic benefits from anti-corruption policies and small cuts in equipment and procurement budgets, in terms of spurring growth and halving deficits; and while I understand my passion for Debt-related issues isn’t mainstream, I strongly believe it is the government’s duty not to endanger future generations in their livelihoods with irresponsible spendings.

Why do I sound so adamant the new government be held immediately accountable to every policy they announce? Aren’t they supposed to enjoy the 100 days honeymoon? Sure they do, but then again, Mr Benkirane has flip-flopped very early on by emphasising his commitment to pursue past policies; in fact, he boasts most Moroccans were already happy with earlier schemes, among others Plan Maroc Vert, the High-speed TGV line, the future Solar Energy policy and many other Grands Chantiers the public opinion is carefully kept away from discussing before implementation. Since the 27th government has not stated a novel policy agenda, it is only right to hold them accountable on ongoing policies as well. After all, most of the new opposition has been associated with these policies for at least a decade, so actual opposition to government (elected and otherwise) policies has to come from outside Parliament.

The most persistent item in government institutions is the problematic existence of a growing deficit and the mounting public debt; This is certainly no anti-Keynesian rhetoric to denounce a deficit that does not spur growth, benefits a privileged few and encourages rent-seeking economic activities.

Lahcen Daoudi, Minister for Higher Education and PJD Bigwig, has recently unveiled his strategy to reign-in his departmental budget, and it seems the measures he proposes are cosmetic, and if anything are focused on too little too superficial cuts, with no immediate agenda to bolster Higher Education and Research. It seems the Minister, in his maiden set of policies, is convinced he can address his department’s hardships with Mani Pulite measures:

- L’on parle de politique d’austérité menée au sein de votre département. Combien comptez-vous économiser sur les dépenses?

- C’est la chasse au gaspi sur tout, les frais de carburant, les véhicules… Nous comptons serrer la ceinture et économiser autour de 5 millions de DH rien que dans le budget de fonctionnement. Ces économies iront aux œuvres sociales du personnel. D’ailleurs, nous allons ouvrir un restaurant dédié aux 800 personnes qui travaillent au ministère. Il y a aussi des aberrations qui n’ont aucun sens. Imaginez que nous avons un immeuble en location à 135.000 DH alors que le ministère est propriétaire d’immeubles vides!

It looks as though the deficit can be halved with modest cuts; for a government whose only immediate success is most likely to increase the deficit relative to GDP way above the 3% limit they have pledged not to cross (a tale-telling breach of commitment about how serious the government on fiscal responsibility) I would suggest this government has started on a wrong footing when it comes to assert its competence to master economic policy and bring about economic stability. In his latest press conference, Mr Benkirane forecasts an increase in employment and a positive outlook for domestic and investment. I unfortunately do not share his optimism, not with the latest batch of figures HCP released for 2012 at hand:

Le Produit Intérieur Brut (PIB) devrait enregistrer, sur la base des hypothèses susmentionnées, une hausse de 4,5% en volume au lieu de 4,8% estimé pour 2011. Ce scénario moyen de croissance serait réalisé dans un contexte marqué par une légère hausse de l’inflation. La hausse du niveau général des prix, approché par le prix implicite du PIB, passerait de 1,6% en 2011 à 2,5% en 2012.