Bensalah is conscious of the warp-speed with which Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has moved his country into the post-Arab-Spring 21st century.
“We are a young country,” she assured TheDC. “And when you’re young you’re positive.”
Morocco’s geographic isolation in a distant corner of Northern Africa makes it different from the rest of the Arab world – something the United States has known for centuries. Its transatlantic handshake has sustained America’s longest continuous treaty, and Morocco was the first sovereign nation to recognize America colonists independence from Great Britain in the late 18th century.
“We have an Islamic state that is modern,” she explained. “By definition, Muslims are [classically] liberal like traders.”
And while the PJD’s hard-liners “don’t have the big picture,” she cautioned, “they have a picture of liberalism in terms of commerce. They buy. They sell. But … we want them to have an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Bensalah, entrepreneurial herself, started as an assistant manager at a family-controlled bank and worked her way up the ladder, later diversifying her family businesses and earning millions.
And at a time when American businesses are clamoring for a predictable tax and health care environment before they commit to expanding and hiring, Bensalah manages to articulate the needs of her industry stakeholders in a way many American leaders would instantly recognize.
“What we’re saying to the government is, ‘Let us be competitive,’” she said. “We want flat, clear, sustainable conditions … and a clear vision of what our fiscal goal is. We can be competitive if we have predictable conditions.”
She said Moroccan businesses are eager to test the boundaries of the king’s power-sharing arrangement with the new representative democracy, now less than two years in the making. They want basic laws, she said, to protect against breach of contracts and provide a clear-cut minimum wage.
“Doing business is not the responsibility of the government, [or] their commodity. It’s not the backyard of the government. It’s ours.”
Remaining vigilant, and hopeful
It’s easy to forget that when she talks of “the government,” Bensalah is describing a group of Islamists who remain fascinated with Shariah law and subservient females. (RELATED: Morocco’s Islamists apologize for Jewish visitor, but not for Hamas politburo chief)
Even they, she insisted, will have to evolve.
“Being in the opposition and being in command are two different things,” she said. “They will learn. They will focus in their government. And they will focus on the needs of the commoners, the needs of society, the needs of women’s empowerment. All those needs have to be restructured now that they are in power.”