Morocco's parliament on Wednesday passed the 2012 budget that targets a deficit below 5 per cent and subjects corporates and alcohol to higher taxes as the government seeks to reduce wide social inequalities and tame protests over unemployment.
The budget won 166 votes out of 230 present at the session in the 395-member parliament, the official MAP news agency said.
The budget provided for a total expenditure of 346.8 billion dirhams and receipts at 314.5 billion dirhams. It targets a budget deficit of less than 5 per cent after it hit 6.1 per cent in 2011, its highest since the 1990s.
The impact of bad weather on farming prompted the government to revise down to between 3 and 4 per cent the tourism- and agriculture-reliant economy's growth projection for 2012 from an initial 4.2 per cent and the 4.9 per cent it achieved in 2011.
The central bank says that with the impact of the slowdown in the euro zone, Morocco's main trade partner, the $100-billion economy will grow only by between 2 and 3 per cent.
Inflation is projected to jump to as much as 2.5 per cent from 0.9 per cent in 2011 as the government is expected to provide less subsidies - especially for energy products - should global prices surge.
The budget was based on an oil price of $100 a barrel which is below current market price.
Public investment was fixed at about 60 billion dirhams, which is 25 per cent above its level in 2011, but accounts for 17 percent of expenditure, while military expenditure inched up to 52.6 billion dirhams.
The state will foot 93.5 billion dirhams in public wages in 2012, which is 5.5 per cent above 2011 when it raised public sector wages as it sought to contain any spillover from Arab Spring revolts.
The government agreed to amendments from parliament to widen the imposition of a new tax on firms to help it develop poor areas and to raise tax on beer and spirits in 2012 by 12.5 and 43 per cent respectively, the first increase since 2010.
The budget also raises by almost 40 per cent to 26,200 the number of jobs the public sector, mostly in home affairs and education departments, is projected to create in 2012.
"I don't think the budget is efficiency-driven: Too many tax loopholes, too much on compensation (subsidies) fund, too many hiring," tweeted Zouhair Baghough, who blogs as the Moorish Wanderer on Moroccan economic issues.
Police on Wednesday violently broke up a protest by hundreds of jobless graduates who gathered outside the building of parliament in Rabat while legislators were discussing the budget.
They carried a super-sized copy of the agreement they signed with authorities in 2011 promising them immediate recruitment without passing tests.