Morocco: No faith in the politicians or the protestors
By Fédoua Tounassi in Rabat
A downturn in Europe has weakened the base of Morocco’s middle classes while poor public services lead many to opt for fee-paying institutions.
Two years ago The Africa Report presented the Achaks, a middle-class family managing to make ends meet. The past two years have seen great change in Morocco: a new constitution, a democratically elected government and the 20 Février civil society movement pushing for political reform.This has coincided with a general tightening of belts as the global downturn has squeezed Morocco’s middle, something that Mouna and Si Mohamed Achak have been feeling.
When we spoke to them last, both Mouna and Si Mohamed were working, but now the situation is much tougher.
There has been a serious blow to this family of four, Si Mohamed, Mouna and their two sons Hamza and Reda. Mouna lost her job as executive assistant at a newspaper. “The paper that I worked for got into trouble with the government, which closed them down. Fifty people got the sack,” fumes Mouna.
For a moment we really believed in the 20 Février
The economic downturn that has finally struck Morocco has made it hard for Mouna to find a new job, despite sending off her CV everywhere she can. Meanwhile, the cost of living rises steadily, even more so that education bills keep climbing.
“The price of raw materials has shot up in the last months,” says Si Mohamed. His textile factory has been barely ticking over because of a lack of orders. “Most of the customers are in Europe,” he explains.
The Achaks are not among those enthusing about the impact of the Arab Spring, the new constitution and a democratically elected Islamist government. They do not believe it will make much difference. “For a moment we really believed in the 20 Février movement but were quickly disappointed.
Morocco’s malaise is deeper, the rent-seeking behaviour of a privileged class is still biasing the democratic landscape and won’t allow the middle class to emerge,” argues Si Mohamed. His wife, who had at one point wanted to march in the streets, swiftly realised that despite its good intentions, the 20 Février movement was not able to tackle these problems.
One bright spot has been changing the kids’ school. “We were really unhappy with the old school despite the high fees they were charging. We have managed to find a better one.”
Si Mohamed deplores the fact that the Moroccan education system is failing across the board, and that all parts of society are trying to get their children into fee-paying schools.
“If our public education was decent, we wouldn’t need to spend Dh4,300 ($500) on putting our kids into private school. Same with the public health system,” laments Si Mohamed.●