Head Of Government – Whatever it takes
Two days ago, political Talk-show “Nou9at 3alal 7orouf” (“dotting the i’s”) hosted a strange performance, with outgoing finance minister Salaheddine Mezouar and likely next head of government putting on a show to display his supposedly naked charisma and to collect good marks as an outstanding public speaker. Correct me if I am wrong, but his performance lacked proper preparation, or his spin doctors (if he has any) figured out just right how to go to the earth of the Silent Majority of Moroccan voters.
By the way, M. Mezouar and many of the other guests did not seem to know much about basic fiscal and economic policy principles, or even worse, the history of their respective parties. Again, I can’t make much out of it, whether their incompetence was guileless or belies some cunning, ruthless political skills. What was clear, however, was M. Mezouar’s eagerness to be the next Head of Government – whatever it takes.
On taxes and debt, the Minister was very evasive, though he did hint to what I already suspected to be the case: piling on the debt and increasing borrowings are paying up for his tax cuts and loopholes; He only hinted to it, so he did not have to justify it, nor did he need to burnish his so-called economic competence skills; Quite the opposite, he persisted in claiming his tax cuts have generated much positive externalities, boasting his record in sustaining Morocco’s GDP growth during the credit crunch and the 2009 global recession to 4.9% (very close to the potential economy growth) when global GDP plummeted -2.04%. He was belittled the potential danger of piling debt to MAD 398Bn, perhaps because he is betting on a robust growth that would outpace borrowings and thus somehow allay its burden on the economy.
An audacious bet indeed, considering the discrepancies in terms of required growth (at least 6%) and what the economy can achieve without triggering excessive inflation or unemployment (no more than 5% for a 2% inflation)
But the show was not about his record at the Ministry. That was road-test leadership bid for the next election; this explains why his message was a motley of sub-signals to various interest groups, especially to the “progressist-modernist” spectrum; he has consistently dropped in not-so-subtle hints that, as a leader of an 8 parties-strong coalition, he will not compromise with moderate Islamist PJD party, basically attacking them over their double-talk on women’s rights and gender equality.
(update: RNI Website uploaded a video of the talk show for everyone to watch)
In fairness, Minister Mezouar can boast RNI’s liberal record and rhetoric spin on these issues, but his attack on PJD has been so agressive, that it was a shame no one reminded him he has embraced Representative Imam Abdelbari Zemzami‘s PRV party as a coalition member; the same Zemzami who published a pro-necrophilia fatwa not so long ago. Because RNI has been very keen on positioning itself at the centre of the political spectrum, I was expecting M. Mezouar to be tough on law and order; he was not. He sounded like a bleeding heart liberal, denouncing poverty as the roots of all evils of crime, stressing the need for further education to lift up those of our fellow citizens who fell to such depths. Not a word about police force or sentences guidances – quite a curious observation from a self-styled left-wing radical, but there goes my argument: as a right-of-centre moderate, M. Mezouar failed to tune in to the traditional topics of his electorate; he offered the sight of a politician angling for the widest possible consensus to win government leadership. To a petulant PPS co-guest, he says:
“I am open to any kind of coalition on the basis of a progressive social agenda“
and that was a clear rejection of PJD.
My impression was that Salaheddine Mezouar looked desperate in trying to win over sympathy and become the next Head of Government. He played on all chords: progressive, centrist, even populist, with a pity line that “[his] retired father received only a 400dhs pension” but got caught when a retired from the audience challenged him on raising the minimum pension for a population that suffers most from inflation- he shrugged it off by stating Pension Funds do not fall within government purview. But at the bottom of his beliefs -if he’d ever had any- his policies can be seen through the not-so-clever web of words: downsizing government, cutting taxes for the wealthy and leaving pensions funds to themselves. He did not seem remotely interest in social issues, and on those areas the elected executive has a clear mandate, he is likely to be pushed by the most conservative elements of his coalition to the right.
Overall, his performance, for those with a keen interest in Moroccan politics has been abysmal: he looked tired, he did sound genuine; as a regular tweep (twitter user), I was half-surprised his party’s twitter feed and his supporters did not spin his performance – there was nothing to spin. And that man might well be the next Head of His Majesty’s Government: Bland, with no substance, and no motive but to reach the top of the greasy pole.