I wonder how many of the other Talk Morocco essayist saw this month’s topic and thought it would be an excellent opportunity to share one of ( many) personal nightmares dealing with any official office in Morocco. I know my thoughts first went there. From feeling like I had to beg to live in the country for more than three months (my personal circumstances required I get a carte du sejour) to never feeling more grateful for the most dreaded American bureaucratic nightmare: the DMV, I have never hit the wall of frustration more times in trying to get anything done than in Morocco. And, since I touched on this subject in a previous essay, I’d like to use this opportunity to discuss where I believe the problems lie, and provide a few tips for Moroccans and expats alike that may be on their way to some government office to get some official document.
Only when all was said and done, and I finally got my carte du sejour ( and then again when I had to get it renewed ) did I realize one of the major sources of bureaucracy: power. In Morocco, so few people ever have a chance to obtain a position of leadership, that the moment they get even the slightest decision making capabilities they take it to the enth level and use it as an opportunity to keep others down. That’s why you get so many different answers to the same question and nothing is available in print (don’t even ask about getting it online). It’s the same reason you get sent away when you have a piece of required paperwork that has all the information needed, but has wrong title on the top of the page. This results in you having to go across town to get a new version all the while wondering why they couldn’t just use a little correction fluid and rewrite the title at the top of the page. Now, if the page contains the exact same information and nothing is missing, it only seems reasonable. If you don’t believe me so far, just check out how they pound those stamps on the pages letting you know who the boss really is.
Which leads me to the next issue: technology and modernization. Morocco has the ability and Moroccans have the capability of handling a lot of their current procedures online, or at the very least posting exact information on how to go about a particular process on a website in a few different languages. On the same note, they could certainly institute country-wide databases and other applications that would allow for less travel for people from other cities and villages to get an updated carte national, passport and so on. Case in point, an older woman I know well who lives in one city had to travel to her birth city to renew her card, walking 8 kilometers both ways, only to be turned away for not having brought a piece of paper with her. Had any information about what to bring been online, or had there been a computerized system that allowed her to renew from the city she currently lives in, the problem of bureaucracy would have been solved.
Finally, the whole issues of bribery or “padding palms” as I like to refer to it, is probably the biggest beast to tackle. One that would not necessarily change even if the two issues mentioned previously got resolved. The issue is not unlike the age-old battle of whether or not to get rid of the American restaurant tipping system in favor of paying wait staff a living wage. In fact, this is an issue likely to never be resolved because the current system is so ingrained in the society from the top down. The government is resistant to pay a higher wage to employees since they can save money by turning a blind eye to the bribes. The employees can continue to wield power knowing that a little extra money can be obtained with the promise of getting something done, and perhaps they believe they would make more money in the current system than a government raise would provide. Finally, the citizens always know that when they really need something done, they can speed up the process with a few extra dirhams.
I use the term solutions as a header very loosely here. What I’ve written below are not solutions to the challenges discussed, but a few ways citizens and expats can skirt some of the potential issues they might face. In reality, it seems there is little that an ordinary Moroccan or expat can do to challenge and change the aforementioned issues. But, being savvy about dealing with them and the people who exacerbate them can make any process a little less aggravating.
Keep every single piece of important paperwork you own in a file, and bring it with you to every visit to the office you are dealing with. If you can, make a copy of each one so when you are about to be turned away, you not only have the document, but you have the necessary copy of it too.
When you are asking for which documents and proofs are needed for a particular procedure, ask the person to write them down or write them down yourself as they relay them to you. Before you leave, repeat the list back to the person giving you the information.
Only deal with one person in each office and upon return visits, do not speak with anyone else in the same office. It really is worth it even if it means you have to come back another day. If you don’t you risk someone taking a look at your documents and telling you that you need different paperwork, when in fact you don’t.
If it doesn’t bother you morally, pay the bribe when it seems like it might get you to the front of the line or get things processed faster. Additionally, look for the guy walking around and talking to everyone amicably- he can get you to the right people and the right places quicker than anyone. If it does bother you, stand your ground and don’t pay (but be prepared to be patient!) If enough people resist the bribery, something may change some day.
For expats, it may be hard to relinquish control and independence, but if and when possible bring a Moroccan and let them do all the talking. It’s just easier, trust me.
If you are a foreigner and need a carte du sejour, start the process the day after you arrive in Morocco. It might be tempting and even seem reasonable that getting started a week or two after you land won’t make that much of a difference. That’s all fine and good if you’re planning a day trip to Spain to renew your three month allowance. If not, don’t waste a day because it can take up to the full three months before you even get the receipt that your card is in process.
In conclusion, there are some quick fixes to the deep-rooted issue of bureaucracy in Morocco. Yet, those challenges which could be instituted with relative ease will always be met with resistance by different constituents. Until one group demands and implements change, nothing ever will.