Despite fresh measures to tackle unemployment, Morocco continues to witness a string of self-immolations.
A jobless Moroccan graduate died at the end of January, six days after setting himself on fire in Rabat. Abdelwahab Zeidoun’s death on January 24th was the latest in a string of suicides by fire that have rocked the Maghreb. The 27-year-old protestor was among a group of graduates who had staged a two-week sit-in near the ministry of education to win public-sector jobs, reported Magharebia.com.
The protestors complained that they had been left out of an initiative to recruit youths directly under an agreement reached with the previous government in 2011.
Despite having a graduate degree in information studies from the University of Fes, Zeidoun was unable to land a job. He and another man burnt themselves on January 18th.
To deal with the swelling tide of popular discontent, Morocco has implemented a raft of new job creation measures. Authorities hope the series of projects will help steer the kingdom’s young people towards more productive ends, away from potentially destructive paths.
Youth unemployment is a priority for the new government, which is working as hard as it can to find adequate solutions and address public expectations, Economy and Finance Minister Nizar Baraka told Magharebia.
Meanwhile, thousands of Tunisians turned out in central Tunis on January 14th to demand jobs and dignity as the north African country marked a year to the day since its despot Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile.
“Work, freedom and dignity”, “Work is a right”, and “We will continue the fight”, were among the slogans chanted by demonstrators brandishing banners on the avenue which was the epicentre of the popular uprising that gave birth to the Arab Spring.
Among the problems that to be solved by the new authorities are soaring unemployment of 19% nationally — up to 50% in certain inland areas overlooked for investment in the past — and widespread social discontent.
Corruption also remains a challenge, with Transparency International downgrading the country from 59th to 73rd place out of 183 countries on its corruption list amid fears that former regime officials have blended into the new political landscape.
In a move to quell the rising discontent, interim Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki announced plans to sell off the majority of presidential palaces once owned by Ben Ali.
The earnings will then be used to create job opportunities for the nation’s unemployed youth.
“Presidential palaces, except for the Carthage Palace, will be returned to the state at a first stage,” Marzouki said December 16th. “In a second stage, they will be sold in a public auction with all transparency and clarity, and the proceeds that will be generated from the sale will be injected into employment funds.”
“The boat won’t sink; Tunisia won’t sink, and the sacrifices of our children won’t go in vain,” he said. “Yes, Tunisia will succeed.”
However, a number of groups opposed the move, with the Tunisian Association for Financial Transparency issuing a statement saying that the palaces were owned by the Tunisian state and that the interim president could not dispose of them. The association said that it wouldn’t hesitate to resort to the judiciary to prevent the sale of public assets.
Sami Remadi, the group’s president, said in a statement addressed to the interim government and president that Tunisia’s current conditions require more wisdom and transparency in disposing of people’s properties.