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It was a surprise for many people how Morocco, an Arab and African country, escaped the revolutions that shook the Arab world from Libya to Syria. Democratic reforms and proactive measures were Morocco’s antidotes to the Arab uprisings, said a Moroccan envoy.
The person responsible for Morocco avoiding revolution is its popular King Mohammed VI, who introduced fast-track reforms including a new constitution under which the leader of the biggest party in the parliament will become the prime minister, and the government will have more powers in running the country.
“The new constitution enshrines the democratic values of the separation of powers, independent judiciary, freedom of expression, freedom of thought and respect for minorities,” Moroccan Ambassador to Indonesia Mohamed Majdi told The Jakarta Post recently ahead of the celebration of the 13th anniversary of the Enthronement of King Mohammed on Monday.
Morocco did not entirely escape the wrath of the Arab Spring. The country did witness several angry protests in major cities and towns by the Feb. 20 Movement with demands for jobs, equality, less corruption and more democracy. The movement, aimed at shaking the government but not destroying it, was not against the King.
The King himself proposed diluting some of his absolute powers.
“The new constitution also allows for greater political representation of women, enhanced good governance, accountability, respect for human rights and morality in public life,” Majdi added.
King Mohammed, who has a doctorate degree in law from a French university, became king on July 30, 1999 after the death of his father King Hassan II.
Commenting on bilateral relations, Majdi said Morocco and Indonesia had enjoyed close relations for more than 50 years. In 2011, bilateral trade doubled to US$152.44 million in three years from $74.45 million in 2009.
According to the African Economic Outlook website, Moroccan per capita income surged to $2,932 in 2011, a huge jump from $1,760 in 2001. With agriculture, tourism, foreign direct investment, robust domestic demand, surging exports and workers’ remittances as its main pillars, the $100-billion Moroccan economy has so far showed resilient growth ranging between 4 and 5 percent. Surprisingly, average inflation stands at less than 2 percent.
Morocco is currently building a $4 billion high-speed railway system connecting Casablanca and Tangier, the first in the Arab world, with the help of French company Alstom. It is also building a massive port in Tangier, one of the biggest ports in Africa, with a $1.01 billion of investment.
Rabat is also planning to build five solar plants to produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity by 2020.
After the Arab Spring and the establishment of a new government, Morocco’s biggest challenge now is how to withstand the eurozone crisis. The European Union is its biggest trading partner and a major source of foreign direct investment and tourists.
Morocco’s new Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, whose Justice and Development Party came to power with a promise of higher economic growth, faces stern tests in keeping his promises.
On one side, Morocco is facing a severe drought, while suffering knock-on effects from the European debt crisis on the other.
However, Morocco’s Finance Minister Nizar Barak is confident that his country will survive the euro crisis. “Normally, when Europe sneezes, Morocco gets a cold. But now Europe has a cold and Morocco is far from being sick,” Al Arabiya news portal recently reported Barak as saying in Casablanca.