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King's tour signals Morocco's return to Arab Orient

Morocco has been dominated by elites who look to France and the rest of Europe, an Arabic-language columnist says. Other topics: Arabs films and Kuwait's future.

Moroccan king's tour of Gulf nations signals his nation's return to Arab Orient

The Gulf nations tour by Morocco's monarch has come as a prelude to a diplomatic return of the North African country to the Arab orient, commented Taoufik Bouachrine in an article in the Sunday edition of the Moroccan newspaper Akhbar Al Youm.

"King Mohammed VI is the first head of state in the world to have set foot in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan near the border with Syria - a master stroke and a strong message to Syria's Assad and the international community that Morocco stands by the Syrian people in its revolution against dictatorship", the writer noted.

The visit also came to highlight that what is unfolding in Syria is not simply about regional powers fighting a turf war, but is also about a 19-month revolution where many people have been killed, wounded or rendered homeless, he wrote.

To be sure, it is only natural that the economic crunch hitting Morocco be the catalyst for looking towards the Gulf countries. which are economically healthier thanks to high oil and gas prices.

"The Gulf nations have always been open to Morocco," he wrote. "The reasons for this are the similarities they share in many aspects: the monarchy, Sunni Islam, the 'Axis of moderation' [Arab countries on good terms with the US and the West], and the type of economic system."

Yet, Morocco has not utilised these common denominators - in diplomacy, culture and politics - to serve the country's economy. This is due, the writer explained, to inefficient diplomacy that has completely turned to Europe, particularly France, and the bureaucratic, corrupt investment climate, which has repelled investments worth billions towards other Arab countries that offer more favourable environments.

Unfortunately, Morocco is still ruled by elites, administrative and economic, that are extremely besotted with France and Europe, as if these are equivalent to the entire world.

"France and Europe are just giving us lip service on a daily basis; and while their companies are winning billions in our country every year, all that comes to us from their treasuries is scraps, even before the economic crisis hit," the writer said.

The diversification of Morocco's business partners has been promoted for diplomatic purposes, but, on the ground, Europe has been "Mecca" when it comes to the economy.

The writer said that the kingdom has signed free-trade agreements without careful study of repercussions, and the outcome has been a huge foreign deficit of 184 billion Moroccan dirhams (Dh79.3 billion) over the first 10 months of the year.

This is due to the fact that diplomacy in Morocco is not a matter of public debate and due to a significant shortage in foreign policy think tanks, causing the country to "navigate a complex world without a road map", he concluded.

Kuwait needs order more than reforms

A heated, sometimes violent, debate is taking place in Kuwait over controversial government decisions and the way the opposition is reacting to them, wrote Mohammed Al Sabti in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai, yesterday.

It was reported on Sunday that Kuwaiti authorities used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters rallying against changes to Kuwait's election law. The opposition maintains that the new amendments, decreed by the country's royal family, favour pro-government candidates.

The columnist argued that however serious the differences between the rulers and the opposition may be, maintaining stability in Kuwait is "more important than the constitution and fighting corruption".

"Reason, common sense and experience all point in this direction," he said.

"Don't get me wrong here, the Kuwaiti government's poor performance and failure to sort out issues is a given; this is a constant no sensible person can deny," the columnist added.

"Indeed, we believe that the application of the constitution and proper, transparent and even-handed law enforcement - in addition to keeping up the fight against corruption - is the way to stability for any nation.

"Chaos means the destruction of everything, including the national values and the concord that protect a society from civil war."

Can Arab cinema compete globally?

The naming of winners at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival raises a question, Egyptian movie critic Tarek El Shenawi wrote in the Cairo paper Al Tahrir: Is Arab cinema able to compete with international filmmaking and win main-competition awards?

At the annual Abu Dhabi festival there is a separate competition for Arabic movies, within the main one. So if an Arabic film fails to earn any of the main awards against all films, it has a second chance for a best movie award. The same goes for the best director award, the writer noted.

But this measure is double-edged. It protects Arab filmmakers, in that the sum that comes with an award is a direct encouragement. But it also involves an avowal that Arab cineastes cannot compete with their international counterparts, and so must be presented a "geographically-protected prize", he remarked.

And yet, the jury declined to award the prize for overall best Arabic film. None of the competing movies: Harraga Blues (Moussa Haddad, Algeria), Perfumes of Algeria (Rachid Ben Haj, Algeria), and Manmoutsh or Hidden Beauties (Nouri Bouzid, Tunisia), was deemed to deserve the prize.

But giving Bouzid the best Arab director prize indicates that there was something wrong with the assessment, because the director equals the film.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni

AEzzouitni@thenational.ae

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