Mohammed Aref Hassani, acting director of Invest in Morocco, said a more likely figure was $3-3.5 billion, although it was hard to give a precise estimate.
“It’s the direct impact of the delay or even cancellation of certain projects due to the crisis, but that does not mean there won’t be a comeback in 2009,” Hassani said in an interview.
Companies such as auto part makers that have shifted work to Morocco in recent years and that tightly manage production levels could cut back output or even close some units, he said.
However, he said firms unable to finance growth at home because of poor access to credit would be drawn to countries like Morocco where banks are robust and operating costs low.
“Companies will look to countries with a strong investment climate, attractive financing, a competitive workforce and logistics. We in Morocco are in this situation,” Hassani said.
The north African kingdom is betting on investment-friendly reforms, road, port and rail projects and tax cuts to boost job creation and lift swathes of the country out of poverty.
Business parks in the cities of Tangier, Casablanca and Rabat are aimed at turning Morocco into a low-cost manufacturing and services platform on Europe’s southern doorstep.
The government has beefed up skills and training to provide more engineers and Hassani said it now planned to create training institutes dedicated to target industries such as automobiles and aerospace.
Companies would also be helped to reimburse the cost of training their employees, he said.
The government is aiming for 10 million tourists by 2010, up from 7.4 million last year, and developers are building a chain of resorts along Morocco’s its coastline under a “Plan Azur”.
Hassani said that, despite recessions in Europe, there was nothing to suggest a wave of cancellations of tourism projects.
“We will continue to develop our tourist sites and we are still seeing a lot of interest from European, American and Asian groups,” he said.
He expected Prime Minister Abbas el Fassi to approve several new hotel projects shortly. Plan Azur projects were already being modified and adjusted before the crisis struck, he said, which was natural due to their complexity.
He said France’s Societe du Louvre, which is owned by U.S. financial firm Starwood Capital, planned to build a chain of up to 20 mid-range hotels in Morocco between 2010 and 2014.
“Project delays occur even in periods of normal growth. Despite the real impact of the crisis, interest is still there today,” said Hassani.