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Morocco News meets the World

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    Morocco reveals first press freedom report

    By Hassan Benmehdi

    Casablanca, Morocco, March 11, 2013

    Morocco's first annual report on press freedom highlighted the progress that the country has made in the last year.

    Communications Minister Mustapha El Khalfi said that 2012 was characterised by an attitude in the courts that encouraged reconciliation in cases involving journalists, and the creation of a system of sanctions that does not threaten the economic structure of press establishments.

    The February 23rd document did not mention any physical or moral attack on Moroccan journalists.

    The report also claimed that no publication was banned or censored during the past year, and no journalist was sent to prison.

    The general trend is towards reconciliation between freedom of expression and respect for rules of ethics and responsibility, Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid told Magharebia.

    The report said that last year was notable for the introduction of legal arrangements to safeguard the right of journalists to access and publish information.

    It also noted the efforts to improve working conditions for journalists. It mentioned an agreement between the communications ministry and the Moroccan National Press Union (SNPM) concerning the introduction of a joint mechanism on the protection of journalists.

    The report contained scientific indicators and the findings of the document were based on the announced reforms, Moroccan Federation of Newspaper Publishers (FMEJ) chair Noureddine Miftah said.

    "As professionals, we think the main results of this report depend on what is achieved in projects currently under way," Miftah added.

    The communications department is currently working in conjunction with those in the industry to put the finishing touches to a legal framework governing the press and publishing.

    The current reforms to the legal structure of the press sector led to the drafting of four bills, namely the Press Code, the Professional Journalism Code, the Higher Press Council Code and the Electronic Press Code, which will go together to make the Press and Publishing Code.

    Political analyst Badr Laâmini noted that the 2011 constitution marked a new age for civil liberties with clear arrangements worthy of the most prestigious democracies.

    "The work is still dominated by the thorny relationship between the courts and the press, and the balance between press freedoms and the right of access to information, hence the need to re-examine the legal arrangements and mechanisms covering them so that they can be brought into line with international standards," he added.

    "This doesn't mean that aggrieved citizens don't have the right to sue for defamation." Such is the law-based state that the current government is creating in terms of freedom of expression, he said.

    Some journalists are still dissatisfied.

    Adil Lebbal wants to see the government ensure that the sector is organised, as "there are an increasing number of fake journalists who are entering the profession and giving it a bad image".

    Moroccan journalists are under huge pressures coming from different directions, columnist Nadia Jamilli said.

    "The freedom of the press is very relative and the independence of journalists is most often trumped by the interests of political and economic decision-makers," Jamili added.


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    RABAT, March 13, 2013 (AFP)

    The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Wednesday raised the alarm over increased violence against illegal migrants in Morocco, pointing a finger of blame at both Rabat and Madrid.  "Violence is a daily reality for most sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco," MSF said in a 40-page report.

    "A serious increase in abuse" was recorded in 2012, it said, urging the Moroccan and Spanish authorities to "take drastic measures immediately" to halt "institutional violence".

    The European Union has over the past decade "toughened border controls" and delegated responsibility for combating illegal immigration to countries bordering the bloc, the MSF said.

    It said Morocco had turned from "a transit country" into "a country of destination by default."

    According to local associations, Morocco was hosting between 20,000 and 25,000 migrants from sub-Saharan countries in 2012 hoping for access to Europe through Spain.

    But "experience has shown that the longer sub-Saharan migrants stay in Morocco, the more their vulnerability increases," said MSF.

     The report came as the medical charity, which has worked in Morocco since 1997, prepares to pull out of the country in line with a decision taken more than a year ago, said its coordinator David Cantero.

     "This could seem contradictory but we've found that the work required of us here is not that of a medical charity," he told AFP. "We're not a human rights organisation even if we speak out against violations."

    Cantero said access to medical care had improved in Morocco and that MSF had worked to hand over responsibilities to local groups.

    MSF said it had provided medical care to more than 1,100 people last year in eastern Morocco where most migrants have gathered.

    Its report featured photographs of patients with jaw, skull and leg fractures, and condemned acts of sexual violence linked to human trafficking and "deep psychological scars".

    It said 80 percent of migrants had been expelled on several occasions and condemned what it called "the ping pong" between security forces in Morocco and neighbouring Algeria as the illegal immigrants were shuttled back and forth.

     In 2012, efforts resumed to infiltrate Melilla, a Spanish enclave fenced off from Morocco, with unreported cases of "extreme violence" to keep them out, it said. On Tuesday, up to 25 people were injured in the latest such case.

    Along with Ceuta, another Spanish enclave in northern Morocco, Melilla is one of Africa's two land borders with the European Union, a haven for many Africans fleeing poverty.

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    Moroccan press review, March 14

    RABAT, March 14, 2013 (MAP) The main topics that made the headlines of editorials issued on March 14 are the results of RAMED generalization (medical assistance) a year after its launch, civil society dialogue, and the dynamic of Moroccan diplomacy. The main topics that made the headlines of editorials issued on March 14 are the results of RAMED generalization (medical assistance) a year after its launch, civil society dialogue, and the dynamic of Moroccan diplomacy.

