The Moorish Wanderer

20 Measures to Spur Growth and Strenghten Middle Classes

Posted in Dismal Economics, Moroccan Politics & Economics, Morocco, Read & Heard by Zouhair ABH on January 23, 2012

Reading about the -finally!- upcoming government statement about their plans for the next 5 years prompted me into thinking about the 20 economic/fiscal policies I would endorse, or to that matter would like PSU leadership to consider and advocate for 2016 and beyond. My contribution on how growth can be boosted and benefit at the same time to the Middle Classes.

How to get to a higher growth trend? First by focusing on stability rather than levels of growth; 7% average is of no interest if it means high volatility; growth gains are accrued best when volatility is low, and the proposed policies are targeted at stabilizing growth, basically setting a target growth -just like for M3 for instance. The immediate benefits are obvious; while it is true growth can be sort of stochastic process, nothing prevents us from compounding growth, i.e. computing the increase in wealth over half a decade for instance.

5% growth with a very close (small) variance provides modest but strictly increasing growth gains; in fact, growth gains due to growth stabilization are pretty much the next thing to a geometric sequence, and it can be proven there is no explosive -infinite- solution to it (come to think of it, it might be the subject of a boring post)

1/ An Agrarian Reform: more often than not, agricultural output, by sheer structural volatility, tends to slow down total growth.

average growth for agricultural output was 6.9%; total growth averaged 7.8% and non-agricultural growth, 8%

Dams didn’t change much; estate distribution still slows down agricultural output to the benefit of a small, tiny  group of wealthy farmers. Average deviation of agricultural output over the last 40 years is about 2.3 times higher compared to that of non-agricultural output, and 2 times higher than the overall output growth. The mere fact that agricultural output volatility is at such high levels means all past policies -including the massive investment in dams during the late 1960s-early 1970s have been quite ineffective, since output productivity per worker is low compared to other sectors, specifically so when one considers that about 40% of workforce is enrolled in Agricultural production.

2/ Re-establish the agricultural tax ahead of the December 2013 moratorium deadline: Budget bills up to 2011 have been reasserting the moratorium on agricultural taxes will expire on December 2013. But so far no structural reforms have been carried out to justify such moratorium. And so, an immediate interruption would put pressure on government policy-makers to come up with a workable legislative framework not only to levy some fiscal receipts per exploited acre, but to establish precisely productivity differentials in terms of utilized surface, and thus direct more efficiently policies designed to help small farmers to face up their larger, wealthier opposite numbers.

The Agri-tax will obviously target only about 60,000 farmers, making up for 15% of total SAU surface – those who actually benefit from the tax moratorium, basically.

3/ Drop Fiscal penalties on Cooperatives: it was the case for a long time; but because a modest cooperative from the outskirts of Agadir created a great deal of trouble to the very lucrative private monopoly of Central Laitière, a sneaky regulation taxed them up just to get the spoiled competitor on par with a very dynamic and original form of business, to the expenses of the final consumer and a very original business structure.

4/ Create small, regional applied research centres to improve productivity per acre: from the available agricultural survey data, small farms tend to have low productivity, which is due to either small surface or to labour-intensive exploitation. Small units of applied research, with a roster of technicians and experts for all farmers to provide counsel and support to expand their production. A system of tax credits can be engineered to price the service these regional agricultural centres provide to farmers.

5/ Eliminate ‘Special Funds’ from the budget and attach performance objectives for ministries to meet before they get additional funding: so far, there are about 52Bn appropriated for ‘Special Funds’ that do not submit to regular scrutiny procedure, and yet these do define in a way government policy outside their ministerial departments. In fact, the establishment of a debt ceiling can curtail the amount of discretionary spending through these special funds.

6/ Fix a Debt-ceiling on the public Budget: The standard reason for such a policy is to keep government deficit and debt in check; it also means fewer liquidities will be diverted for public expenditure, which means that government officials as well as members of parliament will have to be more efficient in their trade-offs. It is a question of fiscal discipline: discretionary spendings can be tempting for ministers to go crazy with their budget submission.

