Considering all the issues above, and having no doubt that many of them are intertwined and each is of equal importance to the advancement and economic development of the country I still can’t approach this essay without looking out the window of my apartment in my barely working class neighborhood and have hopes, dreams and fears for Morocco 2010 that have almost nothing to do with any of them.
When I think about hopes and dreams it’s easy to come up with a laundry list of the problems I see around me, and those I’ve experienced myself as a result of living here almost a year and a half. It’s harder to present such a list without seeming like I’m passing judgment on the Moroccan people. For the most part, I don’t believe it’s their fault- they too are victims of their circumstances. They also can’t all be tackled in this one little essay.
One of the greatest problems I see in Morocco is the huge divide between rich and poor. There are many factors that contribute to that gap, and one in particular I will focus on for this essay, hope will be tackled in the coming year, and fear will never be addressed.
My hope for Morocco 2010 is an end to corruption and bureaucracy that plagues the government and its employees including those in the courts, administrative offices, within the police force, and even doctors who can be paid off for the right medical exam results. I’m sure there is plenty of corruption in the major political offices, but I don’t have enough information to go there at the moment so I’ll stick to what I know.
I’m not quite sure which one is worse between the two, but I would imagine with some technological advancement the bureaucracy could be easily rectified. Adopting a few simple systems and making processes clearer and less paper filled would help immensely in the struggle to get an identification card or permission to marry. Everything here is still done on paper and has to go through a number of channels for stamps and signatures.
In the Family Court in Rabat, there are a total of three computers in all the offices in the entire building. Files are kept in pink dossiers and piled on top of piles, and I’ve often marveled at how paperwork does not get lost although I’m pretty sure it does. Luckily, it just wasn’t mine.
On a recent trip to the police station to renew my carte du sejour, I was turned away from the start because a necessary piece of paper needed to process my application had run out. Said piece of paper is a photocopied document. Having to come back another day is just another example of how people have to constantly jump through hoops to get anything official done in Morocco.
As I left the building (furious of course), I thought about the people who would barely have the money to get to and from the police station the first time only to be turned away and told to come back- what if they came from a neighboring town and it cost too much to return in a day or so? I also thought, if only they had a computer and a printer so that once they entered all the information the receipt could be printed out on the spot. An even simpler solution: why don’t they have access to a photocopier or go across the street to the copy shop we had just come from?
The bureaucracy breeds much of the corruption as well because in order to have anything processed in a timely manner often requires a payout of some sort or another to a judge or a person who knows the judge. That’s just to get it done period, never mind if you need something sooner than later.
Once again, the bureaucracy keeps the divide between rich and poor apart because those that have can easily afford to will have their case bumped up to the top of the pile or get the correct signatures, while the poor are struggling just to make it to the courthouse at the time of their hearing.
Bribery is a sin in Islam for both those who pay and those who accept, or in some cases demand a bribe be paid to them. In a country full of supposed Muslims, it is quite an outrage to hear the bribe taker utter bismillah (in the name of Allah) before he accepts his payoff, but it happens. That is if you can spare the money in the first place.
The law enforcement, which should be out to protect the people and guard against unlawful behaviors, can be just as bad. Getting pulled over for a traffic infraction becomes a negotiation activity on how much the officer will accept to let you go. Someone recently told me that a plan was being proposed for a formal ticketing system so that the infraction costs would be paid at a government office instead of directly to the police officer. That didn’t impress me as I’m sure the new system would only further benefit the police officers who would threaten a higher ticket fine than the price to pad their pockets.
Nothing is consistent, nothing is recorded, and anything can change on the whim of the person you are dealing with at the moment. There is something seriously wrong with a society when the words “just tell me how much you want” can get you a clean bill of health without ever actually seeing the doctor or immediately turn a situation in your favor.
In a nutshell, my hope is that there is a serious look at the administrative processes with an eye towards consistency and streamlining. Within that, I wish that the ways in which people can corrupt the process is at least limited if not completely wiped out. To see technology implemented in all the major governmental and administrative offices that would allow a smooth and painless process for all persons involved in the business at hand whether it is a court situation or getting a needed document from a ministry office would be a major improvement.
At the very least, it would be a start if everyone was on the same page about how to get something accomplished and no matter whom you asked within a department you got the same answer.
My fear is that no one cares enough about this issue to make it a priority, or worse that they don’t see it as a problem at all. So much of the Moroccan attitude is that of “that’s how things are” or “it’ll get done tomorrow after tomorrow”. It can be charming when it comes to the little things, but in the scheme of people’s lives it is a serious issue that I wish people would take seriously.