The Moorish Wanderer

Open Society Project. Part I: The Economy (Continued)

What sort of budget would we have in a Open Society-upholding government? First, as mentioned before, investment budget would be much higher than the current level of expenditure, i.e. less than MAD 54 Billion. The idea is to take investment up to MAD 100 Billion; with a target of MAD 200 Billion over 5 to 7 years, and, more importantly, keep up a long-term average 10-years incremental increase rate of at least 2.77% with an ideal target of 3.93%. The lower bracket corresponds to the average real GDP growth over the last 20 years (thus taking into account depression years of the 1980s) and target level is the average GDP growth over the last decade.

Parallel to this ambitious program, there will be a need to downsize civil service human resources and expenses. Figures show that civil servant are spread evenly with respect to the Moroccan population, but reports also show a great deal of central bureaucracy (cost centres) that do no provide essential services. Furthermore, positions of education, health and local government are relatively underpaid when compared to these very same bureaucratic services. As a matter of principle, government money is taxpayers’ money. The idea that public sector is a last-resort recruiter for misfits should be definitely dropped. Indeed, it is a constitutional right for any citizen to apply for a government job, on the essential condition that they meet requirements, usually determined by their entrance exam results (difficult exams of course) and required degrees; Ideally, government civil service is an aggregate of competent, full-dedicated and bright minds fuelled by their public service spirit. That rules out unemployed graduates that are desperate for a job and settle in -as well as the arrogant Grande Ecole graduate with no idea whatsoever on how to actually run a country (those without the proper training and education, that is).

Whatever political allegiances one might hold and its derived policies on the matter of public administration, our own history with public service (even before 1912) unfortunately compel us to assume its actions to be evil, though the lesser of civil service’s evils is public investments, hence the heavy spendings commitment. Let me elaborate on that: traditionally, and I suspect many radical left-wingers in Morocco still hold it to be a good policy, the Moroccan left trusted the State to be the most efficient tool to achieve their objectives (I direct the reader to have a look to a post I wrote on the various stands regarding civil service). This might be due to a Trade-union tropism – and the history of struggle against the monarchy to take control of what was very early on, perceived to be the most powerful institution in post-1956 Morocco, but nonetheless, efficiency doesn’t compute in their design. What they don’t realize is that it will take on more bureaucracy, more waste of the taxpayers’ money, and ultimately the defeat of their projects. And in that respect, liberal Big-Statists -whether on the Right or on the Left- fail to notice the danger they are running into: behaving just like the Makhzen does, i.e. considering Moroccan citizens as irresponsible, with the indefatigable state intervention to run their lives. A genuine democratization goes through empowerment of communities and individuals, with a light touch regulation and intervention from the state (hence my stand on federalism and downsized civil service human resources).

It is high time the civil service factored in the concept of ‘Taxpayers’ money rather than ‘State money‘ and the promotion of a ‘self-reliance’ culture. Does it sound Blairite and Right-wing? Perhaps. But that is the most straightforward approach to break down the Makhzen system, and free individuals from a culture of dependency. “فلوس الشعب فين مشات” should be the watchword on every government spending.

Now, 2011 Budget figures show the following balance:

Finances Ministry 2011 Budget

Overall, government budget should be increased, but not in a discretionary fashion. Ideally, and alongside the increase of public investment within the assigned target, other government expenditures should be constrained with yearly inflation levels.

One way of doing so is to propose a reduction of central government wages by 5%, a moderate cut in the teaching corps (due to its ageing demographics) so as to match a student/pupils ratio of 12:1 as well as a pay rise to a median wage of MAD 17,000. [similar computations are run and observed on the health service] The first step for this to work is to spend, in two years’ time, windfall taxes from the fiscal reform to pay back the debt and terminate in that amount of time all debt payment (which amount to about xx). This expenditure, besides the positive effects it can have on government budget balance, is a strong signal the Moroccan government is committed to build up a reputation as a thrifty and efficient (in reference to Nigel Lawson‘s “primitive language”, but caring instead). The 5% cut mainly targets the high expenses account, such as the MAD 20 Billion of high salaries and the Civil List’s MAD 2.433 Billion.