7/ Impose a short-term freeze on pay-wage and get mean payroll closer to the median salary: it sounds phony, but the discrepancies in civil service payroll are actually such that freezing or cutting salaries, not all of them obviously, are the only way to bridge the gap between the highest and lowest pay-grade, a ratio of about 1:37 according to a UNPAN report. The closer the mean gets to the median pay wage of 170,000 per annum, the better.

So far, international indicators do point out the fact the current ratio of Moroccan adult citizens per civil servants (1:35) is sustainable and there is no need to expand, but rather reorganize the civil service: 600.000 civil servants, 2/3 of which work with central services; the idea is to reverse the ratio, so as to get a small and dedicated central civil service, while the bulk of officials would be working on the local or regional level.

8/ Re-instate the marginal income 42% tax rate, create a wealth tax on millionaires: its scrapping came to the cost of at least 7Bn every year, even though only a tiny minority of rich households benefit from it. Furthermore, and because the marginal 38% tax rate provides a break starting from about 180,000 per annum, there is a need to establish a wealth tax on millionaires, a specific rate of 60% can provide as much as 40Bn.

9/ Stop subsidizing real estate developers and use the money to help households for home ownership directly instead: 5.5 Billion tax breaks to developers vs 800 Million to household are perhaps the best available proxy for surplus transfer from consumer to suppliers; unfortunately, the transfer does not benefit the society as a whole; this is why some of the overall fiscal expenditure on real estate needs to be diverted to households; real estate business has such a large operating margin that they can do with not a tax increase, but an end to tax exemption, which can be dealt with in accounting just like a subsidy for investment.

10/ Provide cash relief of 700-1000 dirhams to the bottom 10% to boots their consumption: food stamps, tax credits, tax cuts, and other incentives to provide poorer and lower-middle classes with enough resources to lift themselves up to the average consumption and bridge the gap of wealth inequality; and that comes to the tenth of the tax break the top 10% benefit from when the 42% marginal rate was scrapped in 2008.

Thanks to their structural consumption, no immediate impact will be observed on the trade balance deficit, and that will most certainly boost agricultural business to meet the new demand, thus filling the considerable capacity production created with the agrarian reform; no trade deficit, no increase in core inflation, and standards of living increase markedly.

11/ Phase out the Compensation Fund: 45 Billion is too much, and is basically subsidies the top tier of Moroccan households, as well as a small group of business that do not always report the same surplus transfer on consumer prices. This is why cash incentives, easier to target and less expensive; as for international commodity prices, Morocco’s imports represent a tiny percentage in global volumes, and that is why the Finance Ministry ought to consider hiring a team of brokers so as to trade the best terms in futures and options on strategic commodities. The total cost surely can be brought below the 45 Bn the taxpayer is paying for.

12/ Focus on terms of trades rather than trade deficit as a performance index for export industries policy: the trade deficit is sustainable as long as the terms of trades are in favour of Morocco. But the trouble is, the heavy trend indicates it is not, or that it is too volatile to consider structurally safe.

13/ Shift export subsidies to exports with highest value per physical unit: though there are less than 2Bn provided as fiscal incentives for exports, textile and related businesses benefit most from it, courtesy of the very powerful Textile lobby; and yet indicators show textile actually destroys value; while it is true this particular business provides jobs for many workers, a gradual shift to more value-added businesses can not only make up for the job destruction due to the subsidies shift from textile to other businesses, but they can actually create jobs, and at the same time redistribute the surplus captured by textile.

14/ Free up Universities by allowing them to get as much private funds as they can.

15/ Transfer universities into hyper-campus outside metropolitan cities – create one self-sufficient campus city in each region.

16/ Stop the ‘Grima’ system altogether, offer a deal for incumbent grima-holders: unless figures are released on that touchy subject, but so far indicators point out to a very unfair system where insiders benefit more from closed businesses. And whenever a particular sector is protected, consumers are harmed: transports, fishery, sand careers, alcohol, import/export licenses… all of these sectors once regulated in the late 1950s should now be liberalized because they harm more than anything consumer welfare.

