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Morocco Week in Review
April 27, 2013
Samuel Kaplan: U.S. looks forward to King Mohammed VI visit
The U.S. looks forward to an official visit of King Mohammed VI and waits for his decision in this sense to give him a great welcome worthy of his rank, stated the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Morocco, Samuel Kaplan, in an open press meeting Sunday in Rabat.
Explaining the reasons for President Barack Obama not visiting Morocco, Samuel Kaplan, whose diplomatic mission comes to an end next May, said that the President has not visited Rabat because Morocco is not a hotbed of tension. According to him, Mr. Obama often goes to areas characterized by conflicts and political tensions.
The ambassador said that Morocco's relations with the U.S. are excellent, characterized by a sophisticated and advanced cooperation at all levels: political, security and military.
He recalled that the kingdom occupies a prominent place within the U.S.'s worldwide alliances. Morocco is its strategic dialogue partner, a major non-NATO ally and a trading ally by FTA, he said.
The meeting which was attended by journalists, civil activists and businessmen was an opportunity for Mr. Kaplan to explain that the U.S. has high esteem of the democratic development process launched in Morocco.
He stressed, however, that the pace of change is not supported enough, a conclusion he had come to through his many dialogues with Moroccan vital forces. In addition, Kaplan stated that next USA-Morocco relations will be essentially economic. He also promised on behallf of his country that U.S. economic aid to Morocco will continue.
As for the Sahara issue, Kaplan said that the U.S. considers Morocco's "Autonomy Plan" serious and reliable, but the American administration is keen to see the final solution for the conflict be negotiated and mutually accepted within UN framework.
Read more about Samuel Kaplan by www.moroccomirror.com
Despite the many measures adopted by the Moroccan government, the civil service is still weighed down by heavy bureaucracy. The recent launch of a National Strategy to Modernise the Civil Service was prompted by urgent demands by the public, who want to see better-quality public services, according to El Kassi Mohamed, who works for an NGO. "We want to lay the foundations for an efficient, open and transparent civil service," said Abdeladim El Guerrouj, the minister-delegate for the public sector and modernisation of the civil service. He spoke to Magharebia on the side-lines of the launch event for the new reform plan, which was unveiled April 5th in Rabat.
During the same event, Minister of State Abdellah Baha underlined that the issues surrounding the Moroccan civil service centre around good governance, in addition to the dangers associated with corruption and bureaucracy.
That view was shared by Interior Minister Mohand Laenser, who underlined that it was important to boost the human resources of the Moroccan civil service because this reform cannot come about without a high level of involvement of public-sector workers. The implementation of this strategy will be accompanied by the creation of follow-up mechanisms, in particular the "National Conference on the Modernisation of the Civil Service".
A project management office will also be created to monitor its implementation, and the initiative will be led by a national council headed by the prime minister and an interdepartmental committee chaired by the public sector minister. A number of identified programmes will be launched in tandem, ten of which will be put in place by the end of 2013.
Both members of the public and businesses are demanding high-quality public services.
Adnan Elmalki, an entrepreneur based in Casablanca, told Magharebia that the way the civil service is run is disappointing in most cases: "We have a hard time because of the tax authorities, who don't always understand the constraints faced by investors."
"We have to wait for months and months to receive construction permits from the town planning department," said Abdelkhaleq Adib, a young property developer in Casablanca.
According to Minister-Delegate El Guerrouj, streamlining the management of public affairs in order to deal with the current economic situation and satisfy the expectations of the public and companies is also one of the goals of the new strategy.
Abla Montassir, a student at the University of Casablanca, thinks that there is mistrust between the Moroccan civil service and the public: "There is an urgent need to reconcile Moroccans with their civil service."
The issue of mistrust is made worse by the malaise within the government. Members of the public are critical of the quarrels between the various factions making up the coalition government.
"If the coalition can't manage the relationship between the parties that make it up, how can it do a good job of running state affairs?" asked Widad Chekrouni, a 28-year-old teacher.
