Morocco’s grey list exit boosts hopes of financial revival – African Business

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In 2020, a significant police investigation revealed an elaborate cash laundering scheme by which Moroccan drug sellers performed a significant function.

The authorities discovered that the proceeds of Moroccan hash have been being laundered, by the acquisition of gold, into Dubai. As a result of the large-scale organised crime teams obtained illicit funds for the drug in small denomination money notes, that are virtually unusable for giant purchases, the teams bought gold bullion and exported the commodity to Dubai.

Upon arrival, customs officers handled the cargo as solely official. As soon as in Dubai, the gold might then be offered, and the proceeds stashed away in financial institution accounts. This raised severe query marks over the compliance practices of monetary establishments each within the Gulf and North Africa.

It was on this context of rising fears that Moroccan banks have been failing to implement anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) rules successfully that the Monetary Motion Activity Drive (FATF), a world cash laundering watchdog, positioned Morocco on its “gray listing” in early 2021. The FATF reported Rabat’s failure to adjust to the watchdog’s rules and instructed the nation’s monetary intelligence models have been too weak to struggle monetary crime.

The transfer was a significant blow to Morocco’s status as an funding hub, with the nation being positioned in the identical class as Yemen and Syria, denting international funding. Whereas figures particular to Morocco aren’t but out there, it’s estimated that Pakistan’s placement on the FATF gray listing has value it $38bn in financial exercise. Given the elevated monitoring that international locations on the gray listing are topic to, the transfer additionally elevated compliance prices for Morocco’s banks by obliging them to undertake extra rigorous AML processes. Placement on the gray listing can even impression a rustic’s potential to lift capital on sovereign debt markets by implying larger threat for international traders.

Nonetheless, after a sequence of political and regulatory reforms undertaken by the Moroccan authorities, the FATF has now eliminated the nation from the gray listing, announcing in late February that Morocco is “not topic to elevated monitoring by the FATF.”

The watchdog mentioned that Morocco had “strengthened the effectiveness of its AML/CFT regime,” by “enhancing its worldwide cooperation mechanisms, strengthening AML/CFT supervision, [and] strengthening transparency of authorized individuals.” Reforms of the nation’s police power additionally imply that Morocco is now higher positioned to confiscate the proceeds of crime and conduct profitable cash laundering operations.

Moroccan economic system set to learn

What might this transfer imply for Morocco and the Moroccan economic system?

The primary potential impression is an oblique one. The transfer is probably going to enhance Rabat’s status considerably amongst international traders and decrease its threat profile, in flip encouraging extra traders to commit capital to Morocco. The Moroccan authorities has stated that the FATF resolution “will strengthen Morocco’s picture and its positioning in negotiations with worldwide monetary establishments, in addition to the arrogance of international traders within the nationwide economic system.”

International direct funding (FDI) into Morocco barely declined between 2021 and 2022, partly in mild of the FATF resolution, however a decrease threat profile might additionally permit Morocco to regain floor by way of attracting extra FDI. The potential financial significance of the transfer was instantly felt on the Casablanca Inventory Trade, the place the principle index strengthened by 1.6% following the FATF’s announcement.

That is significantly essential within the context of sovereign debt. Morocco has introduced plans to situation a dollar-denominated bond, mandating world funding banks BNP Paribas, Citi, Deutsche Financial institution, and JP Morgan to run the method of issuing its first bond for 2 years. An improved status on worldwide markets ought to drive up demand for this bond, elevating the quantity of capital that Morocco can elevate and decreasing borrowing prices.

The deputy managing director of the IMF, Kenji Okamura, visited Morocco earlier this month and emphasised that “the Fund has been actively engaged with Morocco, together with by 4 successive Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL) preparations,” in an indication of how Morocco’s relationship with worldwide monetary establishments is enhancing in mild of its monetary reforms.

Excellent news for Morocco’s credit score scores

It has been instructed that Morocco’s credit standing, with worldwide companies similar to Fitch Rankings, may be upgraded in mild of the FATF’s resolution. Of their final report in November 2022, Fitch outlined that Morocco’s credit score fundamentals are supported by a number of components however are additionally set in opposition to “weak improvement and governance indicators.”

Fitch additionally famous that they did “not count on Morocco to faucet worldwide markets because of much less beneficial exterior funding circumstances,” each for Morocco and rising markets typically. Nonetheless, each of those circumstances could also be set to vary, with the FATF publicly asserting the progress made on strengthening AML and CFT controls and Morocco having more and more beneficial entry to capital markets consequently.

There are nonetheless financial challenges for Morocco to grapple with. For one, the nation is dealing with its worst drought in three many years, dampening Morocco’s agricultural exports and driving up home inflation, with prices rising at an historic excessive of 8.2% in January 2023.

Nonetheless, the reforms the federal government has made to Morocco’s compliance, AML, and CFT processes will definitely assist to make the economic system extra resilient. By strengthening Morocco’s status on worldwide markets and enhancing Rabat’s potential to lift cheaper capital, the nation could also be higher geared up to navigate financial volatility.


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