King Urges Parliament to Take Action, Accountability for Country’s Future

Morocco sovereign stresses joint responsibility with local elected leaders in address to Parliament

Last week, King Mohammed VI of Morocco spoke to the new session of Parliament, remarking on the 50th anniversary of its founding and its role in moving the country forward. As is characteristic of the King’s public addresses, he understands the value of the “bully pulpit” in touching on issues of public service, economic challenges, and the role of politics in governance.

It was, frankly, a tough speech for some politicians to hear. As both the King’s words and subtext made clear, he feels strongly that they should more actively shoulder their responsibility for changes and reforms that have been discussed for far too long and that need to be acted on for the good of the country. For example, “The Parliamentary Mandate…is a national mission, and by no means a source of political gains.”

Harkening back to the landmark 2011 Constitution, the King reminded the members of the need to complete the implementation of its many clauses through passage of organic laws that define policies, procedures, and protocols. In this process, he noted that “you display a sense of national consensus and stick to the broad-based participatory approach that characterized the preparation of the Constitution.”

The King also made it clear that “what really matters to us, is not only the number of laws adopted, but also, and most importantly, the legislative quality of the bills enacted.” To this end, he called on the parliament to clarify the rules of procedure for the opposition in parliament, defining their rights and processes for contributing to the development of legislation.

He also commented on the exercise of separation of powers between Morocco’s executive branch of government (the Ministers) and the legislative (Parliament).  “To ensure sound political practices, based on efficiency, coordination and institutional stability,” King Mohammed said, “I must insist on the need for constructive dialogue and close, balanced cooperation between Parliament and the government,” adding that “Parliament should not be turned into an arena for politicking and political wrangling,” a reference to the previous ruling coalition that was brought down by the withdrawal of the Istiqlal Party.

Partners in reform and development: Parliament and local officials

In addressing the importance of locally elected officials, the King made a clear distinction between the Parliament, which passes national policies, and local officials “who are accountable before those who voted for them.” He called for “close interaction with the citizen, and genuine readiness to heed his pressing concerns and to attend to his administrative and social needs.” The King spoke in some details about the “wide discrepancies…in the way local and regional affairs are managed”—some quite effectively, others “plagued by mismanagement on the part of their elected bodies.”

Using Casablanca as an example, King Mohammed noted that the goal of making the city an international financial hub “cannot materialize just by taking a decision to this effect, or by erecting huge, state-of-the-art buildings.” In addition to world-class infrastructure and services, “Good governance must be upgraded, together with an appropriate legal framework…highly skilled labor and modern management techniques…” He pointed out a number of deficiencies, including the great disparities in wealth and services, concluding that the problem in Casablanca, Morocco’s economic capital, “stems mainly from governance.”King Mohammed reminded Parliament that, as he said in his first speech as sovereign in 1999, “I did not have a magic wand to solve all the problems, but would tackle all the difficulties consciously, seriously and diligently,” and he looks to the country’s leadership, at all levels, to do the same. By stressing the close ties that should exist between the parliament and locally elected officials, the King emphasized the need to implement greater decentralization and regionalization, especially the need for capacity-building at the local and regional levels “for the emergence of new regional elites who are able to handle public affairs at the local level.”

Moving the agenda forward

In short order, the King moved proactively to demonstrate the need for action. Earlier this week, he met with the Council of Ministers to adopt draft laws that will go to Parliament to implement the 2011 Constitutional reforms in three key areas:

  • The roles and responsibilities of members of government, their prerogatives, procedures, legal status, and clarification of the role of the Ministers.
  • The mandate, operations, and procedures of the Constitutional Court.
  • The scope of work, composition, and procedures for parliamentary fact-finding commissions.

The Ministers Council also approved the broad outlines of the 2014 finance bill.

While the process of evolving a parliamentary democracy comes with both obstacles and opportunities, the King’s twin roles as arbiter and visionary for the country provide a much-needed backstop and reminder that the people’s business transcends individual political parties and special interests.

By speaking candidly about the strategic partnership for governance between members of Parliament and locally elected officials, King Mohammed is encouraging politicians and officials to support, contribute to, and be part of reforms that will serve the country and secure its future.

Unlocking Morocco’s Potential: Hearing from the Experts

A panel organized by the Financial Times on growing business opportunities in Morocco was held in New York this week. It was part of a series of programs done in association with the Moroccan Agency for Investment Development (AMDI) to highlight Morocco’s geo-strategic and geo-economic importance as a platform for accessing markets of close to a billion consumers in Europe, Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East.

The impressive panel was moderated by Ed Crooks, former BBC economics correspondent, currently the US Industry and Energy Editor for the FT. He opened the program by pointing out that Morocco has enjoyed consistent growth and stability that is attractive to international investors, a point echoed by Adil Chikhi, the Director of Development & Strategic Marketing at AMDI.

A veteran international player, Mr. Chikhi has broad experience in managing business transactions on all continents. He utilizes his extensive background in “creating a new environment for investors in Morocco,” by focusing AMDI resources on supporting “new companies and partners” for the country.