According to a report published by the central committee of the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) on April 14th, the governing coalition is "sadly dysfunctional, because all of its component parts are not adequately performing their duty to present an image of a united government team which will inspire confidence on the part of the Moroccan public and abroad, including among investors".
The Istiqlal Party, whose Secretary-General Hamid Chabat is criticising the government more and more often with regard to the slow pace of its work, does not appear to welcome the PPS's call for unity. "The PPS stands accused by Istiqlal of wanting to hold onto its four ministerial posts, which do not reflect its electoral weight. This kind of accusation is damaging to the coalition," explained political analyst Jamal Farhane.
Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane gave an assurance during a meeting held on April 13th in Bouznika that the government was "displaying unity", adding that it was "business as usual, and it won't be affected by the disruption".
Morocco adoption law amendment dashes hopes of foreigners: More than 100 foreign families, who were awarded children before change in adoption laws, are still awaiting final decision
For more than a year Yassamane and Eric have been waiting to adopt a child in Morocco. But a decision to tighten the adoption law has thrown the whole process into doubt, leaving dozens of hopeful foreign couples in limbo.
Kafala as it is known in Morocco, or "custody" in Arabic, allows Muslims -- including converts to Islam -- to assume the guardianship of orphans in the North African nation. The same conditions apply in most Muslim countries, where religion is a determining factor in the adoption process.
But last September, Morocco's government amended the law and barred foreigners from adopting, in order to better protect the children's interests and identity, according to Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid.
Since then, foreign couples who had already begun the process fear it may retroactively be invalidated and their cherished hopes dashed.
"I was awarded my child in April 2012. It was the happiest day of my life," said Yassamane Montazami, who gave up her psychology practice in France and moved to Morocco to complete the kafala process. "But since that date, the judicial procedure that usually lasts a few months has dragged on for more than a year."
Gabriel Pernau, a Spanish journalist who frequently travels between Madrid and Rabat, is also waiting nervously to see whether the government’s ruling will affect his adoption of a 15-month-old boy. "I'm afraid this decision will be applied retroactively," he said.
More than 100 families -- Spanish, French and Americans, as well as Moroccans living in Europe -- were awarded children before the adoption laws were changed and are still awaiting a final decision. Around 40 of them are hoping to become the parents of children they found at an orphanage in Rabat, which they are allowed to visit for six hours a day. Another orphanage, in the southern resort town of Agadir, limits visiting times to one hour a day.
Under Moroccan law, the kafala must be undertaken by "virtuous Muslim couples, both morally and socially responsible, who have sufficient means to support the needs of the child." Islamic law also stipulates that the adopted children do not have the same inheritance rights as any biological offspring.
"We are not disputing any Moroccan law. We are simply asking that this new provision not be retroactive," said Montazami, whose husband, a French novelist, commutes between Paris and Rabat. But Pernau's hopes are fading. "We have the impression that since the amendment, the judges have pushed back the court hearings indefinitely."
On Monday, the family court in Rabat announced a new delay -- the sixth since last September -- to June 3. "The judge is waiting for the police investigation, which has to be ordered by the public prosecutor. As long as that doesn't happen, we won't get the agreement of the judge," he said.
The justice minister denied seeking to impede the work of the judges, saying he had "never interfered in the judicial process."
Speaking to parliament in November last year, Ramid said the changes to the law were designed to better protect the interests and identity of the child. "We found that there were many foreigners who declare themselves Muslims, stay in a hotel and, when they get their child, they leave the country. How can we be sure that they will respect the law and protect the child?"
The countries of those affected are taking the issue seriously, with 40 couples saying in a statement last week that it was discussed during a high-level meeting in October between the Spanish and Moroccan governments. The couples said they could not bear to be separated from their propective charges, "who call us 'mummy' and 'daddy' and cry every time we have to leave the orphanage."
Morocco expects its cereal harvest this year to jump to 9.7 million tonnes, including 5.2 million tonnes of soft wheat, up from 5.1 million in 2012, the agriculture minister Aziz Akhannouch said on Tuesday, quoted by the state news agency. "Generous rainfalls have raised our crop to 5.2 million tonnes of soft wheat. It's a record," the minister said at the opening of an agriculture fair in the northern city of Meknes.
The country is recovering from drought which slashed its 2012 soft wheat harvest to 2.74 million tonnes, forcing the government to import massively during the last six months. The rise in agricultural production would push up the GDP growth to 5.5 percent in 2013, according to the government forecasts.
But the majority of the wheat-planted areas are small properties owned by poor farmers who use the crop for their subsistence. Only about a quarter of the annual harvest goes to the market, according to the official data.
Morocco has frozen the 17 percent import duty on soft wheat from October through April to ensure a regular supply of the commodity to the domestic market. The grains state agency ONICL said last month, Morocco has imported 1.6 million tonnes of soft wheat since the import duty was frozen between Oct. 1 to the end of February.
ONICL issues a regular tender to buy durum wheat as the North African country has agreements with the United States and the European Union to import certain types of grain at preferential tariffs, with volumes depending on the size of the local harvest. http://www.brecorder.com/markets/commodities/asia/116610-morocco-sees-its-grain-harvest-to-jump-to-97mn-tonnes.html
Government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi comments in interview in London today. He said: * In next 2-3 months, Morocco will make amendments to penal code to stop rapists from marrying victims to escape jail * New laws being drafted to criminalize violence against women * Government allocated 65 million dirhams last year to 223 civil society projects to help improve lives of women across country, especially rural areas. Sum may be increased this year * Government set up 162-million-dirham Family Solidarity Fund last February for divorced women who can’t get alimony payments * Plans to establish quota for women in government * Government also seeking to decriminalize press code and has submitted 110 recommendations to do so * “On-going discussion and understanding” about need to reform subsidies, nothing will be done until “agreement reached between various actors”
To contact the reporter on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com
Better NGO Leadership Needs Change in Attitude
By Adil Bentahar Morocco World News Laramie, Wyoming, April 22, 2013
Plenty of information about Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) management and leadership has been published throughout the past few years. Reading about this, it becomes impossible for me not to think about Morocco, and Moroccan NGOs in particular. The thoughts I am going to share in this article are a result of my humble experiences as both a follower (or member) and as a leader of Moroccan NGOs, such as the Moroccan Association of Teachers of English (MATE) and the Moroccan Center for Civic Education (MCCE). I believe much effort has been put toward the promotion of Moroccan NGOs; however, certain flawed practices still prevent the much needed successful development and improvement of Moroccan NGOs.
As I have previously stated in an article of mine entitled “ Isn’t It Time for that Long-Awaited Change in Moroccan Education?”, Morocco is in dire need of change in certain people’s mindsets and attitude in the work culture. In his book entitled “The Six Secrets of Change”, Michael Fullan (2008) delineated interesting instances of leadership techniques typical of Toyota leaders, illustrating their positive expectations about and attitudes toward their employees’ performance, in which a mistake at work is deemed a learning opportunity, and little, if any, blame is put on the workers. In fact, setting high expectations while maintaining a positive attitude encourages the workers [followers] to take risks, practice their skills, experience novel learning opportunities, and thus grow professionally. All these are at the heart of any successful leadership in business and civil society.
Critical and successful change in Moroccan NGOs is further predicated upon the view the leader has of his supporting officers and NGO members, as well as the ability to delegate responsibility and trust in the members’ ability to contribute to the organization’s development without monopolizing leadership. To clarify my point further, consider the following quote: “Because of the desirability of exercising total control is itself a half-truth, effective leaders must learn when and how to get out of the way, and let others make contributions” (Fullan, 2008, p. 118). Many public officials and NGO managers follow top-down approaches to extreme degrees, thereby impeding the chances for (professional) development and shrinking the capacity-building opportunities for employees’ (followers’), and the organization as a whole.
