Moroccan dissatisfaction with the worsening social crisis

A protest against poverty and the economic situation called for by the Moroccan Social Front in Casablanca on 23 February 2020.

Fadel Senna /AFP

Morocco gets good media coverage, and it’s not just propaganda. The country has made real progress thanks to universal education, as well as in housing, rural electricity and access to drinking water. It has also created infrastructure that makes it look like a truly developing country. However, this progress cannot disguise the significant weakness in job and wealth creation. Most of the population is unemployed, either formally or in a disguised manner. The means that kept the boat going (phosphate rent, privatizations, loans, promises made today and forgotten next year by new promises, etc.) can no longer continue the course with headwinds (epidemic, drought, war in Ukraine, inflation). .).

In the field of employment, there are just over a million citizens out of six million people working as wage earners in the formal private sector, according to figures from the High Commission on Planning1. Another million workers are employed in the public sector, half of whom are in the military, police departments or the like. There are 3 million wage earners in the informal sector, 2.3 million are unpaid family rents and 3.4 million are self-employed (especially in activities that hardly guarantee survival, such as street vendors). 1.5 million Moroccans are declared unemployed, and 148 thousand of the workers are children under the age of 18, of whom 88 thousand are involved in dangerous activities.2?

Of the working-age people considered inactive by official statistics, three million were educated and 11 million were without professional activity, often among those discouraged by the long, fruitless search for work. The fact that the ratio of workers in the formal private sector – the true heart of wealth creation – compared to the rest of the population – is 1 in 36, says a lot about the dire state of the Moroccan economy and society.

Education, a difficult sector

From then on, we can easily understand that wealth creation is very modest, while the bomb of non-employment has grown, as less than 100,000 additional jobs (of all kinds) are generally created each year, while the population of the age increases. Works at 400,000.

The education sector is plagued, and the quality of the school is tragically low. Morocco is among the top five countries in the rankings of trends in global studies in mathematics and science3. Similarly, the Ministry of Health itself acknowledges that the sector suffers from many imbalances. While the World Health Organization considers the standard for all countries to allocate 12% of the total budget to health, Morocco allocates 5.69 Only% of its budget for this field. The budget weakness leads to a severe shortage of staff (officially estimated at 30,000 doctors and 67,000 nurses) and medical equipment. The aforementioned budget in 2022 increased by 19% %, but this is mainly due to the expansion of the scope of this budget, as expenditure on social security is included in the addresses allocated to the Ministry of Health.

New urgent social demands

The income inequality is estimated by the Gini coefficient.4 – 46.4%, which exceeds the socially acceptable limit (42%). The COVID-19 pandemic and the long-term closure of the country decided by the authorities led to the granting of aid to 25.5 million people in the spring of 2020. The beneficiaries were rightly treated as people at risk, it that is, they are likely to fall extreme poverty in the event of a social or economic crisis. Official figures lead to the conclusion that 20% of the population live in extreme poverty (ie with an income of less than $ 1.9 per day), and 40 % in relative poverty (with an income of less than $ 3.2 per day), and .60 % in a state of uncertainty (income less than 4.8 USD per day). These numbers must be seen in a context of much higher social aspirations than in the past. The aspirations and expectations of the population have changed under the influence of urbanization and intensive and rapid education, but also because of their openness to the dominant consumption model around the world. The new generations strive for social progress and demand a decent income and a social minimum. The slow growth of wealth and the acquisition of most of it by a very small minority is no longer acceptable. The state of deprivation experienced by the younger generations emphasizes the crudeness of the waste of the country’s wealth, the arms race with Algeria, the rampant corruption and the extravagant management of the state and its elite.

In the past, when growth was more important, the political class did not exploit it with the aim of turning it into development. Although Morocco in particular enjoyed a very favorable situation, and experienced an annual GDP growth rate of more than 4% between 1997 and 2007. This percentage was less than 6 or 8. % needed to stabilize employment and allow Morocco to be among the emerging countries. Despite its relativity, however, the fruits of this unexpected growth have been squandered in lavish spending instead of being used to create the conditions for development. Since then, growth has fallen to 3%. It can therefore be said that if the Covid epidemic, drought and the aftermath of the war in Ukraine have exacerbated the situation, these are not the real causes of the current social crisis. The process of rapid impoverishment of the so-called middle classes began with the structural adjustment program (1983 – 1993), while the other popular classes lost all hope of coming out of poverty or experiencing any social upheaval.

