New York - Mr. Aziz Rebbah, Morocco’s Minister of Transportation, surprised many Moroccans when he took the unprecedented and bold move of revealing a list of beneficiaries of transportation licenses. In an attempt to break away with previous governments’ malaise in combating corruption, Mr. Rabah ushered a new era of transparency and government accountability. Many have considered his act as a clear example of the PJD-lead coalition government’s efforts to promote good governance by eradicating the systemic and structural deficiencies in Morocco’s political and economic spheres.
New York – Mr. Aziz Rebbah, Morocco’s Minister of Transportation, surprised many Moroccans when he took the unprecedented and bold move of revealing a list of beneficiaries of transportation licenses. In an attempt to break away with previous governments’ malaise in combating corruption, Mr. Rabah ushered a new era of transparency and government accountability. Many have considered his act as a clear example of the PJD-lead coalition government’s efforts to promote good governance by eradicating the systemic and structural deficiencies in Morocco’s political and economic spheres.
The list contains well-to-do Moroccan businessmen, athletes, artists and veteran state agents, including Nourdine Nybet, Badou Zakki, Mouna Fetou, Latifa Raafat,Naima Samih, Naouel Moutawkel, abdelbari Zemzami, Abdelkhalik Shafik, and many more. Moroccans were especially distressed because the beneficiaries, many of whom were incredibly wealthy, were further enhancing their socio-economic statues at the expense of poor citizens across Morocco.
The majority of Moroccans support the right of a compatriot to reap special benefits if the latter served the public interest, and if he or she acquired wealth through hard work, qualification and competence. Regarding the disclosed list, some of the beneficiaries merit the transport licenses since they have served Morocco to the best of their capabilities. The controversy, however, is that the majority of Moroccans believe that the beneficiaries earned their wealth through exploitation, opportunism and nepotism. They lament an inescapable fact in Morocco: inequality of opportunity is rampant and is just one of the many vices of corruption.
Corruption should not be limited to theft of public wealth or the use of nepotism as a fast track to personal enrichment. It transcends financial malfeasance. It is a manipulation of circumstances that favor power and connection over perseverance and aptitude. It is a violation of public trust that derives from weakness of principles, patriotism and integrity. To think that a person merits favorable treatment vis-à-vis his/her fellow citizens, simply because of a perceived public service, is moral hypocrisy and shows a parochial, simplistic understanding of what is duty and what is service.
Most beneficiaries will insist that they only sought the special licenses (Grimat) due to unemployment and lack of financial security. But we must counter their arguments by asking: is it not the case that millions of Moroccans suffer from similar conditions? Are there not others, who better served their country, and are therefore more deserving of these licenses? Does being a “celebrity” put you in a category above ordinary citizens? Above all, what have you achieved for Morocco? Is raising the flag and singing the national anthem, at public events, render you extraordinary? Do your familial origins give you preeminence and first class citizenship? Unfortunately, remnants of the culture of feudalism still exist throughout Moroccan society. To the undeserving beneficiaries, as well as those that ranted them the licenses, I say that you have set a terrible example for Morocco’s youth and you have grossly undermined the ethos that hard work and honesty are the recipe for success. You have lost your credibility and integrity and you are completely devoid of the spirit of selflessness, sacrifice and patriotism.
Returning to the actual disclosure, Moroccans were not shocked by the names as much as they were by the courageous act of sharing information that had historically been shielded as a “state secret”. The PJD-lead coalition government made it abundantly clear that it will honor its campaign pledges to make the constitution a living document with enforceable provisions. Mr. Benkirane’s government is challenging the long-held belief that the public is to be denied access to “sensitive components” of the Moroccan economy.
He and his cabinet are reinforcing the inalienable right of the public to obtain information that has an impact on their lives. In doing so, Mr. Benkirane is slowly laying the foundations of a democratic society. Every Moroccan has the right to partake, either directly or via a representative, in decision making processes and to demand access to information so that they may hold officials accountable. By revealing the list, Mr. Benkirane’s government is cultivating a culture of accountability and empowering normal citizens to scrutinize policies as well as policy makers.
Unsurprisingly, Sheikh Abdekbari Zemzami, one of the beneficiaries, considers Minister Rabah’s move as an attempt to deviate the public’s attention from Morocco’s real problems. With all due respect to Sheikh Zemzami, his characterization of the disclosure is adding insult to injury. He neglects irrefutable facts such as the arbitrary nature of awarding licenses to already wealthy individuals, while the vast majority of Moroccans endure harsh socio-economic conditions. With regards to the Sheikh, his preaching of controversial Fatwas, such as the legalization of necrophilia under Islamic law, deserves condemnation not reward and compensation. The irony is that Sheikh Zemazami often accuses PJD ministers of being superficial and random. I assume he has forgotten his occasional media appearances where he tackles matters that are completely irrelevant and are only meant to create a fuss to diverge public opinion from more important issues.
In a show of true independence of opinion and diversity of thought, officials from Mr. Benkirane’s government expressed disagreement over disclosing the transport licenses list. In a speech delivered during the 8th session of the Party of Progress and Socialism’s Central Committee, Mr. Nabil Benabdellah, Minister of Housing, Town Planning and Urban Policy, declared that unilateral initiatives by ministers should not be expected to solve the problem of rentier economy. He stated that, in order to deal with this issue, the government should rely on a comprehensive and consultative approach contingent with the new constitution. For some, Mr. Benadelah’s statement was ambiguous and implied discord among Morocco’s coalition government. What is also vague is the method by which the current government is expected to halt corruption. Statements that call for comprehensive approach are not new to Moroccans as previous governments declare similar commitment in tackling corruption.
What counts for people are concrete results, not buzz words and grandiose statements. If we rely on the words of Mr. Benabdelah, how long are we expected to wait for these comprehensive approaches to take effect? What magical comprehensive program will cure Morocco’s economy of its illness and close the gap between the wealthy and poor? If Mr. Benabdelah has a more effective strategy for good governance, the Moroccan people would love to hear it. Moroccans no longer accept eloquent statements that are nothing but empty promises incapable of undoing their daily hardships. The Moroccan public has lost so much faith in representatives that only tangible actions will restore the credibility of policy makers. Only measurable initiatives are likely to eliminate residues of profiteering and boost tax payers’ trust in their official institutions.
Mr. Aziz Rabah’s initiative is a commendable step in a long journey towards good governance, accountability and transparency. Will Mr. Aziz Akhannouch, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, follow in the footsteps of his colleague and disclose the list of those who benefit from fishing licenses? Only time will tell.
Edited by Hicham Elkoustaf
Adnane Bennis is co-founder and managing editor of Morocco World News. You can follow him on twitter @BennisAdnane
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