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RABAT: Morocco, facing slower growth and effects of the economic crisis in European partners, aims to attract investments from the the Gulf which King Mohammed VI has toured.
The North African nation is accustomed to growth rates of between four and five percent, but will have to make do with a figure of three percent for 2012, according to official forecasts.
The budget deficit reached over six percent of GDP in 2011, against a backdrop of 30 percent youth unemployment in a country where an Islamist parliamentary election win amid Arab Spring-related upheaval in the region has raised fresh hopes of change.
In search of new partnerships, Mohammed has completed a week-long tour of Gulf and Arab states, visiting Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. The tour amounted to “the opening of a new chapter in historic and strategic relations between Morocco and these countries,” Les Echos newspaper said in a column on the “diplomatic offensive.”
Trade and investment with the region has “lost steam,” said Khadija Mohsen-Finan, a French university professor and Maghreb specialist. Official figures showed that none of the Gulf and Arab countries were among the kingdom’s top 10 trading partners in 2010 except for Saudi Arabia, in fifth place with $2.1bn of investment.
“Each Gulf country has its history with Morocco,” Mohsen-Finan said. In mid-2011, the six-nation GCC invited Morocco and Jordan, the two non-Gulf monarchies in the Arab world, to join the club, closed to outsiders since its creation in 1981. The move was welcomed by Rabat.
But Morocco carefully reiterated its “natural and irreversible commitment” to building the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), formed to strengthen economic cooperation between several North African and Sahel countries. Under the new rapprochement with the GCC, a strategic partnership was signed to finance development projects in Morocco worth more than $5bn over five years.
Director of UAE holdings company Al Maabar, Yusef Al Nuwais, said “renewable energy, tourism, industry and real estate” were the most promising areas of potential investment, according to Moroccan news agency MAP. Tourism agreements signed with Gulf countries have amounted to $5.7bn over 10 years. AFP