The Open Society Project – 2011 Manifesto
PJD Heavyweight Lahcen Daoudi has unveiled recently part of his party’s manifesto for the next November 25th elections on TIZI (Tarik Ibnou Zayad Initiative) (special thanks for Ghali who notified me of the piece of news) and, well… it was a bit expected, even from PJD politicians: the manifesto did not seem to be fine-tuned, nor did it quantify its proposed reforms, and would -if it was not for Mr Daoudi’s competence reputation- qualify as “a lot of hot air”. I, on the other hand, can claim to present my own mini-manifesto, with complete run-down on cost, objectives and failure standards. I am an expatriate, I am not standing as a candidate and my party is boycotting; I might as well release a document summarizing my views on what Morocco needs: they will knock your socks of and blow your mind away with raw radicalism. Just what the doctor had ordered.
This country has lived successive failures. It has been frustrated by institutional incompetence for too long: for half a century, its youth has been repressed, debilitated and neutralised. Its poorer population, vilified and exploited by the happy and rich few. Its resources confiscated to the benefit of those willing to sell themselves to a regime eager to stifle any serious alternative to the corrupt system it has erected to protect its interests. It is only too long that the Moroccans have been yearning for economic, social and institutional relief. And so, the following is a comprehensive summary of what I would like to see done to the “Moroccan Malaise” and be a genuine “Moroccan Miracle“.
Putting the economy back in track
The outgoing government has saddled this nation’s finances with a mounting foreign debt and deficits the next government will need to clean up. But no finance minister will tackle these issues by introducing radical, structural changes. We will.
The first order of business is to stabilize growth. This government promises an increase in income per capita from MAD 19,700 to at least MAD 25,000 by stabilizing growth, with an objective of MAD 35,000 per capita so as to catch up with the Upper-Middle income countries. In addition, efforts will be put to expand the boundaries of potential growth beyond 5% by investing in R&D, higher education, supporting small and innovative businesses to flourish, and industrial techniques fit to increase productivity. The public investments budget will allocate 14 Bn per annum (with a target of 180 Bn over ten years) in order to meet these objectives. By the end of the decade, those investments should increase potential growth from 5% to 7%, with no prejudice to inflation or purchasing power; With the help of new technologies and productivity gains, income per capita doubles by the end of the decade. This policy of expanding and stabilizing growth will result in increasing total GDP to MAD 1.5 Trillion by 2020. This means catching up the delay incurred during the 1990s, and going past the frail growth of the early 2000s to get us, finally, into the 21st century.
The expansion of growth to its potential limit will also bring down unemployment rate over the next 5 years from 9.8% to 5%, not by creating government jobs for the unemployed, but by offering the right conditions for the private sector to seek labour force to meet their demand.
The fiscal legislation will be re-written extensively: in times of economic hardships, it is obscene that those controlling 60% of national income, should pay only 40% of total income taxes. Thus, this manifesto pledges to raise government receipts to MAD 40Bn, with an annual incremental increase in line with GDP growth, with a 5-years target of 51Bn. This means a marginal rate of 40% over income of 200,000 per annum will be introduced, with an additional 60% rate on millionaires and additional taxes on earned dividends to levy around 20Bn. The agricultural tax, for long a tax shield in favour of urban-dwellers, big farmers, will be abolished in favour of a flat tax on big agro-businesses, likely to yield 13 Bn per annum.
The idea is to reach a stable 400Bn annual budget over the 5-years tenure, and a 100Bn target for public investments. The accrued effect of expanding growth will result in stabilizing, or even lowering the ratio of public budget to GNI around 40% from the current 46%. The expenditure of government budget is carried through public investments and redistributive policies.
These measures benefit the less-off and all those earning less than 70,000 a year, that is, 6 Million households.
Improving the standards of living of 28 Million Moroccans
To those earning less than MAD 35,000 per annum, a tax break will give them back MAD 600 per annum, augmented with a MAD 700 cash relief. The bottom 20% will see an immediate improvement in their real annual income by MAD 1,270 with an objective of 2,000 by the end of the decade. This increase will first improve their standards of living and bridging the gap with their more fortunate fellow citizens. Now, this measure will not only wipe out poverty from Morocco, but will also improve domestic consumption in the poorer households, namely an annual increase in meat consumption to MAD 2,400 per household, while milk and derivatives consumption at least MAD 600 for the same income bracket households, and a target of a MAD 3,000 average spending on fruits and vegetables by the bottom 20% households. The plan is to halve inter-decile consumption disparities from a ratio of 1 to 12, to 1 to 4 by the end of 2015; In short, these policies are aimed at tightening domestic consumption around the median by improving the livelihoods of those living below it, and breaking the domination exerted by the wealthy over our society and our economy.