There are several loopholes than can be filled, as well as policies that can either boost receipts (policies on income and VAT for instance) as well as reduce expenses (a shake-up of pay wage, or the detail analysis of ‘Charges Communes’). Furthermore, debt expenses should be phased out as early in the government’s legislature as possible, as these expenses represent a double exaction on the nation finances: first, 12.47% of total expenses were channelled to pay for debt; Knowing that about MAD 2.4 Billion of it is foreign-held, that means a direct annual pressure on total reserves of 5.98% which needs to be phased out as quickly as possible.

We need a cross-breed Prime Minister between Abdellah Ibrahim and Margaret Thatcher: strong Liberal credentials and a ruthless leadership

The alternative budget (with 2011 figures and holding all assumptions on Oil price and projected growth constant, as well as retaining specific items) would subsume the following projections:

1/ Military spendings to be cut by MAD 17 Billions, mainly by selling off obsolete or non operational hardware, and a reorganizing the military establishment. That means mainly a reduction in number of servicemen, the phasing out of compulsory military service (and the subsequent closing down of a number of military bases) and a re-organization of military units for more small outfits and more mobile forces. My own proposal for a radical change in defence strategy tries to make the numbers fit in, with an overall target of 2% GDP in defence spendings.

2/ Common expenses phased out: There are some MAD 36 Billion usually earmarked by the Finance Ministry as a common, inter-departmental  expenses. The trouble with such expenses is mainly the opacity.

3/ Reconsider accounting standards for SEGMA departments, if not an outright off-balance sheet outsourcing: this would save the public taxpayer about MAD 2 Billion. Even though SEGMA departments’ books have to be balanced, the budget often makes provision for subsidies, which on the long term weigh on public finances. If anything, an outright privatization of these SEGMA (Secteurs Gérés d’une Manière Autonome) might yield good money instead. For instance:
Golf Dar Es-Salam (receipts for MAD 18 Million)
The National Press (Imprimerie Officielle: MAD 13 Million)
Habous Ministry’s own Pligrimage Agency (20 Million)
Dar Annakhil Press (MAD 2 Million)

Overall reduce expenses by 53 Million, but saves capital account of about MAD 590 Million every year. Though it is difficult to put a fair valuation on these entities, if properly re-structured before privatized, a net yield could be around the Billion at least.

4/ Introduction of flat fees to replace ‘Grima’ applications. According to the 2007 Cour des Comptes audit report, 1749 ‘grimas‘ were delivered in 2007, an estimate of 3000 by 2011  (many of whom where for transport and fishing permits). Assuming a conservative estimated median flat fee of about MAD 10.000 per permit, the new system yields for 2011 about MAD 30 Million. This remains a conservative estimate, since many applicants eventually give up out of frustration (actual figures are more around 9000 applications. A detailed application listing (which doesn’t appear on the report) could allow  finesse discrimination (for instance by charging more on fishing permits than on taxi licenses) could yield even more. This policy -under assumption it remains tax-neutral- can actually contribute efficiently in fighting corruption, and bringing down one of its main features.

Budget balances with larger debt payment. A few items were retained due to a lack of detailed set of data

The Open Society project has the capacity to fund itself for the grand projects that lay ahead. This budget can next be broken down by regions (in accordance with the federalist option). [I haven’t got time for it, unfortunately]. Next piece will deal with the new Social Fabric.

Open Society Project. Part I: The Economy

My latest readings are taking over; Karl Popper’s ‘Open Society’ and LBJ’s biography are a great read. Catchy.

But seriously though; why can’t we think of a broad, far-reaching concept like the Great Society, and apply it to Morocco? The same ailments are there; poor education record, growing inequalities, racial problems do not arise, though we do have ethnicity problems- and as it turns out, Moroccans are quite racist when it comes to Sub-Saharan residents, even natives in Morocco.

