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Morocco Week in Review
January 19, 2013
Moroccan road film subverts Hollywood stereotypes: Film Produced by RPCV/Morocco, John Slattery
By Andrew Hammond DUBAI | Fri Dec 21, 2012 DUBAI ( Reuters)
When director John Slattery first visited Morocco, the familiarity was jarring - and as removed from the images of an exotic Orient conjured up by Hollywood as possible. That dichotomy between the representation and the reality of Morocco drives Slattery's charming paean to a country he clearly loves and makes "Casablanca, Mon Amour" a thoughtful rejoinder to U.S. popular culture.
Two young Moroccans spend three weeks travelling their native country, filming what they see on a digital camera while passing by studios and locations that have formed the backdrop for many Hollywood blockbusters, an industry Morocco has cultivated.
The film is spliced with shots of endearingly bemused or nervous ordinary people giving their thoughts to the camera about Hollywood and its global stars, as well as clips from classics such as "Casablanca" featuring off-the-cuff anti-Arab slurs like "you can't trust them" and "they all look alike".
"We had the idea of going on this trip and to be this stupid American film crew going to make this traditional movie using Morocco, but we wanted to subvert that," Slattery said after a screening at the Dubai international film festival this week. "There was not really a script but the trip was their trip and so wherever they went we followed them. So that way they were really directing the film."
Shot by Hassan, who narrates the road trip in French, the images shift from scenes of daily life caught on camera, to his comically testy relationship with his travelling companion Abdel, to a troupe they stumble upon in Meknes that plays traditional Moroccan "malhoun" music. Hassan, a real-life film school student at the time, is using the road trip for a class project, while Abdel wants to visit a dying uncle on the other side of the country.
Slattery includes footage from Moroccan television from the Marrakech film festival in which comic actor Bashar Skeirej declares that "a country without its own art will never have a history". It's a subtle suggestion that the government should do more to promote domestic film rather than just rent out landscapes for Hollywood misrepresentation.
Morocco has formed the backdrop for a fictionalized Orient in "Ishtar", doubled as Abu Dhabi in the "Sex in the City 2" and been various distant planets in Star Wars films. "National cinemas in many countries are being destroyed or have been destroyed because of this massive power of marketing that is Hollywood," said Slattery, a California-based American of Irish origin. "They destroy little films, they destroy the possibility for little stories."
The film, a labor of love that took Slattery seven years to complete, borrows from the book "Reel Bad Arabs", author Jack Shaheen's study of Hollywood's anti-Arab stereotypes. Its title references Alain Resnais's 1959 French New Wave classic "Hiroshima, Mon Amour".
"(When) I would say 'Morocco', people would say 'were you scared', or a polite 'what was that like?'," Slattery said, recounting reactions in the United States when he would talk about his first experiences as a peace corps volunteer. "There was that whole category of fear in the responses, or 'Morocco, you must have seen Lawrence of Arabia', or 'Blackhawk Down'! - all these film titles. That stuck with me, this fear and movies were the two references for Morocco."
Yet Slattery's first day in the North African country could not have been more mundane, he said. A colleague whisked him off to a rural home near Rabat where he met farmers who reminded him of Ireland. "This guy opens (his door) in a tweed jacket that was all torn up. This is how these old farmers dress in Ireland, and his hands were all calloused and dirty. It just felt very familiar to me," Slattery said. "His grandmother had a television hooked up to a car battery for electricity. I spent the weekend there, hanging out with these people, cutting hay and stuff, and I just thought 'this is Ireland'."
( Editing by Paul Casciato)
Here are 5 different trailers for the film:
The writer-researcher Ahmed Assid was chosen during a tribute ceremony Saturday night in Tiznit, “Man of the Year 2962″ by the Association Tiri N Wakal (Love the earth), a sign of gratitude for the services he has rendered to the language and to the Amazigh culture.
“The organization of this ceremony in my honor shows that the humble work I’ve done with other players begin to bear fruit in the spirit and consciousness of people, and tyhis is fundamental, “said Assid on the sidelines of a celebration organized by the Tiri N Wakal the occasion of Idh Yennayer the Amazigh New Year 2963. “For me, the greatest joy is to see that our work helps to bring about a change in Morocco, from denial to recognition of diversity and its sustainable management, and this is the way indicated to democracy , “he said.
He stressed that Morocco is “a country with wisdom and individual genius individual who can resolve all issues with rationality and in a peaceful manner and create the conditions for civilized coexistence with all components “, noting that this provision demonstrates that” Morocco is a strong country rooted in tradition and diversity that Moroccans assimilate the lesson of modern democracy and modernity at all levels. ”
The scope of the special celebration this year Idh Yennayer, he said shows that “we were moving towards official recognition of the Amazigh New Year as a holiday like New Year’s and AH New Year of the Gregorian calendar. ”
With the constitutional recognition of Amazigh, the ceremony is a strong symbolic dimension for Moroccans and even neighboring countries, he argued, noting that “this shows that all the countries of North Africa have shared cultural and civilizational symbols tend their ancestral roots deep in history. ”
This interest more pronounced for Idh Yennayer also shows that Moroccans are aware of their roots, even if they have ambitions of openness to the world, he added, noting that “it is precisely this difficult equation Moroccans have resolved consistently and successfully. ”
According to him, the commemoration of Idh Yennayer carries “a symbolic affirmation of identity and attachment to land and roots and should, therefore, find the level of institutions,” whereas “formalizing the Amazigh language should now lead to the formalization of the culture”, knowing that it is the organic law relating thereto specify the modalities and procedures for the integration of Amazigh language in different levels of public life.
A prolific writer, Assid Ahmed (born 1961) has written several articles and studies on cultural issues and themes of identity and democracy, in addition to numerous radio and television programs on literature and the arts and Amazigh series of literary works. The man is quite possibly the most courageous intelligent secular and Berber activist in Morocco. He is also a philosopher by trade. Even as he is working tirelessly to protect Morocco against the deadly effects of Islamic fundamentalism or Salafism, Ahmed is being derided by most of his fellow citizens as a dreamer howling in the wind or by educated folks as totally unrealistic. This is how it is with short-sighted people. In one interview, Assid used the concept of “Morocanness” to critique Middle Eastern and Western influences alike. All imported experiences, he seems to say, have to accommodate themselves to existing realities on the ground, which, in the case of Morocco, include the indigenous culture of the Berbers (the Amazigh). Few, if any, realize that his call for privileging nation first is the well-tested formula for the badly needed development Arabs and Muslims crave.
About the author: Said Temsamani is a Moroccan political observer and consultant, who follows events in his country and across North Africa. He is a Senior Fellow, Merdian International Center Washington DC, Founder and CEO "Public Initiatives" Consulting firm and Former Senior Political Advisor, US Embassy Rabat, Morocco.
The second part of this article will mainly deal with Moroccan proverbs that deal with women issues. The proverbs are organised under different labels so as to be able to distinguish between the positive and negative ones.
1 . ‘ Ana beshedek lfemou w houwa bela’oud la’iniya’/‘ I give him a loaf of bread, he threatens me with a stick.’
This proverb shows how women try to please men but still they are seen as inferior. Women try always to make men feel comfortable but they are usually badly rewarded.
2 . ‘ la’ateq feddar a’ar’/ ‘It is a shame to have a single woman at home.’
The proverb means that it is shameful to keep single women at home. This is mainly because the Moroccan society sees that the place of women is in their husband’s house. Sociolinguistically speaking Moroccans tend to use the word ‘a’teq’ to treat single young women. This word has a negative connotation within certain communities.
3 . ‘ lemera lhourra matakoul ghir men yed rajlha’/‘A good woman is the one who eats only from her husband’s hand.’
Women should always submit to men’s power. The proverb says that the faithful woman is the one who eats from the hand of her husband. Therefore, women should be limited and secluded in a specific atmosphere dictated by society.
1 . a’egouza we qebtat shefar / though she is old she caught a thief
Women in our society are seen as weak species. This proverb questions the ability of an old woman to catch a thief. Old women are called in the Moroccan society as a’gouza and this has a negative meaning since it is loaded with bad connotations.
2 . “ llahoumma bekhousha we tweness wala yaqouta we tehewess”/I would rather be with an insect to keep my company than a gorgeous woman that will bother me.
The proverb says that it will be better for a man to marry a weak woman rather than a beautiful and powerful one. The weak woman is referred to as ‘bekhousha’ which is a weak insect. Women have different names in our Moroccan society that range from positive to negative ones.
1 . “ lemera feddar a’emara wakha tekoun hmara“/a woman has a value in the house even if she could be like a donkey.
Women in this proverb are compared to a donkey. As far as language in society is concerned ‘hmara’ mainly refers to stupidity. Nevertheless, some people claim that this proverb is a positive one since it sees that women bring joy within their family even if they are stupid.
1 . “ dreb hlima heta teboul li ferasha mayzoul”/even if you beat hlima till she urinates, she will never forget what she has in her mind.
The proverb says that even if you beat a woman hardly she will never resit. This shows the ill nature of women. Women here are referred to by the proper name ‘hlima.’
2 . “ llah yenejjik men lmechetaq ila faq we men lbayra ila derbat ssedaq“/may god save you from a person who yearns for something and from a single woman who is getting married.
In this proverb we have another kind of women (single old ones) that are incapable of giving birth. They are referred to as ‘bayra’. It has also a negative meaning since the proverb warns people from this kind of women especially when they have the opportunity to get engaged.
3 . “Lleben we zzebda kanou khwatat ma ferqouhoum ghir la’yalat”/milk and butter were sister and women separated them.
The proverb claims that women are responsible for breaking relationships.
4 . “Low kant merat la’ab hbiba tkoun llefa’a tbiba“/If the step-mother were affectionate, the snake would be a healer.
The proverb shows the ill nature of the step-mother.
1 . “ lhejala dewaha a’end rejjala“/men are the remedy of divorced women.
The only cure for ‘lhejala’, who is a woman that is divorced, is men. Here women are seen as a sex object since they can not live without the presence of a masculine authority.
2 . “Ma hddeha tkaki we hiya tzid flbid“/ as she cackles she lays eggs.
Women here are compared to chicken. They are seen as a species that are born to give children.
3 . “Mera bela rajl a’esh bela bertal”/a woman without man is like a nest without a bird.
Women who do not have men in their lives are like a bird with no nest. Women can not live without men.
1 . A’wejet rrejlin beghat rajel zine/she, who has crippled legs, wants a handsome man.
The proverb says that an ugly woman does not have to ask for a beautiful man. Nevertheless, we can have the contrary in our society. In this proverb the woman is referred to by ‘a’wejet rrejline.’
2 . “koul khenfoussa a’end yemmaha ghezala“/every beetle is a gazelle in her mother’s eyes.
Everybody judges what he has as the best of all. One’s child is always the most beautiful and the most intelligent. One does not like the others to criticize or underestimate one’s children. Every mother sees her offspring as beautiful though in the others’ eyes it is not.
1 . “Lli ma a’endou sidou a’endou lalah“/who does not have a men, he has a woman.
The proverb says that if men are not capable of solving some problems, women can do it.
2 . “Lli maqederat tekoun nejma fessema tekoun shemea’a feddar“/a woman who could not be a star in the sky can be a candle at home.
