The economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 virus weighed heavily on public finances in 2020, with the budget deficit increasing sharply to 7.6 percent of GDP against 4.1 percent in 2019, Morocco’s central bank (Bank Al-Maghrib) underlines in its 2020 annual report.

The Treasury’s debt ratio worsened by 11.6 points to 76.4 percent of GDP. This change reflects a drastic fall in tax resources following the contraction in economic activity and an upsurge in spending, mainly on investment, according to the report which was presented Saturday to HM the King by the Bank’s Governor Abdellatif Jouahri.

The impact on the budget has been greatly mitigated by the creation, upon Royal Instructions, of a special fund for the management of the pandemic, which has raised 34.6 billion dirhams, two thirds of which were collected through a wave of solidarity from businesses and households, the source adds. To cope with the sharp increase in its financing needs, the Treasury has, in addition to increasing its fundraising on the domestic market, resorted massively to external resources, for a record amount of 62.9 billion dirhams, including 37.5 billion through two bond issues on the international financial market.

Such operations have required removing the ceiling of external financing initially set by the 2020 Finance Law at 31 billion dirhams. In addition, in order to strengthen foreign currency assets, and as a preventive measure, the authorities drew on the IMF’s precautionary and liquidity line for around 3 billion dollars put at the disposal of the central bank. In view of this crisis, the government was prompted to draft an Amending Finance Law (AFL) in July, the first since 1990, the source recalls, adding that this law marked a sharp downward revision of the growth outlook, adjusted resources, re-prioritised certain expenditures and revised the budget deficit target from 3.7 percent to 7.5 percent of GDP.