    According to the paper, even the health minister admits that he is not happy about the distribution of health care offer nationally and the access to medical care. The newspaper quoted the minister as saying that the needy do not receive drugs despite the fact that ministry increased its purchases fourfold, noting that the real problem is related to human resources as the Minister of Health made it clear that hospitals are understaffed and need more than 9000 nurses and 7000 physicians.

    On the national dialogue on civil society which was launched Wednesday in Rabat, "Attajdid" said huge challenges are facing this project, adding that in order to address such difficulties, we must show responsibility and partiality.

    It added that the new constitution requires that this dialogue comes up with answers at two levels. The first one concerns the organization and anything linked to the democratization of civil society segments and respect for the principles of independence, transparence and integrity. The second level is related to the implementation of participatory democracy and identifying ways to enable civil society components to submit projects to elected institutions and public authorities.

    "Bayan Al Youm" focused on the diplomatic dynamic of Morocco particularly in Africa, stressing the determination of the Kingdom, through its diplomatic efforts, to strengthen bilateral relations particularly with Mauritania, Tunisia and Libya. This new dynamic is part of Morocco's immutable values to remain attached to the Maghreb and the need to build a strong and coherent Maghreb Union which could have a real regional clout in its relations with other international partners, which will enable it to contribute to efforts to address security and development challenges.

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    Head of Govt. officially launches National Dialogue on Civil society's New Constitutional Prerogatives

    RABAT, March 14, 2013 (MAP)

    Head of government Abdelilah Benkirane officially launched, on Wednesday in Rabat, the "National Dialogue on Civil society's New Constitutional Prerogatives" which seeks to foster the principles of participatory democracy, elaborate a national ethics charter and broaden the participation of civil society's components to implement and assess public policies.

    On the occasion of the ceremony, attended by speakers of both houses of parliament, government officials, MPs, representatives of partner international organizations, academics and media representatives, the committee of the national dialogue on civil society was set up, chaired by Ismail Alaoui and including representatives of government departments and civil society.

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    Morocco central bank plans central Shariah board

    RABAT, March 15, 2013 ( Reurters)

    Morocco’s central bank has started talks with a body of Islamic scholars on establishing a central sharia board to oversee the country’s fledgling Islamic finance industry, a central bank official said. The board, composed of scholars and financial experts, would rule on whether instruments and activities complied with sharia principles. Its creation would be a step towards establishing full-fledged Islamic banks in Morocco. “We are waiting for the (scholars’) proposals to set up the sharia committee,” the official said late on Thursday, declining to be named under briefing rules. The government plans to submit to parliament a bill regulating Islamic banks, which will be called participative banks under the legislation. Parliament’s vote is expected by the last week of April, official sources told Reuters. “The draft bill does not really meet our great expectations, but it’s definitely a good start,” said Mohamed Karrat, a scholar at the religious university of Al Karaouine in Fez. He noted the bill mentioned only equities, deposits and sukuk (Islamic bonds) as sources of liquidity for participative banks, and did not address interbank money market trading. Future legislation will have to cover that issue, he said. In late January, parliament approved legislation allowing the government and companies to issue sukuk. A date for the country’s first sovereign sukuk issue has not been set. In 2010, Morocco began allowing conventional banks to off era limited set of Islamic financial services, which obey principles such as a ban on the payment of interest. The country’s Islamic finance drive accelerated after a moderate Islamist-led government took power through elections in late 2011, and as the government has struggled with a big budget deficit. Sukuk issues could attract funds from wealthy Islamic funds in the Gulf.

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    Sahara conflict: Christopher meets with Moroccan officials

    Morocco World News with agencies

    Rabat, March 20, 2013

    The UN Secretary General’s personal envoy to the Sahara Christopher Ross, met Moroccan officials in Rabat on Wednesday at the start of his second tour to the region aimed at reviving talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front and ending the decades-old conflict.

    Ross held talks with Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, as well as with parliamentary speaker Karim Ghellab, according to AFP.

    “The current conflict in Mali and the heightened risks of instability and insecurity in the Sahel and beyond make a solution to the Western Sahara conflict more urgent than ever,” UN spokesman, UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey said before the trip During his second visit to the region since he was appointed in 2009, the UN envoy will also travel later this week to Laayoune and Dakhla, the main cities in the Sahara. As during his first visit last fall, Ross will also visit Algeria and Mauritania.

    Changes to the regional security situation have vindicated "the position of Morocco, which has long drawn the attention of the international community to dangers of this region," Ghellab was quoted by MAP news agency as saying.

    Since January 2009, Morocco and the Polisario have held 9 informal rounds of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Christopher Ross. All of these negotiations have ended without any progress.

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    Rally Aicha des Gazelles 2013: first race

    By Helene Clemenson

    Morocco World News Erfoud, Morocco, March 22, 2013

    MWN special correspondent of the Rally Aicha des Gazelles, Helene Clemenson, is on site following the Gazelles participating in this 2013 two week raid in the Moroccan desert. As they embark on this life changing adventure, Ms. Clemenson will report stage information, rankings, conduct interviews and take photos to bring the whole experience to MWN readers.

