31 December 2013

Morocco Social Policy Raises Questions

Rabat — Moroccan opposition lawmakers are calling for a review of the government's social policies, saying they have had "no concrete impact on the public".

MPs in the Chamber of Councillors questioned Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane on Wednesday (December 25th) and accused the government of failing to keep its promises on employment, education, health, housing and poverty reduction.

Hakim Benchemmas, the leader of the Authenticity and Modernity group in parliament, said that there was little co-ordination between different ministries.

"The government lacks an overall vision. What is more, several studies, including the one carried out by the Economic and Social Council, have reached this same conclusion. To achieve the desired outcomes, a roadmap which will co-ordinate all of the programmes needs to be drawn up," he said.

Party of Progress and Socialism official Abdellatif Ouammou said that efforts on the social front were failing and that it was therefore vital to ensure that institutions work collaboratively and guarantee good governance in the running of social affairs.

Benkirane acknowledged the scale of social failings and explained that the combination of societal problems, which have piled up over the years, would not be easy to overcome.

He stressed that despite these shortcomings, the picture was not entirely bleak and that the government has made significant efforts to turn the situation around.

The prime minister rebutted the criticisms and fiercely defended his government's social record, which has set aside 53% of its spending in 2014 for social sectors.

He cited the government's key achievements including the 50% increase in student grants, the rise in the minimum old age pension to 1,000 dirhams, the introduction of redundancy pay, which will require a budget of 500 million dirhams, and the fall in the number of strikes in various sectors, among other things.

He also mentioned the successes of the National Human Development Initiative, which led to the launch of 10,567 projects between 2011 and 2012, and the positive impact of the Medical Assistance Scheme for the Economically Disadvantaged (RAMED), which has helped two million families to date.

But according to Salim Ziadi, a student, priorities need to be established in order to help not only the poorest people but also the middle class, which is suffering from the increase in prices and the reduction in its spending power.

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