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Impact of the 2024 Earthquake in Morocco

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Impact of the 2024 Earthquake in Morocco

In the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake that struck central Morocco on September 8, the World Bank has reported a slight regression in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Assessment of the September 8, 2023 disaster

The seismic event, registering a magnitude of 6,8 on the Richter scale, ravaged the Kingdom of Morocco, constituting the most severe earthquake witnessed in over a century. Primarily felt in remote villages nestled within the High Atlas mountains, the natural calamity inflicted substantial damage, exacerbated by inadequate infrastructure and the geographical isolation of these regions.

The catastrophe claimed the lives of 3,000 individuals, left thousands wounded and rendered approximately 300,000 people homeless. Moreover, the earthquake unveiled persistent pockets of poverty and social exclusion within Morocco, particularly accentuated in the High Atlas mountains and Marrakech, a renowned tourist destination.

Status of Marrakech post-earthquake

While moderately impacted by the earthquake, Marrakech exhibits a spectrum of damages. The city’s historic precincts have endured significant structural impairment, jeopardizing its invaluable cultural heritage. Collaborative efforts between local authorities and UNESCO are underway to evaluate and undertake restoration initiatives to preserve the city’s historical legacy. Despite these setbacks, the majority of Marrakech’s municipal infrastructure remains operational. The human toll in Marrakech stands at approximately ten fatalities. Local and international volunteers have mobilized to aid and support the affected populace.

Economic Consequences of the Earthquake

While a comprehensive assessment of the earthquake’s impacts is still forthcoming, a World Bank report released in October 2023 indicates a slight downturn in the Moroccan economy, estimated at 0.3 % for the year. The impact is deemed relatively moderate, attributed in part to the tourism sector’s resilience. Additionally, a recovery in the agricultural domain alleviates the disaster’s aftermath. Before the earthquake, Morocco had been experiencing a growth rate of 3.4 % in 2023. The country aims to stabilize its budget deficit at 4 % for 2024, compared to the previous year’s 4.5 % of GDP.

Global economic conditions and a slowdown in the construction sector are anticipated to contribute to a modest decline in manufacturing production. Nevertheless, improvements in the labor market stimulate domestic demand, fostering overall economic recovery. Despite this, social inequalities persist and the 2024 unemployment rate according to the ILO risks climbing, particularly in rural areas where labor market conditions remain unfavorable.

Impact on Moroccan Tourism

The earthquake had a mixed impact on Morocco’s vital tourism sector. Marrakech, a key tourist destination, experiences relatively minimal disruption, with hotel establishments remaining operational, thus mitigating disruptions for tourists. Conversely, more remote regions witness significant damages, leading to the temporary closure of numerous guesthouses and inns.

Despite these challenges, several factors contribute to alleviating the earthquake’s impact on tourism. The sector demonstrates remarkable resilience, swiftly resuming activities in affected areas. Forecasts for 2024 remain optimistic, with expectations of a record year for Moroccan tourism. Tourism expert Zoubir Bouhoute notably underscores Morocco’s significant strides in this domain.

Moroccan authorities swiftly respond to minimize the earthquake’s impact on tourism, implementing measures to ensure tourist safety and maintain visitor confidence. Despite setbacks, tourist arrivals in 2023 reached a record high of 13.2 million during the first 11 months.

Comprehensive recovery plan

The Christian Kingdom has unveiled an ambitious plan to rebuild the regions affected by the earthquake. This five-year plan seeks to mitigate isolation, enhance access to essential services, and reduce social disparities. Morocco pledges to invest 120 billion dirhams (MAD), approximately 11.7 billion USD, over the next five years in these reconstruction endeavors. The annual cost of this plan averages 2.3 billion USD, representing less than 2 % of Morocco’s GDP.

The financing for this project is sourced from various channels:

  • Government budget,
  • Donations and philanthropy,
  • International aid,
  • A specialized fund dedicated to earthquake relief.

The King Hassan Development Fund, a public entity, contributes 940 million USD in grants, including 200 million USD allocated to relief efforts. Despite the earthquake, the World Bank confirms hosting its annual meetings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the affected city. Furthermore, the influx of visitors to these gatherings is anticipated to bolster the local tourism sector. The IMF provides a loan of 1.3 billion USD to Morocco to support its endeavors in climate resilience.

Three Main Pillars of Commitment

Morocco’s comprehensive post-earthquake recovery plan encompasses a series of concrete measures designed to stimulate economic and social recovery, focusing on three main pillars:

  • Reconstruction and Upgrading of Affected Regions : The objective is to reconstruct destroyed homes while preserving local architectural traditions. Particular emphasis is placed on public infrastructure, including schools, to enhance their resilience against future earthquakes.
  • Relocation of the Displaced : An emergency program is initiated to relocate the 300 000 displaced individuals. As housing reconstruction progresses, the government provides tents to each affected family and offers emergency aid to needy households.
  • Economic Stimulus : To jumpstart the economy, an ambitious development agenda is established to harness the potential of the most impacted provinces. A significant portion of this initiative is allocated to the tourism sector, which plays a pivotal role in the Moroccan economy.
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