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Rabat-Hassan al-Ashraf

Morocco reforms threaten government's popularity

Students in Morocco protest against reforms [AFP]

Date of publication: 23 October, 2014

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Tackling the nearly bankrupt pension fund will require Moroccans to work beyond the current retirement age.

Plans are in place to reform sectors of the Moroccan government with fiscal or structural problems, according to government officials. The strategy is likely to damage the popularity of the ruling Justice and Development Party.

Prime Minister Abdel Ilah Benkirane told the House of Representatives on Wednesday his government would continue implementing the reforms started when it came into office more than two and a half years ago. He invited the majority parties in parliament to help implement these reforms.

"The government will not back down from reforming pensions or the compensation [social security] fund, both of which have financial imbalances that negatively affect the country's economic growth," said Benkirane.

     The government will address sensitive issues previous governments were afraid to address.
- Abdel Ilah Benkirane, prime minister

Benkirane has championed unpopular reforms before that he said would benefit the country's future, and build trust between the state and its citizens.

"The government will address sensitive issues previous governments were afraid to address," he said. "Reforms will happen even if the government collapses."

Minister of State Abdellah Baha said the government knew it would face difficulties when it chose to reform the nearly bankrupt pension fund. "Moroccans need a government that will reform a collapsed pension system," he added.

The government faces hostility from opposition parties and labour unions, arguing the proposals will affect the rights of retirees, and citizens' purchasing power.

"Reforms can have a positive impact if they improve social conditions, increase purchasing power and ensure rights and liberties," said Ahmad Mufeed, professor of political science at Fes University in Morocco. "They will have a negative impact if they affect existing rights or complicate social conditions.

"Raising the retirement age combined with a reduction in wages will create social opposition to government policies. Reforms should only adversely affect citizens if all other options have been explored."

Mufeed said that the compensation fund costs the state treasury millions, but that reforming it would also come at a high cost: "It would directly affect citizens' purchasing power, and removing subsidies from consumer goods would cause inflation."

Mufeed concluded: "These reforms are necessary but may lead to social unrest."

The article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

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