To the other households earning less than 70,000 a year, income tax breaks will release on average extra revenue of 7,400 designed to strengthen the middle classes’ standards of living and purchasing power.
The great thing about additional tax cuts and cash relief targeting the bottom 20% of Moroccan households is that it does not come to the cost incurred when the outgoing government decided to cut the marginal rate from 42% to 38%: MAD 820 Million for the bottom 20% against a cost of 7Bn incurred in 2008. This only proves that cutting taxes for the poor and middle classes is not only good policy, but actually strengthening domestic consumption and bolster supply: these 6 Million households consume Moroccan products, good news for Moroccan producers, and good news for our balance of commerce too.
Improving the standards of living means also breaking up the monopolies extracting value from captive consumers; and so, in the immediate days after getting into office, a pre-determined list of companies will be nationalized by compensating small shareholders, and over the course of the government’s legislation, they will be broken down into smaller companies and then re-privatized. This policy shall be fiscally-neutral, and would not entail any significant costs to the taxpayer, and instead provide value for their consumption. in Food industry and in Telecommunications, big business will have to make way for real market competition.
Getting a grip on costs and promoting efficiency
This government will also put a cap on its spendings: thanks to the regionalization scheme, central public sector employees paywage will decrease so as to balance up with the local civil servants put in charge of administrating regional bodies. By committing to a federal workforce of 200,000 (not included the Armed Forces) and controlling pay-wage increase around a 2% inflation rate, the percentage of public spendings in central government from 30% to 7% by the end of 2015.
Also, the introduction of a debt-ceiling pre-determined at the beginning of each annual term will make the federal government more responsible in its borrowings, so as not to endanger public finances and Morocco’s solvency. As a matter of fact, debt service payments will be increased over the first two years in the government’s legislature, so as to bring public debt to GDP ratio to less than 40%.
Healthcare ranks among the top priorities for Moroccan households: investments will be undertaken to build two to three Federal Hospital complexes per region, with complete staff, research and educational facilities. Some MAD 40 Bn will be put on the table to insure health expenditure doubles over the next decade, with an expenditure per capita increasing from MAD 1400 to 3000 in 2020.
Strengthening National Defence
It is only right, that since taxpayers foot the bill for military acquisitions, for an elected government to take charge of what goes with the military in terms of spendings and strategy. The present arsenal at the disposal of our Armed Forces is shamefully inadequate to provide them with viable solution against the various geopolitical threats and challenges posed to our nation. The painful memories of the 1976-1991 war have proven we cannot sustain durable military engagement, because, among others, we cannot manufacture our own equipment. And so, this government will direct a request to the American government and negotiate a license to build on Moroccan soil upgraded F-5 Freedom Fighters and M60 Patton Tank, instead of buying expensive F-16 Fighting Falcon. We also would like to propose a standardization program designed to eliminate all non-NATO calibres and weapon systems, so as to get a new, well-equipped, well-trained and well-led Armed Forces ready to be engaged and deployed with the United Nations or NATO across the world. This retrofit and rationalization program will reduce defence spendings to 2002 levels, and keep them stable across the next decade.
These savings will also alleviate the strain on the currency balance, while improving and building a domestic defence industry that could well prove to be an exporting industry, too.
A constitutional reform is obviously needed, not only because the current one is a half-baked compromise, but because a strong government, with a clear popular mandate is needed to carry those bold policies included in the proposed manifesto. The Head of Government needs to know their hands are not tied; that they can direct the administrative staff and their cabinet to execute the policies they have been elected upon. And so, the institutional reforms will start with the distribution of power between the (elected) executive and legislative branches of government, with more funding and powers to the elected representatives of the Moroccan people, a scheme detailed later on.
