US ambassador calls Washington to show more resolve in assisting Morocco
Morocco-USA, Politics, 9/17/1999
U.S ambassador to Morocco Edward Gabriel on Wednesday urged his country to show more resolve in assisting Morocco, especially through a substantial contribution to downsize the kingdom's debt.
Gabriel, who was addressing the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, recalled the letter sent by the first U.S president, George Washington, to King Mohammed III, wherein the head of state of the then-nascent nation said the day will come when the United States will be able to help its friends.
This moment has come and it would be a "tragic mistake to miss the opportunity to help our oldest friend," ambassador Gabriel said. "Let's not make of George Washington a liar," he said.
Morocco was the first country in the world to recognize the independence and sovereignty of the United States. Relations between the two sides have since then been excellent and marked by mutual understanding and respect.
The U.S diplomat called for swapping Morocco's debt into investments, noting that France and Spain have already swapped 20 percent of Moroccan debt. He expressed hope that the United States would follow suit as such a move would prompt American firms to operate in Morocco.
Touching on the democratic evolution in Morocco, Gabriel said that the late King Hassan II planted lots of seeds of a genuine democracy, and that there is no person more qualified than King Mohammed VI to continue, today, the work of his father.
King Mohammed VI is determined, very intelligent and very earnest, Ambassador Gabriel said, adding that he is impressed by "the sovereign's grasp of all dossiers." The US diplomat, who stressed the "popular backing enjoyed by the king," said the smoothness with which transition took place is a crystal clear proof of this backing.
And what is even more important in Morocco is that the king, the private sector, and the ngos are all determined to build a stable and prosperous country.
Touching on the alternation experience currently going on in Morocco that he described as "unique in the Arab world," Ambassador Gabriel explained that Abderrahmane Youssoufi, who lived in exile and who was sentenced to death in the past, is now the Prime Minister of a Kingdom where there are more than 12 political parties, each one having its own newspaper, while the number of NGOs, which defend a wide range of causes, including women's rights, is continuously increasing.
The diplomat further underlined that Morocco enjoys solid macroeconomic foundations, but conceded that the Kingdom suffers from structural economic problems that can, however, be settled by the Youssoufi government. Gabriel imputed these problems to what he called "a heavy bureaucracy," shortcomings at the level of transparency and a budget of which 50 percent is allotted to public sector salaries.
The ambassador, who stressed the need for the United States to assist Morocco, said the Youssoufi government will have to double the growth rate to reach 5 or 6 percent to reach these objectives.
In a bid to justify a growing American assistance to Morocco, Gabriel said the "path to go remains difficult," but "it is well paved and the future looks promising."
He mentioned as an instance of the positive evolution the very recent example of the second cellular phone license, ceded in "total transparency." This contract, which earned Morocco $1.1 billion, was "the second important deal in the world," the U.S diplomat said.
The ambassador who detailed the values and objectives shared by Morocco and the United States, underlined that the United States is not Morocco's sole friend.
He added that Morocco will continue its active role in the Middle East peace process.
The debate with Ambassador Gabriel, titled "On the Road in Morocco" was moderated by Allan Gerson, Specialist in law and international organizations at the Council on Foreign Relations. The debate was attended by former US ambassador to Maghreban countries as well as American investors and members of the Morocco-US Council on Trade and Investment.
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