In a 14-page report, UN organizations, along with the HCP, presented an extensive analysis of the COVID-19 crisis in Morocco and gave a series of recommendations to overcome national challenges.
According to the report, published on August 17, the percentage of Moroccans “vulnerable to poverty” or “poor” is expected to reach 19.87% in 2020.
Epidemiological situation in Morocco
The report begins with an introduction to the epidemiological situation in Morocco, as well as the medical staff available to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. According to numbers presented in the study, Morocco counts 25,574 medical personnel and 3,000 intensive care beds.
In the first three months after the beginning of the domestic outbreak, Morocco’s strict lockdown was efficient in saving lives, according to the report. However, after the Moroccan government began easing some lockdown measures in early June, the epidemiological situation “quickly evolved with the appearance of several industrial and familial clusters.”
In terms of socio-economic indicators, the report highlighted the sectors hardest-hit by the COVID-19 crisis in Morocco, despite efforts to mitigate the pandemic’s impacts.
“Strict measures, extensive financial compensation efforts, and a continuous demonstration of solidarity and hope … have allowed, to some extent, to attenuate the effects of the crisis. Some sectors, however, have been strongly impacted, notably tourism, transport, cultural activities and events, but also, transversally, the informal sector,” the report said.
In the past two decades, Morocco has significantly reduced monetary poverty from a rate of 15.3% in 2001 to 4.8% in 2014. However, the World Bank forecasts that the national poverty rate can reach 6.6% in 2020.
The percentage of people in Morocco “vulnerable to poverty” or “poor” is also expected to increase from 17.1% in 2019 to 19.87% in 2020. The increase represents 1.06 million Moroccans who may become at risk of poverty this year.
“The socioeconomic impact of the crisis will undoubtedly be felt first and foremost by workers in the informal sector who represent a large majority of working Moroccans and foreigners (migrants, refugees),” the study said.
Informal workers in Morocco are also “generally employed” in sectors particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis, such as tourism, transport, retail, and the gig economy.
On a positive note, the suspension of tourism and transport activities, as well as industry to a lesser extent, had a positive impact on the environment, making it the only beneficiary of the COVID-19 crisis in Morocco.
However, all other aspects of life, including employment, social security, gender equality, and data management, have witnessed negative effects.
Economic impact on Morocco
The global economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has directly affected Morocco, the report said. The domestic lockdown measures have also negatively impacted the Moroccan economy. The unprecedented circumstances translated into difficult challenges for Morocco.
According to the HCP, economic growth in Morocco did not exceed 0.1% in the first quarter of 2020. Agriculture, industry, and services were the sectors that recorded the lowest annual economic growth.
Both local consumption and external demand have significantly decreased during this period, negatively affecting commerce and trade in Morocco.
Overall, Morocco’s GDP in the first quarter of 2020 recorded a -13.8% growth compared to the same period in 2019.
The COVID-19 crisis in Morocco has affected smaller businesses the most, with micro-sized businesses and small companies representing 72% and 26%, respectively, of companies that suspended their activities.
According to HCP’s indicators, the Moroccan economy only began to recover in the third quarter of 2020. The country’s GDP currently indicates an annual growth of -4.1%, compared to -13.8% at the start of the domestic COVID-19 outbreak.
Approximately 86% of businesses that suspended their activities in Morocco due to the COVID-19 crisis have already resumed, as of July.
The report predicts the Moroccan economy will record a recession in 2020, with a GDP 5.8% lower than in 2019 and a budget deficit of 6.9%. However, economic growth is expected to gradually recover in 2021. The report predicts a GDP growth of 4.4%, compared to 2020.
Besides the strict public safety measures, the report highlighted Morocco’s financial mobilization to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis through a special fund. The fund aims to support vulnerable businesses and households affected by the pandemic.
According to the report, the fund helped many businesses avoid bankruptcy and preserve jobs. The document also recalled the Moroccan government’s amendment of the 2020 Finance Bill to reallocate the state budget to priority sectors.
While the study acknowledged the positive impact the special fund had on the Moroccan society and economy, it gave several recommendations to better manage the budget.
Prioritizing support for vulnerable populations and the economic sectors with the highest number of jobs is essential to mitigate the socio-economic damage of the crisis. The report also emphasized the need for an inclusive approach that benefits migrants and refugees, as well.
Finally, in terms of gender equality, the study highlighted the importance of taking into consideration gender-specific vulnerabilities and engaging women in Morocco’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Morocco’s role in Africa
Citing the UN secretary-general, the report highlighted the importance of a global COVID-19 response, worth at least 10% of the world’s GDP. The document also emphasized the need for the world to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) after the COVID-19 crisis.
Morocco, according to the report, has a strong potential to achieve SDGs thanks to its efforts in human development and the fight against climate change. The country has the required basis to put in place a new model for sustainable, inclusive, and equitable development.
Recalling Morocco’s royal initiative to send medical aid to over 15 African countries, the study highlighted the North African country’s continental and regional role.
“Regional solidarity and exchange of practices, along with a reinforced South-South cooperation political dialogue could … reinforce the regional pertinence of the Moroccan model characterized by rigor, innovation, and experimentation,” the report said.
Priorities and recommendations
At the end of the report, the authors presented five priorities that Morocco should focus on to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.
The priorities are, in order, health, social protection and essential services, economic relaunch, macroeconomic measures and multilateral collaboration, and social cohesion.
Based on the priorities, the report gave five main recommendations.
First, Morocco should elaborate a new model for economic balance and sustainable development, aligned with its SDGs achievements.
The second recommendation is to innovate the collection and analysis of contextualized data in order to include all categories of the population.
Third, Morocco should consider the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to reinforce advanced regionalization and valorize the role of NGOs.
The fourth recommendation is to give special attention to the evolution of multidimensional poverty and to the planification of an inclusive response.
Finally, the report recommends Morocco to further invest in its public medical, educational, and administrative services after the COVID-19 crisis.