Magharebia (Washington DC)

Morocco: MPs Question Prime Minister

Rabat — Moroccan MPs on Tuesday (January 28th) questioned Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane about several issues, including efforts to tackle corruption.

Parliamentarians complained that the problem had grown to considerable proportions without the government implementing any concrete solutions.

MP Ahmed Reda Chami said that the government should keep its promises, especially since the prime minister has wide-ranging powers and his party vowed to combat the phenomenon.

"We were expecting to see new laws and concrete measures to implement the existing legal arsenal. We were expecting to see awareness-raising campaigns and programmes to encourage ethical behaviour in schools. But nothing has been done," the legislator said.

Success in this area is possible as other countries have managed to tackle corruption, he added.

Benkirane acknowledged the scale of corruption in Morocco but underlined that he could not achieve the desired goals on his own.

"I agree with all of the criticism about the extent of corruption in Morocco. One of the big problems that stop us from tackling this issue is the failure to report acts of corruption. Citizens and institutions must perform their duty," he said.

The justice ministry will soon launch a toll-free phone line to gather complaints from members of the public, which will be handled with confidentiality, he noted.

But many members of the public are calling for concrete action to be taken against corrupt officials.

"We need to set an example and show that the era of impunity has ended. The state must step up its monitoring and not expect members of public to make the first move by reporting corrupt acts," said Ahmed Rabiai, an employee.

With regard to economic reform, MPs expressed fears about the deterioration of the financial sector and the low numbers of small and medium-sized enterprises that have bank accounts and are receiving financing.

Morocco has not suffered from deterioration in its financial sector like other countries, but significant efforts still need to be made to promote the sector and encourage people to open bank accounts, the prime minister noted.

The government must strive to foster confidence in the sector in order to attract as many investors as possible and create new state guarantee mechanisms, MP Younes Skouri said for his part.

As for debt levels, MP Chaoui Belassel criticised the increase in public debt over the past two years and called for vigilance to ensure that Morocco's economy does not suffer any adverse consequences.

Benkirane said that the government was working hard to limit the deficit.

The rise in debt over the past three years was due to the need to address social needs, the rises in the prices of petroleum products and the shrinking of foreign assets, he noted.

"Addressing social demands comes at a price. The government needs to seek sources of finance. The most important thing is to bring external and internal debt under control," the prime minister said.

The government must remain vigilant and not allow the deficit to exceed 60% of GDP, economist Mohamed Sebari said.

"If the government stays on the path it is currently following in terms of debt, the consequences for Morocco will be extremely negative. The country could end up in the nightmare scenario of a structural adjustment plan," he explained.

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