Posted on April 25, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I had the privilege of appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today with USAID administrator Raj Shah to answer questions about our agencies’ respective budgets and plans for the upcoming fiscal year.
Appearing before the committee provided a chance to highlight MCC’s model, mission and results, and our place in the U.S. Government’s wider foreign assistance efforts not only to Congress, but also to the American people.
There’s a lot of good news to share.
Nine years after its founding, MCC has produced real results, and remains a cost-effective approach to delivering foreign assistance. We play a crucial role in the U.S. Government’s foreign policy by strengthening the United States’ economy at home and standing abroad.
MCC’s evidence-based approach is at the core of its success. Our partners are rigorously selected countries that have a measurable track record of sound democratic and economic governance. After their selection, we ask our partner countries to prioritize and then develop and implement cost-effective solutions that make a real difference at reducing poverty by stimulating economic growth.
During these tough economic times, Americans deserve to see their tax dollars deliver a high rate of return and the greatest impact. That’s why we select projects with high returns, monitor progress during implementation and require that programs be completed in five years. We cut off funding if governments turn their back on principles of democratic governance. And we evaluate program effectiveness to see what did and did not work—and then make those findings public.
Almost 174 million people from across the world are expected to directly benefit from MCC’s investments. Beyond this benefit for individuals, the policy reforms and targeted investments that result from MCC’s programs foster an enabling environment for businesses to succeed.
With new markets, U.S. companies enjoy greater opportunities to trade, profit and create American jobs.
Many other countries benefit by the “MCC Effect,” when they take concrete steps to improve governance in order to become eligible for MCC assistance. That means more girls are in school, the time to start a business has fallen, more women have equal access to economic opportunities and more children are receiving vaccines because their governments hope to become eligible for a compact—before the American taxpayer ever spends a dime.
MCC is helping millions of poor people across the world pull themselves out of poverty while making the United States stronger, safer and more prosperous. I consider that a win for the American taxpayer. And that’s why I welcomed the opportunity to discuss our model and results with Congress.
Posted on March 21, 2013 by Alex Russin, Resident Country Director, Jordan
How does the Millennium Challenge Corporation more than double the value of its investment while helping to ensure years of sustainability? Work closely with government and the private sector through innovative financing as showcased with the successful 2012 build-operate-transfer (BOT) financing deal for expanding the As-Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant in Jordan.
But don’t take my word on this. Last month, MCC and its partners were recognized with an award for innovative financing from the Water and Energy Exchange (WEX), a specialist international water conference for companies that provide products and services in water and energy.
The description of the award-winning project states in part that, “The As-Samra expansion would not have happened without the MCC grant…This BOT transaction is the first project financing of 2012 to have closed in Jordan. It is also the first major project financing in which MCC has ever taken part anywhere in the world. MCC clearly intends to implement this model in other countries.”
The $223 million As-Samra expansion and refinancing is comprised of $93 million in grant funding from MCC, $20 million from the Government of Jordan and $110 million from private debt and equity sources. The As-Samra expansion will improve Jordan’s environmental conditions by increasing the country’s capacity to treat growing volumes of wastewater from the Amman and Zarqa governorates. The facility will be operated by a private company and will provide much needed, high-quality treated water for agricultural production equivalent to more than 10 percent of Jordan’s total water resources.
Working in conjunction with the private sector to finance environmentally-friendly and sustainable investments, such as the As-Samra expansion, is precisely the kind of economic growth impact MCC wants to deliver.
Posted on February 14, 2013 by Tim Clary , Director, Division of Technical Services
For decades, most international health projects have focused on addressing communicable diseases that were major causes of morbidity and mortality in developing countries.
But now, many countries are facing a double burden as non-communicable diseases and injuries (NCDIs) have become more prevalent. More than five years ago, when the Government of Mongolia chose to focus on NCDIs as part of its MCC compact, it probably did not foresee that it would become a leader in providing lessons for other countries seeking to address NCDI issues.
The compact’s $39 million Health Project, geographically covers the entire country and 95 percent of the Mongolian population. It addresses the issue of NCDIs through a multi-pronged approach and on several different technical levels.
Last month, I visited Clinical Hospital No. 3 in Ulaanbaatar, where compact funds will be used to refurbish and provide equipment to help the hospital become the nation’s primary center for diagnosing, caring for and treating Mongolians suffering from strokes and acute myocardial infarctions. In Khentii aimag, I visited hospitals that typically provide primary care services and that now provide both secondary and tertiary health care, such as diagnosing cervical cancer and providing ongoing treatment for diabetes and hypertension. At both levels, health care providers have received extensive training on NCDIs, ranging from emergency care to counseling patients on healthy lifestyles and behaviors. This helps the community by preventing diseases which will help them live longer and healthier lives.
Compact funds have also been used to sponsor a small grants program in the community so NGOs, private clinics and non-health organizations (such as elementary and secondary schools) can receive funding for innovative ideas to support the reduction in NCDIs.
Fundamental to the support for health care workers and their patients have been policy changes within the public and private sectors. Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia has worked with the Government of Mongolia to revise tobacco and alcohol laws, as well as establishing a health promotion fund to address NCDIs.
Within the private sector, MCA-Mongolia has worked with organizations such as Talkh-Chikher bakery to reduce the salt content within its Atar bread, Mongolia’s leading brand of bread.
