Friday, March 18, 2011

Moroccan News Briefs

Maroc Telecom to drop Tunisia Bid.

Speculation has been rife in the Moroccan media about the possibility that Maroc Telecom was about to involve itself in the Tunisian telco sector. Now reports are reaching us that the venture is off the table. However some insiders suggest that this is "just for the moment".

Morocco's Foreign Minister to Hold U.S. Press Conference.

Next week, His Excellency, Taieb Fassi-Fihri, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation for the Kingdom of Morocco, is visiting Washington, DC to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other senior U.S. Administration officials to discuss the recent wave of unrest in North Africa and the Middle East and how Morocco's decision to accelerate its reforms can promote stability, security, and democracy in the region.

The Press Conference will be held on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm at The National Press Club 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Murrow Room

Worldbank lending Morocco 300 million dollar for modernising cultivation

The Worldbank have announced to grant a loan of more than 300 million dollar to Morocco. The money is meant amongst others for the modernisation of the agrarian sector. In a statement the Worldbank announced that 205 million dollar is earmarked as assistance to the green plan started by the government in 2008. The
aim of the project is a.o. to finance small farmers and irrigation management and improving the irrigation structure.

Agriculture supplies 15% of the Gross National Product of Morocco. With the green plan the government require a better use of the water supply in the country. Also the project is meant to fight poverty and the increasing use of fertilzers will be dealt with. In addition the government want to increase the number of jobs in the agrarian sector and to decrease the area of wheat in favour of competing crops, such as vegetables, fruit, citrus and olives.

Problems in the Moroccan textile sector

Foreign-owned textile manufacturer Mornatex closed four factories in Sale, across a river from Rabat, in September. Some 1,500 people were made redundant, former workers say, after they were told by their bosses the financial crisis imposed the closure.

Economic woes in European markets, Morocco's largest export destination, raised fears for the future of a sector which accounts for around 16 percent of exports.

Competition from clothing suppliers such as China and India has not helped a country with high poverty and unemployment and without the oil wealth of other Arab states.

The industry lobby AMITH says 10,000 jobs had been lost over the previous two years. While it does not yet have the final number of factory closures in 2010, AMITH says about 30 shut in Sale alone.

But with signs of recovery emerging and some European clients coming back to Morocco because of its proximity, AMITH says things are slowly improving.

"Demand in destination markets fell at the end of 2008 and in 2009 but since the end of March 2010, we have seen monthly improvements ... compared to 2009 and 2008," AMITH director general Mohamed Tazi said.

"In the first quarter of 2010, revenues fell 30 per cent compared to 2009 ... but month after month we started to reduce the gap and ended the year with a 4.5 per cent rise."

He said AMITH was working on "urgent" vocational training plans to boost employment in the sector and attract investment, without giving further details.

While unemployment officially hovers around a contested nine per cent, the government has not been able to create even half the jobs it has pledged over the 2007-2012 period, partially due to the effects of the crisis.

To limit the damage from the global crisis, the government granted manufacturers incentives including tax breaks.

Along with industry experts, it has opened a fashion and textiles school in Morocco's biggest city Casablanca, Labour Minister Jamal Aghmani said.

"After the international economic crisis, the government decided to help certain industries, especially export-oriented ones such as textile and garments," Aghmani said.

"The sector has been recovering lately, but this does not mean the end of difficulties for some since our help was conditional". The government would only help employers who pay social insurance for their staff and taxes, he said.

Morocco is an ally of the West with a reformist monarch and growing economy, seen by some experts as less susceptible than its neighbours to the unrest sweeping the Arab world.

Amid revolts in Tunisia and Egypt and demands at home for reform, Rabat added 15 billion dirhams to the 17 billion dirhams allocated by the 2011 budget for the subsidy fund called Caisse de Compensation.

At the same time, plans to give public-sector jobs to an estimated 4,000 highly-qualified graduates were announced last month in an apparent bid to defuse the potential escalation of almost daily protests by jobless graduates in the capital.

"Today, Morocco is considered an alternative base for manufacturing, not just versus Asia but also from a security point of view in light of what has been happening in the region, in Tunisia and in Egypt," Tazi said.

In Sale, former Mornatex workers want the government to do more. Dozens stage almost-daily protests outside, calling for help from officials after they say their former manager, an Australian, left Morocco. Company officials were not reachable for comment.

British Paramedic to run Marathon for Charity

Nikki Smith, along with her colleagues Chris Davies and Jenny Pedder, who all work for the East of England Ambulance Service, will take part in the Marathon des Sables – described as the "toughest foot race on earth".

The intrepid trio are hoping to raise as much money as possible for their chosen charities - Cancer Research, Brooke Healthy Working Animals and Help for Heroes.

They are facing extreme heat and cold temperatures, scorpions and camel spiders, heat exhaustion and blisters - just a few of the dangers associated with the challenging course.

Nikki, Chris and Jenny are flying off at the end of the month to commence the marathon on April 3, with completion on April 9.

Previous races have witnessed extraordinary examples of courage and survival. Unlike the Marrakech marathon, which takes place in January when temperatures are relatively cool, the Marathon des Sables is held when temperatures reach up to 50 degrees Celsius.

The run will take them over the roughest terrain imaginable covering 250km over the six days. The course is equivalent to running six regular marathons.

Abdellatif Laâbi wins The Benjamin Fondane International Prize

The Paris-based Institut Culturel Roumain decided to award Benjamin Fondane International Prize for Francophone literature to Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laabi.

Abdellatif Laabi

The prize will be awarded to the Laabi on March 24 in Paris, said a statement of the French cultural institute.

The Paris-based Institut Culturel Roumain offers the prize each year in memory of the late poet and philosopher of Roman origin Benjamin Fondane to distinguished francophone writers whose mother tongue is not French.

Born in 1942, Abdellatif Laâbi is an eminent figure of Morocco’s francophone literature. He lived in Paris suburbs since 1985 and received the renowned Goncourt prize for Poetry in 2009

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