The Arab Spring that began in 2011 was a wake-up call to the ruling elites across the region of their failure to deliver upon social contracts with their people. While Morocco was spared the unrest seen in neighbouring countries, the government took heed of citizen’s call for better opportunities, and implemented a series of stop-gap measures and longer-term reforms.

The protests of February 20, 2011 brought renewed focus in Morocco to making economic growth inclusive and increasing social and political stability. They put pressure on the government to keep up costly food and energy subsidies, which rose to $5bn in spite of the government’s stretched finances. After selling 20% of its stake in a leading local bank, Banque Centrale Populaire, the government was able to keep bread prices down. Also, civil servants’ wages were increased by Dh600 (€53) per month as a result of the pressure put on the government amid the wave of Arab revolutions.

UNBALANCED: At the point when the Arab Spring swept across the region, Morocco had seen years of sustained economic growth, averaging 5% per annum. But while economic indicators pointed to increases in wealth, per capita GDP and discretionary income, Morocco scored low on key social indicators, such as literacy and infant and maternal mortality. Illiteracy levels in 2004 were 30.8% for men, 54.7% for women and 43% on the whole, according to the High Commission for Planning (Haut Commissariat au Plan, HCP). Despite fast-paced economic growth, these social indicators remain a concern. This is not to say that Morocco has not made any progress: a 2012 study by the HCP showed that infant mortality went from 149 per 1000 live births in 1962 to 75.7 in 1987, and dropped to 30 per 1000 in 2010. The study also showed that in 1962 one out of five children died before the age of 5, but by 2010 this had dropped to one out of every 28.

PROGRESS: Since the ascension of King Mohammed VI to the throne in 1999, social development has been notable, so much so that Morocco may reach many of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) ahead of 2015. While electricity is widespread in urban areas, rural access rose from 9.7% in 1994 to 83.9% in 2009, and access to drinking water from 14% to 90%. In terms of education, the net enrolment rate of children ages 6-11 grew from 52.4% to 90.5% nationally. The education rate had tripled by 2009 and quadrupled among rural girls, thanks to the recent conditional cash transfer programme, Tayssir, which gives grants to underprivileged families to send their daughters to school. Each family receives between Dh80 (€7) and Dh100 (€8.90) for each child attending primary school, and Dh140 (€12.45) for each child in secondary school.

In 2007, eight years before the MDG deadline, Morocco announced that it had already reached the first goal’s target for poverty and hunger, having halved the proportion of people since 1990 whose income falls below $1 a day, and achieved across-the-board full and productive employment. Unemployment figures in Morocco, however, do not take into consideration the large number of people working seasonal jobs or the many in the informal economy.

SUSTAINABILITY: The most recent detailed poverty figures date to 2007, when the HCP developed a poverty mapping tool. Officials hope to replicate its format to update such data more often. “We are looking perhaps at adapting unemployment studies, which occur more frequently, to get information about the poor,” Abdelhak Allalat, director of forecasting at the HCP, told OBG.

Morocco’s multilateral institutions are just as committed to helping the kingdom reach inclusive growth. International donors, bolstered by Morocco’s success in improving key MDG indicators and mindful of the need to provide youth with jobs, have committed funds. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is the largest donor to Morocco and recently released its 2012-2016 strategy paper for the country. Under the new strategy, funding will be focused in two areas: support for development of ‘green’ infrastructure and strengthening of governance and social inclusion. The World Bank and the EU are also helping fund Morocco’s development.