Add MEEF to
MEEF - Middle East Engineering Projects News & Releases
July | August |
September | October
| November |December
| January Projects
is officially enjoying an economic boom this year, with the state
predicting that growth will leap to 7.3 percent from just 1.8
percent in 2005.
Is Morocco’s economy booming?
By Abdelfettah Fakihani - RABAT
But while some economists are hailing the upturn, others are
sceptical about the rosy outlook presented by a government with an
eye on next year's general election.
They warn that continued growth will depend on the fortunes of the
north African country's key agricultural sector. And in these days
of global warming, that farming sector depends on the vagaries of
increasingly unpredictable weather.
The kingdom of Morocco has in recent months attracted significant
foreign investment. The tourist industry has sparked particular
interest, with United Arab Emirates groups EMAAR and Dubai Holdings
pouring nine billion dollars into the sector.
Major infrastructure projects are flourishing - in roads, in
low-cost housing to replace slum dwellings and in bringing power to
the countryside. Energy Minister Mohamed Boutaleb says the
electricity grid will be extended to cover 89 percent of the largely
rural country by the end of 2006.
"Morocco is well on the road to sustainable growth," said Abdelali
Doumou, professor of economics at Casablanca University. Average
economic growth was 4.7 percent between 2001 and 2006, compared to
3.0 to 3.5 percent in the 1990s, he noted.
The huge infrastructure projects and the halving of Morocco's
foreign debt to 11 billion euros (14.4 billion dollars) over the
past seven years are contributing to national wealth, he told AFP.
So are improvements in governance and and public companies, which
are set to invest 53 billion dirhams (4.82 billion euros) in 2007.
"There is also an undeniable improvement in Moroccans' standard of
living," Doumou added, pointing to a surge in car sales and
If there is a major weakness in the Moroccan economy today, it is
its regional disparities of wealth, which need evening out, he said.
example, in the southern region of Marrakesh, increasingly prized by
European tourists and house-buyers, 7.0 percent of the population
lives below the poverty line. In the western regions of Essaouira
and Chichaoua poverty scales heights of 30 percent.
Other economists are less enthusiastic, though.
The state planning commission (HCP) recently announced that the
number of jobless people in Morocco - a country of 30 million - had
just dropped below the one-million mark for the first time in 13
years. Officially, unemployment now stands at 7.7 percent of the
active population, as opposed to 11.1 percent a year ago.
Around the same time, Finance Minister Fathalah Oualalou declared
the number of people living in extreme poverty - surviving on less
that one dollar a day - had fallen to 14 percent in 2005, or 4.2
million people, from 16.5 percent in 1997.
"The figures have been massaged," protested Najib Akesbi, economics
professor at the Hassan II Agronomy Institute in Rabat.
"How can you say the poverty rate and unemployment rate are falling
when Morocco's Human Development Index in the United Nations
Development Programme report for 2005 is stagnant? The country was
classed 124th (in 2005) and 125th the previous year."
"The government is churning out propaganda in the run-up to the
autumn 2007 parliamentary election," he sniffed.
Akesbi acknowledged that "privatisation of the air transport sector
and the 'Azur' plan for the tourist industry are positive points".
But, he cautioned, "growth is volatile because it depends on
climatic conditions and these are changing."
Farming employs 40 percent of Morocco's active population and
generates between 15 and 20 percent of gross domestic product,
depending on the year. Nearly 45 percent of the population lives in
"There is growth but it's fragile," agreed Mustapha Meftah,
economist and deputy director of the national construction
"The weight of the farming sector in the economy is still
significant. We haven't yet got into a virtuous growth circle," he
"It's paradoxical to declare that Morocco is close to full
employment when only a handful of sectors are showing any dynamism,"
"The informal sector and hidden unemployment are still huge -
particularly in the countryside."