Following his 29 July throne day speech — in which he highlighted the failings of previous development programmes — King Mohamed VI reiterated his calls for a new development model for the Kingdom in a subsequent speech on 20 August commemorating the 66th Anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People.
In this speech, which followed his 29 June throne day speech, he focused on development issues and highlighted the need to improve living conditions and to reduce social and regional disparities. He noted that the segments of society most affected by difficult living conditions mainly live in rural areas and suburbs.
To this end he announced that he would establish a committee that will draw up a new development model to tackle these outstanding issues and that will become a ‘cornerstone for the establishment of a new social contract.’
The committee members, who will be drawn from both the private and public sectors, will be appointed at the start of the new political year. Although it isn’t yet clear who will head it, it is rumoured that, the Central Bank governor, Abdellatif Jouahri, is most likely to be appointed to the post.
This call for a new development model is evidently important to the King. When he came to power in 1999, he made it clear that internal development would be high on his agenda. This was in contrast to his father, Hassan II, who prioritised international relations over poverty alleviation and reducing the chasm between the rich and the poor.
However, while King Mohamed VI has certainly notched up achievements during his reign — including increasing GDP and turning Morocco into a larger economic power in Africa — his successes in the social realm are notably thin and the country still suffers from enormous social challenges.
This failure is not due to any absence of grand plans or ideas because there have been various development programmes and schemes over the years, including those aimed at rural areas. They have, however, repeatedly failed to get to the stage of implementation.
This is due to various reasons, including: the lack of follow up; the absence of real expertise; a lack of finance; and perhaps most important of all, the pervasive corruption that has seen funds that have been earmarked for development projects being siphoned off or wasted. There is also the problem of the government’s hands being tied with those around the King still holding the real reins of power.
Thus — while this committee may well come up with an excellent new development model — few Moroccans are expecting it to herald real change. This means that the social ills and grievances that have fuelled the protests and unrest over recent months and years will continue, with the ever-present risk that they will spill over into some sort of rerun of the Arab Spring of 2011.