Adil pointed out that Morocco has developed national plans in key sectors, including tourism, automotive and aerospace parts manufacturing, ITC, pharmaceuticals, and value-added agro-industry.

Hildegard Gacek, Managing Director for the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), addressed her organization’s priorities in Morocco, including support for the economy by reducing risk exposure for equity investors through financing, and providing long-term loans to support new projects.

Hildegard noted that Morocco, unlike other countries in the region, has a market economy and strong financial sector. She endorsed private-public-partnerships (PPPs) as a useful vehicle to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and commented that the government, which dominates some sectors of the economy, should allow more space for the private sector, for example, in renewable energy, where there are many opportunities along the value-chain from the mega-projects awarded by the government.

An indicator of how far Morocco has evolved in advancing its financial sector was clear from the presentation by Hamid Tawfiki, CEO of CDG Capital, in which he spoke about the changes that CDG has undergone.

Since he arrived from the private sector just two years ago, CDG has greatly expanded its role as both a steward of savings (pension funds) and an investor/developer in the Moroccan economy.

As a quasi-government institution, it is committed to having a strong social impact through its investment activities, acts as an incubator for new projects, and attracts co-investors from around the world.

It has moved beyond managing pension funds to participating in the banking sector as an investor and through its own bank, and in being a co-investor in mega-projects such as the Tangier-Med port and Renault’s manufacturing facilities.

A key presentation was by Najwa El Iraki, the Head of Business Development at Casablanca Finance City (CFC). If anyone has questions about Morocco’s focus on building business in Africa, CFC is the place for answers. Established three years ago, its primary mission is to serve as the hub for financial services to the south, including francophone and other sub-Saharan countries.

With more than a decade of experience in the financial sector, Ms. El Iraki is a good example of the strong team that supports Morocco’s growth strategies. Specialized investment funds, boutique financial services companies, and financial services providers will find a welcoming home at CFC.

Since its creation in July 2009, AMDI has become the leading source of information and data on investment in Morocco, providing services that enable prospective investors and companies to gather market information on opportunities, meet prospective partners and investors, contact the right government offices, and provide technical expertise on establishing businesses and registering to do business in Morocco.

AMDI also plays an important role as an advocate for the private sector, making recommendations to the government regarding policies and procedures to support investors.  The panel will visit Frankfurt, Seoul, and Tokyo during the remainder of the year.

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If all politics is local, then Morocco should focus on details of effective governance

Given that Morocco is on schedule to produce recommendations for implementing regionalization in its southern provinces, it is a good time to reflect on what is involved in regionalization, once it is defined in law.

There are at least four intersecting lines of authority involved in the devolution of power from the central government to locally elected officials:

  • The division of political/administrative decision-making among the central government, the regional authorities (currently 16 regions and 61/62 provinces), and local governments.
  • Prioritizing and managing the country’s economic investments, including infrastructure, economic development projects, tourism, agriculture, economic growth, entrepreneurship, and higher education.
  • Coordinating the provision of citizen services, including health, education (at all levels, including technical and vocational training), retirement, disability, and environmental services and monitoring.
  • Supporting all of these lines are mechanisms dealing with taxation, human and natural resources, accounting and reporting, and coordinated monitoring and evaluation of government performance.

Managing the transition to regionalization

This brief list gives a flavor of the complexity of moving ahead with regionalization. It is important to recognize that given this complexity, it may take up to a decade before full regionalization in any one area of Morocco is completely implemented.

Fortunately, there is a wealth of international experience that can help Morocco to meet the challenges of devolving authority and building the institutional and human capacity needed.

A good place to start to gather experience on the road ahead is at the 2nd World Summit of Local Leaders and the 4th Congress of United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) being hosted in Rabat this week.  With delegates attending from more than 100 countries, “The Summit is envisaged to be a unique opportunity to present and discuss concrete local solutions to world challenges. It will also be the occasion to define policy, shape action and set future strategic goals for the new international development agenda.”

Local governments throughout the world, and in places such as Morocco where the urban population now exceeds 70 percent of the population, are increasingly tasked with spearheading new delivery systems for social services, reducing congestion and pollution, balancing budgets through creating new and more efficient revenue sources, and integrating their initiatives and responsibilities within a larger, national fabric.

King Mohammed VI made Morocco’s commitment to this vision clear.  Addressing the UCLG Congress leaders, he acknowledged the “tremendous responsibility incumbent upon local and regional actors” for “building good governance within their territorial boundaries.”

He declared “It is no longer acceptable today that central governments should have exclusive authority in defining development strategies for local communities.”

Ensuring “local authorities have the necessary legal, financial and human resources” to “fulfill their mission,” the King said, “needs to be placed at the heart of local public policy.”

The Rabat meetings will enable local and regional leaders, multilateral partners, analysts and researchers, and specialists in the complexities of urban society to review and make recommendations regarding the next set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) within the framework of Habitat III, set to begin in 2016.

It is a prime opportunity for Moroccans to discuss the opportunities and challenges of moving forward with decentralization while ensuring quality of life for its citizens.

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