Morocco: Nation Working to Fight Corruption, Expand Social Services to Address Concerns About Rising Prices - Magharebia

Rabat — With the cost of food, fuel and other basic goods on the rise in Morocco, members of Parliament last week raised the issue with Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane.

Prices have continued to climb without any measures put in place to protect the purchasing power of citizens, National Rally of Independents member Hassan Bouhrize said during the February 11th session.

"The indicators are worrisome and we note an increase in the unemployment rate. A large segment of society lives below the poverty line. Many people who have taken micro-loans cannot pay them back," Bouhrize said.

The same alarm was rung by the chairman of the parliamentary bloc of the Authenticity and Modernity Party, Abdellatif Ouahbi. He argued that the real problems were unemployment and limited incomes. He accused the government of lacking a clear vision with regard to the economic problems facing society.

Urgent measures must be implemented to address the high cost of living and to avoid a negative impact not only on ordinary citizens but also on the viability of domestic firms, according to Socialist Union of Popular Forces (UFSP) MP Abdelhadi Khairat.

"In the face of higher prices, more and more people resort to smuggled goods from China and Turkey, which affects negatively Moroccan firms," he said.

For his part, Prime Minister Benkirane noted the efforts by the government to maintain price stability, particularly through grants from the Compensation Fund, the fight against speculation, and market control.

But citizen Samiha Ferkhani said the premier was trying to downplay the situation.

"In eight years, the cost of my market basket has tripled. Everything has gone up, the prices of vegetables, fruit, housing, and education... The situation must be corrected," she said.

One thing Morocco is doing to tackle the problem is work to root out corruption. Parliament is currently discussing a bill to create a new anti-graft agency with expanded powers.

The Central Authority for the Prevention of Corruption (ICPC) was established in 2007, but as per the latest constitutional amendment, the body will become "The National Commission for Integrity, Prevention, and the Fight against Corruption".

"Corruption is a form of terrorism conducted against the community and there should be a system to deter corruption, due to its risk of threatening the entity as a whole," commented Lahbib Choubani, the minister in charge of relations with Parliament.

"There should be concerted efforts by journalists and politicians to subdue corruption through the logic of law and the rule of the state," he continued.

Choubani added that Morocco needs a new generation of reforms that serve the overall security of the simple citizen and make them feel protected from various types of corruption.

One of the main problems for the ICPC is independence, agency chief Abdesselam Aboudrar said.

"The authority became convinced of the need to clarify this concept, draw its limits, and conjure its implications," the ICPC head said.

"This put us before the inevitability of establishing requirements related to the legal functionality of the National Independent Authority, its position as an institution, its financial control, and the mechanisms of appointments. There was also the question of representation as far as diversity and balance of members are concerned," Aboudrar added.

Though the large task of combatting corruption is prevention, it should not be limited to one institution, Research Network of Anti-Corruption Agencies (ANCORAGE-NET) Director Luís de Sousa said.

"Establishing a multi-tasked institution does not guarantee an exhaustive inventory of all the varied and many problems of corruption," de Sousa added.

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