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Cablegate: Morocco: Delivery of 2009 Indicator Scorecard

DE RUEHRB #1063/01 3151209
R 101209Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 111916

Sensitive but unclassified -- please handle appropriately.

1. (SBU) Summary: Economic Counselor and MCC Country Director
delivered advance copies of Morocco's 2009 indicator
scorecard in November 5 meetings with Minister of Economic
and General Affairs Nizar Baraka and Primature
Secretary-General Mohamed Hajoui, and then subsequently with
officials at the Americas' Directorate of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. Baraka and Hajoui expressed appreciation
for ongoing progress on Morocco's 2008 MCC Compact, as well
as for advance notice of the 2009 results, but took strong
issue with some of the indicators, particularly regarding
"Democracy and Governance" and "Investing in People." They
opined that there must have been an error in the indicator on
expenditures on primary education, and also argued that
Morocco's continuing failure to pass the median on "civil
liberties" and "political rights" reflects neither the
political reforms that have occurred here in recent years nor
the "reality" that Morocco's press is the freest in the
region. As in 2007, they indicated that Morocco will send a
letter to MCC outlining its concerns, for consideration by
the board at its December meeting. End Summary.

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2. (SBU) Baraka, who played a leading role in preparing
Morocco's responses to the scorecard in 2006 and 2007 in his
earlier incarnation as Deputy Head of the Moroccan team that
negotiated the Compact, expressed appreciation for advance
notice of the results and pleasure with the improvement in
Morocco's scores on "Economic Freedom." (Note: Morocco
passed four of the five categories this year, after having
fallen short of the median on four indicators last year.)
He and Hajoui argued that the shift shows that the data is
starting to "catch up" with the reforms that Morocco has
implemented in recent years. He questioned, however,
Morocco's score on fiscal policy, expressing surprise that an
indicator based on IMF sources continues to score what the
IMF has termed a "model performance" below average.

3. (SBU) Regarding "Investing in People," Baraka also
expressed surprise that the results deteriorated so sharply
from last year. He noted that there has been no shift in the
government's commitment in the area of primary education or
immunization, and that the GOM's own indicators show rising
immunization rates. He was particularly non-plussed by the
education result, noting that the government continues to
allocate increased resources to the sector (a 23 percent
increase in the 2009 budget) and that this is difficult to
reconcile with the magnitude of the drop (from the 78th to
the 44th percentile). Overall, Hajoui noted, 53 percent of
the 2009 budget is devoted to "social" sectors, reflecting
the government's overall focus on such issues. Health
spending is also increasing, he noted. The two asked that
MCC review the data, to ensure that no "methodological
issues" clouded the result.

4. (SBU) Though Morocco cleared the hurdle on "Ruling
Justly," Baraka and Hajoui expressed disappointment with
continuing low marks on "Political Rights," "Civil
Liberties," and "Voice and Accountability." Baraka argued
that the scores fail to reflect the "democratic methodology"
evident in the important political evolution that is
occurring in Morocco, with "transparent" parliamentary
elections in 2007 and installation of a government led by the
winning party. They also challenged the low scores on "civil
liberties," arguing that "liberty of expression is a reality
in Morocco." This is evident in the papers every day, Hajoui
argued, and has not been challenged by the government. He
argued that recent court cases against journalists that have
sparked criticism were not initiated by the government, but
rather were sparked by "private complaints" from individual
citizens. He stressed that Morocco is working with
journalists to review the press code and take it to a "higher
level," but that under current law "real liberty of
expression is respected," making Morocco a "benchmark in the

5. (SBU) Noting the declining (though still passing) score
Morocco received on corruption, Baraka and Hajoui stressed
that Morocco has registered important progress this year in
addressing the problem. They pointed to the recent
establishment of the "Central Anti-Corruption Agency," which
will monitor developments and lead public education campaigns
against corruption. They also highlighted the recent
publication of regulations requiring government officials to
publicly declare their assets every two years. This newly
implemented requirement, they noted, comes with real teeth
and a broader scope than earlier efforts to compel such
declarations. Finally, Hajoui highlighted Morocco's

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innovative effort, through an interministerial commission
that he chairs, to identify all areas where current law and
regulation gives government agencies discretionary authority.
The goal, he said, is to reduce the scope of such
discretion, as it frequently gives rise to corruption.

6. (SBU) Baraka and Hajoui noted that like last year Morocco
will prepare a letter to the MCC before the December board
meeting, to provide the board with additional information
about Moroccan activities in areas where they feel the
indicators do not adequately reflect the progress that has
been registered. The letter will also highlight the
"positive dynamic" that has characterized Morocco. In the
later meeting at the Foreign Ministry, America's Desk
officials, who offered less substantive comment on the
results, noted they will work with the Primature and Economic
Ministry to ensure that all Moroccan agencies provide input
to the response.

7. (SBU) Comment: Notwithstanding concerns in certain areas,
we share the GOM's view that Morocco remains on a positive
trajectory, even where its scores do not put it above the
median. Clearly work is needed in a number of social
sectors, as the GOM's budget priorities reflect. MCC may
wish to review, however, the methodology on the primary
education indicator, as the sharp decline registered there
has provoked particular surprise in the GOM, and appears
difficult to reconcile with what has been a steady increase
in resources devoted to education. End Comment.

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