By Siham Ali
By Siham Ali
Rabat, September 18, 2012
Financial issues are at the forefront of the Moroccan government’s agenda as the kingdom heads into a new parliamentary year.
As Morocco heads into a new legislative year, the government is focusing on economic issues, ranging from the 2013 finance bill to employment.
Those priorities were among the many outlined at a September 7th meeting of the governing coalition’s presidential committee. They also discussed regionalisation, promoting investment and social dialogue.
On this last point, the unions, who began their latest round of negotiations with the government September 10th, are promising not to let up their pressure. Miloudi Moukharik, Secretary-General of the Moroccan Workers’ Union (UMT), said that a number of grievances are still to be dealt with, including protection for union rights and pay rises.
A number of sector-based walk-outs have already been seen at the start of this new year, particularly in health and local authorities. Other sector-based unions are threatening to increase strike action if the social dialogue does not make progress.
Larbi Habchi, the MP and union representative for the Democratic Workers’ Federation (FDT), said that after several months, there has been no progress in the dialogue between the government and the unions. He called for a new approach to negotiations to respond to the unions’ grievances, “without wasting too much time on empty words”.
Mohamed Najib Boulif, the Minister Delegate for General Affairs and Good Governance Affairs, said the watchword for the new parliamentary year was “putting words into action”.
“The PJD has been accused of spending all its time pondering and moralising. But now we have formulated our views on a number of major issues, including social issues,” Boulif said.
The task facing the government is not an easy one if it is to achieve the social peace it desires, according to economist Mehdi Chennaoui. He explained that a number of social issues need to be dealt with, including pension and benefit reforms, employment for unemployed graduates, and union demands. “This is all proving difficult at a time of crisis,” he added.
Habchi, the FDT representative, said that any austerity measures likely to affect Moroccans’ daily lives would be rejected.
Fears are being expressed on all sides over the possible steps the government could take to counter the effects of the crisis. Fuel prices have already risen and the government continues to stress that the situation is a difficult one. Therefore, people are apprehensive about the possible measures contained in the 2013 finance bill, according to Chennaoui.
Elsewhere, expectations are running high among the health and education services.
“People are hoping for a boost for state education, and improved services in public hospitals,” sociologist Samira Kassimi said. “People are increasingly speaking out against corruption and women giving birth outside hospitals. The government has condemned these things. Now it has to act so that people will notice the changes.”
She added that the fight against unemployment was another thorny problem facing the government.
Inger Andersen, vice-president of the World Bank for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, said September 7th at a Rabat press briefing that “citizens across this region are demanding dignity in employment and good governance, and they want their voices to be heard in the big decisions being taken about their countries’ development.”
Regionalisation is another major issue for the new parliamentary year. The organic law on regionalisation is currently being prepared, according to the government. Economist Mehdi Chennaoui said that the law has been slow to emerge and the government must act before the local elections take place in June 2013.
“People are expecting regionalisation to boost the regions and local economies. The issue must therefore be at the top of the government’s agenda,” he said.