    First day of the competition: Rally Aicha des Gazelles 2013: first race "Come on everybody get up! It is 4am! Good morning ... everyone must wake up" This is the legendary wakeup call the gazelles got for their first day of racing in the desert. For the ones who know Dominique Serra it is no longer a surprise, for others, it was their first time being woken up by the founder of the rally and will become their morning routine through the race. The sun has not yet risen on the bivouac and gazelles were already crawling on the camping area to get ready. Only a few hours of sleep and they are heading for the briefing scheduled at 5 am to discuss the events of the previous day and the next stages. Between morning wash, vehicle preparation, map reading and breakfast, the day got off to a flying start for our gazelles. They will have to get used to this rhythm for the entire race in the desert. As it was expected, Thursday’s race was far from the ease of the prologue. Despite their original confidence, Moroccan gazelles were quickly overtaken by the harsh reality of this rally. Despite the spirit of sisterhood and fair play, it is a real competition in every sense of the word. The route crossed the B'ega Plain, which on some sections was 15km wide, enough to test the navigation techniques and strategies of Moroccan crews. Rally Aicha des Gazelles 2013: first race One of the biggest crossing challenges of the day was to get through the dunes on the edge of the Erg, the dry river of B'ega. At 8 am, crew number 119 got stuck on camel grass, a formidable enemy for any racer. They could dig and restart all they wanted, they stalled even more. Naima and Caroline had to wait for the other gazelles to tow their car. The same scenario for teams 315 and 193 who both had the same problem. It took almost 3 hours for Adelaide and Fabienne (193) to get out of two consecutive traps in less than 5 km. The simple reflex of deflating the tires before approaching the dunes could have made it easier, but in vain. Another highlight for all Moroccan crews was the very approximate location of the beacons. It must be said that with wind, dust and heat, the weather made it hard to trace the race. But this alone cannot explain the excessive delays registered all along the race. It took Géraldine and Sophie, from crew number 224 over 4 hours from the 1st to the 2nd beacon. It must be said that they were not easy to find, very often well hidden between mountainsides or behind small trees. Small miracle for crew 176 (Jamila and Bénédicte) also known as the "smiley gazelles," for whom it is "the first time they get to find all the beacons". Crew number 224 did so to, but did not forget to mention that it was "much harder than the day before”. Crew 227 was at ease throughout the whole race, except for a "tankage" at the beginning of course: they validated all their beacons and returned to the bivouac before dusk. Adelaide and Fabienne weren't so lucky and had to navigate in the dark to get back to bivouac.

    Rally Aicha des Gazelles 2013: first race

    Edited by Louise Riondel

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    "Morocco's place is within the African Union," Alassane Ouattara

    Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, March 22, 2013 (MAP) Cote d'Ivoire president Alassane Dramane Ouattara stressed that Morocco's place is within the African Union because Morocco can bring a lot to Africa and to African action. "Morocco is one of the founding fathers of the Organization of African Unity, now known as the African union" and Morocco is a much respected country by all and throughout the world", the Ivoirian president said in a statement to Moroccan reporters. Morocco's place is within the African union, he insisted stressing that several African heads of state have agreed to take initiatives for the return of Morocco within the African fold. "It is a great country that can bring a lot to African action, thanks to its experience and its diplomacy", he added, noting that the official visit of HM King Mohammed VI to Cote d'Ivoire is a token of respect for his country which has just come out of a serious crisis. This visit marks a good departure for the consolidation of relations between the two countries, mainly through the signing of six cooperation agreements covering several fields. Bilateral cooperation will be deepened during the upcoming session of the joint grand commission to meet next June in Abidjan, he stated. President Ouattara further recalled that his country was going through a phase of reconstruction and reconciliation and needed Morocco's support, underlining the presence in Cote d'Ivoire of several Moroccan banking, cement and low-cost housing enterprises. Cote d'Ivoire has expressed clear and unequivocal support to the Sahara as Moroccan territory, labeling the Moroccan initiative for autonomy in the Sahara the appropriate solution for the final settlement of the conflict.

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    President Ouattara presides over working session between Moroccan, Ivorian delegations

     Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, March 22, 2013 (MAP)

    President of Côte d'Ivoire, Alassane Dramane Ouattara, presided, Friday evening at the Presidential Palace in Abidjan, the opening of a working session between members of the official delegation accompanying King Mohammed VI during his visit to Côte d'Ivoire and members of the Ivorian government.

    The meeting sought to identify major axes of cooperation between Morocco and Cote D'Ivoire over the coming months in order to develop economic and trade exchanges which do not match the political ties between the two countries.

