There is a huge change underway in the Moroccan society, moving slowly away from the Arab system of the central authority äkno-wing best" and towards a more individualist free market view of the world. There has been more change in the last five or six years than in the previous thirty. Since 1990 the emphasis in Government policy has been on structural change. Deregulation, privatisation and new conditions for private investment opened the door to 100 per cent foreign ownership of any asset except agricultural land. Further reforms have involved the complete dismantling of a system of import controls and reductions in tariffs. The top rate was cut from 400 per cent, applied to very few items, to 35 per cent, which has become the standard rate. The most important continuing reform is the privatisation programme which is being backed up by comprehensive new commercial, labour and investment legislation. The reforms - financial and structural - have given Morocco the potential for faster growth; they have not in themselves made the country richer, or much altered the daily live of the people. The economy remains heavily dependent upon agriculture. Among the intelligentsia, the political classes and the population as a whole, there is great disappointment that the process of political change seems to have ground to a halt. However, the tone of political life is different from what it was two or three years ago, especially in the Government’s attitude to dissent and political prisoners. In broad terms King Hassan is not unlike other Arab heads of state who have tried to reform in the last years. They would all like to reform, but they simply cannot bring themselves to surrender control of their countries. None of this is to say that the monarchy is not one of Morocco’s great strengths and a powerful force for stability. Part of the Moroccan tradition, embodied in the monarch and strengthened by it, has been the tolerance of other religions. The King’s role as Commander of the Faithful has been one of the influences that have hampered the development of militant Islam in Morocco and prevented militants monopolising the political authority of Islam. There is an expectation of further change: It is assumed that government will continue to become gradually less authoritarian and more responsive, particularly to the suggestions and complaints of business.
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