Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web
Morocco Week in Review
July 28, 2012
Moroccan Moms Benefit from Maternal Health Revolution
Sun, 22 Jul 2012 Source: Content partner // Womens eNews CASABLANCA, RABAT, Morocco (WOMENSENEWS)
Sookaina Boudraa had been waiting for three hours at the Alwaha health clinic in Sidi Moumen, an area in northeastern Casablanca known for its slums. Seven months pregnant, she sat patiently, wearing a brown djellaba, a long robe with a hood, embroidered in orange and a matching orange hijab to cover her hair. About 10 other women sat alongside Boudraa in the blue and white waiting area outside the nurse's examination room. She was expecting the birth of her first child.
Across the street from the clinic lies one of the area's many slums, where Boudraa lives. That afternoon kids played in a dirt field in front of the shanty town's entrance, strewn with garbage and rocks, kicking more dirt into the already dusty air. Cows ate out of a dumpster, while donkeys and roosters roamed the field. Makeshift homes, connected with zigzagging clothes lines, were in the background. Satellite dishes protruded from many of the tin roofs.
Boudraa was at the clinic to get a vaccine, although she couldn't say for what. All she knew was that it was supposed to keep her healthy for her pregnancy, during which time she'd regularly visited a doctor. She hoped a nurse would see her in 30 minutes. Seventeen-year-old Boudraa is among the fortunate women benefiting from her nation's commitment to lowering the number of women who die in childbirth.
By 2010 Morocco had decreased its maternal mortality ratio by over 60 percent since 1990, according to the Ministry of Health, with much of that drop in recent years. And between 1990 and 2008 it achieved an annualized decline of 6.3 percent, the fastest in the region with the exception for Iran's 8.9 percent, according to a 2011 report by the Ministry of Health and the United Nations Population Fund.
This progress means Morocco might meet U.N. Millennium Development Goal No. 5, which calls on nations to reduce maternal mortality by three-fourths between 1990 and 2015. With three years left to go, Morocco is one of a small group on track, a September 2011 study found. Other hopefuls are countries such as China, Egypt and Turkey, the study published in The Lancet reported.
For all its progress, however, the country is still far behind industrialized nations. In Morocco, 112 women die per 100,000 live births, according to the 2009-2010 national population survey. The U.S. maternal mortality rate is 24 per 100,000 live births. Ireland has one of the lowest, at 3 deaths per 100,000 live births.
As she waited for the nurse, Boudraa shyly said she'd heard from those in the neighborhood that women could die if a pregnancy goes wrong at home. So even though she was born at home, along with three of her four siblings, Boudraa was making a different choice. She planned to give birth in a hospital, about a 15-minute taxi ride away.
Fatima Moukaby, one of the four nurses at the 5-year-old Alwaha clinic, has been working in the field for 21 years and said she's seen a big shift in line with Boudraa's decisions. "When I started my job we received few pregnant women because women were giving birth at home, but now we receive too many pregnant women," said Moukaby. The clinic's three doctors each see at least 80 patients a day, she added.
Jean-BenoÃt Manhes, UNICEF's deputy representative in Rabat, gives much of the credit for this shift to the government. Public health professionals here insisted that reducing the maternal death rate further remains a priority, despite the region's political turmoil and even with the new government that took power late last year. "There's a general will to improve maternal health from the government which does not exist in other countries I've worked in," said Manhes. "It's an issue of public health and pride."
The effort has included about $157 million (1.4 billion dirham) in government spending for 2008-2012 on a three-prong strategy of improved access to care, improving the quality of care and program governance. That has encompassed disseminating and publicizing pregnancy-related care information, training midwives and other health workers and expanding and improving health care facilities and vehicles.
"The most important [thing] is making [obstetric care] free, including transfusions, C-sections, transportation, all the tests, the delivery, etc., as it has allowed women to come into the hospital, especially the poor," said Dr. Abdelghani Drhimeur, head of communications at the Ministry of Health in Rabat.
Peace Corps Contributions
The country's campaign has also benefited from the longstanding presence of Peace Corps volunteers, who have been supporting maternal-related health care here since 1992, said Mostafa Lamqaddam, the Corps' health program manager in Rabat. Volunteers organize trainings for traditional birth attendants and educate local women about such things as vaccinations, family planning and healthy pregnancies. They target understaffed, underequipped and hard to access parts of the country.