Bully Boy. Alternatively the most liberal US President since FDR (that doesn't absolve him from the Vietnam War, though)

Or perhaps we do have some sort of scheme. That’s called ‘The Grand Design’, a rough translation of ‘المشاريع الكبرى’: Tangier-Med seaport, a brand new highway network, and even the expected high-speed TGV Tangier-Casablanca. This is just to mention a few things the official line likes to boast about.The trouble with such policies can be summarized in two items:

– Transparency issues: I sometimes watch TV, and figures are sometimes displayed when it comes to these projects, something in the line of: ‘the project His Majesty has inaugurated yesterday in Oulad s5ar has a total cost of MAD 400 Million. The project, part of His Majesty’s Grand Design, will yield approximately 2500 jobs’. Interesting and informative, but not enough. Just so to remind the readers, this is money that has been spent on a project the taxpayer has not been consulted about, and upon which spending modalities they have little, if no say at all. I’m all for grand projects and strategic investment, but if I, tax payer, cannot have some effective mean in questioning the validity of such spending, then whatever comes next is irrelevant. My money, my voice.

Parliament and government are incompetent partly because the political establishment did not renew itself by looking at the best and brightest (but rather by recruiting fools and heirs) but mainly because they have been denied real power and ultimately responsibility before the Moroccan people. I seriously doubt someone like Abbas El Fassi would remain Istiqlal (and government) leader for very long if the party or the governing coalition was actually governing and with a popular mandate.

Cost-Benefits analysis: such projects are usually presented to the executive (or legislative branch, whatever the ongoing political system) with failure standards, targets, cost per spending and expected profits, a razzmatazz of reports and projections that can shut down a failing project before it goes off course. Let us have a look at the Dam policy as an illustrative instnace. The one many of our citizens’ minds have been hammered with for so many years, that whenever an argument on whether Morocco is on the ‘right tracks’ our very own Godwin point is reached: “the Dams were not such a bad idea, were they?” Of course not. There are good ideas and bad ideas; Only good ideas work, and the Monarch (whether the late Hassan II or Mohamed VI) always have good ideas. The Dams’ building project was incommensurate, a symbol of Hassan II’s megalomania (like the Casablanca Mosque he built in a time of depression and structural adjustment program) that did little to prevent droughts like in 1995. The Dams French engineers and companies built were not suited for Morocco; and this national pride did very little to save small agricultural business to close down, and farmers to move to cities. It did not prevent Morocco’s main potential (agriculture) from lifting itself altogether from its dependency on rainfall. Can we say for sure that the Tangier Med seaport is going to be a success? Are we presented with documented material on the projects gains from buying a MAD 20 Billion high-speed train for Morocco?

This lengthy introduction is not another bitter attack on these investments; it is there to clarify my position on such ventures: My own perception of strategic investments is the backbone of this ambitious –somewhat pretentious- ‘Open Society’ thing. I believe that strategic investment is an important undertaking, which stakes the nation’s finances and potential on a long, if not very long term. The least we can do is to allow the broadest possible public debate on such spending. If in liberal democracies, a democratically elected government has to present the public with all guarantees the taxpayers’ money is not going to be wasted, then a semi-democratic, autocratic monarchy with a handful of technocrats nesting in the Royal Cabinet taking charge of the virtually everything definitely loses the moral argument they ‘know what’s best for the nation’. Grande Ecole graduates and McKinsey-style consultants might be bright minds (and from experience, this is rarely the case) but they lack the proper understanding of strategic thinking. And why should they be endowed with such quality? The latter are hired on missions, the former are trained to find immediate solutions. Just what the Makhzen ordered: short-term plugs for structural weaknesses.

Let us think over the Open Society on public investment: we need to address two important sectors to give us a head start in a versatile world: exports and education.

Exports are Morocco’s lifeline. According to a rating agency officer I happen to know, it is the only parameter that prevents Morocco from reaching a confirmed ‘Investment-Grade’ status: obviously, whatever investment is undertaken, or indeed any serious spending will be conditioned on the amount of foreign currency the Moroccan economy can field. Equally, foreign investors will be all the more interested in investing if our foreign currency position is strong and structurally viable. We cannot count indefinitely on Phosphate exports, or the Diaspora’s transfers, or even Tourism for funding our expenditure. We can no longer rely on cheap exports like textile (that destroy value, rather than create it) or low-tech devices (the new pride of these ‘Grand Design’ schemes). And as it is, the Royal Cabinet and the government have been ill-advised by McKinsey and other consultancy firms: How in the world did they come up with these ‘Strategic Advantages’? in fairness, the grim alternative was to get the advice of civil service expertise; A body which has been either drained of its competence or independence of mind, or indeed systematically shut down of all genuine decision-making.