17/ Start working week with Sunday: a simple computation leads to a modest boost in productivity, and thus in GDP growth: there are 48 working weeks per year, and for every Friday half a day is squarely lost; moving forward the week-end to Thursday evening would save as much as 0.2 basis points of output growth, or approximately 25 Billion dirhams, perhaps 5 to 6 Billion in additional tax receipts.

18/ Differentiate retirement age, from 55 to 67: the Unions need to be taken on board, but a uniform retirement age across the board tends to harm a specific population more than the other. Furthermore, and starting from 2010, the number of minors has started to decline, which means that in 10 years’ time, considering no change in demographic indicators, there will be a need to retire workers later, and the sooner contingency and transition plans are implemented, the better conditions will be for a whole new generation for business and at the same time provide safeguards for health and insurance costs.

19/ Relax paperwork needed to create businesses: this is the most straightforward measure needed to bring undeclared business out of the shadow and into the legal limelight: all that is needed is to justify a capital of, say 5,000 dirhams, no past criminal records and no past history of bankruptcies.

20/ Spend 30 Bn per annum in Research and Development: so as to get productivity contribution to growth from 0.16 basis point to 1-2 full points and over a decade or so, push the boundary of potential growth beyond 5% and up to 7% with the same level of stability.

FPC Tour – Day 2 and 3

Posted in Flash News, Read & Heard, The Wanderer by Zouhair ABH on June 17, 2011

I did not have time to blog about the second day last evening because of the exhausting flight route we took, a strange one in fact, as the flight from Washington DC to Minneapolis MI had to go through Atlanta GA, which is 872km South… (incidentally, I found out that Washington has a “small” national airport named after President Regan, while Atlanta was honouring the former Georgian governor and President Carter. It reminds me of  places and significant infrastructure named after former significant leaders in Morocco as well…

The second day had a lighter timetable, and changed focus from official policy to a more grass-root activism in new social media use for advocacy and causes. The morning event was hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy, based too in Washington, with some significant panellists and organizations, notably Robert Guerra from Freedom House. The conference main themes evolved around the tools developed and used by cyber-activists, with an emphasis on the Arab Spring, as well as internet safety for these activists, and -surprisingly enough- how private corporations can indeed participate in this process by committing to what Susan Morgan (Global Work Initiative, GNI) described as a kind of ethical policy in protecting freedom of speech and digital gathering.

Of all four panellists, Meier’s contribution was interesting to listen to: his remarks focused on the live reports on the Internet during the Egyptian uprising, as well as the very promising Ushahidi project. He was quick to point out that the pure web-activism, in terms of time allocation and resources consumption, is comparatively less important  (Meier gave a rule of thumb estimation of 10%) than the essential grass-roots work, to gather up testimonies, videos, pictures, and quite simply to report on the ground situation.

Though it was an NED conference, there were some interesting people attending the meeting, and among those were internews, who basically design softwares and train bloggers and cyber-activists on how to bypass governmental censorship (firewalls and others) and basically work on the ways and means to insure freedom of speech.

Meier's presentation during the NED Meeting

It was quite strange to notice that these people, even though they do receive some kind of public support, actually contribute more -in efficiency and resources- than the State Department. It might have to do with the fact that any support from an official body of the US government would be construed as foreign meddling in domestic affairs, and that the cause of Freedom of Speech, as the official goal of governmental policy, is best advanced with NGOs with seemingly no ties to any public American institution. So it was a bit peculiar for me to note that they are doing more on the ground by designing pieces of software and training cyber-activists how to use the internet safely, and by raising awareness among international -and in our case, American- public opinion. And quite frankly, my Bahraini fellow FPC blogger and journalist, Lamees, might actually benefit more from their support than that of the State Department’s.

The second day following touch down at Minneapolis was lighter, and we had the opportunity to visit the University of Minnesota’s‘ campus, more specifically the School Of Journalism who accepted to host a morning meeting for all of us. The talks evolved around the impact of use of the internet on reporting news. Now, because it is a school of journalism, and because the scholars and graduate students who attended the talks with us have a focus on Journalism, the various talks evolved around how journalists can use the social media to get the story out, especially in the case of the Tahrir Square rallies. There was also a discussion on the shortcomings of such tool, more specifically how to verify ‘the story’ and how journalists can make sure the local contacts are reporting genuine facts from the ground.

