- Total external debt: $16.4 billion (World Bank, 2005)
- Total external debt payments: $2.7 billion (WB, 2005).
- Population: 30.2 million (WB, 2005)
- Percentage of adults who can read and write: 52.3% (HDR 2005)
- Average life expectancy: 70.4 years (HDR 2005)
- HIV prevalence: 0.1% (HDR 05)
- Total health spending: 1.7% of GDP (HDR 04)
- Total spending on debt service payments: 5.27% of GDP
- Annual GDP: $51.6 billion (HDR 2005)
Recent Political History
In 1904, Morocco was divided between France and Spain and in 1912, the French protectorate was officially recognised by the Sultan of Morocco. In Spanish Morocco, there was a substantial Moroccan resistance effort, led by Abd-el-Krim, which managed to drive Spanish forces out of the country within four years. However, France and Spain formed an alliance and finally managed to defeat the resistance in 1926.
Calls for Moroccan independence arose again in the 1950s. The Sultan of Mococco requested independence in 1950 but this was not fully recognised by the French until 1956. At this point, Spain also relinquished most of their interest in Morocco, retaining only a small number of cities and territories. Attempts by the Monarch, King Hassan II, to establish a constitutional monarch failed during the 1960s. King Hassan continued to rule until his death in 1999, although various constitutions were attempted during this period in an attempt to balance personal royal rule with demands for greater democracy.
One of the greatest problems facing Hassan’s rule during this time was the Western Saharan dispute during the 1970s. Although Spain retreated from their occupied land in 1975, Morocco and Mauritania became embroiled in a war with the Polisario Front, made up from the inhabitants of the land that had been divided between Morocco and Mauritania and backed by Algeria. At the end of 1987, the Polisario Guerillas agreed a ceasefire and in 1988 a United Nations peace plan was agreed by both sides.
In 1999, Hassan’s son Mohammad became King and since 2000 has attempted to introduce social reform in Morocco, especially for women. However, his social reform programmes have received opposition from large numbers of the population, slowing down their implementation significantly.
Morocco faces the challenge of widespread poverty, especially in rural areas. The number of Moroccans living below the poverty line rose sharply over during the 1990s. Approximately 36% of Moroccan rural dwellers live in poverty, whilst in urban areas this figure is significantly lower at 24%. There is quite a poor standard of education and health care for Moroccans living in both rural and urban areas, despite government programmes focussed on tackling the issues.
Where has the debt come from?
Recurrent droughts in the 1990s exacerbated low growth rates and high unemployment. Poverty rates remain high, and access to water is a growing problem. Morocco has therefore depended on external finance for macroeconomic assistance and essential service provision, and this is likely to continue. However while Morocco received $598 million in aid in 2005 (UN, 2005) it paid back $2.7 billion debt service.
Debt cancellation status
Morocco is officially classed as a lower-middle income country by the World Bank. It therefore does not qualify for debt cancellation, without taking into account the levels of its debts, or what it needs to spend on tackling poverty. It is therefore not eligible for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative or the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative. Nor is it eligible for additional debt relief from the UK or other bilateral donors.
The New Economics Foundation calculates that Morocco requires 57% debt cancellation in order for the government to meet the basic needs of its citizens, such as health, education and infrastructure, without taxing those living below an ethical poverty line of $3 a day.
Last updated: April 2008