Morocco gives a worthy vision [Archives:2004/798/Viewpoint]

December 13 2004

The visit I recently paid to Morocco impressed me greatly. I was amazed by the level of development and maturity of this Arab country on the eastern Atlantic.
The reforms that have been implemented in the last few years have had a striking impact on the population, particularly on the younger generation, which is now looking to the future with more hope and confidence.
Today, Morocco is the only Arab country with a completely liberal civil society and press movement. To set up a newspaper or an NGO, all one needs to do is send a note to the concerned authorities indicating that he/she is willing to found the instituion or newspaper, and the next day, the enterprise can start working.
This openness has resulted in a flourishing NGO and newspaper industry in the country.
But the Moroccon goverment did not stop at that. According to sources, it is now legislating to give about US $45 million to the roughly 1,800 NGOs in the year 2005 to help them build their capacity and work more professionally.
In fact, this is merely a first step in allowing the civil society in this country to take over developmental projects from the government and apply them on the grassroots level.
This is indeed a vision that deserves respect and appreciation. One can see that what the Moroccon government has done is to its own benefit because it allows it to do more work with less manpower, and splits duties with the active and professional civil society.
I was also impressed by its freedom of the press. There are almost a dozen daily independent Moroccon newspapers. They have all contributed positively in dissiminating information and encouraging citizens, specifically the younger generation to read more often.
One of the latest moves of the government to help encourage newspaper-reading among the population by facilitating the capacity building of independent newspapers. In order to do that they allowed and encouraged the formation the Moroccon Publishers Federation, whose main objective is to help make newspapers self-sustainable, more professional, accurate in reporting, appealing, and readable.
It is hoped this will be a major drive for newspapers to abide by professional standards and allow the enhancement and development of skills of the cadres of each member newspaper to compete regionally.
At the end of my visit, I felt that we could indeed learn a lot from Morocco. Even though it also has its problems, Morocco seems willing to change.
The young king of the country, Mohammed the Sixth, seems to be aware of the current needs in this era of information, and realizes that the civil society and freedom of expression are main attributes of any country that wants to have a better rank in the world of today. The country's progress in terms of growth, liberty, and standard of living is strong.
The point is, if Morocco can do it, so can Yemen. It is all a matter of political will and wisdom. Without those, we will miss the road to development and human dignity.