Business at the top of the power pyramid

The close relationship between money and power at the expense of society is clearly visible in the management of petroleum products. In 2015, Samir (the anonymous Moroccan company for industry and refining) was placed in bankruptcy, the only refinery in the country that was peculiarly privatized. A year later, in 2016, prices at petrol stations were liberalized, and 15 companies specializing in the import and distribution of petroleum products seized the opportunity to raise prices whenever the price of a barrel of oil rose, with their zeal not to lower prices when they were on the road. in the opposite direction at the international level.This position sparked grumbling and condemnation.

On April 3, 2018, a large-scale boycott campaign targeted three companies in Morocco, including Africa, the main distributor of hydrocarbons, owned by Aziz Akhannouch, a friend of the king, the country’s richest, head of the National Rally of Independents . and Minister of Agriculture. . While the Governor of the Central Bank has publicly stated that the fixing of the prices of petroleum products raises doubts about practices that are contrary to the rules of fair competition, in 2018 Parliament set up a fact committee on fuel prices, which led to an unequivocal conclusion, which is that there was an illegal agreement on prices that allowed companies to earn about $ 1.6 billion in unearned profits.

The unions have filed the case with the Competition Council, which has legal jurisdiction. The latter ruled on the violation of competition laws on 22 July 2020, and by 12 votes to one decided to impose a fine of 9% on the turnover of the three main companies and 8% on the other companies. However, instead of announcing and executing this decision – as provided by that law – the president of the council chose to submit it to the royal palace in advance. On July 28, a press release issued by the Royal Court effectively suspended the Court of Auditors’ decision, allowing the companies involved to escape punishment. Two years ago, despite the appointment of a new president to head this accounting board, the companies involved continue to set prices as they please, making huge profits of $ 4.7 billion today. The main beneficiary of this situation was mr. Akhannouch, whose party was able to run in the September 2020 legislative elections without being stigmatized with an official conviction, and without taking away from him the large sums he was ordered to pay.

For many observers, there has never been an election in Morocco that has seen such a massive and unequivocal vote-buying. These elections allowed Aziz Akhannouch’s party to win parliament and become prime minister. Thus he inherited the task of amending the Competition Act, and reforming the statute of the Court of Auditors.

Predation, corruption, nepotism, oppression

It is therefore clear that the problems of Moroccan society cannot be the result of an unfavorable economic situation which has only worsened since March 2020. It is true that the country has limited resources, but above all resources are wasted due to looting, corruption, nepotism, the arms race, the Western Sahara conflict and the high cost of the monarchy and its elite.

As for the expression of social dissatisfaction, it has been curbed by an increasingly severe repression. Oppression has been as harsh as the one that has affected social movements since 2017, especially with the conviction of hundreds of activists in rural and elsewhere, including 20 years in prison, still serving the leaders of the Rif movement. Indeed, a system of intimidation has been set up with spyware inserted into the phones of thousands of opinion leaders, sexual blackmail recordings, multiple harassment, smear campaigns with critical voices and heavy and numerous prison sentences depriving bloggers of their freedoms for opinion. misdade. Humorous trials were also held on charges of sexual assault against the most important and critical editors (Toufik Bouachrine, sentenced to 15 years in prison, Suleiman Raissouni to 5 years, and Omar Radi to 6 years), or to financial embezzlement (historian) and activist Maati Monjib, who has faced several trials and convictions since 2015). Protests have also been systematically banned and often severely suppressed since exceptional laws were enacted in 2020 under the pretext of the pandemic. This repression demonstrates the regime’s inability to persuade and provide satisfactory solutions to the basic problems of Moroccan society.

But as the problems increase, the protest will be able to find new forms of expression that do not allow for regime repression. Dissatisfaction has spread to all social classes, and enough is enough even for the bourgeoisie, which is fed up with the neglect of the system and the incompetence of politicians.

The forerunners of the awakening of conscience became clear, through the spread of independent protest movements and the establishment of a social front that included the main trade union organizations and allied political forces, as well as the strengthening of spaces for criticism in social networks. A significant escalation is expected as a result of a recent rapprochement between protest forces – despite their ideological differences (popular, left, and Islamist …) – which has remained independent of the government.

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