Additionally, one’s attitude is of pivotal importance and great impact on the position in leadership, a position which has to be adapted to the goals of the organization. Whereas the view held by the majority of people is that a leader should always be in the front line, it is imperative for leaders to delegate leadership in preparation for others to step up. This is part of capacity-building that is a must for any organization’s success. I would rather see Moroccan leaders assume active roles through the planning and designing of activities and functions. Such a process required leaders to deliberately step back and let organization members take the lead on the execution of said projects.
An attitude promoting members to rise up and assume leadership roles from time to time does not compromise the standing of the leader whatsoever. Rather, it creates a situation in which members can effectively contribute to the productivity and success of the organization. Personally, I implemented this deliberate self-placement during my second term as President of the International Student Association (ISA) at Boise State University in Idaho. The experience of this leadership role has given me a sense of pride and appreciation of the type of leadership I experienced (described above), which allowed me, while stepping back, to delegate and supervise the responsibilities of the organization’s members without the kind of interference that may have hindered their learning.
Humility and erudition are momentous qualities for effective NGO leaders. Remaining humble despite one’s position boosts the confidence and trust of the NGO followers; the latter may therefore take their leader as a role model. As Fullan (2008) noted, leaders ought not to be too certain of themselves. Rather, they need “an attitude of wisdom and a healthy dose of modesty” (p. 118). I cannot emphasize enough how one’s attitude toward personal growth can lead to erudition and developing general awareness.
In an era when globalization is the norm and the world is portrayed as a small village, it is no longer an option to know what is happening in other parts of the globe. Rather, it is imperative that leaders are aware of global issues and opportunities. With respect to international challenges, such as socioeconomic gaps between the rich and poor within and between countries, as well as the economic crisis as a whole, the leader’s expertise comes to surface. Not only should a leader be familiar with and up-to-date on recent events worldwide, but he or she should also be knowledgeable enough to be able to infer potential future outcomes based on current incidents/affairs that may be of importance and direct or indirect impact on his or her organization.
A common proverb states that “Man is the style”; however, I feel this statement to be incomplete without the addition of “Leader is the attitude.” Attitude is everything, the quintessential ingredient in any organization. It is the leader’s attitude toward others (NGO officers and members), as well as his/her humility and erudition that determine the NGO’s course toward success or failure. Attitude strongly affects the way leaders interact with one another and with their followers, and how others (bystanders) may perceive the NGO leaders and hence, the NGO as a whole. It is their attitude that makes leaders accept their lot in hard times. Attitude is contagious; therefore, maintaining a positive attitude is an absolute requirement for the prosperity of NGOs in my dear home country of Morocco. In Maya Angelou’s words, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
In the coming years, all the museums in Morocco will be renovated and new ones will emerge. Below are the reasons driving this initiative.
At the headquarters of the Museum Foundation in the Hassan district of Rabat, ensconced in his office decorated with paintings, photographs and sculptures by contemporary Moroccan artists, Mehdi Qotbi shares the objectives of the organization he has headed since December 2011. “The museum has only effectively been functional for six months. It took us some time to develop our offices and to recruit a dynamic team that is well-informed on the topic of museums,” explains the artist.
Yet Qotbi lost no time in building relationships with the Ministry of Culture and with major French museums. It has been quite the opposite.
Culture in action
Morocco currently has 13 museums, which have hitherto been overseen by the Ministry of Culture. With the establishment of the foundation, however, everything has changed. In a few months, they will all be formally under the authority of the institution managed by Qotbi. During the last three months, a tripartite commission composed of the foundation, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Finance has toured all the museums in the four corners of the country, with the objective of preparing a detailed report on the sites' conditions and the works of art they contain.
“It was very important for us to list the existing museums before embarking on a clear renovation strategy,” said Qotbi.
