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Cablegate: Morocco and Eid Al Adha: Can't Afford to Be Poor

VZCZCXRO1107
RR RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHGI RUEHJS RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV
DE RUEHRB #1136/01 3431835
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081835Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9414
INFO RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 4414

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RABAT 001136

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PREL KISL MO
SUBJECT: MOROCCO AND EID AL ADHA: CAN'T AFFORD TO BE POOR
ANYMORE

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

--------
Summary:
--------

1. (SBU) Working class and poor Moroccans are expressing an
almost existential angst about the political and economic
state of the country resulting from worry over the price of
sheep for this year's Eid Al Adha (feast of the sacrifice).
One man said that Morocco was a country in which people
"could not afford to be poor anymore." Many interlocutors
said that this Eid season has left them unsure of their place
in an evolving Morocco, and feeling powerless before the
larger political and economic forces affecting their lives.
End Summary.

--------------------
Angst Over Ungulates
--------------------

2. (SBU) In a public hammam (bath) in the working class
Ennahda neighborhood of Rabat on December 7, where Moroccans
without running water take their families to wash and enjoy
social time with neighbors, bathers expressed an almost
existential angst about the political and economic state of
the country resulting from worry over the price of sheep for
this year's Eid Al Adha (feast of the sacrifice), which
begins on December 9. One man complained to Pol Off that a
small sheep cost 1,300 dirhams (USD 151) (which he said was a
significant increase over last year's prices), while
average-to-large animals were running between 2,500 (USD 290)
and 3,000 dirhams (USD 348). Both press reports and people
on the street have attributed the problem to the overall rise
in the current price of feed and forage and, conversely, to
the fact that heavy rains presage a rich pasture season,
causing farmers to hold back stock in anticipation of
fattening animals cheaply in the coming spring for next
season.

-----------------------
Can't Afford to be Poor
-----------------------

3. (SBU) A father at the hammam lamented that he could
hardly support his family, but could not bear the thought of
disappointing his children by not buying a sheep. While
scrubbing his young son in the crowded, hot and noisy
chamber, he said that Morocco was a country in which people
"could not afford to be poor anymore." His statement met
with a chorus of approval from others in the room. One block
away from the hammam, a large, undeveloped lot played host to
a teeming impromptu sheep market filled with trucks and
animals from the countryside, and customers from the city.

----------------------------
Small Increase, Large Impact
----------------------------

4. (SBU) The sheep phenomenon captured the airwaves and
newspapers in the run-up to the holiday, prompting the
Government to publish a statement indicating that the price
of mutton only rose by 4 dirhams (USD .46) a kilo over last
year. However, this relatively small increase seems to have
had a disproportionately large impact on the psyche of
certain segments of the population feeling battered by
broader up-ticks in food staple prices, and fighting a sense
of fear over the repercussions of the global economic crisis.
Whether accurate or not, several interlocutors living at, or
just above, the poverty line, including a widowed housekeeper
with two children, separately expressed a similar and deep
sense of worry brought to the fore by concerns over abilities
to afford Eid sheep.

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Lamb Loans
----------

5. (SBU) In an interesting development, banks are
advertising Akrad Akbash (Lamb Loans) to help ease the
pressures on families. Anecdotal and press reports seem to
indicate a recent decrease in sales, as some families
possibly hope for a price drop the night before the feast.
--------
Comment:
--------

6. (SBU) Sheep at Eid play a cultural role similar to

RABAT 00001136 002 OF 002


Thanksgiving turkeys in the United States. The cost of a
large sheep in 2008 is more than the monthly salary of a
great many Moroccans. Regardless of the reason for the price
increase, many interlocutors have said that this Eid season
has left them unsure of their place in an evolving Morocco,
and feeling powerless before the larger political and
economic forces affecting their lives. End Comment.

*****************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/rabat
*****************************************

Riley

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