Morocco Eases Rules on Foreign-Currency Bank Accounts

Morocco’s foreign-exchange regulator said individuals and non-exporting companies can open foreign-exchange bank accounts for the first time, as the North African country seeks to reduce its current-account deficit.

The Rabat-based Office des Changes said amounts deposited into each account cannot exceed the annual allowance fixed for personal and business travel, according to a statement today on its website. Moroccans are allowed to buy 40,000 dirhams ($4,800) in foreign currency a year for personal use.

“The importance of the move lies more so in the direction rather than the magnitude,” Mohamed Abu Basha, Cairo-based economist at investment bank EGG-Hermes, said by telephone. “The economy is in need of foreign capital to tackle a structural current-account deficit, so they need to relax foreign exchange controls.”

The International Monetary Fund said Jan. 31 it expects Morocco’s current-account deficit to ease to 6.5 percent of economic output in 2014 from 7.4 percent in 2013 and 9.7 percent in 2012, which was the highest since the 1980s.

“Morocco used to record current-account surpluses of 2 percent to 3 percent of GDP before the global financial crisis, so there has been a major deterioration,” Abu Basha said.

Separately, the Office des Changes published a circular offering a one-year amnesty to individuals and companies in Morocco who repatriate assets, cash and property “illegally acquired abroad.” Finance Minister Mohamed Boussaid last month said the amnesty should lure back at least 5 billion dirhams.

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