“Extreme poverty is the best breeding ground on earth for disease, political instability, and terrorism.” – Jeffrey Sachs
Poverty, as conceptualized by leading economists and political scientists, is recognized as one of the more sustainable issues and one of the greatest global challenges facing the world today. Poverty eradication is considered an indispensable requirement for sustainable development as well as a deprivation of human rights for multiple reasons. Morocco, like many developing countries around the planet, is in a deep struggle to maintain a modest standard of living and to raise its population’s incomes.
In 2005, Morocco announced a project called “The National Human Development Initiative” (INDH), spanning over five years from 2006 to 2011 for a budget of 1 billion US dollars to improve the living conditions of citizens, reduce poverty in urban and rural areas, reduce economic vulnerability, stimulate participation of non-governmental organizations in society, and support families in difficult situations. Meanwhile, the media and all the opposition parties began to participate in the civil society and started playing a more active role in public life.
According to the World Bank, Morocco has made a remarkable progress reducing poverty over the last decade. In 2007, 8.9 percent of its population was considered poor, compared to 16.3 percent in 1998. That means that approximately 1.7 million Moroccans have moved out of poverty within ten years. But, there are also underlying factors that diminish poverty in Morocco, such as remittances by Moroccan emigrants, deceleration of population growth, macroeconomic stability, and the dynamic role of some non-profit organizations.
A Notable Achievement?
Nevertheless, in spite of all the remarkable gains, Morocco’s experience has three main limits. Firstly, illiteracy rates, especially in rural areas, remains very high among both older and younger generations. Furthermore, adult illiteracy rate has only decreased by 14 percent between 1998 and 2008 – from 52 to 45 percent. As a result, the United Nations Development Program ranked Morocco 130th on the 2009 Human Development Index.
Secondly, the inequality between the rich and the poor has not been reduced. On the contrary, the Gini Index has increased between 1990 and 2007 – from 0.393 to 0.407. This clearly shows the persistence of high inequality in the country. Moreover, the ratio of the richest 10% to the poorest 10% is extremely high compared to first world countries and even to other developing countries.
Thirdly, the economic growth in Morocco remains fragile and volatile, mostly in the agricultural sector, which accounts for 15 percent of Morocco’s GDP and 40 percent of its jobs. Today, Morocco is still dependant on weather conditions and only 18 percent of the total land is arable. All of this shows the contrast between what policymakers do and what they logically should do.
“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” – James A. Baldwin
Morocco’s experience has many limitations – it is far from a perfect model. Unfortunately, the effects of INDH and other projects haven’t reached both urban and rural areas. Policymakers need to take the time to really understand the issues that hinder the eradication of poverty. To make a significant difference, they need to be prepared to take a deeper look at these or some other popular solutions to defeat this national challenge.
Firstly, Morocco needs to make building its human capital by eradicating illiteracy a top priority. That will clearly improve the awareness among poor families to send their children to school and get them educated to create a skilled workforce. In addition, education can not only help households out of poverty, but also protect them from falling back into poverty. In so doing, the fight against illiteracy is the key to creating wealth.
Secondly, to end poverty, corruption needs to end by providing easy access to all public services for the ordinary people with an environment of good governance, belief in the power of law enforcement, and, most importantly, uplifting human values within the community. These include transparency, credibility and efficiency, which in fact always go hand-in-hand.
Finally, promoting empowerment and volunteerism will make allow for an important collaboration between young change-makers and global or local organizations. They will be able to work together to solve issues by creating innovative, leveraged solutions, accelerate national efforts that allow impoverished people to lift themselves out of poverty, and advance sustainable entrepreneurship.
In the end, many of the world’s poorest people continue to suffer from problems including unstable food and fuel prices and food shortages. There is no better moment to evaluate the impact of existing strategies and to put the country’s effective policies into practice in order to alleviate poverty and defeat other challenges. The hope remains that Morocco will become a developed country and that it will take into account the experiences of countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, and so on.