According to El Othmani, the COVID-19 pandemic will drive unprecedented change in Morocco.
The government will decide on the right measures to implement at the right time, El Othmani added in an interview with Maroc Hebdo published on Monday, April 27.
“The unprecedented scale of this [health] crisis effectively urges us to think about further strengthening the social orientation of the government … We will decide on the appropriate improvements in due course,” he said.
The Moroccan government has a “very strong” social orientation in its policies, El Othmani continued. He referenced several “achievements,” such as the social agreement with trade unions in April 2019 and the increase in the state’s budget for several social sectors including student grants, student transportation, and school canteens.
The head of government also emphasized the importance of social protection and identifying citizens through a unique social register.
The register has allowed the government to provide financial support to all Moroccans who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis, El Othmani illustrated.
Human life over economic productivity
Touching on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the national economy, El Othmani said the year 2020 will not only be difficult for the Moroccan economy, but for all countries around the world, including global superpowers.
Morocco is not immune to the global effects of the pandemic because its national economy is integrated into the global economy and international value chains, El Othmani explained.
However, the crisis has human and social impacts in addition to economic consequences, he continued.
Morocco’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic focuses mainly on saving human lives, regardless of any other considerations, the head of government stressed.
“It is true that it is very expensive for our economy, but it is the price to pay to avoid heavy losses in human and health terms,” he said.
El Othmani cited three main factors helping minimize the impact of the crisis: The far-sighted decisions of King Mohammed VI, the surge of national solidarity, and the collective mobilization of the government and all Moroccan institutions and bodies.
To adjust to new economic realities, the government will make amendments to the appropriation bill, said El Othmani.
However, it is still early to decide on the amendments as they require a good estimate of macroeconomic parameters, which are constantly changing, he continued.
“We are closely monitoring the economic situation, and, for the time being, we have given our instructions, through a circular, to administrations and public establishments to rationalize expenditure and direct available resources towards the priorities needed to face the health crisis and its economic and social impacts; and this until the end of next June,” El Othmani explained.
Upgraded health infrastructure
Regarding Morocco’s health sector and its ability to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, El Othmani explained that health was a priority for the government since the start of its mandate.
In terms of human resources, the number of new recruits assigned to the health system has doubled each year since 2018, the head of government recalled, while the state budget allocated to health has also increased by almost a quarter over the last two years.
Thanks to preventive measures, “the situation is under control in [Moroccan] hospitals,” El Othmani assured.
The Ministry of Health’s measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic have been effective in keeping the situation under control in Morocco, said the senior official, revealing that only 14% of intensive care beds dedicated to COVID-19 are currently in use.
Towards a more inclusive economy?
At the end of the interview, El Othmani discussed the situation of Moroccan workers in the informal sector.
According to him, the COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to support informal workers to integrate into the formal sector, comply with regulatory provisions, and benefit from fiscal and social equity.
The integration of informal workers in the formal sector would allow this section of the population to become visible and contribute to Morocco’s economy, El Othmani added.
The Moroccan economy is witnessing paradigm shifts on several levels and what is happening today will not only lead to the emergence of a new development model, but also to new ways of working, producing, and consuming, the head of government concluded.