Friday, January 03, 2014

Moroccan News Briefs #109

Rise in the Cost of Food
The New Year in Morocco brings about a rise in living costs. The price of many products increases early in 2014

The prices of basic food staples such as tea, sugar and cooking oils and fats increases starting from the beginning of January.

The increase in prices is due to the rise of the value added tax (VAT), and is in line with the Moroccan 2014 Finance Act, writes Youssef Sourgo from Morocco World News, quoting from sources including the newspaper Al Massae.

The price increase will also include plane tickets, as well as cigarettes, alcoholic and energy drinks.

“The VAT on tea, dietary fats and utility vehicles will move up from 14 % to 20%,” according to Al Massae, “whereas the VAT on sugar will increase by 3% (7% to 10%).”

Such increases in vital products, Al Massae says, “will penalise households.” Moroccans are big consumers of sugar and tea. The annual per capita sugar consumption is around 37 kgs, while tea is around 2 kgs per person.

“The VAT is an unfair tax,” notes Al Massae. “This is why economists always recommend the diversification of taxes in such a way that vital products are exempted and less important products are highly taxed.”

The daily newspaper cites Moroccan economist Najib Akesbi, who laments the taxation system of Benkirane’s government for doing the total opposite.

The 2014 Finance Act is expected to considerably affect the purchasing power of Moroccans. The daily newspaper foresees “social outrage” as a reaction to these unpopular measures taken by government that has disappointed the Moroccan middle class.

Before his assumed power in 2011, Abdelilah Benkirane, the head of government and of Party of Justice and Development (PJD) promised an improvement in the living conditions of the Moroccan middle class and the working class.

Youssef Sourgo says that, "Mr. Benkirane should stop for a moment and rethink his unpopular policies, which further weaken the purchasing power of Moroccans and threaten to bring about social unrest." Although a side effect may be a reduction in sugar consumption and, ultimately, the number of diabetics in the country.

Fez Robbery

Last Friday December 27 a gang of jewel thieves held up a jewellery store in the Narjiss area of Fez

At closing time, as the owner of the jewellery store was lowering the shutters, he was held up by two knife wielding members of the gang, who were joined by two others. When the owner resisted, he was badly beaten, and the robbers fled with more than 2 kgs of jewellry in a 4 WD vehicle with false foreign number plates.

On Saturday the combined efforts of several police departments led to the arrest of three members of the gang in the Ouislane neighbourhood of Meknes, while a fourth member is still on the run. Two women, including the house owner was also arrested, and a receiver of the stolen goods. Much of the jewellery was seized, as well as the car and weapons used in the robbery.

Huge Haul After ATM Scam
Robbery on a much larger scale was halted last Sunday after the arrest of two Moroccans and six Romanians suspected of perpetrating one of the most spectacular bank heists in history

A gang of cyber-criminals€ helped to steal more than $60 million from banks worldwide€ by hacking into financial databases and withdrawing money from ATM machines, reports Morocco World News. 

The eight suspects were allegedly following the instructions of an IT expert who was arrested in Germany. The ringleader was capable of hacking into the databases used by credit card processing firms and could modify security settings, including PIN number restrictions and withdrawal limits, before getting gangs worldwide to fake credit cards using some of the information.

Connected with a series of global bank heists, last February the hacking gang was able  to make transactions from ATMs in 23 countries and walked away with some $40 million€ in cash in just 13 hours.

Spanish police said on Sunday 446 ATM transactions took place in Madrid during a February raid, with the Spanish-based arm of the ring obtaining $400,000 in a heist totalling $40 million.€ During the same period, 34,000 illegal transactions took place worldwide.

The cyber thieves don'€™t wear masks or use guns, but are highly skilled hackers that penetrate bank systems in a high sophisticated technique and transfer money to accounts or use ATMs to withdraw money with the help of other coordinators on spot.

The arrest of the 8 alleged hackers was conducted by the Spanish police with the help of an American security agency.

Illegal Immigrants Offered Moroccan Residency
Last Thursday December 26 an amnesty was launched in Rabat to give residency permits to tens of thousands of immigrants living in the country illegally, after King Mohammed VI expressed concern about their harsh treatment by police. 

The mistreatment of Sub-Saharan Africans has prompted an immigration amnesty

Hundreds of people, almost all of them sub-Saharan Africans, queued outside the governor’s office in Rabat hoping to get their papers, which would officially allow them to reside and work in Morocco.

“Today is the start of the process to normalise the status of immigrants living in Morocco,” Migration Minister Anis Birou told AFP.

“There are tens of thousands of people who do not have papers. And this process aims to give them the same rights and duties as Moroccan nationals, to help them integrate into society,” he added.

He declined to comment on the conditions for obtaining a Moroccan residency permit, but has previously stated that these include being a resident for at least five years or having a two-year work contract.

The government in November unveiled what it called an “exceptional operation” to give official papers to some of the 25,000-40,000 sub-Saharans estimated to be residing illegally in Morocco.

The North African country has struggled to cope with the rising tide of migrants crossing its borders in the hope of building better lives in Europe, many of whom end up staying.

The Moroccan authorities have come under fire in recent months for their harsh treatment of sub-Saharan fortune seekers.

Rights activists say at least three immigrants — a Senegalese, a Cameroonian and Congolese — died as a result of police raids in northern Morocco since last summer and have called for a radical overhaul of the country’s immigration policy.

King Mohammed VI responded by admitting “legitimate concerns” and backing their calls for reform.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely not a good idea. The signal you give is: come illegal to morocco, stay long enough and you will get a permit. You do'nt solve any problems whit this strange and hasty decision. I get the idea that the king of Morocco doesn't like negative media attention to his country Morocco, and therefore quickly wants to "solve" the problem, so he can continue his old lifestyle, including water skiing. There are not enough jobs for the moroccans let alone for these sub sahara africans. And it is also quite hypocrite of the king to portray himself as a man, who doesn't like to see people threaten harshly by the police; at the same time moroccans are been tortured and kept in prison if they question the position of the monarch. Really hypocrite.