This comes at the same time as Morocco becomes the major recipient of EU funds. These rare details about Morocco’s 2009 military budget increase were published recently by the Arabic language weekly Nichane, a sister publication of Morocco’s renown French-language Tel Quel magazine.
According to Nichane, "a huge budget has been assessed to the Army through the finance budget of 2009, thus doubling the budget of the previous year."
The weekly adds that "all this happened in the Parliament under silence," asking why this significant budget rise has not been debated publicly.
The Rabat parliament had approved a budget for 2009 that supplies National Defence with a total of Dirham 34.526 billion (euro 3.11 billion).
According to Nichane, this represents a record 16% of Morocco’s national budget, and in real terms, the defence budget approved by parliament is twice the budget of last year.
"Four years before the defence budget did not exceed Dirham 12 billion," the weekly adds. According to Nichane, the doubled defence budget was "making it possible to enter deals to buy sophisticated weapons in order to create equilibrium in the region with Algeria."
Neighbouring Algeria is seen as an arch-rival in Morocco, and blamed for the Moroccan failure to have its occupation of Western Sahara recognised internationally.
The independent weekly expressed its dismay over the lack of openness about the huge increase in military spending, while expressing that it understood the need to spend more on defence as Algeria had a military upper hand.
It noted that during the reign of late King Hassan II, defence budgets were approved in silence by parliament, without public debate, but that under his son and successor Mohamed VI, also defence budgets had been revealed and discussed in the press.
Nichane deplored this setback, in particular at a time when the increase in military spending was doubling.
The huge increase in Morocco’s military spending comes at a time when the Western Sahara conflict is deadlocked and the King insists he will only accept autonomy for the former Spanish colony, while the Saharawi liberation movement POLISARIO demands former peace agreements be respected, which include a referendum over independence.
POLISARIO has threatened to break the 1991 UN-brokered ceasefire, which is overseen by a UN peacekeeping mission, MINURSO.
The doubling of the Moroccan military budget also comes at the same time that the Kingdom’s economy is expected to expand rapidly because of a new treaty giving it an "advanced status" in the EU.
The advanced status opens up EU markets for Moroccan products, but also will give the Kingdom cash transfers from Brussels in order to further its economic development.
According to recent reports by the state-controlled news agency MAP, Morocco will now become the principal recipient of European funds earmarked for the countries of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).
The Kingdom next year will get an annual financial assistance of more than euro 190 million. This financial assistance from the EU has allowed the Rabat government to expand budget spending in all sectors in 2009.