Divided on Regionalization

The King of Morocco, in a speech to the nation on Sunday, bid farewell to a decennium that, according to government reports, has seen a soaring stock market and exultant investments by announcing the creation of an Advisory Committee on Regionalization. The initiative of an advanced regionalization has been discussed for the past two years and is considered the first high-level initiative to fundamentally rejigger the government since the constitution was drafted in 1962. To head the 21-member committee, Mohammed VI appointed Omar ‘Aziman, Morocco’s current ambassador to Spain and a former justice minister. The committee was directed to conduct a convergent analysis and draft an advanced regionalization template that will be briefed to the King in July. The template will be idiosyncratic and revolve around the monarchy’s historic standing as sole governance and a symbol of territorial unity. The King further directed the committee to found the template on four principles: 1) the sanctity of Morocco’s monarchy; 2) inter-regional interaction and cooperation; 3) a balanced distribution of powers among the regions; 4) large scope decentralization.

Critics approach this latest initiative with a withering fisheye. They have increasingly argued that the Moroccan constitution, which prohibits the delegation of political power and makes the appointment of government officials the King’s prerogative, is hardly conducive to democratization; an intrinsic constitutional reform is the linchpin of a system that advocates a decentralized representational government. As it stands, the King’s guidance to the committee bars it from considering a true decentralization that requires the dispersion of top-level decision-making process and governance through subordinate tiers of the command chain to the people. Dissidents believe that the government will never allow such decentralization because it carries within it the danger of possible nonconformity at a critical moment. What the royal initiative intends to implement is not decentralization, but rather deconcentration – a shifting of managerial responsibility from central government officials in Rabat to regional administrator. It is feared that the advanced regionalization measures the King intends to implement will only serve to divide and maximize the security control and economic exploitation of Morocco’s regions while denying the people their wealth. The Office Cherifién des Phosphates, for instance, which generates half of Morocco’s income only employs 2% of the local population. Revenues from tourisim, another pillar of Morocco’s economy, are seldom channeled to enhance the lives of locals by building schools and eradicating shantytowns. Furthermore, the initiative will exacerbate existing problems such as corruption and nepotism; it will lead to the creation of regional kingpins who will either squander taxpayer’s money or purloin it. The past ten years have been characterized, by most accounts, by soaring poverty rates, broken promises, and unfulfilled reforms. The health, education, and judicial sectors worsened. Human rights and freedoms have gradually deteriorated; in 2009 alone, over fifteen independent journalists, bloggers and human rights advocates have been arrested and their publications censored and fined. While the economy markedly developed and foreign investments poured into the country, the middle class shrunk and the chasm between the affluent and politically connected minority and the impoverished majority widened. Numerous new initiatives have been announced only to raise false hopes among people and intensify their disenchantment. This latest one is no different.

Proponents of the royal initiative, however, see it as a positive step toward the concretization of the democratic process in Morocco. They argue that advanced regionalization when adequately implemented will benefit the country. A stronger focus will be applied to regions creating efficiency of scale and fostering a sagacious allocation of resources. Giving latitude to regional administrations will expedite the formulation and implementation of plans and policies, and enhance problem solving. People’s access to the government will be enhanced; Competitiveness between the Kingdom’s regions will increase, thus rejuvenating the country’s economy.

Cabalamuse

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