Speeches & Transcripts

Human Development and Redistribution of Wealth in Morocco

November 1, 2010

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar International Forum on Human Development Agadir, Morocco

As Prepared for Delivery

International Forum on Human Development

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar
Regional Vice-President,
Middle East and North Africa
The World Bank

Agadir, November 1st, 2010

I am delighted to be here today to participate in the International Forum on Human Development under the patronage His Majesty the King Mohammed VI.   Morocco needs to be commended for its economic achievements of recent years and on the visionary development strategy articulated, most especially the role played by INDH.

In my remarks this morning, I would like to share my personal exposure to INDH which undoubtedly is making a difference in people’s lives.   Given that poverty persists and is exceptionally high in certain regions and pockets, it is critical to review approaches adopted and to learn from experiences and lessons both from Morocco and around the world.  This analysis will help nourish the design of future programs.

The World Bank is honored to be a partner in sustainable growth and development of Morocco and within that context the implementation of the innovative INDH program.    Success of INDH is quite evident whether we tread to urban localities or the rural pockets of poverty.  I was able to get a first impression of this through my visit to the outskirts of Casablanca or rural areas close to Tangier and yesterday in Taroudant    In these areas, a combination of income generating activities backed by social mobilization and social services are providing a basic living to people.     As I toured these places we saw women pleased with water availability at their doorsteps even though they had to pay for it, women breaking and grinding Argan oil to earn a livelihood, and women learning to read, even at old age.

To me they all seemed so emblematic of the connections we must all make between skills and opportunity, between local effort and wider markets and all this underpinned by strong inclusive growth policies.   We know that sustainable economic growth is the path to poverty reduction but we know this is not automatic.  It needs to find its target among the most vulnerable. In short it needs to find the women grinding away at the Argan nuts harvested across the plains.

An appreciation of the significance of INDH comes if one has a deeper understanding of the poverty incidence, its causative factors and dimensions.    In Morocco a combination of growth oriented policies and social uplift programs have helped to make some decent inroads in poverty which fell from 15 to 9% over 2001 to 2007.    Future challenges however call for positioning Morocco to tackle more deep rooted poverty and divides.  For instance

  • poverty incidence among vulnerable groups is around 17.5% (2006/07);
  • rural poverty remains overwhelming with poverty incidence near 14.5%;
  • 43% of Morocco’s population lives in rural areas;
  • over 70% of rural women are illiterate and maternal mortality rates are 45 times higher than those in Europe although emerging figures indicate significant improvements; and
  • Regional disparities are striking as poverty in mountainous and tougher terrains can be as high as 35%. 

Recognizing these realities and trends, since the start of 2000, efforts have been underway to adopt redistributive and equitable approaches to share the benefits of growth.    Pro-poor growth strategy is evident as policies to promote productive sectors have been accompanied by enhancing access to the education and health services that help nations develop a work force to reinforce economic growth.   By mid 2000, there was a greater awareness of the divides and gaps as population pressures have mounted over decades.   Complementing and supplementing the ongoing social and poverty reduction programs INDH focuses on tackling deep-rooted poverty through detailed poverty mapping.   

Within the context of MENA, INDH is an ambitious, large scale and innovative program.   It breaks the mold of centrally driven programs which had little connection to community realities. Its hallmark focus is on participatory community processes and decision making including civil society, elected representatives and technical experts in governance committees at different levels.    And it’s this participatory approach that is the game changer.   Hard to measure perhaps but the essential element of what we now call Community Driven Development or CDD, is an approach that the very people targeted by development efforts are those making decisions about what those efforts should be.  

So what have we learned about how CDD projects work?   A good CDD project is one where the community decides collectively on what is to be done and engages in managing resources, providing labor, ensuring transparency and ongoing oversight and maintenance.   We also know that typical components of a good CDD project include basic infrastructure and access to services, a livelihood program which helps communities generate income and capacity building within communities.  

A particularly challenging component is often the livelihoods piece and how this is not only launched but sustained and, by necessity linked to markets that will ensure a future for any enterprise.  In other words how does small social capital grow into bigger economic capital? How do we make the poor a bankable proposition?  In India, over nine million poor women are organized into village level self-help groups which has resulted in savings of over $350 million on the one hand and credit flows from commercial banks to the community groups reaching around $1 billion.    This frees them from the shackles of informal exploitative money lenders to competitive pricing of credit.   It has also been demonstrated in India that direct market linkages (in other words cutting out the middleman) has tilted the terms of trade in favor of the poor and pushed the prices they receive up by 30 to 40%.

The now famous Kecamantan Development Project in Indonesia has expanded since its inception in 1998 to a National Community Empowerment Program that embraces the entire country as Indonesia’s flagship poverty alleviation program.   This program has generated village level employment which saw the participation of women and rural poor of up to 45%.   The number of households moving out of poverty in poor districts was nearly 10% higher where the Kecamantan project was working compared to non-project areas.      Interestingly, local government bodies in Indonesia have begun to own the CDD approach often competing with each other on human development indicators to win better resources.

An important lesson learned in Brazil was that simple rules of the game which delegate power and decision making to community associations have a major impact on spending efficiency as well as human development outcomes. Participatory planning empowers local communities to be more vigilant about cost savings on projects including at bidding and procurement stages as well as the implementation of their plans.   Experience offers some useful insights which need to be kept in perspective as we tweak the design of the Morocco program to enhance its impact.    For instance: to maintain trust and interest in their community programs, local stakeholders need to see their own choices and project preferences translated into concrete actions.   It is critical that there be convergence between bottom-up participatory plans and top-down sector budgets to ensure effective alignments of priorities.     Ensuring that local community ideas don’t get lost in local officialdom is key to align demand and supply.

The harvesting of lessons from CDD is a new and ongoing business. The CDD approach is relatively new in the development world and has evolved only over the last decade or so. As the approach rests firmly in the hands of communities by design, the social mobilization which must necessarily underpin this takes time and patience. I say this because Morocco is well positioned now to learn the lessons of others and to begin gathering its own. Morocco’s CDD projects of the future can be richly informed.

So let’s look to that future for INDH.  

First, I would like to share that later this year World Bank researchers will come out with a worldwide review of the CDD approach and in 2014 we are expecting a rigorous independent evaluation.   For INDH to be more informed on questions of sustainability, we have yet to achieve results on scaling income generating activities that reach out to millions of poor in a sustainable manner.

Secondly, while the INDH has brought civil society, women and youth to the table, their effective voice and participation in the design and implementation of projects has yet to emerge.   The next enriching step must therefore be more capacity building for these groups so that the quality of their participation in any future INDH can be meaningful.   CDD efforts require longer hand holding and patient and large investments in social mobilization to move from representation to real engagement.

Thirdly, there is strong merit in strengthening the alignment of overall development plans and sector strategies and resources with the cross cutting objectives of INDH.   Greater national and regional ministerial and agency coordination, both at capital investment and O&M stages, in rural, health, education and social development would help in this area.

Fourth, an effective monitoring and evaluation helps in regular feeding into design and implementation, though key challenge is the monitoring of the numerous and small projects.

In conclusion, drawing from these lessons, an enhanced CDD program can be a tremendous ally in helping Morocco move forward on its poverty reduction agenda.