As we look to the exports structure, several observations can be made:

* Agriculture and other traditional exports have a low value per exported ton: consider the 2009 export figures: Agricultural goods represent 10% of our exports and have a value of 5.915 MAD per ton.Two-thirds of our exports, the Mining industry, fare better with an average value of 11.981,1 MAD per ton, but when excluding lead, copper and iron, mining industry value averages only 8.648,72 MAD. Overall, exports in 2009 had an average value of 7075.7 MAD, and with weighted averages, about 6676,1 MAD.

Structure moves very little during the last 8 years (BKAM Charts)

* These numbers need to be compared to imports: average value for 2009 was 7232.93 MAD per ton, a weighted average of 7240,59 MAD. These computations show the differential in value between our exports and imports (mainly due to the over-reliance on low added value exports to make up for this shortfall by increasing quantities (that fail but to cover only 42 to 45% of imports)

In these conditions, how can Morocco chose sectors that can insure a good transition for strategic investment? I don’t claim expertise (not like a Consultant would do) but there’s an idea worth considering: shift efforts to the fishing industry. That encompasses fishing -as a primary sector activity- and all related activities: canned fish and other related food industry, but also shipyards. Building ships can help the industry expand beyond the scope of domestic demand and markets.

Shipyards all over the coast: We do have about 3.500 kilometres-long coastline, with about 28 significant coastal cities, out of which 8 are large enough to be equipped with such infrastructures. initial investment might be costly at first, but then it is easily offset, first by local demand for bigger and more reliable ships. And building on the experience of coastal ship, we can even consider a further step by building ships with a larger autonomy range, ships that can fish south of Mauritanian coasts, all the way down Senegal, Mali, or even on other continents –including North Europe.

Consider the fish-based flour: its value per ton is about 8.000 MAD, and all combined fishing products about 14.768,9 MAD/Ton. Ceteris Paribus, an increase of 10% in fishing exports reduces the gap in terms of added value per ton from a 7.240MAD (Imports) and 7.075,7MAD (Exports) to 7.542,1 MAD per ton. This does not bridge the trade balance deficit significantly (only about 2%, the effect of an absolute increase of 1% over these exports) but it addresses one of our structural weaknesses, i.e. the lack of high-added value in our exports; Believe it or not, an investment in fishing industry, even as a primary activity, does boost the total exported value per ton. The effect of a much bolder, much more ambitious investment in canned fishing product, shipyards and related industries and activities is bound to be more productive, with the ultimate objective to bring up Exports/Imports ratio from 45% to a more sustainable 60-70% and improve substantially our terms of trade.

Where can we find the ships then? Moroccan ports can either buy hulls for benchmarking (and these usually cost no more than a 2-3 million dollars, even less so when the ship is more than 20 years-old) or buy plans for specific ship classes. The idea is to provide our fishery industry with a brand new fleet (compared to the existing one) able to fish on our coasts, and even provide for long-range class ships. At the moment, Morocco has 2.500 boats and other ships. Instead of relying on old ships that cannot sail away from the coasts, efforts should be put in buying new ones, with a larger autonomy range. Under assumption that all the 2.500 boats have been scraped and replaced with newer, larger boats, total investment cost would match that of the High-speed train. The difference is that the new fleet can increase its yield and diversify it (by acquiring fishing rights in Mauritania or Senegal). as it is, fishing exports (a total value of MAD 15.72 Billion in 2009) can finance such investment over a short period of time (at a moderate discount rate of 4%, exports can pay for the upgrade in 5 years’ time with no significant exaction on exports revenues) and over the intermediate and longer run, generate profits in foreign currency.

Exports/Imports in 2009

Textile is the most explicit example of value destruction; following the Office des Changes figures for 2009, the synthetic textile fibre used in textile industry valued at MAD 15,855  per ton. However, value per ton for exported clothing was, for the same time period, MAD 4151,5, a differential only fur production makes up for. The idea that textile is a leading industry (as it makes up for about 19% of total exports) is a failure in view of these figures. If anything, we should move away from such heavily-subsidized industries to more productive ones. The argument about labour is irrelevant; out of the 1.267 million employed in industry, 108.000 work in the textile sector with little or no training. In the event of a booming shipyard industry (or any other booming industry) a workforce transfer would not entail much re-training, and under the condition of an unemployment benefit, wouldn’t cost more than MAD 700 Million a year for the whole employed workforce.