The proverb says that if women can not be stars in the sky they can be candles in their house.
This proverb gives a good value to women. It depicts them as being the ones who bring love, happiness, and peace within their family.
3 . “Zzine febenatna selala men la’ema lekhala“/beauty in our family is diffused from one generation to the other.
The proverb shows that beauty is inherent in families.
1 . “ Dirha ferrjal we nesaha we dirha fe nessa we terjjaha“/do something bad to men and forget it, do the same to women and hope nothing will happen.
The proverb says that if a person does something bad to men they can forget about it. However, if they do it to women they will pay for it sooner or later.
2 . “Lli kaya’emlou yebliss fea’am tea’melou la’gouza fessaa’a“/what you can learn from Satan in a year you can learn it from an old woman in an hour.
In this proverb women are compared to Satan. This mainly says that they may be devilish.
3 . “ Yalli tenadi qeddam lebab nadi we koun fahem ma yefessed bin lehbab ghir nessa we dderahm”/he who calls next our door know that nothing ruins relationships but women and money.
The proverb says that women are one of the major causes for breaking relationships.
Women are treated badly in Moroccan proverbs. According to the proverbs women have limited functions. They are either mothers, step mothers, mothers in law, wives, daughters in law, widows, or prostitutes. As it has been shown before, people within a society can determine the status of others. In our case women are either talkative, ugly, shrewd, sex objects, weak, inferior to men, or ill-natured.
The language that is used in proverbs in order to refer to women is mainly conventional within the Moroccan society. People created different names to refer to women. These words were used in proverbs and combined with other words in order to explain a state of mind. In addition, the language that is used show that women are static. They are either a’gouza, bayra, a’roussa and other ones. Women are generally thought of to be kind, soft and a symbol of tenderness. Therefore, the language of the majority of proverbs shows them as creatures that need to be treated like animals or as a dangerous gender since they have a devilish side.
Society can shape a certain view by using a specific diction. Language is very important within society. It has many hidden effects and contributes in enhancing moral values within a certain community. Most of people argued that the language of proverbs favours men rather than women. As far as the age and gender variables are concerned, people from all ages and especially women see that the language of proverbs came to make women inferior to men.
Lot of researchers tried to see if language in general is sexist or not. Therefore, tentative replies to this question showed that one can not claim that language is sexist, but rather it is the people who are sexist as these differences do not stem from the language but from the mentality of the people who speak it. People are the ones who shape language according to their values, beliefs, norms and traditions.
In a society like Morocco we can say that we have a lot of stereotypical images about women. These images can be seen as the major factor that makes of a language a sexist one. Moroccan Arabic (darija) is full of words that have bad connotations about women. Most of the proverbs that were studied showed that there are sexist expressions that are used to refer badly to women. This pushes us to say that the linguistic distinction between the sexes is much more cultural than linguistic. Men and women are given different roles in the Moroccan society and this is clearly reflected in the language of proverbs.
In order to free a language from stereotypical images one should first identify an area in which they are mostly used. Proverbs are one of the areas that can serve this purpose. Since they are part of the cultural heritage of societies it would be hard to fight them. However, the best solution would be to sensitise people about the importance of reducing sexist language from their speech. One can also target the educational system by designing text books that reinforce non-sexist language. This can be very successful since it could be transmitted from one generation to the other. Furthermore, media can play a great role in doing so and this by making people aware of the harm that they can cause to each other.
Meryem Fati is currently a doctoral student at the Faculty of Education, Mohammed V- souissi- Rabat, Morocco. She is working on cross- cultural communication. She was a Fulbright scholar and affiliate at Kansas University. She is a language and communication instructor at Mohamed V university- Agdal- Rabat, Morocco. She participated in Moroccan and international conferences and she served as a co- translator of Khadija: the First Muslim and the Wife of the Prophet Muhammad By Resit Haylamaz..
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Used by Friends of Morocco with Permission
Attempted suicide of Morocco's rape victim fuels rights fears
Agence France Presse | Updated: January 16, 2013 Rabat
A young Moroccan house maid, whose dramatic suicide attempt has revived concerns about violence towards women and child workers in Morocco, said on Tuesday that her family rejected her after she was raped. The 19-year-old women, who leapt from the fourth floor of an apartment building in Casablanca where she worked, had been employed as a domestic worker since the age of 14, said Omar Kindi, president of the NGO Insaf. She was saved by a young man, who caught her as she fell and was killed in doing so, with the incident filmed by a neighbour and posted on the Internet.
"In 2010, she was raped in Marrakesh, prompting a dramatic change in her already sad life," said Kindi, who visited her in hospital and whose NGO supports women and children in distress.
"Her parents refused to receive her, and then sent her from one employer to another. Wounded and in despair, she tried to kill herself by slashing her wrists," Kindi added.
"This dramatic affair highlights the problem of child domestic workers and its inhumane consequences," he added.
Human Rights Watch said in November that Moroccan children as young as eight were being recruited as house maids, and that they were frequently beaten, verbally abused and sometimes refused adequate food by their employers.
In another case that sparked outrage in Morocco last March and prompted calls for legal reforms to protect rape victims in the conservative Muslim kingdom, Amina Filali, 16, killed herself after she was forced to marry her rapist.
An article in Morocco's penal code allows a rapist to wed his victim and escape prosecution, and Filali's father said his wife had insisted on the union as a way of saving the family's honour. "The cases of Amina Filali and of this poor young girl who threw herself from the balcony have got a lot of media attention. But there are many female victims of violence that remain unknown," said Amina Tafinout, a women's rights activist.