Today is the second day with NetRoot Nation 2011 Conference. Follow the Hashtag #nn2011 on twitter to keep updated on what’s happening!

Tallyho Politics, The Reign of Amateur Policy-makers

The Political apparatus in Morocco is a shambles. I say shoot the old lot, bring the young and let them make mistakes. Sounds radical, doesn’t it?
Joke aside, it’s been a long time since the political parties in Morocco failed to devise policies, and when they do sketch some feeble argument, it is so diluted that if it ever was put into practise, they wouldn’t know where to start first. On the other hand, policy-makers in Morocco lead the charge with formidable support from McKinsey-style consultancy firms. The trouble is, a country like Morocco cannot be run like a corporation. And even if it is so in the minds of the young fellows at the Royal Cabinet (which I expect to join any moment now. There’s always hope, isn’t there?) the corporation is certainly not run in the best interest of its shareholders, only to the board’s benefit.

Policy and social engineering are worked out under the assumption that the objective is to maximize the country’s welfare. There remains a great deal of blur in defining what one might mean by that word: “welfare“. In fiscal matters, it may come to the idea of taxing individuals and companies more than others, while in social policy, it also means helping some social classes more than others. There’s also a great deal of ideology in policy-making, even among the high-brow circles of consultants: under the veneer of technocracy, there’s a political motivation behind strategic thinking like the ‘Plan Maroc Vert‘, ‘Halieutis and the INDH or indeed anything of the sort like the high-speed network.

Perhaps I am over-rating the Palace’s task force. It has been a question I often ask myself: how are decisions taken up there? Whether on economic policy, or on-the-spot decision crisis like the Aminatou Haidar case, or the issue of protest camps in Agdim Izik, how are decisions made up there? Do they meet in a war-room, delineating scenarii then discussing the likelihood of each one until they reach the best decision?  Because we know, we all know it’s not some old-fashioned fool that takes the decisions in Morocco (even global institutions like rating agencies know that) so it must be that the Royal Cabinet has some kind of modus operandi I assume to be ultra-rational (given the high proportion of  engineer and business graduate from the French Grandes Ecoles). And yet, it looks as though only fools and incompetents are in charge. Please allow me to expatiate; and ad absurdo reasoning would be best. Let’s consider the ONA-SNI case: if the firm is really set on pulling the country out of poverty and into prosperity, how come its dividend policy never shows it?

I mentioned before an opinion that has been formed on the economy front: there is, among other things, a consensus that the private business of His Majesty can pull the economy. The idea is that we need the Moroccan equivalent of Chaebol, the Korean conglomerate of Banks and Industries that played significant part in making South Korea what it is today: a first-class country that is now considered to be member of the G20 club, when, 50 years ago, its GDP per capita was lower than Morocco’s, and the best thing they could have ever manufactured at the time was T-shirts. The idea was therefore to imitate, as it were, the Korean experience with companies like SNI-ONA, or indeed Attijari Wafabank and other national heavyweights. The economic model sounds good: at the price of domestic monopoly, Morocco fields a first-class holding able to operate on global markets with the required size to win us some surplus that would be redistributed. In other words, the private monopoly captures the common surplus in order to expand, and then redistribute it through pay rise or investment in intangible assets. This is the semi-official line. The financial statements tell otherwise, though.