    Talks covered draft agreement that will be submitted to the upcoming meeting of the joint grand commission to be held in June in Abidjan. The draft agreements include vocational training, agriculture, sea fisheries, tourism, decentralization, ports and sea transport, industrial cooperation and water management. On the occasion of the official visit of King Mohammed VI to Cote d'Ivoire, the two countries agreed to consolidate the institutional framework governing their cooperation in order to bolster relations in all fields. On Tuesday, Morocco and Cote d'Ivoire signed a series of cooperation agreements in the fields of reciprocal encouragement and protection of investments, fishing and aquaculture, air services, vocational training in tourism, and civilian protection. The Moroccan delegation that took part in the meeting comprised the sovereign's advisors Zoulikha Nasri and Fouad Ali El-Himma, in addition to the ministers of foreign affairs and cooperation, Habous and Islamic affairs, economy and finance, equipment and transport, agriculture and sea fisheries, Tourism, health and delegate minister to the interior. The Ivoirian delegation, lead by Prime minister, Daniel Kablan Duncan, comprised several cabinet members, including the foreign minister, interior minister and defense minister

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    Mr. Ali Fassi Fihri, President of the Moroccan Federation of Football

    By Rachid Khouya

    Morocco World News

    Smara, Morocco, March 31, 2013

    What is funny about how change is taking place in our beloved kingdom is that those doing the changes are changing what should not be changed while they keep the bad people and fight to remove the good ones.

    Instead of changing what and who should be changed, they always change what should remain and should be kept in positions of authority and responsibility. This is the Moroccan exception par excellence. Something we manage perfectly.

    This `national strategy of changing the good and keeping the corrupted` has been applied for decades in many fields to the extent that whenever we failed in a field, I and we know in advance that some good citizens will pay the price for the mistakes of others.

    This applies to politics, economy, culture, education and even in sports. In the stadium of national football for example, all Moroccans know that the heads and the leaders of the Moroccan Federation of football are corrupt.

    Moroccans have been asking for the removal of these “generals of corruption” from their positions. If they respect democracy, they should simply resign as the institution has been led by people who have nothing to do with football management.

    But instead of cutting the grass that should be harvested, we keep cutting the heads that should lead and remain. This has been case for more than two decades whenever there is a defeat of our national team, and thanks to God this is what we are used to. We are accustomed as a nation to win African and World cups of defeats, only defeats; the media and the leaders talk about changing coaches and players.

    For instance, when we are defeated in World Cup competitions with a foreign coach, the drivers of the football train in Rabat change the coach and bring in a national coach.

    They blame the coach instead of blaming themselves, and instead of resigning they force the coach to resign after filling his bank account with our national money and wealth of course.

    Then we bring a national coach who works with less salary and less freedom. The man plays with players who play for international teams specialized in watching the games of their teams instead of taking parts in matches.

    After the defeat, which is our fate, they change the coach and bring in a new one again who changes the players himself. This time, though, he brings in players from national teams but once more in vain.

    This is in brief a summary of our national strategy and expertise to be shard with the countries which intend to improve their football squads: Keep changing the coaches and the players and keep the same corrupted decision makers, and nothing will be different.

    We will reap the same results and we will win the same cups of failure and bitter defeats.

    Let`s not be stupid, when the engine of the car is bad and corrupted, we should not trick the passengers by painting the wheels and changing the seats or the lamps.What should be changed is the engine not the drivers or the passengers.

    I think the message is clear, the drivers of the football train and the political parties should resign if they respect themselves, their citizens and their country.

    Enough of sucking the blood of the country, enough of tricking the people, enough of corrupting the nation and enough of changing what should remain. Time to resign and let other leaders lead the train before the national accident takes place.

    © Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed

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    Morocco suspends $1.75 billion in public investment

    RABAT, April 05, 2013 (The Associated Press)

    The Moroccan government announced that it will suspend 15 billion dirhams ($1.75 billion) of public investment to help balance an overstretched budget during the country's current economic crisis.

    “This decision is part of the government efforts to balance public finances in the face of the difficulties of the current economic situation,” Communications Minister Mustapha Khalfi told the state news agency Thursday.

    The country has been hit hard by the financial crisis in Europe - its chief trading and investment partner as well as a key source of remittances from workers living abroad.

    Morocco's Islamist-led coalition government came to power in November 2011 on promises of creating jobs and fighting corruption but has spent most of its time in power struggling to rein in swelling public debt. The previous government spent heavily on public sector salaries to defuse the dissatisfaction accompanying the Arab Spring in 2011.

    The Moroccan economy grew 2.4 percent in 2012 due to a poor harvest and the effect of Europe's economic crisis on the country's two key trading partners, Spain and France. This year's growth is estimated to be 4.3 percent. The central bank said March 27 that the budget deficit is a 5.5 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

    Initial efforts by the Islamist Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane to reform subsidies on fuel and food staples, the key problem with the budget, ran into trouble with his coalition partners and the process has now been delayed pending a national dialogue.

    Cutting public spending, however, could just prolong the country's crisis, warned economic Mohammed Said Saadi.

    “This will have a negative effect on economic growth this year and the next, as well as on the private sector and the country's infrastructure,” said the former government minister. “The government had other choices to confront the economic crisis and budget deficit but unfortunately, it chose the simplest.”

    Saadi said a more effective, yet politically difficult, approach, would have been to seek new reform streams such as creating a wealth tax, removing tax exemptions in agriculture or real estate and going after tax dodgers.

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  • 04/06/13--11:20: Morocco at a crossroad
  • Morocco, Coalition Government wins partial elections (Photo by PJD official website)

    By Siham Ali in Rabat and Mawassi Lahcen

    Casablanca, April 6, 2013

    Tired of waiting for the Islamist-led government to address their needs, young Moroccans took to the streets this week.