"The government has still not managed to put in place a law that forbids the employment of domestic child workers, despite promises to do so for the last five years. They are victims of all types of violence." http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/attempted-suicide-of-morocco-s-rape-victim-fuels-rights-fears-317921
In Morocco, A Call For Polygamy To Reduce Ranks Of Unmarried Women.
travelwayoflife By Rime El Jadidi LESOIR /Worldcrunch RABAT
Recent estimates from the Moroccan High Commission For Planning (HCP) found the median age for marriage in Morocco was 31 for men and 27 for women. There are many reasons for this – more years spent studying, and the high cost of housing and wedding ceremonies being the most obvious. Some, it seems, now want to add monogamy to this list of reasons why young Moroccans are getting married later in life.
The idea might seem absurd at first, but in a country where rape victims have been forced to marry their rapists, it’s really not so surprising.
Abdesslam El Bouraini, the president of the National Order of Religious Notaries argues: “The median age for marriage increases more and more, while women can’t find husbands. So why don’t we modify the polygamy law to allow men to marry several women?” Supply and demand, if you will.
In Morocco, polygamist marriages are almost non-existent because of strict legal restrictions: a woman has to sign consent, and in case of divorce, assets have to be divided among the wives.
Fouzia Assouli, the president of the Federation for the Democratic League of Women’s Rights (FLDDF), says El Bouraini’s proposal is “mind-blowing.” “There is no scientific evidence to support this notion, and it’s a violation of human rights and women’s rights. Celibacy is also a personal choice," she says.
What if Morocco faced the opposite situation? “In Saudi Arabia, women outnumber the men, should we allow them to have several husbands?” asks Assouli. “If Islam allows it, then it’s for the good of the community, otherwise, it’s an open door to debauchery. The legal restrictions on polygamy have driven men and women to have extra-marital intercourse,” believes El Bouraini.
If we are to believe him, Morocco’s strict polygamy laws are the reason why men commit adultery. But isn’t excusing adultery and infidelity contrary to the basic principles of Islam? If polygamy was the solution, there wouldn’t be high rates of single people in the countries where it is common.
The poverty argument
The pro-polygamy advocates also say that rich men would be able to help women in need. Yet it's hard to believe that polygamists are great altruists. In most cases, the only reason why they take a second wife is to marry a younger woman. Fouzia Assouli says that even if polygamy was aimed at getting women out of poverty, “marrying two women instead of one won’t solve anything. Even four won’t be enough in this context.”
What about poor men? If the issue is poverty, why can’t a wealthy woman marry several poor men? This, of course is not up for debate.
According to a 2007 survey by researchers Hassan Rachik, Mohamed El Ayadi and Mohamed Tozy, 44% of Moroccans are in favor of polygamy. For many of them, polygamy is a religious practice, not a solution to low marriage rates, even though some might find it a good idea.
“Those who advocate such principles still haven’t processed the social changes that Morocco recently went through, and are still dreaming of owning a harem,” says Assouli. She believes allowing polygamy would be a step back in time. “It’s a violation of women’s dignity and freedom. We must not forget that not so long ago, a woman committed suicide with her daughters because her husband had forced her to accept his second wife.”
Read the article in the original language. All rights reserved ©Worldcrunch - in partnership with LE SOIR
Nation to Boost Growth Through Youth Jobs
By Hassan Benmehdi, 16 January 2013 analysis Casablanca
SMEs, entrepreneurship and other youth employment strategies will enhance economic development in Morocco, a government body says. The creation of jobs and wealth topped the agenda for the latest session of the Moroccan Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE).
"Morocco must use youth employment as a pathway to social and economic development," Council President Chakib Benmoussa told Magharebia at the January 10th meeting in Casablanca. "Our Council is a reflection of Moroccan society, its challenges, its expectations and the issues facing it, which include employment, education and training for young people," he added.
Young Moroccans, who now make up around 40% of the country's population, aspire to a better future.
Casablanca residents El Orabi Majid and Manhaji Karim make no secret of their concerns about employment. "We will get our degrees in computer engineering this year and we really want to find jobs. We can't imagine being unemployed after our studies," the young men said.
Hotel management student Hamza Khadraji, 20, shares their concerns - especially since she will get her degree this year. "It hurts me to see that tourism in Morocco is doing badly because of the economic crisis," she said.
Before an audience of businessmen, Benmoussa touched on the scale and problems of the Moroccan economy. "The work of the Council is focused on two main areas, namely economic competitiveness and social cohesion," he underlined, adding that the CES calls for public involvement in job creation.
Urgent solutions are now needed to resolve the problem of unemployment, economic analyst Nora Talibi said. "The cost of delays and the wait-and-see attitude will cause a heavy burden on the country's economic policies," she said. The Council should offer "guidance to institutions and decision-makers to help them solve the problem of unemployment as soon as possible".
The CES is indeed tasked with advising the government and parliament, Benmoussa confirmed. He explained that the Council gives "its opinion on the overall direction in which the national economy and training are heading, analyses the situation and monitors national, regional and international economic and social policies".
The advisory body is currently focusing on the new regional development model for the southern provinces, "a project which must be integrated and sustainable and create wealth and jobs for local communities", Benmoussa said.
Youth employment is complex and necessitates long-term structural reforms, the Council said in its 2012 report.
Ten measures were proposed as ways of helping to restore young people's confidence, such as labour market regulation and action with regard to job supply and demand. The Council also says that self-employment and the establishment of small businesses could create many jobs and should be encouraged through a special policy.
Marrakashi Miracles: bringing Morocco to your wardrobe
Marrakashi, the Moroccan-inspired label, offers unique, creative designs that appeal to the mass. The quirky patterns and designs created from luxurious fabrics and materials make for perfect gifts for a friend, or even yourself!
