MAJOR MACRO ECONOMIC INDICATORS
|2018||2019||2020 (e)||2021 (f)|
|GDP growth (%)||3.0||2.2||-7.0||4.0|
|Inflation (yearly average, %)||1.6||0.3||0.2||0.8|
|Budget balance (% GDP)||-3.7||-4.1||-8.0||-6.5|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||-5.2||-4.2||-7.0||-5.0|
|Public debt (% GDP)||65.0||65.0||77.0||76.0|
(e): Estimate (f): Forecast
- Favourable geographical location, close to the European market
- Strategy to move to high-end markets and diversify industrial production
- Political stability and commitment to reform
- Growing integration in the African market
- Support from the international community, particularly Europe, which is supporting green investments in Morocco to the tune of USD 300 million, through 2 projects.
- Significant and growing market
- Economy highly dependent on the performance of the agricultural sector (14% of GDP and 40% of the population) and, therefore, on the climate and water availability, as well as on the European Union
- Competition from other Mediterranean countries such as Turkey or Egypt
- Significant social and regional disparities between urban and rural areas, with recurrent discontent in some regions. Poverty rate remains high.
- High unemployment rate, especially among young people, low participation of women in the labour market and lack of housing
- Weak productivity and low competitiveness
- Political tensions with regional neighbours
Recovery dependent on the European market and tourism
The health crisis, but also a poor harvest due to drought, have strongly affected the country's economic growth in 2020. In 2021, it is expected to experience a modest recovery, partly due to a base effect. Exports of goods and services (39% of GDP in 2019), dependent on European economies, collapsed in 2020. Sales of vehicles and automotive parts (20% of exports of goods and services in 2019) have suffered particularly badly, as have exports of clothing items (7%) and aeronautical parts. On the other hand, exports of fertilisers (10% of exports with rock phosphate and its derivatives), initially hampered by the disruption of Indian supply chains, have resisted ultimately. Sales of agricultural products were also resilient, despite logistical disruptions. In 2021, exports are expected to rebound in line with the economic recovery in key partners. However, their recovery may be limited, as the virus is still circulating in Europe. The European automotive market, the leading source of merchandise exports, is struggling to recover, not to mention aeronautics. The drop in tourism (12% of GDP and employment) has also impacted the Moroccan economy. Travel restrictions and border closures have strongly affected tourism revenues (22% of total exports). The second wave (October 2020) has led to an extension of the mobility crisis, which will continue to weigh on tourism in the first half of 2021. Thus, it is only expected to recover in the summer of 2021. Household consumption (58% of GDP) has declined sharply. However, remittances from the Moroccan diaspora (6% of GDP in 2019), on which a large number of families depend, have held up, as expatriates are likely to draw on their savings. Conversely, the unemployment rate increased (13% in 2020, up from 9.8% in 2019). However, the most significant job losses are in the informal sector (12% of GDP and 36% of the labour force), suggesting a higher unemployment rate. In order to limit the impact on households, the government has allocated, through a special fund to combat COVID-19 (2.7% of GDP), assistance to the most vulnerable households and workers in the informal sector, which is likely to be extended to the first half of 2021. Household consumption is expected to then gradually recover. Investment (28% of GDP in 2019) decreased in 2020. However, a USD 5 billion strategic fund to support production activities and finance public-private investment across all sectors has been set up. The inter-ministerial investment commission has also approved a USD 2.5 billion package to support 45 projects in energy, telecom and industry. These investments are designed to create jobs and boost the economy simultaneously. FDI also contracted in 2020 because of the global recession. They are expected to recover moderately, in line with the global economic activity affected by the second wave.
Small decrease in the twin deficits
The public deficit increased considerably because of COVID-19, which led to a large number of additional expenditures while reducing revenues. The decline in government revenue is the result of a drop in customs revenue and domestic taxation. In 2021, the deficit is expected to decline only slightly, as the effects of the crisis are still expected to weigh, especially in the first half of the year. Public debt (67% external at the end of 2020) has mechanically increased, despite substantial privatisation revenues.
The current account deficit also widened in 2020. While the usual large trade deficit has narrowed due to the decline in imports offsetting that of exports, the services surplus collapsed with tourism. In order to finance this deficit and rebuild its foreign exchange reserves, which fell (-4.4%) to maintain the dirham's peg to the euro/dollar basket, Morocco was able to draw on USD 3 billion under its precautionary and liquidity line with the IMF. The World Bank, European Union and ADB also provided liquidity. In December, the Kingdom issued USD 3 billion worth of bonds on the international market. In 2021, the deficit is expected to decline slightly, in line with the moderate recovery of exports and tourism. As the virus is still actively circulating in Europe, their recovery could disappoint. Imports are expected to recover partially, but at a slower pace.
Political and social stability tested by the crisis
The ruling coalition that emerged from the 2016 legislative elections, led by the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) and led by Saaddin El Othmani, is fragmented. It has a comfortable majority (229 out of 395 seats) in Parliament. However, the King and his cabinet play the role of ultimate arbiter and decision-maker. The crisis could exacerbate political and social fragilities. Despite household support measures, rising unemployment and losses of household income suggest that discontent will increase. The high weight of the informal sector, particularly in trade, construction and agribusiness, does not facilitate the payment of aid, which increases inequalities. The lack of employment opportunities, the vulnerability of rural populations to climate change, the perception of corruption, and restrictions on certain freedoms could fuel frustration. The next legislative elections will be held in October 2021, and the PJD could emerge victorious, thanks to its voters, who appreciate its social conservatism.
Last updated: February 2021
Bank transfers are becoming the most popular means of payment for both domestic and international transactions. Cheques are still commonly used as instrument of payment and also constitute efficient debt recognition titles: debtors may be prosecuted if they fail to pay the amount owed. Bills of exchange also constitute an attractive means of payment, because they are a source of short-term financing by means of discounting, instalment, or transfer. Promissory notes are used to record the financial details of personal debts, business debts and real estate transactions. They are legally binding contracts that can be used in a court of law if the debtor defaults. A promissory note acts as solid evidence of an agreed payment, and subsequently debt in case of dispute.
Debt collection must begin with an attempt to reach an amicable settlement. Creditors attempt to contact their debtors through different means (telephone calls, written reminders such as formal letters, emails or extrajudicial notifications, etc.). Amicable settlement negotiations can be intense, and cover aspects such as the number of payment instalments, write-offs, guarantees/collateral, and grace period interest. Moroccan law states that a lawyer can acknowledge the signature of the debtor via payment plans, which are signed, certified, and legalized by the competent authorities in Morocco. The creditors’ lawyer can subsequently use this payment agreement as debt recognition in case of legal action.
Morocco has a legal system based on French legal tradition and courts based on Islamic traditions (which relate exclusively to the personal status of litigants). Secular courts includes proximity courts (juridictions de proximité) in charge of settling disputes between individuals, Courts of First Instance (tribunaux de première instance) dealing with all civil matters, Commercial Courts dealing with business disputes, Appellate Courts (cours d’appel) dealing with civil and administrative matters, and a Court of Cassation (Cour de cassation).
The order to pay is available when the debt is linked to a title or a recognised promise . It is characterized by a petition form sent to the relevant clerk of the court. The debt must be certain, liquid (i.e. clean and clear), due, and uncontested. If the defendant does not submit a defence within eight days, an enforceable decision may be obtained. If the defendant submits a statement of defence within eight days of receipt of the order for payment, the case will be referred back to the ordinary procedure. However, the appeal chamber of the court of first instance or the court of appeal may, by a reasoned ruling, suspend enforcement in whole or in part.
A writ of summons is sent by the creditor’s representative to the relevant court and served by a bailiff to the debtor, who may subsequently obtain legal representation in the period prescribed by the judge and file a counter claim. Several hearings may be required for the exchange of written submissions, transmissions of documents and to produce the relevant evidence.
The main hearing is set by the judge to hear the presentation of the pleadings. Discussions and pleadings are conducted by the judge during the public hearing. The case is then taken under deliberation to allow judges to discuss the means, grounds, and pronouncement that make up the content of the judgment. After the sitting of the judgers, a reasoned judgment is rendered. It can usually be obtained within an average delivery time of 14 months.
Enforcement of a court decision
Once all appeal venues have been exhausted, a judgment becomes final and enforceable. Garnishee orders are normally efficient for seizing and selling the debtor’s assets.
