By Siham Ali
By Siham Ali
Rabat, February 5, 2012
Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane has declared a war on the rentier economy, pledging to remove privileges and exemptions based on patronage.
The policy affects several areas, such as granting licenses for taxis or coaches and exemptions in the housing or maritime fishing sectors.
Such income is based on a monopoly, charging prices higher than the going rate in the absence of competition, economist Ahmed Soundoussi explained. It also has to do with distributing mining or other wealth and resources through a system of forced patronage, he said.
Benkirane appealed to MPs to support his plans to do away with such flavors, saying that he was prepared to publish a list of recipients.
The measures include greater powers for the Competition Committee, which is now recognized by the constitution. Article 166 of the Constitution has widened the powers of this body, which exists to control unfair business practices.
Committee chairman Abdelali Benamor said that his organization has a team of experienced economic and legal experts who are capable of fighting the rentier economy. He added that the problem costs the national economy between 1% and 1.5% of GDP.
The Competition Committee has encountered a certain amount of resistance from some lobbying groups, Benamor added, and it will take a concerted effort by influential sectors of society if malpractice in the market is to be stamped out.
Mohamed Najib Boulif, Minister Delegate for General Affairs and Governance, assured that the government saw stamping out the rentier economy as one of its priorities. He said that it was important to get rid of the “practice whereby public tenders can be secured by a telephone call”.
“We need to get rid of such approvals within the next four or five years and set up an appropriate legal framework,” he added. “Approvals must be governed by formal specifications.”
Despite its resolve to tackle this area, the government acknowledged the task would not be an easy one. Benkirane has pointed out that a progressive approach is needed to meet their stated objectives. He called on officials to set an example by not taking advantage of the rentier economy.
Driss Radi, an MP from the Chamber of Councillors, was spurred into action by the head of the executive’s call. He handed in his taxi licence to Benkirane.
“I wanted to make a gesture, to encourage all those enjoying big favours to reject them. We need to fight the rentier economy and corruption,” he commented.
The time is ripe for change, Benkirane said. “Those who have profited need to know how to stop. It’s better to be modestly rich in a stable country than very rich in a threatened country,” the prime minister said.
Ahmed Zaidi, head of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) parliamentary group, called for a joint commitment to practical action to deal with corruption. It takes a number of forms, he said, and represents a huge danger to a national economy seeking to generate added value, wealth and employment.
“Public opinion is focused on seeing effective steps taken on the issue,” Zaidi said. “We shall see whether Benkirane’s government will have the courage to publish the list of those enjoying such favours, whilst putting mechanisms in place to recover the rights of society.”
The announcement is good news for people like Hakim M, a taxi driver has been working all day for the last ten years and has to pay more than half of his takings to the licence owner.
“It’s easy money for him, without having to work,” he said. “It’s unfair. There needs to be a new system to allow young people to enter the profession without being at the mercy of licence holders, who have been able to make a profit they don’t deserve.”