The Moorish Wanderer

The Nasty Party – Istiqlal Manifesto

The remaining political heavyweight Istiqlal party produced their own manifesto a week ago, and by far, it seems as though they have put a lot of thoughts in it.So much indeed, that they might well be the only party with no false promises, and actual commitments for austerity program policies. Paradoxically, the new constitution allows Istiqlal to display more brazenly its conservative credentials, to be, in short, that nasty party so many Moroccans hate and identify as patrician-style, “Fassi-Party”.

First, they are the only political party making sense in terms of broad macroeconomic targets: a 5% GDP growth for 2% inflation target are exactly what the doctor has ordered, although that means Istiqlal is not counting on boosting the economy, merely staying the course and making the best of it in terms of whatever reforms they have included in their agenda; so far, Nizar Baraka -who seems to be inspiring their economic proposals- has displayed a lot more realism and competence than his (former) colleague Finance Minister Mezouar.

Istiqlal claims to close the gap in social inequalities by 25%. I cannot make any sense out of this one: do they mean they will reduce the income ration between the top and bottom 10%? But that is not too important an issue; After all, they have pledge to fund professional schools in order to achieve this goal:

وضع تدابير قانونية جديدة لتيسير الولوج إلى التكوين المهني بالنسبة للشباب الذين انقطعوا عن الدراسة في سن مبكر ( فئة أقل من 14 سنة)، أو لم تسعفهم ظروفهم الأسرية والاجتماعية (أطفال الشوارع مثلا) من التعلم أو من الحصول على أي تأهيل مهني. على أن يراعي هذا التكوين المهن والحرف التي يحتاج إليها سوق الشغل، وذلك حتى لا يعودون من جديد إلى البطالة والتهميش الاجتماعي […]

 جعل المعرفة محركا للارتقاء الاجتماعي

 تطوير التعليم العالي والتكوين المهني لملاءمته مع حاجيات الاستراتيجيات القطاعية وتنمية الجهات

 تشجيع التكوين المستمر مدى الحياة المهنية

 تطوير مسالك دراسية موازية للتعليم النظامي (الفرصة الثانية، المدارس الرياضية،…)

The policy might be sound on paper, but given Istiqlal’s disastrous record on education, I fear they might think of professional schools as the only viable alternative for school system, a potentially very discriminant policy that could lead to the vast majority of Moroccan pupils at 14 be given a choice of either giving up on good college education (and I insist on the word “good”) or settling for a lesser school system.

Istiqlal nonetheless, vows to support and strengthen the ailing Middle Class; they pledge to root out poverty and its trans-generational effects (supposedly by empowering those population by means of self-employment) and strangely enough, this Middle Class pledge finds its way to carry Istiqlal’s big idea of reforming the Compensation Fund; though they do not believe a pure accountancy-based approach would not do, they try to instil the idea that somehow, cash relief could perform equally well. My question is why would they propose the following:

توسيع الركيزة المتعلقة بالتعليم: “تيسير”، وهي تهم تمدرس أطفال الأسر الفقيرة إلى حدود 15 سنة (الابتدائي والثانوي الإعدادي) ومحاربة الهدر المدرسي وخاصة في أوساط الفتيات القرويات؛

 الركيزة المتعلقة بالانخراط في الأنشطة المدرة للدخل من خلال تقديم دعم نقدي مباشر للأسر الفقيرة مقابل انخراط معيل الأسرة في البرامج التي تحدث هذه الأنشطة (المبادرة الوطنية للتنمية البشرية) وفي الأنشطة التي يتم حصرها في اطار مخططات تنمية الاقتصاد الاجتماعي والتضامني.

ويصل متوسط الدعم النقدي المباشر إلى 400 درهم في الشهر لكل أسرة فقيرة في المناطق المستهدفة، حيث تم تحديد مبالغ التحويلات المالية الموجهة للأسر الفقيرة على الشكل التالي:

– بالنسبة للجانب المتعلق بصحة الأمهات والأطفال “رعاية”: 600 درهم للأم الحامل، 150 درهم لكل أسرة (في حدود ثلاثة أطفال أقل من 6 سنوات لكل أسرة)،

– بالنسبة للجانب المتعلق بالتمدرس “تيسير”: 200 درهم لكل أسرة.

Istiqlal clearly has a reform of the Compensation Fund in its sights, but one that would lift the subsidies, and replace them with too low contributions to these households they pretend to care about. Now, all of this is circumstantial, and I am prone to find evidence in ill-defined policies, but if that were to be true, then the 400 cash relief is not going to be enough to make up for it. True, the wealthiest households will not enjoy subsidies for their own consumption, but their welfare loss is much lower than what poorer families will have to deal with.

Some Moroccans are more equal than others.

Following Istiqlal’s proposal, their Compensation Fund reform should save the budget around 35 to 35Bn, while the cost of 400dhs cash relief to the entire bottom 10% should be at most 2.6Bn (that’s more or less what the outgoing government provided for its aborted “Solidarity Fund” by the way) in pure budget terms, Mr Baraka has solved the Compensation conundrum with one stroke of a pen: cash relief to the poor at a minimum cost, while the compensation fund is set for partial -if not total- phasing out. They do not consider tax relief to the middle class or the 10% bottom Income Tax, they do not consider that a 400dhs cash relief to be too low to even acquire some actual improvement in terms of standards of living; I mentioned in an earlier post that only a combination of 700dhs cash relief and tax breaks can allow the 50% households below median to improve their standards of living; In short, what Istiqlal proposes in terms of Compensation fund phasing out and policies to substitute its effect are going to be disastrous to the purchasing power of a whole lot of Moroccan households. They are doing it wrong, and they can get away with it.

But that brand of local conservatism is obvious in other items listed on their manifesto; they are still clinging to their Pan-Arabism creed, especially when they advocate to:

السعي إلى تبوئ التعاليم والقيم الاسلامية مكانتها الطبيعية في المجتمع، وتوجيه الوسائط التربوية والإعلامية اتجاه تبسيط المفاهيم الاسلامية ونشر قواعدها وفق ما جاء في الكتاب والسنة.

– تشجيع الاجتهاد وحتى يكون تأويل النصوص القرآنية والسنية مسايرا للعقل وروح الشريعة وأصولها متجاوبا مع قضايا العصر.[…]

– الاسراع بتفعيل أكاديمية اللغة العربية واحداث المجلس الوطني للغات والثقافة المغربية لتقوية اللغة العربية وتعميمها في التعليم والإعلام و الحياة العامة، وكل روافدها اللغوية ومنها الحسانية. […]

– ضرورة الكتابة باللغة الرسمية على تلفيف المنتوجات التجارية المعروضة في الأسواق.

As if Islam and the Arabic language alone will not only protect National Identity (what identity?) but strengthen the Moroccan community. Istiqlal, like many other political parties -including progressive ones- still believes Morocco to be too heterogeneous not to consider diversity a threat.

Still and all, Istiqlal remains the one political party with a clear agenda, faithful to its lifelong conservative creed, and before we know it, they could actually lead us into the Austerity program we are rapidly in the process of submitting to.

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