Rabat — The international Monetary Fund mission, which conducted with the Moroccan authorities talks about the 2017 Article IV Consultation and Third Review of the Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL) Arrangement with Morocco, approved in July 2016, said it was upbeat about Morocco's macroeconomic prospects.
Speaking at a press briefing at the end of the mission (Oct. 25- Nov.7), head of delegation Nicolas Blancher said that, following last year's drought, economic growth has picked up in 2017 and is expected to reach 4.4 percent mostly driven by a significant rebound in agricultural activity while non-agricultural activity remains subdued.
Inflation has declined further and credit growth is recovering. After the marked deterioration in 2016, the current account deficit is projected to improve in 2017 to 3.9 percent of GDP, driven by strong export growth that will offset higher oil prices and sustained capital goods imports, he said.
International reserves are expected to remain comfortable, at about six months of imports, while in 2018, growth is projected to slow due to a negative base effect of the agricultural sector and to reach 4.5 percent over the medium term with the implementation of structural reforms, he said.
However, the outlook remains subject to significant domestic and external risks, including delays in implementing key reforms, weaker-than-expected growth in advanced and emerging market economies, world energy prices, geopolitical tensions in the region, and volatility in global financial markets, he noted.
On the fiscal side, the consolidation process continues. Developments as of end-September were broadly positive and in line with the authorities' objective to reduce the fiscal deficit to 3.5 percent of GDP in 2017, he went on to say.
"For 2018, the team welcomes the objective to further reduce the fiscal deficit to 3 percent of GDP through revenue enhance measures and expenditure containment as indicated in the budget law submitted to Parliament," he underlined, deeming that, over the medium term, a comprehensive tax reforms should continue to make the tax system more efficient and equitable and to support the authorities' objective to place public debt firmly on a downward path and bring it to 60 percent of GDP by 2021 compared to 64.3 percent in 2017.
These efforts would also provide more room to investment in infrastructure and human capital in support of growth and social programs, Blancher said.
The team supports ongoing efforts in fiscal decentralization and emphasizes the needs to ensure good governance, transparency, and fiscal discipline at the local level, he said.
Staff supports the authorities' intention to gradually transition to a more flexible exchange rate regime, which should support the economy's ability to absorb external shocks, and raise competitiveness, he underlined.
"With current conditions that continue to offer a window of opportunity to implement the transition in a gradual and orderly manner, starting the process as soon as possible would be appropriate," he noted.
On Moroccan financial sector, he said that it is well capitalized, and the risks to financial stability remain limited.
Staff welcomes the continued strengthening of regulatory limits to reduce credit concentration and the ongoing collaboration with cross-border supervisory bodies to contain risks related to Moroccan banks' expansion in Africa. The team commends the authorities for the progress made in implementing the 2015 FSAP recommendations, and supports efforts aimed at increasing access to finance, in particular for small- and medium-sized enterprises, he said.
Furthermore, the team recommends the adoption, as soon as possible, of the new central bank law, which will strengthen its independence and its role in financial stability and financial inclusion, he underscored.
The IMF Executive Board approved a 24-month arrangement under the Precautionary Liquidity Line (PLL) in an amount equivalent to around US$3.5 billion (280 percent of Morocco's quota) in July 2016.