Moroccan Elections for the Clueless Vol.10
PJD unveils their electoral manifesto.
And one sure thing: our local brand of conservative islamist politicians knows how to put on a show when it comes to presentation. As for contents, the occasional flaws still do not disparage a robust piece of manifesto that put PJD ahead of the curve.
From a presentational perspective, their manifesto is neat: nice colours, sober, elegant and straight to the point. PPS’ own manifesto, by contrast, looks amateurish and borderline insulting to those voters eager enough to seek electoral manifestos on the web. So far, PJD is the only political party not only with a pretty comprehensive manifesto on-line, but by far the most well-presented one; I am not a big fan of PJD, but I can tell when effort has been put to come up with a decent manifesto when I see one.
So, Benkirane’s PJD gets top marks for their neat presentation. They also get good grades for their proposals; not that I agree with most of their policy proposals -as a matter of fact many of those are outright ideologically-driven, but they deserve credit for actually standing up for some controversial policies, instead of shooting to the moon with ill-defined, ill-funded and ill-thought policies.
They have also engaged in a potentially hazardous but crafty move, and that is to pile on figures; to laymen, these look like the hallmarks of responsible and competent band of public-spirited politicians; to those whose training and job was to scrutinize figures, not so much; but let us recount the manifesto beforehand;
Let us start off with a leaf from their economic policy book:
“رفع معدل الدخل الفردي ب40 في المائة في الخمس سنوات القادمة”
I cannot stress the importance of that commitment and its influence on manifesto credibility: projected growth, in essence, conditions almost every funding source a political party will tap in to carry out their policies. PJD projections are close to that of USFP’s to double income per capita over the next legislature, on the lower bound, since theirs is a 7% GDP growth, PJD chief economist, Lahcen Daoudi, has completely misjudged the constraints of potential growth, and the subsequent effect of this daring proposal on inflation and trade deficit. It is also worth pointing out their 2007 projection was exactly the same: 7%.
In fairness, they have mentioned a piece of policy that could well make their dream 7% growth come true, at least for the next legislature;
“الوصول إلى 1.5% من الناتج الداخلي الخام في مجال البحث العلمي قبل نهاية 2015”
the 1.5% is not enough to reach an average of 7%, but there is a chance, for a constant (or at least) investment in R&D per GDP, they can extract an average growth higher than the potential 5%, simply because research and productivity enhancement can push further output productivity. In that respect, the proposal for a 7% growth is ambitious, but buttressed with enough policy details to make it within reach; while my scepticism on the validity of their projection retains all its relevance, they seem to have put a lot of thoughts on it, contrary to other parties.
But speaking of figures, PJD as not flawless in its very relevant brief summary of present ‘State of the Kingdom’, some mistakes that are either inflated deliberately, or by the negligence.
Slide 10 computes accumulated indicators for public investments, tax receipts, and compensation fund, to name a few. But the fact is, these types of figures cannot be summed: public investment could well be accrued, but the figures -used as “yes we can” line of argument- do not take into account depreciation, nor do they distinguish those programs scrapped or introduced from one year to the other. Also, the total public investment figures they display on the charts are very confusing: the public budget law accounts for only 1/3 of these. The other goes to Hassan II and CDG funds, over which parliamentary and government oversight does not apply; it is wrong to boast they can spend MAD 160Bn when they can field at most 50.
They also apply to themselves a lot of pressure on their employment policies: by committing to reduce unemployment by two basis points (basically, to 7.5% a close figure to the promised 7.7% in 2007) they mean to create more than 200,000 jobs to the unemployed alone. In fact, their commitment means they will create 300,000 jobs per annum. The guise of a seemingly small commitment to 7% unemployment rate means they are ready to embark on an ambitious venture to create 300,000 jobs to provide for both new job entries, make up for job destruction AND provide jobs for the jobless. That explains perhaps why they need that 7% growth rate.
I appreciate PJD’s efforts to pile up nice figures side by side, but for those unfamiliar with the level of budget figures, those inflated numbers tend to reassure the voters that a PJD-led government has billions and billions of dirhams to spend for the promised programs, when in fact these figures are either accumulated from past years, or do not fall within the government’s purview.
Finally, increasing the compensation fund is neither a good indicator of government potential, nor should it be a commitment from PJD to sustain its expenditure; the accrued trick especially sounds bizarre when it comes to that particular expenses account: the 117,6Bn are basically consumed every year. While cumulating public investment over a particular period of time (with or without depreciation factor) it is sheer lunacy to believe that subsidies should be piled on, when they are basically destroyed in the process of consumption. Lahcen Daoudi, Econ 101, perhaps?
And the next slide explains the cheap (but quite clever) manipulation of figures: the percentages are computed as averages, and not accumulated as per the previous slides.
That clever web of deception goes on, for instance in comparing two GDP growth trend; they have managed to pass off non-agricultural GDP growth for overall GDP (a stable level of about 4.6%) just so as to disparage the outgoing government’s record, and at the same time exculpate themselves from any under-performance if they come into office on agricultural output growth.(The numbers, incidentally, can be found on the World Bank’s database under “GDP Growth” segment)
I understand their constituency is predominately urban, but once in government they work for all Moroccans; plus that may mean they are ready to junk any policy to put an end to the Agritax moratorium. Talk about ma3qoul… But it’s standard modern spin; as an opposition party, they have to make the outgoing government look bad by trashing its record; The trouble is, such muckraking policy does not fit the neat, bearded image they want to put up.
On other policies, their pledge to raise minimum wage (Slide 17) to 3,000 per month does not specify the modus operandi of such raise, a trap other political parties fell for.
Finally, I particularly enjoyed that amateurish, and frankly very ideological observation (Slide 7) on marriage and divorce:
“[…] بمعدل طلاق في مقابل 5 حالات زواج، وقبل عشر سنوات حالة طلاق مقابل 7 حالات زواج “
That is quite fun! didn’t they know Moroccans are less prone to marry than they were a decade ago? Such a cheap shot across the Moudouwana just shows that behind the nice array of seemingly robust figures, PJD social conservative still put the emphasis on their standard vote-winner: family values, conservatism, religion and hostility to perceived Western modernity.
Other than that, the proposed policies are not properly priced, and when they go into specifics, it stinks an ideological agenda: they want to generalise and subsidize Scouts movements (S.46) a notorious shuttlecock for conservative values in Morocco, and generally remain soft on law & order, but display unusual toughness on what they see as ‘morally reprehensible’.
Overall, the program is pretty comprehensive; though it is back up with false or tempered figures, it has the advantage to direct criticism and debate to its content, a strong advantage that gives PJD much media coverage. But it is clear, from their policies, that they are gunning for traditional Koutla voters, and could well take them away to its own benefit.