Furthermore, and because these measures are, I believe, necessary to do away with any potential threat to these changes, I would advise this (hypothetical) government to dissolve both the Interior and Justice departments, and transfer their police apparatus to local authorities, while security apparatus is directly attached to the Prime Minister’s office in the form of autonomous agencies, but subject to parliamentary oversight on funding, nominations and advancement. The Justice department is transformed into a public prosecutor’s office, with similar organizational schemes. Total potential savings from the proposed schemes evolve around MAD 5Bn, that is cutting half total expenses from the Justice and Interior bureaucracies, with the benefit of devolving resources to a more local echelon. And with it, the strong grip of a shadowy administration dies away in its twilight, while the era of local government and local accountability lives up to witness the democratic dawn of an empowered citizen, and a spared taxpayer. The transfer of centralised security apparatus also means trimming bureaucratic, unnecessary workforce, as encompassed in the proposed reform of public service regulations.
Over the 5-years legislation, the government will transfer gradually its powers to the newly created regions, as these hold elections to call their first local assemblies, parliaments and governments. Once these elections take place (ideally in the 6 months following the general elections) the appointed Minister-Presidents of these regions will meet with the federal government to fine-tune the transition. The transfer of devolved powers will start with civil servants from the now defunct Interior and Justice departments converted back as local public sector workers in order to fill in the necessary administrative staff positions needed to run effectively the region. A small core of federal officials will be retained to coordinate the transition.
The transfer of power to regional, autonomous bodies also means the abolition of all local Interior positions from Wali to Moqadem, with the junior administrative positions (Moqadem, Caid, etc.) transformed into elected offices.
Furthermore, during the first 100 days in office, the government will propose and get the votes on the following pieces of legislation:
– The Gender Equality and Civil Rights Act: designed to provide the legislative content for the constitutional principle of gender equality, a legislation designed to outlaw gender discrimination in all paths of life, including heritage. The civil rights bill also gives legal protection against discrimination and abuse based on gender, race, ethnicity, religious or political beliefs, and sexual orientations.
– The Funding of political and non-profit organizations: the law will free government finances from supporting political organization, and allow these to seek funding from private citizens and corporations domestically. Non-profit organization can seek public funding from local authorities only.
–The Freedom of Information Act: the legislation gives authority to the judiciary to oversee all requests and direct governmental departments to submit whenever it is deemed harmless to public safety and to the benefit of public awareness.
– The Abolition of Moudouwana: instead, a simple marital union package is offered to all Moroccan households and individuals seeking a union, with a compulsory registration both with local administrative and judicial authorities. This new legislation is a prelude to the establishment of a separate civil contract scheme opened to all individuals regardless of gender.
– The Abolition of the Penal Code, and its replacement with a cross-branches commission headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court working on a document in accordance with international law and the pieces of legislation mentioned above, and that includes the introduction of a Habeas Corpus-like legislation to protect private citizens from unnecessary infringement of security and police forces.
The government will also push for the legislation needed to create or re-organise all agencies it needs to implement its policies.
Giving Power back to people
The Moroccan people will be given the opportunity to vote for their own borough council and local representatives (the former Moqadems) regional and federal parliaments in two elections cycles over a 5 years nationwide legislation. Since a ballot lists two simultaneous elections, the overall cost for these elections would not go beyond MAD 1Bn over the standard 5-years legislation.
The Moroccan taxpayer will have access to information regarding public spending; the principle of public spendings universality (whereby no particular receipts are direct to particular expenses) will be scrapped, so as to allow each taxpayer to know precisely what their taxes are paying for. To that effect, the Federal Parliament will be adjunct a Parliamentary Budget Office with a 500 Million budget to oversee budget-making and all related data.
The Moroccan citizens can introduce a piece of legislation either by carrying the sponsor of two representatives from parliament (depending on the legislation’s scope, regional or federal) or by getting the support of 50,000 citizens.
no political manifesto can boast to solve all problems. But that does not mean these documents shouldn’t be released and discussed. The cornerstone of democracy is the confrontation of ideas and projects for our society. Now, I believe political party should publish their manifesto well before elections, if indeed they are serious about “new politics” induced by the constitutional referendum held on July 1st. This criticism spares no one across the political spectrum: a manifesto is not a punctual announcement event, or part of cosmetic PR tactics, it is the cornerstone of mature political debate. So far, PJD has performed slightly better relative to an abysmal record. We cannot content ourselves with mediocrity on this part. And I do hope all these new think-tanks and groups would push for alternative manifestos to challenge the political play-field. I really do.
For specifics, please have a look at archive posts: