Friday, May 18, 2012

Moroccan News Briefs - #65

King Mohammed VI stops Islamist reforms in order to preserve image of tolerant Muslim nation

The king has taken measures to restrict the authority of the Islamist government of Prime Minister Abdul Ilah Benkirane. As The View from Fez reported earlier, King Mohammed VI  fired the president of the nation’s broadcast authority, which sought to ban advertisements for advertising for gambling, reducing French programming as well as broadcasting the five daily Islamic calls to prayer.  Now the King has imposed an indefinite postponement and ordered the dismissal of half of the members of the broadcast authority.

On May 11, the King fired Mohammed Ghazali, the Islamist president of the Superior Council for Audiovisual Communication which oversees broadcasting. Amina Lamrini El Ouahabi,a highly respected moderate, was appointed to head the authority, .

Officials said the royal court was alarmed by the rapid changes ordered by  the Islamists and observers had pointed out how the changes would have had a negative impact on perceptions of Morocco.

Women in Politics - Morocco lags behind Algeria and Tunisia

Algeria’s legislative election saw women take almost a third of the seats, making the national assembly the most gender-balanced in the region but activists say the battle is far from won. Tunisia comes in second place and Morocco takes third.

Women in Algeria - 53 percent of the population - now control 32 percent of the national assembly

According to a provisional count, at least 145 of the new, enlarged national assembly’s 462 seats will be occupied by women, up from a representation of only seven percent in the outgoing house.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed “the high number of women elected” while U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon “welcomed the increased representation of women in the new parliament.”

The new Moroccan PM, Benkirane, left himself vulnerable on the issue of gender equity. Among the new faces there was only a single woman minister, Bassima Hakkaoui, in charge of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development. There are still only 67 women in the Moroccan parliament.

And at a time when the new Moroccan government disappointed women by only appointing one woman, another Moroccan woman has shown just how far you can go - if you live in France. Najat Vallaud Belkacem, a French woman of Moroccan origins, has been appointed on Wednesday, Minister of the Right of Women and spokesperson for the French government.

Najat Belkacem (pictured right)  was born in  Beni Chike, a village near Nador in 1977. In 1982, she joined her father, a French building worker, with her mother and elder sister Fatiha, and grew up in the suburbs of Amiens. She graduated from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (“Paris Institute of Political Studies”) in 2002.

She will the second woman of Moroccan origin to hold a top-level post after Rachida Dati, who was appointed Minister of Justice under the right-wing government appointed by former President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007.

Morocco's grain crops down 40%- Phosphate are up.

Morocco says this year's wheat harvest is expected to reach 3.6 million tonnes, including 2.6 million tonnes of soft wheat, down by 40 percent from the wheat crop recorded a year earlier, the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.

The durum wheat harvest is expected to stand at 1 million tonnes and that of barley at 1.2 million tonnes, the official MAP news agency said, quoting the ministry.

It is the ministry's first breakdown by variety for a cereals harvest which it has said would fall 43 percent to 4.8 million tonnes.

However, the phosphate story is better news Morocco earned 4.26 billion dirhams (1 euro = 11.07 dirhams) from phosphate export in the first four months of this year, an increase of 15.7 percent over the 3.68 billion dirhams earned during the same period in 2011, according to the State-owned Foreign Exchange Office (FEO).

However, export of phosphate derivatives dropped by 1.6 percent, from 10.52 billion dirhams in 2011 to 10.35 billion dirhams this year, the latest Moroccan foreign trade indicators, published by the FEO which is under the supervision of the Finance Ministry, said.

Morocco, the world's largest producer of phosphates, has three-quarters of the world's reserves.

Consumer Price Inflation on the rise

Higher food prices pushed Morocco's consumer price inflation in April to its highest in eight months, standing at 1.2 percent, official data showed on Friday, after a drought slashed agricultural output and with it economic growth projections.

Food prices, which account for around 40 percent of the consumer price index's total weighting, rose 2.7 percent in April compared with a year ago, data from the High Planning Authority showed. A month earlier, food prices were up an annual 0.8 percent.

On a monthly basis, inflation fell 0.2 percent from March after food prices dropped 0.5 percent, it added.

Communication costs fell by close to 20 percent in the 12 months to end-April, but unchanged from last month, while housing and utility costs rose by an annual 0.5 percent, it said.

Underlying inflation, a gauge used by Morocco's central bank to set the benchmark interest rate, rose 0.6 percent in April from its level a year earlier while it was up 0.5 percent in March, the authority said.

Inflation, which stood at 0.9 percent in 2011, is projected to rise to as much as 2.5 percent in 2012, the government said.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I presume there's more to the sacking of the broadcasting head than just a ban on gambling ads, more programming in the country's first official language and televising the call to prayer...?

Restricting advertising of goods/services considered socially damaging is nothing new. Restrictions on tobacco advertising barely raise a debate any more, for example. Why not gambling?

And I've no objection to increasing the Arabic language content quota on TV... Particularly if it's in Darija. French might be an official language, but it is undoubtedly known to a minority of the population, as opposed to Darija, which is spoken by most (even if as a second language).

And the call to prayer... Really? In what part of Morocco do you escape that anyway? Who minds if it appears briefly on the box at the same time as the muezzin at the mosque next door is firing up his loudspeaker...

If the government wants to promote a more positive perception of Islam, how about ensuring that rapists can not side-step justice by marrying their victims whose trauma is then renewed on a daily basis for as long as they can bear to endure living?