Morocco: how state corruption works

There is an excellent, multifaceted investigation of corruption involving licenses attributed by the state for the use of quarries in state lands that has recently been published in Lakome, the independent Moroccan news website. As editor Aboubakr Jamai explains in a  companion editorial piece, the investigations details how members of the royal cabinet, their relatives, and other well-connected people have had privileged access to sand and other quarries, often through companies that barely have a legal existence, pay no taxes, and operate in very shadowy circumstances.

The corruption surrounding access to quarries has long been a commonly known fact about Morocco, a country with a long coastline and where sand quarrying in particular often takes place in an often unregulated away — something environmentalists have long complained about, since the quarrying takes place at times in what should be protected areas (the beautiful Atlantic beaches near Tangier and Asilah in the north are a case in point). But Lakome's investigation takes one rather banal type of corruption and paints a picture of such "state capture" takes place. You can probably imagine the same things happen for, say, touya wood felling in the Middle Atlas or fishing licenses that often go to senior army officers. 

This is precisely the type of in-depth investigative journalism that is so rare in the Arab world — using even inadequate public data to understand how one particular type of corruption works, which can tell you a lot not only about where money flows (and doesn't flow — the municipalities where these quarries are losing out on revenue that could go to facilities for locals) but also about how power flows. And it's not a pretty picture for a monarchy that boasts of being headed by a "king of the poor." 


Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region,