ONA Shareholders per share. the only public fund -CDG- has a ridiculous 2.73%

Now, doesn’t it strike you as odd that the fleuron of our largest firms should invest so little and distribute these high levels of dividends to the shareholders? Between 2004 and 2010 -prior to the smoke screen withdrawal of ONA SNI shares- the holding distributed an average of about 3/4 of its benefits (which reached the billion of Dirhams at least);

while the rare investments they undertook where mainly about mergers and real estate speculation. The Chaebols, on the other hand, had a gargantuan appetite for asset acquisition (which also meant that they favoured a rigorous dividend discipline, translated into high levels of savings – something that did not prevent them from using audacious financial structuring) and are, at the end of the day, radically different from our own sketchy, greedy, money-grabbing beloved conglomerate. So much for the economic new era

Even the ‘Grand Workshops’ our 8.00 o’clock news are so keen to laud, the fulsome praises elude the main question of: ‘who benefits from what’. Plan Maroc Vert is a favourite: the official line states that small farmers would benefit from cutting-edge policies like ‘aggregation’. For those who are not familiar with the plan, it has two main implementation strategies: the first one is export-oriented, very monopolistic that favours already existing large domains, industrial-like farms (among which [drum rolls…] the Royal Domains) the other one, which looks like it was hurriedly put together, is designed to help ‘directly’ the small farmers. Cooperatives, micro-credit, etc… just enough to keep their heads above the water. How could Plan Maroc vert be helpful when funding is so biased towards large, wealthy farmers?  Do we need to remind the readers of the figures? Yes we do, it’s always beneficial to  put things in prospective: MAD 80 billion is made available for 961 projects with only 562.000 farmers and 545 projects for 855.000 farmers (Those that should be helped and supported) get no more than MAD 20 billion.  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.

In economic terms, the policies are not, to say the least, caring about the majority. Unless they take the view that the common welfare is that of a privileged minority, the 10% sort that has 40% of the total national income, the sort of passengers able to pay for the TGV between Tangiers and Casablanca. Perhaps the idea is that already rich people would get richer and richer, till they reach a point of satiety such that they would spend money, to the benefit of the less-off. If that’s the view, this kind of rapacious capitalism is bound engender serious resentment from the excluded. Oh, wait it’s already happening !

(Credits to Al Wandida for circulating the video)

Now that the economic model proved its shortcomings, social and political strategies prove to be at best coy, and in any case dangerously hegemonic. Say the Moudouwana was a great improvement (although one can cast doubts whether it was just a return to the 1957 square) it was a show that was full of symbolism: to the liberal side, it was a clear signal that His Majesty is the one calling the shots, and their liberal agenda prospers as long as His pleasure allows it to. To the conservatives, he proved he could block whenever he wanted the perceived westernalization of Morocco, and  confirmed his role as the sole source of religous legitimacy. On this issue and on may others, His Majesty made his King Louis XIV’s apocryphal quote: ‘l’Etat, C’est Moi‘. And all the policies the little helping hand and the shadow army are not, in the long term, to His, or Morocco’s best interest.

FAEH: The Architect of His Majesty's political project.

The PAM project, on the other hand, is the only old-school trick: the infamous Front de Défense des Institutions Constitutionelles, Rassemblement National des Indépendants, Union Constitutionnelle or Parti Justice et Développement (Among Others) all roved to be temporary rough patches when the opposition was resolute in its stand. the PAM is a patch against the abnormal high abstention rate the 2007 general elections recorded; A motley of activists, a bizarre amalgam of renegade left-wingers, rural and Mafioso-like notables and hungry young opportunists. Does it restore confidence in partisan politics? The PAM designers are in for a shock, I dare say.

Events in Tunisia -to which I must confess my complete astonishment, why, a regime like Ben Ali’s to fold like a house of cards!- proved that an excessive concentration of wealth, power and legitimacy is, on the long run, a disastrous fuite en avant.

In these conditions, why should anyone try and give additional credit to a regime so stubbornly greedy, and how long should it take them to realize that monopolising bright minds -and neutralizing their most valuable assets, i.e. ideas- is not going to help them further, and fuels a resentment that I warn might develop into a incommensurable social conflagration.

Religious Policy: Revamping the Habous

Posted in Flash News, Moroccan Politics & Economics, Moroccanology, Polfiction by Zouhair ABH on November 15, 2010

My Contribution to the November Issue of Talk Morocco. The topic is quite interesting, but also potentially explosive: “State & Religion” From the initial feedbacks, my proposals were not met with hostility, though they were quick to point out that the present incumbents are certainly not going to tip-toe away obligingly.