The main lesson from my site visit to the Talkh-Chikher bakery in Ulaanbaatar is that advocacy is bringing change.
Posted on December 12, 2012 by Courtney Engelke , Director
Many people in the United States and Mongolia refer to Mongolia’s Energy and Environment Project as “the stoves program.” While it is true that the project has successfully supported consumer purchases of more than 90,000 stoves in Ulaanbaatar, did you know that it also supported the purchase of nearly 25,000 other energy-efficient appliances like insulation, vestibules and energy efficient homes? Did you know that the project also supported small grants for greening and air quality research and the replacement of 15 heat only boilers at 10 student and residential sites throughout the city, representing more than 8 megawatts of heating capacity? And did you know that approximately $6.6 million of the project budget is dedicated to infrastructure and other support for the 50-megawatt wind farm now under construction at Salkhit Mountain?
The project recognized early on that it would not be able to resolve the capital city’s air pollution problem by itself, so we planned to make additional contributions beyond stoves in an effort to demonstrate what works. The Energy and Environment Project intends to provide a short term “bridge” to longer term solutions, such as developing a commercial market for energy efficient products, which we hope might be brought about through the application and enforcement of standards, certification and labeling policies, competition, and affordable finance, and providing more permanent housing and municipal infrastructure.
On my most recent visit to Mongolia, I confirmed that 15 heat only boilers were replaced with more efficient technologies and wet scrubbers to control particulate emissions. I also visited the expanded and upgraded Nalaikh substation, and confirmed the installation of a fiber optic cable that links that substation to the National Dispatching Center control system. I was also pleased to see the first three of 31 General Electric turbines installed at the very windy Salkhit site—a major step toward making the planned wind farm a reality.
The Energy and Environment Project will connect the wind farm to the national grid and train electrical dispatchers to manage variable power with the help of a dispatch training simulator. These achievements would have been impossible without the concerted cooperation of MCA-Mongolia, its consultants, contractors, the Ulaanbaatar government, the national grid company, the national dispatching center, and Clean Energy LLC, the sponsor of the Salkhit wind farm.
Each time I visit Mongolia, I increasingly see the positive impact that stoves are having on air quality and the daily lives of Ulaanbaatar’s poor. What I had not seen until this trip was the project’s larger-scale emissions control initiatives, such as the replacement of the boilers and progress toward the displacement of approximately 50 megawatts of thermal generation that will result from the Salkhit wind farm. As our experience has shown, controlling emissions at the household level in the ger districts is an incredible challenge. Single source solutions represented by heat-only boilers and the Salkhit wind farm demonstrate opportunities to control and reduce air pollution at greater scale, which we hope will help Mongolia more rapidly achieve and sustain its air quality goals.
Posted on September 11, 2012 by D. Chuluuntsetseg, MCA-Mongolia, and Ch. Tserenkhand, The Asia Foundation
Last year, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia and The Asia Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding that brings the latest medical and technical information to Mongolia’s future doctors, engineers, computer programmers, and other skilled workers.
Under the agreement, the foundation’s Books for Asia program delivered 10,000 new technical, vocational and medical books, CDs and DVDs to students and health centers benefitting from MCC's five-year, $285 million compact with Mongolia.
Many publishers generously contributed to the initiative, including McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, Oxford University Press, W.W. Norton & Company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Books of Discovery, and Island Press.
Highly motivated teachers and students put the books to practical use. Ms. Dorjderem, an assistant teacher of English at the School of Health Technology, currently uses Hole's Essentials of Human Anatomy and Physiology-Laboratory Manual to prepare class lectures. She also uses Medical Language for Modern Health Care in her classes to improve her students’ medical English proficiency.
Dorjderem also established the school’s first English reading club, using donated books. The club has become a popular place among teachers, students and nurses to improve their English, teaching and learning skills.
One student, B. Banzragch, significantly improved his English skills and was able to enroll in a course at a Japanese university.
“The books from America helped me a lot in gaining knowledge and language skills to achieve my goals,” he said. “These books are really wonderful in terms of giving systemic knowledge and are well-designed and very user-friendly.”
As the legendary Mongolian poet, D. Natsagdorj said, “books are windows to the world.”
Posted on August 20, 2012 by B. Tsolmon and L. Gerelmaa, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia
Severe winter air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, has become a major concern for the city’s 1.3 million residents, which is nearly half the country’s total population. A majority of Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution comes from districts populated with gers, traditional Mongolian houses where lower-income households live.
Women head many of these ger households. They rely on burning raw coal in inefficient stoves to heat the poorly insulated gers—a primary source of the city's air pollution, which fuels environmental and health risks and causes economic impacts. To address this concern, a facility was established within the scope of the compact's Energy and Environment Project to fund financial incentives and technical assistance for adopting cleaner, more efficient technologies for use in heating the gers.
The project’s particular and positive impact on gender issues recently gained international attention with the July 2012 visit of Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, as part of a women’s empowerment conference held in Mongolia.
Ambassador Verveer paid a visit to Norovkhand and her family in the Bayanzurkh district outside Ulaanbaatar. Norovkhand obtained a subsidized energy efficient stove through MCA-Mongolia, the local entity managing compact implementation. Norovkhand, a single mother of three and a grandmother of one, shared her experiences on how much coal she has saved in using her new stove, compared with the traditional stove she used previously.