The collection focuses on and encapsulates the designer’s love affair with the country. Her scarves, shoes, bags and boots capture the essence of Morocco and the beautiful, vibrant colours make for unique designs. These stunning accessories inspired by the Middle East are truly exquisite and would make the perfect addition to one’s wardrobe.
The Moroccan Boho boots are made entirely by hand, using kilim rugs and leather, which ensures that no two pairs are ever identical. The stunning sequined slipper shoes are produced with the softest leathers and woven wicker, which are then embroidered by hand with sequins. They definitely make a nice change from ordinary shoes, and are perfect to add a Middle Eastern touch to any outfit!
The Marrakashi Moroccan scarves are something else. Hand woven on a traditional wooden loom, there’s a sentimental feel that comes with these divine coloured luxuries. The Medina collection, inspired by the dramatic colours found in Moroccan bazaars, allow you to delve straight into summer and stay on trend, as they stay focused on particular colour palettes. You can also purchase from the Sahara collection, which is inspired by the desert and Atlas Mountains, or perhaps the Marjorelle collection would be more to your taste. Designed after the gardens of Morocco, this collection includes bold neon brights which add an instant pizzazz to any outfit. The Mamounia collection is a must-have for SS13, with cool colours such as ice-cream pastels.
With all these rich hues and deep shades, these accessories couldn’t be more perfect for the coming summer.
Hot up your outfit and give it that extra spice with Marrakashi !
The alleys of Rabat's old city resound with the shouts of street vendors advertising Chinese consumer goods such as fabrics and electronic gadgets. But the area's vegetable sellers, from whom many residents buy dinner on the way home, are unusually quiet. "Prices have increased since the winter began, so we don't have anything positive to shout about," says Hassan Hansali, whose shop offers carrots, onions, tomatoes and green peas.
Abdelhaq Jbili, a neighbouring vegetable trader, agrees that rising prices are making business more difficult but suggests a different reason. "Vegetable prices have risen since the government raised oil prices," he says, referring to a 20 percent hike in subsidised petrol prices last June. More expensive petrol has pushed up harvesting and transport costs, making food dearer too, he says.
Morocco's cash-strapped government is preparing to launch its biggest economic policy change in years: root-and-branch reform of the system of food and energy subsidies which it uses to keep down the living costs of millions of people.
The reforms are needed to prevent heavy government borrowing from destabilising the economy , and could serve as a model for the governments of other Arab countries, such as Egypt , which need to repair their finances after the region's wave of unrest.
But as the conversation in Rabat's old city suggests, the reforms are politically risky. Even a relatively minor change to the system, such as the petrol price hike, can affect Moroccans' living standards; major reform could prompt a backlash against the government.
Last month, New Year festivities in the tourist city of Marrakesh were disrupted by a clash between police and demonstrators protesting an electricity price rise. Thirty people were arrested.
"The risk of the reform is the impoverishment of the middle class," finance minister Nizar Baraka has said in a parliamentary debate.
Najib Akesbi, an economist at the Hassan II Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary Science in Rabat, said changes would have to be designed carefully to avoid disaster. "For bread and sugar, there isn't a real danger, but cooking gas prices will triple if the subsidy system is completely abolished. The government has to think how to protect" the people most affected by the reform, he said.
Morocco's subsidy system began heading towards crisis in early 2011, when the government started sharply raising its spending on subsidies to buy social peace as uprisings engulfed other countries in the region.
Politically, the strategy worked; the country saw street protests demanding democracy and better economic management, but there was no sustained challenge to King Mohammed's government. The protests faded after the king introduced constitutional limits to his powers and let an Islamist party form a cabinet after elections.
But economically, the policy has left the government in an unsustainable position. State subsidies on food and energy jumped from 29.8 billion dirhams ($3.56 billion) in 2010 to 48.8 billion dirhams in 2011 and 53 billion dirhams, or nearly 7 percent of gross domestic product, in 2012.
Morocco does not face any immediate financial crisis; the government's gross debt is 58 percent of GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund, lower than levels for several other Arab States.
Last month Morocco raised $1.5 billion with an international bond issue, a sign that international investors still have confidence in it. But signs of financial stress are emerging. Since the international bond sale, the Treasury has borrowed about 15 billion dirhams by issuing short- and medium-term bills in the domestic money market.
This has drained funds needed for bank lending and private investment, pushing the interest rate on 26-week T-bills up to 4.06 percent from its level early this month of 3.59 percent. "The state borrowed 10 billion dirhams in the domestic market in one day. This is unprecedented," wrote local analyst Omar El Hyani. He said liquidity created by the central bank was flowing to the Treasury, bypassing the private sector.
Morocco is also under pressure from the IMF. Last August the multilateral lender approved a $6.2 billion precautionary line of credit for Morocco but urged action to reform subsidies, though it did not formally tie the reform to the aid.
The country needs the aid because it is running a large deficit in trade of goods and services; its foreign currency reserves are worth about four months of imports, which economists say is an uncomfortably low level.
Reforms could start as soon as June, the state news agency quoted general affairs and governance minister Mohamed Najib Boulif as saying this month. "Technically, the reform of the subsidies system is quite ready," he said. "Once talks are concluded and the political decision is taken, it will be launched."
Nabila Mounib, head of the opposition Unified Socialist Party, said he believed that meant the government was waiting for approval from the royal palace, which still plays a key role in decisions on major issues.
Under draft plans released by officials, the government would fully or partially replace the current subsidy system with monthly cash payments of 1,000 dirhams to as many as 2 million of Morocco's most needy families.
If the plan proceeds in full, it would cut the state's annual bill to 24 billion dirhams. The process would take around four years and could eventually raise inflation, now officially running under 2 percent, to 7 percent, officials calculated.
