Payment delays, a scourge that affects small businesses

Concept of time with businessman that hold an alarm clock Late payments continue to affect the health of Moroccan companies, especially small businesses. They have the effect of reducing liquidity, increasing the level of bad debts and sometimes even causing a total shutdown. If they have declined in recent years, especially among public establishments and enterprises (EEP), payment terms are still quite high between enterprises. The average payment deadlines declared by all PEC dropped significantly to 40 days at the end of December 2020 compared to 144 days in 2016, while payment delays between companies, which were already at an alarming level before the health crisis, n have only deteriorated throughout this year. “We went from 408 billion dirhams (billion dirhams) linked to these delays in 2018 to 421 billion dirhams in 2019. In the absence of new orders and markets in 2020, companies found themselves in a lack of liquidity and thus in large difficulty in paying their suppliers, ”said the president of the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM), Chakib Alj, during the 4th meeting of the Observatory of Payment Deadlines (ODP) held recently. Citing the results of the 3rd edition of the CGEM Barometer carried out last October, he indicated that the deadlines have increased again to reach an average of 53 days. A finding which is already confirmed by the preliminary analysis of the 4th barometer launched last January. The construction of payment deadlines is a “vital” subject for the SME, hence the need to implement all the measures capable of avoiding certain death, he warned. Pecuniary sanctions to deter latecomers: The last meeting of the ODP was marked by the validation and placing in the approval circuit of the draft amendment to Law No. 15-95 forming the Commercial Code, aimed at implementing in place of the system of pecuniary penalties against companies with delays beyond regulatory limits. It was agreed on this occasion that the proceeds from fines will be dedicated to supporting businesses. A laudable decision which will make it possible to dissuade “bad payers” companies and to protect in particular small businesses which suffer enormously from late payments. It is indeed a practice applied in several countries of the world and which has relatively shown its effectiveness in the fight against late payments which would be responsible for 40% of business failures in Morocco and, correlatively, many job losses. The exemplary State, the private sector lagging behind The payment periods of the State have undergone a relatively important development which has been recorded since the speech of HM the King of August 20, 2018. The average payment period for public contracts has been reduced from 144 days in 2016 to 37 days in 2019 before returning to 40 days last year. A notable progress to be welcomed even if there are still efforts to be made, in particular with regard to the control of the gray zone, which is the time between the moment when the work is done and when the service is certified. It is also worth recalling the measures introduced to improve payment terms. These include the regular publication of PEC payment deadlines and the establishment of an electronic invoice filing platform that allows registered companies to electronically file their invoices, which will be time stamped and electronically signed. This service has been launched since 2019 for public orders with an amount equal to or greater than 1 million dirhams (MDH). Public orders for an amount greater than or equal to 200,000 DH are subject to the obligation of electronic filing from January 1, 2021. The Ministry of Finance has also launched an electronic platform dedicated to receipt and processing complaints from suppliers concerning payment deadlines for their services by the PEC. This platform was established using a participatory approach involving the various stakeholders, in particular the CGEM and the EEP. It aims to streamline exchanges and communication between suppliers and PCCs, identify the causes of late payments, provide them with adequate solutions and improve payment times for PCC suppliers … Despite these considerable efforts, the fight against late payment remains dependent on awareness and strong mobilization of all the players concerned in order to overcome this problem which particularly penalizes small and medium-sized enterprises, which constitute more than 90% of the country’s economic fabric.