Most importantly, the energy-efficient stove, she said, simplifies routine housework since it requires less fueling, generates less ash and is easy to clean.
“It is very affordable and accessible especially for female-headed households like us, given the subsidies provided by the project,” she said.
Norovkhand’s family is also among potential beneficiaries of the hashaa (yard) plot privatization and registration activity under the compact’s Property Rights Project. With their land formally registered, Norovkhand’s family and many others will have an opportunity to access bank credit, enabling them to make more productive use of their plots.
MCA-Mongolia is tracking the longer-term impacts of increased asset ownership through its monitoring and evaluation work, which also includes a complementary qualitative survey on how increasing asset ownership among women impacts household dynamics.
To track the difference the compact is making for Mongolians at both household and national levels, a number of gender-responsive actions are underway across the program to ensure that women and men benefit equitably from the compact, which is key for sustainable development and economic growth of benefit for all.
Posted on July 17, 2012 by B. Tsolmon, MCA gender specialist and focal point, and L. Gerelmaa, MCA gender specialist and focal point
MCA-Mongolia’s commitment to gender integration in its compact has received praise on both sides of the Pacific.
We represented MCA-Mongolia at the inaugural MCC Forum on Global Development in April for receiving the Country Commitment Award. To commemorate this achievement, the Mongolian prime minister hosted a high-profile event in May to celebrate the accomplishment in our country as well.
“We can now witness a tangible impact on the lives of thousands of Mongolians as a result of the compact,” Prime Minister Sükhbaataryn Batbold said at the event at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar.
Not only are stakeholders in the U.S. now aware of the positive strides we’ve made with gender integration, but also ministers, cabinet members, and members of the public and press who attended the event in Ulanbaataar.
A compact beneficiary, Javzan T., shared her experiences and expressed her gratitude to MCC and MCA-Mongolia. Javzan T. is a single mother of eight who benefitted from the compact’s Property Rights Project by having exclusive rights to lease more than 600 hectares of rangeland.
“It is a great opportunity for us to develop our livestock business,” she said. “I would like to express my appreciation to the American people, who have stretched their helping hands to us from such a far place.”
We are very proud to champion the integration of gender considerations across a wide range of operational areas in the Mongolia Compact, including program implementation, communications and monitoring and evaluation. We conducted gender trainings with our program implementation units and contractors and established points of contact on gender issues in each unit. These measures are being reflected in more equitable benefits and have resulted in greater land ownership among women, herder training tailored to both women’s and men’s needs, and health interventions that are mindful of women’s and men’s needs in our communities.
Posted on June 7, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
I am in Jordan, one of the world's driest countries, where severe water scarcity impacts every aspect of daily life.
I met with Fatima Ali, a widow, whose entire income is spent on rent. The water pipes to Fatima's home leak and the wastewater pipes overflow regularly. When water does flow in, Fatima uses old paint cans to store it because she does not have proper water storage containers. Fatima's neighbor, Sulaiman Ali (no relation to Fatima), has similar challenges. The diabetic father of three lacks proper water storage capabilities, and the inconsistent water supply makes operating his dialysis equipment extremely difficult.
MCC's $275 million compact with the Government of Jordan is designed to address some of these challenges.
Through the repair and replacement of broken or leaking pipes and the installation of proper water storage tanks, MCC will increase water availability and quality in poor neighborhoods like the one where Fatima and Sulaiman live. MCC's grant will also extend modern sewers to urban neighborhoods, improving wastewater collection and decommissioning the use of cesspits.
Today, I presided over the signing of a critical private sector agreement, a major step toward expanding the As Samra wastewater treatment plant. Originally built with help from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the As Samra wastewater treatment plant, once completed, will be one of the largest in the region. Approximately half of the financing for this expansion is being provided through private sector partners, proving once again that when governments create the right atmosphere for investment, the private sector will respond.
Together, these activities will benefit approximately 3 million Jordanians. For Fatima and Sulaiman, it means a better quality of life. For MCC, it means economic growth and development for a critical partner country in the Middle East. Truly, when water flows, prosperity follows.
Posted on February 7, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I bought lunch today for the first time from a food truck. From Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, food trucks are transforming how this country eats, offering alternatives for every culinary appetite. In the spirit of creative entrepreneurship, Morocco’s fish vendors leveraged MCC funding to pursue a similar concept and go mobile. That country’s MCC compact is replacing donkey-drawn carts with three-wheeled, heavy-duty motorbikes equipped with insulated ice chests, empowering Moroccan fish venders to sell more fish to more consumers with a focus on quality and freshness. More than this literal parallel, I think MCC and food trucks have a lot in common. Think about it.
Innovation: Both MCC and food trucks are built on innovation. Food trucks offer one or two signature dishes, giving proprietors the opportunity to highlight and celebrate their innovative food specialties, which might otherwise be lost on the full restaurant menu. MCC has taken more than half a century of development practices and incorporated the most innovative principles into our model for development effectiveness, focusing simultaneously on results, country-owned solutions, accountability, and transparency.