What would be the impact of a policy that would ensure state neutrality in matters of religious nature? Apart from the deafening clamour of Al Adl and their moderate pals of PJD, nothing much. Apart from their activists’ ranting -which are not that numerous, or shall we say not that influential- there will certainly not be roadblocks, barricades and certainly no civil war over one of the so-called “fundamentals of our country”.

We have to assume beforehand that the monarchy no longer holds extra-constitutional powers from the spiritual title of our monarch -Commander of the Faithful-. It does not necessarily mean its abolition, but whatever powers that can be derived from it and that contradict positive law are no more. Indeed, an executive authority that wields such power is sheer contradiction with the essential axioms of democratic proceedings. In facts, It has to comply with one course of action: either the monarchy keeps the spiritual title but loses any direct authority over everyday politics, anything that can be derived from that title that is, or the Command of Faithful title is to be abolished so that the Monarchy can be a fully-fledged constitutional monarchy with dynastic continuity as the main -if not the sole- source of legitimacy, nothing more. I’ll elaborate later on why the first course is first-best option.

We also assume some sort of a constitutional shake-up that does away with the Sharia-based laws, mainly in the Penal Code: Art 220 on religious liberties, Art 222 on Ramada non-fasters, Art 483, 489, 490 and 496 on public behaviour -specifically on pre/non marital or homosexual intimate relationships, as well as the list of Sharia-based articles -and at the same time, effectively squeezing out  individual and  collective liberties to very narrow margins, nothing that fits the official claim of democracy. This, again, falls into the proposed set of strategies. Furthermore, these assumptions need to be buttressed by the idea of a Federal kingdom, where local democracies are given maximum levels of autonomy and self-government.

These are rooted in a two-fold strategy:

– First, one has to bear in mind the constraint any policy-maker has to keep constantly under watch. A previous policy of long-term islamization of our society since the late 1970’s has produced such stubborn results, and encouraged such rooted political movements that it is foolish not to take into account the possible pressure on public opinion they could put on, effectively describing the policies described below as a charge against Islam, or the fearful victory of islamophobics over what is perceived as the essential cornerstone of Morocco’s identity. Keeping the Command of the Faithful, as well as neutralizing the religious influence over public duties and institutions merely confines religion to an individual sphere and well out of politics.

My Scheme would turn the Hassan II Mosque in a profitable scheme to the brand new Interfaith department.

– Second, if one is to implement policies on effective secular Morocco, one needs the proper institutions to oversee the process of putting these policies into practise. For instance, abolishing the Habous is counter-productive, while a substantial upgrade of its missions can be so much more promising, and provides the liberal government with a useful tool to make sure not to be too remote from the Moroccan people. Because let’s face it, occult lobbies in Morocco and outside are going to market the change as a “Rrida” (Apostate) as the work of patient heathens trying to sell Muslim souls to the devil. And it is the duty of that government to make sure the message gets through as clear as possible: a secularist Moroccan recognizes to all Moroccans the choice of religion (as well as non-belief) and provides institutional safeguards to make sure individual enjoy their rights responsibly without submitting others to their will. Private opinions are not a matter of majority rule, and certainly the fact that Moroccans are in their large majority Muslim (firm believers or not does not come to the point) is certainly not an argument to crush the dissident voices.

I. The Habous Ministry

There goes one of the less known albeit most powerful ministries in the post-1956 Moroccan governments. Why is it, alongside the interior office, no “partisan” politician can be in charge of it? (I refer to the classic dividing line of sovereignty ministries that no political party can pretend to get as a portfolio). My advice is to turn the Habous Ministry into an Interfaith and Religious Matters department: that is, the islamic nature of its dealings would be merged with other religion proceedings. The matter of Habous real estate and other donations is to be transferred to the Finance Ministry, where there already is a specific department that can oversee the bequests and donated wealth with equal if not superior efficiency. This Ministry has, among other things, the upper hand on all matters relating to Fatwas (thus absorbing or abolishing the autonomous Ulema councils) as well as Christian, Jewish and other religious representatives or regulations. Other tasks that are already devoted to the ministry include the investment, restoring and up keeping of religious buildings and their respective staffs. Finally the Ministry takes over religious education, as the Education ministry no longer offers the course as seen below.

