Arab Spring and Maghreb: Morocco's distinctive model (Comment)
By Larbi Reffou: The winds of the "Arab Spring" were channeled by Morocco to expand and consolidate democracy and accelerate the pace of political reforms. His Majesty,The King Mohammed VI, announced in March 2011 a profound constitutional reform, which was largely supported by the Moroccan people through a referendum.
By consolidating the principle of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, the new constitution gives wider powers to the Head of Government, appointed by the King from the party which wins elections, and to strengthen the provisions relating to the control of the government by the two chambers of Parliament. The new constitution has also paved the way for the organization of new legislative elections in November 2011.
By choosing the way of the evolution of political institutions of the country, Morocco has pursued the reforms undertaken in the 1990s. Needless to say, the Moroccan monarchy has a historical and religious legitimacy and has always been the symbol of the state's continuity and the guarantor of national unity and stability.
In this respect, the democratic process was launched two decades back when the late King, His Majesty Hassan II, had initiated a series of reforms in the political and economic fields, opening the door for a new era of democratic transition. This concerned, among other things, many steps for the promotion of human rights and the protection of freedom of expression and, mostly, the decision to establish a new government of 'alternance', led by parties from the opposition.
Since the enthronement of His Majesty The King Mohammed VI in 1999, Morocco has witnessed a movement of unprecedented reforms in all areas.
In this regard, the reform of the "Family Code", which revolutionized the status and empowerment of women in Morocco, introduced a range of measures that enhance women's equality in terms of marriage, divorce and taking care of children and impose strict legal restrictions on polygamy. Moreover, the launch of the National Initiative for Human Development (NIHD), aimed at the development of disadvantaged regions and the fight against social exclusion, marginalization and poverty. Many actions have been taken to support income-generating activities and improve access to services and basic infrastructure (education, health, roads, water and sanitation, environmental protection, etc.).
The dynamics of reforms does not end here. Other key reforms are underway and new ones will certainly be considered in future if need be. For instance, there is the project "advanced regionalization", which will allow Morocco to build a new model of territorial governance and establish a new relationship between the central government and regional entities. Also, the reform of justice aims primarily at consolidating independence of the judiciary, modernizing its regulatory framework, upgrading its structures and improving legal certainty.
Thus, what makes the Moroccan model distinctive is it has always made "evolution within continuity" a guiding principle of its political practice.
Since its independence, the Kingdom of Morocco has made the irreversible choice of political pluralism and economic liberalism. The right to property and freedom of initiative are part of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
The Moroccan economy is an economy characterized by a large opening towards the outside world. Since the early 1980s, Morocco has adopted a policy of economic and financial openness. The main goal of that policy is to strengthen the liberalization of foreign trade, to help for greater integration into the world economy, and to contribute to the consolidation of the multilateral trading system.
In recent years, the priority has been given to modernize and diversify the economy to be more competitive, to build world-class infrastructure and to improve the business and investment environment. A vast program of industrialization has been conducted to make Morocco one of the leading countries in promising and value-added sectors, like automobile, electronics, and aeronautics. This policy has contributed in attracting important investments by major multinational companies, such as Renault, Bombardier, Tata and Dell.
During the last decade, Morocco has launched large-scale projects aimed at elevating its infrastructure to international standards. Among these projects are the Tanger-Med Port (one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean region and in Africa), a modern highway network connecting all the major cities, 15 international airports (largest airport hub in the region) and the ongoing construction of a high-speed railway project (from Tangiers to Marrakesh).
The major economic reforms undertaken together with the ongoing implementation of several ambitious mega-projects and sector-based strategies have started to give good results, especially with the continuous increase of the GDP.
(17-02-2013-Larbi Reffouh is Morocco's Ambassador to India. The piece is an extract from an address at a conference on Maghreb and India. He can be contacted at email@example.com)