Technologically-powered: Because of Twitter, food trucks have proliferated. Technologically-savvy customers are turning to their mobile devices and online communities to track when and where their favorite food trucks will be serving. I saw the same positive use of technology in Armenia, for example, as farmers, benefitting from MCC’s investment in the most extensive modernization of the country’s irrigation system in 30 years, use their cell phones to obtain the latest market prices for their agriculture products to maximize sales. MCC compacts increasingly are leveraging the power of technology to achieve sustainable development and increase incomes, from computerizing banks in Ghana to give rural families and businesses efficient access to financial services, to optimizing global positioning systems in Benin for accurate land mapping to provide individuals with secure title to their property, to using latest breakthroughs to grow, irrigate and harvest quality crops that both promote greater food security a
nd make farmers more competitive in the marketplace.
Customer-driven: Given the long line I stood in, I am struck by how many people are drawn to the food truck experience. There’s obvious market demand. MCC, too, is approached constantly by countries eager to reform their policies and partner with us. The partnerships we do form with a select group of poor, but well-governed, countries are based on shared responsibility and mutual accountability to achieve their homegrown development solutions.
Just as food trucks serve a cornucopia of cuisines from around the world, MCC partners span the globe in a common drive to reduce poverty through economic growth. By opening gateways to opportunity, MCC’s worldwide partnerships help local businesses and entrepreneurs thrive, so that our development dollars, ultimately, can be replaced by economic growth led by the private sector.
I am preparing to travel to Africa this month to sign MCC’s compact with Cape Verde and to mark the completion of Ghana’s MCC compact. Such milestone events in these countries will serve as opportunities to see MCC’s approach to innovation, technology and country-owned development strategies in action. Check back to read my blogs from those upcoming travels. In the meantime, please let me know if there are any food trucks in Cape Verde and Ghana I should sample.
Posted on November 22, 2011 by Robert Reid, Mongolia Resident Country Director
Earlier this month, seven technical and vocational schools in Mongolia received donations of more than $1.7 million in heavy equipment from the Department of Defense. In return, the students will be trained on usage, maintenance and repair to better prepare them to find jobs. This was the first time Mongolia has received equipment through the program.
MCC’s five-year compact with Mongolia includes $47 million to improve the country’s vocational education system. To leverage these investments, MCA-Mongolia signed a memorandum of understanding in March with the U.S. Department of Defense Excess Property Program, which allows for the donation of non-lethal, excess property to countries that contribute to the U.S. Government’s efforts to promote democratic development and regional stability.
The schools, which often cannot afford to purchase expensive machinery, received 18 pieces of donated machinery frequently used in the mining, road, construction, and agriculture industries.
Donated items include cranes, graders, tractors and scoop loaders. Hands-on training will better prepare students to find jobs after school.
MCC is helping improve Mongolia’s technical and vocational education system through policy reforms, professional development for instructors, the establishment of a labor market information system, and the provision of essential equipment. An estimated 170,000 people are expected to benefit from the project over the next 20 years.
Posted on August 18, 2011 by Bruce Kay, Director of Threshold Programs for Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America
MCC completed its first $13.85 million Threshold Program in Albania in 2008. As a result of the success of the program, MCC approved a $15.7 million Stage II Threshold Program, building upon the accomplishments of the first.
The Stage II Threshold Program in Albania ended last month. The results of the Threshold Program in Albania should be a source of pride for all who worked to make it a success.
Already we can see a number of remarkable achievements that have modernized government operations, cut down on red tape for businesses and entrepreneurs, and strengthened governance and the rule of law in Albania.
Our partners at USAID, the agency administering the program on MCC’s behalf, recently released a series of web videos that highlight some of the successes of the Stage I and Stage II Threshold Programs. The videos, in Albanian with English subtitles, focus on the establishment of an e-governance system, improvements to tax administration, the new business licensing and registration centers, and engagement with civil society.
These videos reflect Albania’s tremendous progress. Thanks to MCC support under the Threshold Program, Albania now has an integrated e-governance system serving to make public administration more efficient and less susceptible to corruption.
The system’s main features include:
- A United Nations award-winning e-procurement system, which has expanded competition and reduced costs, and is now used for all government purchases over $4,000 in value;
- A tax e-filing and e-payment system now used by two-thirds of all taxpayers, which has increased the public revenue while slashing corruption opportunities;
- A one-stop-shop business registration system, which has decreased economic informality and, according to the World Bank/IFC’s Doing Business magazine (2009, 2010), improved Albania’s business climate by more than 70 places in the global ranking;
- A single-window licensing system now used by most Albanian professionals and businesses to obtain their licenses; and
- functioning joint investigative units that are now investigating and prosecuting dozens of organized crime and corruption cases, including one case involving a former deputy Prime Minister.
The Stage II Threshold Program also developed a National Planning Registry, used now to manage and track building permit applications in five cities. It bolstered civic watchdog groups and helped them hold the Government of Albania accountable for maintaining the reforms ushered in by the Threshold Program.
It also created a myriad of now-functioning institutions that protect the interests of businesses and citizens alike, including a National Registration Center and branch offices in most cities, a National Licensing Center with branch offices, a Public Procurement Advocate, and a Taxpayers Advocate.
When Albania launched its initial Threshold Program in 2006, it was classified by the World Bank as a low-income country. In a sign of progress, the country jumped to the upper middle-income category in 2010.
