This phrase “between tradition and modernity” is a moto that you hear all the time in Morocco, on the news, in reports, and about almost everything.
The modern riads that serve as guest houses off the books is “between tradition and modernity“, the craft centres, the young people who invest and go to “Challenger” (a program of the TV channel 2M which puts in competition young people wanting to create a company, on the same principle as Britains got Talent, They are coached throughout the competition by professionals, and the winners receive funding), all this is “between tradition and modernity“, and one sometimes thinks that “tradition” also means backwardness, in equipment, in the organization of administrations… In short, you can’t stay a week in Morocco without hearing this phrase.
On the way back from Agadir to Marrakesh, it took on a new meaning.
A reform of the highway code was introduced a few weeks ago, which modifies the process for fines payement.
Before, it was simple. The police officer would write you a ticket, the ticket would go to your local court, and you would pay it, or you would manage not to pay it. Or you had to convince the policeman before he wrote the ticket, and discreetly slip him a little something.
This type of light corruption is endemic in Morocco. Without judging, it is enough to know some figures.
A policeman earns 3,000 dirhams a month, plus free accommodation, so all in all, about 3,500-3,700 dirhams a month. This is less than twice the Moroccan minimum salary, which is 1,900 dirhams net per month.
On top of that, the gendarme or policeman has to feed his family and save for the future, since his pension will be around 2,000 dirhams per month, and that’s without his official accommodation.
This is very little.
A kilo of meat costs about 65 to 70 dirhams, bread to feed the family for one meal will cost 10 dirhams. Electricity is expensive, petrol is 11 dirhams a litre, social security is minimal (long illnesses are taken into account, not the small daily injuries)…
The speeding ticket is 400 dirhams. For the offender, who does not always earn much more than the gendarme, this is a huge sum. Even for a speeding ticket of 10 kilometres per hour, you have to pay 400 dirhams.
So we discuss, we try to win the gendarme’s sympathy, sometimes it works, sometimes we have to add 50 or 100 dirhams, and everyone wins, everyone except the state.
So the government decides to change all that. It is no longer necessary to leave the possibility of stopping the fines to the court, people must be obliged to pay them.
The new regulation is simple: you pay the 400 dirhams immediately, in exchange for a receipt, or your licence is withdrawn. In exchange for your licence, you receive a paper authorising you to drive for three days, and after three days you have to go and collect your licence from the court in the town where the offence was committed.
Even worse than paying the 400 dirhams, for Moroccans who travel for work, guides, drivers who transport tourists or goods from Agadir to Tangier for example.
So one prefers to pay right away, which is what the government intended.
The devil is in the details…
But here we are, since we pay right away, it is now legal to give money to a policeman (which was not the case before). It’s hard to tell from afar whether the money received by the official is the money for the ticket, or the 50 or 100 dirhams that will make everyone happy and put some more meat in the evening’s tajine.
Between tradition and modernity, the new reform of the highway code, which was supposed to reduce corruption, has opened the door wide.
This was particularly evident on the road from Agadir to Marrakesh. It is a difficult road, not in very good condition everywhere (although of above-average quality) with lots of mountains, steep climbs, many curves, and also lots of trucks, especially those taking the Sous region’s vegetable and fruit production all over Morocco and abroad.
For the passenger car, stuck behind the big truck, it’s an ordeal.
For the refrigerated lorry, stuck behind the dusty cattle truck that barely exceeds 30 km per hour on the slopes, it is also an ordeal and a monetary risk if it does not manage to deliver in time.
So everyone overtakes, paying attention but ignoring the white lines, and when they can, everyone goes fast, beyond the authorised speeds.
Usually on this road there are 2 or 3 police checks.
This time we counted 7.
Because we can pay the fine right away?
And when we arrive in Marrakesh, on the side of the road, there are some superb automatic radars. They can’t receive money, the data will be processed in a totally computerised way… but they don’t work yet.
This is a translation of a post originally published on the website of our tours agency, in January 2007. After business and website closed, the French version can be read here. It was updated in September 2019 :
The figures change, the principle remains the same
The Moroccan minimum salary has evolved considerably, to just over 2,500 dirhams net per month. The police officer’s salary has also increased slightly, but not as much.
The beginning policeman earns 3,000 dirhams net. He will painfully reach 4,500 – 5,000 dirhams at the end of his career, if he does not become a police officer.
The radars are finally in service, after several years of waiting.