Other industries can be considered for possible investment, but in any case, these should meet a couple of of criteria: first, the added value per ton, net of re-export, should be positive (which is not the case for textile and outsourced services). Second, the amount of foreign currency it brings to the national economy. We need the cash to finance all the scheduled investment.

Speaking of which, the government balance sheet needs to be expanded and improved. Although I will deal with the subject in another post, the primary focus here is to increase government budget; Though it is desirable not to burden the economy with further taxes, a sensible rethinking of income and consumption taxes can actually yield money and be fairer to the less well-off. According to previous computations run on income and consumption distribution, conservative measures (upper bracket for income tax at 40%, and 20% on VAT) yield MAD 68,53 Billion, an increase of 23.% of government receipts, or a contribution to an increase of 50% in public investment. The objective is to scrap together enough resources to boost public investment to an annual expense of MAD 100 Billion on average, and sustain such expenditure over a period of at least 5 years.

Next piece will try and consider policies to make civil service more efficient and reduce bureaucracy.

We’re All Part of the Masterplan

Summertime. I know I am some 2 months late, but summer have just started for me. It’s quite hot in here but it is also nice, for the mind just sleeps into farniente and skips out the important issues, or rather, those one is so focused on during the rest of the year.

Last week, I watched Moroccan television. It’s not a feat. I mean I don’t have a television, and I get my information elsewhere. But last week, I saw the TV coverage of His Majesty’s 11th anniversary as King of Morocco and Amir Al Mouminine. Beforehand, do allow me to put forward a disclaimer. As a Moroccan national, I am not at liberty to, or in the position of, nor accepting to bear the full consequences of making any direct criticism to His Majesty’s person. My post is in full accordance with Articles 23, 19 & 28 of the Constitution (1996 reform).

Officials and Notabilities from all over Morocco to pay tribute and respect to His Majesty the King (Picture Maghreb Arabe Press)

No, my post is actually about two things: first, how the Television -and more specifically, Al Oula– covered the news. My second point is of a more deep matter. It has to do with the strategic decisions for Morocco. The ones that get billions of Dirhams into projects that are supposed to last decades, generations, even.

These reflect the ideological course the dominant power wants Morocco to take, and I have my reservations on that, as a citizen and would-be taxpayer. I don’t mind the Mustapha Alaoui-style coverage, nor the endless comments during the Beya ceremonial, not even the ancient pageantry brought from ancestral centuries. And In fact, I did find the Crown Prince and the Princess Royal very cute, quite well-behaved as they were.

What I couldn’t stand is the unbearable propaganda beating, so to speak. There were special programs on television flattering Morocco as a huge potential, as a country full of opportunities. It reminded me of an earlier era, in which the Throne Jubilee took place in a wider time set, with even more obvious propaganda, but nonetheless, with the same rallying war cry: “Wa Goulou L’3am Zine“. Did Morocco change that much in a decade? Yes it did. We had only one highway in 1999, some 100km long. Now, It’s an actually asphalt carpet from Tangier to Agadir (thousands of kilometres), and there’s more to come. Unemployment and Inflation rates fell over the last decade. It might be true that inflation decreased at a rate well above that of unemployment, but no one can deny the progress.

In 1999, the Islamist danger, as it were, was on the verge of explosion. It did culminate with the May 2003 plot, but on the whole, their intensity abated. Our Sahara claim is as robust as it ever was, thanks to the autonomy plan. In 1999, 61 countries recognized the Polisario-led Sahrawi Republic. In 2010, Only 32 continued to do so. The liberal-oriented Moudouwana reform finally recognized gender equality, even as a principle, and a recent poll suggested it is supported by the majority of Moroccan women. On the whole, We enjoy much more liberties than a decade before.

That’s what we are told, anyway. And even though there are some elements of truth in this enthusiastic and optimistic speech, it is quite far-fetched to say that, first, Morocco is going the right way, and second, all these changes benefit to the Moroccan people. I watched for the whole week the Evening News.

