Powerful Moroccan Ministry Cleans Ranks in Bid to Temper Unrest

(Bloomberg) -- Morocco’s powerful Interior Ministry took unprecedentedly broad disciplinary action against members of its ranks, amid concerns that anti-government protests could mushroom and derail economic reform plans.

Forty-six officials, including six provincial governors, were immediately dismissed for “failing their duties and professional obligations,” the ministry said. Sixty-four other officials were warned, reprimanded or demoted, and 1,574 other employees -- a third of the ministry’s executive officials -- were reassigned.

The sanctions signal the ministry’s determination to hold its officials to account, it said in a statement to state news agency MAP. Known as the “Mother of Ministries,” the Interior Ministry is the second-biggest public sector employer, overseeing elections and allocating regional development resources through an intricate bureaucratic network that runs local councils alongside elected officials.

The crackdown comes as the government faces mounting public criticism of its economic stewardship, including a damaging products boycott. Moroccans have been squeezed in recent years by a string of austerity measures prescribed by the International Monetary Fund and the cutting of fuel subsidies.

While the North African nation hasn’t been hit by the same level of turmoil that gripped other neighbors following the 2011 uprisings against entrenched Arab leaders, discontent has been rising, particularly in chronically under-developed regions.

The government has pledged to resume talks with trade unions over wages and to take action to tame rising prices after the boycott campaign that started on social media in April became the latest expression of growing dissatisfaction, especially among idle youths.
Officials have also pledged to channel savings from spending cuts to address regional imbalances.

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