- The most prominent feature of the new budget bill, that ended all stages of discussion and parliamentary approval, is the controversy raised by Article 9.
- Abdul Latif Wehbe, a member of the opposition, took the opportunity to attack the Justice Minister Mustafa Ramid for opposing Article 9.
- Another amendment which the government vetoed would have exempted retirees from the income tax.
On Wednesday evening, the Moroccan House of Representatives approved the draft of financial law for the year 2020, in a second reading that followed the approval of the Chamber of Advisors last week. The bill passed in the House by a vote of 171 deputies to 62.
The most prominent feature of the new budget bill, that ended all stages of discussion and parliamentary approval, is the controversy raised by Article 9. The provision would prevent the seizure of state property in order to implement final court rulings. The article caused severe political division, and strong protests by jurists, lawyers, and some judges.
This article had survived amendment in the House of Councillors last Friday, despite the sharp divisions it caused in the lower chamber of Parliament. The article made it out of Parliament in the second reading that ended Wednesday, as the House of Representatives had approved it almost unanimously.
Today’s session, however, which witnessed the final approval of the budget bill, was not without political debate. Abdul Latif Wehbe, a member of the opposition Authenticity and Modernity Party, took the opportunity to attack Justice Minister Mustafa Ramid for opposing Article 9, despite being a member of the Justice and Development Party-led government.
As expected, the government canceled some important amendments that were made by the House of Councillors, during the meeting of the Finance Committee in the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning. This was prior to the holding of a public session to vote on the law. During the meeting, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Mohamed Benchaaboun, used Chapter 77 of the Constitution to reject amendments made by the House of Councilors. This provision gives the government the right to reject any amendment that reduces budget revenues.
The most prominent of these amendments which the government vetoed would have exempted retirees from the income tax, and would have been applied automatically to the salaries of nearly two million Moroccan retirees. It also would have cost the government approximately 1.5 billion Dirhams, or more than $150 million. The minister said, explaining the move, that it is not consistent with another amendment that was accepted in the House of Representatives, which gives retirees an additional tax deduction on income, and makes 60 percent of their salaries exempt from any tax.
The Democratic Labor Confederation, which is one of the unions represented in the House of Councilors, submitted this proposal in the voting session of the budget bill last week. They attempted to pass it suddenly, benefitting from the confusion that occurred in the ranks of the government, due to the controversy regarding Article 9.
The Minister of Economy and Finance dropped other amendments that were introduced to the financial bill in the House of Councilors, which sparked the protest of some parliamentary groups, especially from the opposition. They condemned the use of this “veto” against amendments that were not proposed in the House of Representatives, and the government could reject it in the House of Councilors instead of letting it be approved.