Saturday, October 17, 2009

Moroccan News Briefs

President Sarkozy hosts reception for HM King Mohammed VI

The Elysée Palace was the venue on Friday for a reception given by France's President, Nicholas Sarkozy, in honour of HM King Mohammed VI who is on a private visit to France.

The reception was attended by Prince Moulay Rachid, Princess Lalla Meryem, Princess Lalla Asmae and Princess Lalla Hasna.

The monarch arrived in Paris on Wednesday after Prince Moulay Rachid was declared fir and left the hospital where he had been treated.

French nationals go to jail for banking card fraud

Two French citizens were sentenced on Thursday by the Marrakech court of first instance to eight months of prison for using false banking cards.

The two criminals were apprehended on Sept. 14 while one of them, of Algerian descent, was caught red-handed on the process of retrieving 16,000 dirhams (2290 dollars) from a bank agency in Marrakech.

He was in possession of a total of eight false cards at the time.

The second accomplice, a Cameroonian in origin, succeeded in escaping the crime scene. However, he was caught at the Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca when trying to flee the country.

Police found with him another 41 false banking cards.

Finance Minister denies raising the retirement age and comments on growth

The Moroccan Finance Minister has come out strongly to deny that the Moroccan government is planning to raise the retirement age to 65.

Salaheddine Mezouar did however say that the issue is being looked at. "A national commission is now working on the issue in collaboration with the different professional organizations in order to present a proposition in this respect to the government."

The minister also took the opportunity to deny news reports that there was to be an increase in the taxes on water and sugar.

The minister has also commented on Morocco's growth potential, saying that Morocco's 2010 Finance Bill banks on a 3.5% growth, a not-more-that 2% inflation, and a barrel priced at 75 U.S. Dollars.

The bill also expects the budget deficit to attain 4% and hopes the stability of expenditure to be similar to that of 2009, Minister in charge of relations with the Parliament, Saad Alami, said in a press conference following the weekly cabinet meeting.

The bill, he reported Mezouar as saying, has a "volunteering aspect," and is based on three fundamentals, namely boosting economic growth to cushion the effects of the international crunch, speeding up reforms and the implementation of sector policies, and reinforcing social cohesion through a balanced distribution of growth results and hoisting human development indicators.

The document also expects a 20.4% rise in public investment, which would progress 40% on the 2009-2010 period, Mezouar said, adding that public investment was directed to support sector-based policies, quickly achieve large-scale projects and improve balance between regions.

The bill is hoped mainly to augment the purchasing power of the Moroccans by cutting income tax and reducing the prices of basic products. It also takes into account the education and training emergency plan, and generalising medical coverage, access to housing, a better targeting of the needy.

Moroccan Delegation Goes to China to Boost Bilateral Trade Exchange

Moroccan Minister of Commerce Abdellatif Maazouz called on Moroccan businessmen to open up to exportation opportunities offered in the Chinese market and to instigate solid partnerships with local corporate actors in the country.

Maazouz, who was taking part in the opening ceremony of the 106th China Import and Export Trade Fair, or Canton fair, held in southern Guangzhou City Thursday, indicated that bilateral economic relations between Morocco and China have seen a considerable boost since 2002, according to the MAP report.

Noting that Moroccan exports towards the Chinese market have decreased, the Moroccan minister stressed the importance of exploring better routes for Moroccan exports in addition to seeking new partnerships between businessmen from both countries, said the report.

According to Maazouz, bilateral commercial exchanges during the last three years have registered a dramatic increase averaging 72 percent, reaching 2.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2008.

Nevertheless, Morocco's share of these exchanges was barely 7 percent, he pointed out.

Canton fair is one of the most important trade fairs in China, attracting major local and international brands in different sectors. The Moroccan delegation participating in the show is mainly comprised of corporate representatives in the textile, agriculture and mechanical industries.

The Moroccan minister of commerce and his delegation, in an official visit to China since Monday, are expected to visit Hong Kong for another series of business meetings

Mauritana locust infestation spreading to Morocco
UN official warns situation will worsen further if there is strong rainfall in coming weeks.

An invasion of crickets in Mauritania has spread to Morocco and the western Sahara, and could worsen if there is strong rainfall in coming weeks, the United Nations warned Friday.

"The larvae and locusts are gathering in a worrying fashion to the west of Mauritania," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "If the outbreak is not controlled and if unusually heavy and widespread rains were to fall in the next two months, then the situation will deteriorate further and there is an extremely high risk that it could lead to the early stages of an upsurge in the region."

"The south of Morocco and western Sahara have started to be contaminated... We must be extremely cautious and to sound the alarm before the situation deteriorates," she added.

In 2004, Mauritania was hit by a locust invasion that ravaged a vast quantity of crops and threatened nearly a million people with starvation.

Tourist arrivals in Morocco up 5% to September

Tourist arrivals in Morocco have jumped, in the year to September, more than 5%, Morocco's Tourism Minister announced on Wednesday.

Mohamed Boussaid told Morocco’s TV channel 2M that for the first time since the onset of the global economic slump, tourist receipts rose 3% in September. Despite the disruption which affected tourist industry as well as the tourist’s behaviour, Morocco's tourist sector continues to withstand compared with other destinations, he said.

In this regard, the minister noted that ever since the first signs of the crisis, the government, in conjunction with professionals, drew up a plan of action to mitigate the crisis’ impact, a strategy which, he said, yielded fruits. The dynamism in investment along with investors' steadfast trust in Morocco's destination prove that the sector is capable of moving forward serenely and continuing to generate jobs, he said.

The Kingdom sought to attract 10 million tourists yearly by 2010. Yet it was unable to meet the target due to the constraints posed by the international situation, which prompted the government to extend the target year.

Over January-July 2009, about 5 million tourists visited Morocco, up 8% from the same period of last year, according to the tourism department.

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