The Peace Corps recently shifted its focus in Morocco to youth development, however, so the health program, which is the organization's largest, is expected to phase out in May 2013. The group's number of health care volunteers dropped in May from around 70 to 40. "Definitely volunteers feel it will leave a void," said Lamqaddam. "Some associations and Moroccan nongovernmental organizations have started work in this area, but it's not the exact same thing. Nobody is doing this work at the grassroots level. But the need is still out there."
The government has also trained and deployed health workers. The proportion of births attended by skilled personnel rose to 83 percent in 2009 from 61 percent in 2004, according to the Ministry of Health/U.N. report.
Menana Boukalouch is a midwife of 30 years who heads the nursing department at MaternitÃ© Des Orangers, a university hospital in Rabat that performs around 7,000 deliveries a year. She said more midwives are crucial. "Midwives do 80 percent of the deliveries. Doctors don't get involved in normal deliveries, unless there are complications," she said. "There are doctors, but they don't go into the rural areas. Midwives can go to rural areas or cities. It's better to have a big number [of midwives] as they take better care of women from the beginning to end."
Smaller Families Desired
Down the hall from Boukalouch's office, Naima Abit sat calmly on a hospital bed waiting for her turn in the delivery room. The 29-year-old wore a brown and yellow housedress and solid red henna adorned her hands and feet; it was for good luck with her delivery, she said. Her water had broken, but she didn't yet feel any labor pains. Across the room another expectant mother, Hayat, walked around and winced regularly with contractions.
Abit said none of her friends or family had given birth at home. Many gave birth in private hospitals, which often have a better reputation than public facilities, just to be safe. This was her first baby, a boy. She wanted two or three children at most; most of her friends had one or two.
Her desire for smaller families reflects a trend in many parts of Morocco, a country now at the forefront of Arab countries' transition to lower fertility rates, which contributes to better maternal health. In 2009 the average number of births per woman was 2.2, according to the Ministry of Health/U.N. report, down from 4 in 1992. The urban fertility rate here is now at a historic low of 1.84.
"Morocco is one of the countries that adopted family planning and family size decreased rapidly," said Lamqaddam. He added that strong vaccination programs and later marriage have also contributed to smaller families.
To continue to encourage safe motherhood, Ministry of Health spokesperson Drhimeur said, the government is creating new maternal health programs. And while Morocco's 2012-2016 health plan is not yet released, he added that the government hopes to achieve a maternal mortality ratio of 50 deaths per 100,000 births for 2016, even lower than what's needed to meet the U.N. goal
"The Moroccan experience is unique; what we've done in three years regarding maternal health efforts was not done in the 30 years before. It's a big effort, a revolution. But a lot has to be done still," Drhimeur said.
Juhie Bhatia reported from Morocco on a fellowship from the International Reporting Project (IRP), an independent journalism program based in Washington, D.C. She's the managing editor at Women's eNews.
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Mayor of Stamford declares June 23 Saida Fikri day.
By The Wafin Team
The crowd burst into a roar, when, In an unprecedented move, Mayor Michael Pavia, of the city of Stamford CT, declared June 23rd Saida Fikri day in Stamford. This momentous event took place during a day of festivities at the Mill river park celebrating Morocco and its culture.The mayor announced the declaration right before Saida Fikri stepped onto the stage and performed many of her popular songs. The attendees came from near and far to see their Moroccan folk star as well as to mingle and enjoy a beautiful day together. There were businesses showcasing their wares, Moroccan food, camel rides for the kids. A day to remember for many. But the Mayor's declaration topped it all. Many who were asked what they though of it couldn't hide their pride in their beloved Saida. She, and her foundation , had worked tirelessly to put this festival together.
The Saida Fikri foundation strives to create a better world for disadvantaged kids in Morocco. One of its current projects is called "Creativity For A Better Future ." The project is focused on the establishment of educationally based after school programs in third-world countries, starting with Morocco. The purpose is to develop the minds of the youth and in this way develop the future generations of the society. The children will have a creative outlet involving sports, music, and the arts, thus keeping them from drugs, gangs, and crime. Making a difference in the lives of the children of tomorrow will be the drive they need to make a difference in their own countries and this will fuel the change we want to see in the world .