I know, I could’ve skipped these and watched something else, on another channel, but again, as a would-be taxpayer, I am keen on looking for how the money is spent on the Public TV network. Let me be more specific in my criticism. The first is obviously about the exaggerated optimism. I don’t know about Al Oula staff, but I am quite concerned about our economic resilience, and even more concerned about social cohesion and rising inequalities among our society. What is more frightening, these so-called “Grand Workshops” are, I suspect, benefiting mainly to the well-off of our citizens, and it is unlikely to be of sizeable benefits to the less fortunate of our people. That, I can only speculate on, although with some rational basis.

In any case, I thought we were no longer to be fed with this grotesque propaganda, or at least that something has been done in order to alleviate its awfulness a bit. It seems that is not really the case, Mustapha –His Master’s Voice– Al Alaoui might have been replaced by someone else, the tone remains the same.

His Majesty with Gen. A. Bennani, Prince Royal Rashid, Crown Prince Hassan and Princess Royal Khadija (Picture Maghreb Arabe Press)I would like to turn next to the Royal speech. The following is not a comment on what have been said, but rather, the starting point of my proof. The speech has been wonderfully clear about the strategy. His Majesty underlined four main areas upon which He pressed government and officials to focus on."La nécessité de veiller à ce que l'Etat, sous Notre conduite, assume le rôle stratégique qui lui revient dans la détermination des options fondamentales de la nation, la réalisation des grands chantiers structurants, l'impulsion, l'organisation et l'encouragement de l'initiative privée et de l'ouverture économique maîtrisée."The state referred to is not government work. It has been long admitted -and accepted de facto- that the essential government work is not carried out by the elected government of M. Abass El Fassi, but by a dense network of agencies, foundations, autonomous authorities, all of which are partially free of Parliament and Governmental check, effectively under the King's supervision, who appoints their heads by Dahir. That of course, is a matter of institutional policy, upon which I shan't go through. We need a constitutional reform that should seek People empowerment, period."Quant au deuxième pilier, il consiste en la consolidation de l'édifice démocratique. A cet égard, Nous n'avons cessé d'oeuvrer au raffermissement de l'Etat de droit et à la mise en oeuvre de réformes profondes en matière juridique et institutionnelle, ainsi que dans le domaine de la protection des droits de l'homme."It is true sizeable progress has been made on this decade. The IER (Instance d'Equite et de Reconciliation) was without precedent in the MENA region. And even though their recommendations are yet to be fully implemented, there is a great deal of progress to be achieved. Oddly enough, it looks as though this comes as a belated answer to the stern report Amnesty International on the Police-state excesses Morocco lived the last few years, mainly on Press-State showdown and against Sahrawis activists. In any case, the progress made during the last 10 years is step by step squared ans squashed by a growing authoritarian policy."le troisième pilier constitue une nécessité impérieuse. Il s'agit, en l'occurrence, de placer le citoyen au coeur de l'opération de développement, comme Nous l'avons concrètement démontré à travers l'Initiative Nationale pour le Développement Humain qui a permis d'enregistrer, sur une période de cinq années, des résultats tangibles dans le combat contre la pauvreté, l'exclusion et la marginalisation."The early HCP data, as well as that of INDH office do no necessarily validate the idea deadlines were met on poverty struggle. I took a leaf of the HCP Social Indicators. For instance, between 1998 and 2007, child poverty (Children aged below 18) fell from 20.8% to 11,3%. Thanks to the good work carried out by local charities, as well as the INDH funding. This figure, 11.3% remains, by international standards, quite high. When compared to our MENA neighbours, like Egypt (9%), things are not all that good. The trouble is, it is not enough to make progress,it has to be in line with what other developing countries are doing, and in this case, we can't claim much credit when everyone does better, can we?Overall poverty with Urban/Rural breakdowns

In the same document, data indicates that poverty was cut down in a much larger proportion in the rural areas: “Le taux de pauvreté relative a connu entre 1998 et 2007, une baisse substantielle passant de 16,2% à 9,0% à l’échelle nationale (recul de 7,2 points). Par milieu de résidence, cette baisse est plus prononcée en milieu rural (de 24,1% à 14,5%) qu’en milieu urbain (de 9,5% à 4,8%).” Ok, good news. However, if the overall poverty abated, it is mainly due to the fact that most of it is of rural source. For instance, the 1998 figure points out that rural poverty makes up for 68%. In 2007, it went up to 70%. It is obvious that because rural poverty went down in absolute terms, overall poverty should do the same, but on a relatively smaller scale. The core question remains: what actually happened so that rural poverty was brought down? Is it because of the INDH effect?

