Rabat - Video of Minister Delegate in Charge of Tourism, Lamia Boutaleb, giving a panicked answer in Parliament on Tuesday has sparked a huge debate on electronic and social media in Morocco.
Rabat – Video of Minister Delegate in Charge of Tourism, Lamia Boutaleb, giving a panicked answer in Parliament on Tuesday has sparked a huge debate on electronic and social media in Morocco.
While some slammed the minister, claiming her shaky answer was clear proof that she is not fit for the job, others saw the debate as over-exaggerated, seeing Boutaleb simply as someone unaccustomed to speaking in Arabic in public due to her French and English educational and professional career.
The controversy has provided a reason to shed some light on the person behind it.
Of the 39 members of the Moroccan cabinet, Lamia Boutaleb, was among the least known to the public.
The former successful banker had not been expecting to suddenly become “famous” for what could prove to be the most embarrassing moment in her life.
Shaky, hesitant and incoherent, Boutaleb became a laughing stock in parliament where other MPs did not bother to hide their laughter and giggles.
Since the parliamentary sessions was being aired live on TV, a video soon surfaced on Youtube and other social media platforms, showing the minister struggling. For three painful minutes, Boutaleb tried in vain to give a clear answer in Arabic to what seemed a very simple question about government strategy for promoting domestic tourism.
Electronic media saw it as an opportunity to get more viewership, publishing the video with sensational titles.
Arguments ensued on social media, questioning whether Boutaleb is the right person for the position she has assumed. Language debates reopened in a country where tension between Arabic-speaking and French-speaking elite and social classes is already deeply felt.
Boutaleb described the debate as “futile,” calling on Moroccans to discuss more important matters. “I think it would be more constructive to not look back at this episode and talk about real issues and what we do for tourism in Morocco,” she said.
A Newcomer to Politics
Many successful business people in Morocco choose, at a certain point in their life, to enter the political arena.
Primarily, they join the National Rally of Independents (RNI), the liberal political party with close ties to the state, where they have high chances of assuming ministerial positions. This was the case for Boutaleb.
Grand-daughter of Moulay Ali Kettani, the founder of Wafabank, Boutaleb has, to her credit, both the family connections and educational and professional qualifications to make her highly coveted by a political party such as RNI.
Her entourage believes, however, that her profile is what truly makes her highly sought-after.
“Political parties need fresh blood. As a business banker and consultant of major economic groups, she has important networks,” Saad Kettani, her uncle and honorary president of the insurance company, Wafa Assurance, told French-speaking weekly magazine TelQuel.
Fellow RNI and former minister, Moncef Belkhayat, praised Boutaleb as a person who knows finance and investment well, saying that “for international tourism investors, mostly needed to boost the sector, she is going to be a good interlocutor.”
A Perfect Resume
Following her parliamentary video controversy, a good number of Boutaleb’s detractors probably had no idea she possesses a perfect resume.
With degrees from Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC) in Lausanne and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Boutaleb had a successful professional career in store.
Following her graduation from HEC in 1993, she joined the International Finance Corporation, the Washington-based affiliate of the World Bank Group.
Once an MBA graduate from Wharton, she came back to Morocco to work for Wafabank.
As the years went by, she accumulated enough experience in business banking to become an advisor of the CEO of l’Office chérifien de phosphates (OCP), Mostafa Terrab, from 2007 to 2009.
Some time later, she joined hands with her uncle, Saad Kettani, and Anas Ouachrif to found Capital Trust Group, the business bank of which she became the CEO.