News / Africa

    Subsidy Reform Dispute Imperils Morocco's Ruling Coalition

    Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane (May 1, 2013 photo)Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane (May 1, 2013 photo)
    x
    Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane (May 1, 2013 photo)
    Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane (May 1, 2013 photo)
    Reuters
    Morocco's junior government party is threatening to quit the coalition unless Islamist prime minister Abdelilah Benkirane moderates plans for sweeping cuts to subsidies on food and energy.
     
    Increased subsidies have been part of Morocco's strategy to prevent popular discontent welling up into an uprising of the kind that has toppled rulers across north Africa, but the moderate Islamist PJD argues, along with the IMF, that they have become unsustainable.
     
    State subsidies on food and energy shot up to 57 billion dirhams ($6.6 billion) in 2012 - 15 percent of total public spending - from 48.8 billion in 2011 and 29.8 billion in 2010.
     
    Nevertheless, the conservative Istiqlal party, in a move that analysts said was likely to have the backing of the palace, the ultimate power in Morocco, said the PJD's reform plans were too radical.
     
    “The PJD is ignoring our demands and trying to rule as if it controlled the whole government,” party spokesman Adil Benhamza told Reuters on Monday. “If we get no answer we will quit the government.”
     
    In a step supported by the International Monetary Fund, the government aims to repair its finances by reducing subsidies on food and energy in favor of direct aid to the poorest Moroccans.
     
    It has not put detailed numbers to its plans, but the political sensitivity of the matter has already pushed the measures back beyond the planned June start.
     
    Nevertheless, the PJD has shown no sign of backing down.
     
    “Subsidies burn up 57 billion Moroccan dirhams ($6.6 billion) - how is it possible that someone says that's a red line?” Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane told a PJD meeting on Sunday, adding that the state pension system also required reform.
     
    “They attack us via their papers and TV, but the Moroccan people have chosen us, and voted for us,” Benkirane said. “So we are the people.”
     
    Istiqlal, a major political force before losing an election to the PJD in 2011, said it favored introducing bigger efficiency savings and import control measures.
     
    “PJD wants to raise prices and hit the poorest, while we prefer to pick up some billions which are at the hands of speculators by controlling imports,” Benhamza said. “The government said it spent 57 billion dirham in subsidies last year, but it is not true. It recovers 23 billion in value added tax.”
     
    The political establishment around King Mohammed is anxious to avoid a drop in living standards and prevent a return to street protests for political and economic reforms that he managed to stifle in 2011 with social spending, harsh policing, and constitutional reforms that paved the way for the PJD to come to power.
     
    Morocco's trade deficit rose to a record 197.2 billion dirhams ($23.6 billion) in 2012, while the budget deficit reached 2.2 pct of GDP in the first quarter of 2013.
     
    Since King Mohammed retains decisive power, some analysts said the Istiqlal demands looked far from spontaneous.
     
    “The Istiqlal (move) is not independent from the palace, which retains real power,” said Omar Bendorou, a constitutional expert at the University of Rabat. “Maybe the palace wants to control the structural reforms and put the PJD under pressure.”

    You May Like

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora