Moroccan economy to be “regionalized”

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King Mohammed VI decided in January to accelerate Morocco’s “regionalization” process in order to revamp the Northern African country’s 16 regions, which date back to 1971, by setting up a commission to review an advanced regional system. After acquiring the status of local authorities with both social and cultural dimensions in 1992, Morocco wants to orient its regions towards economic development.

The various regions have since 2006 been managing their own local budgets, and have also been encouraged to get involved in the development and implementation of national policies at regional level. And with the “advanced regionalization” programme, which should comes into force next year, regions are expected to become the driving force of the Moroccan economy.

A strong and economically independent region needs a strong central government to remain productive, and for that matter King Mohammed VI has decided that three main areas are to be elaborated by members of the Consultative Commission for Regionalization. The first is to promote the principle of solidarity between the regions; the second is to demarcate regional boundaries; and the third is to look for a “Moroccan model of regionalization.”

Bouachik Ahmed, a professor at Mohammed V University in Rabat and member of the Commission, who is expected to render his findings at the end of the year took part in a conference, Thursday, June 24 at the French National Assembly on the issue of regionalization in Morocco. He sheds more light on the process. What are the specificities of the Moroccan regionalization model?

Ahmed Bouachik: It is above all a commitment to the constitutional monarchy as a unifying factor for both the territory and state. Our model of regionalization must take this parameter into account. We must also take the cultural and geographic aspect of the country into account, essentially because the central regions are much richer than those in the South. The various regions must stand together. There is currently a Regional Development Fund which has failed to yield results. The cooperation should not only be vertical, from state to region, it must also be horizontal, from region to region. As we speak, banks only lend to rich areas, while the other regions are hampered in their development. We must also develop decentralization to energize the regions. We are mid-way through this: The administrative decentralization has been completed, and we must now move to a functional decentralization. For every issue we could solicit the relevant authority to implement the needed policies. But for the time being, none of the needed skills have been transferred to the regions. How can regionalization boost the Moroccan economy?

Ahmed Bouachik: With regionalization, competitive clusters will dynamize the territory. Each region will have specific tasks. There are already competitive clusters: Tangier-Tetouan, Grand Casablanca, Meknes, Fez. Agadir is poised to become one, and the Sahara region can also become one, with the development of tourism and solar energy. If we furnish the regions with more resources and legal expertise, developed regions will emerge in Morocco. Is the demarcation of regions relevant today?

Ahmed Bouachik: As a member of the advisory panel, I can not answer the question. In 1971, there were only seven regions, in 1997 they were increased to 16. Territorial planning affected 14 regions. But this question is closely linked to the earlier issues. And deciding on the number of regions in itself is not enough, we also need people capable of running these areas. But a regional elite can only emerge after Moroccans vote by universal suffrage. Indirect election does not allow this emergence, which is why we must review the voting system. We can then delegate the execution of the Regional Council deliberations. Some say that the regionalization programme is the Moroccan solution to the thorny issue of Western Sahara?

Bouachik Ahmed: There is only one project, the regionalization programme. This is not only positive for the Sahara, but also for other regions. The Sahara could have more autonomy than other regions. The region will operate within the limits of its assigned authority, but finance and defense for example will remain the domain of the State.

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