Posted on July 30, 2009 by Rodney Bent, Acting Chief Executive Officer
As I end my tenure at MCC, its gratifying to see just how far the organization has come over the past five years. The MCC has evolved from concept to reality, with a few dings and dents to prove how real we are. We’ve come a long way in five years, and the commentary about us reflects that evolution. Leading development experts from the Brookings Institution to Oxfam America offer excellent perspectives on our work.
MCC is a tangible, measurable way the U.S. Government is helping partners create conditions for sustainable growth. By training farmers and increasing their agricultural productivity and food security, by opening schools and immunizing children, by building roads that connect communities to markets and citizens to vital services, by securing land and property rights for the poor, MCC is making a difference on the ground. We expect MCCs $6.4 billion in worldwide commitments so far will raise incomes by $8 billion over the life of our current investments, benefiting more than 22 million people. Our tenacious focus on measuring results through a comprehensive system of monitoring and evaluation means that we can make fairly accurate projections of our intended impact, and this is one way we are making a difference in Washington as well.
In addition to progress we have seen (and can measure) to date, I am encouraged by how an agency like MCC is able to affect the conversation about development assistance—both within the U.S. Government context and among other donors. The core MCC principles of partnership, accountability, transparency, and responsibility are the very principles espoused by the Obama Administration and by many of the leading thinkers on foreign assistance reform. As House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman remarked recently, A lot of the ideas of MCC, to me, are a prototype for what should sort of take hold in our whole foreign assistance program. So not only is this important in terms of what it’s doing in the countries it’s now active in, but as a good indicator and a good instructor of directions we might go in with the whole foreign assistance program.
Now, well into a new administration and era, I am encouraged by the level of support MCC has been given by Congress and senior government leaders. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, chair of MCCs board, confirms, President Obama supports the MCC, and the principle of greater accountability in our foreign assistance programs. The Secretary herself has referred to Millennium Challenge grants as a very important part of our foreign policy. It is a new approach, and its an approach that we think deserves support. Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew has said, MCC is getting off the ground and making real progress.
At the same time, I want to say that proud as I am of our accomplishments, weve taken some deserved knocks. Our approach can only work in concert with other U.S. Government agencies and with other donors. We’ve learned to under-promise and over-deliver.
In Ghana, an MCC partner country, President Obama spoke of replacing perpetual aid that helps people scrape by with partnerships that build the capacity for transformational change. He called for partners taking control of their destiny, and making change from the bottom-up. MCC is already engaged in partnerships like these. Our commitment to country-sourced, country-led, country-implemented development solutions translates into highly-focused, targeted programs that reflect the priorities of countries and their citizens. We believe that the future of our partners is up to them, not the external prescriptions of others.
As most readers of this blog are well aware, MCC has signed 18 compacts to date that reflect country-owned development priorities, and is planning many more. Our approach is certainly not easy, but its essential if we want to create opportunities for growth and poverty reduction. Admittedly, good governance—and all that entails—is not a light responsibility. As MCC looks ahead, we must continue carrying the burdens of good governance and challenge ourselves as an organization, the countries that seek to work with us, other U.S. and international donors, and both our critics and supporters to recognize and realize the highest standards of partnership and transparency if we are to truly make a sustainable difference in the lives of the worlds poor.
Posted on July 24, 2009 by Rodney Bent, Acting Chief Executive Officer
Earlier this week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry held a hearing on The Case for Reform: Foreign Aid and Development in a New Era and, along with Ranking Member Richard Lugar, offered thoughtful perspectives and heard from leading development experts on this important subject. Former USAID Administrator Peter McPherson and Bread for the World President David Beckmann had some particularly astute comments about MCC and foreign aid reform. Not everyone on the panel, however, was up-to-date on the work MCC is doing to fight global poverty through economic growth. I think its worth noting that some misperceptions about MCCs model and mechanics may be steeped in old talking points and could benefit from new research and updated information.
For example, the compacts for funding we sign with partner countries are not useless, legalistic documents of 500 pages as some suspect, but rather streamlined blueprints that average 80 pages of concrete action to achieve country-prioritized development goals. These action plansreflecting the priorities of the poorare built within partner countries, not imposed from outside by those who think they know better. We know that the best results are those that come from homegrown priorities and partnerships that are linked to tangible outcomes.
For some sense of where MCC is now, we invite people to look at what The Los Angeles Times and others have called smart aid. Consider also reading the recent Brookings Institution or Oxfam America studies about MCC. Both of these assess and evaluate MCCs results so far, and offer constructive ideas on how the conversation about poverty reduction is evolving.
Posted on July 24, 2009 by Jim McNicholas, Deputy Resident Country Director, Georgia
Vice President Joe Biden visited Tbilisi, Georgia this week, meeting with Georgian President Mikhael Saahkashvili, members of Parliament, leaders of the opposition parties, and business leaders. One of the highlights of the visit for the Georgian media was the Vice Presidents visit with children at a center for families displaced by the August war. At each stop on his visit, the Vice President spoke of a U.S.-Georgia partnership based on the ideals of democracy and re-affirmed the U.S. commitment to support the Georgian people as they continue to build the institutions and economy of their country. I especially today call upon the young people of Georgia, Mr. Biden said on the floor of the Parliament, the next generation of Georgian leaders, to continue to contribute their ideas, their voices, and their energy to help create a peaceful, stable, democratic, and economically prosperous Georgia.
As part of the U.S.-Georgia partnership, the Millennium Challenge Georgia Compact, a five year program totaling $395 million in grant funds, has been providing necessary resources for Georgians to invest in their economy and reduce poverty. Georgia is committed to the core MCC philosophy of country ownership and accountability. It has created a strong management team and government oversight board to ensure that U.S. funds are spent efficiently and achieve results for the Georgian people.
