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Morocco’s all-weather rural roads program, praised by the World Bank and criticized by MPs

While the World Bank praised in a recent article Morocco’s all-weather rural roads program, MPs pointed at the nation-wide plan’s failings. 13 years ago, the World Bank granted Rabat a loan to boost the program.

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The World Bank has praised the outcomes of a program launched by Morocco to improve access to roads for the rural population.

In an article published on its website, Tuesday 7th of August, and entitled «Roads to opportunities : the future for Morocco’s rural population», the international financial institution, spell out the plan it contributed to.

Indeed, 13 years ago, the World Bank partnered with the Moroccan government, after its program dubbed «Programme National de Routes Rurales», allowed 54% of the country’s rural population to have access to an all-weather road in 2005.

The program’s encouraging results, pushed Rabat to seek financial and technical help from the World Bank. The latter boosted the plan, initiated in 1995, with a €180-million-loan, approved through three parts : 2006, 2010, 2014.

The objective for Morocco was to «expand the density of all-weather-rural roads network, curb the accessibility gap between provinces and ensure the development of an enabling environment for better transport services in rural areas», says the bank.

«Every time we travel to the regions targeted by the program, we can witness the incredible impact of this project on people’s living conditions», stated Mari Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Maghreb Country Director.

«From stranded, isolated and poor rural inhabitants, they are now able to move around, access markets and basic services such as going to the hospital or taking their children to school».

The World Bank Maghreb Country Director

According to the World Bank, the program has improved the situation of 15.500 km of rural roads, increasing the share of the rural population having access to an all-weather road from 54% to 80%.

A program criticized by Moroccan MPs

But while the World Bank is praising the nation-wide plan, in February the «Rural Roads National Program» was highly criticized by Moroccan MPs. «On the 31st of July, 2016, one year before the end of its second phase, the program was not implemented as planned and has not reached great results», a group of MPs said earlier this year in a parliament report.

MPs pointed at the program’s dysfunctions, reporting that the estimated annual rate of rural roads’ completion was not respected and the overall cost of the project increased by 27.44%. The report added that only 13.370 km of rural roads have been improved, which accounts for 85% of the plan’s initial objective.

While acknowledging the positive impacts of the program on Morocco's rural population, the report urged the government to «review the standards and auditing» adopted and consider a new approach that would generate economic gains.

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