Sekondi Accra

The arrival of a new party on Morocco's political scene has created a period of unprecedented enthusiam and excitement. The Chamber of Counsellors, the upper house which was previously a reserve for rewarding apparatchiks, now reverberates with debate. Two parties have terminated their leaders to try to keep pace. The new momentum is matched by a countrywide acceleration of economic progress. Far from being hurt by the economic downturn, Morocco may have benefited from European companies turning to cheap alternatives in the Mahgreb.

The Parti de l'Authenticite' et de la Modernite' (PAM) arrived on the scene in 2008, sweeping to victory in the municipal elections in 2009, then capturing the upper house and producing a political force in the person of Hakim Benchamach. Supported implicitly by King Mohammed VI, whose friend is one of the founders, PAM has taken up the progressive mantle. It is seeking to join forces with Union Socialiste des forces Populaires and the Rassemblement National des Independants to create a progressive block in the 2012 elections. This has prompted the Islamist Parti de la Justice et du Developpement to begin a closely watched rapprochement with the rightwing Istaqlal, the largest block in the ruling coalition headed by Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi.

There is not enough radicalism present to provoke a profound transformation in the political sphere, but the PAM has made it easier to avoid situations where the King confronted with a large Islamist block, a recurring issue. The relationship between state and religion has been strengthened in an attempt to diffuse the radical teaching transmitted in by Gulf state television channels. Millions of copies of a new Koran have been printed and distributed, Imams are receiving better pay and a new channel dedicated to religion has been created.

As well as fears that urban poverty could ignite extremism, the resolution of the Western Sahara issue is the other difficult dossier on the sovereign's list of problems. In November of 2010, riots in tent camps near Laayoune made matters more complicated.

The wider decentralization policy has been marked by a greater emphasis on regional infrastructure. The government is planning a new high speed train on the Casablanca-Tangiers route to link the new port at Tangiers to the country's economic hub. Additionally, Tangiers will be helped by the opening of the Free Trade Zone and new port, with Renault-Nissan and others opening factories in the auto manufacturing and parts sector. Rabat also plans to add an estimated 1,800 kilometers (km) of new roads over the next few years.

A bountiful 2009 harvest and a good 2010 crop, due largely to a replenished water supply, have given a boost to an economy buffeted by a decrease in European tourism and consumer demand. State funded interventions to support the textiles industry and other manufacturers have had a positive effect. However, the country remains dependent on the Additionally, Tangiers will be helped by the opening of the Free Trade Zone and new port, with Renault-Nissan and others opening factories in the auto manufacturing and parts sector. The country remains very dependent on the European Union (EU) for its export markets, despite an attempt to identify new trading partners. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) states that growth should increase up to 4.3% in 2011.

It will difficult for the government to focus on private sector development without passing a tough overhaul of the legal system, including the stregthening of commercial courts under the new justice minister, Mohamed Naciri. Though the extension of credit to the private sector has been one of the success stories of the past few years, there are now concerns about the rising level of personal debt.


Official Data


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The U.S. Embassy in Morocco is located at 2 Avenue de Marrakech, Rabat tel. 212 (37) 76-22-65.
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