PEOPLE FIRST

Morocco 2020/21 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

Parliament must focus on building a country that is committed to progress and development and that responds to the concerns and aspirations of all its citizens.

His Majesty Mohammed VI

Praise be to God, prayer and salvation to the Prophet, His family, and His companions. Distinguished members of Parliament, we are pleased to preside over the opening of the fourth year of the present legislature. It is, for us, the opportunity to meet you again, you the elected representatives of the nation. Because it intervenes in the middle of the current parliamentary mandate, this legislative year must be stamped with a sense of responsibility and seriousness. It also has the particularity of being some time away from the election period, which is generally punctuated by tensions. It is up to you, therefore, to seize this favorable conjuncture to best fulfill the mission entrusted to you by the citizens. Your duty is also to act in a spirit of constructive emulation in order to serve their interests and defend national causes. You must also approach this legislative year with a view to the new stage, which we outlined in the last King's speech. If our concern has been to define the essential challenges as well as the major economic and developmental challenges of this stage, the responsibility of the political class, more specifically that of the government, parliament, and political parties, is to create the conditions needed for its completion.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished members of Parliament, the new stage, which begins now, requires unanimous involvement, based on redoubled confidence, a firm will to work in a spirit of collaboration and unity, and vigilant mobilization. It must also be characterized by the concern to transcend unproductive quarrels and stop any loss of time and energy. Its top priorities are to implement reforms and follow up on decisions and project execution. This is the mission of the executive and the legislative branches. This is also the responsibility of the private sector, particularly when it comes to funding—not to mention the important role dedicated civil society organizations should play. In fact, it is incumbent upon the government to
develop rigorous plans on the basis of which decisions and projects of national, regional, or local significance can be carefully conceived, meticulously carried out, and monitored over the long term. Since the administrative apparatus is put at its disposal, the government should tap all the means available to it, especially statistical data and inspection and control mechanisms, in order to guarantee the efficient implementation of decisions, making sure stakeholders work with one another in a transparent and harmonious manner. In this regard, there can be no shirking of responsibility, especially if the principle of public accountability is strictly enforced. As far as Parliament is concerned, the Constitution has given it broad powers in the field of legislation, oversight of the government, and assessment of public policy.

As members of Parliament, you are responsible for the quality of the laws passed to implement projects and decisions on the ground, making sure they are attuned to the pulse of society, fulfill citizens' aspirations, and address their concerns. It is also your responsibility to monitor government action concerning all matters relating to the management of public affairs and scrupulously ensure they are in line with the real concerns of citizens. No matter how appropriate the decisions are, and regardless of the quality of the projects planned, implementation will always hinge on the availability of resources. This is why I have always insisted on the need for sound preparation of programs and projects, especially matters relating to funding and to the settlement of real estate issues. Government efforts alone will not suffice in this regard. This means the private
sector should be involved in the development process.

We are referring in particular to the banking and financial sector, which constitutes the keystone of any development strategy. Implementing projects and decisions and ensuring their follow up goes beyond just signing contracts and agreements. These operations also involve a moral contract, drawing from reason as much as conscience. This is a matter of shared responsibility for all the stakeholders concerned. Each party is duty-bound to fulfill its obligations and honor its commitments. Such a contract does not involve government institutions and elected officials alone. The private sector—especially financial institutions and the banking sector—is also concerned. Morocco, God be praised, has a banking sector combining robustness, dynamism, and professionalism, all of which contribute to the resilience and development of the national economy.

In addition, Morocco's financial system is subject to strict regulatory controls undertaken by independent and competent national institutions. This enhances trust in our banking sector and reinforces its credibility both domestically and abroad. Its level of development has enabled it to invest in a number of foreign countries, especially in Africa; however, certain categories of the population still have a negative perception of the banking sector, considering banks are only interested in instant, guaranteed profit. This representation is evidenced, for instance, by the difficulty young entrepreneurs have in obtaining loans and by the limited financial support provided to graduates and for the creation of SMEs. I am fully aware that it is difficult to change certain mindsets within the banking sector. In this regard, I have already stressed the need to change mentalities within the civil service and put an end to behavior that impedes development and investment. We, therefore, urge the national banking sector to show greater commitment and be more effectively involved in the country's development dynamic. This effort must focus especially on financing investment projects and supporting productive activities that create jobs and generate income.

In this respect, and in addition to the financial support banks give to large businesses and companies, we call on them to fulfill their crucial role in promoting development. To achieve it, they must in particular simplify and facilitate access to loans by being more open to self-employment projects and by financing the creation of SMEs. To this end, we ask the government
and Bank Al-Maghrib to coordinate with the Professional Group of Moroccan Banks in order to develop a special program to provide financial support to young graduates and fund small self-employment projects. Given their positive impact on a number of families and on society as a whole, it is worth drawing inspiration from the fruitful experiences carried out by organizations that finance projects developed by young people, thereby facilitating their integration into social and professional life. Our wish is that this plan, the different phases of which I will be monitoring with the government and the parties concerned, revolves around the following:

First, enable as many young, qualified project holders as possible, from various social backgrounds, to obtain bank loans in order to launch their projects, and provide assistance to make the plan as successful as possible. Second, give financial support to export-oriented SMEs, especially those trading with Africa, and enable them to benefit from the value added offered by the national economy. Third, facilitate public access to banking services and to opportunities for professional and economic integration, particularly for people involved in the informal sector. Needless to say, economic activity hinges mostly on
the development of banking services. In this regard, I applaud the results achieved in this area over the past two decades, given that the number of citizens who opened a bank account has increased three-fold. Banks are expected to keep up efforts and invest in modern technology and innovative financial services to increase the number of Moroccans with access to financing and banking services, thereby serving the interests of banks as well as those of citizens in a balanced and equitable way and contributing to development.

However, this plan will not achieve its goals without the effective involvement of citizens, who should shoulder their responsibilities and honor their loan terms and conditions. Likewise, financial regulatory and control institutions and mechanisms should monitor the various operations involved and make sure there is a balanced, trust-based relationship between finance institutions and borrowers. I shall highlight the social responsibility of financial institutions and the need for them to contribute to constructive initiatives, whether they concern social or humanitarian issues, the preservation of the environment, or the promotion of sustainable development. Building a country that is committed to progress and development and that responds to the concerns and aspirations of the citizens requires all stakeholders to take concerted action. From this forum, I call on the legislative institution you represent as well as on the executive branch and the private sector—especially the banking sector—to be actively involved in this national development endeavor and ensure the success of the new phase we are embarking upon. Be, may God keep you, up to this task that requires a keen sense of responsibility and commitment and put the nation's best interests above all other considerations for the prosperity of the country and the good of its people.

* Speech given in the Houses of the Parliament, October 11, 2019