Photograph — timesofisrael

When Morocco’s King Mohamed VI visited Casablanca in May, a local newspaper, Al Massae reported that he was “dissatisfied with council officials,” over delays in projects he had hoped to commission. Incompletion, of course, brought about by insufficient funds. There may now be some reprieve for council officials in Moroccan cities where the King will visit in future, with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) pledging $94 million to support similar developments across the country.

Morocco’s Minister of Economy and Finance, Mohamed Benchaaboun, and the USAID’s director Brooke Sherman were joint signatories to the agreement in Rabat. The agreement, which reportedly more than quadruples the previous arrangement between both parties, was called a “new era” partnership by Sherman. Before now, USAID had assisted the North African nation in constructing a Career Center, conceived to help young Moroccans transition from school to jobs.

According to Morocco World News, the USAID has spent close to $500 million since 2001 on multi-sector projects in the country, with 97 percent of that figure going to economic development. But this new pledge represents a substantial increase in one-time donations. A Moroccan official said this money would be plowed into a development program that covers economic growth and governance in Marrakech-Safi and Beni Mellal-Khenifra, fund select public-private partnerships including VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) technologies, as well as civil society-driven activities that cater to vulnerable youths all over the country.

It is no secret that the Moroccan government has been deliberate about its socioeconomic development, despite coming up short severally. Earlier this year, it had announced a plan to spend a hefty portion of its 2019 budget on social issues, following King Mohamed VI’s call, with Arabweekly reporting an anticipated $10 billion on education and health care alone.

Morocco’s Finance and Economy Minister Benchaaboun had said at the time that the government was paying more attention to implementing education reforms and facilitating young peoples’ prospects in the labor market by restructuring the training systems available. In that plan, the government would construct 137 schools, and enroll 100,000 students in preschool and vocational training programmes. The plan was also to upgrade existing infrastructure in places of need, with $190 million pledged yearly.

With this fund, the government, already clearly devoted to doing more about its social and economic progress, can commit monies to previously stagnated projects. And perhaps, King Mohamed will be a smiling visitor to Casablanca next time.

By Caleb Ajinomoh

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