    The estimated 10,000 people who marched Sunday (March 31st) to demand action on unemployment and development hope authorities see their Rabat protest as a wake-up call.

    Almost half of all Moroccan youth between the ages of 15 and 29 are neither working nor in school, a 2012 World Bank report said.

    Since graduates represent just 5 per cent of total youth unemployment in Morocco, however, the remaining 95 per cent – with lower education levels – have limited options.

    Poverty only adds to their misery.

    Young people are often forced to trample on their dignity and ask their mothers for spare change to buy a newspaper to check employment ads. Many would stay in bed rather than face a new day with old problems.

    Even responding to an ad requires money: to photocopy diplomas and identity cards, prepare and print a CV and then post send the file to the potential employer. Rural residents can barely afford the cost of transportation to Rabat or Casablanca to take an employment test.

    "Many young people wait ten to fifteen years before getting their first jobs," says Imad Akka, who runs the "Youth for Youth" association. Such a long period of unemployment "leaves disastrous psychological marks", the NGO head tells Magharebia.

    "We cannot sleep in peace while we have 700,000 young people who wake up every morning idle with no work, formation or training," agrees Jamal Belahrach of the General Confederation of Moroccan Companies (CGEM).

    "The situation is extremely dangerous," he adds.

    The World Bank report is equally dire: "The social cost of economic exclusion is high, with young men in particular experiencing very high levels of frustration."

    "Young people in Morocco are full of ideas and are keen to contribute to society," World Bank report team leader, Gloria La Cava said. "But they have been excluded from opportunities, have not benefitted from the last decade of economic growth, and have very limited voice in the decision-making process."

    Poverty in itself is not the cause of terrorism, it just makes the recruiter's job easier, says African Federation for Strategic Studies (FAES) head Mohamed Benhammou.

    "These young people can feel ostracised, they don't have much to do and are beyond all hope: they end up in a life devoid of education and possibilities. They can therefore easily fall prey to radicalisation and violent fundamentalism," he notes.

    Radicalism feeds off exclusion, from city shantytowns to rural villages.

    Some young people fall into the hands of radicals and terrorists in prisons, places of worship and neighbourhoods where fundamentalism has taken root. Others start the self-radicalisation process via the internet.

    Incidents over just the past five months across Morocco confirm that violent extremist groups are no longer just the problem of "other countries".

    In late December, judicial police broke up an al-Qaeda cell in Fez. The group's goal: to "enrol and recruit young Moroccans who have embraced jihadist ideas, in order to send them to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) camps", the interior ministry said.

    Another Morocco AQIM cell dismantled the same month allegedly sent more than 20 young Moroccans to join al-Qaeda and MUJAO in northern Mali.

    A new Ansar al-Sharia offshoot group in Rabat was accused of plotting attacks against government buildings and tourist sites. Still another terrorist cell planned to establish a training camp in the Rif mountains to "carry out terrorist acts against public authorities", the interior ministry said.

    "Morocco's geo-strategic situation is an ideal rear base for al-Qaeda to carry out its plans in the Maghreb and Europe," analyst Said El Kihel told Magharebia.

    Until now, the international community's approach to the Sahel region was all about security. That needs to change, he argues.

    "The threat persists today, despite the military operation in Mali. There needs to be a global approach that incorporates development," El Kihel suggests.

    Political scientist Zouhair Chafiki agrees that regional co-operation in education, employment, and health care is essential to fighting vulnerability and exclusion.

    From a religion standpoint, poverty cannot justify terrorism. Still, says Cheikh Abdelbari Zemazami of the Research and Jurisprudence Studies Society, young people need economic, social and spiritual support to keep from succumbing to violent extremist groups.

    It is not just clerics and think-tankers who recognise the problem. Young people also observe that conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism need to be fixed.

    As Ali Mourabiti, a 22 year old student, points out: "Young people who have a future and promising prospects don't succumb to fundamentalism."

    "We need development to live a stable life," he says.

    In order to stop the Morocco terror threat in its tracks, many experts are joining young people in a call for action.

    According to sociologist Samira Kassimi, employment is just part of the picture. To keep young people from being led astray, they need something to do.

    Solutions include new sports centres

    "Young people need spaces where they can freely express themselves and practise their hobbies, such as youth centres. At the moment, they are few and poorly equipped," she tells Magharebia.

    Sport can also help young people achieve fulfilment.

    "Young people need to be given a boost through cultural and sporting activities that will take them away from the obscurantists," Kassimi adds.

    The government says it is already working to fix this problem. According to the ministry for youth and sport, projects already in development include 120 youth clubs, fifteen new cultural centres and four new holiday camps.

    Their capacity will be increased to accommodate more than 300,000 young people. There will also be greater financial backing for youth associations.

    According to Imad Akka, the establishment of a national fund to support the rights of young people would go a long way towards alleviating their suffering.

    "The fund can help young people in difficult situations in different ways. For example, it can give young job-seekers discounted transportation tickets or discounted stays in hotels when traveling to Rabat or Casablanca," he says.

    The government and civil society must find common ground and focus on Moroccan youth before it is too late, the NGO head says.