In addition to that, the interfaith office acts as a joint-venture with the regal authority in Islamic matters. Indeed, since one has deferred to the option of keeping the title of Commander of the Faithful to His Majesty, the First Imam is therefore the only one qualified to direct the Muslim community, within the constitutional boundaries of such position. The government therefore enacts Islamic policy on behalf of His Majesty’s recommendations via a King’s Council on religious matters. Apart from that, Hebraic and Christians representatives have their own say on their respective communities. As for the non-believers, they have one less worry, and therefore observe only the positive law of the land.

II. Education.

Intolerance grows among Moroccans ever since primary school. One way of preventing Moroccan citizens from turning into reactionaries and narrow minded conservatives (as well as winning some long-term base voters for the liberals and radicals in the process) is simply to suppress the Islamic education course. That is, for state schools. If Moroccan households are not happy with it, all they have to do is to enrol their children into private schools that provide the service. (One does keep the private schools curriculum in religious matters well within the purview of the interfaith department, you never know…) After all, if they believe it to be paramount to any other taught subject, they will pay for it. If not, a child is not likely to turn into a godless freak if they are not taught right from the start about religion. Starting from secondary and high school however, the interfaith department’s special schools can offer, on voluntary basis, religious course (in the three broad monotheistic religions, as the need for those is the most important) while there is always a choice to double or chose instead philosophy and ethics course at high school.

Furthermore, the so-called “Chou’ab Al Assila” (as well as the Hebraic local school) are going to be abolished and changed into a higher education degrees. To be a good Islamic/Jewish scholar does not require one to start very early. A High education degree can do just as fine. The Islamic studies post-baccalaureate degrees are to be centralized into centres for religious students, alongside the other Monotheist religions at the same level as Christian and Jewish studies, and part of the Humanities curriculum. Indeed, one each university will therefore have a Humanities Department that encompasses Philosophy, Anthropology, Sociology, Religious Studies, etc… with no subject given a pre-eminence over the others (as it is the practise nowadays) Dar Al Hadit Al Hassannia will be merged with Institutes of Hebraic and Christian studies into a structure similar to the French EHESS (a Grande Ecole-like that will produce social scientists rather than sole narrow-minded scholars)

III. Law

Since I am no lawyer, I should defer the matter to my much competent colleague on the matter. But I would like beforehand to state some broad principles on how secular laws can be implemented. Obviously a lot of people will be upset about the changes, and they should be given a chance to express their grieves, within the boundaries of freedom of religion as the new constitution guarantees. The federal option is, in that sense, a good compromise in the sensitive balance between rule by majority and cornerstone individual liberty of belief. The federal constitutions can state broad –but sufficiently well defined- principles on the need to keep religion and religious matters out of politics, and will guarantee so by means of federal court enforcement of the constitutional rule, but regional parliament, following the political tides, can implement laws and regulations –within their own competence- that can be religiously-inspired: they could allow for Islamic Banks for instance, or introduce longer breaks at school to allow for prayer time. They can even issue specific legislation on how discreet restaurant and food-serving businesses can be during Ramadan, but they cannot enforce laws that would undermine the constitutional freedom of individual belief. As far as their attributions are concerned, regional parliaments have a certain say in financial and legislative matters, and if they are controlled by “religious” parties, they can introduce some measures of moral-oriented laws in their own affairs. The essential axiom behind it all is that every one is treated as a grown-up, and is given a chance to prove themselves to be so when managing the public welfare.

Can these measures be implemented? They can, to the extent that the present conservatism among Moroccans is mainly due to economic and material conditions. Indeed, it has been the effect of an explicit policy to turn Moroccans into fanatics, and some are sensible enough to try and reverse these effects with well-meaning policies, yet ineffective and very feeble. But it also has to do with the fact that in troubled and difficult times, religion is the main exit route and is considered to bring hope, comfort and belief in better days –better after-life, one might say-. These policies are contingent on how good this government will manage to bring welfare, good standards of livings and equality among the denizens of this country.