The government may see a 7 percent inflation rate as politically too risky, however, so it may implement the reforms only in part. Boulif himself has said prefers "the intermediate way", which would involve initially cutting the state's financial burden by about a third.
Despite the IMF's pressure, analysts say the government may not, in the first stage at least, touch subsidies for wheat and cooking gas - which are socially very sensitive - and merely begin with sugar and electricity. "I'm not really confident about this reform," said economist Akesbi, warning that changes to the system might be used by corrupt suppliers to manipulate prices for their own profit. "The government cannot launch such reforms without thinking about how to control inflation. Success depends on it."
Morocco will by the end of the year award the rights to the second concentrated solar power (CSP) plant destined for Ouarzazate, and will follow up next year with another major CSP tender at a separate site. The second phase at Ouarzazate, south central Morocco, will be 300-340MW in size, bringing the full complex to about 500MW, according to press reports.
In 2014 the government will put to tender a 400-500MW plant near the city of Oujda, in northeastern Morocco, and some 800km from Ouarzazate. Together, the two projects will take Morocco roughly halfway to its 2GW target for 2020.
The Desertec Industrial Initiative is pursuing a separate 150MW CSP plant near Ouarzazate.
Late last year the Moroccan government signed a €1bn ($1.33bn) 25-year power purchase agreement with a consortium led by Saudi Arabian contractor ACWA Power for the first Ouarzazate plant.
Working alongside a list of partners that includes Spain’s Acciona and Sener, ACWA will pursue the project under a build, own, operate and transfer contract, and maintain it via its NOMAC subsidiary.
Over the weekend Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and public pension agency announced they had taken a 19.4% in ACWA, which has rapidly become a major player in the expanding CSP sector.
ACWA chairman Mohammad Abunayyan says the new investors will allow the company to accelerate its plan to become “the prime international developer of power generation and water desalination plants, both in Saudi Arabia and globally”.
In addition to Morocco and Saudi Arabia, which intends to build 25GW of CSP by 2030, ACWA is also the preferred bidder for the 50MW Bokpoort CSP project in South Africa.
Last July, ACWA purchased a 42% stake in a 60MW PV array in Bulgaria, indicating that its solar ambitions are not limited to CSP.
Morocco's drive to emulate Dubai by turning itself into a playground for rich Europeans is hurting lending at home as cash-strapped banks are hit by investments in holiday resorts that soured in the global financial crisis.
Loans to homebuyers and companies grew at the slowest pace in a decade last year through November, according to central bank data. In September, the North African kingdom's central bank allowed banks to reduce reserves to increase money in circulation.
Morocco, like Dubai, was in the midst of a major tourism expansion when the global financial crisis caused investment to tumble, saddling developers, banks and investors with soured property debt.
Lending for development surged in the two years before the market stalled in 2009, peaking at US$2.1 billion (Dh7.71bn) in 2007, said Gabriel Matar, the head of Middle East and North Africa hotels at Jones Lang LaSalle. He said much of the debt would mature this year, leading to property sales.
"Moroccan banks are working out their overexposure to commercial real estate, mainly tourism-related, which will limit the amount of their new engagements in 2013," said Mr Matar. "The Moroccan market isn't mature enough to recover all these projects, which are too big to be completed by just Moroccan players."
Mortgage growth peaked at 57 per cent in the first 11 months of 2007 and lending to developers jumped almost sixfold in that period, according to data compiled by the central bank. Like in Dubai, projects stalled as the housing slump in the United States morphed into a global banking crisis.
Mortgage lending slowed partly because cash-poor developers are struggling to get financing to build, said Zineb Masrour, a Casablanca-based senior capital manager at the property consultancy CBRE.
"Banks are obviously overexposed to the real-estate market and the priority is to complete the projects they're already involved in and slow financing to sensitive projects such as tourism or high-grade residential. These projects were mainly targeting foreigners, who were strongly investing a few years ago but they're not here anymore."
Work on six mega-resorts, part of a €9bn (Dh44.11bn) development drive, ground to a halt, prompting foreign investors to exit. Among the largest was Taghazout, which was to include a hotel and villas under the Raffles brand, a polo club and a beach club in its first phase, said Mr Matar.
The Taghazout project is now being restarted, along with the bigger Azur Plan with a new goal to double tourists by 2020, said the government.
"The customers have changed, especially in Marrakech," said Younes Sebti, the finance director at the Moroccan developer Alliances Developpement Immobilier, which is involved with Taghazout, speaking in a December interview. "There are fewer foreigners buying with the euro crisis, but this is cyclical. The fundamentals are still the same and we remain confident."
Total private-sector lending grew by 2.8 per cent in the 11 months through November, the slowest pace since 2002 when the growth rate was 1 per cent, according to central bank data.
Loans for housing rose 6.8 per cent in the 11 months through November, the smallest increase since 2002, according to data compiled by the central bank. Mortgages overall gained 6 per cent, also the slowest pace in a decade. Last September, Morocco cut its reserve ratio by 2 percentage points to 4 per cent, citing a "liquidity shortage".
The banking sector has adopted "a rather selective approach in the treatment of requests for funding" in property, said Samir Hadjioui, the deputy general manager at Credit Immobilier et Hotelier, the Moroccan government-run mortgage bank. Over the course of the first nine months of last year, mortgage rates ranged from 5.5 per cent to 6.75 per cent, while those offered to developers had rates of 6.21 per cent to 7.75 per cent, he said.
Companies are now facing pressure to pay off or restructure their debts, either construction loans or financing for land purchases, as they come due, said Mr Matar. "In 2013, through indirect pressure by banks, we will see some projects or land being offered for sale, since we will be hitting the normal duration of a loan where it would be negotiated," he added.