To learn more about the Saida Fikri foundation, go to: http://www.saidafikrifoundation.com
AMPA: Creating, Funding Competitive Startups
07/26/12 SAN FRANCISCO, JULY 20, 2012
AMPA, the Association of Moroccan Professionals in America, organized its first ever technology conference in the Silicon Valley under the theme of “ Creating and Funding Globally Competitive Startups”. AMPATech brought together Arab-American and Moroccan-American technology entrepreneurs, investors and mentors from all over the US, Canada and Morocco that came to benefit from the Silicon Valley know-how.
The conference was aimed at shedding a light into the practical steps of launching a start-up company while encouraging outsourcing and offshoring IT processes to Morocco. It also provided participants with lessons learned from subject-matter experts and covered multiple topics including branding, developing a technology plan, and Venture Capital funding.
The conference featured prominent speakers including:
• Ossama Hassanein, EVP of Berkeley International in San Francisco, Chairman of Technocom Ventures in Paris and ‘The Rising Tide Fund’ in Silicon Valley. Mr Hassanein is also chairman of the board of TechWadi, the largest network of Arab American high technology executives in Silicon Valley.
• Bassel Ojjeh, co-founder and CEO of the start-up company nPario, who also served as Sr. Vice President of Data Technology and Products at Yahoo.
• Ali Benmoussa, CEO and co-founder at Ticketwood, Inc - a ticket search engine, and Bnet Technologies, a service provider of quality eCommerce websites and e-Business consulting in Morocco.
The conference panellists offered coaching and advice from real life experiences and helped address relevant audience topics including practical steps to launching, funding and running a start-up as well as IT outsourcing and offshoring.
Yassir Abousselham, AMPA president commented “we’re delighted to have hosted our first Silicon Valley technology conference and would like to thank our distinguished speakers for providing a high quality content and the passion they demonstrated in their areas of expertise. We would also like to thank the event coordination team and all those who volunteered to make this event a success. We will continue to break new grounds in making positive impact on our members' careers and encouraging economic exchange between US and Morocco”.
Morocco: A new strategic partner?
By Jennifer Rubin 07/26/2012 TheWashingtonPost
At a time when the United States is struggling to devise an “Arab Spring” policy and is running low on strategic allies (as Egypt evolves as a wild card rather than a reliable ally), Morocco’s deputy foreign minister, Youssef Amrani, was at the Brookings Institute to talk about the Middle East, the U.S-Morocco relationship and more........
Read more here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/post/morocco-a-new-strategic-partner/2012/07/26/gJQA1Wj3AX_blog.html
HM the King Launches Ramadan 1433 Foodstuff Distribution Operation, Lays Foundation Stone for Youth Training Center in Temara
23 July 2012 Temara
HM King Mohammed VI, accompanied by HRH Crown Prince Moulay El Hassan launched, on Monday in Al Massira neighborhood in Temara, the foodstuff distribution operation on the occasion of the Holy month of Ramadan. Initiated by the Mohammed V Foundation for solidarity in cooperation with the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, the foodstuff distribution to the needy reflects the Royal solicitude for the underprivileged social categories and reinforces the effective solidarity that is inherent in the Moroccan society.
The foodstuff distribution operation for Ramadan of the 1433 hegira year will mobilize 61.19 million dirhams and will benefit around 2.37 million people in 473,900 households of which 403,000 are in rural areas across the Kingdom. To ensure the success of this operation, 5000 people have been mobilised along with social workers and volunteers including students.
On the same occasion, HM The King launched in Al Massira neighborhood a project that is designed to reinforce the youth's social infrastructure. In this regard, the Sovereign laid the foundation stone of a training and development center benefiting the youth. The new facility will be built by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity for a total cost of 8 million dirhams.
The center will help integrate the youth in social and professional life and will provide them with pertinent training. The center will also offer a venue for social work as well as artistic and cultural creation.
Wandering Jew: Morocco and Berber Jews.
