A foreigner's perspective
Visitors will find Morocco to be a land of sweeping panoramas and startling colors. Ancient mosques and brilliant tile squares leave lasting impressions of an exotic history, and the increasingly westernized citizenry reflects a new level of education, commerce, and international savvy.
Despite the changes, the Moroccans continue to center themselves in their families and to follow the tenets of Islam. Daily business life, family life and religious life are very tightly interwoven.
Under its 1972 constitution, Morocco is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary king as head of state. Although Morocco is considered a semi-democracy with an elected parliament, real power rests with the king. He appoints the Prime Minister and other members of the cabinet, and all justice is administered in his name.
Under a constitutional referendum held in 1996, legislative power is vested in a 325-seat Lower House, the Chamber of Representatives, and a 270-seat upper house, the Chamber of Councelors. The Chamber of Representatives is directly elected every five years, and the Chamber of Councelors is elected to nine-year terms by professional and trade organizations, labor councils, communal councils, and chambers of commerce. Morocco's legal system, based on a mixture of French and Muslim judicial philosophy, also includes elements of the Berber, Spanish, and Jewish heritage.
While the Moroccan government is committed to encouraging industry and attracting foreign investment, weather remains the deciding influence on the economy. To make the economy less dependent on atmospheric conditions and agriculture, the government has, since the early 1980s, instituted a program of economic reforms. It has curtailed government spending, reformed the tax and banking systems and attempted to diversify the economy by promoting a variety of industries. Still, unemployment figures average in the double digits.
To encourage foreign investment, the government has eased import restrictions and promoted privatization of government-owned industries. Morocco's privatization program has made great progress and is considered the most promising in the Middle East and North Africa. Industry - specifically clothing - and telecommunications are two sectors expected to grow. The mining and export of the phosphate continue to be contributors to the country's economy.
In recent years, the European Union (EU) and Morocco have signed many agreements and made great partnership strides in areas such as free trade and intelligence sharing. The first EU-Morocco Summit was held in 2010.
In January 2006, a free trade agreement signed with the United States in 2004 took effect. With this agreement, 98 percent of the traded goods between the two countries is free of tariffs.
Tourism is important to Morocco as it is a very popular resort destination, especially for Europeans. The streets of Morocco are busy with new international business and international tourists, but also with the sights and sounds of an ancient civilization - truly an interesting contrast.