Some architects are finding themselves in financial trouble with taxes and bills to pay while facing late payments from customers.
Tangier – While Moroccans are well aware of the suffering COVID-19 is bringing on the country’s most vulnerable people, there is also a toll on some of its educated elite.
Recently, 2M’s parity and disparity committee asked me to participate in the national solidarity campaign by providing insights and advice on dealing with the pandemic over the coming weeks of confinement based on my expertise.
I agreed to make a one-minute video clip in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) where I called for direct contributions to the government’s special COVID-19 fund rather than uncoordinated distributions of aid without any real impact. In my message, I aimed to explain the theory of the social contract and shared a macroeconomic vision to support the state.
In other words, I recommend we centralize all contributions into state funds which the government would then redistribute in an egalitarian manner during the emergency caused by the global pandemic.
Tanja7, a local newspaper, then pirated and distributed the video and an image of me from my Facebook account without permission. The newspaper twisted my words, claiming I was speaking as vice president of Tangier’s regional union of architects and published an article under the sensationalist title “Architects, like doctors, claim their share of the COVID-19 pie.”
As per Law 09/08 on the protection of personal data, I could take legal action against the newspaper since they used and distributed the video without my consent.
Morocco’s L’Economiste newspaper also leaked the draft of an internal National Council of Architects’ working document. The document has still not been agreed upon between the council and Moroccan social security, CNSS.
Are architects just being greedy?
The leak sparked debate and highlighted the precarious situation of some architects in the private sector. Let me be clear, the provisions L’Economiste quoted only concern architects in a precarious position and not all architects, a distinction that, when lost, caused confusion.
To be sure, some architects are still doing well and have thus far contributed almost MAD 3 million to the COVID-19 fund.
The union of architects also has a solidarity fund to help the most vulnerable among them during the crisis, showing architects are dignified and united.
Nonetheless, in the long term, some architects will need to be considered bankrupt SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). By gaining the designation of SME, the architects would get access to the recovery relief of the COVID-19 fund. In the original decree, the law stipulates the fund as an economic shield to save the country’s economy and help the most vulnerable.
Because the majority of architects in Morocco’s private sector practice as individuals, they cannot declare bankruptcy. Only SMEs can register bankruptcy; private citizens cannot.
Architects do not benefit from CNSS by law. The law only allows them to “declare” their employees. As employers, architects are now operating on a loss because they are unable to keep up with payments or claim benefits from the CNSS.
I would like to draw attention to the precarious situation of these architects in Morocco who are suffering from the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis and who also need subsistence aid because they have nothing left to eat, during or after the crisis. There is also no potential work on the horizon, given the pre-pandemic recession in the sector.
The shock to the sector may surprise the public, many of whom believe architects, as highly qualified members of the elite, will not be affected by the crisis.
Unfortunately, the reality is quite different. Architects are finding themselves without working capital with charges and taxes to pay on small projects, sometimes spread over a whole year. Now the architects are registering late payments from clients, leaving them unable to pay outstanding bills.
We will have to realize our colleagues are suffering. We have to overcome prejudices because there is no work in either the public or private market.
As a direct consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the profession will suffer from a strong recession in 2020, and a large proportion of architects will be severely impacted.
Soukayna Benjelloun is a Tangier-based architect. She holds a PhD in political science and territorial governance.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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