Albania’s income status now precludes the country from being a candidate for MCC assistance, but MCC recognizes the tremendous progress made through the two Threshold Programs implemented in Albania.
As noted above, USAID administered the program on MCC’s behalf, with further assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice. USAID/Albania and the Government of Albania were critical partners, and the Department of Justice OPDAT program deserves kudos for its work bolstering law enforcement mechanisms, now used with great effect.
For more information on Albania’s initial and Stage II Threshold Programs, visit MCC’s Albania page.
Posted on April 22, 2011 by Frances Reid, Senior Investment and Risk Officer
It was a great personal pleasure to participate in the closing ceremonies marking the end of the Compact in Vanuatu, and the completion of the Santo East Coast Road and Efate Ring Road rehabilitation. Vanuatu was one of the first countries selected to receive MCC funding, and it remains the only Pacific island nation to have entered into a compact with MCC. I’ve been extremely impressed with the serious efforts made by the government and the commitment of the people of Vanuatu over the last five years, not only to carry out the requirements of the Compact, but also, and in the long run more importantly, to strive to meet the rigorous policy reform eligibility criteria which MCC considers the key to the sustainability of development. Vanuatu has truly emerged as a model of democracy and commitment to good policy, and as a regional anchor of stability.
In a country which had only 73 kilometers of paved roads before project inception, the Compact has nearly tripled this number to a grand total of over 220 kilometers of paved roads! The rehabilitation of these two national roads, the most important roads in the country and affectionately renamed the Goodwill Highway and the Road of Life, is already improving access to market and providing critical access to social services in the two most critical economic development corridors in Vanuatu.
This project has been the highest priority for everyone involved and it has already made national history. From the precedent of community consultations and community engagement through the commitment to building infrastructure in a culturally respectful way to capacity building at both MCA-Vanuatu and the Engineering Support Unit and Government commitment to good policies for economic growth, this has been a demonstration of country ownership, dedication, and partnership. MCC takes pride in having been part of this effort to lay a foundation for sound, sustainable, country-led economic growth.
The Compact is also a testament to good donor cooperation. New Zealand, in particular, as well as Australia, through their development assistance programs, contributed in critical ways to the completion of the Compact program. Their willingness to work with MCC and the Government of Vanuatu to achieve a common purpose is an excellent example of how donor cooperation is supposed to work.
Posted on January 25, 2011 by Courtney Engelke , Director, and Burak Inanc, Deputy Resident Country Director Mongolia
Wintertime air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is among the worst in the world. In Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital city in the world, coal-fired heating and cooking stoves in traditional “ger” (or circular felt) dwellings emit a toxic brew of pollution. While Mongolia is becoming an increasingly attractive investment and tourist destination, businesspeople and tourists generally steer clear of the capital city during winter months, in part because of the pervasive air pollution. Unfortunately, the over 600,000 residents living in Ulaanbaatar’s “ger districts” don’t have that option.
MCA-Mongolia’s Energy and Environment Project (EEP) aims to reduce air pollution by providing financial incentives to encourage residents to become more energy efficient and use lower-emission heating devices and stoves. In December, the EEP launched an Affordable Energy Efficiency Home Design Contest to spur innovation in modern housing.
The EEP also hosted an International Energy Efficiency Exhibition to introduce energy-efficient products to consumers. This exhibition, the second held since the project’s inception, included nearly 50 domestic and international suppliers from the United States, Korea, and Turkey, among other nations. The event also served to increase the pipeline of innovative and appropriate products that are being considered for financial support by the EEP.
The EEP Project Director, the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, and the City Government’s Air Quality Office opened the exhibition with impassioned remarks about the importance of clean energy to the health and well-being of city residents. A group of popular Mongolian rock singers then performed an original “clean air” song, penned for the occasion, to fervent applause. Suppliers enthusiastically exhibited energy-efficient home products, energy-efficient building materials, ger home insulation, electric heaters, liquefied petroleum gas heaters, pellet heaters, and air filtration systems to consumers who were eager to listen and learn. Compelling photos documenting the impact of air pollution from a student competition were on display, and awards were announced for the photos and a related essay contest.
Perhaps most inspiring, however, was the strength of the public and private-sector collaboration to find affordable solutions to this serious public health problem. The wide variety of products and ideas on display was encouraging—the prospects for sustainable market-based solutions appear to be growing by the day.
The Energy and Environment Project has added some of the products showcased in the exhibition to its analytical pipeline, and some of the producers have now organized to advocate for energy efficiency. At the same time, MCC is working hard to support MCA-Mongolia in its efforts—and we can’t seem to stop humming that Mongolian “clean air” song.
Posted on December 17, 2010 by Jim McNicholas, Resident Country Director, Georgia
On November 29, 2010, Millennium Challenge Georgia (MCG) hosted a closing ceremony and exhibition for its agribusiness development program. To celebrate this milestone, 60 of the program’s 283 agribusiness projects showcased their products at an Agri-Food Expo, with Georgian government officials as well as bankers and supermarket chains in attendance.
Since 2006, MCG and its implementing partner, CNFA, a U.S. non-profit, have co-financed 182 primary producers, 43 businesses projects that provide services to farmers, and 58 businesses that enable value-added and value-chain production. MCG has invested $15.9 million in this program and, according to CNFA, Georgian citizens have invested $20 million more. As of early autumn 2010, MCG reported that 2,613 jobs had been created as a result of agribusiness development program activities.
