Morocco's economy is set for a boost from a recent major gas find, diplomats and analysts were quoted as saying by the Middle East Times newspaper.
"The hydrocarbon find is excellent news because it will have strategic implications on Morocco's energy policy and economic development in the coming years," said Driss Benhima, a prominent energy expert and chairman of power monopoly Office National de l'Electricité.
Morocco announced the discovery in the eastern area of Talsinnt in August.
The new gas find contained hydrocarbon reserves, most of it natural gas, and was estimated to be equivalent to 1.5 to 2.0 billion barrels of oil, said the paper.
Abdessamad Issami, energy analyst at Upline Securities brokerage house expected the natural gas find would be more important for the economy than the crude oil.
"Given the stake of the energy bill in the production cost of local firms, the natural gas to be produced locally will be cheaper and help them improve their productivity and competitiveness," Issami said.
In 1999, some 69 percent of Morocco's energy consumption was oil, 24 percent was coal, while only seven percent was natural gas - against 20 percent international average - with the remaining percentage being hydro and thermal power, according to the paper.
Energy is heavily taxed in Morocco and brings to the State Treasury around 9.0 billion dirhams annually, official figures showed.
Ahmed Laaboudi, head of independent think-tank Center Marocain de Conjoncture (CMC) said: "The expected receipts from the hydrocarbon find will reduce the state spending on energy imports, boost public investments and help Morocco's economy to take off."
The expected funds from hydrocarbon sales would ensure a sustained 6.0 percent Gross Domestic Growth (GDP) growth per year, reduce Morocco's heavy foreign debt and boost the overall economic sectors, including textiles, fisheries and tourism, Laaboudi said.
United States Ambassador to Morocco Edward Gabriel told the paper that the find would attract more foreign investors, mainly from the United States.
"I am quite sure that the new find will encourage other US companies to come and look... Morocco will be surprised by the number of firms which will visit the country in the coming months," Gabriel said - Albawaba.com
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