Posted on February 25, 2010 by Carol Horning, USAID Mission Director
In August 2007, MCC launched a $6.7 million Threshold Program with the Guyanese Government to support the country’s ambitious competitiveness strategy and reform plan focused on overcoming fiscal challenges, strengthening the procurement system, and creating an efficient business registration process. Together with interagency coordination, a focus on aid effectiveness, and Guyana’s commitment to positive reforms, the MCC Threshold Program is delivering lasting and encouraging results.
The MCC-funded Threshold Program, implemented on the ground by USAID, focused on strengthening the Guyana Revenue Authority, strengthening the IT infrastructure, and training key staff to implement reforms. In addition, the customs administration was reformed to conform to global standard operating procedures that strengthen Guyana’s competitiveness and trade opportunities.
Now, at the conclusion of this two-year program, many of Guyana’s fiscal challenges have been tackled, with increased revenue generation and a more efficient business registration process. Guyana can now plan significantly for higher investments, resulting in sustainable development benefitting the country and its people. Meanwhile, strengthening the customs administration through the acquisition of new equipment is bolstering Guyana’s capacity to address smuggling and trafficking activities.
At Guyana’s Deeds Registry, company and business registrations have been converted from deteriorating paper documents into a state of the art electronic recording system. So far, over 5,000 company records and 90,000 business registrations have been computerized. The number of days to start a business in Guyana has also been reduced from 46 days to 30, all while anticipated legislation in Guyana is expected to reduce the start-up time even further, from 30 to 12 days. Simplifying and standardizing the registration process will improve the business climate for new investments. Even residents outside Guyana can now download business forms and register companies from anywhere in the world.
Though much of the program focused on training, IT infrastructure for various record systems as well as equipment for customs and policy reform have been critical for creating momentum to produce results. Increased tax revenue and compliance permit Guyana to now plan for greater investments in its own schools, clean water, and many other programs throughout the country that improve the standard of living for the Guyanese people. Working hand in glove, MCC and USAID are collaborating with Guyana to support not only the country’s development but also its future as a partner in eliminating global poverty.
Posted on February 16, 2010 by Stephen Marma, Resident Country Director, Nicaragua
MCC is investing to increase the incomes of rural farmers and entrepreneurs living in the departments of León and Chinandega. MCC investments in strategic projects are helping to reduce transportation costs, improve access to markets, strengthen property rights, increase business investments, and raise incomes for farms and rural businesses. Road rehabilitation works have been completed, and a road maintenance fund has been established by law to ensure that all roads in Nicaragua are maintained. In addition, farmers have received technical assistance, business development services, and grants to help develop higher-profit agriculture, agribusiness, and artisan enterprises. To ensure sustainability, farmers and cooperatives have increased and improved production and have better access to markets, including contracts to provide products to local and international companies.
Clear results can already be seen in Nicaragua as documented in two recent productions.
Check out the video produced by Millennium Challenge Account-Nicaragua, the local entity responsible for implementing Nicaraguas MCC compact:
Together, MCC and MCA-Nicaragua are paving a way to a better life for thousands of Nicaraguans.
Posted on February 12, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 International Affairs budget includes a $1.28 billion request for MCC. With so many important domestic and international priorities competing for limited resources during these challenging economic times, we all have to be prepared to make tough choices. Given limited resources, we will not be able to fund all the projects we would like to, but this is a solid request that allows MCC to continue to contribute to global poverty reduction in a meaningful way. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently reminded us in her speech on development that helping the world’s poor bolsters America’s own security and prosperity.
I invite you to read our budget justification to Congress, which explains how we intend to add to our portfolio of results moving forward. With Congress’s support for the President’s MCC budget request, we will be able to pursue partnerships with Malawi, Indonesia, and Zambia, with the hope of signing compacts with each of these countries. Moreover, the fiscal year 2011 budget request will allow MCC to pursue a second compact with Cape Verde, a first in MCC’s history.
I am looking forward to appearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee to explain MCC’s progress to date and how support for the fiscal year 2011 budget will allow us to deepen our impact in the fight against global poverty.
Posted on February 11, 2010 by Molly Glenn, Deputy Resident Country Director, Burkina Faso
On Friday, January 29, 2010, I had the privilege of attending a launching ceremony in the town of Sabou with the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, senior government and local officials, the MCC Resident Country Mission, dedicated members of the MCA Board, hundreds of residents of the Sabou Commune, and the senior management team of MCA-Burkina Faso, which is in charge of implementing Burkina Faso’s $481 million MCC compact. The event was vibrant and animated, filled with pertinent skits and musical interludes. Even though we were just an hour south of Ouagadougou, it felt like we were a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city and were truly in the heart of Burkina Faso. The town of Sabou, its residents, and MCA animated the countryside with a truly inspiring and motivating ceremony.
The event marks the start of on-the-ground field activities for two components of the Burkina Faso compact: feasibility studies for the 270 kilometers of primary roads to be constructed under the Roads project and the communication and education campaign surrounding the new national land law and regulations in 17 pilot communes under the Rural Land Governance project. With the complexity and intensity of the demands and deadlines revolving around projects of this size and scope, we often get caught up in Ouagadougou with meetings, workshops, project planning, financial number crunching, and all the necessary management responsibilities. When we stop and take the time to go to the field to visit with program participants, we see firsthand the excitement on their faces about the transformation of their future. We realize just where the real energy is with this compact.
The ceremony was filled with information, speeches, gratitude, theater, and music. It was a perfect mix of formal and informal, ceremonial and artistic, and cultural and educational. Information booths were filled with explanatory visuals and maps of project activities. Experts were on hand to explain the components: roads to be constructed, land conflict resolution techniques, decentralized administrative buildings to be constructed, and other aspects.
