Opinion

Governance model and state reform in Morocco

The issue of governance of public services lies at the heart of the state's functions, whose ultimate goal is to promote progress and social welfare, in conditions of stability, sustainability and harmony between the different social actors.  It should be noted in this regard that only the state is in a position to guarantee equity and justice in citizens' access to basic socio-economic services such as security, education, health or transport, so that each citizen can achieve personal fulfilment and the community is able to live together in prosperity and social peace. Thus, we note that, in recent years, public service governance reform has become a common refrain on the agendas of governments around the world as they search for new ways to deliver high-quality, less costly services that are more responsive to the wants and needs of users and communities. 

Morocco, which at the beginning of this month commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Institution of the Mediator of the Kingdom (equivalent to the Ombudsman), has, since the beginning of its independence, been strongly committed to providing essential services from the public sphere. It has always been the State's responsibility to take care of the basic needs of Moroccans, while at the same time ensuring that the quality of these services is improved and that all citizens have effective and non-exclusive access to them. Hence the ongoing need to establish governance of public services that is effective, accountable, participatory and transparent, as well as capable of strengthening the credibility and viability of the State. In this sense, we can say that the system of public governance in Morocco, like other countries in the world, has undergone, since independence, numerous reforms aimed at modernising the management of public action, among which it would be relevant to distinguish three major stages that mark the evolution of the Moroccan public administration: 

  • The first stage from independence until the 1980s was marked by the reconstruction of the national state, which was primarily responsible for shaping the country's institutions and more particularly its administrative apparatus that was to implement a policy of economic and social development.  In this context, the public services offered to the population developed under the influence of a triumphant statism, which could be explained by the fact that the state, after independence and in the absence of a national private sector, set itself up as a promoter of development through direct intervention in the organisation and functioning of the economy; this role was perfectly reflected in the administrative policy followed until the end of the 1980s, which did not attach importance to the need to include the citizen as the main actor in the public service.  It is clear that governance, reduced to a model of bureaucratised administration imposing its logic on users, would be incapable of promoting both the well-being of citizens and maintaining the cohesion of society. 
  • The second stage was characterised by the transition from the entrepreneurial state to the regulatory state, which must also be the guarantor of social and territorial balance.  It should be recalled that after three decades of this interventionist model, the public sector in Morocco began to constitute a burden that the state budget could no longer bear, the emergence of macroeconomic imbalances, the resurgence of unemployment and social exclusion problems have led to the contestation of state action, but also to the need to redefine its role.  Thus, in a profoundly modified international environment marked by the globalisation of trade and the opening up to Europe, the evolution of the system of public governance in Morocco seemed to be part of the search for a new administrative legitimacy. 

Without being tempted by the great ideological debates that have long pitted the supporters of the 'all state' against the ultra-liberal 'less state' advocating a reorientation of the state's role towards its public order mission, Morocco seemed to be opting for a third way, that of the 'different state', which advocates a periodic review of the public sector's missions in order to adapt to the evolution of society and the expectations of citizens and businesses. In this sense, it was essential that the state, while redefining its role and the limits of its interventions, be able to prioritise its particular responsibilities in the governance of public services considered essential, such as the maintenance of public order, the strengthening of solidarity between communities and individuals, as well as the promulgation of rules and the control of their application. 

The major change that will take place in Morocco's public governance system was announced on 8 April 1988 by King Hassan II during his speech at the opening of the spring session of Parliament on that day: 

"We have already evoked, in many of our speeches and our orientations, the role of the public sector and the private sector in the development and growth of the national economy and the need for the abandonment by the State, in favour of the private sector, of a certain number of companies for which there is no justification for maintaining the State's character. We would like to return to this issue to tell you in detail about the reasons that dictated the choice of the policy we have decided to pursue in this area, the expected results and the means we intend to put in place to implement our policy, in accordance with the objectives we have set ourselves". 

From this actual policy discourse, some analysts have mainly retained that it was about privatisation, disengagement from the state or less state.  In reality, the strategic vision of the royal discourse involved a redefinition of the role of the state, its adaptation to an international and domestic context, based on competition, competitiveness and the opening of borders, and which must therefore abandon its role as an entrepreneur responsible for development, to become a regulating state, a facilitator of development, but also a guarantor of social cohesion and territorial balance.  This refocusing of public power on its essential functions has today proved to be the result of prudent and visionary pragmatism rather than liberal orthodoxy.  Despite the many reforms included in this vision (National Governance Programme, Pact for Good Governance, New Concept of Authority, PARAP), the performance of the administration and the way it operates continue to be criticised by both users and civil society.

  • The third stage marks a decisive constitutional turning point in the evolution of public governance in Morocco, giving rise to an irreversible process of structural reforms aimed at enshrining the rule of law, modernising economic and social development structures, and consolidating the foundations of good governance. In this sense, the 2011 constitutional reform has enabled significant progress to be made in terms of governance, representing not only a real acceleration of the process of institutional updating already underway, but also a decisive turning point in the gradual transformation of the mode of public governance in terms of transparency, accountability and openness to citizens. 

The new Constitution was strongly marked by the enshrinement of citizens' rights to efficient public services, to information and to equal access to these same services, but also by the institutionalisation of a certain number of regulatory institutions, such as the "Ombudsman of the Kingdom" which, under Article 162 of the Constitution, replaces Diwan Al Madhalim "Office of Complaints", as a national institution, independent and specialised in protecting and promoting the rights of users vis-√†-vis the administration, thus contributing to strengthening the rule of law and disseminating the principles of justice and equity, and the values of morality and transparency in the management of administrations, public establishments, territorial collectivities and bodies endowed with the prerogatives of public power. 

Another regulatory institution, the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HACA), already created in 2002, was constitutionalised by Article 165, which qualified it as an institution in charge of ensuring respect for the pluralistic expression of opinion and thought and the right to information in the audiovisual field.  

In terms of governance rules, the provisions of the Constitution have provided a solid platform for the development of a public policy aimed at improving the relationship between the administration and citizens and users, as well as the management of the services provided, by making them accessible, without obstacles or difficulties, in conditions of speed, welcome, respect, equality and ethics.  In this respect, the Constitution has provided for the drawing up of a charter of public services, which should lay down the rules of good governance, relating to the functioning of public administrations, regions and other territorial authorities and public bodies. 

With its commitment to openness and citizen participation clearly announced in the new Constitution, Morocco opens new perspectives for a profound reform of governance.  It is important to recall in this regard that the 2011 Constitution has increased the opportunities offered to citizens to participate in public life by granting them the right to propose laws, to submit petitions, as well as the right to participate in public affairs, in particular the discussion of draft laws systematically published on the website of the General Secretariat of Government www.sgg.gov.ma, so that they can be commented on, not forgetting of course the right of access to information guaranteed by Article 27 of the Constitution. 

The challenge of communication in the governance of public services has been carefully considered in articles 154, 155 and more particularly 156, and this through the parameters that determine the duties of the administration in terms of communication, namely the duty of transparency, respect for democratic values, listening to users and following up on their observations, proposals and complaints.  Thus, the new Constitution succeeds in laying the foundations for a new approach to public communication that goes beyond informative action towards interactive communicative practices that consist of informing users, but also of finding out about their needs and concerns, sounding out their levels of satisfaction, responding to their complaints and constantly asking for their opinion.  In this regard, His Majesty the King, in his speech to the members of the two Houses of Parliament on the occasion of the official opening of the legislative year on 14 October 2016, strongly criticised the Moroccan administration, particularly in its relationship with the citizen: 

"The difficulties faced by the citizen in his relationship with the Administration, are numerous and diverse, starting from reception, through communication to the processing of files and documents. In his mind he constantly comes to relate to an obstacle course [...] It is unacceptable that the Administration does not respond to people's complaints and questions, as if the citizen had no value or as if he were only a part of the landscape that constitutes the space of the Administration". 

True to his new concept of citizen-centred authority, His Majesty the King stressed to the nation's representatives that the participation of users in the process of modernising the Administration must be taken into account from the design of public policies, hence the imperative need to develop a system for listening to users and monitoring their expectations. 

The first, of an economic nature, consisted of redefining the role of the state and the limits of its interventions, in order to adapt it to a new international and domestic context based on competitiveness and the opening of borders, and whose reform measures were articulated in the areas of financing, privatisation, decentralisation and public and territorial governance, only timidly affected the administrative apparatus of the state, and have not had a significant impact on the modernisation of public administration in general, or on the institutionalisation of communication as a crucial function for improving the governance of public services in particular.

The second process of state reform of a political nature has been unleashed since the approval of the new Constitution of 2011, which has enabled decisive progress to be made in terms of governance, representing not only a real acceleration of the process of modernisation of institutions already underway, but also a decisive turning point in the gradual transformation of the mode of public management, in terms of transparency, accountability and openness to citizens. 

It is within this framework that a series of legislative and regulatory texts, in particular the Law on the Right of Access to Information, the Charter of Public Services and the Law on the Simplification of Administrative Procedures and Formalities, have filled the legal vacuum in terms of communication in the governance of public services, by establishing the modalities for receiving, monitoring and processing observations, complaints and complaints, and processing of users' observations, complaints and proposals, as well as guaranteeing citizens the right of access to information and simplifying administrative procedures that oblige the Administration to respond to users' requests within fixed deadlines, all with a view to systematised and effective communication, which establishes relations of respect and trust between the Administration and users.  And this is how this process of constitutional change has been able to regulate, promote and consolidate public administration communication, and, at the same time, establish and strengthen a new public service model that breaks with the previous bureaucratic model to derive its legitimacy from the concept of the rule of law and the principles of good governance, as well as from the basic rights of users.