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Baraka: ‘We are reforming Morocco’s finances’

Finance minister Nizar Baraka says he can – and must – bring down Morocco’s gaping fiscal deficit. But after a debut dollar bond in December, how much can he change the country’s financial model in the midst of pan-Arab revolt?

Morocco has had a distinct advantage over its north African peers over the past two years: it looks utterly different from them. While Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have undergone a painful progress from revolution to rudderless uncertainty, and while oil-rich Algeriahas suffered militant attacks on its infrastructure, Morocco has sailed through the Arab Spring largely unchanged and unscathed.

"We can say that Morocco had an evolution, not a revolution," says Nizar Baraka, minister of economy and finance.

Despite demographic pressures similar to other north African countries, what saved Morocco from the popular uprisings elsewhere was the fact that it had already implemented some kind of change. Its political model – centred on a powerful king, but with a vibrant parliament – was more open to popular debate than those of many of its neighbours. King Mohamed VI acceded to the throne in 1999, and his tenure had already been associated with modest change, well before the Arab Spring took hold.

In June 2011, perhaps sensing the tide turning elsewhere in the region, the king announced a referendum on constitutional reform to strengthen democratic institutions and protect individual rights, while leaving him with some key powers.