Arab Today, arab today in new morocco progress is slow
Last Updated : GMT 21:11:51
Arab Today, arab today
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In new Morocco, progress is slow

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today In new Morocco, progress is slow

London - Arabstoday

It is lunchtime in a dirty back alley in Casablanca, the economic and commercial powerhouse of Morocco.Baguettes, loaves and pitta breads are all piled high next to a colourful array of fillings for sandwiches in cheap cafes doing a bustling midday trade. Hungry workers pick from diced onions, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and some odd looking meats for sandwiches that sell for about a US$1 (Dh3.67). Two workers for an international delivery company sip Pepsi and complain about what they describe as a two-tier class system in Morocco. \"We have rich people and we have poor people,\" says Mustapha Drif, 36, who still lives with his parents. \"We do not have the middle or anything in between.\" Both Mr Drif and his colleague Khalil Gasbi, 34, say their friends, who are either high-school or university educated, make about $300 to $500 per month and cannot afford to buy or rent a property in Casablanca. \"We have jobs but we do not have a lot of money,\" says Mr Drif. \"All people here live with their parents.\" As he talks, a beggar walks through the plastic tables and chairs and asks each patron for a small amount of change. On the back of the jacket he wears it says \"progress\". Morocco has invested heavily in job-creating infrastructure projects as the Arab Spring brought revolution to its North African neighbours. But the have\'s and have not\'s are still clear to see in the streets of Casablanca despite the government\'s best pump priming efforts. Mr Drif and Mr Gasbi are both sceptical of any immediate change in their economic prospects. \"They were looking for another way, another paradise,\" says Mr Drif of the protesters. \"They are still hoping for that.\" The Arab Spring was quick to spread last year from Tunisia and Egypt to Morocco, where thousands of protesters took to the streets for economic and democratic change. The country has a gross national income per capita of $2,850, according to the World Bank, but many of the citizens live in poverty even as the government invests in huge infrastructure projects, such as a high-speed rail network. Within weeks of protests, King Mohammed VI began initiating constitutional reforms, agreed to increase the minimum wage and improve scholarships for students. The raw economic data and fundamentals suggest the outlook seems positive for Morocco. GDP growth is expected to slow this year from 4.2 per cent last year to 3.7 per cent but rise above 4 per cent again next year and increase to 5.6 per cent by 2016, according to the IMF. Government spending is set to grow 25 per cent from 277 billion Moroccan dirhams (Dh115.32bn) this year to 347bn dirhams in 2016, while government borrowing is set to fall dramatically. Unemployment is also expected to fall from 8.9 per cent this year to 8.5 per cent in 2016, the IMF forecasts. Hakim Bennis, 24, says life in Morocco is already good for his family and their business in the heart of the old city\'s bazaars. Patisserie Bennis was founded 76 years ago by his grandfather and regularly serves the king, Mr Bennis says. \"I do not think there\'s a crisis like in Europe. Everything is good here,\" he says. \"It will always be like this.\" Mr Bennis\' patisserie may look small, situated down a narrow alley, but business is big as the shop sells about 100kg of sweet Moroccan pastries every day. During Ramadan, that figure can increase to 500kg. Each kilogram costs 130 dirhams, creating a good salary for Mr Bennis, who has studied at universities in both Shanghai and Barcelona, but came home to run the family business. \"I think it\'s easy to get a job if you want to get it,\" said Mr Bennis. \"That\'s if you want to get it. Morocco is like anywhere.\"Like the UAE shrugging of its dependence on oil wealth, Morocco is aiming to diversify away from its traditional agriculture roots and invest in infrastructure, new industries and grow tourism. Tramlines are being laid down in both Rabat and Casablanca. A high-speed TGV railway link will eventually link Tangiers, Rabat and Casablanca along the coast, at a cost of $4bn. Like Dubai, Casablanca is developing a number of cities of expertise, such as Finance City, which is planned to be an offshore centre similar to the Dubai International Finance Centre. There will also be a \"city\" dedicated to aerospace and automotive industries, one for technology and another for health and well being. Both the phosphate and solar industries are also receiving huge investment, both locally and from overseas. Al Maabar, an Abu Dhabi consortium of developers, is investing in a redevelopment of the centre of the city of Rabat, which will have cost US$750 million (Dh2.75 billion) when finished. \"We have stability in Morocco. When you go and walk in the street you do not have a problem. Foreign investors want to come to Morocco because there\'s a good climate for business. \"There maybe things to improve but we are improving,\" says Jaouad Dadi, the head of sales and marketing at l\'Agence pour l\'Aménagement de la Vallée du Bouregreg, a Moroccan government agency partnering Al Maabar. Other authorities in the country believe the protests last year were driven by the simple fact that protests are allowed in Morocco, which is slowly developing into a democracy. \"People protest because people are free to protest first of all,\" says Said Mouhid, the director general of the Regional Council of Tourism in Casablanca. \"Young people are afraid about jobs they are afraid about a lot of things ...You can\'t say, \'No go home.\' We are a democracy.\"from national news.

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