Thursday, June 21, 2012

Moroccan News Briefs #66


"In order to preserve Moroccan identity and its religion" is the reason given by the parliamentary group PJD, the main party in the Moroccan government, for its submitting of a draft law prohibiting all forms of advertising for any beverage containing alcohol.

The draft law calls for a ban on any form of "direct" or "indirect" advertising.

This will lead to - as admitted by the PJD deputy Mohamed Zouiten - new forms of censorship. "At times we are seeing indirect advertising through, for example, televisions series which incite people to drink alcohol. In these cases it would be better to ensure checks to cut out these scenes. Both the television and the radio have a key role in raising awareness against alcohol consumption."

And this is not all, as Les Soir Echos has reported that the PJD is also targetting exhibitions and fairs, as well as food and wine tasting events and promotional activities: it will therefore not be simply a matter of announcements, billboards and media advertising.

"Our draft law cannot be called an attack on individual freedom or on press freedom. Our aim is only that of putting into practice the Constitution," said Zouiten. "We have decided to submit this draft law with eight articles within it to accompany the application of the government and parliament programme as part of the mission to apply the fundamental constitutional principles."

If the draft law passes, the consequences - on a sector which has an annual turnover of 4.5 billion dirhams (over 400 million euros) - will be immediate. "If the law is adopted and published in the official gazette, the suppression of the advertising will have to come into effect within the following 30 days. Should there be repeat offenders, the law calls for a sentence of between three months and 2 years in prison and a fine of between 10,000 and 25,000 dirhams," said the deputy.

"The contracts signed by the company for this type of advertising will be rendered null and void as soon as the law comes into force." Courts will also be able to shut down the businesses which granted the space for the exhibition or the advertising for alcoholic beverages for between 20 days and 3 months.

The PJD, which had claimed to be a "moderate Islamic" party, is convinced that this first step will be followed by others, gradually banning anything which could be considered an attack on religion. Alcohol has long been targetted by the PJD. A general increase in the internal consumption tax (TIC) had previously been proposed from 800 to 900 dirhams (over 80 euros) per hectolitre of beer, from 10,500 to 15,000 dirhams (over 1,300 euros) for liquors and for 450 to 500 (about 45 euros) for wine.


Divisions among parents of students at Casablanca American School have intensified after the US State Department threatened to withdraw its affiliation, raising serious question marks the governance of the prestigious school.

Last month, the elected Board of Directors set up a meeting with the students’ parents to clarify the main points that are jeopardising the school’s future amid a threat from the US Department to withdraw its affiliation unless the Board fulfilled the so-called American standards and values.

During the steamy meeting, pro-American parents called for the resignation of the Board, which was elected by them in 2010 for three years, in order to keep the affiliation and a financial assistance of $15,000 per year from the Overseas Schools Advisory Council (OSAC).

In a letter sent in February to the Board of Directors, Samuel L Kaplan, the US Ambassador stated that “it has become clear that the Board of Directors does not conform to the governance standards or values expected by the State Department.”

Kaplan made it known that the Board should not micromanage the school.

“On a sustained basis, the Board of Directors have also engaged in the management of day-to-day operations at CAS, a role that conflicts with the appropriate role of a board of directors,” said Kaplan. “Such actions have undermined the authority of the school’s leadership to conduct daily operations,” he added.

Mohammed Arroussafi, President of the Board, said during the parents’ meeting that the Board has a duty to supervise and control the finances of the school.

Tensions between the pro- and anti-Board parents reached new highs when a parent undermined the Board’s credibility by asking why the US Ambassador’s letter had only been shown to parents after almost three months.

“What if the US Ambassador tells you he’s sorry it is not going to happen?” asked Mounir in his late thirties, adding that the US Consul General told him personally that it might not be enough.

A call for the Board to be changed was applauded by anti-Board parents.

The school is accredited by NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges), an independent accreditation body to which ADAEM-CAS is affiliated.

Moreover, the letter sent by Brian Shukan, US Consul in Casablanca, last month to the Board of Directors, confirmed that CAS has been an overseas American school sponsored and assisted by the State Department since its creation in 1973.

However, the State Department’s only involvement in CAS is the provision of a financial assistance of 15 000 USD per year.