    "If we don't extend a helping hand to these desperate and frustrated young people, they will easily fall prey to dark forces that lurk in wait for them," he warns.

    "They will cross the path of criminal gangs, drug traffickers and terrorist groups," Akka adds. "They will be forced to give up their freedom, dignity and values for a living."

    Source: Magharebia

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    Liquidity Strain Threatens Morocco’s Banking System

    By Loubna Flah

    Morocco World News

    Casablanca, April 9, 2013

    The liquidity strain is back again to haunt the banking sector in Morocco, while the trade deficit shows no sign of slowing down. According to the Moroccan daily Akhbar AL Yawm, the liquidity deficit reached MAD 7, 6 Billion during the first quarter of the current year. Despite the precautionary measures undertaken by Morocco’s central bank, bank Al Maghrib, the commercial banks still need the injection of MAD 71, 7 billion to face cash depletion.

    Bank AL Maghrib ascribes the downfall in excess liquidity to several factors , including the treasury financing demands, in addition to the transfer of employees’ salaries and the settlement of almost MAD 5, 2 billion for the compensation fund.

    The need for liquidity is intimately related to the growing need for investment. The shortage in liquidity strain can also be ascribed to the shortfall in bank deposits, in addition to a drop in foreign currency reserves.

    Some economists consider that the growing demand for liquidity is a predictable outcome in the current juncture? adding that the Moroccan central bank is expected to address the liquidity shortage through the injection of funds.

    Bank al Maghrib has raised the amount of liquidity injected on a daily basis in the national banking system to MAD 50 billion. Thus, it has intensified its daily interventions in the financial market in order to prevent a steep rise in interest rate and to save the national banks from a systemic crisis. Nonetheless, the measures undertaken by Bank Al Maghrib to alleviate the severe lack of liquid assets have failed to supply the banking sector with enough liquidity.

    With a lack of stable funds from depositors and other institutions, the commercial banks’ capacity to finance loans and other transactions is severely impaired. If the liquidity crisis endures, commercial banks are more likely to face problems in responding to demands for money transfers and withdrawals.

    The crisis was initially engendered by a massive withdrawal of assets from big depositors. The panic prevailed among clients when the General Directorate for Taxes launched a large scale seizure operation on their bank accounts without a prior notice. These alarming figures come amidst growing concerns about a real economic crisis heralded by liquidity strain, crippling trade deficit, a drop in foreign currency not to mention unemployment.

    © Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed

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    Highlights of Moroccan editorials, April 10, 2013

    Rabat, April 10, 2013 (MAP)

    The UN secretary general's latest report on the Sahara, the government's decision to stop implementation of 15 billion Dirhams of investment expenses and divergences within the government's coalition make up the major themes commented by editorialists published this April 10, 2013. L'Opinion daily which wonders whether Algeria will be reasonable in the Sahara issue, recalls that UN secretary General has reached the conclusion, in light of findings of his personal envoy to the Sahara, that reaching a political and comprehensive solution has become an emergency and stressed the need to re-open land borders between Morocco and Algeria.

    The editorialist notes that Morocco, well before the start of military operations in Mali and the dangerous developments of the situation in the Sahel, had proposed to grant large autonomy to the Sahara states that the international community is applauding this initiative as "credible, realistic and serious". Morocco has also embarked on a negotiation process under the aegis of the United Nations, the daily goes regretting the other party's failure to to show the same good will and prefers to maintain the status quo, mindless of all the hazards this entails.

    "The Sahara conflict is a serious threat for peace and security in the Maghreb and in the Sahel and settling it has become an emergency, warns the paper, noting observers are wondering whether Algeria will realize the dangers that its unjustified stubbornness is implying for the region". For Attajdid, the novelty in the UN secretary general report is that it confirms that the Sahara issue has taken larger dimensions in a geostrategic context marked by the latest developments in the Sahara-Sahel region and the security threats on the region. Attajdid considers that the report contains three positive elements that can be important cards to play for the Moroccan diplomacy. It says that the first element is that terrorist threats are becoming a card supporting Moroccan initiatives to settle the Sahara issue, particularly the autonomy proposal, as the report underlines that the upsurge of instability and insecurity in and around the Sahel region exact an urgent settlement of the conflict.

    The second positive element in this report, the editorialist goes on, is the international awareness that threats to security can only be addressed by regional cooperation, the re-opening of land borders between Morocco and Algeria, the reactivation of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) and the promotion of integration between UMA member states.

    The third positive element brought by the UN chief's report concerns the human rights situation in the Tindouf camps and the census of the camps population, the editorial remarks, noting that the High commissioner for refugees has called for registering persons in the camps, a measure that has for long been turned down by Algeria.

    In an editorial titled "poor governance", L'Economiste and Assabah comment that stopping 25.5 pc of public investments is too much, noting that the government had conceded it can no longer honor its financial commitments, and admitted officially and for the first time that it had already taken off 21 billion DH in last year's investments.

    Good governance would have implied that cuts involve both operational and investment programs, say the two dailies, adding that the government is keeping secret the fact that it is projecting to cut 14 billion DH in state's subsidies to public enterprises. The editorialist considers that the government has not honored its commitment to implement the finance law and has therefore cast doubts on billions of dirhams of government's commitments.

