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Capital Markets

Morocco looks for an economic miracle

Reform is on the agenda for Morocco, although the king still wields comprehensive power. New openings are being sought to rebalance an economy dependent on tourism and to overcome stubbornly high unemployment. Rupert Wright reports.

VISIT MOROCCO AND you will hear a constant refrain that the country is changing. Once upon a time, Moroccans say, the king was the only person in the country who could make a decision. King Hassan II, who died in 1999, after a reign of almost 40 years, was renowned for the tight control he exercised over his subjects. Even when he played golf, he insisted on closing the course to other players and spectators.

His successor, Mohammed VI (pictured), is only 37, wears fashionably large watches and sports designer stubble. He has promised reform, and to allow others to make decisions. He has encouraged women to play a larger role in society, and 10% of parliamentarians must now be female. "Morocco could become a model for Muslim countries in the field of women's rights," says law professor Fatima Belqadi, the first woman appointed to Morocco's advisory council on human rights.

But it is notable that one of the major deals that has gone through in the financial sector, the merger of Wafabank and Banque Commerciale du Maroc, only succeeded because of the support of the king.

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