A pro-Board parent said that the US Ambassador’s letter “shows how arrogant the US administration is” in dictating us what to do in our own sovereign country,” echoing the opinion of many other parents.

Talks are going on between the Board and the US Embassy after the latter made three demands - the Board must not interfere in the school’s micromanagement; must have only one non-renewable mandate and must include two expatriates among it – in order to keep the US Department’s assistance.

Meanwhile, the Board is adamant to stay the course and fulfil its duty during its term despite the US Embassy’s pressure.

When Hoba Hoba Spirit are on stage, the audience sings along with every word. Words from their lyrics, such as “fhamator,” or know-it-all, have entered urban slang. But, after 10 years and 5 albums they don’t earn enough from their recorded art to live on. They have earned just $220 in royalties from their music, which is a mixture of reggae, rock and gnaoua.

Hoba Hoba Spirit
“Once we gave a concert with a French band, and when they heard the crowd singing along with us, they thought we were rich,” said Reda Allali, the lead singer of the band. “They told me that in France with only one hit, an artist can live comfortably for years.”

Many artists around the world complain about lack of funding, but in Morocco it seems particularly difficult for a singer or film star to obtain a fair slice of the revenues his or her work produces for others.

Of course, the ability to download music and other media through the Internet has made protecting artists’ copyrights a global problem. But in Morocco, artists say that the agency responsible for monitoring and issuing royalties is not protecting their rights — even when their works are broadcast on Moroccan television and radio.

“Every day our rights are violated,” said rock singer, Khansa Batma, 33, who comes from a family with a long tradition of making music.

Ms. Batma is the daughter of Mohamed Batma, the founder of Lemchaheb, a group that was famous in the 1970s and 1980s, and the niece of the music legend Larbi Batma, a member of Nass El Ghiwane, a band the American director Martin Scorsese once called “The Rolling Stones of Africa.”

Ms. Batma says that despite their musical success, her family has always struggled financially and that she was unable to complete her college degree because of a lack of funds.

“The Moroccan Bureau for Copyright is supposed to find solutions and ensure respect of intellectual property, including the piracy,” she said. “Without fixing the music market, we will continue to evolve in complete anarchy where it’s best to be friends with the right person.”

The Moroccan Bureau for Copyright has in recent months denied withholding money owed to artists.

According to Sarim Fassi-Fihri, the president of the producers’ guild in Morocco, progress has been made in the past few years in helping artists collect what they should be paid. The copyright bureau now receives financing from the state, he says, and is more accountable.

The bureau has been around for decades but was not monitored in the past, Mr. Fassi-Fihri said, and there was no way to know where the money was going. While some famous artists have been receiving regular royalties, others received nothing.

According to Mr. Allali, the singer, who also writes a weekly column in a magazine and hosts multiple radio shows, the only option for a Moroccan musician to earn a living from music is to perform live. Hoba Hoba Spirit performs about 50 concerts every year.

But he says that perpetual performing is not always a good solution. “There are a lot of problems in this. One can compose music without being a performer, in which case the stage is not even an option,” he said. “It also means that we can never take breaks and record new albums like everybody else.”

Ms. Batma said that the way Morocco is treating artists showed that the country does not yet recognize their value.

“Respect of intellectual property means becoming aware of the importance of art for a nation and a culture,” she said. “Unfortunately in Morocco, we keep nourishing the festive aspect of art at the expense of the rest.”

Morocco's prime minister has promised direct grants of cash to the poor under a planned reform of the costly subsidy system, after his government recently imposed one of the sharpest rises in fuel prices in several years.

Abdelilah Benkirane invited needy Moroccans to open bank and postal accounts to ensure they benefit from the reform, one of the boldest moves taken by his government, led by Justice and Development, a moderate and former opposition Islamist party.

Back in May, General Affairs and Governance Minister Najib Boulif announced the subsidy reform saying it would take place before end-June amid worsening economic indicators and pressing demands for jobs and less poverty.

Speaking to state television channels, Benkirane however has not fixed a precise timeframe for the completion of the reform, saying only the "gradual" process may be completed before the end of his government's mandate, due towards the end of 2016.

"The subsidy fund was set up to help the poor and the needy ... We are going ahead with the reform of the subsidy fund ... We will seek to fix the expenditure on the subsidy fund and directly send that (money) to the .... needy people.