The next step will be to find funding to improve the condition of the museums. Qotbi is already knowledgeable on the subject and has started to seek answers from several large Moroccan companies. “The idea is to reach a point where each of several large companies takes the helm of renovating a museum. I'm pretty confident about this. We already have several agreements in principle,” he said.
Another of the foundation’s objectives is to create several new museums of international standards. The first of its kind is the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Rabat, work on which resumed a few months ago.
“People are sometimes surprised that it is not yet finished, since the project began nine years ago. You should know that even in Europe, projects of this magnitude can take more than 10 years,” noted Qotbi. If all goes well, this impressive museum will open its doors to the public in 2013. Other museums are also under study, and, in the long run, the aim is to have a museum in every large Moroccan city.
“We are also thinking hard with the Ministry of Tourism and the General Confederation of the Enterprises of Morocco about a way to integrate the museums in the tourism policy of the country and ensure that they are an essential stop for tourists,” added Qotbi.
A communication strategy will also be exclusively dedicated to Moroccan citizens. “We want these places to be accessible to all Moroccans, so they can take ownership of their culture. This is why entrance to the museum is free for them on Fridays and Saturdays,” said Qotbi.
However, before that, one of the biggest concerns of the foundation is the lack of qualified personnel to manage these museums. Indeed, Morocco sorely lacks art experts and museum and art curators. To overcome this problem, the foundation has signed various agreements in Europe to train Moroccans in these new professions. The prestigious Louvre Museum is one of the main cooperators, as well as the Arab World Institute and the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations based in Marseille. It is true that the task at hand will require long-term efforts, but they will eventually pay off.
Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/culture/2013/04/morocco-culture-museum-plans.html#ixzz2RI1wpjzz
Descendants of Jews from Cape Verde plan to rededicate a burial plot in the West African island state next week, largely thanks to funding by the king of Morocco. The rededication ceremony is scheduled to take place in Praia, the capital, on May 2 and is expected to be attended by a small group of Jews from four continents, including Andre Azoulay, a senior adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
Several hundred Jews from Morocco settled in Cape Verde in the 19th century, when it was still a Portuguese colony. The community has since disappeared, but the Moroccan government has been a “major benefactor, along with a variety of other Jewish and non-Jewish donors, for efforts to preserve and restore its heritage sites," according to Carol Castiel, who is overseeing the works as president of the Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project.
The Moroccan involvement in restoring the Praia burial site, one of several scattered across the 10 islands that make up Cape Verde, is part of a broader effort that recently led to the renovation of Casablanca’s Jewish museum, the reopening of the ancient synagogue in Fez, and plaques at Jewish schools across Morocco.
John Wahnon, a board member of the Cape Verde Jewish Heritage Project, said the rededication would teach locals about what used to be a prominent Jewish community and educate Jewish descendants of the Cape Verde community. “When my generation passes, the ones that come after may not have any source to learn about their Jewish background and legacy,” Wahnon said at a recent reception at the residence of the Moroccan ambassador to the United States.
"People said contemporary design wouldn’t work in Marrakech", the dynamic owner of Morocco’s Sirayane hotel tells me with a glint in his eye. “But now I have to build 12 extra rooms because we are always fully booked."
It was only a matter of time before the intricate and ancient designs of North African architecture gave way to a different take on traditional Arabian aesthetics in the country. ...............
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2313069/Hotel-review-Minimalism-Moorish-style-Marrakechs-Sirayane-Selman.html#ixzz2RgBVwmlr
High-speed rail links to boost local industry
Global Arab Network - Emily White Thursday, 25 April 2013
Having spent roughly a decade planning for high-speed rail service, Morocco’s plans for the project have gathered increasing steam in recent months following the signing of five key technical and training agreements, Morocco has been working with its French partners since 2003 to establish the high-speed train service, or train à grande vitesse (TGV), which will surpass South Africa’s regional Gautrain as the fastest rail link on the continent.
