The Moorish Wanderer

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.