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Morocco, IMF, World Bank Say October Meetings Will Proceed

Hammou Baha Ali, 80, searches for his belongings in the ruins of a house, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Talat N'Yaaqoub, Morocco September 15, 2023.

WASHINGTON — The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and Morocco on Monday announced the annual meetings of the two global institutions would proceed in October in Marrakech, despite a recent nearby earthquake that killed more than 2,900 people.

The meeting will take place from Oct. 9-15 in Marrakech, just 45 miles (72 km) from the site of the 6.8-magnitude earthquake on Sept. 8, with some changes to adapt content "to the circumstances," World Bank President Ajay Banga, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and Morocco's Economy Minister Nadia Fettah Alaoui said in a joint statement.

Senior IMF and World Bank officials made the decision, first reported by Reuters, at the direct request of the Moroccan authorities who had pressed the global institutions to proceed with the gathering which is expected to bring some 10,000-15,000 to the Moroccan tourist hub.

"As we look ahead to the meetings, it is of utmost importance that we conduct them in a way that does not hamper the relief efforts under way and that is respectful to the victims and the Moroccan people," the three officials said.

"At this very difficult time, we believe that the Annual Meetings also provide an opportunity for the international community to stand by Morocco and its people, who have once again shown resilience in the face of tragedy. We also remain committed to ensuring the safety of all participants.”

Georgieva told Reuters on Friday that Morocco's prime minister told her it would be "quite devastating" for Morocco's hospitality sector if the meetings were moved to a different location.

Homeless Moroccan Speaks on Earthquake

Homeless Moroccan Speaks on Earthquake
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Wafae Agourri, a Morrocan resident of Talat N’Yaaqoub, one of the cities that suffered extensive damage from last week’s historic earthquake that has claimed at least 2,900 lives, says she lives in fear and uncertainty after losing all her possessions to the natural disaster.

Moroccans Unite Post Historic Earthquake

Moroccans Unite Post Historic Earthquake
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Moroccans have united and showcased acts of kindness towards survivors of the recent historic 6.8-magnitude earthquake killed at least 2,900 people and injured more than 5,500. For more, VOA’s Lisa Bryant visited the Atlas Mountains and produced this report.

Morocco Says IMF, World Bank Meetings to Proceed Despite Quake

Tents sheltering people who were affected by the earthquake, in the town of Amizmiz, outside Marrakech, Morocco, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023.

MARRAKECH/WASHINGTON — Morocco insisted on Thursday that Marrakech will host International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings in October despite the recent devastating earthquake, but the two institutions have not committed to the plan, three people familiar with their deliberations said.

The IMF and World Bank are still assessing whether the Oct. 9-15 meetings can be safely held in Marrakech, just 45 miles (72 kilometers) from the site of the 6.8-magnitude quake that killed more than 2,900 people last Friday.

The meetings would bring 10,000 to 15,000 people to the tourist hub, which suffered some damage to its ancient medina quarter and is the main conduit for relief efforts to areas worst-hit by the quake in the High Atlas Mountains.

Officials at the IMF and World Bank are assessing whether the meetings would inhibit recovery efforts, the sources said on condition of anonymity because the deliberations are private.

Other considerations are security and lodging safety and whether Marrakech's infrastructure, including water and power systems and hospitals can handle the influx of people without straining the country's resources.

Morocco's central bank governor, Abdellatif Jouahri, told a "Road to Marrakech" central banking conference on Thursday that the meetings would take place as planned, in one of the first official government comments on the matter. The conference was being held in preparation for the meetings, he said.

A spokesperson for Morocco's embassy in Washington also told Reuters in an email: "I am pleased to inform you that the government of Morocco will go ahead with the annual meeting as scheduled despite the earthquake."

Pressing for an answer

The comments showed strong pressure from the North African country for the IMF and World Bank to forge ahead with meetings that would bring significant revenue to Morocco and shine a global spotlight on its resilience and strong economic policies.

The institutions have traditionally held their annual meetings every third year in a member country, and the Marrakech meetings have already been delayed two years in a row due to COVID-19.

Spokespeople for the World Bank and IMF declined to comment on the institutions' deliberations over the meetings, referring reporters to a Sept. 10 joint statement expressing solidarity with and financial support for Morocco and a "willingness to support Morocco in the best way possible."

An IMF spokesperson said however, that past annual meetings abroad, including in Bali in 2018, provided a boost to host country tourism and local business owners, with the tourism impact alone "estimated in the tens of millions of dollars."

The sources familiar with the deliberations said the site for the Marrakech meetings, a campus of temporary structures and large tents on the outskirts, was undamaged and functioning.

One of the sources said the Bank and Fund were considering how the structures could be repurposed later for relief efforts and how the meeting agenda could focus on aid.

Moroccans Show Resilience Amid Earthquake Aftermath

Moroccans Show Resilience Amid Earthquake Aftermath
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Moroccans are applauding rescue efforts and aid initiatives driven by locals in the aftermath of a historic 6.8 magnitude earthquake, arguing the acts are a demonstration of the nation’s resilience and “the spirit of the people.” For more, reporter Emmanuel Moadjidibaye visited Moulay Brahim, one of the affected villages and produced this story that was narrated by VOA’s Arzouma Kompaore.