Property transactions dropped 12 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, according to government data. Residential sales fell 9.7 per cent by volume and prices dropped 0.4 per cent, led by a 6.3 per cent decline in villa prices.
The central bank estimated that residential transactions slumped by 10 per cent, land deals by 17.3 per cent and commercial transactions by 9.7 per cent.
Morocco's Vision 2010 tourism strategy sought to more than double the number of visitor beds to 230,000 in the decade to 2010. About half of that amount was built by 2008, when the credit crisis starved the market of buyers and investors. The construction of six resorts, known as Azur Plan, was started in 2001 with the support of King Mohammed VI.
Tourist visits climbed to 9.3 million in 2011, close to the kingdom's target of 10 million, according to the tourism ministry's website. About 83 per cent of the visitors were from Europe. The government "highlighted six resorts to be completed, and less than half" were built, said Mr Matar. "They are now in a situation where they have to relaunch the vision and make it 2020, or 2025 even, to meet the goal".
Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/economics/morocco-pays-a-price-for-tourism-policy#ixzz2HwDTOJTf
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Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane committed to reforming the Moroccan pension system. Reforms to the pension system in Morocco will be introduced starting in 2013 "at any cost". This was the strong message from Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, speaking to MPs on January 9th in the Chamber of Councillors in Rabat. The deputies quizzed him over the issue of pension funding, which has run into financial difficulties.
Benkirane said that the alarm was first raised in 2000 and reforms were slow to surface. He made a point that his government will not put this issue on the back burner. "We are going to work with all parties to introduce reforms, even though the measures to be taken will be unpopular," he emphasised.
MPs asked the government to be courageous in securing the viability of the pension funds, particularly the Moroccan Pension Fund (CMR) dedicated to civil servants. Benkirane shared alarming prospects with MPs and spoke of a "catastrophe".
If nothing is done the deficit in the CMR will reach 1.8 billion dirhams in 2014, and in ten years that sum will surpass 125 billion dirhams, he said.
Various reform scenarios have been drawn up by the technical committee responsible for the matter. According to the premier, what needs to be done now is to work with the key players - political parties, unions and civil society - to reach decisions.
A number of possible approaches have been suggested by Benkirane, such as raising the retirement age as adopted by some countries, increasing employers and employees' contributions, or extending the range of benefits to skilled professionals such as doctors and lawyers. An optional complementary system could be put in place. Added to this would be an improvement to the way funds are invested to increase the financial resources available.
According to Benkirane, Morocco could move towards creating one fund for the public sector and another for the private sector. The single-system scenario, he said, is complicated and difficult to implement on the ground.
According to Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) parliamentarian Hakim Benchemmass, the issue should not be managed in a technical way, but rather in a political way with a daring over-arching vision. "Everyone agrees on what is happening. But the time has come to act to guarantee retirees' dignity," he said, stressing the need to broaden the base of the pensions beneficiaries.
A similar chord was struck by MP Abdesselam Lebbar, who stressed the urgency of improving daily life for a great many pensioners who find themselves forced to find a new job to meet their needs. He also called for greater accountability, because the current situation facing the Moroccan pension fund "is due to poor management and a lack of good governance".
Benkirane agreed. He committed himself to discussing every point of the new strategy to rescue the pension system is implemented.
Salaried employees have expressed concern. They are apprehensive of the solutions which may be adopted. "I am worried I will not be able to get my pension upon retirement because of repeated delays to the reforms," teacher Halima Chaouni said. "Life expectancy in Morocco is not the same as in developed countries. If they increase the retirement age to 65, that will be a catastrophe. Let’s hope they go for the 62-year option," she added. 42-year-old secretary Salwa Mbarki opined that increasing people’s contributions could have a negative effect on employees' purchasing power. "Salaries are already too low relatively to the cost of living." http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2013/01/17/feature-04
Morocco: The Henna Suq In Fez
01/16/13 Colette Apelian Berkeley, CA / Morocco Board News
Walk into the Henna Suq in the old city of Fez and find a haven from the hustle and bustle of the streets outside its narrow courtyard. As you take a moment to breathe without being jostled by donkeys, you can also learn about the natural and handmade bath and beauty products of Morocco, and, if you linger, see a side of Fez non-Moroccan tourists do not normally encounter.
The Henna Suq, or Henna Marketplace in Arabic, is named after the henna plant, which has been cultivated in Morocco for centuries. Moroccans use henna to dye and preserve leather and wool, in addition to cosmetically to color skin, hair, and fingernails. The cosmetic traditions are on display in the Henna Suq, which is a veritable living museum of henna use.
Come in the mornings or, even better, the afternoons after lunch, around three o’clock. Take a glass of coffee or mint tea from the small café across from the fountain and sit in the open square admiring the sunlight filtering through the leaves of the ancient plane tree in the center, one of the few trees remaining in public plazas of the Fez madina. (Another is in front of the Demnati Fountain in Ain Azleten). As your eyes become used to the shade, you can take your time examining the traditionally arranged stalls around the courtyard. Here, there are few faux guides or hustlers, and mostly madina residents, often in traditional clothing ( jellabas ) and headscarves.
Know a little Arabic? Listen close and you can hear them bargaining in the rial monetary system few non-Moroccans know. The system was officially phased out about a century ago, but is still used today. Bargaining usually takes place in units of twenty and hundred rials. Twenty rials is one dirhem, so a price of 50 rials means the item costs 2.5 dirhems. One hundred rials is five dirhems, so a two hundred rial item is actually a thousand francs, which is 10 dirhems. Though it is rare to find in the Henna Suq, you may even hear someone mention a thousand rials, which is 50 dirhems. Now that’s expensive henna!
