Magharebia (Washington DC)

Morocco: Moroccans Worried About Pension Reform

Rabat — The Moroccan Retirement Fund (CMR) will begin consuming its reserves in the next few weeks.

By early next year, the kingdom's pension system will be in deficit.

And its reserves will run out in 2021 if no reforms are implemented.

Morocco's audit court has called attention to serious shortcomings in the CMR, L'Economiste reported on December 13th.

In the face of the alarming findings, the government is stepping up the pace. It pledged to continue with the reform effort to set up a two-tier system.

Pending a major shake-up of the system, a parameter reform of the civil pension scheme run by the CMR is envisaged.

Despite the urgency of reform, trade union federations prefer not to rush things.

Larbi Habchi, a trade unionist from the Democratic Labour Federation, said that the public interest must be safeguarded. In his view, a parameter reform would lead to an increase in the retirement age and the contributions paid by employees.

"This would have a negative impact on people's spending power, which is already being eroded. Pension reform must be discussed as part of a global process of dialogue between employers and employees, with all aspects relevant to employees being taken into account," he said.

Many Moroccans are expressing concern and are fearful that measures unfavourable to employees will be taken.

Kamal Cherrat, a public-sector worker, is apprehensive. In his view, any increase in the retirement age would be damaging to workers.

"We're already working in lamentable conditions with a wage that doesn't cover all of our day-to-day living needs. I would really like to retire at 60 so that I can enjoy the rest of my life, especially since life expectancy in Morocco is just 69 years for men and 73 years for women," he told Magharebia.

That view was shared by Souad Tadlaoui, an employee. She said the mismanagement of pension funds has caused the system to break down. As a result, she said government officials must make sure that schemes are in financial balance without harming employees, who are the most vulnerable group concerned.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane notes that implementing any reform is painful.

In a statement released on December 6th, Benkirane said that the critical situation of some pension plans and the social and economic impact that their deterioration could have make their reform a national priority and a collective responsibility.

He called on the various partners concerned to accept the reform.

He added that the government was determined to shoulder its political and moral responsibility to deal with this situation in order to ensure that the right to receive a pension can be sustained.

Mounir Touhami, an economist, said that the government had no option but to take action after ten years of procrastination.

He explained that the alarm was raised in 2003 and that since that time, the government, its economic partners, employers and unions have struggled to find common ground.

In his view, it is time for the government to take a decision as the financial situation of the Moroccan Retirement Fund is alarming.

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