Moroccan king pushes for stronger growth of occupied Sahara
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A concept note on a new model specifically geared towards social and economical development of the ‘southern provinces’ was presented at the Royal Palace in Rabat last week. The mentioned territory is the occupied Western Sahara.
Published 10 January 2013

Photo: Poster of the Moroccan king in a street corner in El Aaiun, occupied Western Sahara.

In defiance of international law and dozens of UN Resolutions, Western Sahara is still largely occupied by Morocco. And while the profits of the illegal exploitation of the territory's natural wealth flow back to the Moroccan treasury, the Moroccan monarch now wants to up the ante.

Just a few months ago, King Mohammed VI of Morocco had mandated the national Economic, Social and Environmental Council (ESEC) to come up with a model targeting the development of the Saharan ‘provinces’. The King had issued the mandate in the aftermath of his 6 November speech last year, commemorating the 37th anniversary of the Green March – the Moroccan invasion of Western Sahara. In his address to the nation, the king had called for a targeted approach.

Further developping Western Sahara fits with the Moroccan strategy of boosting the 'marocanité' of the occupied territory. Jobs created through the illegal usage of Saharawi natural resources are first and foremost given to Moroccan settlers, not Saharawi, who are increasingly relegated to the fringes of society. Financial gains from exploiting the occupied territory end up in the hands of the Moroccan monarchy and allied forces - not the Saharawi people, the rightful owners of the land and the riches harboured therein.

On 2 January 2013, the President of the ESEC, Chakib Benmoussa, was received by the king in his Royal Palace in Rabat, to present a concept note.

The ESEC’s main conclusion confirms the king’s conviction that the ‘southern provinces’ have not reached their full potential by far, and are still lacking economic take-off. The Council now suggests focusing a few points of action, which all hinge upon the exploitation of the territory’s natural resources. Private companies are to become the linchpin of all development in the region. Private capital must be attracted and the region must be open to Foreign Direct Investment, said Benmoussa.

In the coming months, the ESEC will mould its concept note into a full-fledged development plan to turn occupied Western Sahara into a hub for investment. The plan will be presented in October 2013.

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