    Aujourd'hui le Maroc which runs an editorial titled "balkanization", stressed that divergences inside the government have reached such an extent that if nothing is done it would evolve into a total paralysis of the government.

    "It is clear that the government is mostly busy managing relations between its components", the daily deplores calling for the adoption of new electoral laws that would lead to an outright majority for one party in the government.

    Instead we have a coalition government and we do not know who does what, who governs and who is in the opposition, the editorialist regrets.

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    Highlights of Moroccan editorials, April 12, 2013

    RABAT, April 12, 2013 (MAP)

    The Moroccan Sahara issue, in light of the UN secretary general's latest report, and the controversy caused by the Government's deficit cuts (15 billion DH) are the main topics commented by editorials published this Friday April 12, 2013. In an editorial titled "clear position", L'Opinion considers that the settlement of the Sahara issue depends mainly on the will of the Algerian authorities which, unlike Morocco, continue to bar the way before a lasting and fair solution. For the editorialist, the Moroccan proposal to grant the Southern provinces large autonomy should be the basis of any settlement process given that this proposal is credible and enjoys the international community support. The paper further stresses that while receiving the UN secretary general's personal envoy for the sovereign on Wednesday, the Sovereign reiterated Morocco's adherence and full cooperation with the world body efforts to reach a realistic and fair solution on the basis of the Moroccan autonomy plan. It is up to the other party top show a spirit of compromise and openness and the same will to cooperate with the United Nations, it insists, calling Algeria to create the appropriate conditions for normalization of relations with Morocco and help reach a solution in order to dissipate the terrorist threats hovering over the Sahel-Sahara region and all the Maghreb countries. The editorialist further comments that "the Tindouf camps where the population is enduring a real plight, offer to Al Qaeda extremists an opportunity to recruit combatants", noting that the protraction of the Sahara dispute worsens insecurity and destabilization threats on the Maghreb and Sahel countries. Aujourd'hui le Maroc which runs an editorial on the Government's budget cuts says the coalition majority attitude is "funny", as their comments give the impression that the decision was made by a single party, the PJD leading the government, arguing that instead of showing inter-government solidarity, the coalition components are trading responsibilities, which even more puzzling to the public opinion and business circles. For the editorialist, this situation shows that the government has lost its homogeneity, warning that a diverging government is likely to be the real source of the present crisis. L'Economiste considers that by choosing to make cuts in public investments, rather than in consumption subsidies, the government is directly affecting internal economic activity.

    The idea is that unemployment upsurge is less disadvantaging for the politicians who are already campaigning for local elections. Rissalat Al Oumma charges that this is "another violation of the constitution", arguing that the decision to operate budget cuts was made without consulting stakeholders (business circles, parliament and unions). On its part, Akhbar Al Yaoum Al Maghribia, recalls that the deficit has reached 7.1 pc of the GDP in 2012, while the government was expecting 5pc. The editorialist writes that the Government has tabled on a reform of the subsidy fund during the first months of its mandate in order to save 10 billion DH, wondering why the government has not operated a partial reform of this fund and has, instead, opted for the easiest way that is budget cuts.

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    The European Union Urges Moroccan Industrialists to Capitalize on Food Safety

    By Loubna Flah

    Morocco World News

    Casablanca, April 12, 2013

    The European Union officials urged Moroccan industrialists to capitalize more on food safety procedures so as to increase the volume of their food products exports and to enhance the trade relations between Morocco and the European Union as reported by the Moroccan daily al Massae.

    During a round table under the theme” The implementation of food safety: A necessity for a better cooperation with the European Union” organized by the British chamber of commerce different partners and stakeholders in food industry the opportunity to discuss all issues related to food safety and the prospect of trade relations between Morocco and the European Union.

    Food safety is a system of food inspection that considers the conditions under which food is produced, stored and distributed in order to inform consumers and to avoid health hazards.

    Jackie Logoseless, advisor in the European committee pinpointed that Morocco showed a strong will to improve food safety control measures especially for sea food in an attempt to abide by the EU standards.

    He urged Moroccan industrialists to make sure that their products comply with the European Union food safety standards, adding that the EU remains vigilant about food safety through the use of a system of traceability, especially for perishable and high risk food. He made it clear that the European Union takes up the task to inform its trading partners about any non-compliance with its standards.
    It is noteworthy that the European Union remains the World’s largest Importing market for fish as it imports 60% of its needs.The European committee published all the information related to the importing conditions, taxes, customs fees, trade systems and the EU latest statistics in its website.
    In response to the European official’s recommendations, Saad al Hussein, head of the plants control department in the National Office for Food Safety asserted that the food safety system put forward by Moroccan industrialists is strict and effective.

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    The debacle of Moroccan universities

    Morocco World News with Maghreb Intelligence

    Rabat, April 12, 2013

    In the latest ranking of the best African universities established by University Web Ranking, Morocco's Université Mohammed V-Agdal could only reach the 20th place, behind nine South African universities and five Egyptian ones.

