RABAT, April 6 The Moroccan government has
decided to cut its investment spending this year by 15 billion
dirhams ($1.8 billion) to reduce pressure on state finances, the
finance ministry said in a statement.
The government originally planned in its national budget for
this year to invest 180 billion dirhams; in the 2012 budget,
public investment was to be 188 billion dirhams.
"It is not austerity - I prefer to talk about rigour. We are
just trying to optimise our spending," finance minister Nizar
Baraka told Reuters late on Friday.
The cuts will be proportional to the budget of each
ministry, officials said without elaborating.
The country faces heavy financial pressures after it boosted
spending to contain social discontent amid uprisings elsewhere
in the Arab world, and as the euro zone debt crisis has hit its
main source of trade and investment.
Before the announcement of the investment cut, the
government had estimated its budget deficit would drop to 4.8
percent of gross domestic product in 2013 from 7.1 percent in
2012; the central bank had estimated a fall to 5.5 percent from
7.6 percent. The 15 billion dirham cut is equivalent to nearly 2
percent of GDP.
Morocco has also been considering how to save money through
reforms to its system of subsidies for food and energy, starting
this year. State subsidies on food and energy shot up to 53
billion dirhams in 2012.
However, official sources familiar with the matter told
Reuters on Friday that because of the political sensitivity of
the reform, the government might not proceed with it, at least
immediately, but could instead raise taxes and cut investments.
"It's too sensitive. The government would not touch the
basic foodstuffs, or at least the first version of the reform
would be discarded," one official told Reuters, declining to be
Baraka told Reuters that subsidy reform wasn't being
dicarded, but that the government was taking a broad approach to
addressing the deficit.
It was not clear whether any slowing of the subsidy reform
would meet with the approval of the International Monetary Fund,
which agreed last year to extend Morocco a $6.2 billion
precautionary credit line and is believed to have made budget
reforms a condition of the loan.