Now in its fourth year of implementation, Georgia is beginning to see tangible results. Under MCC funding, the municipal water supply network for Poti, Georgia’s largest port, has been rehabilitated, improving the water supply for the city’s population of 50,000. Georgia’s energy security has been strengthened by the completion of two rounds of priority repairs on the main natural gas pipeline. The pipeline, operated by the Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation, transports gas from Azerbaijan to Georgia for residential heating and to operate Georgia’s only electricity power plant.
Additional infrastructure improvements are on the way. Another four municipalities are undergoing water system rehabilitations. Construction on the Samstkhe-Javakheti road, connecting Tbilisi with Armenia and Turkey, is currently underway. Georgia also chose to invest in agriculture and to assist the growing number of small and medium size enterprises in Georgia. The Enterprise Development Project has already invested over $25 million in the Georgian economy through a combination of grants and equity investments for farmers and businesses. Much of this total has been mobilized since the August war and since the economic crisis has negatively impacted the Georgian economy.
Millennium Challenge Georgia Fund CEO George Abdushelishvili recognizes that he, his team, and partners have a lot of work ahead to deliver on the promise of the MCC grant. When Georgia has a good partner, and especially when we hear Vice President Biden highlight our countries partnership here in Tbilisi, it makes me want to do more, he says.
Posted on July 20, 2009 by Laurent Medhi Brito, Managing Director, MCA-Cape Verde
Santa Catarina on Santiago Island has always been a municipality with great cultural and economic potential. Its full potential, however, has gone underdeveloped, given how difficult it is to access it various communities. This has long been the reality for the seven major communities along the way from Assomada to ChÃ£ de Tanque to RincÃ£o, a way that has seen its share of notable landowners, fishermen, and adventurers who used the Port of RincÃ£o to develop Cape Verde’s economy.
Indeed, RincÃ£o served as one of the most important ports on Santiago Island, from where agricultural products were shipped all over the country. Some speculate that the port was used by militants fighting for Cape Verde’s independence, making RincÃ£o a place of historic significance in the fight for Cape Verde’s freedom.
However, as time passed, RincÃ£o was left isolated due to the lack of infrastructure and access to major cities like Assomada. Fishing became RincÃ£o’s main means to survive.
When Cape Verde and MCC signed the $110 million compact in July 2005, the people of RincÃ£o were excited at the chance finally to develop their community, with a road that would pave the way to prosperity and connect them to greater commerce and community services. This past week on July 18, 2009, the road from Assomada to ChÃ£ de Tanque to RincÃ£o was inaugurated. It is totally asphalted, modern, and functioning, providing a gateway to the world for the people of RincÃ£o
As one of the first infrastructure projects completed within the Millennium Challenge Account-Cape Verde (MCA-CV) program, I am proud of this milestone, and proud to see this day come for the people of RincÃ£o. More than just a celebration of a road, or the success of the MCA-CV in partnership with Cape Verdean’s, this is a time of reflection on the rich history of the people of RincÃ£o. Now, what used to be for them a painful one hour and a half journey to Assomada is a pleasant 30 minute drive.
With this completed road, the future of RincÃ£o has the potential to attract tourism-related investments, and the six other localities along the road are already enjoying more dynamic and closer interactions, reclaiming the historic greatness of the municipality of Santa Catarina. Rinc_o is reborn and has the very real potential to become a reference point for the tourism and culture sectors.
With the inauguration of the road in RincÃ£o, we can all say, Yes, its possible!
Thanks to MCC funds, the dream of bridging the prosperous past with a bright future for this area of Cape Verde gives us all reason to smile.
Posted on July 13, 2009 by Rodney Bent, Acting Chief Executive Officer
I’m pleased to draw your attention to the newest feature on MCC’s website: a dedicated section on results. This one-stop resource is the first step of an evolving compilation of MCC’s results as they emerge from every stage of our poverty reduction partnerships worldwide. Today you can:
- View information on how we conduct constraints analysis, economic and beneficiary analyses, and monitoring and evaluation, including rigorous impact evaluations.
- Explore how we monitor, evaluate, and report performance across sectors and by country, including viewing country monitoring and evaluation plans and quarterly data against key performance indicators.
- Track latest developments in each partner country through such documents as MCCs quarterly status reports and fact sheets.
- Meet, read about, and listen to those benefitting from MCC programs through video testimonials, slideshows, and success stories.
I want to stress that this is only a first step. The data and information will be updated as our grants move along their life cycle. More detailed beneficiary analysis will be forthcoming in the months and years ahead.
Why is this innovation so important for MCC? The answer is simple: Results matter, both to our partners and to American taxpayers. The U.S. Government, as a major donor in the fight against poverty, is committed to managing and implementing aid in a way that focuses on results. MCC’s work around the world is one important way that the United States is fulfilling this mandate. Our work is at the forefront of managing for results and using information to inform and improve decision-making.
MCC’s mission to reduce poverty through sustainable economic growth is achieved each time we can impact the lives of the poor in meaningful and measurable ways. Concrete results allow us to document this change through quantifiable impact as well as through the qualitative difference our programs bring to poor communities around the globe. In these tough economic times—when every development dollar counts—planning for, measuring, and tracking results in transparent ways is absolutely essential for delivering returns on our investments. This ensures fiscal responsibility and accountability, making our programs efficient and effective not only for the worlds poor but also for American taxpayers whose generosity and support make MCCs work possible.
I invite you to bookmark MCC’s website at www.mcc.gov/results to access the results section. We welcome your ideas about how to strengthen these resources and involve you, our public stakeholders, in the important work of reducing poverty through growth.