It would be unjust to overlook Morocco’s outstanding progress in the past decade. The numbers the government spews out on a regular basis in its reports, mostly considered overblown by observers and analysts aside, the face of the country has positively changed. Multibillion dollar projects have spawned across the spectrum of industries affecting all facets of life; highways and railways are being constructed; economic lodging programs are being enacted; epicurean touristic complexes have sprouted about the country to appeal to an international and more refined clientele; Tanger-Med, a free trade zone similar to UAE’s Jebel Ali, offers enticing incentives to attract international businesses and inject foreign currency into the country’s economy. Such a bubbling atmosphere allowed the blooming of a stoutish, young, innovative, and entrepreneurial class that believes in the prodigious opportunities that Mohammed VI has been fostering since his enthronement.
But Morocco has a darker face. Its economy heavily relies on underdeveloped agriculture that is often at the whim of unpredictable weather; its exportation is greatly diminished and importation is increasing year after year. The unequal distribution of revenues yields to a shocking societal disparity that can easily be seen, heard, and felt as one travels between the country’s cities and villages. More then six million Moroccans live in gut-wrenching poverty; over 40% of men and 60% of women are illiterate; with an income per capita of $4,587; the International Monetry Fund ranks Morocco at 114; Human Development Index ranks it at 127. Morocco’s lower class can hardly afford the air it breathes; its middle class is constantly wrestling to make ends meet; its affluent class is accused of being elitist, disconnected, and indifferent to social development.
The King’s attempts to reconcile the country with its erstwhile self have been timid or incomplete. While the Equity and Reconciliation Commission paid restitution to the victims of his father ‘searing oppression, it failed to bring to justice those officials who were complicit in the crimes; some of them are still on the government’s payroll. Observers note that electoral process has been, more than ever, graft-ridden; corruption permeates all levels of the government, and political alliances and lobbies are best described as a cackle gnawing on a carcass that the lion has discarded. Restrictive laws enforced by an obsequious judicial branch have proven debilitating to freedom of the press and human rights; the reports that international organizations published on the subject this year have been damning. The sliver of hope that suffused the hearts and minds of Moroccans, especially the young generation, at the start of the decade has, by now, evaporated; the realpolitik revival announced never materialized; institutional and constitutional reforms are still elusive. People’s disenchantment is often expressed in subtle ways; citizens are no longer enthusiastic about going to polling stations; hardly now will you find a picture of the King in the classrooms of Morocco’s high schools because students would scribble expletive comments on them; of course, the government attributes such behavior to nothing more than the rambunctiousness that often characterizes adolescence.
The duality of the King as a symbol is rather intriguing to most Moroccans; he is the country’s unifier and the driving force behind its modernist movement. He is constantly connecting with his subjects, inaugurating community focused projects such as schools, hospitals, and orphanages; wherever the King goes, as if by magic, sanitation, water, and electricity follow; local politicians are more involved; services are readily available. But the Monarchic institution is a major hurdle to a bona fide constitutional reform. Its approach to those reforms are seen as rather cold-eyed. Its strategy is based on a universal and fundamental political principle that stipulates that when a country is fraying under the strain of economic overstretch and political uncertainty, a ruler will guaranty the compliance of his constituents if his administrative governance provides them with security from criminal activity that threatens their physical and emotional well-being, utility services – water, electricity, and sanitation, and subsistence – employment, food rations, medical. Nothing more is needed. And I doubt anything more will be forthcoming in 2010 from a system that is best described as a Constitutional Democratic Monarchy with an absolute power.
A. T. B. © 2010