Morocco’s Economy: A source for future unrest?

There was a panel discussion last year, featuring quite possibly the two figures who have been my biggest academic and professional inspirations in the field of Moroccan politics: Marina Ottaway and Ahmed Benchemsi. I won’t mention how long I had been anticipating this panel, but I will say that the moment it was time for the Q&A, my hands were already in the air. I asked about the possibility of Morocco’s grim economic future as a source for another wave of protests. Ahmed Benchemsi agreed.

It’s been something I’ve closely watched. Dismissing the economic aspect from the popular uprisings in the region is extremely careless and unwise. After all, it was the confiscation of Mohammad Bouazizi’s material as a fruit vendor that sparked his utter despair, turning it into an act of self-immolation. The core of his frustration was rooted in the deprivation of his sole source of income. Shift your attention to Morocco, and you’ll see it is no different.

I could go back as far as February 2011, when Fadoua Laroui, a single mother set herself on fire after her application for public housing was rejected. She would be dubbed the The Moroccan Mohamed BouaziziIt was only a month ago when five unemployed graduates set themselves on fire. One died a few days later from his burns. I’ve tried the nuanced analysis and the researched academic article to explain the historical and political economic reasons for this, but let’s crank it up a notch.

A friend writing for the BBC and I spoke on Skype for over an hour a few weeks ago. We had ironically been at the same press tour for the Morocco Mall back in November. The question came up in our conversation: “Why are these unemployed graduates demanding jobs from the public sector when they have better chances at higher pay in the private sector?” It was interesting. I recall a discussion with Zouhair, “The Moorish Wanderer,” who is also a supporter of the Unified Socialist Party. He raised a crucial point in understanding why these unemployed graduates were demanding public sector jobs. One reason: long-term job security.

And why is that relevant? Well, with a job in the public sector, you’re most likely to support the government that is paying your salary. Political loyalty and economic welfare come in a 2 for 1 package. If the state lays off workers, it risks losing political support. Morocco indicated that laying off workers is not an option for them during this time of political turbulence by increasing public sector wages and pumping up food subsidies. And now, the state budget must pay the price. Morocco’s budget deficit is the highest it’s ever been since the 1990s.

It gets worse. Morocco’s main markets are in Europe, and Souhail Karam illustrated the reality in a sobering headline: Europe woes spell trouble for Morocco’s economy. For the sake of excessively paraphrasing and summarizing, I suggest you check it out. Additionally, the Morocco-EU trade deal approved this week has received a disproving reception, where ethics and morals were pushed to the side with regard to Morocco’s questionable practices described as “exploitative” in the Western Sahara.

Meanwhile, a supposed crackdown investigation” has been launched in the city of Taza, where economic dissent has fueled major protests for over one month now. Deaths, injuries, and arrests have plagued the area of Koucha in Taza, raising questions regarding Morocco’s sincerity in democratizing.

Morocco’s economic outlook is bleak. Its policies, such as the $4 billion TGV, suggest that long-term policy planning is not something officials are extremely skilled at doing. Its economic policies are still so heavily based on post-colonial economic growth, prioritizing capital over development. If that second wave of protests hits Morocco, giving handouts won’t be an option this time.

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6 thoughts on “Morocco’s Economy: A source for future unrest?

  1. I think the fact that people are asking for jobs in the public sector is mainly due to traditional mentality and culture. People still think that the public sector’s main role should be to provide jobs for the majority. But this mentality is not exclusively moroccan : french people kinda think the same way…

    “Morocco’s budget deficit is the highest it’s ever been since the 1990s”
    –> As you said, people in charge are not skilled (and I guess it’s normal : its not their skills that got them the job…) and didnt do anything to solve any deep-rooted problem : instead of setting up long-term and formal reforms, they just chose to throw the cash and “BUY PEACE” (subsidies,jobs in public sector,etc). It was also a matter of timing : the previous government was at the end of its term, so they didn’t really care about any budget issue, they knew they wouldnt have to deal with the consequences. + After all, we are the ones (and our children) who r gonna pay off this debt,not them.

    We should really consider public debt as a virus and not let it spread, especially now that the situation in Greece shows us how bad things can turn !

    I like your blog, keep up the good work !