In early April, Morocco’s National Railway Office (Office National des Chemins de Fer, ONCF) signed two conventions with France’s National Railway Company (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer, SNCF), who in recent years has emerged as a key proponent of the rail project. The agreements were signed during the first state visit of French president François Hollande.
One of the agreements establishes a protocol for setting up an ONCF-SNCF joint venture that will deal with ongoing maintenance on Morocco’s TGV lines while also allowing local authorities and technicians to benefit from the experience of their French counterparts. The second convention establishes another protocol that paves the way for the creation of a Railway Training Institute (Institut de Formation Ferroviaire, IFF). The institute will play a key part in transferring knowledge and developing a qualified local workforce for future TGV projects.
During the visit, the president of the ONCF, Mohamed Rabie Khlie, signed three additional conventions with French companies Ansaldo STS France, Colas Rail and Cegelec Mobility, covering the provision of equipment for the TGV line currently under construction, including signals, overhead cables, telecommunications and electrical equipment.
The high-speed rail link will be used as a supplement to the country’s current rail network, rather than as a replacement. Morocco already benefits from an extensive rail network covering 4000 km, but both passenger and freight traffic have grown steadily in recent years. Passenger traffic increased by 8.8% year-on-year (y-o-y) to reach 37m in 2012, according to press reports. The rise comes on the back of 9.7% growth in passenger volume the previous year and an acceleration of the 5-7% annual expansion rate witnessed between 2008 and 2010.
Freight traffic is also on the rise and should continue expanding due to activity at the country’s key ports. Commerce at the Tanger-Med port, supported by an uptick in industrial activity in the surrounding area, helped to push up freight traffic to 37m tonnes in 2012, which was on a par with 2011’s performance despite a dip in economic activity last year. With a more positive economic outlook and a new logistics platform set to open near the port of Casablanca, freight activity has the potential to climb significantly in 2013.
With shipping activity on the rise, the first line earmarked for construction in the high-speed rail link is a 200-km stretch between Casablanca and Tangier, via the capital of Rabat. Once complete, the new line will cut travel time between Casablanca and Tangier by more than half. The TGV is also expected to create 1500 direct and 800 indirect jobs once it begins operating.
Work on the first segment of the line, which will link Tangier to the city of Kénitra just north of Rabat, officially got under way in September 2011. In early 2013, work was begun to prepare the terrain for constructing two rail segments, building two viaducts and establishing a workshop at Tangier-Moghogha dedicated to train maintenance. Civil engineering work for the entire line is slated to be completed by February 2014 and the installation of the fixed stock by 2014 year-end.
The 14 TGV trains are scheduled to be delivered in 2015 for a December launch of commercial operations. The French firm Alstom won the bid to provide the initial TGV trains at a cost of €400m, while a team of SNCF specialists has been commissioned to provide technical support for the project.
The Moroccan state has made a commitment to directly provide Dh5.8bn (€0.5bn) of the project’s total anticipated cost of Dh20bn (€1.8bn). Of the remainder, Dh13.36bn (€1.2bn) is expected to be financed through loans and Dh840m (€75.43m) through donations from foreign partners. While expensive for a country that ran a deficit of 7.6% in 2012, the project is nonetheless very competitively priced. South Africa’s Gautrain, which covers short distances between the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg, racked up a price tag of roughly $3bn when it was completed. A planned project linking California’s major urban areas by high-speed rail has been estimated at more than $40bn.
Foreign and privately-funded transport projects will support the development of local industry, while the move to set up a joint venture for TGV maintenance and establish a training institute will be a key driver in the Moroccan authorities’ bid to create a qualified local workforce with know-how for future ventures. This will become increasingly important over time and help to galvanise the development of local industry, given Morocco’s plans to extend the TGV network across 1500 km – and may benefit again once neighbouring countries begin to consider high speed railways of their own. http://www.english.globalarabnetwork.com/2013042612900/Economics/morocco-high-speed-rail-links-to-boost-local-industry.html
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