By TANYA POWELL-JONES 07/22/2012
From the mountains to the back alleys, Marrakesh is filled with rich Jewish history. Even with only a day to explore, Marrakesh has a lot to offer the traveler looking to delve into the city’s rich Jewish history. From the former Jewish quarter, which can be found in the back alleys of the City, to the high mountains where the last remaining Berber Jew lives, there is never a dull moment. Although eating kosher will prove tricky this is not impossible and the famed Marrakesh square is brimming with Eastern delights.
The Mellah, east of the Medina (old city) is the former Jewish quarter of Marrakesh. In the 16th century, sultan Abdullah Al-Ghalib moved the Jews here for protection. The quarter was once a town in itself with synagogues, shops and markets. Today, the remnants of the quarter’s Jewish past remain while most of the inhabitants are now Muslim.
Finding The Mellah, known as the Hay Essalam, is not particularly easy. Situated east of the Medina and with street names being almost non-existent, the many paths can get confusing. The best way to enter is through the Place des Ferblantiers or Place de Mellah. To find the center of the quarters, look for a fountain and the tin workers on the outside of the square market. At this point you will have likely caught the attention of some young locals who will undoubtedly try to get you to hire them as tour guides. If you do this then be prepared to pay a few dirhams several times because they swap guides along the way. This shouldn’t amount to more than a few dollars in total.
As you enter The Mellah and walk through the narrow quarter you’ll notice that many of the houses are built below street level and have mezuzahs on them. Inside the Mellah is the Lazama synagogue, which was built in the 15th century by the Jews that fled Spain after the inquisition. It’s located down a long uninviting alley and the entrance is an unmarked door. Don’t let this put you off. As you enter you will find yourself in a world of striking blue and white walls that surround a well cared for courtyard.
On the bottom floor is the synagogue where you will need to make a small donation to go inside. On the floor above there is a soup kitchen, a community center and a Talmud Torah School. The building was built with the purpose of preserving the Spanish methods of Jewish observation. However, over the years, the different communities have integrated and such distinctions have been blurred.
Leaving the synagogue and heading straight through the alley you are only a few minutes away from the still active Miara Jewish cemetery. This is Morocco’s largest Jewish cemetery that dates back to the 16th century. The actual graveyard is separated into three sections, one for men, one for women and one for children. The cemetery is quite vast with bright white graves and you will be expected to make a donation to enter it. To get there you may want to pay the young locals a few dirham considering it’s a bit tricky to find.
The kosher choices for lunch are pretty limited with the restaurant at Hotel Riad Primavera being the only real option. You can find the restaurant outside the old city, just off of AllalFassi Avenue, near the Marjane department store. For non-kosher options, go to the famed square, Djemaa el-Fna. This is only a ten-minute walk from The Mellah and there are a number of outdoor places to get lunch. A popular choice is Les Jardins de la Medina on 21 Rue DerbChtouka. It serves traditional and French cuisine on a terrace. Prices range from 180 dirham to 360. Getting there takes just a few minutes from the main square by going via the Kasbah quarter close to the Royal Palace.
For the afternoon you can visit one of the most pristine valleys in Morocco, Ourika Valley. Tucked away in the Atlas Mountains, it’s only 30km from Marrakesh and takes around 1-2 hours to get there by bus.
Located in the Ourika Valley is the ancient town of Aghbalou. Here you will find the 500-year-old tomb of a former Chief Rabbi of Marrakesh, Solomon Bel-Hench, which rests on the edge of a mountain above a river. One particular trait of Moroccan Judaism is the honor of holy men, and Rabbi Shlomo is one of the most revered Jewish saints in Morocco. Hananiyah Alfassi, one of the few remaining Berber Jews of the Valley, has faithfully guarded his tomb for over 30 years. Whilst here you can visit him and the tomb as well as take in the general scenery. You can also walk around the many herb gardens and have some traditional mint tea Berber style before heading back to Marrakesh.
