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Morocco’s Islamist-led government raises taxes on alcohol, cigars

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Although alcohol is forbidden (haram) in Islam, Morocco’s moderate Islamist government appears to have found a halal route that allows them to profit from its sale.

Caught between soaring prices, low economic growth forecasts, and a harsh drought, the Islamist-led government had decided to increase tax on liquor sales in a step to increase state revenue.

The liquor tax has been raised from 10,500 ($1,230) dirham per 100 liters (26.4 gallons) to 15,000 ($1,760) dirhams per 100 liters.

The tax on beer has been raised from 550 ($64) to 900 ($105) per 100 liter while the sales tax on cigars has been raised by 10 percent to 35 percent.

When it was in the opposition, the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) often demanded an increase on the alcohol sales tax, which unlike the tax on food products, has remained the same in 33 years.

Moroccan economist Omar al-Kattani said the PJD’s move will help the government find solutions to some budgetary problems without significantly affecting producers and distributors of alcohol products who made major profits last year.

Kattani said the move is also likely to reduce the consumption of alcohol amongst low-income people.

Meanwhile, political analyst Abd el-Ali Majdoub said by this move the government had targeted the “alcohol lobbyists who have benefitted from decades-old privileges ... to make money at the expense of the people’s health.”

In 1967 King Hasan II, also known as the commander of the faithful, delegated his powers to an advisor in the royal court to sign a decree that authorizes the sale of alcohol to non-Muslims.

The king apparently did not want to be seen by his Muslims-majority people as the one who authorized the sale of something forbidden in Islam.

Although alcohol in Morocco is not supposed to be sold to Muslims, it is easily available in stores and supermarkets.


(Translated from Arabic by Mustapha Ajbaili)