The graph shows two distinct trends with the lowest point/boundary on 2000

Following the figures I found on this website, it seems that Agricultural production was on a high trend between 2000-2007 and on the opposite trend in the couple of years before. It is of economic trivia to assume that when the agricultural output is up, rural poverty, in absolute terms at least, goes down consequently. There is proof of that statement in various academia, but one cannot categorically state it as a fact holding for Morocco. We can assert however, that the income effect played a larger role than any hypothetical influence the INDH has, the income being mainly determined by how much it rained, no policy influenced thus the output growth.  One last thing though: No matter how good and involved the policy makers were in fighting poverty, income inequality, the supreme indicator of social justice, has risen in the last decade. Following the HCP figures, in 2007, 10% of the overall population fielded 40% of the national income. In 1998, they accounted for 30%. In other terms, and bearing in mind the national cake (i.e. the GDP) rose in real terms in a decade, the 10% most wealthy got a bigger share of a bigger cake. But of course, the main objective is to fight poverty, exclusion and marginalization.

Le quatrième pilier réside dans la volonté de doter l’économie nationale de moyens permettant sa mise à niveau et son décollage, pour la réalisation de projets structurants et la mise en oeuvre de plans ambitieux, lesquels ont d’ailleurs commencé à donner leurs fruits sur les plans stratégique, sectoriel et social.

The infrastructure, i.e. Airports, Highways, Seaports and Sea-terminals, all of which are necessarily indeed to our economic growth, do not necessarily benefit to the many, and I suspect it does only to the few, an idea I am about to expand.

the 10% well-off are eating up a bigger slice of the national cake

The “Maroc Vert” strategy, to start with, in every aspect of its guidelines, seems skewed towards large and mechanized agricultural fields. La Vie Eco drew up an interesting account of the strategy. Broadly speaking, the Plan articulates two sub-strategies, the second of which involves develop ping small agri-business:

Le second pilier du Plan Maroc Vert vise l’accompagnement solidaire de la petite agriculture à travers la réalisation de 545 projets d’intensification ou de professionnalisation des petites exploitations agricoles dans les zones rurales difficiles, favorisant ainsi une meilleure productivité, une plus grande valorisation de la production et une pérennisation du revenu agricole. Ce second pilier a également pour but la reconversion de la céréaliculture en cultures à plus forte valeur ajoutée (ou moins sensibles aux précipitations) et la valorisation des produits du terroir.

I have great doubts about this. While the first sub-strategy, the one targeting large farms and agro-industry has a large financial support of public money (The Agricultural Development Agency puts forwards a figure around 80 billion MAD) the money is made available for 961 projects with only 562.000 farmers (Fat farmers If I may say so), on the second part, 545 projects for 855.000 farmers (Those that should be helped and supported) get no more than 20 billion MAD. In other terms, and under the provision all farmers benefit from the Plan Maroc Vert, 39% of the farmers (most of whom are quite wealthy) get 80% of the funding. If it is a development strategy, it is a top-down one, with all the effects on inequality and income gap that are already there, and very likely to grow, especially with the practical procedure the PMV seeks to implement.

Aggregation, as the PMV calls it, is defined as follows: “L’agrégation est un partenariat volontaire entre différentes parties pour la réalisation d’un objectif commun. Ce système repose sur le fait d’intégrer un certain nombre d’agriculteurs (agrégés) autour d’un acteur (agrégateur) disposant d’une forte capacité managériale, financière et technique lui permettant d’optimiser le processus de production.” Of course it is. Unfortunately, there is little to be said about the balance of power, or any negociation balance between say, farmer a and smaller farmers x1, x2, … xn. Because in the final analysis, an even though the agrégateurs has to deal with irregular supply, they can always find another way round to it, while the little farmers cannot do otherwise. I would prefer this aggregation strategy to be working solely with cooperatives, because that’s how they do, and it is close to my heart, ideologically speaking of course.