Feel like a beauty treatment? Look for Fatima, a walking encyclopedia of henna tattoos who usually waits by the beautiful geometric tile fountain across from the mosque entrance. Speak to her in French or Arabic, or have one of the nearby vendors translate your conversation into another language. Fatima is known for giving fixed prices for black or red henna tattoos, a craft she uses to support her and her daughter. Choose a design from the booklet she brings, or, if you really want to learn about the henna traditions in Morocco, request a pattern that she normally gives local ladies for special occasions. As she works, ask her to explain the difference between black and red henna, the history and symbolism of geometric patterns popular in Fez or other regions of Morocco, which design is best for which event, how the henna product is prepared, in addition to the tools henna artists have used over time to apply it to the skin.
Another person you can ask these questions and more is in Mohammed Yahyawi Idrissi Yazzami or his brother, Youssef. Both are descendants of Fassi inhabitants, so are “Sharifs.” Both are also sons of the last Henna Suq mohtassib (price-controller) who would use the large public scale one stall over from Mohammed's and Youssef’s. The middle stall is owned by their good friend, Ahmed. Mohammed can sometimes be found with Michela Fanara, an artist and his wife who has also restored a historic house ( dar ) in the madina. Between them, they can converse in English, French, Italian, Arabic, German, Spanish, and Korean.
Ask Mohammed and his family to explain the significance and use of the leaves, powders, soaps, and stones for sale, and, if you’re lucky, he will also recite some of the folk tales and local stories of Fez, in addition to the best places to find homemade delicacies, like hariria (hearty meat stew), bisara (usually vegetarian pea or bean soup), and smen (clarified butter). The prices are fixed and most products sold for well under $4 USD. Mohammed and Youssef rely on trade with inhabitants. Selling to and sharing their knowledge with travelers is an expression of their love for Fez and the products on their shelves. Some of their goods are hand-produced in madina homes by elderly inhabitants using labor intensive, age-old methods, both merchants are happy to describe. Buying something from their stall is a way of both supporting and learning about an important part of Fez madina culture. If you are lucky, you may even see a trade between one of the artisans and a Henna Suq vendor.
Besides having Mohammed and his family explain henna, you can ask them to show you the raw and hand ground form of an ancient ancestor to our eyeliner today, kohl . Make sure they explain the different colors and the various instruments used to apply it. Ask Michela to point out some of her kohl applicators, which are hand-turned wooden tools produced in the madina and painted with her unique designs. Youssef and Ahmed can also translate the Arabic names written on the artisanal soaps, including the packets of clay ghassoul used as shampoo. They can also explain how to use the many lipsticks, perfumes, fragrant waters, and exfoliates in the front of his stall or stored in the back.
After a short while in the Henna Suq, you will be knowledgeable about the rich bath and cosmetic traditions of Fez, and be ready to visit a hammam (bathhouse). Let Mohammed this is what you want to do, and he will orientate you on what to bring with you.
The Henna Suq is in the center of Fez and along major thoroughfares that lead to other sights and historic monuments of the madina. It is also within a short walking distance of both the Ain Azliten and Seffarine Hammams. To find the Henna Suq, walk under the large blue tiled gate, Bab Bou Jeloud, make a left turn at the fork in the road, marked by a shish kabob stand in Fez (indulge if you are hungry, 10 dirhems [two hundred rials] buys you a delicious snack!) Make your way down Talaa Kebira and, after about fifteen minutes, you will come to a level and straight section of the road at an area called Ain Allou and Attarine. Look up and along the right side of the street to find a sign that tells you to turn right to find the entrance to the Henna Suq. The road, Derb Fakharine (Street of Pottery) is the same road that will eventually take you close to the Nejjarine Square, Suq, and Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts. The road will also take you to the back side of the Kissariya marketplace where they sell traditional Moroccan clothing and shoes. The Henna Suq is the first entrance to your left and recognizable by the large tree in the center of a rare open space in the madina.
To go to the Ain Azleten Hammam, return to Talaa Kebira and walk back the way you came (towards Bab Bou Jeloud). After about ten minutes, you will reach the bathhouse on Talaa Kebira. Go with a towel and change of underwear, which you can typically buy for under ten united states dollars. For a small fee, attendants will help you use the products you just bought in the Henna Suq.
The Seffarine Hammam is a little closer to the Henna Suq. Go back to Talaa Kebira and walk in the other direction, away from Bab Bou Jeloud. After a short while, the road ends at the Medersa el-Attarine’s elaborate metal doors. Turn right and circle around the Karaouine Mosque and University until you arrive at the Seffarine Square with the metal artisans pounding on large basins. The Seffarine Hammam is just south of the square, and has been recently restored with the support of the Venice Institute for Urban Sustainability. Enjoy, and, as they say in Morocco, “bi-saha” (to your health)!
Colette Apelian, Ph.D. is an Art History Instructor at Berkeley City College
Please do not further distribute or publish without author’s consent
Printed by Friends of Morocco with author's consernt
Be the Ant Rather Than the Grasshopper
By Rachid Khouya Morocco World News Smara, Morocco, January 17, 2013
No one can deny the fact that we are living in a society of sciences and knowledge where information, study, education and hard work should be our values, means and choices to achieve our goals and future dreams. The world is changing so rapidly to the extent that no one knows what will happen in the coming second and in the following hour. The distance between a day and another is similarly like the distance between a minute and another minute.
Time doesn’t only fly; it blows like wind. We ignore when tomorrow is going to arrive and how it is going to be. The only thing that is sure is that tomorrow is going to be totally different. Therefore, those who work hard and study harder, undoubtedly, will be the ones who will enjoy its benefits and eat its sweet fruits……………………..
Read more: http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2013/01/74092/be-the-ant-rather-than-the-grasshopper/ ##########################################################
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