At the Agri-Food Expo, Mamuka Tskioridze and Malkhaz Gabunia displayed their orange persimmons neatly packed in wooden boxes, alongside fresh salad greens and herbs. With their company’s 1:1 matching investment and MCG’s $149,000 co-financing, these entrepreneurs have expanded their greens export business both in terms of volume and the types of products being offered to Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. “In the past, every product we bought from farmers we had to pack and ship that day because if not we would lose the product,” said Mr. Tskioridze. “With the cold storage warehouse [which was also co-financed by MCG] we now have time to collect more products from our farmers and export using fewer trips.”
One of the most successful projects to emerge from MCG’s agribusiness program was the establishment of 33 for-profit, privately owned, Farm Service Centers throughout Georgia. Before the centers were opened, farmers had to get their supplies from stalls in various local markets. These decentralized transactions made it difficult for farmers and their suppliers to build relationships and communicate with each other. Now, one-stop Farm Service Centers have been established in every region in Georgia and have generated 100,000 transactions. In addition to serving as a commercial exchange, the centers also provide opportunities for the exchange of information — knowledge warehouses where the Ministry of Agriculture, various Community Based Organizations, and individual farmers can showcase new farming techniques and relay important announcements.
Georgia’s Prime Minister, Nika Gilauri, closed the Agri-Food Expo by noting several program results, “More than 2,600 jobs have been created and these jobs are not just short-term jobs; they have long-term perspectives and provide long term opportunities… Millennium Challenge Georgia proved that investments can be made in this sector and be successful.”
Posted on November 4, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Late last month, I surveyed progress in two MCC partner countries: Moldova, which is just beginning the implementation of its compact, and Georgia, which is on track to bring its compact to a successful close in the next six months.
In Moldova, I was impressed with the farmers I met in Slobozia-Dusca, a village not far from the capital of Chisinau. These farmers will benefit from MCC-funded irrigation projects and are already talking about the impact a centralized irrigation system will have on their livelihoods, as it will lower operating costs and allow them to diversify into high-value crop production and increase their yields. I was particularly moved by my conversation with Iurie Stahi. He told me he was grateful for America’s assistance from the bottom of his heart, and he explained that, as a result of MCC’s planned investments in the agriculture sector, he intends to plant apple orchards and sell his apples during the winter when they command a higher price, as well as during the summer and autumn seasons. I’m looking forward to following Iurie’s progress as the Moldova compact ramps up implementation.
In Georgia, I was deeply impressed with the transformative power of a road. I traveled the Samtske-Javakheti road, which Georgia is rehabilitating with MCC compact funds, from Tbilisi to where it nears Georgia’s border with Turkey and Armenia. What I saw and whom I met along the way showed me exactly how paving a reliable road is essential for generating economic opportunities.
I first witnessed this when I met Valodia Mestvirishvili at his trout farm in Algeti, just off the Samtske-Javakheti road. The agricultural development activity of Georgia’s compact supplied hatchery equipment, oxygen tanks, a transportation vehicle, and veterinary supplies to his farm to raise the trout, and the road rehabilitation funded by the compact provides him much-needed access to markets to sell his product to Georgian retailers and consumers. Valodia shared with me that his annual trout yield has skyrocketed from 5 to 12 tons. I am proud of the fact that MCC funding has provided this hardworking entrepreneur the tools he needs to succeed.
My road trip took me past Georgia’s Lake Sagamo, a place of serene natural beauty. Against a mountainous backdrop, as the sun was setting and the moon was rising, I planted trees along the Samtske-Javakheti road. These trees are critical; they provide proper landscaping and better wind protection and they help advance the sustainability of the MCC-funded road. Tree planting also reaffirms that sound environmental stewardship protecting natural resources goes hand-in-hand with economic development.
I was particularly pleased to see that MCC’s funding of the Samtske-Javakheti road has enhanced the Georgian people’s accessibility of Vardzia. Vardzia is home to a cave monastery, an unforgettable historic treasure of great cultural and religious significance dating back to the 12th century. I learned that, for too long, this part of Georgia was lost to outsiders; the trip to reach Vardzia was treacherous and the roads were literally impassible in some sections. Buses risked overturning on the dangerously unpaved roads. Now, the rehabilitated Samtske-Javakheti road is reconnecting Georgians with Vardzia and their heritage, and opening up this area to tourists. Boosting tourism in this otherwise underdeveloped area is generating economic development and growth vital to the prosperity of Georgians.
The MCC-funded Samtske-Javakheti road also nears Georgia’s border with Armenia and Turkey in the town of Akhalkalaki. This once quiet outpost is now bustling with activity, which will increase as a bridge, currently under construction, is completed. New shops are already opening, and the prospects for increased trade and commerce create further opportunities for Georgians to prosper.
In all these ways, Georgia proves that the MCC model is working well. Our partnership is creating conditions for sustainable economic growth that are increasing incomes. As the compact moves toward completion, I am looking forward to the independent evaluations that will assess the impact of our investment. True to President Obama’s new vision for U.S. global development, what I saw in both Georgia and Moldova already reaffirms for me that MCC practices the principles essential for long-term impact: investing in economic growth, promoting country-led development, demanding accountability and transparency, and delivering sustainable results that matter in the lives of the poor.
