By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, June 8, 2012
The head of government, Mr. Benkirane looked and sounded assertive in his address to Moroccans through the Moroccan TV channels after his intervention in the House of Counselors was unexpectedly postponed by Mr. Biadillah, the president of the House of Counselors. The situation flew out of handle in the second chamber when Mr. Choubani, minister in charge of relations with the parliament considered the discrepancy in the intervention time allotted to the government and to the MPs as unconstitutional. In a very sensible and unprecedented move, Mr. Benkirane chose to address the nation through another channel fearing that the decision to raise fuel prices may stir more controversy. He used his populist rhetoric and a set of arguments to convince the public of the worth and the positive implications of his government’s decision.
In a nation desiring radical reforms, the rise of fuel prices was automatically faced with skepticism. Indeed the concept of reform bears a positive connotation since it implies a betterment of the current situation either by reducing people’s plight or by enhancing existing privileges. Yet, the new decision provoked an outcry among the opposition, car owners and more vociferously among transport professionals who will be more affected by this rise.
Mr. Benkirane asserts solemnly that the rise in fuel prices will not have any impact at the social level, adding that the subsidy fund’s initial mission is to redress imbalance in distribution of wealth. He adds that the austerity measures announced and the rise in the fuel prices is expected to save 10 billion dirhams especially that the social dialogue begun earlier with trade unions requires 13 billion dirhams. He considers that those who own a car do not usually belong to the underprivileged classes. Therefore, providing assistance to 3 million needy families whose subsistence depends more on the availability of live stock and gas is the real priority.
Mr. Benkirane’s narrative is again full of populist promises reminiscent of the heroic figure of Robin Hood taking from the rich to feed the poor. The sole difference in this context is that the segment of society that will suffer more is not the rich but what remains of the Moroccan middle class who have decent jobs, rent flats or own their houses with nearly life time mortgages, drive cars they are still paying off and those who have to strive to save money into the next month. It is the category whose modest purchasing power is the only stimulus for the domestic markets.
Whether the rise in fuel prices will have its sought after effects in making the needy less needy is still questionable. Nevertheless, this decision will surely add more hurdles in the way those middle class women and men who face a constant battle for a decent and almost a comfortable life.
On the other hand, Mr. Benkirane’s speech about the tax on wealth reveals his reluctance to impose any form of taxation on rich people. It turned out that the socialist Islamist rhetoric is incrementally waning having been confronted with an unflinching reality. Obviously, Mr. Benkirane does not want to upset the wealthy class who may withdraw their investments as an act of retaliation. Besides, adversity with such a powerful class won’t make it easy for the head of government to carry out his agenda.
More surprising is Benkirane’s opposition to reduce ministers and high officials’ wages under the pretext that such a measure will not have any noticeable impact. He pinpointed that the rentier economy is the real ailment that undermines all reforms efforts. In this regard, Mr. Benkirane announced according to the Moroccan daily Akhbar al Yawm, “The government is preparing unpleasant surprises to all rentier economy beneficiaries”. Despite its audacity in dealing with this form of business, the government’s actions have been criticized for their inefficiency.
It is no longer a secret that the PJD has relinquished a number of those promises that rallied crowds of voters during its electoral campaign. Faced with hurdles, deep-rooted practices and economic constraints, the PJD ministers are now learning the difference between political idealism and political pragmatism. Despite its reformative aspect, the government’s strategy remains fragmentary which does not allow at the time being for a comprehensive and just assessment of its prowess and defeats.