    The other places were taken by universities from Tanzania, Senegal, Botswana, Kenya and Uganda. Nor Algerian or Tunisian university made it in the top 20.

    This ranking confirms the poor shape of higher education in the Maghreb states which, despite huge budgets devoted to this sector cannot compete with smaller countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

    The ranking also confirmed the dominance of the Anglo-Saxon model at the expense of the French one. Indeed, only a Moroccan university and a Senegalese one are in the top 20 of this list.

    Edited by Louise Riondel

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    Morocco: PJD members propose lifting parliamentary immunity

    By Larbi Arbaoui

    Morocco World News

    Taroudant, April 13, 2013

    The official website of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) reported that the PJD’s parliamentary group submitted a draft law to amend some articles of the penal code to allow taking legal action against parliamentarians and members of certain institutions and constitutional bodies, for the crimes and misdemeanors they commit.

    The PJD's website states that the draft law came to comply with the provisions of Article 64 of the Constitution, which limits the effect of the immunity of a member of parliament or a state official to scope of his functions, when expressing an opinion or casting vote, as long as the opinion does not call into question "the pillars of the kingdom", namely the monarchy, Islam, and the "respect owed to the king.”

    Abdul Latif Oamo, advisor for the Party of Progress and Socialism, said that “immunity is not a privilege personally granted by the parliamentarians themselves. It is limited to the exercise of their duty while representing the people, including their right to exercise freedom of expression."

     There are two types of parliamentary immunity: objective immunity, which covers the views and actions of parliamentarians during their legislative mandate, and procedural immunity, which prevents arrest or detention of Parliamentarians even if they participated in an offense as long they are not caught in flagrante delicto.

    Many people resent parliamentary immunity, as it allows members of the parliament to enjoy special rights and exempts from being accountable for their own actions.

    © Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed

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    Morocco rejects any proposal to expand MINURSO mandate: FM

    Rabat, April 16, 2013 (MAP)

    "Morocco rejects any proposal to expand the mandate of the MINURSO or establish an alternative international mechanism for monitoring human rights in the southern provinces," said on Tuesday Foreign Minister, Saad Dine El Otmani.

    Responding to a question from MAP on the latest developments of the Sahara issue at the United Nations, El Otmani noted that this rejection is based on "obvious political, security, and legal considerations."

    "This position is permanent and shall not change. It is based on obvious political, security and legal considerations," he said.

    El Otmani said that "since the introduction in 2007 by Morocco of the autonomy initiative, the issue of human rights has been constantly exploited in an attempt to deflect the negotiation process and serve as a pretext, the other parties, in order not to engage in negotiating a political solution to the regional dispute over the Sahara."

    "Morocco, on its own accord, adopted measures and initiatives for the promotion and protection of human rights, including the Sahara region.

    These measures are in line with the bold and substantial reforms launched by HM King Mohammed VI, which the UN security Council itself commended," he said.

    "In this context, strengthening the independence of national mechanisms and adopting the special procedures of the United Nations, largely meet the expectations of the international community, particularly the members of the Security Council," said El Otmani, stressing that "Morocco remains confident in the wisdom of the members of the Security Council and their ability to sustain the gains, build consensus, strengthen the process and ensure the respect of the parameters that have guided the work of the Security Council on this matter."

    The so-called Western Sahara conflict is a conflict imposed on Morocco by Algeria which supports and hosts on its territory, Tindouf, the polisario separatist movement.

    The polisario, backed by the Algerian government, demands the creation of a fictitious state in the Maghreb. This blocks all efforts of the international community for economic integration and regional security.

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    Moroccan says US shift on the Sahara can have “harmful consequences” for the stability of the region

    Morocco World News with agencies RABAT, April 16, 2013

    Morocco on Tuesday warned of "harmful consequences" for regional stability from US-backed plans to broaden the mandate of the UN mission in the disputed Sahara to probe human rights abuses, AFP reported.

    Communications Minister and government spokesman, Mustapha Khalfi on Tuesday reiterated Rabat's "categorical rejection" of plans to allow the United Nations to investigate rights abuses in the territory.

    Such a "biased and unilateral initiative" is "an attack on the national sovereignty" of the country and would have "harmful consequences for the stability of the region," Khalfi was quoted by AFP as saying.

    "It is unjustified because it fails to take into consideration the collective efforts made by Morocco to promote human rights," he said, adding that Rabat was "counting on the prudence of the Security Council members."

    "The urgency of the regional situation compels us... to uphold the spirit of compromise... to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution," the minister said, while condemning an attempted "exploitation of human rights."

    A statement issued after a cabinet meeting held on Monday at the Royal Palace in Fez, stressed that the establishment of this mechanism would derail the negotiations process towards finding a solution to the conflict based on the principles of realism and compromise, in line with Security Council resolutions.

    “The bias of such a unilateral move without prior consultation, in terms of content, context and procedure can only evoke incomprehension and rejection,” it added.

    In a sign of the potential diplomatic fallout, a US Defense official confirmed reports that this month's so-called African Lion annual joint military exercises between the United State and Morocco had been cancelled.

    More than 1,400 US military personnel and 900 members of the Moroccan armed forces were due to take part in the military cooperation exercise.


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