Posted on September 24, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
As world leaders gathered this week in New York City for the United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the United Nations General Assembly, MCC’s mission and work took center stage.
I listened to President Obama unveil the first-ever development policy issued by a U.S. president. His groundbreaking MDG Summit speech outlined development’s heightened role in U.S. global engagement as a strategic, economic, and moral imperative. The President emphasized that economic growth is the centerpiece of his new development policy, because growth is the fundamental force that will transform the developing world and eradicate poverty. He talked about empowering and partnering with countries committed to taking responsibility for their own development. And, he stressed that America’s development investments can have maximum impact in partner countries that set in place high standards of transparency, good governance, and accountability.
I am proud that MCC is already putting the President’s core development principles into practice, like investing in economic growth, promoting country-led development, demanding accountability, and focusing on transparency and results. MCC’s experiences have informed many aspects of the President’s new policy. We are integral to the policy moving forward by sharing what we have learned, including our leadership on rigorous evidence-based evaluations to drive policy decisions and ensure aid effectiveness.
The principles of effective development outlined in President Obama’s policy were repeated by the presidents and prime ministers from a number of partner countries I met with this week to discuss progress on the implementation of their MCC compacts. They spoke about reforming their policies, building homegrown capacity and more responsive institutions, and delivering the results their citizens expect. These themes were also featured at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. I was particularly struck by CGI’s emphasis on strengthening market-based solutions and empowering girls and women, which are also clear priorities for MCC’s work in partner countries worldwide and for achieving the economic growth underpinning the Obama administration’s global development policy.
Moreover, the President’s development policy embraces partnership as essential to success, and each MCC event in New York sought ways to mobilize the power of partnerships. I met President Benigno Aquino to sign a $434 million MCC compact with the Philippines. This compact will fight corruption by streamlining processes at the Bureau of Internal Review; strengthen local accountability through the Kalahi-CIDSS rural development program; and improve access to markets and community services through the construction and repair of 220 kilometers of Samar Road. The Philippines’s MCC compact is another example of how we partner with countries committed to sound political, economic, and social policies vital for sustainable development to deliver the progress and results the poor expect.
To further engage with the private sector as vital partners in development, Cape Verde’s Prime Minister José Maria Neves, the Executive Vice President and CEO of the International Finance Corporation Lars Thunell, and AES Corporation’s Global Chief Operating Officer Andres Gluski joined me in addressing a private sector gathering. These gentlemen shared their first-hand perspectives on the power of private enterprise to augment and accelerate public efforts to stimulate economic growth. Businesses, foundations, NGOs, and partner countries discussed strategies to align their activities with sustainable development objectives. One of my top priorities at MCC, like the President’s policy advocates, is to increase development impact by broadening our partnerships with the private sector and non-traditional actors, such as philanthropic foundations.
MCC also partnered with other leaders in the field for a breakfast roundtable on gender. The discussion was co-hosted with the White House Council on Women and Girls and highlighted ways we can effectively integrate gender equality in development plans to ensure long-term sustainability. We recognize that expanding opportunities for women and girls in developing communities reduces poverty. MCC Senior Advisor Cassandra Butts spoke more about MCC’s gender policy at a high-level luncheon with heads of state later that day.
Now, we will build upon the conversations, relationships, and partnerships we forged and deepened this week to further MCC’s mission. MCC’s policies, practices, and results will continue to contribute to President Obama’s vision for development and serve as critical building blocks for a new era of global poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth.
Posted on July 30, 2010 by Chris Cookson, MCC Vanuatu Country Manager
Out in the Pacific Ocean is a country that has held close ties with the United States for 70 years. America’s friendship with Vanuatu began during World War II when American service men and women came to set up bases in Vanuatu. During this time, thousands of soldiers were based in the islands. Proud of the relationship, Vanuatu still boasts three man-made hills that spell out the letters U-S-A, which can be seen by plane.
In 2006, Vanuatu received a $66 million grant from the United States to support the restoration of roads on two of the country’s major islands – Efate and Espiritu Santo. These two road projects are much more than repairing and paving old, tired roads. They are providing the gifts of time, income opportunities, education and medical access.
You don’t have to look hard to find the roads’ impact among the people of Vanuatu. The road on Efate Island – which wraps around its coastline – allows bus, taxi and truck drivers to work without the consequences of excess damage to their vehicles or major repairs. Villagers are able to deliver firewood, flowers and produce to market several times a day rather than a few times a week. There are school children who no longer need to board at their campuses because of the decrease in travel time, and parents who are now able to take their babies to the hospital in minutes instead of hours.
On Espiritu Santo Island, the restoration of the East Coast Road is giving coconut and cattle farmers the chance to export more frequently – and without the risk of damaging produce in transit from rough and washed-out roads. Natural heritage sites such as lagoons, waterfalls, geothermal hot springs, and “blue holes” (indigo-colored underwater sinkholes) are now easily accessible to paying visitors and tourists interested in Vanuatu’s unique environment and ecosystem.
Capitalizing on MCC’s principle of country ownership, the Provincial Government for Efate has financed new village markets alongside the new, blacktop roads. These markets, managed by village women, are helping generate income, opportunities and local investments. Some women have also benefitted from the road construction by selling rice and fish lunches to road workers.
