Morocco’s King Mohammed VI urged the country’s government to take action on what he considers to be key social and economic issues, Reuters news agency reports.
The North African country struggles with social disparities, Reuters notes, so his statements do not come as a surprise. King Mohammed delivered the speech from the northwestern Rif region in the Moroccan city of Al Hoceim.
Neither the timing nor the location was an accident. Al Hoceim was the epicenter of a series of protests, in 2016, and 2017, which had shaken the North African country to its core. According to Al Jazeera, in July 2017, after protesters gathered hoping for a million-man march, local authorities barred it.
Hours before the protest was due to begin, authorities issued a warning, citing “high orders,” and blocked protesters from entering the city.
“The police deployment in this place shows that maybe the demonstration can be prevented,” a Moroccan journalist told Al Jazeera, adding that foreign protesters, from countries such as Germany, France, and Spain were also expected to join the rally.
The demonstration in the city of Al Hoceim is not a stand-alone case. Rather, it is part of a greater movement called Hirak. Hirak started after local security officers crushed a fishmonger to death, and it has not stopped growing and gaining momentum since. According to Al Jazeera, for citizens of the North African country, Hirak symbolizes resistance against state oppression and violence.
King Mohammed’s speech, Reuters notes, came following the sentencing of 53 activists. The leader of the movement, Nasser Zefzafi, and his collaborators were sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of undermining state security and attacking law enforcement.
“I attach special importance to and take a keen interest in social affairs – both as a King and as a person,” the King said.
According to the King, the relocation of billions of Moroccan dirhams – which have been relocated to help those in need – could have yielded much better results, had there been proper coordination.
The country is currently struggling with increasing unemployment. The economy has been hit by the rising oil prices, and Moroccans are struggling to attract foreign investments.
According to a World Bank report, the fiscal deficit in Morocco is expected to decline to 3.3 percent in 2018, but the country is in need of more decisive reforms. Unemployment is on the rise, and it has risen from 9.9 percent in 2016, to 10.2 percent in 2017. Unemployment in Morocco is, however, especially prevalent among the young and the educated, the report states.
This, according to the World Bank, reflects the Moroccan economy’s weak capacity to generate inclusive growth.