(Bloomberg) -- The International Monetary Fund and World Bank are pressing ahead with plans to hold their annual meetings in Marrakech, after a devastating earthquake left a trail of destruction in parts of the Moroccan city.
The two lenders said an assessment concluded that the meetings, scheduled for Oct. 9-15 in Marrakech, wouldn’t disrupt relief and reconstruction and will “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.”
The IMF and World Bank’s first annual meetings in Africa since 1973 were expected to give a spending boost to Morocco’s fourth-largest city and one of its top tourist destinations. The Sept. 8 temblor struck south of Marrakech in the High Atlas mountains, leveling entire villages and killing about 3,000 people.
The North African kingdom of 37 million people had said in the aftermath it was committed to holding the gatherings — part of its push to promote itself as a bastion of regional stability and economic importance. The government has a BB+ rating from S&P Global Ratings, a step below investment grade and one of the highest levels in Africa.
“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 underway and that is respectful to the victims and the Moroccan people,” the IMF and World Bank said in their statement. The upcoming events were originally scheduled for 2021 but delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Authorities have pledged swift aid for survivors and funding for large-scale rebuilding efforts in response to Morocco’s most powerful quake in 120 years. Makeshift camps have been set up around some of the major High Atlas towns, although residents complain facilities are limited.
The IMF agreed to lend Morocco $1.3 billion to strengthen the country’s resilience to climate risks, the state-run Moroccan news agency reported, citing the fund’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva.
In Marrakech, too, those made homeless by the quake are camping along some of the main thoroughfares. The scenes stand in in stark contrast to the major revamp of the center that’s resumed ahead of the IMF meetings. Streets are being repaved and new gold-painted lampposts erected on King Mohammed V Avenue.
At Bab Ighli, the sprawling 45 hectares of low-rise buildings and pavilions near the Unesco-listed center that will host October’s events, preparation is going full steam ahead. That’s attracted dozens of mostly young Moroccans who lost tourism work due to the quake and are desperate for informal day-labor.
“We need all the support we can get,” said Mohamed Ghazal, 23, who has to support his bereaved family in Imlil, in the High Atlas about 40 miles (64 kilometers) away. Venue security turned him away, telling him to apply at the city job center.
It’s not the first time the IMF and World Bank will hold annual meetings in the aftermath of disaster. In 2018, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Indonesia killed more than 4,000 people less than two weeks before meetings were to be convened in Bali. The event went ahead, with then-IMF chief Christine Lagarde touring the disaster site.
October also marks the start of what is normally Marrakech’s peak tourist season and industry figures are racing to limit the disruption. About 10.9 million tourists visited Morocco in 2022, a vital driver of the $140 billion economy alongside agriculture and trade with the European Union.
After a wave of cancellations or postponements, Moroccan tourism companies are working to assure their counterparts overseas that it’s safe to send travelers, Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui, vice chairman of industry lobby group CNT, told online newspaper Medias24.
Taking a vacation is “the best way to help Morocco in these difficult times,” Alaoui said.
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