With support from the MCC program, Vanuatu has established community contracts, which empower villages to preserve sections of roads that pass through their jurisdiction. These activities, such as clearing debris from drains and removing low-value vegetation from the road, have cultivated an enormous amount of pride within the communities.
Vanuatu’s MCC grant does much more than build roads; it’s a partnership with the people and the government that provide them with the means to develop their own paths to prosperity. And as the roads near completion – and Vanuatu prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary of independence – the country has plenty to celebrate.
Posted on March 22, 2010 by Omar Hopkins, P.D., Associate Director for Infrastructure
When World Water Day was first celebrated in 1993, some 5.3 billion people lived on the planet. Of these, 512 million lived in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 49 and 26 percent, respectively, had access to an improved water source and sanitation facility. Today, on the seventeenth World Water Day, the global population includes 6.7 billion people, of whom 818 million live in sub-Saharan Africa, where 58 and 31 percent, respectively, now have access to water supply and sanitation services. This is a moment to celebrate the additional 223 million sub-Saharan Africans who have access to a water supply and the 120 million who now can access sanitation, but we should also focus on the continuing low rates of access. While tremendous accomplishments have been made, a great deal of work remains undone. Given the tremendous unmet demand for water supply and sanitation, what is being done to facilitate change and accelerate the rate at which these critical services are provided to a billion or so people globally who lack these critical services? A difficult problem like this requires innovation, experimentation, and a willingness to take risks to find better solutions. MCC was created as a new approach to development assistance: a firm five-year window for implementation, full commitment of the funds upon compact signing, untied assistance, and host country ownership, including proposal development and implementation. This approach reflects the best thinking about development assistance, as articulated in the Paris Declaration. In this, MCCs seventh year, we are looking at some important lessons learned, like carefully integrating social and environmental factors into project design and implementation, identifying innovative contracting approaches that accelerate the project life cycle without sacrificing quality, and promoting private sector participation. MCC works closely with partner countries to identify high value water supply and sanitation projects and water resource management and productivity projects that respond to the countries development priorities. MCC programs in Lesotho, Mozambique, and Tanzania include MCCs three largest water supply and sanitation projects, covering rural and urban water and sanitation, non-revenue water management, and source development. In addition, Mali, Burkina Faso, Armenia, Senegal, and Moldova are pursuing major irrigation and water resource management projects. To date, MCC programs have funded approximately $528 million in water supply and sanitation and $769 million in water resource management and irrigation. MCC partnered with the Government of Mozambique to target a traditionally underserved area: water and sanitation investments in urban areas and small towns. Secondary urban areas are particularly difficult environments in which to build sustainable water supply and sanitation systems because, by definition, they lack economies of scale, are more remote, have higher costs, have difficulty attracting and retaining staff, and are typically less affluent—all of which have negative implications for sustainability. Yet, a majority of world population growth will occur in urban areas and much of that will occur in these secondary urban areas. Addressing the projected water supply and sanitation needs of these communities will be one of the sectors most pressing challenges in the coming decades. In advancing MCC’s mission of global poverty reduction through economic growth, we will continue to work with partners committed to expanding access to water and sanitation.
Posted on November 16, 2009 by Van Crowder, Director of Education
International Education Week 2009 (Nov 16-20) is an occasion to celebrate the benefits of worldwide learning and exchange. International cooperation prepares citizens in every country to live, work and compete in the global economy. MCC is working with partner nations to improve their education and training systems so that students learn the skills to get good jobs and boost economic growth in their countries and communities.
Youth development is central to a healthy, skilled and productive workforce. Investing in human capital through education and training is critical for improving productivity and economic growth and for reducing poverty and unemployment. About 36 percent of MCCs $358 million direct investment in education is focused on youth development through technical and vocational education and training (TVET).
In El Salvador, working through FOMILENIO (which is the government entity accountable for compact implementation), MCC is helping to renovate 20 middle technical schools, revise curricula, train instructors, and provide scholarships to deserving students, who will get jobs in agronomy, tourism and information technology—all areas crucial to the development of the country’s northern zone.
In Mongolia, MCC’s investment is helping to reform the TVET legal and policy framework so that schools are financially sustainable and can respond effectively to labor market demand. Competency-based curricula are being developed in key sectors like mining and construction. Selected schools are being renovated and equipped with modern technology and teachers trained in its use.
In Namibia, MCC supports community-based resource and study centers to provide basic job skills and information services for unemployed youth and low-skilled adults. Also, the MCC investment is helping the National Training Authority develop demand-led programs, and a National Training Fund will ensure that the TVET system is financially viable.
In Morocco, TVET focuses on key artisan trades (leather, wood, metal, pottery, and textiles) whose products are in demand in the home, export and tourist markets. About 15 schools will be renovated and equipped with facilities to teach students the skills needed by employers and the market.
International Education Week is a great moment for MCC, partner countries and agencies to highlight the strategic importance of youth development. The links between education and economic growth, income distribution and poverty reduction are well established. Income, productivity and growth are closely linked to educational opportunity. Strengthened TVET programs are particularly valuable for developing countries with large youth populations in need of the skills that lead to decent jobs, which in turn drive growth and reduce poverty.