Saturday, November 5, 2011

Morocco s Achilles Heels

Moroccans are keeping abreast of the recent uprising that toppled Tunisia's president-for-life Ben Ali. Several factors that have triggered Tunisians' rebellion are also present in Morocco: Soaring unemployment among educated youth, sweeping corruption, nepotism and monopolization of the country's wealth by a minority.

In Morocco too, if your family name is not of significance it is very difficult to ascend the social and the political ladder. It will hinder you from gaining, among other things, an academic degrees or acquiring a professional skill. Many past and current politicians, militants and businessmen reached their rank by taking advantage of a member of their extended family. They benefited as sons, grandsons, sons-in-law, brothers-in-law, nephews of a well placed kin. Some seized the  chance and obtained valuable jobs, others boosted their businesses and some wielded their political power. 
The Fasi families, the Benise(s), the Benani(s), the Benchakroun(s), the Elmarnisi(s), the Bensouda(s), the Iraqi(s), the Skali(s), the Tazi(s) … are all of Fez origins and most of them were/are members of the ruling Independence party (Istiklal) and they made their fortunes thanks to the privileges offered by French colonial authorities during the colonization and extended them under the independence. 
The case of the "fasi" family is a vivid example of how crucial familial ties are to social and political ascension in contemporary Morocco. The current government consists of three ministers from the Fasi family: Abbas Elfasi, the Prime Minister; who is [former head of Istiklal Party] Alal Elfasi's son-in-law. Tayb Elfasi Alfihri, the minister of Foreign Affairs, who is also Abass Elfasi's nephew and Yassmina Baddou, the minister of Health, whose father Abd Rahmane Badou, was a minister in the 70s. The other Fasis occupy no less sensitive positions. Yassmina Badou's husband, Ali Elfasi Elfihri, is both the General Director of the “Office National de l'Eau Potable“, "Office Nationale de l'Electricité" and the President of the “Fédération Royale Marocaine de Football“; he is also the brother of Tayb Elfasi Elfihri and Othman Fasi Elfihri, the General Director of the “Société Nationale des Autoroutes du Maroc“. And all the three lucky men are current prime minister Abass Elfasi's nephews. The Fasi family tree is intricately interwoven through marriages whose aims is to secure continuity, inheritance and fortune.
 Morocco's economy will not attain competitiveness unless productive, qualified and talented citizens are given fair chance and allowed to serve their country and give Morocco a chance to catch up with the rest of the world. However, nowadays, if a competent candidate does not have a "prominent" Family name, they are likely to have their hopes dashed and end up protesting in front of the parliament with ever larger hordes of fellow unemployed graduates.
The Moroccans who are lucky to immigrate overseas and get an education are currently running some of the most prosperous companies and organizations in US and Europe, where their capacities are valued and their dignity is respected.
Luckily, Moroccans have not lived under a tunisian style tyranny and dictatorship, However the high unemployment among the educated and inequitably of how opportunities are provided, and unless credible reforms are implement in a timely manner, Moroccan disenfranchised youth may, one day, rise up against the 'fassi' the same way the Tunisians have done it against the "trabelsi"

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