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RABAT, April 6 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia and Morocco have signed an aid agreement worth $230 million, the Moroccan finance ministry said on Wednesday, part of a five-year package of financial assistance extended by wealthy Gulf states.
Four Gulf states - Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates - agreed in 2012 to provide aid worth a total of $5 billion to Morocco in the period 2012-2017 to help it weather “Arab Spring” protests.
Each of the four countries has committed $1.25 billion to Morocco for the whole five-year period, in an effort to build up its infrastructure, strengthen its economy and foster tourism. The agreement signed today is Saudi Arabia’s 2016 part, Morocco’s finance minister said.
The $230 million agreement was signed in Bahrain by the Moroccan minister, Mohammed Boussaid, and Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz al-Assaf. It includes $100 million of support to small and medium-size enterprises), $80 million of aid to agriculture and $50 million for the health ministry.
Morocco has budgeted to receive a total $1 billion in aid from the Gulf states for 2016. It hopes to cut its budget deficit to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product this year from an estimated 4.3 percent in 2015.
Moroccan officials have said Morocco had received only 4 billion dirhams of the 13 billion ($1 billion) expected in last year. It was unclear which Gulf countries have not provided their 2015 aid.
Rabat is anxious to avoid a drop in living standards and prevent a return of the street protests for political and economic reforms that King Mohammed managed to stifle in 2011 with constitutional reforms, social spending and harsh policing.
The Gulf states have agreed a similar package of aid, also worth a total $5 billion over a five-year period, for Jordan.
Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi, editing by Larry King
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