By Nidal Chebbak
By Nidal Chebbak
Morocco World News
Fez, February 15, 2012
Like in previous years, Mawazine Festival stirs a new controversy, as American R&B singer, Mariah Carey, is due to receive more than 830 thousand dollars to perform at the closing ceremony of the 11th edition of Mawazin festival, to be held between 18 and 26 May, 2012 in Rabat.
With her performance pay, Mariah Carey will rank second on Mawazin’s list of the highest paid entertainers, just behind the late Whitney Houston who received 890 thousand dollars for her 2008 performance. Ms. Carey’s performance pay will also top that of her Colombian counterpart, Shakira, who recently received 772 thousand dollars for 30 minutes on stage. These obscenely high compensations are heavily criticized by the majority of Moroccans who object to the lavish music festivals for their waste of money on international singers as opposed to meaningful investments that could help improve the living conditions of millions of Moroccans.
Last year, there were protests against Mawazin Festival due to the extravagant pay given to foreign singers. Moroccans are not against music festivals per se. But they would prefer more focus and attention on national artists who are highly talented and admired by the people and less demanding when it comes to money. The music festival systematically ignores and overshadows national artists while over-glorifying international performers who only drain the country’s treasury, taking away hard currency, which in short supply in Morocco.
With the new PJD government in power, Moroccans hoped that this matter would be taken into consideration and that their demands would not be ignored like last year. Regrettably, the new government has yet to take a position on Mawazin’s compensation for international artists..
Before coming to power, the PJD leadership has always declared that they are against all forms of waste of public funds. Moreover, as many Moroccans staged an online protest against the 10th edition of Mawazine, many PJD members stated that they were against Mawazine’s extravagance at the expense of the Moroccan people.
One can only recall a famous intervention at the Moroccan parliament last year(when Mawazine festival ended) by Mrs. Bassima Hakkaoui, current Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development. She stated that she was “totally against such events where money is wasted, instead of directing it towards a human societal cause that would benefit the people.”
Mawazine Festival has ended, which was organized as a mere flagrant challenge to the calls of the House of Representatives and the Moroccan street to cancel or at least delay this year’s edition because of the critical circumstances that we know both on the national and international level. The millions that were spent on the festival could have been invested to secure jobs for the unemployed Moroccan youth, or to provide food for the hungry, or set logistics for democracy. We need those billions that were given to a dancer to come to the closing ceremony of the festival” she said.
Mrs. Hakkaoui spoke, as she stated that day, on behalf of the PJD. Many Moroccans are wondering where the PJD will stand vis-à-vis Mawazine festival this year.
Moroccan social media activists have taken a stand against the festival by creating several Facebook pages in support of their cause to cancel the festival. The most famous page is entitled “The National Campaign for the Abolition of Mawazine Festival”. The slogan of the page is “We are not against art but we are against wasting people’s money”. So far the page has reached a total of more than 35.500 supporters of the campaign.
In a comment on that Facebook page, Abderrazak from Casablanca stated: “The ruling party PJD, that was always preaching and raising its voice for the abolition of the previous editions of the festival and exposing the huge amounts of money that were spent there, should react to what’s happening this year too. They are ruling the government now and they didn’t issue any statement towards this year’s edition of the festival and in the meanwhile, the organizers are still signing contracts with foreign artists. This is a black spot in the history of the current government.”
Youssef D mentioned in a status at the page: “We are fed up with the politics of Mawazine while the Moroccan people are dying out of the cold and suffering from unemployment.”
Samira K commented: “I say NO to this festival where money is wasted; money that should have been spent for the benefit and promotion of our country. There are some who say that there are investors who pay for such festival and that they are not public money, but it is a huge lie to manipulate the Moroccan people and delude them from the truth. We don’t need these pointless festivals; we are only for committed cultural festival that could benefit the intellect of the public and not the cheap one that cost us billions.”
For the second year in a row, Moroccans are calling for the festival to be cancelled. They believe that the country has serious issues to deal with and spend money on rather than a show of an hour or two. Issues like poverty, unemployment, education, the fight against corruption that are deeply rooted in various sectors come on top of the issues of concerns for the Moroccan people. Now, the question is: will the current government respond in any way to the Moroccans people’s demands and stand up to their principle when they called last year for the cancellation of the festival or will they just ignore these voices like the previous government did?
This outcry of the Moroccan people comes amid a heated controversy over the salary being paid to Morocco’s national team’s coach Eric Gerets. According to many news reports, he earns a monthly salary of 250,000 Euros, which turns him into the highest paid coach of a national team in the world. In exchanges of this exorbitant salary he rewarded Morocco’s fans with a early and shameful elimination from the first round of the African Cup of Nations, which was hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.