By Siham Ali
The Moroccan parliament met last week to examine the draft 2012 finance bill.
A team established by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane on March 15th reviewed and edited the finance bill, submitted by former Economy Minister Salaheddine Mezouar. Some provisions were adjusted to the new economic situation, marked by the on-going euro crisis and the prospects of a drought.
There are plans to create 26,204 jobs in the public services in 2012. The payroll will take up 93.5 billion dirhams of the state budget. In the private sector, a total of one billion dirhams will be devoted to funding courses and covering social security contributions, as part of new mechanisms to promote employment.
Driss Azami el Idrissi, the minister delegate responsible for the budget, said that despite the challenging economic situation, the government is paying particular attention to social areas. As a result, 51 billion dirhams are to be allocated to the education sector, 12 billion to health and 3 billion to housing.
The National Human Development Initiative will receive funding of 2.3 billion dirhams. The social solidarity fund will be given two billion dirhams, including a mandatory contribution of 1.5% from companies realising profits of more than 200 million dirhams.
Two and a half billion dirhams are to be allocated to the programme to open up rural areas, and one billion dirhams will go to the rural development fund. A total of 1.53 billion dirhams will be used to safeguard the national herd, threatened by the drought.
Several measures are in the works to support the agriculture industry by providing seed, insurance and other support to farmers and livestock herders.
Despite financial difficulties, Benkirane’s government wants to continue with its public investment efforts. This year, the budget for this sector will see an increase of 21 billion dirhams.
Forecasts are for growth of 4.2 per cent, whereas the government had set a target of 5 per cent per year.
According to Finance and Economy Minister Nizar Baraka, the forecast has been dictated by the crisis being experienced by Europe, Morocco’s main economic partner, along with the developing situation in the agricultural sector.
Economist Hassan Mehdaoui feels the government had to put its bill together in the most difficult of economic climates. He explains that everything rests on the forecasts, which have to be realistic.
“For example, the government has based its calculations on a price of 100 dollars for a barrel of oil, whereas it has already gone over that price on the international market. When it comes to growth rates, a number of organisations have come up with their own figures. I think the government’s predicted rate of 4.2% will not be achieved because of the lack of rainfall,” he said.
Sociologist Samira Kassimi has welcomed the attention being paid to social matters, feeling that budgets need to be used wisely to help the people with the greatest needs.
“Two major developments for the year ahead include extending health insurance to the poor and supporting families by providing school places,” Kassimi said. “Other measures are also welcome, such as the social solidarity fund and the national assistance fund. But it will only be next year when we can really see what’s been achieved and put right anything that’s gone wrong.”