King Mohammed VI of Morocco ordered wage raises for his North African kingdom’s public and private sectors, along with increases in pensions that also benefit the army, paramilitary police, auxiliary forces and civil rescue services.
The cost of the treasury is estimated to be more than $5 billion over three years as demands for reform put pressure on the Arab world’s longest-serving dynasty.
His action comes ahead of the Labor Day demonstrations that have been planned by Moroccans concerned by inflation, joblessness, and corruption in government.
The king’s fiat, the official MAP news agency said, depicts the “benevolent regard he has not ceased to grant to the improvement of the conditions of all the social components of the Moroccan society, especially the families” of the army.
The Royal Armed Forces, as the Moroccan army is known, “ensure, under ... (the king's) high command, the defense of the kingdom's territorial integrity, security and stability,” MAP said.
By law, Morocco is a constitutional monarchy but the constitution grants the king wide prerogatives including the appointment of the prime minister and the dissolution of parliament.
King Mohammed, 47, who is also the supreme commander of the army, promised last month a constitutional reform that should limit his political clout by allowing the prime minister to be elected and make the judiciary independent.
The pledged wage rises, along with other handouts, have not stemmed street protests spearheaded by the February 20 Movement the youth-led group. The monarchy is trying to prevent a spillover of popular revolt from other North African countries.
Tens of thousands of Moroccans marched peacefully on Sunday to demand reforms, according to Reuters.
The government reached the agreement before Labor Day marches on May 1. Analysts had been expecting the government to speed up an agreement with the unions ahead of Labor Day when the February 20 Movement has said it will join trade union marches.
The agreement grants public sector employees a net 600 dirhams ($80) per month increase as of May 1. The minimum pension for public and private sector pensioners is to go up almost 70 percent to 1,000 dirhams (or nearly $100) per month.
Some members of the paramilitary police, civil rescue and the auxiliary forces—the latter often used to tame protests and fight riots—have taken to the social networking website Facebook to demand better pay and working conditions.
Put together, the army, paramilitary police, auxiliary forces and civil rescue number about 220,000. The army has an additional reserve numbering about 120,000.
Morocco has an estimated population of 32 million people.
In a March 9 speech, King Mohammed VI announced major political changes to increase judicial independence and the separation of powers, according to Agence-France Presse.
The next day, he established a commission tasked with proposing changes to the constitution by June.
Two weeks ago, the king pardoned or cut the sentences of 190 detainees, including Islamist and Sahrawi political prisoners.
(Abeer Tayel of Al Arabiya can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)