Morocco Seeks to Diversify Partnerships, Create Shared Zone of Peace, Security

Canberra  –   Morocco bears a clear vision to diversify its partnerships and establish a shared zone of peace and prosperity, said Youssef Amrani, chargé de mission at the Royal Office.Speaking at a conference in Canberra at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Amrani highlighted the multi-dimensional reforms undertaken by Morocco, following the adoption of the 2011 Constitution, which made the Kingdom a stable democratic country, in a region that witnessed several changes.Amrani also gave an overview of the Moroccan approach in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, and shed light on its security, socio-economic and religious dimensions, which enabled Morocco to preserve its security and its stability. In addition to the security aspect, the Moroccan approach in this area is centered around inclusive human development, he noted, adding that several reforms have been undertaken in the religious field and actions were taken to promote a tolerant Islam.Amrani also tackled the latest developments in the Middle East and North Africa region, which is facing many threats due to persistent crises that benefit terrorist groups and their jihadist propaganda.According to him, the challenges facing Libya and Iraq, the persistence of the Syrian crisis and its consequences on the region, in addition to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict pose threats to the region and even beyond in the Sahel and Europe.The solution to current crises require a more comprehensive, coherent and pragmatic regional approach, in tune with the realities of each country in the region and in line with the aspirations and legitimate needs of the people, he pointed out.Thus, the respect of the fundamental principles of national unity, sovereignty and the territorial integrity of States are prerequisites to achieving stability, Amrani said.It is also important to provide clear answers to the different questions of identity by going beyond the existing divisions in a framework of dialogue, living together and understanding, he added.Amrani also highlighted the convergence of the respective positions of Morocco and Australia on major international issues and their common commitment to the values of dialogue, peace and openness. read more

Liberals to face Senate as showdown looms over infrastructure bank plan

OTTAWA — The government’s plan to create a new $35-billion infrastructure bank is facing a rocky road as senators stand poised to rewrite the Liberals’ budget bill and delay creation of the financing agency.An independent senator will ask the Senate next week to separate out the legislation creating the so-called infrastructure bank from the larger budget bill to give the upper chamber more time to debate the proposal.Whether Sen. Andre Pratte has enough support is unclear, but he said there is interest from Conservatives, Liberals and independents who want more time to review the legislation.The Liberal government’s plan is to use public funds through the bank to leverage billions more from investors to pay for large projects, such as rail lines, bridges and transit systems that may be too expensive for governments, or too risky for private companies to handle alone.Morneau says new infrastructure bank to shield taxpayers from project risksNew questions about taxpayer risk in Ottawa’s infrastructure bank are being raised, documents showPratte said several senators remain unconvinced about the plan after a preliminary study of the proposal, citing concerns about the agency’s independence, transparency and the degree to which taxpayers will be exposed to financial risk.“In many senators minds, those hearings have actually pointed to more issues to be studied,” said the Quebec senator who was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.“There are issues and questions that have arisen that point to more concern, rather than less.”The Liberals say they see no reason to separate the bank from the rest of the bill that implements elements of the federal budget.Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi said the government wants to get the bank up and running by the end of the year, including appointing a chief executive and board of directors and can’t do that without parliamentary approval for the bill.“The Canada infrastructure bank is such an integral part of our overall infrastructure plan and it really ties into the budget process and that’s why it’s there,” Sohi said before Wednesday’s caucus meeting.“Having it … as part of the broader budget legislation makes sense so we can get on with delivering on the commitments that we made to Canadians.”The Liberals continued to face flak over the plan in the House of Commons on Wednesday amid concerns the government is putting taxpayer dollars at risk in order to lure private investment, details of which have been outlined in internal government documents obtained by The Canadian Press.The documents say taxpayers may bear significant risk in projects where the government takes an equity stake, provide a loss buffer to private investors in other instances, or invest on equal footing but at “concessionary terms” with ownership reverting to a city or province at the end of a term.The documents obtained under the Access to Information Act also show the bank could use innovative financing tools like derivatives and contributions that are repayable based on certain benchmarks.Finance Minister Bill Morneau defended the bank in an interview Tuesday, saying the agency would reduce the risk to taxpayers should there be cost overruns on projects. On Wednesday, Trudeau said Canadians were on side with the government’s overall infrastructure plan that included a “world-class infrastructure bank” to deliver more projects that communities need.Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was unconvinced: “The leverage comes from using taxpayers money to guarantee profits for investors and that’s not right.”The Liberals plan to avoid overly risky projects. All proposals would require government approval before the agency could strike a financing deal and funding would flow on a project-by-project basis.That process left a Senate committee unconvinced that the government had struck the right balance between oversight of public funds and giving the agency the ability to make decisions on projects absent political interference. A report released Wednesday by the Senate banking committee also pointed to cabinet’s ability to hire and fire the CEO and chair of the board as issues that the government needs to address.“The whole idea of the infrastructure bank is to ensure good investments for Canadians and returns for Canadians, but as soon as you get cabinet involved in it, it becomes political,” said committee chairman Sen. David Tkachuk.The Canadian Press read more