Once back in Marrakesh, make your way to the Djemaa El Fna Square for the evening. At night it comes alive as snake charmers, storytellers and monkey owners take over the square. If you want a kosher dinner then head back to Riad Primavera. A non-kosher choice is the Narwama restaurant on Rue Koutoubia 30. To get to the restaurant go to the corner of the square and look down the side road where you will see a sign on a black post. Don’t be put off by walking down the alley. Once you’re through the red curtain you’ll enter a former UNESCO World Heritage building that has a central courtyard with a fountain of flames and water. They serve Thai, Mediterranean and Moroccan food and the average cost is 370 dirham.
The Jewish Virtual Library contributed to this report.
ArganOilShop.com Features a Natural Beauty Product That Effectively Wards Off Signs of Skin Aging: As People Search the Far Ends of the World to Fight Signs of Skin Aging, the Century-Old Moroccan Argan Oil Takes Center Stage
HICKSVILLE, N.Y., July 24, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/
ArganOilShop.com introduces an anti-aging product that wards off fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and other signs of skin aging. The beauty secrets of the 100% pure Moroccan Argan oil had been known to the women of the Berber tribe in Morocco for thousands of years already as they have been using the oil in their beauty regimen. In recent years, this oil has gained great popularity in the modern world.....
Read more: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/arganoilshopcom-features-a-natural-beauty-product-that-effectively-wards-off-signs-of-skin-aging-2012-07-24
Sustainable energy: Lessons from Morocco’s solar initiative
Mufaro Gunduza | 2012-07-26
Instead of cursing darkness, light the candle! It is an incontrovertible truth that the world, especially Zimbabwe with the current power cuts, requires a complete revolution in terms of its energy sources.
Conventional power sources such as coal, natural gas and oil have left a horrible litany and trail of destruction on the environment.
It does not require a rocket scientist to perceive that despite the energy challenges Africa is going through, there are big opportunities which African governments can effectively tap into and solar energy is one such creative and sustainable energy opportunity. In Africa, Morocco has demonstrated that clean energy sources are within the reach of African governments’ capacity.
Simply defined in pedestrian language, solar energy entails using the energy from sunlight to provide electricity, to heat water, and to heat or cool homes, businesses or industry.
Sunlight is a clean, renewable source of energy. It is a sustainable resource, meaning it does not run out, thus the supply can be maintained. Coal or gas is not sustainable or renewable: once they are gone, there is none left.
More and more discerning consumers and energy activists are advocating for the use of clean, renewable energy such as solar, wind, geothermal steam, hydro-electricity and others. These renewable sources are sometimes called “Green Power”.
There are several reasons why the use of solar energy is attractive. Firstly, solar energy generation does not require fossil fuels, hence it is less dependent on this limited and expensive natural resource. Although there is variability in the amount and timing of sunlight over the day, season and year, a properly configured system is highly reliable for the provision of long-term, fixed price electricity supply. So this non-dependence on fossil fuels becomes solar energy’s immediate strength.
Secondly, solar energy is environment-friendly. Solar energy is clean, renewable (unlike gas, oil and coal) and sustainable, thus it helps to protect our environment.
A solar energy system, more so, can be very convenient and can operate entirely independent, not requiring a connection to a power or gas grid at all. Systems can, therefore, be installed in remote locations (like holiday log cabins), making it more practical and cost-effective than the supply of utility electricity to a new site.
Thirdly, solar energy systems are virtually maintenance-free and will last for decades.
Once installed, there are no recurring costs.
They operate silently, have no moving parts, do not release offensive smells and do not require you to add any fuel.In Africa, Morocco has boldly embraced this type of energy successfully and there are obviously valuable lessons for Zimbabwe and the entire Southern African region.
Unlike other Arab states, Morocco is not endowed with oil or gas riches. Instead of seeing this as an impediment, it opened its eyes towards its geographical giftedness which enables it to harvest vast seas of free light for solar energy.
The Moroccan government consciously decided to electrify the entire nation decades ago.
By June 2002 after holding creative and robust stakeholder engagements both nationally and internationally, it embarked on serious public-private partnerships (PPPs) fashioned along enlightened mutual self-interest lines.
With a fledging population of 32 million people one can imagine how daunting the burden on energy requirements could be. Today Morocco exports electricity to Europe thanks to the Desertech Initiative which is fast paying off.
