Maghreb Matters: UN Praises Morocco’s Migrant Policy; AU Seconds that Commendation; Tunisia Faces Infighting in Nidaa Tunis amid Discussions with IMF on Progress in Reforms – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNader
June 18, 2018

Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

Jean R. AbiNader, Moroccan American Center

Morocco shows leadership in addressing migrant issues, according to an UNCTAD report. It wrote that “The experience of Morocco features prominently…and provides insights for many countries to learn from,” in its flagship report on development in Africa, underscoring the benefits of migration in the continent and debunking myths surrounding the phenomenon. The report features 2017 data showing that migration in Africa is primarily intra-continental. At the end of 2017, there were 41 million people counted as international migrants from, to, or within Africa, including 19 million Africans in Africa, 17 million outside, and 5.5 million from the rest of the world to Africa. The article in North Africa Post about the report noted that “Besides advocacy for a solidarity-oriented migration policy, Morocco gave the example at home by launching a large-scale operation to regularize the situation of thousands of migrants notably from Sub-Saharan Africa. The operation has benefited so far over 24,000 people.”

AU official notes benefits of Morocco’s leadership since rejoining the AU. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat has praised the positive contributions made by Morocco to the various UA projects and programs including its input into the African free trade area, the protocol of free movement of people in the continent, the African air transport agreements, and the African security fund. He also mentioned Morocco’s beneficial bilateral agreements with several African countries and “the regularization of the situation of thousands illegal African migrants,” according to the North Africa Post. Morocco and the AU are also cooperating in “the fields of agriculture, renewable energies, sustainable development, education, and vocational training” it said.

Tunisia is again facing critical challenges that are sorely trying the current regime. Thomas Carothers, Senior Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recently visited the country and was interviewed by POMED about his perceptions. Carothers, who studies countries in transition around the world, noted similarities among citizens who have experienced recent transitions from authoritarianism to some form of democratic governance. He said that is was not surprising that people are tired of waiting for positive change, expecting that removing a dictator will immediately bring relief and opportunity to the society.

He credits the rise of press/media freedom with rising expectations that somehow corruption will diminish, when, in fact, people are more aware of how broadly corruption taints the system because of greater freedom to discover and discuss its reach. Carothers mentioned that corruption by the family of a dictator oftentimes gets replaced by political opportunists who pick up the pieces and diversity those benefiting from still evolving justice systems. He said that “Sometimes new forms of corruption simply spring up due to a lack of central control and more freelancing at different levels of the system.”

Regarding frustrations people feel with the lack of progress of newly installed leadership, Carothers commented that it is fairly easy to move from authoritarianism into political pluralism if the iron hand is lifted or crumbles—right away, political parties establish themselves and start to compete. Unfortunately, this new pluralism has only a very loose, and often nonexistent, connection to building better state capacity.”

On the positive side, he pointed out that “One notable aspect is the absence of any obvious major political spoilers—powerful forces outside the political scene ready to come back in and wreck the democratic transition. Most transitional countries have some spoilers…Tunisia does not as of yet have a powerful force outside of the political scene that is poised to come back in and wreck things.” Carothers also made a point of the unique governing coalition, “But Tunisia’s coalition government is fairly distinctive beyond the region, as well. Tunisia’s effort at political compromise and political balance has gone better than in many other countries.”

For a complete copy of the interview, click here.

One of the dangers ahead for Tunisia is the splintering of the secular party Nidaa Tunis. Al-Monitor reports that “Infighting within Tunisia’s leading political party has pitted the prime minister against the president’s son in a burgeoning power struggle ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next year.” The General Labor Union (UGTT) is taking sides, opposing labor reforms proposed by the prime minister, which are a sticking point with foreign and local investors as crucial to growing the economy.

So far, Ennahda, the moderate Islamic party is supporting the prime minister, Youssef Chahed, recognizing that a fall in the government may lead to greater instability and social disorder. There is a credibility gap between citizens and the political leadership as demonstrated by the low turnout of only 33.7% of voters for the municipal elections The results were particularly disappointing for Nidaa Tunis, which received only 20.8% of the vote, less than the 28.6% secured by Ennahda and 32.2% by independent candidates.

Tunisia’s biggest challenge remains jumpstarting the economy. At the conclusion of the recent visit by the IMF to assess progress on the previous agreement to implement economic reforms by 2019, the multilateral organization expressed its satisfaction with the talks of reform but noted that inflation and public debt trends were not favorable. Tunisia requires some $3 billion in foreign loans in 2018 to satisfy its budget requirements. Given it relatively low income generation from taxes and other levies, the only option is private-sector led growth to enlarge the middle class, reduce public borrowing, and increase the GDP. 

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