Interview: Abdel-Ilah Benkiran
At the end of your term, what is your overall assessment of your government’s record?
ABDEL-ILAH BENKIRAN: Our government has fulfilled its commitment to undertaking strategic and courageous reforms, which are prerequisites to sustained and inclusive growth. At the end of this five-year mandate, I can confirm that the government’s record is positive, honourable and comforting. This is the case because of the bold actions taken by the government on political, economic and social levels, despite the difficult international, regional and national contexts. This record reinforced the trust of our various partners and international institutions in the political, economic and social stability of the Kingdom of Morocco, its solid economic and financial fundamentals, and the credibility of its reform process.
What are the most significant political and economic achievements recorded in recent years?
BENKIRAN: At the political level, the government has reconciled the citizens of Morocco with institutions and politics in general. Two other flagship achievements of the government have been the implementation of the provisions of the new constitution and the supervision of a series of elections, whose integrity and transparency have been recognised by both national and international observers.
From an economic viewpoint, our major achievement has been the restoration of macroeconomic balances. Indeed, the budget deficit was reduced from 7.3% in 2012 to 4.3% in 2015, and should not exceed 3.5% in 2016. The current account deficit shrank from 9.5% in 2012 to 2.2% in 2015. Foreign exchange reserves were brought to the equivalent of seven months and eight days of imports in July 2016, against only four months and five days at the end of 2012. The economy should also register an average growth rate of 3.5% during 2012-16, despite three years of drought during this five-year period, as well as the sluggish economic activity in European countries, our major economic partners.
What do you attribute this performance to?
BENKIRAN: This performance and other achievements are largely due to strong political will, and a determination to improve government efficiency. For example, the reform of the subsidy system for certain goods through the decompensation of oil products is a measure that required political courage and was key in mitigating government deficits (subsidies were reduced from 6.5% to 1.5 % of GDP). This reform also generated financial leverage, which has been used to support economic and social initiatives. Our government has not been limited to economic policy. In fact, judiciary reform, the reform of the Organic Law relating to the Finance Act, and pension and tax reform illustrate the government’s determination to deal with issues that had been postponed previously, either due to their complexity or the political cost.
How would you rate the current business climate?
BENKIRAN: The government has paid special attention to improving the business climate and encouraging private investment, as evidenced by Morocco’s rise 19 places in the World Banks “Doing Business” reports between 2012 and 2016. Foreign direct investment has also reached a record level, with an annual average of Dh37bn (€3.4bn) during the 2012-15 period. Through sustained dialogue with the private sector, we have worked to improve laws and regulations, facilitate the creation of companies, reform public procurement rules and promote public-private partnerships. In addition, chronic problems that businesses faced, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, have been addressed by taking a series of measures related to the reimbursement of value-added tax credits and the reformation of the law on payment deadlines, among other things.
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