In the past Africa has tended to be a laggard on many fronts. For a continent which did not fully harvest the fruits of both the agricultural and industrial revolution and the subsequent computer age, the outset of the solar millennium needs governments that are prepared to take it head-on instead of adopting a “wait-and-see” attitude. The Moroccan case study is apparently a first on the continent.
It is a successful initiative which can be replicated elsewhere in Africa in terms of funding model, operational logistics, technological best practices and energy provisioning models. Zimbabwe, among others, can also do comprehensive feasibility studies within their locality to determine suitable solar farms or partner with neighbouring countries where the geographical terrain is ideal, thus pooling resources together for mutual interest and benefit.
Such initiatives could even further trigger regional integration and co-operation. Instead of bemoaning the darkness that befalls us every day, we should just light the candle.
Morocco 's GDP: The Last Fifty Years
ZOUHAIR BAGHOUGH 07/22/12 Washington / Morocco News Board
The title could have been ‘Morocco v The Rest Of The World’. and can be summarized in two sentences: in 1955, Morocco’s GDP ranked in the bottom 12% out of 72 countries.. In 2009, Morocco’s GDP ranked in the bottom 32% out of 190 countries. This is good news: it can be argued that Morocco’s catching up to the global mean is real and tangible, and that is has done well over half a century by lifting itself up from poverty to average, the performance has to be put in perspective: the distribution of global GDP has changed dramatically: it has grown more unequal, and the seemingly bimodal shape of the density estimate in the graph belies the large number of countries left behind the curve, literally.
The “bimodal shape” refers to the two humps observed in the light-grayish curve of Real GDP Per Capita for 2009, one close to 6 – 8, which refers to a Real GDP Per Capita of $1,200 and $1,500, and a wealthier hump of $13,000 to $17,000. Morocco’s performance puts it in the vicinity of the upper bound of the first hump, with about half as much, in current terms.
In 1955, discrepancies between countries were not as striking; on the other hand, there were only 72 countries whose individual economic data were recorded. Nonetheless, distribution was very close to a theoretical normal distribution, with average Real GDP Per Capita around $ 476.24 (in current prices) and about 95% of all values between $478.3 and $474.2, what is more, countries in the left hand-side tail, the richest countries are quite rare, if any.
Morocco’s Real GDP Per Capita ranked in 1955 around the bottom 12%, close to the lower decile that is. As usual, going from small A to larger B does not necessarily mean we have scored good. It is true Morocco has grown about an average full percentage point above worldwide trend, but is it enough? Or is it even statistically significant?
Growth in Morocco is definitely more volatile: even as its mean is significantly higher, the standard deviation is about twice as large as the average global growth. Indeed, if it was not for the large differences in growth levels, Morocco could have improved its standing in the global percentile. in short, the Moroccan economy hasn’t done enough in terms of β-convergence (the maximum growth rate to catch up to more advanced economies) and has definitely failed to generate enough in terms of σ-convergence (the ability to achieve growth rates without too much volatility through redistributive growth).
It is not too harsh a statement: after all, volatility around growth levels for the past decade has been cut by 15% relative to the 50-years long trend, and 20% when compared to pre-1999 levels. What happened was, the economy did not push stronger in achieving more in reducing volatility. At this stage, the argument that maximum growth doctrine, even if it has been achieved at some level by the Moroccan economy, did not generate the anticipated level of wealth and income per capita. This might explain why even as Morocco has improved its ranking by jumping two full deciles, it is not nearly enough to qualify as a true emerging market with upper-middle income potential; simply put, Morocco was lucky enough to improve its ranking because other countries have messed up their development model – check the lower right hand-side tail to verify: it is no good to boast a 30% bottom when the said 30% are much poorer.
The alternative way to go might reside in a little-known and seldom advocated policy, that is, to achieve the lowest possible volatility over an intermediate or long period of time.