"To do this, I will need statistics - which I will eventually have - and Moroccans will need ID cards, (they need to be) poor and vulnerable and have a bank or post account," said Benkirane.

Banking penetration in Morocco barely reaches 50 percent due mostly to an important grey economy. Amid an accute and now-chronic shortage in liquidity, banks will be looking forward to adding new customers, from a quarter of the 33-million population that live in poverty.

Around 90 percent of Moroccan businesses were connected to the internet. Of these, 96 percent have ADSL access, 45 percent 3G service their mobiles and 42 percent 3G on their computer.

Leased line and fibre are starting to emerge, at 12 percent and 9 percent, respectively. According to the latest monitor, 75 percent of workstations are connected to the internet, compared to 67 percent in 2010.

Desktops account for 79 percent of the installed base of office computers, and laptops 21 percent. The ratio of computers per employee rose to 0.83 percent in the first quarter from 0.57 percent in 2010.

Some 55 percent of connected businesses had a website in the first quarter, up by 7 points on two years earlier. Of companies with websites, 82 percent have their own internet domain name.

On average, businesses spend 8 percent of their budgets on ICT investments and 4 percent on staff ICT training. Of businesses with websites, 14 percent use them to sell products or services online, compared to 11 percent in 2010, while 28 percent order online, versus 17 percent.

Moroccan mobile users up 8.6% a year to 36.24 million, but there is a drop in fixed line phones. As of June this year, around 35 percent of Moroccan homes had a fixed phone, down by 5 points on a year earlier, according to Moroccan telecom regulator ANRT.

The proportion of fixed wireless homes contracted to 19 percent and fixed wired rose to 18 percent. Over the same period, the percentage of individuals with mobile phones rose by 4 points to 87 percent. The study also found that 17 percent of Moroccans have more than one mobile phone to optimise their overall consumption. Some 12 percent of mobile phone owners have smartphones.

The number of homes with computers reached 39 percent in the first quarter, up 5 points on 2 years earlier. There are estimated to be 3.55 million household PCs, compared to 3.13 million in 2010. Laptops accounted for 56 percent of consumer computers and 28 percent of homes had more than one computer. Another 29 percent of homes without computers plan to buy one.

Home internet penetration rose by 10 points over 2 years to 35 percent, with 30 percent of homes having a 3G mobile internet access and 10 percent on ADSL.

Cybercafes are still the main place to use the internet outside the home at 22 percent of connections, before another person’s home at 10 percent. There were an estimated 14.9 million internet users in 2011, 83 percent of whom use social networks and 81 percent instant messaging.

Commissioning of the treatment plant wastewater from the city of Fez is well underway. The project of cleaning up the large pool of Sebu, is scheduled for the end of this year.

The director of the independent administration water distribution and power of Fez (RADEEF), Najib Lahlou Mimi says that the construction of the wastewater and sewage plant for the city of Fez continues at "a good pace", as evidenced by their rate of progress that has reached 81%.

Africa is certainly one of the more exotic ski destinations on the planet and now skiers Mel Presslaber & Sandra Lahnsteiner have made a ski film set here. Check out the trailer.



Anonymous said...

Pour la question de l'alcool : nous savons tous que les marocains usent d'un produit très courant dans leur cuisine et qui contient jusqu'à 8° d'alcool ! Il s'agit du vinaigre qui agrémente nos salades! Alors que va décider le gouvernement : hallal ou pas hallal ?
Je pense que ce gouvernement n'a d'autres champs d'action que ceux de la morale qui consistent à interdire ceci ou cela.
Que va faire le gouvernement sur les dossiers véritablement chauds comme le chômage et l'éducation par exemple ?
Rien à attendre de telles mesures! S'ils optent pour la prohibition de l'alcool, ils vont ouvrir la porte au marché noir et l'état n'encaissera plus le moindre centime de taxe! Totalement anti-rentable!
Bonne journée!

Anonymous said...

About the alcohol issue: these islamists are really getting on my nerves. It is not up to them to decide what the moroccan identity is. And besides there are also other religions in Morocco that they should cosider. They want to turn Morocco little by little into an Iran look a like state, with absolutely no freedom.

Why don't they put their energy and efforts to create more jobs for the unemployments. Instead they rather like to talk about forbidding alcohol. Arggh!