Morocco 2020/21 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mehdi Tazi, General Vice-President of the General Confederation of Moroccan Companies (CGEM), on the impact of COVID-19, Morocco's growing sectors, and expectations for the year ahead.

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on your operations and decision-making, and how is the confederation reacting to the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic?

The confederation is heavily involved in all of the discussions with the government. During this crisis, we have been in greater contact with the different entities so that we can bring our point of view on the decisions that have been made. There are three main impacts from the crisis: sanitary, social, and economic. We are involved in the social and economic sides through an entity that has been created with ministers, parts of the government, the government body of banks, and CGEM. This is where decisions are being made on the social and economic sides. From that perspective, we are heavily involved; it is almost a full-time job on that front. That is our impact. Many measures to help the private sector and its workers, as well as those in the formal economy, have emerged from this. That is where we are acting the most in this crisis.

CGEM conducted an investigation of the economic repercussions of the pandemic and surveyed 1,820 companies on their expectations of payment periods post COVID-19. How were these results?

The results show that the crisis is deep and impacting everyone in all sectors. Another thing we learned is that about one-third of people are not working. That is a massive number. The third message we got from the survey is that nearly all companies are in a difficult situation; out of 33 sectors, 28 sectors are declaring falls in revenues of more than 25%. The second part of the study allowed us to test how the private sector has accepted our measures in our government body between the government, CGEM, and the banks. In total, two-thirds of the companies have used the measures, while all of the measures have been used by roughly half of the companies. This means the measures that have been taken have been extremely helpful for the sector. The last thing the study showed was that payment delays have increased by more than 60 days as a result of the crisis. That's a huge problem worldwide, and it suggests that the economy will fall everywhere around the world. If people cannot pay, companies will go bankrupt.

Which sectors have been most affected?

Getting back to normal is extremely important as the base for GDP growth and revealing the sectors that can bounce back first. Today, industry is a strong sector for Morocco because it is starting up with a relocation and redistribution of demand and the offer. Not everything will be made in China anymore, and we anticipate more industry spreading out to different countries. There will be opportunities everywhere. Morocco has done a fantastic job in showing that it has a strong industry in the aeronautics and automotive sectors. We were strong in textiles and clothing as well, but also in others. The pharmaceutical industry, for example, has potential. We have a base and are close to and friendly with Europe. Most likely, we have a role to play to be an alternative to the European market in terms of supplying industrial products. I would not bet on tourism in the short term, however.

What are your priorities and goals for the year ahead?

As a confederation of entrepreneurs, our goal is to save as many companies and as much employment as possible. We need to protect our supply. That means protecting our people and our companies. At the same time, we need to be realistic and understand that we cannot stay at home forever. We need to do it, but also keep in mind other safety measures that can be taken in this situation.