Consider a generic Moroccan economy, where everything runs smoothly with no volatility, i.e. a stable economy with the same growth rate of 5.655% every year from 1961 to 2010, which is the exact average growth of real GDP Per Capita over the same period of time. GDP Per Capita is expected to grow 16.5 times in 50 years, which means GDP per capita (current US$) would reach $3,871.57 instead of the existing $3,053.53 per capita. The generic economy has run on the same growth rate, the same population, but there is one crucial factor that explains the $818 gain per capita (or the aggregate sum of $ 26.7 Bn, or 213 Bn dirhams) and a notch higher toward the $ 4,036 Upper-Middle Income Countries per World Bank nomenclature. In fact, there is a way to quantify the gains from any policies designed to reduced output per capita volatility. A completely ‘sanitized’ growth brings increases GDP Per Capita by $ 800.
Halving output per capita volatility by 50% means growth gains would amount to $160. This shows growth stability is not an easy target to achieve, and the potential benefits have long-term effects, but it is clear the σ-convergence path has more benefits to the Moroccan economy. Unfortunately, growth volatility in Morocco has been followed by a proportionally larger drop in average output per capita – even as demographic growth dropped too, so this is, up to less than a percentage point, the economy’s entire responsibility.
The political argument for a more stable growth is more difficult to make: no political party or organization would advocate moderate growth rate for higher stability. Elected representatives cannot produce electoral manifestos without ambitious growth rates: recall PJD’s pledge to increase GDP Per Capita 40% by 2016, which means they need to achieve an annual growth of 6%, or 7% when demographic growth is taken into account. The unelected officials need to promote a narrative whereby Morocco is a dynamic, Mediterranean Dragon, and potential growth rates of steady 5% do not look terrific when sold to foreign investors.
Come to think of it, this is the actual cost of development policies in Morocco: these should have at least alleviated the effects of volatility. Instead, some have only exacerbated them, to the tune of 213 Bn dirhams of lost development.
The Hauser Rule exists and it is verified in Morocco. Over a long period of time, almost 60 years in our case, the percentage of main tax receipts to GDP has remained constant, or at least did not rise above an upper bound, in our case, it is a little below 19.4% of GDP, except four years (and in good reason, as we shall see later on) [...] En réponse à Horani, Akesbi précise que la pression fiscale ne représente que 22 à 25% au Maroc (il n’a pas décliné sa méthode de calcul) et que à ce titre, il est hors propos de demander des baisses d’impôt.
My Hauser boundary would at first glance contradict official figures from say, Bank Al Maghrib or the MINEFI. It would also contradict a statement from Prof. Akesbi, who puts his figure for fiscal pressure around 22-25% of GDP, which is probably true for the last three or four years, if all receipts except new borrowings are taken into account. It seems Bank Al Maghrib in the predictions laid in their 2010 annual report have made a similar assumption that public finances have been at their best in 2008 (a historical surplus in the Budget is indeed a plus) and the 24.2% should, if I am not mistaken, point to the total receipts (barring borrowings) relative to GDP. Unfortunately, both Prof. Akesbi and the BKAM team have missed the point of genuine fiscal pressure; the percentage is supposed to measure the treasury’s extraction of resources relative to wealth creation.
I do not buy into their argument for two reasons: first, the percentage itself provides little explanation as to its individual component, chief of which the contribution of taxes on Capital and Labour, and second, it gives disproportionate importance to various sources of treasury income with no immediate link to government and budget policy. The economic argument, the fiscal pressure should be computed so as to discuss the effects of distortionary taxes, and only then look at other lump-sum type of taxes, but certainly not pay too much attention to the miscellaneous receipts the treasury cashes in from the government’s portfolio, privatization or other minor sources of income.
Hauser said back in 1993: The historical record is quite simple, if surprising. Not matter what the tax rates have been, in postwar America tax revenues have remained at about 19.5% of GDP. This is a lesson Congress should remember as it considers President Clinton’s proposed tax hikes. If history is any guide, higher taxes will not increase the government’s take as a percentage of the economy.
In relative size, the last decade has seen Morocco’s effective, “Hauser” fiscal pressure hover around 18.2%, the lowest effective rate since the days of fiscal conservatism and austerity of the Structural Adjustment Plan of 1983-1992.
