(30 Jan 2018) LEADIN:
Morocco is loosening controls on its national currency, in a move that the kingdom hopes will boosts its bid to be an African economic powerhouse.
But citizens in the capital city of Rabat have mixed feelings.
Everyone is watching the exchange rate of the Moroccan dirham.
Earlier this month, a decision was taken by the finance ministry to launch a new policy.
It would allow the dirham's value to float in international trading, within a five-percent range.
This float was initially scheduled for last year but delayed after some panic selling, amid fears of inflation or instability.
Yet last Monday's trading was calm, with the dirham staying around 9.2 to the US dollar.
Ratings agency Moody's said it "does not expect any major currency disruptions or depreciation pressure" because Morocco has good growth prospects and high foreign exchange reserves.
But for Mohammed Charki, a journalist specialising in economics at the website Al Hayat, this decision will have direct and negative consequences on people's budgets.
"It imports just a few things, like sugar and wheat but that is not a huge thing on its total trade balance. What is important is that Morocco imports its energy."
"So, on this point, there will be high consequences for the budgets of families who travel, who have cars. It will increase for sure."
Morocco decided to transform its dirham flexibility gradually.
And Charki says authorities know this will be a long transformation.
"Morocco knows that this decision will take time to achieve its final point, maybe 10 or 15 years or even more, to reach a total flexibility."
At a local petrol station in the Agdal area, consumers face ever-changing prices.
"For example it can be 9.61 dirham (1.05 US dollars) or sometimes it can be 9.72 dirhams (1.06 US dollars). And again today it's increasing. It's now 9.83 dirhams (1.07 US dollars)," says Ibrahim Ait Alla, as he fills up his car.
Mohammed Boussaid, Minister of Economy and Finance and Abdellatif Jouahri, Governor of the Bank of Morocco, held a news conference on 18 January where they tried to explain what is happening.
They said the move is "aimed at strengthening the resilience of the national economy to external shocks, supporting its competitiveness and improving its level of growth".
Despite this explanation, there seems to be confusion among Moroccans.
There is much talk on social media but not everyone is seeing a drastic change.
"I did not feel what people were writing on social media about the fact that now prices are going to increase significantly. But everything is possible, especially in the coming months because the decision has just been made. So we have to wait to see if there will be a real change on prices," says Rabat resident El Arbi Boudane.
The International Monetary Fund has long urged Morocco to open up the dirham to expand its global trading prospects.
And authorities said the new policy would help with "integration into the global economy".
But some don't think that Morocco is strong enough to hold up against European currencies.
"I mean, we live in a poor country so it's not a good thing," says local resident, Abdelhakim Zoubir.
"The European Union, for example, is one of the richest area in the world, so we can not compete with them or even compare us to them."
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