The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, is providing ECU 50 million(1) for schemes to supply drinking water to urban centres in Morocco.

The Office National de l'Eau Potable (ONEP), established in 1972 for the purpose of producing and distributing drinking water, is receiving the EIB loan, which is the first tranche of an ECU 100 million package for increasing water supply in a number of towns whose production and distribution capacities are already or will soon become overloaded. The scheme involves 22 sub-projects, of which six are for water production, eight for supplying water and eight for water distribution. The work will be carried out over the period 1997-2001 and has been scheduled so that the projects will come on stream as the existing facilities reach saturation point. The various components of the project will provide additional supplies of drinking water and water for industrial purposes of up to 100 million m3 a year and will affect a population currently estimated at 3 million (more than 20% of Morocco's urban population) but which is expected to rise to 4.6 million by the year 2015. The project, which forms part of ONEP's ECU 727 million investment programme for the period 1996-2000, provides for an increase in the number of staff employed by ONEP from 6 400 to just over 8 000 when the project comes on stream.

This loan is the second, after the loan signed for modernisation of the railways, to be granted in Morocco under the new "Euro-Mediterranean Partnership" mandate, which authorises the Bank to commit ECU 2 310 million between 1997 and 1999 in favour of projects promoted in twelve non-EU Mediterranean countries.

Since 1991, the EIB has advanced ECU 600 million for projects of key importance for the Moroccan economy, such as the EU-Morocco power grid interconnection via the Strait of Gibraltar, high-voltage electricity transmission facilities and power supplies to rural areas, improvements to the trunk and international telephone networks and large-scale water management schemes (sewerage systems in several coastal towns, irrigation of farmland in the Doukkala Plain, etc.); the EIB has also contributed towards funding SMEs in the productive and cooperative sectors through global loans to Morocco's Caisse Nationale de Crédit Agricole and 18 commercial banks, intended particularly to pave the way for joint ventures between Moroccan and European operators.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30/6/1997, when ECU 1 = 0.68 GBP, 6.64 FRF, 1.13 USD, 0.75 IEP, 10.8625 MAD.