Distortionary vs Lump-Sump: VAT is a distortionary tax, and so is Income tax. stamp duties and local government taxes, more likely to be lump sum taxes. The difference is two-fold: first, lump-sump taxes do not affect economic decision-making. Because economic agents are assumed to behave in a rational fashion, their optimized decision equate marginal effects, which means constants such as the lump-sum tax do not enter into account. This is perhaps why economists prefer them. On the other hand, these taxes are very unfair to the poorest and less-endowed economic agents. Proportional or quasi- proportional taxes are said to be ‘fairer’, but at the same time, they alter, or distort, economic calculations. In size as well as in importance, distortionary taxes are worth the study, while lump-sum taxes are a secondary element that need not be involved in the way described above.
the Hauser boundary evolves around 19.2% and 19.4% of GDP. This means fiscal policy has little impact on government’s fiscal pressure over the economy.
Some of the computations I present the reader with are built on a very strong assumption, almost a dishonest one: the only available data time series I could put together involved government expenditure, and not taxation. What you see really is government expenditure relative to GDP. My assumption postulates the primary balance is stationary around zero, i.e. government expenditure is almost fully funded by tax receipts. It is a strong assumption indeed, but some results from empirical data tend to vindicate yet again that assumption.
The years 1976-1979 stand out as a bit odd, because there was a primary deficit back then for obvious, historic reasons: huge transfers to the newly recovered Southern provinces, and a rapid expansion of Morocco’s military capacities have put a strain on its public finances. Besides, even though Morocco’s GDP grew at very high rates, it was not economic activity that pulled it off, and that might explain why it did not translate into additional tax receipts. Barring these 3-4 years, government expenditure and main tax receipts are not statistically significant, when one takes into account for instance the GDP deflator. For reference, I compare my expenditure-turned-tax receipts against the World Bank’s nomenclature GC.TAX.GSRV.CN and GC.TAX.YPKG.CN.
The assumption about the primary budget balance is one of long-term consequences: no country can afford a deficit in its primary balance, i.e. not fund its daily expenditure with taxation over a long period of time. This is particularly true for the past decade, where a primary surplus of 0.1% relative to GDP, on average, has been observed – this figure is merely the difference between distortionary taxes and government expenditure relative to GDP, and shows the long-term behaviour of public finances: primary taxation funds entirely government expenditure.
How should distortionary taxes have been levied? First off, we need to take a look at the long-term breakdown of production per input: if we restrict ourselves to capital and labour, total receipts from primary taxes should encompass the same proportions -captured by and in in order to neutralize the effect of exogenous technological process (captured by A) we assume . In this respect, growth gains and the respective contributions of inputs are distributed such:
In the realm of public finances, and with no loss of detail, labour taxes are levied on income, consumption-oriented goods and services (typically, VAT) while taxes on Capital are usually centred around corporate tax (a tax on profit or in accounting terms, operating margin). When one considers fiscal receipts from the last 20 years however, this does not seem to be the case: Capital is over-taxed, and Labour under-taxed.
the spendthrift late 1970s have ransacked the fiscal house, and impaired its stability for the next decade, and deflect it away from a 50-years mean of 15.6%
There are many ways to explain these discrepancies, both at the aggregate and input levels: first, fiscal policy in Morocco does not seem to take into account the repercussions of its implementation, meaning that the various tax breaks, deductions and even the new fiscal measures fail to anticipate the behaviour of agents subject to these fiscal regulations.
This is not a new phenomena, really: if indeed the Hauser boundary is verified, fiscal policy, translated into fiscal receipts, appears to exhibit higher levels of volatility -almost twice as much as GDP’s, though the trend observed since the mid-1990 points to a stabilization close to GDP fluctuations. The second point about these discrepancies is policy-making: the figures in this post fail to account for the differences in fiscal regulations, especially those pertaining to agricultural output, whose tax system has been frozen in effect since the mid-1980s. The same fiscal regulations miss out on the upper income bound due to the standard income tax, whose marginal rate actually falls when it comes to the top decile income earners.
In policy terms, income rates have been too low, or inadequate. The same can be said of consumption-based taxes, such as VAT. As for corporate taxes, though the effective tax rate is comparatively low, the receipts are not up to scratch, in terms of Laffer Curve, corporate taxes are not efficient, and need to be cut accordingly. To make up for the shortfall and to balance the fiscal ratio up, wealth tax and the agricultural tax need to be levied at some point.
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