Abstract

The macroeconomic adjustment and structural reforms contributed to the restoration of financial equilibria, reflected in the reduction in inflationary pressures and the achievement of external viability. Concurrently, economic activity expanded at a sufficiently fast pace to bring about an improvement in living standards.

The macroeconomic adjustment and structural reforms contributed to the restoration of financial equilibria, reflected in the reduction in inflationary pressures and the achievement of external viability. Concurrently, economic activity expanded at a sufficiently fast pace to bring about an improvement in living standards.

Growth

During 1981–93, Morocco achieved an average annual growth rate of 3.2 percent. However, the growth performance fluctuated from year to year, reflecting the primary sector’s vulnerability to exogenous shocks. In particular, economic activity suffered severely in 1981, 1983, 1987, 1992, and 1993, mainly because of droughts (Chart 5).

Chart 5.
Chart 5.

Growth and Inflation

Source: Moroccan authorities.

The 5 percent average annual growth in the second half of the 1970s proved to be unsustainable, but with the authorities’ policies to re-establish financial balances, the country maintained a healthy average annual growth rate of 3.4 percent during the first half of the 1980s. Subsequently, with the launching of comprehensive structural reforms and the progress made in restoring macroeconomic stability, the rate of growth of real GDP during 1986–91 averaged 4.7 percent, before severe droughts in 1992–93 contributed to a drop in economic activity. Nonetheless, Morocco’s per capita income increased by 0.8 percent a year on average during 1986–93.

The adjustment programs aimed at opening up the economy and stimulating broadly based growth, particularly in the tradable goods sector, while reducing the economy’s dependence on mining and agriculture: substantial progress was made on both fronts. Indeed, the combined share in GDP of exports (including consumption by nonresidents) and imports increased from an average of 47 percent during the 1970s to 52 percent during 1981–93, although this trend was reversed somewhat between 1990 and 1993. Within tradable goods production, the share of mining declined fairly steadily, from an average of 5.3 percent of GDP in the 1970s to 4.6 percent in the first half of the 1980s, and to 2.6 percent during 1986–92, reducing Morocco’s exposure to volatile commodity markets (Table 7 and Chart 6). Manufacturing steadily increased its share, from an average of about 16 percent in the 1970s to about 18 percent during 1981–92. Furthermore, the strong growth of manufactured exports, especially since the mid-1980s, points to a shift from import substitution to export-oriented production within manufacturing. The share of agriculture fluctuated widely, reflecting intermittent droughts and subsequent recoveries; on average, its share in GDP declined from 19.5 percent in the 1970s to 16.3 percent during 1981–92. Balance of payments data also point to a strong growth in the share of tourism in GDP since the early 1980s. Overall, Morocco has made progress in achieving a deeper integration into world markets and diversifying its productive base, although, consistent with real exchange rate developments since 1990, these trends have slowed in the most recent years.

Table 7.

Sectoral Composition of GDP and Growth

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Sources: Moroccan authorities; and IMF staff estimates.
Chart 6.
Chart 6.

GDP by Sector

(As percent of total GDP)

Source: Moroccan authorities.1Includes government, construction and public works, utilities, and other services.

A central aim of the adjustment programs was to keep investment at sustainable levels while increasing productivity through structural reforms and a shift in investment toward the private sector; again, the results were encouraging. Indeed, gross fixed investment by the central Government fell steadily from a peak of 20.7 percent of GDP in 1977 to a trough of 3.6 percent of GDP in 1986 before climbing back to 7.7 percent of GDP in 1993 (Table 8 and Chart 7), Meanwhile, nongovernment investment expanded relatively steadily during the 1980s, rising from an average of 10.2 percent of GDP during 1970–80 to 15.4 percent during 1981–93. Although economic growth was determined by a complex set of factors, there are indications that the productivity of investment has improved since 1984, benefiting from the reduction of distortions in the structure of relative prices and improvements in the government investment program. For example, during both 1974–83 and 1984–91, real growth averaged about 5 percent, although in the latter period gross investment was about 3 percentage points of GDP less than in the earlier period.

Table 8.

Savings-Investment Balance

(In percent of GDP)

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Sources: Moroccan authorities; and IMF staff estimates.

Excludes consumption by nonresidents.

Excludes consumption by residents abroad.

Chart 7.
Chart 7.

Savings and Investment

(In percent of GDP)

Sources: Moroccan authorities; and IMF staff estimates.

Another important goal of the adjustment strategy was to improve overall savings performance, so as to reduce reliance on foreign savings and help) restore external viability. Again, the results were quite impressive. Gross national savings increased from an average of 16.5 percent of GDP in 1970–80 to 17.5 percent of GDP in 1981–85 and to 22 percent in 1986–92, even though gross domestic savings as a ratio to GDP remained at about the same level during the 1980s as in the 1970s. The broadly constant domestic savings rate, however, masks important adjustments in government and nongovernment consumption. In the first half of the 1980s, government domestic savings remained near 2 percent of GDP but then improved more or less steadily to reach 7.4 percent of GDP in 1993, reflecting the improving fiscal balance. In the nongovernment sector, adjustment also moved in the right direction. Growth of real per capita consumption (excluding government consumption) slowed down to an average annual rate of about 1 percent during 1980–93, from some 1.9 percent during the 1970s. It accelerated somewhat in the second half of the 1980s, as national income was boosted by transfers and factor income inflows in response to the reforms undertaken, including the maintenance of positive real interest rates since 1984. Nonetheless, the transfers and inflows allowed private national savings to rise, even while private domestic savings weakened, broadly offsetting the gains in government domestic savings. In part, the evolution of nongovernment savings may also be related to a reduction in “forced” savings, as the economy was liberalized and access to credit was broadened, but the inclusion of public enterprises in the nongovernment sector makes a more detailed analysis difficult.

Reflecting these movements, the overall national savings-investment gap narrowed; however, the savings-investment balance of the government and nongovemment sectors showed divergent developments during the 1980s. In the government sector, a steady increase in domestic savings and a decline in investment turned the domestic savings-investment balance from an average deficit of 10 percent of GDP in 1980–81 to broad balance in the early 1990s. In the nongovernment sector, the deficit in the domestic savings-investment balance remained more or less stable at about 3–4 percent of GDP during the early 1980s. Subsequently, with the pickup in investment coinciding with a weak domestic savings performance, the deficit of the non-government sector grew and reached an average of 10 percent of GDP in 1991–92. However, when net financial balances are defined as the difference between respective national savings and gross fixed investment, the picture looks different: during the 1980s, the net financial position of the Government remained in deficit because of continued large external debt-service payments, while that of the non-government sector remained in surplus largely because of the aforementioned increase in private transfers and factor income from abroad. In the beginning of the 1990s, the nongovernment sector’s net financial position (national savings basis) was broadly in balance; the remaining current account deficit thus reflected essentially the Government’s net financial imbalance.

Inflation

Another key objective of the adjustment program was to reduce inflation, and the policies pursued during 1980–93 were largely successful. Two phases can be distinguished, coinciding broadly with the shift from the stabilization phase to the structural reforms phase. Inflation dropped only marginally during the first phase (1981–86) but then declined sharply during the second phase (1987–93). While inflation over the 1980s and early 1990s was a function of both demand-pull and cost-push factors, price liberalization and the progressive reduction in subsidies on key consumer goods also caused repressed inflation to become increasingly open. The liberalization of Morocco’s trade regime, on the other hand, helped to slow the pace of domestic price rises.

Regarding the demand-pull factors, Bank Al-Maghrib’s credit policy in response to the budgetary stance of the central Government was of major importance. As a result of the fiscal deficits, credit to the central Government grew rapidly, exceeding 17.5 percent a year on average during 1981–86. Bank Al-Maghrib was thus unable to contain overall credit growth without unduly squeezing private sector credit. In these circumstances, even while satisfying the central Government’s financing requirements, the monetary authorities accommodated the credit needs of the private sector. As outflows of excess liquidity through the balance of payments remained constrained by trade and exchange controls, broad money grew at an annual rate of 14.4 percent during 1981–86, far outstripping the average annual growth rate of real GDP of 4.2 percent; as a result, annual price increases averaged about 9.7 percent.

Given the only modest decline in the growth of broad money, to an average of about 12.7 percent a year during 1987–93, the concomitant substantial drop in inflation to an average of 4.9 percent reflected, inter alia, the effects of the reforms of Morocco’s financial sector on the demand for money. Because most personal savings were held in the form of deposits, the liberalization of deposit rates, which started in 1985 and was completed in January 1992, and the subsequent rise of real interest rates caused a substantial increase in the demand for time deposits and hence broad money. The growing monetization of the economy thus slowed the expansion of excess liquidity and the pace of price increases. Nevertheless, money supply exceeded demand substantially in certain years. In 1990 and 1991—years when broad money expanded at a considerably higher rate than the average over 1987–93 and exceeded real GDP growth substantially—the growth of consumer prices also exceeded the 1987–93 average. Inflation climbed to 7 percent in 1990 and to 8 percent in 1991.

Prices within the Moroccan economy were also affected by a number of cost-push and structural factors; Appendix III elaborates on the close link between inflation, import prices, and the exchange rate. In 1981, in response to a severe drought—causing a sharp increase in domestic prices of cereals—an accommodating growth of broad money, and a substantial rise in import prices together with a depreciation of the dirham-SDR exchange rate, inflation jumped by 3 percentage points to reach 12.5 percent. In 1982–83, import prices dropped again, contributing to a decline in inflation to 6.3 percent despite a noticeable expansion in broad money in 1983. Substantial increases in administered prices in the second half of 1983 and a noticeable depreciation of the dirham-SDR exchange rate from August onward then carried over to 1984, causing consumer prices to rise by 12.4 percent despite a slowdown in broad money growth. In September 1985, another round of administrative price hikes took place, fueling a rise in inflation to 8.7 percent in 1986 in spite of falling import prices. The substantial jump in inflation in 1990, to 7 percent from 3.1 percent in 1989, reflected both the substantial expansion in broad money in the same year, and a devaluation of the dirham in May 1990. In 1992, inflation dropped to 5.7 percent and in 1993 to 5.2 percent, despite a severe drought, owing to a tighter monetary policy than in the previous two years and to the effects of the liberalization of the trading regime on domestic prices of imports. A slower growth of minimum wages may also have contributed to a slowdown in inflation since 1985. Minimum wages, which rose on average by about 3.5 percent a year in real terms between 1980 and 1985, grew by only about 2.2 percent a year thereafter.

Balance of Payments

In the early 1980s, Morocco’s external accounts reached a precarious position, largely on account of the expansionary policies pursued from the mid-1970s onward and the drop in its terms of trade in the late 1970s. The bulk of the public investment surge had been financed through the accumulation of foreign debt. In addition, the productivity of investments and Morocco’s export capacity suffered from the severe distortions prevalent in the economy, and the rising external debt-service burden became unmanageable. Furthermore, given the public sector’s heavy investment in the mining sector, the share of phosphates and derivatives reached about one-half of total exports in the late 1970s—a level that made Morocco highly vulnerable to developments in the world market for phosphates. In these circumstances, the sharp drop in world market prices for phosphates in the late 1970s, combined with the surge in oil import prices, had a severe impact on Morocco’s external position (Chart 8). Efforts to redress the deterioration in the external sector position in 1980 suffered a setback in 1981–82, in part owing to the recurrence of drought conditions and soaring interest payments on the country’s mounting external debt (Table 9). Thus, the current account deficit, excluding official grants, nearly doubled as a ratio of GDP between 1980 and 1982. At the end of that year, gross official reserves had dropped to two weeks of imports of goods and non-factor services, and substantial external payments arrears had been accumulated.

Chart 8.
Chart 8.

External Accounts

Sources: Moroccan authorities; IMF, International Financial Statistics; and IMF staff estimates.
Table 9.

Balance of Payments

(In millions of SDRs)

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Sources: Moroccan authorities; and IMF staff estimates.

Includes public short-term (net) borrowing during 1981–86.

The authorities reacted initially by imposing severe import controls and tightening payments restrictions in early 1983, leading to a sharp decline in the volume of imports and a marked improvement in the trade balance in that year. However, recognizing that this approach implied substantial costs in terms of consumer welfare and growth prospects, the authorities relaxed these controls and restrictions in late 1983 and attempted to improve the external sector position by implementing tighter demand-management policies. Ultimately, these policies were not tight enough to prevent the external current account from widening again in 1984, despite increasing receipts from tourism. In fact, the rising debt-service burden led to an even greater need for exceptional financing, payments arrears were accumulated anew, and gross official reserves dropped further, to about one week of imports of goods and nonfactor services by the end of 1984.

It was only with the launching of major structural reforms in the mid-1980s and a further strengthening of the macroeconomic policy stance that the current account deficit, excluding official transfers, began to drop steadily starting in 1985 and recorded a surplus in 1988 for the first time since 1974. In 1989, however, it turned around to record a deficit of nearly 5 percent of GDP, reflecting a sharp drop in the terms of trade, a contraction in export volumes resulting from the weakening demand in export markets, and some loosening in domestic financial policies. The authorities reacted by devaluing the dirham and strengthening fiscal policy. Helped also by the growing impact of the structural reforms, the deficit declined to nearly 2 percent of GDP in 1990 and has hovered around that ratio since then.

With an increasingly outward-oriented trade regime, Morocco’s export base became more diversified, as manifested, for example, in a growing share of manufactured exports. The share of minerals (mostly phosphates) and derivatives in total exports declined from about 50 percent in the early 1980s to about 30 percent in 1993, while the share of manufactured exports rose from about 15 percent to almost 35 percent. The diversification was helped by the expansion of Morocco’s processing capacity for phosphatic fertilizers. Concurrently, the importance of workers’ remittances and tourism receipts increased substantially. Net transfers from abroad rose from 47 percent of total merchandise export receipts in 1980–82 to 55 percent in 1991–93, and tourism receipts rose from 22 percent of total merchandise export receipts in 1982–84 to 30 percent in 1991–93.

The increased diversification of the export base led to a growing resilience of the balance of payments, and Morocco has been able to weather a number of adverse shocks in recent years. The first was the sizable terms of trade deterioration in 1989. While macroeconomic policies were initially accommodating, the authorities decided in early 1990 to devalue the dirham by 9.25 percent and at the same time to tighten financial policies. The resulting improvement in Morocco’s external competitiveness brought about a rapid 20 percent increase in the value of exports in terms of SDRs, driven by a surge in the exports of semifinished products and manufactured goods. The resulting improvement in the current account took place notwithstanding both a further liberalization of the import regime and a sharp rise in oil prices in the second half of 1990 in the wake of the Middle East crisis. Second, Morocco’s exports weathered relatively well the major decline in tourism and loss of export markets in connection with the Middle East crisis and the weakening of demand in Eastern European countries in 1991. The external accounts were also helped by a record cereal harvest and declining oil import prices. A third set of shocks buffeted Morocco in 1992–93: a prolonged two-year drought, falling phosphate export prices in 1993, and sluggish economic activity in Europe. Nevertheless, export volume still expanded somewhat over these two years. At the same time, relatively restrained macroeconomic policies limited import growth, keeping the current account deficit broadly unchanged.

When the changes in the trade balance are broken down into changes in export and import volumes, on the one hand, and changes in the terms of trade, on the other, it can be seen that events beyond the control of the authorities heavily influenced the changes in the trade balance in the 1980s (Table 10). To a considerable extent, the terms of trade effects were related to fluctuations in the import price of oil, particularly in 1986 and in 1989–91. Given that the demand for crude oil and oil derivatives has been relatively price inelastic, changes in the oil import price have accounted for large changes in the trade balance. If Morocco had continued to rely on its phosphate exports without adopting an outward-looking strategy, it would have been even more vulnerable to exogenous shocks.

Table 10.

Contributions of Changes in Trade Volumes and Terms of Trade to Changes in the Trade Balance

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Sources: Moroccan authorities; and IMF staff calculations.

The calculated changes in the trade balance are based on the following equation:

dTB=XxMm+(XpxMpm),

where dTB = total change in the trade balance

X = exports in value of the preceding year

x = changes in export volume

M = imports in value of the preceding year

m = changes in import volume

ρx = change in export unit value

ρm= change in import unit value

The first term on the right-hand side approximates the export volume effect, the second term the import volume effect, and the third term the terms of trade effect. This equation gives rise to unexplained residuals, particularly in years when the changes in the variables are large, insofar as it involves a linear approximation.

The evolution of the capital account during the 1980s and early 1990s also reflected a steady improvement in economic and financial conditions. In response to the structural reforms and the more favorable macroeconomic environment, foreign direct investment increased from the equivalent of 0.7 percent of GDP in 1981–85 to nearly 2 percent of GDP in 1992–93. Concomitantly, owing to more prudent foreign debt management, the cumulative impact of the debt reschedulings, and increased confidence in the authorities’ overall policy stance, scheduled amortization payments declined while new disbursements increased. Thus, for public and publicly guaranteed loans, new disbursements net of scheduled amortization payments (before debt relief) turned from an average of about minus $0.5 billion in 1983–86 to an average of about minus $0.1 billion in 1991–93. In addition, during 1993, a private Moroccan company and a number of public enterprises resumed borrowing in international capital markets. Taking into account the evolution of arrears and the substantial debt relief obtained (discussed below), Morocco thus achieved a surplus in the balance of payments starting in 1986 and gradually built up its gross official reserves position. At the end of 1993, the level of gross official reserves reached the equivalent of six months of imports of goods and nonfactor services.

External Debt

During 1981–93, Morocco made significant headway in reducing its external debt burden, which had risen sharply in the late 1970s as the authorities resorted to foreign borrowing to finance the ambitious investment program. In fact, Morocco’s external debt stock (measured in SDRs) increased almost sixfold between 1974 and 1980, increasing from less than 20 percent of GDP to more than 50 percent, while the debt-service ratio rose from 7 percent of exports of goods, nonfactor services, and private transfers to 33 percent. Borrowing from commercial sources became more important, and its share in total public and publicly guaranteed external debt reached nearly 50 percent in 1980. As commercial financing was being made available only at variable interest rates, Morocco also became more and more vulnerable to international interest rate fluctuations. In fact, about 43 percent of Morocco’s outstanding debt in 1980 was contracted at variable interest rates, compared with nearly 2 percent in 1970 and 16 percent in 1975. Over the same period, the grant element of new commitments from official creditors declined substantially.

In the early 1980s, the looming debt crisis quickly came to a head, as Morocco initially continued to borrow despite rising international interest rates. By 1983, the country’s total outstanding debt had reached almost 100 percent of GDP, with total scheduled debt-service payments amounting to about 50 percent of exports of goods and nonfactor services and private transfers, of which about half were owed to private creditors. Such a debt-service burden proved unsustainable, and Morocco accumulated about SDR 0.3 billion in payments arrears by end-1982. In these circumstances, the authorities made a first request for debt relief in 1983. Over the following decade, Morocco obtained substantial debt relief from official creditors in the context of successive reschedulings in the framework of the Paris Club and, later, from commercial creditors under the auspices of the London Club. Despite the adjustment efforts and debt relief, the debt-service burden remained substantial (Chart 9). The debt-to GDP ratio declined sharply from a peak of 128 percent in 1985 to 78 percent in 1993, but the ratio of actual debt-service payments to exports of goods and nonfactor services, after peaking at 42 percent in 1982, fluctuated around 30–35 percent during the rest of the decade. As full debt service resumed in 1993, the debt-service ratio rose to 37 percent.

Chart 9.
Chart 9.

Balance of Payments

Source: Moroccan authorities.1Including exports of nonfactor services and private transfers.

While the first Paris Club rescheduling in 1983 provided critical immediate relief on standard terms for grace periods and maturities, creditor countries took a more comprehensive and structured approach in the context of the Program for Sustained Growth—the initiative proposed by then U.S. Treasury Secretary James Baker at the 1985 IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Seoul. This initiative, with which Morocco was associated as one of the 15 heavily indebted countries (the so-called Baker countries), incorporated three main elements. First, it stressed the need for debtor countries to implement comprehensive macroeconomic and structural policies to promote growth and balance of payments adjustment. Second, it provided for a continued central role for the IMF, in conjunction with increased structural adjustment lending by the multilateral development banks to support adoption of appropriate policies. Third, it called for increased lending by the private banks. This approach was widened in 1988 in the context of the “Brady Plan,” which included a reform of the traditional approaches of debt rescheduling by incorporating voluntary market-based debt-reduction instruments. Morocco again was eligible under the plan.

Under this evolving approach, Morocco concluded six agreements with Paris Club creditors between 1983 and 1992, rescheduling a cumulative total of $6.9 billion. The successive agreements gradually improved the terms of the reschedulings by lengthening grace periods and maturities; the last agreement also provided for the possibility of debt swaps. In 1990, Morocco benefited in addition from the cancellation of the entire stock of debt owed to Saudi Arabia ($2.7 billion). In the framework of the London Club, commercial banks restructured in three successive agreements a cumulative total of $6.7 billion, also on increasingly favorable terms. The last agreement, in September 1990, restructured the entire commercial debt outstanding at the end of 1989, thus consolidating $3.15 billion of commercial bank debt, and included an option for debt reduction through debt buy-backs. By the end of 1993, this option had not been exercised. Formally, this might be explained by the fact that the Government did not enter into an agreement with the IMF under the extended Fund facility, a precondition specified in the restructuring agreement with the commercial banks. More important, however, the authorities considered Morocco’s reserve level, until recently, too low to risk using for buy-backs. Thus, in terms of alternative uses of international reserves—for example, holdings for precautionary purposes—debt buy-backs might have been relatively costly.21 Since the agreement provided for relatively long grace periods, debt buy-backs would have had a negative impact on the balance of payments in the short and medium term before becoming positive only in the second half of the 1990s. There was also concern that even small buy-backs would have resulted in relatively large increases in the secondary market price; in the event, the surge in the secondary market price for Morocco’s debt during 1993 reduced the incentives for such swaps (Chart 10).

Chart 10.
Chart 10.

Secondary Market Prices for Moroccan Debt

(Cents per $1 face value of debt)

Source: Salomon Brothers, Emerging Markets Debt, weekly update.
21

For a theoretical discussion of these issues, see, for example, Dooley and others (1990).

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