Moroccan: king urges gov't to tap Gulf Arab funds

(Reuters) – Morocco’s King Mohammed urged his cash-strapped government on Monday to tap financing from Gulf Arab sovereign wealth funds to help finance projects Rabat hopes will help it meet pressing social needs.
An invitation last year for Arab kingdoms Morocco and Jordan to join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) signalled that monarchies in the region were trying to strengthen their links in the face of the Arab Spring uprisings.
In November, wealth funds from Qatar and Kuwait led pledges to invest almost $3 billion in Morocco’s tourism sector.
The North African economy is facing economic hardships due mainly to repercussions from the crisis in the euro zone, its main economic partner, and after drought hit its labour-intensive agricultural sector this year.
A spending spree last year aimed at containing a spillover from the Arab Spring revolts in the region has increased fiscal deficits and worsened a liquidity shortage in the domestic money market while foreign reserves shrank to cover just four months of import needs.
Celebrating the 13th anniversary of his enthronement on Monday, the king said the Islamist-led government should spend budget revenues carefully.
Morocco’s should also look to “access funding opportunities offered by foreign sovereign funds, especially investment funds in the Gulf sister nations,” he said, according to the English transcript of an address broadcast on state media.
Cooperation with these funds, he said, should “promote investment in all productive sectors and encourage partnership between businesses and government institutions”.
Besides tourism, the biggest foreign currency earner and the second-biggest employer, Rabat plans to develop its logistics, agricultural and industrial sectors, helping cut high poverty and unemployment rates.
The unfolding crisis in the euro zone has essentially narrowed Rabat’s financing options for such programmes to Gulf Arab monarchies. (Reporting By Souhail Karam; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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