The skits were dynamic and filled with appropriate humor on the sensitive subject of land tenure. Even with my extremely limited knowledge of Moor_, one of the local languages of Burkina Faso, it was evident that the audience absorbed from the skits that land laws, regulations, and tools are now in place in Burkina Faso to clarify ambiguous land use situations, such as those between cattle herders and farmers. The theater troupe was able to infuse a touch of comedy into a serious subject and provide the audience with a glimpse into the land conflict resolution mechanisms and positive outcomes that will be possible through the Rural Land Governance project.
The official speeches were inspirational, expressing thanks to the American people and MCC, an understanding of the challenges ahead, and a clear message from the Government of Burkina Faso via Minister Laurent SÃ©dogo from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Water Resources, who said that the MCC compact, will bring about dynamic change, will require a rigorous pace of implementation, and will change the lives of Burkina Fasos disenfranchised, including women.
Posted on February 10, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Cape Verde “a model of democracy and economic progress in Africa,” she was not exaggerating. Cape Verde, just off Africa’s West Coast, and its people are truly vibrant. My time here in Cape Verde has been short, yet productive. I visited newly constructed roads, which, incidentally, were the first MCC-funded roads to be completed in Africa. We stopped at an elementary school along the road MCC is funding in Cha de Tanque, where the children welcomed our team with a touching song. I heard from local mayors, farmers, and businesses, who explained to me how the new roads are bringing greater access to markets, schools, and health facilities. I was extremely impressed with the model e-government system underway, offering a host of government services integrated and online; their systems, in many ways, are more advanced than some government services here in the U.S.
One of the most challenging but worthwhile projects being undertaken by MCA-Cape Verde, the local entity implementing Cape Verde’s $110 million MCC compact, is the rehabilitation of the Port of Praia, which handles half of the island nation’s cargo. I toured the tremendous progress being made at the project site. As these photos show, this is a massive project involving complex engineering and construction. When the port is completed and the compact ends in October, Cape Verde stands to increase its international and domestic trading capacity substantially.
I was impressed also with the vibrancy of the local business owners and entrepreneurs I met, all of whom were excited about investing in Cape Verde’s future. One local entrepreneur expressed a hopeful vision of Cape Verde harnessing the island nation’s many days of sunshine and strong winds for alternative energy projects. In my meeting with the Prime Minister, he expressed similar aspirations for his country. These kinds of innovative ideas are needed if Cape Verde is to overcome its constraints and grow into the regional success story I believe it can be.
Posted on February 3, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
For my first official trip as MCC’s CEO, I chose to look at MCC projects in two African partner countries, Ghana and Cape Verde. Both countries are well into their compacts, and I wanted to come and see the impact our funds are having on the lives of the men and women here.
I just completed the Ghana portion of the trip and am very excited about this country’s future. MCC is investing $547 million into making agriculture more productive, building schools, and paving roads. The numbers are impressive enough, but until you see the progress on the ground, it is hard to truly understand how complex, integrated, and successful this compact is.
Much of the credit for the success goes to the Ghanaians themselves, who set up an entity called MiDA that will exist and foster economic development long after the MCC compact is over. I also want to acknowledge MCC’s resident mission, led by Jim Bednar, Resident Country Director, and Katerina Ntep, Deputy Resident Country Director, who are working with the Ghanaians to oversee implementation.
As a child of Africa, I was thrilled to meet some of the boys and girls who now sit in classrooms for their lessons, instead of under trees. The Ghanaians identified lack of education as a constraint to their country’s economic growth, and MCC is proud to help address this challenge by funding the building of 310 schools, of which 65 are already finished. We have seen enrollment increase substantially. The number of girls in just the two schools I visited has doubled. This project is also an important example of collaboration and coordination with our partners at USAID, who are training teachers for the schools we are building.
In addition to the schools I visited, I was able to inspect progress on some of the rural roads our funds are paving, talk to pineapple farmers about how MCC-funded investments in cold storage are helping them export their crops, and meet a number of people who now have full rights and title to their property, thanks to the MCC-funded land titling project.
All of these elements are critical to successfully driving sustainable economic growth in Ghana through increased agriculture productivity. MCC’s five year program, therefore, works up and down the value chain. It starts with training the small farmer, works with banks to ensure he or she has access to credit, supports cooperative farming, and develops the roads to get products to markets.
I was honored to be part of the group who passed out land title certificates to about 30 people, half women. MCC is funding new offices and surveys to provide these official land titles to a total of about 5,000 Ghanaians. As the many government ministers in attendance said, these titles are an absolutely critical step in ensuring economic growth. If people have title to their land, they can use that asset to access credit and have the security they need to expand production. I was particularly happy to see so many women obtaining titles in their names.
Before we left, I met with representatives of both the local and international private sector, who are also very excited about Ghana’s future and MCC’s role in addressing economic constraints. I met one farmer who was able to increase her yield from five bags of rice a season to more than 140 bags after a MCC-funded training program, and another farmer who increased his income from around $60 a year to over $1,070 by changing his crops to line up with international market demand. In Ghana, we have literally hundreds of stories of men and women like these who now “see their farms as businesses and not just as an occupation,” as one program participant said.
I also had a good meeting with Ghanaian President John Atta-Mills, who, like many Ghanaians I met, was keenly interested in learning how Ghana could qualify for a second compact when the current compact finishes in two years. The president reaffirmed his commitment to making sure the projects finish on time, with transparency, accountability, and measured results.
It is clear to me that there is real opportunity in Ghana. I look forward to the next half of my trip to see the progress unfolding in Cape Verde.