    PS : sorry for my english samia 🙂

  2. Excellent article. thank you sir , and if i could , let me answer some of the questions, Moroccans Graduate demand job at public because beside the garanteed ! income , also as Most know Morocco is a very corrupt country , and once you get a job inside , you deal with others inside , and that is power ,where the law is who you know , and anything else said is a lie , that is one of the reasons , other reasons include lazy hours , not accoutable for any productions or thinking efforts , its a lazy way to survive, many other reasons , the education system is broken , and with that in Mind , the future if the nation is in a big trouble, where nations compete for new techonlogies , we in Morocco still have over 60% using thier thumbs for signatures , and it is very acceptable way of doing Biz .
    I was a student myself once in a class where was 500 new students of history , fresh from high school, i asked what was easy to get a degree , i was told History , the point from this , how many historians Morocco need? many historian the whole planet needs

  3. ? another reason , since i left that country , i have ventured in many bizs, and all made profits, on the 6 figures each year plus , it is not Moroccan lazy , or want jobs with the state for the love of the state , the policy makers in Morocco made it hard to start anything , to get a marriage licence sometimes takes months to collect all the stupid documents. to start a biz , if you are not connected , or give money , the chances your application will be turned down , even to open a coffe shop. over the years , i have met many moroccan students!!! overseas , in London , France , and the USA , and they all sound to come from the same background , rich and famous and well connected , not a single one of them was the middle class or below , you tend to question yourself. are the rich the only smart ones? am talking her about programs supported and paid fully by the Gov of Morocco………………………

  4. What happend to Moroccans is bad through the years , they are billions of evidence that our king is very rich , in a very poor country , how? they never ask
    Over the years Moroccans through friday prayers , forcefully and intentionaly . and One Tv , one radio , one opinion , the opinion of the palace has brain washed the nation , to the point , you find Moroccan in NY , or Japan still till today in March 14th 2012 still afraid to talk politics , the King has controlled all aspects of peoples life , people at this point are confused , some beleive , so do not , but we just have to remember what Hosni Mobarak said , and Gadaffi , the lion os Syria, we in Morocco are far worst , but the song the palace been playing on , the symbol of unity , and the protector of the faith!!!! ( faith my a…..) still working with the majority of uneducated Moroccans , but all it will take , is one city , and the rest will fellow, they just need that one reason , and without any major effort , and clarity from the King himself, and a clear agenda nothing will save this nation from the rest of the fire. Moroccans Grown tired of the palace changing the faces in that old building( parlements) they looking for urgent actions , and to me , i will never be sorry to see all public faces gone , either by love or blood, it is way past due , and i am talking her from the very toppppppppppppp to the last Chawish.

  5. Europe is not help to Morocco , the Spanish want the same regime , because they know they will keep the occupied cities in the North as a route to sale thier expired mechandise under the protection and watch of the Moroccan Gov, the French are happy to keep the statue quoe the same , because thy know the boys , France is the bigguest enemy of Morocco. just 2 days ago the french premiere at the UN was applausing the Moroccan example, when the killing and torture was going where i was proudly Born Beni bouiyach. setting fires in stores , and stealling is among the tactics well known where the moroccan police and forces , conlusion , Yes Morocco is and will not be an exception. the weather is the same , the conditions are very much the same or even much better , and with a harsh dry year , i can only say , If there is no major blood between now and end of the year , i would say Morocco brain ( Makhzan) is smart, and might make , so keep you eye very close in the This beautiful country of ours , Morocco , we past due for change , not ready , we are wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy past due.

  6. There is simply no real planning,and the only side who can map Morocco , and make changes is the palace , education , sport, army, religion , etc……. The palace made the decission like the article said to have the fast train, connection Tanger, to the south , where regions of Morocco lacks a single hospital, this is proparanda againts anyone , so let me be precise and give one location i have seen just this past week , In the riff region , a nice town called Beni Boufrah, between ALHOCEIMA and Targuist by the coast , this Hospital sounded more like a little jail , of course was build by the spanish just all the raod connection the north of morocco between tanger to nador, Tarik ALWAHDA, Morocco has not enlarged , not inspected the centry old bridges till they fall. in the town , they have a liguid , and sugar bills, liguid for injuries, and the pills from heart attacks to the rest , the best of Morocco was sold , i have a friend in Fl bough a nice house with pool , 2 acres of land , for 175k , he told me his friend bough an appt in Casa for more , whats wrong with the picture is simple , how can prices in Morocco with the average national income of $ 49.00 a year be worth more than where the meduim income for people who work in the USA is around 50K ??? something when wrong , and not a lot want to think or talk about it , the owner of the empire builder DOHA , have took , or bough all the stratigic lands in Morocco , the King is his partner, and the 2 of them , made high scores on Forbes Magazine for the most richs people on the planet , yes again , Morocco was sold under the palaces eyes , to the kings of the gulf. people were forced to sale thier lands , the new port in Tanger is the most recent examples , town were moved out , or borugh up, ASK bAKALIYIN from Ksar sghir, they will tell you , how they forced them to sale thier land for 40 dirhams a metere,
    But then again , we want a morocco we there is peace for the next generations, for that country , for its beauty, for its good heart of its people, we all responsible to do the least , speak up just like the Hadith said ,speak up because time has changed , and we must change too , we can not hold back more than we have ………………….

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