Breaking (Old) News: More Details on the IMF-Morocco PLL Deal
Here’s some exclusive information for the readers. I should say first I am amazed by how the IMF took the trouble to answer my emails (and calls) about the Precautionary Liquidity Line (PLL) deal Morocco has benefited from; I mean, they usually deal with professional journalists. Still and all, it is humbling when the IMF takes the time to lay things out.
The exclusive information isn’t quite so: you can find all the details on the IMF’s website, but as far as I can tell, the Moroccan press corps did not report on the main talking points discussed during that press call conference.
“The program for Morocco is a 24-month PLL as we call it, a precautionary and liquidity line, in the amount of SDR 4,117 million, which is just over $6 billion; $6.2 billion to be precise. This is a financing buffer, or a sort of insurance against potential external shocks.”
The consensus within the IMF seems to be clear as far as Morocco is concerned: strong macroeconomic fundamentals, low inflation and sound banking system. Our weakness, after all, is exogeneous: Morocco’s main trading partner, the European Union, is experiencing serious economic problems, and these reflect badly on Morocco’s trade balance. As for the PLL scheme itself, this is not some PAS-like conditioned loan/help: it is admittedly the IMF’s first use of that policy tool, and obviously, the conditons attached to it are not necessarily ‘standard issue’ deregulation programs the institution is known for. If anything, Morocco and Jordan are de facto guinea pigs for a new mindset within the IMF; they were at pains to stress its novelty, and in Morocco’s case, it is supposed to act as an insurance. Anyone with an insurance policy knows that whatever the outcome, the insured agent pays its fee and a premium computed on the basis of a risk profile. Is 3% low enough a premium for a country with a proven record of sound macroeconomic policy? I don’t know. Our government seems to think so, and so does the IMF. The expected rebound in 2013 will tell if both have been right or wrong.
the institution’s experts believe Morocco does not face a particular dire problem in its balance of payments. The graph shows the sustained drain in BKAM’s foreign reserves did not actually harm the monetary base, and if anything, we are back to levels observed in 2005.
There is only a subtle hint the Moroccan government has pledged some fiscal consolidation (read: austerity measures) and the IMF believes it has proven its bona fide in that respect by increasing the price of gasoline to the pump. Brace yourselves taxpayers and others, there are several measures to be expected in terms of revenue enhancement (tax increases) and spending cuts. It seems MM. Baraka and Azami’s pledge to bring back government budget deficit back below 3% of GDP by 2016 has some credibility, though from my own back-of-the-envelope computations, this is likely to entail as much as 30Bn dirhams in either sides of the balance sheet and/or a mixture of those.
The final point touched upon was the Subsidy Fund. As they see it , the IMF believes it is high time the Moroccan government got rid of it in favour of a more targeted (shall we say discriminate in a positive sense) to those who really need it. Unfortunately for both our government and the institution, there is an unrealistic expectation that a broad consensus is needed to reform the fund. The government pledges to engage with civil society and other economic partners, but really, when a business benefits from a rent-like dominant position, why trade valuable profits for hazardous competition?
This sums it up actually: the PLL is not conditioned on explicit terms. In fact, the IMF wants to promote it as a helping hand to good economies with sound policy-making. But there are, as we shall put it mildly, expectations the Benkirane government has to meet: fiscal consolidation (which we really need at this point) and a far-reaching reform of subsidies in Morocco. No word however on the likelihood of Morocco’s problem worsening or transforming into a real balance of payment crisis. I guess someone in Washington is really optimistic about our economy.
(the complete transcript of the press conference call is available on this weblink)