Financial System Stability Assessment: Update

This paper presents an update to the Financial System Stability Assessment on Morocco. Major reforms have been achieved since the 2002 Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) within a policy of actively promoting economic and financial sector opening. The 2002 FSAP recommendations have been largely implemented. Although the financial system is stable and considerably more robust than in the past, the liberalization of capital flows and increased exchange rate flexibility present challenges for the monetary authorities, financial regulators, financial institutions, and markets.


This paper presents an update to the Financial System Stability Assessment on Morocco. Major reforms have been achieved since the 2002 Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) within a policy of actively promoting economic and financial sector opening. The 2002 FSAP recommendations have been largely implemented. Although the financial system is stable and considerably more robust than in the past, the liberalization of capital flows and increased exchange rate flexibility present challenges for the monetary authorities, financial regulators, financial institutions, and markets.

I. Macroeconomic Environment 3

1. Morocco’s recent economic performance has been favorable. Real GDP growth averaged 5.4 percent per annum since 2001, against an average of 3.4 percent over the previous decade. Real per capita income is rising and unemployment has begun to decline. While the economy continues to be adversely affected by climatic conditions, as shown by the slowdown in real GDP growth to 2.7 percent in 2007 due to a sharp fall in cereal production, greater diversification of the economy has made growth less vulnerable to these types of shocks.

2. The external position is comfortable. Following six consecutive surpluses, the current account registered a small deficit in 2007. Strong import demand for capital and consumer goods, greater food imports to offset the drop in cereal production and the rise in world prices of petroleum and food products contributed to a widening of the trade deficit. This was, however, mostly offset by robust tourism receipts and remittances. Strong capital flows brought foreign exchange reserves to US$24 billion (6.5 months of imports) at end– 2007, far exceeding the public external debt of 24.6 percent of GDP (end 2007) which is already well below emerging market country averages. These trends are expected to broadly continue in 2008.

3. The fiscal situation improved significantly through 2007, but the recent surge in subsidies related expenditure poses a major challenge to fiscal policy. The budget deficit (excluding privatization) fell to nearly zero in 2007, mostly reflecting the strong revenue performance. However, the decision to not pass on increases in world commodity prices has significantly increased the fiscal cost of consumer subsidies which are expected to reach 5 percent of GDP in 2008, and could lead to a widening of the fiscal deficit to 3.5 percent of GDP. Over the medium term, curbing the growth of subsidy spending will be key to preserve the fiscal consolidation of recent years and keep the public debt–to–GDP ratio on its downward trend.

4. Monetary aggregates are rising rapidly, reflecting robust domestic demand. Broad money growth reached 15 percent year–on–year, at end–April 2008, while credit to the private sector rose by 28 percent, driven by increases in business and real estate lending.

5. Consumer price inflation was 2 percent in December 2007 but pressures are rising. Despite an upward trend since early 2008, with prices 3.7 percent higher at end–April 2008 (y–o–y), inflation remains relatively low, in part because administered prices have not been adjusted since the beginning of 2007. Looking forward, possible adjustments to administered prices, as well as high credit growth and net capital inflows, are likely to put further upward pressure on inflation.

6. The Moroccan exchange rate regime is a conventional peg, based on a basket of currencies consisting of the euro and the US dollar, with weights of 80 and 20 percent respectively, broadly reflecting Morocco’s trade flows.

7. The Moroccan authorities have announced a policy of continued gradual liberalization of the capital account and increased flexibility of the exchange rate in the medium term. In August 2007, the authorities lifted certain restrictions on transactions by residents, and increased the scope for financial institutions, banks and enterprises to invest abroad.4

II. Structure of the Financial System 5

8. With bank assets equivalent to 109 percent of GDP in 2007 (81 percent in 2003), banks play a central role in the Moroccan financial sector. The banking sector comprises 16 banks (11 private and 5 public). Additionally, six offshore banks are active, holding less than 2 percent of system assets. The system remains dominated by the six largest banks (Figure 2.), which hold 85 percent of system assets. Bank credit to the private sector grew by 18 percent per year since 2005, and was equivalent to 66 percent of GDP at end–2007 (compared to 12 percent in Algeria, 61 percent in Tunisia, and 75 percent in Lebanon). Furthermore, the financial system comprises 13 microfinance associations, and several consumer credit financing, leasing, mortgage, factoring, money transfer and guarantee companies.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Morocco: Macroeconomic Indicators, 2000–2007

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2008, 333; 10.5089/9781451824834.002.A001

Sources: Moroccan authorities and staff estimates
Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Morocco: Characteristics of the Banking Sector, 2006

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2008, 333; 10.5089/9781451824834.002.A001

Source: Bank Al–Maghrib et IMF estimations.

9. Six banks are majority domestically privately owned; five are majority foreign owned; five are majority publicly owned. Majority foreign owned banks hold 14 percent of financial sector assets and 21 percent of banking system assets at end–2006. The government continues to directly or indirectly control about 23 percent of the banking sector, down from 40 percent in 2002. Banks’ balance sheets consist mostly of loans (over 50 percent mediumto– long–term), funded mainly by short–term deposits (82 percent of liabilities), mostly unremunerated (Figure 2). Moroccans residing abroad hold 21 percent of deposits. In 2007, government securities accounted for 15 percent of bank assets (25 percent in 2002).

10. As shown below, the former specialized public banks have been restructured and opened to private capital but are not fully up to the capital and asset quality levels as the privately held banks. This requires continued monitoring and guidance by BAM, especially since it is not clear that these banks could receive support from within their groups should they approach minimum thresholds for capital or liquidity. The former specialized public banks account for only 7 percent of total bank assets.

11. Capital markets are increasingly contributing to financial deepening, with stock market capitalization growing to almost 100 percent of GDP in 2007 (up from 85 percent in 2006 and 28 percent in 2002). Trading remains concentrated in a few stocks, with six stocks accounting for 61 percent of trades in 2007, down from 73 percent in 2006. Financial intermediation through the stock market still has considerable scope for growth, nevertheless. The debt market is dominated by public sector bond issues, while private sector corporate issues remain marginal. Mutual funds hold assets of DH 144 billion (16 percent) of the financial system.

12. Although it is the largest market in the Maghreb, Morocco’s insurance sector is relatively small by emerging country standards. There are 17 insurance and one reinsurance (SCR) companies, which account for 16 percent of the assets of the financial system, with about DH 14.7 billion in premiums in 2006 (around 3 percent of GDP). These institutions are not affiliated with banks.

III. Banking Sector Performance, Soundness, and Vulnerability

13. With an average risk weighted capital adequacy ratio (CAR) for banks of 10.6 percent (minimum 8 percent), financial soundness indicators overall show that banks are mostly adequately capitalized.6 After significant operational and financial restructuring, the two former specialized public banks have CARs of 7.3 percent and 10.8 percent respectively (Table 3). The overall leverage ratio of the system is over 7 percent. 7 Higher capital buffers are needed to ensure banks’ capability to adjust to the prospect of further liberalization, increased competition, diversification abroad and prospective capital inflows. In this context, and given the decrease in capital levels since the update mission in November 2007, BAM decided to raise the minimum CAR to 10 percent by end–2008 and intends to raise it further to 12 percent by end–2009 depending on the risk profile of banks.

Table 1.

Morocco: Main Recommendations 2

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Table 2.

Morocco: Structure of the Financial System, 2004–2007

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Caisse d’épargne and chèques postaux constitute the financial services provided by Barid Al–Maghrib (post office). The amounts in total assets correspond to total deposits.

Table 3.

Morocco: Financial Soundness Indicators of the Banking Sector, 2003–2007

(In percent, unless indicated otherwise)

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Source: Bank Al–Maghrib

Financial Soundness Indicators (FSIs) calculated according to guidelines of the IMF FSIs compilation guide, 2004.

For 2007, the ratio is computed following Basel II standards. According to Basel I, the ratio would have been 12% for the banking system as a whole.

Net Banking Product (PNB)=net interest margin–commissions paid+commissions received.

14. Banks remain highly profitable, as a result of: (i) still high interest rate margins, (ii) moderation of operating expenses (2 percent of assets); and (iii) an increase in fees and commissions. However, a shift from unremunerated or low yield retail deposits to more highly remunerated liabilities, and intensified competition of new foreign banks, could increase the cost of funds. Moreover, while banks’ direct exposure to equity prices at 4 percent of assets may not be excessive, banks’ borrowers could be vulnerable to a correction of the stock market, which has risen significantly over the past years. In case of a stock market correction, banks could see fee income decline and some borrowers may not be able to meet the required margin calls. This is an area that may need to be explored more in detail by BAM. Data to assess the volume of banks lending to customers for the purchase of securities was not available to the mission.

15. Banks’ liquidity ratios are tight, with liquid assets only covering 31 percent of short–term liabilities in 2007. The ratio would be higher if account were taken of the permanent nature of a part of the short term deposits. Foreign owned banks show even lower liquidity ratios but may be able to obtain refinancing from their parent banks when needed.

16. Return on equity (ROE) continued to increase to 17.4 percent at end–2006, and 20.6 percent at end–2007. Interest income has been mainly generated by core banking activities, i.e., loans, primarily to the corporate sector, with a small proportion still generated by investments in government securities.

17. Overall asset quality in the sector has improved, with declining NPLs (10.9 percent at end–2006 and 7.9 percent at end–2007) (Table 3). Former specialized public banks still show a high percentage of 21 percent at end–2007 (27 percent at end–2006), which needs to decrease further. Private banks showed NPLs of 5.3 percent at end–2007 (7.4 percent end–2006). The authorities report that NPLs still largely consist of old loans. Provisioning for the sector overall is adequate, with coverage at some 75 percent, but the former specialized public banks have a coverage percentage of 63 percent.

18. Diversification of credit risk can be improved, although aggregate large exposures relative to Tier I capital (429 percent) remains well below international good practice (800 percent of regulatory capital). The loan portfolio appears well diversified among economic sectors, with 20 percent to industry, 14 percent to financial institutions, and almost 29 percent to private individuals (mainly housing and consumer credit).

19. The overall foreign exchange (FX) net–open position of the banking system is within prudential limits set by BAM, and does not represent a vulnerability. In addition, FX–denominated loans are provided only to clients with FX–earnings and constitute a marginal 2.3 percent of total loans.

20. A comparison of financial soundness indicators for the Moroccan banking sector with emerging countries in Europe shows an adequate level of capitalization and solvency, an average level of profitability, but a higher ratio of nonperforming loans. However, on the latter, the Moroccan banking sector compares favorably with other Maghreb countries (Figure 2).

21. The restructuring of the former specialized state–owned banking sector is now largely complete. This makes the banking system as a whole more sound and resilient. The Crédit Agricole du Maroc (CAM) has floated 22 percent of its stock for purchase by private and public investors.

IV. Banking Supervision, Corrective Measures, and Deposit Guarantee

22. BAM exercises banking supervision on the basis of the provisions of the 2006 banking law. Banking supervision applies equally to all banks, bank groups, formerly specialized banks, and majority foreign as well as majority domestically owned banks. Also the CDG is now under supervision of the BAM. Banking system regulation and supervision is compliant or largely compliant with 21 out of the 25 BCP principles. This represents a substantial strengthening since the 2002 assessment. BAM’s decision to increase the minimum capital adequacy levels to 10 percent by end–2008 and its intention to increase it further to 12 percent by end–2009 is also a welcome development.

23. The authorities have made great progress in their supervisory techniques. The central bank has an effective tool for rating credit institutions (CAMELS–type). Significant actions have been undertaken by the authorities to upgrade legislation, regulation and supervision. New rules and international standards (Basel II, IFRS, market risk) will require continued effort to train supervisory staff. Morocco is implementing the standardized approach for credit risk under Basel II starting June 2007, and is tentatively considering to introduce the Advanced Internal Ratings Based Approach to credit risk in 2010. The latter will require highly skilled staff resources and budget, careful preparation, and extensive guidance to the banks.

24. Under the banking law, BAM and its Governor are operationally independent in making decisions on banking supervision. The Governor serves at the discretion of the Sovereign. Accepted international practice typically tends to reinforce the autonomy of the head of the central bank by setting a fixed term of office and establishing limited grounds for dismissal.

25. BAM has an adequate range of tools for intervention in noncompliant banks or those engaging in unsafe or unsound practices that put the interests of depositors and creditors at risk. Since December 2006, BAM has an explicit internal policy on when it may intervene to address problem banks, although this policy has not been explicitly tested yet.

26. The Governor has the authority to appoint a provisional administrator in a problem bank, and may determine the mandate of that administrator and its duration. Decisions to withdraw an institution’s license and to proceed to liquidation also rest with the Governor. The procedure for liquidation itself must follow the commercial code.

27. Since 1996, Morocco has had a deposit guarantee fund financed by the banks (with the exception of the offshore banks) to indemnify depositors should a bank be unable to repay deposits. The fund is approximately USD 1 billion large, and covers approximately 1.4 percent of eligible deposits. Banks’ contributions represent a percentage of total deposits, which, under the banking law may not exceed 0.25 percent (the banks contributed 0.2 percent in 2006). The banks should be invited to inform the public more systematically (at the time they open new accounts, for example) of the protection offered by the deposit insurance fund. This could contribute to broader participation in the financial system.

28. Under Article 105 of the banking law, the deposit guarantee fund may compensate depositors for lost funds (up to a maximum amount of DH 80,000, approximately $11,000 per customer, including corporate customers). If the fund is insufficient to pay out all eligible deposits, pro rata haircuts are applied to depositors claims, according to the BAM circular 22G. On a highly exceptional basis and subject to the Governor’S approval, it may also be used to provide repayable emergency credit to troubled banks. Decisions on this are taken by the Governor, after consulting the CEC which includes representatives of the banking sector. The fund has in practice never been used for this purpose.

29. Nevertheless, in theory, this double use of the guarantee fund could potentially be a source of conflict between the stability function and the deposit protection function of BAM. BAM may call on shareholders or partners that directly or indirectly hold interests equal to or greater than 5 percent of the institution’S capital to provide the financial support it needs.

V. Stress Tests

30. Credit risk, foreign exchange risk, interest rate risk and liquidity risk stress tests, as well as a multi–factor test, were performed by the mission, in close collaboration with the BAM team.8, 9 Stress test parameters were set in consultation with the authorities’ stress testing team. The tests were performed on each of the nine largest banks covering 98 percent of the banking system’S total assets, on the banking sector as a whole, as well as on four groups of banks: (i) majority domestically–owned, (ii) majority foreign–owned, (iii) commercial banks, and (iv) former specialized state–owned banks.

31. The stress tests showed that the banking sector as a whole is largely resistant to credit risk shocks (Table 4); however there are signs of vulnerabilities to concentration risk and real estate exposures, with differences in impact from bank to bank. The exchange rate tests had a marginal impact, also because net open FX positions are subject to prudential limits (total open positions must be less than 20 percent of Tier 1 capital). The banking sector appears well hedged against interest rate risk. Liquidity stress tests, which assumed a five–day run on deposits, 10 showed that banks could withstand four days of runs, without interbank or LOLR recourse (Table 5.). The multi–factor tests also did not lead to inadequate CARs for the sector as a whole, although majority foreign owned banks fell slightly below the required minimum.11

Table 4.

Morocco: Summary Results of the Stress Tests

(Based on data as of December 31, 2006)

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1/ Worst/Best correspond to the highest/lowest CAR of individual banks before and after the shocks.

Former specialized state–owned banks.

Total Recapitalization need to restore the CAR of the banks covered by the stress tests to 8 percent.

Interest rate stress tests include only the 6 largest private commercial banks for which the data are available (former specialized banks not included). Economic value was performed by BAM.

Deterioration of the loan portfolio, depreciation of Dhs versus Euro, and increase in interest rates. This scenario does not include the default of the large exposures in credit risk above.

Deterioration of loans to key sectors, appreciation of Dhs versus Euro, and decrease in interest rates.

Table 5.

Morocco: Summary Results of Liquidity Stress Tests

(Based on December 2006 data)

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1/ Deposit run based on a daily withdrawal of 8 percent of sight deposits and 10 percent of term deposits for five consecutive days, assuming that 90 percent of liquid assets and 1 percent of illiquid assets can be converted into cash daily.

32. BAM staff has made significant strides in its stress testing capabilities although it may wish to consider more frequent stress tests, also with more severe parameters. Banks’ compliance with FX open position limits should continue to be watched carefully, while ensuring proper hedging and monitoring of counterparty risk. Given further capital account liberalization, interest rate and liquidity risk should be closely monitored.

VI. Capital Account Liberalization

33. In order to further integrate the Moroccan economy into the global economy, the authorities are continuing their policies to liberalize the capital account and intend to adopt a flexible exchange rate regime over the medium term. Accordingly, the authorities have in recent years taken a number of measures to further open the capital account.12

34. In August 2007, a number of additional measures were taken to liberalize the capital account. These include: (i) increasing the share of export receipts that can be maintained in foreign exchange or convertible dirham accounts from 20 percent to 50 percent; (ii) allowing broader opportunities for direct investment abroad; (iii) partial liberalization of foreign currency investments abroad by banks, insurance and reinsurance companies (capped at 5 percent of their assets), pension funds (up to 5 percent of their reserves) and mutual funds (up to 10 percent of their assets); (iv) liberalization of credit provided by Moroccan banks and exporters to their non–resident clients; and (v) expansion of the transactions covered by hedging instruments, and the extension of the duration of these hedges from two to five years.

VII. Increased Openness of the Economy: Implications for Liquidity and Macroeconomic Risk Management

Liquidity management

35. To provide an alternative anchor for prices in the context of a more flexible exchange rate regime, BAM is preparing to move to inflation targeting. In order to conduct an independent monetary and exchange rate policy, the autonomy of BAM has been significantly enhanced.13 It has also considerably strengthened the analytical and operational framework for monetary policy, including its liquidity forecasts.

36. The central bank has also reformed its communications and transparency strategy to make monetary policy more effective, anchor inflation expectations, and enable financial institutions to better manage risk. BAM now discloses the schedule of its board meetings, issues a communiqué after the meetings, and publishes a periodic report on monetary policy.

37. To improve liquidity management, BAM has reconfigured its operational framework. It has reduced the number of monetary policy instruments and has given priority to its limited frequency seven–day auctions, has introduced a corridor within the overnight deposit and lending facilities, and is engaging in repo operations (Box 1.).

38. The surge in banking activity as well as the impact of the application of the BAM reserve requirements to Crédit Immobilier et Hôtelier (CIH), Crédit Agricole du Maroc (CAM), and CDG–Capital led to a significant decrease of funds available to the interbank market since August 2007. Continued adaptation of monetary operations to market conditions is therefore needed.14 More generally, increased use of indirect monetary policy instruments, as opposed to reliance on reserve requirements, could help stimulate market development.

Operational Framework of Bank Al–Maghrib

Monetary policy is implemented through the following categories of instruments:

Source: Bank Al–Maghrib.

39. The government bond market has deepened, and the Treasury has issued securities with maturities of up to 30 years. Recent fiscal consolidation efforts have reduced the Treasury’s need to borrow in the market, and thereby diminished the issuance volume.15 It is nevertheless essential for the further development of the market that the Treasury maintains a presence at key benchmark points on the yield curve.

40. The creation of a Money Market Committee, which sets the amounts to which BAM will intervene through its weekly auctions, improved transparency and forecasting models, as well as improved communication with the Treasury have helped strengthen liquidity management. More actions can be taken to strengthen forecasting, including: (i) more accurate forecasts on the Treasury position with the central bank; (ii) remuneration of the Treasury account at BAM, which would stimulate effective cash management; and (iii) coordination between Treasury and BAM money market operations.

Exchange rate and interest rate risk management

41. The calm macroeconomic situation of recent years, together with the stability of exchange and interest rates, mean that the capacity of financial intermediaries to manage risks in a more challenging environment has yet to be tested.16 However, the increased openness of the Moroccan economy implies an increase in risk. In particular, an explicit exchange rate guarantee in the context of a more open capital account can lead to underestimation of FX risk in investment decisions. Increased capital flows can also put pressure on the peg and lead to decreased control over monetary conditions. In order to successfully manage the exchange rate in the context of a further opening of the capital account, the authorities will need to closely monitor market signals with regard to the rate of the dirham. Financial intermediaries also must have adequate tools to manage risks associated with an increasingly open economy.

42. The introduction of a more flexible exchange policy must be carefully timed also taking into account the need to put in place the preconditions for an inflation targeting regime. It is essential that the authorities, markets and institutions prepare carefully, by continuing efforts towards: (i) ensuring a sound public finance position; (ii) strengthening liquidity management; (iii) developing the interbank and government bond markets; (iv) ensuring consistency between monetary policy signals and domestic liquidity conditions, and (v) ensuring transparency of the authorities’ policy intentions, notably with regard to inflation control and the capital account liberalization strategy.

VIII. Nonbank Financial Institutions

43. The non–bank financial institutions hold broadly one third of the financial system’s assets, and with 5.3 percent of the financial system’s assets, equivalent to about 10 percent of GDP at end–2006, the Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion (CDG) remains the largest nonbank financial institution. It continues to be a key instrument of the government’s financial policy. The CDG has a significant presence in the different financial markets in 2006. It is currently the most important player on the primary market and is the second largest on the secondary market for Treasury securities.

44. The CDG’s transparency and market orientation should remain a prime objective. The CDG’s high profile in the public securities market should not lead to any distortion of prices in the fixed–income markets. It plays a key role in managing contractual savings, which could generate hidden costs for the management of pension systems. The opening of the capital account would allow a share of pension fund assets to be invested abroad, thus creating competition in a core CDG business activity.

45. Expanded prudential supervision of the CDG represents a major step forward. The authorities should ensure that the recent trend towards transparency and market orientation is irreversible.

46. The Poste du Maroc plays a key role as a provider of depository, payments and other retail banking services for small savers. With over 1600 branches, 850 of which are authorized to perform financial transactions, the postal service takes demand and time deposits from about 13 percent of the population (though it still represents only 2 percent of total financial sector assets).17 The amounts placed in saving accounts are transferred to the CDG to be invested in the financial markets. Since the introduction of the new banking law, and the adoption of the implementation decree in May 2007, the Poste du Maroc is subject to BAM supervision. The Poste du Maroc submits periodic reports to BAM, which can exercise on–site and off–site supervision.18 The on–site program should commence. With the assistance of an international consulting group, Poste du Maroc is considering transforming itself into a more commercially oriented entity, which would require it to obtain a full banking license in due course.

47. The microcredit sector has developed into a vibrant sector, providing credit to 1.1 million creditors (3.7 percent of the population). The total amount of loans has more than quintupled since 2003, amounting to DH 5 billion in 2007. The volume of the unmet demand for credit, coupled with the fact that microcredit associations (MCAs) facilitate access to bank financing, are the source of this robust growth. Through the microcredit associations, the MCAs can obtain commercial funding to finance this growth. Driven by this upswing, the MCAs now represent 0.5 percent of financial sector assets, a sharp increase since 2003. The MCAs are supervised by BAM, since the introduction of the new banking law in 2006, and are required to report to BAM on a quarterly basis on compliance with prudential ratios. A special chart of accounts for MCAs has been adopted.

48. Authorizing the MCAs to take retail deposits from the general public would eventually require that an appropriate form of prudential supervision be exercised over their activities. International experience has demonstrated the importance that the development of MCAs not be hindered by an unduly heavy regulatory and supervisory burden.

49. The Caisse Centrale de Garantie (CCG: Central Guarantee Fund) currently operates 14 guarantee and co–financing operations on behalf of, and with the backing of the government. Its operations, like those of the postal service, are subject to the banking law. The 14 programs cover a range of sectors from support for young entrepreneurs to property ownership programs.

IX. Insurance Sector

Market structure and development

50.The insurance market appears to be both concentrated and stable and has grown steadily over the past years (by 12 percent in 2006 and 20 percent in 2007). Turnover of the direct insurance market amounted to DH 17.7 billion in 2007. Of the 17 direct insurance companies, ten are significant and the largest three account for 53 percent of the market. The sector also comprises one domestic re–insurer, the Central Reinsurance Company (SCR).

51.The Moroccan insurance market is the second largest in Africa, after South Africa. It is the leading market in the Maghreb and in the Arab world. Nevertheless, premia amount to only 3 percent of GDP, and insurance consumption amounts to about $65 per capita per year, indicating considerable potential for expansion of the market. Conditions for new entrants should therefore be clear and transparent.

52.The state–owned Central Reinsurance Company (SCR) is the only Moroccan reinsurer. It is now largely funded by transfers, guaranteed by the government, of 10 percent of the premia collected in the Moroccan insurance market. However, these legal transfers are to be phased out by 2013. In 2006, the turnover of SCR acceptances amounted to DH 1.7 billion, and its capital was increased from DH 300 million to DH 1 billion.

53.The sector showed a small deficit in 2002, but returned to overall profitability in 2006, with an overall profit of DH 1.3 billion (9.1 percent of turnover), as a result of better management. The market’s solvency margin (equity) appears solid over the period 2002–2006, with 5.12 times the minimum requirement in 2006. The representation of regulated liabilities by assets under the insurance code was maintained at a high level over the period, in the order of 106 percent in 2006.

54.Much progress has been made since 2002, in terms of both form and content of insurance sector supervision, exercised by the Insurance and Social Welfare Directorate of the Ministry of Finance (DAPS). Regulations are complete, and are based on the EU insurance directives, including advanced provisions on corporate governance and internal controls. The main deficiencies found were in the licensing procedure and the incomplete separation in distinct legal entities of life and annuity insurance on the one hand, and non–life insurance on the other. Further enhancement of the independence of the regulator is needed.

X. Capital Markets

55. Capital markets represent a growing share of the financial sector with stock market capitalization at 73 percent of GDP in 2006 and 98 percent of GDP in 2007. Nevertheless, a move by corporates from bank credit toward the capital markets is still limited in scope, and the domestic equity market, notwithstanding its volume in absolute terms, has yet to play an economic role commensurate with its volume. The number of traded stocks is still limited (63 in 2006, 73 in 2007) and trades are concentrated in relatively few stocks (6 stocks accounted for 71 percent of trades in 2007). Banks therefore continue to be the main source of private sector financing, while in the non–bank debt market, government securities still dominate.

56. Developing the capital market further would require participation of larger and more diverse listed firms, improvements in corporate governance of issuers, more efficient market access and exit, and the presence of investment advice, market making, and liquidity providing institutions. Moreover, to meet the needs of a developing and increasingly sophisticated capital market, political will is needed, in order to build a stronger legal base for the authority, credibility and powers of the regulator.

57. Good progress has been made to achieve these objectives. Since the 2002 FSAP, Morocco has further strengthened the legal and regulatory framework. It also has undertaken steps to increase the depth and liquidity of markets. The resulting structure observes international standards and is consistent with the policies of greater economic and financial openness, also for institutional investors with a longer term perspective. Generally, the participation of the latter group of investors provides critical mass to financial markets.

58. Of particular interest are the strengthening of the powers and accountability of the Conseil Déontologique des Valeurs Mobilières (CDVM; the securities regulatory authority). This has largely been done through clarification of the powers of the head of the CDVM, by decree of 2004, and the recent adoption of the Règlement Général (general statute) on the operations of the CDVM. Moreover, the Board of the CDVM has been expanded to nine members, including three government representatives and one BAM representative. Powers of inspection and oversight with respect to the Bourse de Casablanca, Maroclear,19 brokers, and various other market operators have been enhanced and the mission of the CDVM clarified. Nevertheless, some issues remain outstanding, e.g., achieving the right balance between accountability and independence of the CDVM. Many of the powers granted are relatively new or are not fully operational. Hence, more time is needed to observe whether the new powers are actually being used effectively.

XI. Expansion of the Banking System and Access to Financial Services

59. Access to banking services has greatly improved since the assessment in 2002. The percentage of the population holding bank accounts has increased from 15 percent in 2002 to 27 percent in 2007 (40 percent if one includes the accounts opened with the Moroccan Postal Service)20 and the volume of credit has more than doubled since 2001, This progress was due to increased competition, the need to diversify risks in the context of adopting the Basel principles, and the favorable economic environment. The number of bank branches has increased by 12 percent in 2007 alone, and the number of ATMs has tripled over the past five years.

60. Despite this progress, access to bank credit is limited to a small segment of the economy, notably larger enterprises and an estimated 10 percent of the population with a fixed income or property to give as collateral. The rest of the population has access to financing mainly through microcredit associations. The penetration rate of banking and microfinance services remains low in rural areas. Over 75 percent if all bank credits go to Casablanca and Rabat. Casablanca alone absorbs 62 percent of all private sector credit, with an increasing trend since 2002, while the five major cities in Morocco account for more than half of all bank branches.

61. BAM’s actions to improve access to bank financing by SMEs include: (i) standardization of the minimum information required by banks from borrowers; (ii) a project to create a credit bureau, based on its access to the database of the Office Marocain pour la Propriété Industrielle et Commerciale (OMPIC); (iii) encouragement of development of internal rating systems by banks; (iv) reduction of lag time and transaction costs in the payment system; and (v) establishment of the principles of a less costly rate schedule.

62. The plans to establish a credit bureau to improve reliability of financial information are already fairly advanced, and it is expected to become operational during 2009. The credit bureau will collect both positive and negative information on borrowers from credit institutions and microcredit associations. In the medium term, the government should consider expanding its coverage to other collectors of credit information such as other NBFIs (particularly, leasing and consumer finance companies), utilities, social security, and tax authorities.

63. In recent years, the interest rates on lending to SMEs have considerably declined (from over 12 percent in 2003 to less than 10 percent today). Thus, interest rates are probably not a major obstacle to access to credit by SMEs. However, transaction costs for current bank operations remain high despite progress in the payments system. The legal regime remains complex and has gaps that could hinder the process of credit collection.

XII. Payment Systems

64. Implementation of the authorities’ 2004–2006 strategic plan for the payment system has led to substantial modernization of the payment system.21 Since end–2007, all payment instruments—including checks, drafts, and bills of exchange—are paperless. Dematerialization has reduced the settlement periods for checks by 15 to 30 days nationwide. BAM exercises oversight over the payment system.

65. A new law on the payment system and means of payment is being drafted. Following the recommendations of donors and the Arab Payment s and Settlement Initiative (API), a National Payments Council has been created. The platform for on–line payments has also been established. In close cooperation with the local market, a large value settlement system in real time (Morocco Gross Settlements System, SRBM) has come on stream. BAM has also conducted a training program for payment system operators, attended by 160 local specialists.

XIII. Anti–Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism


66. The main recommendations of the 2007 MENAFATF report on AML/CFT compliance call for a more accurate and comprehensive description of moneylaundering as an offense, the confiscation and freezing of illegal gains, and the commencement of operation in short order of a Financial Information Unit (FIU). 22 Moreover, clarification was suggested of the scope of application of AML/CFT legislation, as well as strengthened monitoring of transactions with high–risk countries or individuals, and industry–wide rules on reporting suspicious transactions.

67. For some years now, the Moroccan authorities have embarked on an ambitious project to complete the AML/CFT system. More recently, efforts have focused on the establishment of the FIU, and a decree to create an FIU has been adopted. A new law against money laundering was promulgated on April 17, 2007, and its implementing regulations are in the process of being adopted. As a testimony to their determination to combat potential money–laundering and terrorism financing operations, the authorities recently launched a broad public education and awareness campaign in 2007, with participation of the judiciary, various involved professions and the financial sector.

Figure 3.
Figure 3.

Morocco: Indicators of the Financial Soundness of the Banking Sectors of Emerging and Industrialized Countries


Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2008, 333; 10.5089/9781451824834.002.A001

Source: Bank Al–Maghrib, IMF.

Annex I. Recommendations and Action Plan

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Annex II—Observance of Financial Sector Standards and Codes—Summary Assessment of Compliance with the Basel Core Principles

68. Since the 2002 FSAP the authorities have made great progress in upgrading their banking regulation and supervision system. Morocco is now compliant or largely compliant with 21 of the 25 Basel Core Principles (BCPs) and materially non–compliant with four. Points for material improvement include supervisory approval of major acquisitions by banks, country and transfer risk, prevention of abuse of the financial system and relations between home and host supervisors. In the coming time banking supervision will need to consolidate past gains, and continue to adapt to a more sophisticated regulatory and operational environment (Basel II, IFRS, Market risk supervision). It will also need to closely monitor banks’risk management responses, in particular to the opening of the capital account and the introduction of a more flexible exchange rate regime.

69. The 2002 BCP assessment was updated in November 2007, based on the 2006 revised Basle Core Principles and methodology. The assessment was performed by Juergen Dreymann, (Director, International Policy Affairs of Bafin), IMF, and Laurent Gonnet (Financial Sector Specialist), World Bank.

Information and methodology used for the assessment

70. Assessors had access to a thorough self–assessment, questionnaires, extensive data on banks and texts of the regulations. The assessment was carried out mainly through interviews with BAM supervisory staff on the basis of the “essential criteria” in the Methodology. The team also studied selected inspection reports, as well as supervisory follow–up letters. Remedial actions were illustrated through correspondence or minutes of meetings. Additionally, meetings were held with senior banking supervisors and representatives of commercial banks.

Macroeconomic setting and market structure—overview

71. Morocco’s economic performance is strong and growth is now more stable. Annual GDP growth averaged 5.4 percent since 2001 (average 3.4 percent over the past decade). The external position is comfortable, with a current account deficit of less than 1 percent of GDP (the current account recorded a surplus in the six preceding years). Reserves stand at US$24 billion (6.5 months of imports) in 2007. The fiscal deficit fell to nearly zero percent of GDP in 2007, and is expected to stay well below 3 percent in the medium term. The stock of public debt is once again trending downward. After rising to 3.3 percent year–on–year in December 2006, CPI inflation fell to 2 percent by end–2007 (twelve month rate). However, recent developments, i.e., increases in oil and food prices as well as high credit growth and net capital inflows can put pressure on inflation levels.

72. The Moroccan authorities have announced a policy of continued gradual liberalization of the capital account and increased flexibility of the exchange rate in the medium term. In August 2007, the authorities lifted certain restrictions on transactions by residents, and increased the scope for financial institutions, banks and enterprises to invest abroad.23

73. With bank assets equivalent to 109 percent of GDP in 2007 (81 percent in 2003), banks play a central role in the Moroccan financial sector. The banking sector comprises 16 banks (of which 11 private, and 5 public). The system remains dominated by the six largest banks (85 percent of system assets; Figure 2). Credit to the private sector accounts for 66 percent of GDP. Capital markets are increasingly contributing to financial deepening, with stock market capitalization at 98 percent of GDP in 2007 (73 percent in 2006). Morocco’s insurance sector is the largest in the Maghreb, but is still relatively small by emerging country standards, with about DH 17.7 billion in premiums in 2007 (around 3 percent of GDP.

74. With an average risk weighted capital adequacy ratio of 12.3 percent (8 percent minimum), banks are adequately capitalized, notwithstanding some remaining vulnerabilities in the former specialized public banks. The leverage ratio has also reached a comfortable level of 7.4 percent.

75. BAM exercises banking regulation and supervision, and has operational autonomy. It has broad powers, in particular to issue licenses, exercise on–site and off–site supervision, impose remedial measures, including fines against managers and license withdrawal.

Preconditions for effective banking supervision

76. Soundness and sustainability of macroeconomic policies. The authorities are liberalizing the capital account and intend to adopt a flexible exchange rate regime over the medium term, as well as an inflation targeting regime. These changes, while desirable, pose major challenges for the monetary authorities, regulators, as well as financial institutions.

77. A well developed public infrastructure: Loan collection and collateral enforcement have improved. Specialized courts have been established to settle business disputes. A centralized registration under the Bankers’ Association will permit banks to check borrower information. The Bankers’ Association is also setting up a mediation system between banks and borrowers. A Credit Bureau will be created, providing negative and positive information on banks’ borrowers.

78. Effective market discipline: financial statements are prepared and audited in accordance with international standards. The IFRS format will be implemented in the coming months.

79. Systemic protection: A deposit guarantee fund financed by the banks protects depositors, and may compensate depositors to a maximum of DH 80,000 per customer. In highly exceptional cases it can also be authorized to provide emergency credit to banks, subject to acceptance of a rehabilitation plan.

Main Findings

80. Objectives, independence, powers, transparency, and cooperation (CP 1). With a clear mandate, reinforced independence and an adequate budget and staff, BAM is well placed to exercise its supervisory mandate. An adequate budget provides the means to recruit and retain good staff. Training accounts for about 6 percent of the institution’S human resources budget.

81. Licensing and structure (CP 2–5). The existing regulatory framework is appropriate for ensuring firm control over the operations of the sector from the capital point of view. It could, however, be considered to require banks to obtain approval before acquiring shares in nonfinancial institutions.

82. Prudential regulations and requirements (CP 6–18). Morocco has made very substantial progress in the prudential area. However, shortcomings were noted with respect to anti–money laundering activities (the FIU was not yet in operation at the time of the mission), country and transfer risk, and cooperation with foreign supervisors.

83. Supervisory techniques for continuous supervision of banks (CP 19–21). In this area, the authorities have made much progress. The central bank has an effective system for rating the safety and soundness of credit institutions (CAMELS type). Moreover, close collaboration has been established between the on–site examination and off–site supervision functions. Contacts of banking supervision staff with banks are more “risk”–oriented, by contrast with the earlier “compliance” approach.

84. Corrective and remedial powers of supervisors (CP 23). BAM has an adequate set of powers to require banks to take corrective and to impose disciplinary measures. An internal BAM memorandum provides guidance on the prerequisites for BAM interventions against credit institutions.

85. Consolidated supervision and supervision of cross–border banking (CP 24–25). Morocco is building a network of bilateral Memoranda of Understanding on the conduct of cross border supervision. However, a Moroccan legal requirement that cross border on–site examinations can only be carried out jointly can be an impediment for both the home and the host authorities and can therefore hinder effective cross border cooperation.

Table 6.

Morocco: Summary Compliance with the Basel Core Principles

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Recommended action plan and authorities’ response

Recommended action plan
Table 7.

Morocco: Recommended Action Plan to Improve Compliance with the Basel Core Principles

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Authorities’ response to the assessment24

The authorities broadly agree with the assessment.

Appendix I—Stress Tests 25

86. Stress tests were performed on each of the nine largest banks covering 98 percent of the banking system’s total assets, the banking sector as a whole, as well as on four groups of banks: (i) majority domestically–owned; (ii) majority foreign–owned; (iii) commercial banks, and former specialized state–owned banks.26 The stress tests were conducted in close collaboration with the BAM stress test teams. The shocks were calibrated based on historical time series when relevant, and expert judgment of the authorities and the team. Stress tests were also run by the authorities separately using their own in–house models. The results obtained by the FSAP team were largely consistent with those of BAM.

87. Four credit risk stress tests were performed 27

  1. A loss of value of loan collateral reflected by an increase of 20 percent of provisions.28

  2. A migration analysis of NPLs, assuming (i) 20 percent migration of performing loans to substandard, (ii) 20 percent migration of substandard loans to doubtful, and (iii) 50 percent migration from doubtful to loss.29

  3. A downgrade from “performing” to “nonperforming” of 20 percent of loans to key economic sectors, i.e., agriculture and agro–business, textile, and real estate, given the strong expansion of credit to these sectors in recent years.30

  4. A default of the three largest exposures, to test banks’sensitivity to concentration risk.

88. The banking sector as a whole is largely resistant to credit risk shocks; however there are signs of vulnerabilities to concentration risk and real estate exposures, with differences in impact from bank to bank. The capital adequacy ratio (CAR) of some banks falls below the minimum required following a deterioration of their large exposures and real estate credit, but the capital injection needed to restore capital adequacy in the worst–case scenario does not exceed 4.4 percent of GDP. As in other countries with similar income levels, credit risk appears to be the most important risk, followed by liquidity risk. The two former specialized public banks are vulnerable to all shocks. Two of the three largest banks, however, weather all credit risk shocks. The majority domestically–owned banks remain solvent, but the former specialized banks show signs of vulnerability given their continued high levels of nonperforming loans and their equity levels as explained in the FSIs section. As of June 2007, the former specialized public banks reinforced their capital base.

89. The banks most vulnerable to the loss of value of loan collateral test are the former specialized public banks. Also, some majority foreign–owned banks fall below the minimum CAR after credit risk shocks (Table 2). Tests on the migration analysis of NPLs affects mainly the former specialized public banks, the majority foreign–owned banks, and one major domestic bank; however the latter is affected mainly because its capital is barely above the minimum CAR before the shock.

90. The majority domestically–owned banks and the banking sector as a whole withstand test 2). The results of test 3) reflect the vulnerability of one former specialized bank to the agricultural sector, and the vulnerability of one major domestic bank, one foreign bank and one former specialized bank to the real estate sector. Textile and tourism sector hocks appear to have minor impact. The total sector is resistant to all shocks stemming from a deterioration in loans to key economic sectors. Under the test for the effect of concentration risk, all but two of the largest banks fall below the minimum CAR after the shock, and some lose their capital.

91. In light of the authorities’ intention to move toward greater exchange rate flexibility, four exchange rate stress tests were carried out. Net open foreign exchange (FX) positions are subject to prudential limits (restricting total open positions to less than 20 percent of Tier 1 capital). As of end 2006, net open FX–positions stood at 8 percent of Tier 1 capital.31 The shocks assumed both an appreciation and depreciation of the dirham against euro and USD of 20 percent. The direct impact of these shocks was minimal. The indirect impact of FX credit exposure to unhedged borrowers is also limited, as FX lending stands at only 2.3 percent of loans (Table 1). Given their long euro and USD positions, banks gain slightly from a depreciation, and lose slightly from an appreciation.

92. The interest rate risk tests assumed a parallel shift of the yield curve of 200 basis32 points and estimated the impact on net interest margins (NIM) and on the economic value of banks’ balance sheets, using duration analysis. Despite a structural maturity mismatch, Moroccan banks appear well hedged against NIM risk. This is mainly a result of the predominance of (i) relatively elastic unremunerated deposits,33 and (ii) floating rates for most medium– and long–term loans. Banks’cumulative short–term maturity gap is long; therefore, interest rate risk lies more in the downside, mitigated by the fact that interest rates are already low in Morocco. The impact on economic value was relatively high for two large domestic banks which lost 21 and 24 percent of their shareholder equity with a drop in interest rates, and on another major domestic bank which lost 16 percent with an increase in interest rates. However, the banking sector as a whole loses only 6 percent of shareholder equity in the case of a 2 percent drop in interest rates.34 The impact on foreign banks was less apparent possibly due to better asset–liability management tools from parent banks.

93. Liquidity stress tests35 assumed a deposit run (mainly Moroccan residents abroad and large depositors) for five consecutive days. The test also assumed that 10 percent of otherwise liquid assets could in fact not be liquidated. Such circumstances could be triggered by a loss of confidence and/or a flight to more attractive investments abroad. All banks appear to withstand this shock during the first four days without interbank or LOLR recourse. However, at the end of the fourth day, some medium–sized foreign banks become illiquid. At the end of the fifth day, five banks become illiquid. Foreign banks appear more vulnerable, but are considered to have access to liquidity from their parent–institutions.

94. The multi–factor macroeconomic scenarios assume general and sector–specific downturns of the economy, and highlight the prominent impact of credit risk. In two scenarios, market and credit shocks were combined with (i) a 200 basis point increase in interest rates, a 20 percent depreciation of the dirham against the euro, a 20 percent deterioration in the loan portfolio (increase in NPLs) and (ii) a decline in interest rates by 200 basis points, a 20 percent appreciation of the dirham vis–à–vis the euro, and a decline in key sectors of the economy. The banking sector as a whole appears to retain adequate CARs, but majority foreign–owned banks fall slightly below the minimum capital requirement.

95. BAM staff has made significant strides in its stress testing ability, although it may want to consider carrying out all stress tests more regularly and with more severe shocks 36 Banks’compliance with FX–limits should continue to be watched carefully, while ensuring proper hedging and monitoring of counter party risk. Given further capital account liberalization, interest rate and liquidity risks should be closely monitored. In particular, the stability of short–term deposits should continue to be watched and interest rate sensitivity assumptions adjusted accordingly. In addition, banks’ risk management practices should continue to be supervised to ensure their preparedness for further capital account liberalization, greater flexibility of the exchange rate, and adoption of more advanced approaches of Basel II. BAM could also consider incorporating macroeconomic risk factors into the stress tests.


See Annex I for the full set of recommendations


Transactions by nonresidents have already been liberalized.


See Table 2; data as available at end–June 2007.


For one of the former specialized public banks the capital adequacy ratio is still below the minimum.


Capital to non–risk weighted assets.


Based on BAM data per end–2006. At the time of the mission, 2007 official data were not available, however, as a robustness check, the team ran a few stress tests based on the then available and comparable mid–2007 data. The results generally corroborated the conclusions of the stress tests conducted on the submitted end–2006 official financial statements.


See Appendix I, the FSI manual and the Technical Note on Stress Tests for more details.


Assuming a daily withdrawal of 8 percent of sight deposits and 10 percent of term deposits.


The multifactor tests did not include results of a deterioration of the large exposures, and the market risk components of the multifactor test tended to compensate for the results of the credit risk components.


The capital account is already largely open; the restrictions apply mainly to capital flows from Moroccan residents abroad.


Specific measures taken over the past few years to reinforce the authority of BAM include internal reforms at the central bank, strengthening the analytical framework and monetary policy implementation capacity, developing BAM’s forecasting ability, and improving the understanding of the functioning of credit markets and the monetary policy transmission mechanism.


In light of liquidity shortages that developed, BAM decided to reduce reserve requirements from 16.5 percent to 15 percent as of January 1, 2008.


Despite the diminished volume on the primary market in 2007, secondary market activity contimued to increase driven by an active repo market, whereas outright transactions declined.


Banks run daily VaR tests to monitor FX risk. Also, they actively use hedging instruments to mitigate risk including foreign exchange swaps, forward outright transactions and FX options. Moreover, prudential limits and restrictions are applied to the FX positions. Interest rate risk is hedged through swaps.


This ratio is obtained by adding the number of term and demand accounts and dividing it by the population. The existence of accounts held by Moroccans resident abroad as well as the possibility that a single individual may hold several accounts would decrease this ratio.


According to the law, BAM must in particular: (i) ensure that the accounting and organizational structures are adequate and that the internal control systems are in place; and (ii) that the financial statements are of good quality.


Central registry and depository for securities traded on the Casablanca stock market.


This ratio is clearly overestimated. A large portion of these accounts is held by Moroccan residents abroad (MRAs). The deposits of MRAs represent one fourth of total bank deposits.


The team did not conduct an assessment of the compliance of payments and settlement systems with the Basel principles, since Morocco was recently the subject of an evaluation by the Arab Payments and Securities Settlements Initiative (API), whose report was completed in March 2007 and broadly concluded that the system still relied heavily on cash transactions, and required a more complete legal framework. A second evaluation on the basis of the Basel principles is scheduled for 2008


The team did not assess compliance with FATF principles since Morocco had been subject to an AML/CFT evaluation by the Middle East and North Africa FATF (MENAFATF) in 2007. The evaluation identified a number of areas where the authorities could strengthen their efforts. After the discussions at the MENAFATF meeting in Damascus in early November 2007, the evaluation report has been amended to take into account comments of the Moroccan authorities.


Transactions by nonresidents have already been liberalized.


If no such response is provided within a reasonable time frame, the assessors should note this explicitly and provide a brief summary of the authorities’initial response provided during the discussion between the authorities and the assessors at the end of the assessment mission (“wrap–up meeting”).


Based on BAM data per end 2006; See Tables 3, 4, and 5. At the time of the mission, 2007 official data was not available, however, as a robustness check, the team run a few stress tests based on the then available and comparable mid 2007 data. The results generally corroborated the conclusions of the stress tests conducted on the submitted end–2006 official financial statements.


More details on the stress testing methodology can be found in the financial soundness and stress testing technical note (Volume II of FSAP report).


The calibration of credit risk stress tests was discussed and agreed on with the authorities, and based on hypothetical scenarios mirroring previous macro–recessions based on discussions with the authorities, and expert judgment based on discussions with on–site supervisors. Historical data series on bank by bank NPLs were not available.


Data on collateral are not available. An increase in provisions was used as a proxy for a deterioration in the value of collateral.


A higher migration percentage from doubtful loans to loan losses is assumed, given the higher probability of doubtful loans becoming losses, according to the experience of the authorities.


Test 3 includes three sub–tests.


The dirham is pegged to a currency basket (80/20 euro/USD).


Based on historical time series (tails of distribution).


Hence classified in longer–term maturity buckets by authorities given their historical stability.


The results of interest rate stress tests are based on the maturity buckets of interest sensitive assets and liabilities provided by the authorities. Part of the short–term deposits are considered by the authorities as long term resources and are allocated to longer maturity buckets given their stability. This is reportedly based on periodic studies conducted by BAM and as permitted by the Basel Committee.


Currently, stress tests are conducted by BAM only occasionally.

Morocco: Financial System Stability Assessment: Update
Author: International Monetary Fund
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    Morocco: Macroeconomic Indicators, 2000–2007

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    Morocco: Characteristics of the Banking Sector, 2006

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    Morocco: Indicators of the Financial Soundness of the Banking Sectors of Emerging and Industrialized Countries