Ensuring governance reform in Morocco is not “lost in transition”
The winds of change are blowing through the streets of Morocco.
A democratic and social transition is underway following popular demonstrations inspired by the regional “Arab Spring,” calling for more democracy, inclusion and shared prosperity. A central feature of the transition will be the strengthening of Morocco’s governance framework, and it has so far led to the revision of the constitution and to new elections. The new constitution has consecrated the sought after principles of transparency, accountability and participation and introduced new rights to foster a more open mode of governance, such as the right to information and to public consultations.
A project was developed with the World Bank to help turn these new constitutional rights into reality. It will support the adoption and implementation of policies and laws enabling better public participation in government affairs; greater efficiency and accountability in the use of public funds; and improved fiscal decentralization and self-administration of local governments.
The “Morocco New Governance Framework Implementation Support Project” is being funded with a US$4.5 million grant from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Transition Fund, approved on February 20, 2013. The Transition Fund was launched at the WB-IMF last annual meetings in Tokyo by the G8 Deauville partnership with the aim of supporting the region wide transition process. It will invest in individual reform efforts by channeling financing to transformational projects through international financial institutions. The Transition Fund committed to supporting the implementation of Morocco’s governance reforms at its second steering committee meeting held in Rabat end of February.
The goal of the project is to strengthen the foundation for good governance on the central and local level. In the area of public participation, a stronger legal and policy framework will help create the space for a more collaborative, sustainable, and inclusive public sector. It will establish an enabling environment for greater citizen engagement in government affairs. By creating the structures for participatory governance where little to none existed before, these reforms will not only help build trust between the public administration and citizens, but also directly respond to popular demands for greater government transparency and social accountability.
The introduction of performance budgeting will help strengthen policy outcomes. It will improve the government’s internal and external accountability in the implementation of public policies and the use of corresponding resources. By increasing accountability and managerial flexibility within the public administration, the new budget management approach will boost overall efficiency by empowering administrators to allocate resources in line with current needs. The new programmatic budget presentation will also lead to better government accountability through increased fiscal transparency, in addition to providing a strengthened link between policy priorities and budget allocations.
Strengthening fiscal decentralization will also have important linkages to other dimensions in the project. This is especially true for the budget and public financial management reforms that will impact local financial management, as well as to the open governance reforms fostering public participation across the public sector. By empowering directly elected local governments, reforms under this area will have a significant impact on the public management of local affairs and will help stimulate participation and improve accountability at the local level. As local governments are at the frontline of public service provision to citizens, these reforms will encourage them to improve their capacity to provide services which meet local needs.
If successfully implemented these three reforms combined should improve the effectiveness of Morocco’s public policies and programs. They will help address the country’s persistent socio-economic development challenges. Even with important public investments and sustained economic growth, more than 49 percent of Morocco’s youth are neither in school nor working. Likewise, the adult literacy rate for men was still only 56 percent in 2010, and far lower for women. In rural areas, only 40 to 50 percent of first graders complete the 6 years of primary schooling, with significantly lower graduation rates for girls. This situation and the limited outcomes of past development policies have fuelled a widespread sense of deprivation and frustration, which was forcefully expressed in streets across Morocco. The success of the transition will therefore depend on how effectively the current reform process can address ongoing social and economic exclusion, and respond to legitimate expectations for improved living conditions and a meaningful say in the country’s future.