Rural Roadways and Urban Systems to Benefit
Morocco’s commitment to enhanced public access through improving public transportation and roadways was underscored in two recent events. The World Bank recently agreed to assist in Morocco’s efforts to undertake an extensive overhaul of its public transportation network to serve its growing urban population. More than 60% of Moroccans now live in cities, and there are chronic complaints of traffic tie-ups, dislocations caused by tramways in Rabat and Casablanca, and lack of sufficient public facilities. At the same time, Morocco’s Transportation Ministry announced plans to upgrade local and rural roads.
Part of the challenge is the lack of planning and management of public transport systems. The World Bank has been active in the transportation sector for several years. In 2011, it awarded a $136.7 million Development Policy Loan (DPL) “to improve the sector’s governance and increase urban transport and infrastructure. This was coupled with regular technical assistance for the Moroccan government’s transport strategy, along with research to deepen its knowledge of the sector.”
The current allocation is a grant of $200 million to upgrade the quality and management of urban transportation systems. Given that the government of Morocco is implementing its regionalization plan devolving more local decision-making to local authorities, this provides timely and critical support to local municipalities that “have struggled to provide good roads, and with the limited resources and capacity they have to manage public transport.”
As detailed in the World Bank’s announcement, “The transport program will focus on cities of over 100,000 inhabitants in nine regions, aiming to strengthen the capacity of local authorities to plan and monitor public transport, centrally and locally. A central goal is to improve the quality of urban transport services, with a large reduction in travel time. This program, a Program for Results (PforR), will disburse funds only when milestones agreed upon in advance are completed.”
Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, the World Bank Maghreb Country Director, noted that “An efficient urban transport system is essential for urban mobility, which will underpin the development of Moroccan cities. Improved public transport systems will mean increased productivity and better access to economic opportunities and key services such as health and education, particularly for the most disadvantaged citizens.”
The Moroccan government has projected that financing for the urban transport sector alone will require $3 billion over the next ten years. “The government’s goal is two-fold: to improve the sector’s management and make it financially sustainable; and to build a web of urban transport corridors within larger cities. The Bank will support the government’s plan with expertise and global knowledge.”
On the Back Roads
The announcement of more funding for urban transportation came as the Moroccan government’s Equipment and Transportation Minister Aziz Rabbah spoke in the Chamber of Deputies (Parliament) on the country’s plans to upgrade and modernize rural and local roadways. Of a total highway budget for 2016 of approximately $6 billion, more than $4 billion will be spent on rural and isolated areas in the next seven years.
In line with the country’s National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), priority will be given to areas underserved or poorly connected to regional traffic. Out of a need for some 30,000 miles of upgrades, the current program will impact more than 10,000 miles of roads in previously marginalized areas. Minister Rabbah also noted that some $300 million has been allocated for emergency repairs to distressed bridges, since recent engineering studies show that 100 are in critical condition at the present time, with 200 more warranting major attention.
Without this kind of partnership with international institutions, it would be difficult for Morocco to meet the public transportation development challenges of a country that has many difficult and demanding terrains and locations. Given Morocco’s increased emphasis on generating jobs in diverse locations around the country, the need for efficient and cost-effective public transportation and highways becomes even more critical and smart. Diversifying industrial centers will help Morocco meet its climate change goals while ensuring that urban areas do not become too dense, thereby taking steps to avoid a recurrence of the current problems.