A very interesting meeting took place last week in Paris between Moroccan and French industry groups. MEDEF, the French employers association, welcomed its Moroccan counterpart CGEM for a round table under the rubric of "Reforms and Growth: Where Does Morocco Stand?" Six Moroccan ministers attented.
But what was especially interesting for readers in Tangier was the headline in the Journal de Tanger: "Minister Announces Revision of Amendis Contract," with a subtitle of "exorbitant water and electricity rates and substandard investment in infrastructure."
Morocco's MAP wire service quoted the Minister of Economy: "one of the major problems is that local purchasing power in Tangier cannot match the rates applied by Amendis." Amendis is the Tangier utility of Veolia, the French water multinational.
Readers in Tangier know what the Minister means. Take Momo, a young professional with a wife and young child. Faced with electricity bills for his 60 square meter apartment which suddenly jumped almost 500 percent, he complained to the monopoly utility. The company offered no explanation, and eventually his rates dropped back, but the interlude had cost him - in one year - the equivalent of 4 years at the old rates.
Even prior to the protests of February 20, any time there was a demonstration, people would say that the marchers would vilify Amendis, always citing the unaffordable utility rates. Unaffordable means paying in excess of one third of a monthly salary on electricity. Meaning just lighting, since most Tanjawis use bottled gas for cooking.
The Moroccan ministers' trip to Paris, more than just another business seminar, was a move in the direction of social peace and removing one of the main causes of street unrest in recent months.