According to Moroccan law, commercial courts are obliged to recognize judgments rendered abroad, even if there is no convention signed for this purposes with the issuing country. In order to be recognized and enforced, the original copy of the foreign judgment must be provided to the court with a certificate of non-appeal. When a foreigner gets final judgment that they want to enforce in Morocco and, if not, when seeking enforcement of a Moroccan judgment abroad, they must follow exequatur proceedings. There are two enforcement procedures. The first is uniquely Moroccan, whereas the second is fixed by judicial bilateral agreement between Morocco and other countries, including Germany, Belgium, the United States of America, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, France, Italy and Libya.
Insolvency proceedings are regulated by Book V of the Commercial Code. It provides for prevention of difficulties (alert procedure and amicable settlement procedure) as well as formal insolvency procedures (judicial redress proceedings and judicial liquidation proceedings).
Because of the COVID-19 situation, Morocco has taken two measures in the framework of the insolvency proceedings:
The possibility for debtor companies to initiate the procedure to request a grace period to enable them to legally suspend payments (if the insolvency is caused by COVID-19).
The possibility of obtaining a stimulus credit dedicated to companies impacted by COVID-19.
The alert procedure is initiated by a business’ partners or auditors (external auditors hired by the company to rectify the financial situation), who are required to notify the company manager of any opportunities to redress the situation within eight days. If no steps are taken to remedy the situation within 15 days, a general assembly must be convened to take a decision on how to redress the situation based on the auditor’s report.
Amicable settlement procedure (conciliation)
Amicable settlement procedures can only be implemented by a commercial company, trader, or artisan, who is experiencing financial difficulties but is not yet cash flow insolvent. Once initiated, the debtor is placed under the supervision of the Court. The Court subsequently appoints an external conciliator for a limited period of three months to assist the debtor in reaching an agreement with its creditors. A settlement can be reached with all creditors or the debtor’s “main creditors”. Creditors are entitled to their entire claim, but the conciliator may propose an arrangement or creditors may assign a portion of the debt if they so wish. Once approved by the Court, all judicial proceedings relating to debts covered by the agreement are suspended for the duration of the amicable settlement agreement.
This is mechanism is intended to allow a company to reorganize in order to continue to survive. To benefit from it, the company must establish that it is not in a state of cessation of payments. However, in the context of this procedure, it is still possible to negotiate with your creditors, in order to avoid arriving at to this cessation of payments, to the receivership proceedings. It is the company that seizes the court, which pronounces a judgment of opening of the safeguard procedure. The procedure starts with a six-month observation period (renewable once) during which the insolvency administrator, in collaboration with the manager, draws up a “economic and social balance sheet” (BES) for the company: an update on the origin of the difficulties, he current financial situation, the corrective measures to be envisaged and the resulting prospects. During this period, the company takes appropriate measures to correct the situation, and it helps the administrator to develop a backup plan. The adoption of such a plan by the court marks the end of the observation period and the beginning of the actual plan, which can last up to five years. Here again, the manager remains master aboard his company but, above all, the company will benefit from radical measures that the court can only impose:
- suspension of maturities of debts;
- stop individual prosecutions;
- obligation for all creditors to declare their claims;
- stop interest rate.
This procedure is only available for debtors that have become insolvent (état de cessation de paiements), but whose financial situation is not irreparably compromised. An insolvency judge and an office holder (the person appointed by the court as part of an insolvency or liquidation; also acts as the syndicate) are appointed by the court. During the process, the debtor company and its management remain in possession of the company’s assets and the debtor continues its business. The receivership procedure can result in either the reorganisation of the debtor’s business or its liquidation. The office holder is required to prepare a report on the situation of the company within four months from the opening of the proceedings. In his report, the office holder will either recommend a continuation plan for the debtor, the sale of the business, or liquidation. The court is then required to reach a decision on the fate of the debtor, based on the report. There is no direct vote by the creditors on the options available to the debtor during the procedure.
The judgment initiating the procedure makes all the debts immediately due and payable, the creditors within a period of two months must present their claims. Moroccan creditors have two months to submit their declarations; creditors residing abroad have a period of four months. Liquidation proceedings may terminate prematurely before a distribution in liquidation if the debtor has no more debt, the office holder has sufficient funds to pay all the creditors in their entirety, or the debtor does not have enough assets to cover the costs of the liquidation procedure.
Under Moroccan law, there are no specific rules on the priority of claims in the event of insolvency. Nevertheless, there are some privileged creditors such as: the employees, the public treasury, the social agencies, the creditors of a collective conciliation, finally the unsecured creditors.