The Moorish Wanderer

“Gouverner, C’est Pleuvoir”… Or Not

Posted in Dismal Economics, Moroccan Politics & Economics, Morocco by Zouhair ABH on July 9, 2012

An excerpt from the 1967 issue of ‘Annuaire d’Afrique du Nord’ on the Moroccan economy:

L’augmentation de la production agricole en 1967 par rapport à 1966 a donc été due à peu près intégralement à des conditions climatiques plus favorables, c’est-à-dire à un facteur exogène; nous savons par ailleurs qu’en valeur absolue l’augmentation de la P.I.B. de l’agriculture n’a représenté que la moitié de l’augmentation de la P.I.B. du Maroc par rapport à 1966(8). Analysons donc maintenant les facteurs endogènes qui ont permis aux autres branches d’activité de contribuer pour moitié au supplément de production obtenu.

[…]

Tel est le secteur agricole, sur lequel les autorités comptent pour réaliser le décallage de l’économie : très instable du point de vue conjoncturel et ne montrant aucune tendance marquée à l’amélioration des rendements, en tous cas à peu près insensible d’une année sur l’autre aux incitations qui lui sont prodiguées sous formes d’encouragements, de mesures administratives ou d’investissements.

(Chronique Economique Maroc, p.466)

My (belated) interest in Moroccan agriculture finds its origin in the topic of Moroccan business cycles: as far as I can tell, fluctuations in agricultural output do not seem to have that big an impact on aggregate output. This means poor economic performances are not necessarily always due to drought or weak agricultural production. In that sense at least, “Gouverner, C’est Pleuvoir” maxim dear to Maréchal Lyautey bears little significance other than the political strategy it sustains: rural labour market in Morocco is very homogeneous and volatile, which only means a large fraction of the population -in fact, a majority- depends on random meteorological wonders. Since the early 1990s however, the urban workforce has come to encompass a majority the current demographic trend predict to be irreversible. Nonetheless, “Grands Barrages” and “Plan Maroc Vert” are both similar in their imposed, top-down implementation, as well as their disregard for institutional constraints, likely to jeopardise their initial objectives; A report from 1975 mentioned:

Le modèle d’aménagement qui a toujours la faveur des services responsables est celui là même qui avait été établi par l’ONI. Or, pour l’ONI, le choix de cette formule correspondait à un pari sur changement de structures que semblait autoriser dans l’esprit des responsables le contexte politique de l’époque. Le pari a été perdu mais, assez curieusement, le schéma d’aménagement servi par une logique technicienne extrêmement séduisante s’est maintenu comme un dogme de la mise en valeur.

(La Politique Marocaine des Barrages, p.282)

the scheme anticipated by the Office National d’Irrigation (ONI) pre-dated the policy itself, and finds its roots in the early rural policies of 1958-1960, and these had in mind a deep structural reform of real estate regimen. These reforms, for (obvious) political reasons, were quickly shoved in favour of a status-quo that still prevails. In that respect, there are very few farmers eligible to benefit from these decision, and those who might have qualified did not really need the subsidies. the Grand Dams did not come alone: a series of state-sponsored programs were put together to help farmers by subsidising particular goods (especially sugar) and providing support on the basis of expected returns. Unfortunately, the report points out that only very few endeavours managed to reach the theoretical threshold of 1,500 to 2,000 dirhams/ha.

A Gini Index of 3.76, a relatively high number for inequality in distribution, which vindicates the claim agriculture is concentrated in the hands of the wealthy few

Assuming figures from the 1996 Agricultural Census did not change dramatically – though there is every chance these have indeed- any top-down policy will benefit about 12.3% of all farmers: there should be around 1.4 million farms (down from 1.5 million in 1996) whose distribution shows a great deal of discrepancies: there are about 12.3% of all farmers (around 185,000) that concentrate more than half (54.4%) of arable lands, these usually cover large surfaces, typically no less than 10ha. These lands are undoubtedly the best equipped and the most productive: the 12.3% lucky few concentrate 86% of all available tractors and 87% of harvester machineries.

These large farms tends also to be more capital-intensive than the others as well as the national means: they use about twice as much machinery, and three times as much new technology, including new types of fertilizers and selected crops.

These are 1996 figures; and yet it is on the basis of these figures the Grand Design is carried out. In fairness, the explicit working assumption behind the PMV strategy is to concentrate 80% of allocated resources around less than 40% (wealthy) farmers. Trickle-down at its worse:

And Plan Maroc Vert (PMV) suggests these wealthy farmers ‘share’ their capital with their poor neighbours:

6. Autour de quoi peut-on s’agréger ?

L’agrégation peut s’effectuer autour de différentes opérations ou services liés au processus de production et de valorisation d’un produit tel que :

– L’acquisition ou l’utilisation groupée d’un matériel agricole ;

– L’équipement en commun en systèmes d’irrigation, en système collectif d’avertissement et de lutte contre les aléas climatiques ;

– La réalisation d’une prestation commune (labour, traitement phytosanitaire, irrigation, récolte…) ;

– Le stockage en commun ;

– La valorisation de la production ;

L’idéale, serait l’agrégation autour de l’ensemble du processus de production de l’amont à l’aval pour bénéficier de la marge de l’ensemble des chaînes de valeur.

The plan does have a sub-strategy for smaller, poorer farmers, the so-called “Pilier II”:

* La stratégie du Pilier I se traduit par la réalisation de 961 projets d’agrégation et vise 562 000 exploitants moyennant un investissement global de 75 milliards de MAD

* Aussi, le Pilier II envisage la réalisation de 545 projets sociaux en faveur de 855 000 exploitants pour un investissement de 20 milliards de MAD.

(please note the second part of the program is a set of welfare projects, contrary to the other, supposedly more “serious” investment projects)

In many respects, the Grand Dams and the attached policies have failed to boost productivity per agricultural worker, precisely because these have been concentrated on a few farms; if anything, agricultural productivity per capita increased in volatility with the early 1970s. Per previous experiences, and on the basis of similar assumptions and data, concentrating (aggregating, as it were) resources in the hands of the rural establishment does not do good for the remaining many. I hope the chaps over at McKinsey though about it carefully.

A quick word perhaps on the correlation between agricultural, non-agricultural and aggregate output: by my account, all robust correlations point out to a strong relationship between aggregate and non-agricultural output (.953) much stronger and more significant than that with agricultural output (.619) and there is an even weaker correlation between non-agricultural and agricultural outputs (.369) and these correlations change significantly when considering only the period 1955-1975.

Morocco was a ‘pure’ agricultural country up to the mid-1970s: a majority of the labour force was employed in  rural activities, and there was a much tighter correlation between rural and urban economic activities. Nowadays, the only remaining feature is the disproportionate percentage of labour force employed in the rural sector. Agriculture, in that sense, modernized, but the trickle-down effects of past (and future) policies are yet to show their benefits to the many farmers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: