Opinion

Morocco: Ramadan between crisis and excess

RAMADÁN Marruecos

Hind is a clothing designer. Since February, with her teams, she has been preparing the new collection of djellabas and kaftans for Ramadan. As they do every year, Moroccans buy new clothes during this time of year to go and see friends and family to break the fast and enjoy the long evenings that often last until dawn. This economy is vital for the tailors, seamstresses, designers and others involved in the traditional clothing manufacturing chain who, every year, try to launch new fashions by declining these timeless garments ad infinitum. But this year, Hind was unable to sell her creations. The national curfew - decreed several months ago - has been brought forward to 8 pm. 

This time does not allow fasters to share dinner and visit each other. As this privileged outlet is forbidden, clothes shopping has become useless.

Mehdi sells dishes to the Habous in Casablanca. Every year, a good part of his turnover is made during the holy month. This year he will not sell the soup bowls and other dishes he brings from Safi, and the craftsmen in the ceramics capital will not work this year either. 

However, it would have been enough to maintain the 9 p.m. curfew for these various artists, craftsmen and vendors to sell some of their wares, pay their rent and maintain an economic balance. The continuing health crisis and government restrictions have taken their toll on these workers and their fragile businesses. 

Restaurants and cafes are also suffering dry losses as they are closed day and night. A country's economy is based on few things.
The virtuous circle is now broken. In a speech to parliament, Industry Minister Moulay Hafid Elalamy promised to repair activities affected by the effects of the curfew, but so far no concrete measures have been announced.  

In this gloomy climate, which is framed by border closures, those who make their living from the tourism sector are not at the end of their problems either. Tourist arrivals contracted by 78.5% at the end of 2020 and this year looks no better. Many cafés, restaurants, guesthouses and hotels no longer exist. Essaouira, the city of winds and festivals, which attracts more and more tourists, is almost empty during school holidays. Inter-city travel is also banned.  

Those who are doing well are the food traders. 

The High Commission for Planning (HCP) has estimated an average increase in food prices of 0.6 per cent this Ramadan. It also warns of a steeper rise from the second week onwards, which it estimates at 0.8 per cent. 

If Ramadan is supposed to be the month of deprivation, it is paradoxically the month of spending and excess.  
According to the latest HCP survey, consumer spending per household increases by 16.3%, on average, during this period of the year.

Almost 82% of this increase is attributable to food spending. Households spend, on average, more than a third more on food (37% exactly) compared to the other months of the year.

It is during this month that people indulge themselves the most, consuming +163% more fruit, +35% more meat, +35% more cereals and 47% more milk and dairy products.  

Will this year's cyclical upturn be confirmed? 

The Moroccan economy experienced the largest contraction in the MENA region in 2020, with a recession of 6.3%, according to a World Bank report, but the dirham resisted the euro and appreciated by 0.58% against the US dollar in early April, according to Bank Al-Maghrib (BAM). 

A return to normality is more than necessary for Moroccans, but unfortunately, no one is able to give a timeframe for the crisis so far.