But because our wealthiest farmers are not -and far from it- cooperatives, this aggregation thing is certainly going to be a diktat from the strong to the weak. There is a lot more to be said on the PMV, but I think I made my point: It benefits the few, not the many.

Haleutis: That one bears similar features to the PMV. However, it seems Europe has an interest in it. According to this website, the strategy aims to: “Le plan ” Halieutis ” prévoit la concrétisation d’un certain nombre de projets phares de transformation et de valorisation des produits de la mer, avec à leur tête la création de trois pôles de compétitivité, à savoir Tanger, Agadir, et Laâyoune-Dakhla, devant mobiliser des investissements de neuf milliards de DH.” Oh, that’s a De Facto recognition of our soverignty over the Sahara, or at least, over the fishing sea of it anyway. It goes on:

L’objectif ultime étant la mise en place d’un système de gouvernance sectorielle permettant un transfert de pouvoir graduel aux régions et au secteur privé. En parallèle, un travail d’organisation du secteur est lancé à travers l’organisation de la représentation professionnelle et l’encouragement d’une interprofession. Ce faisant, le secteur de la pêche marocaine bénéficiera certainement d’une synergie des efforts et d’une bonne gouvernance à la fois nationale, régionale et locale de nature à fédérer tous les opérateurs autour des décisions majeures bénéfiques pour la gestion et le développement du secteur.”

There is considerable doubt about any governance changes. For any Moroccan national, a fishing permit goes along with an “agreement”, the famous grima as it were. Powerful lobbies are using and abusing the system on that one, and I don’t believe there is going to be a real transfer of power to the private sector, or the regional authorities, or at least, it won’t be done so without heavy resistance from those living off the present privileges and perks. In any case, the deadline is 2020, so there is plenty of time to make the necessary changes, and let us hope for the best.

La Vie Eco discussed the strategy too. They did point out that, despite a coast of some 3500 km, the sea product consumption is quite low (some 12kg per capita following their figures) and the sector remains below its full potential. On Haleutis, I think it is wait and see.

Tourism and the 2020 vision: I think it is safe to say that we couldn’t make our 10 million tourists in 2010. The figures show that the main objective of 10 millions of tourists is a failure, Former Minister Bousaid admitted the facts, when he said the plan was way too ambitious. He was sacked and replaced with a young thristy technocrat that asserts the opposite. The objective itself is just the tip of the iceberg. Alongside, huge infrastructure investment were made, with billions of dirhams (about 70 billions MAD ) for some projects that were either abandoned (like Taghazout) or with actual low economic benefit to the locals. For instance, this article provides unvaluable insights of how leisure projects were forced on locals because it is a “machrou3 sidna” (His Majesty’s project). No credible study of actual economic outcome for the locals, no serious study of the enviromental impact. If it was not for their Gran

de Ecoles diplomas, I’d say the policy makers are jokers.

These are but a few points I wanted to discuss. There are other sectors within this Grand Design,  following this portal, and for some, sizeable progress has been made, it must be reckoned with.

2010 Objective too ambitious, says former Tourism Minister

However, I cannot but stress on my own diagnosic of the ongoing trend: Unless the present course of policies is shifted, the effect the current decisions have on Morocco’s future are going to be extremely random. It is true less and less people are living in poverty. It is also true that the gap income as well as social inequality is growing, carrying with it the seeds of resentment and social ras-le-bol.

The present set of policies does nothing but exacerbate it further, and I fear the policy makers are going to reap an unpleasant harvest of sorrow and anger.

Le second pilier du Plan Maroc Vert vise l’accompagnement solidaire de la petite agriculture à travers la réalisation de 545 projets d’intensification ou de professionnalisation des petites exploitations agricoles dans les zones rurales difficiles, favorisant ainsi une meilleure productivité, une plus grande valorisation de la production et une pérennisation du revenu agricole. Ce second pilier a également pour but la reconversion de la céréaliculture en cultures à plus forte valeur ajoutée (ou moins sensibles aux précipitations) et la valorisation des produits du terroir.