afrol News, 27 February - Foreign investors are shying away from Morocco as protests have turned violent. Moroccan stocks are falling, the tourist sector is seeing cancellations and investor groups discuss what to do.
All over the Middle East and North Africa, stock markets are strongly hit by the regional unrest. Morocco's Casablanca bourse this month has reduced its value from US$ 68.5 billion to US$ 67.3 billion, with the negative tendency increasing during the last weeks.
The Moroccan stock market has been strongly affected by the wave of unrest in North Africa. The Casablanca bourse has dropped almost on a daily basis. The unrest in the entire region has affected Moroccan companies engaged in North Africa and soaring oil prices are costing oil importer Morocco dearly.
Morocco has also seen the region's strongest rise in debt insurance costs, strongly signalling that investors fear possible disruptions in the kingdom's economy. These rising insurance costs cause further strains to the Moroccan national economy and budgets.
But there is an additional source of unrest among possible investors in Morocco, causing the Casablanca stock exchange to drop and debt insurance costs to rise. Investors do fear that Morocco may be the next country of violent protests.
Indeed, violence has been registered on three occasions already. On 30 January, anti-government protests in the northern city of Tangiers were brutally dispersed by security forces. On 20 February, mass protests resulted in five deaths and 138 wounded in Al-Hoceima, Marrakech and Rabat. Yesterday, 26 February, protests in Agadir caused several injured.
Today, protests are organised all over Morocco. So far, the protests are reported to be peaceful, but police forces on earlier occasions only have attacked protesters after the fall of darkness. There are fears of violence and destruction of public and private property.
The signs are frightening for investors. It is a bad sign that Morocco's two major tourist destinations, Agadir and Marrakech, have been among the hotspots o
Construction works at the Tangier beachfront, Morocco
f violence and destruction. In both places, the protests have been small so far, but the violent suppression by police forces could spark further anger, local and foreign businessmen fear.
The Moroccan tourism industry and European tour operators confirm an increasing number of cancellations of Morocco holidays. Many do not consider Morocco a safe destination any longer, with news about the limited unrest in Agadir sure to cause a new wave of cancellations.
The latest figures on flights to Morocco indicate that the kingdom is quickly losing market shares. In the first week of February, flights to Morocco fell by 23 percent; the next week it fell by another 24 percent. Major tourist destination Marrakech saw even greater drops in arrivals, according to statistics by 'Go Voyages'.
Also locally, foreign investors doing business in Morocco now express their concern. For example the Turkish Embassy in Rabat is already calling on Turkish firms to declare their amount of investments in Morocco in preparation of a probable unrest. Turkish companies have invested an estimate US$ 1.3 billion in Morocco.
Some businessmen are already gripped by fear. Nihat Çiftçi, a businessman living outside Casablanca, told the Turkish daily 'Hürriyet' that "I am scared for my children and wife." He added: "Most of my regular customers have started to cancel their orders, as they know that sooner or later their shops will be looted."
Other investors however are more confident in the Moroccan market, believing the situation will stabilise and emphasising that the protest movement so far has been rather small and peaceful.
But this confidence, and Moroccan authorities' constant assurances that the situation is under control, cannot disguise the fact that there is already a large divestment ongoing in Morocco. Trust has already been shaken.
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