By Youssef Outmane
By Youssef Outmane
Morocco World News
Casablanca, June 9, 2012
Four month after his appointment as Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane has shown his strong determination to address the reform of the compensation fund. This decision has raised eyebrows in the country and pushed many Moroccans to express their disgruntlement at the way the government is addressing their daily concerns.
Benkirane has not set a precise timeframe for implementation of the reform. In his landmark interview with the two main Moroccan TV channels, 2M and Al Oula, he said that the reform might be completed before the end of his government’s mandate, by the end of 2016.
During the same televised interview, the head of the Islamist-led government promised to provide direct grants of cash to the poor to offset the rise of prices they will incur as a result of the reform of the compensation fund. In addition to the heavy criticism it drew from the majority of Moroccans, the head of the government will have to brace for a fierce battle against the economic lobbyists, who are the main beneficiaries of the fund.
One of the main reasons why Benkirane will be the target of acerb criticism from the economic lobbyists is that the compensation fund benefits not only citizens, but also to major companies working in the country, whether national or international. It is worth recalling that the Moroccans benefit from as little as 15 percent of the resources allocated to the compensation fund.
With the implementation of the planned reform, those companies stand to lose 30 billions dirhams ($3,5 Billion) a year.
For instance, last year the world’s largest beverage company Coca-Cola benefited enormously from the Compensation Fund, as it allowed it to save 120 million dirhams of expenses.
It strikes to see how many Moroccans are showing their disgruntlement with the measures announced by the head of the government, when this measure will in reality relieve the coffers of the state and allow the government to devote these squandered funds to structural projects.
The Moroccan people have to stop for one minute and ask themselves the following question: are they ready to continue supporting the compensation fund with their tax money, thus supporting big companies, or are they willing to see their government use their money in creating jobs, buildings, schools, and most importantly, alleviate the state’s deficit? If they want their government to make bold reforms that would result in their benefit in the long run, then, they have to support the decision made by the government.
No other nation in the world spends more than 11 percent of its GDP in supporting companies instead of citizens.
Since the establishment of the Compensation Fund on Feb. 25, 1941, under the French protectorate, it has become a source of wealth outside the control of the state. The economic lobbyists who have massive power of all dimensions will not easily allow the government to implement its reform.
As things stand now, nothing can be taken for granted. We still have a restless middle class, social justice, unemployment, and many other challenges that the government has inherited from its predecessors.
Judging by the controversy stirred by the announcement made by the government to reform the compensation fund, there is no doubt Benkirane will face an uphill battle to carry on with his long overdue reforms. Also, one can safely say that the popularity of the head of government has plummeted to unprecedented levels, as he became the target of acerb criticism.
However, should a PJD-led coalition government succeed in reforming the nation’s chronic problems, Benkirane’s reform plan would be a landmark reform in Morocco’s recent political history.
Moroccans have to come to term with the idea that the state can’t continue supporting big companies, thus, deepening its deficit and putting the country in the hands of international institutions, as is the case with Greece. Morocco does not produce oil, gas, or gold. The country has limited resources and is faced with a chronic balance of payment deficit.
To continue living above our means will be tantamount to political and economic suicide. This is exactly what the current government is trying to avoid.
We should learn from the Greek lesson. If the previous Greek governments were bold enough to cut down on their government expenses and live in accordance with their economic means, this European country would not have been under the mercy of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Instead of criticizing the government just for the sake of it or for wanting immediate results, we should stop for a moment and think long term. Yet, history has taught us that great statesmen are those who think long term and take bold and necessary reforms to move the country forward, even when these reforms are not well received by the population.
Youssef Outmane is the editor-in-chief of the Casablanca-based Radio Plus.