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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

IMF says Moroccan economy to accelerate in the medium term 

North African country's move to liberalise exchange rate to boost growth

Morocco introduced a more flexible exchange rate system for the dirham to further liberalise its economy and protect it from externals shocks. Youssef Boudlal/Reuters
Morocco introduced a more flexible exchange rate system for the dirham to further liberalise its economy and protect it from externals shocks. Youssef Boudlal/Reuters

The IMF said it expects Morocco's economy to accelerate over the medium term amid a slew of reforms including monetary policy liberalisation that has seen greater flexibility in the exchange rate.

"Morocco's sound macroeconomic policies and reform implementation have helped improve the resilience of the economy," said Mitsuhiro Furusawa, the IMF's deputy managing director and acting chair.

"External imbalances narrowed in 2017 and international reserves remain at a comfortable level. Fiscal developments were also positive, with the budget deficit declining due to strong revenue performance and contained spending. "

Mr Furusawa made the comments after the IMF concluded its third and final review of the Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL) for Morocco. The PLL arrangement of US$3.61 billion was approved by the IMF in July 2016 and will expire in July .

Last week, Morocco introduced a more flexible exchange rate system for the dirham to further liberalise its economy and protect it from externals shocks. The fluctuation band in which the dirham is traded against hard currencies will be widened from 0.3 per cent either side of the previous day's close to 2.5 per cent, giving a 5 per cent range in total, the government said in a statement

While the IMF executive was upbeat about Morocco's prospects, Mr Furusawa noted that there remained a number of risks for the economy and for that reason, the PLL arrangement remains a useful insurance policy and has helped support the economic reform policies of the Moroccan authorities.

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"The authorities are committed to sustaining sound policies," Mr Furusawa said. "The new government's economic programme is in line with key reforms announced under the PLL-supported programme, such as further reducing fiscal and external vulnerabilities, while strengthening the foundations for higher and more inclusive growth."

Morocco has been working with a technical mission from the IMF to liberalise its currency, a move that had been expected last year but got delayed pending further studies.

The dirham is pegged 60 per cent to the euro and 40 per cent to the US dollar.

"The recent introduction of greater exchange rate flexibility will help further improve Morocco's external position, enhance the economy's ability to absorb shocks, and preserve its external competitiveness," Mr Furusawa said.

"Adopting the central bank law and continuing efforts to increase supervisory capacity in line with 2015 Financial Sector Assessment Program recommendations will help strengthen the financial sector policy framework."

Morocco’s economic growth is likely to ease slightly this year to 3.5 per cent from 3.9 per cent in 2017 due to lower contribution from agriculture, before recovering in 2019, Moody's Investors Service said last week. However, The rating agency said it had a positive outlook on the North African nation.