October 18, 2011 / 1:22 PM / in 6 years

Moroccan growth eases as tourism slows

(Reuters) - Morocco’s economy grew by 4.2 percent in the second quarter, down from 5 percent in the first three months of the year, due in part to a rare drop in tourism-related activities, the central bank said on Tuesday.

Tourists have lunch near Morocco's most famous waterfall, Cascades D'Ouzoud, near Marrakesh, March 1, 2007. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

The economy depends largely on farming and tourism.

Bank al-Maghrib said output of agriculture, which employs close to 40 percent of the country’s 11.6-million workforce, picked up to 4.6 percent during the second quarter above a 3.7 percent growth in the first quarter of this year.

Hotel and restaurant activity recorded a 3.8 percent drop in the second quarter, its worst quarterly performance since the first quarter of 2009, the bank’s data showed

Activity in the transport sector, which is tied to the number of tourists visiting the country, rose 4.3 percent, its weakest performance since the third quarter of 2009.

The bank did not explain the drop in tourism-related activities but analysts say Morocco could face a rough ride if the financial crisis worsens in Europe, its main trade partner and key source of foreign tourists.

Tourism contributes close to 10 percent of Morocco’s economy and directly employs 450,000 people directly.

Tourism Minister Yassir Znagui in May said tourism receipts were expected to grow faster this year than in 2010 despite regional unrest and a deadly bombing in April that targeted foreign visitors in the main tourist destination of Marrakesh.

The manufacturing sector, consisting mostly of production of textile, electric cables and electronic components, posted its worst performance in a year. It grew 2.3 percent during the second quarter versus 2.7 percent in the first quarter and 4.5 percent in the last quarter of 2010.

Morocco’s GDP rose 4 percent to 779.1 dirhams last year.

The budget deficit rose 17 percent to 22.7 billion dirhams in the eight months to end-August, the central bank added, as the government raised public sector wages and boosted food and energy subsidies to prevent a spillover from revolts that have shaken countries in the region since January.

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