Here in El Salvador, President Obama’s visit last month was the most anticipated and celebrated event of the year. In a nation that loves the United States but struggles to regain its economic footing and contain a violent crime epidemic, this signal of friendship from an American president was most welcome. President Obama used this Salvadoran platform to frame the principles of his new Policy Directive and highlight the innovative approach that MCC and other U.S. aid agencies are taking in our efforts to drive economic progress and achieve sustainable economic growth.
In remarks given alongside President Funes, President Obama highlighted the innovative approach we are taking to development in El Salvador:
"Instead of the old donor-recipient model, we’re working as partners, with El Salvador in the lead, to confront the hurdles to growth and development… Of course, we already have currently a Millennium Challenge grant coming into El Salvador that involves several hundred million dollars and is helping on a wide variety of fronts… Thanks to smart investments in education, rural development and infrastructure, El Salvador has made gains in reducing poverty. And to build on this progress, El Salvador is one of the first four countries in the world in our Partnership for Growth, which is a key element of my administration’s new approach to development.â€
This El Salvador-first framework is the basis for the success of the MCC Compact in the Northern Zone. And while El Salvador has hit a great stride in implementation (MCC just approved a $100 million, 6-month disbursement this week), what has transformed our development work is the successful adoption, by both donor and recipient, of a model where transparency and results are held on a pedestal, public participation and inclusion are the norm, and host-country ownership is celebrated by poor farmer and President alike. The MCC model has enabled us to do more than build roads, renovate schools, train farmers, construct municipal water systems, and extend the electrical grid to thousands of poor households. Our model of development has seen results that go to the heart of host-country ownership: 83.6 percent of farmers have adopted new farming practices, new enrollment in MCC-renovated high schools and community colleges is growing much faster than non-MCC schools, and most unique — the title "Northern Zoneâ€ is no longer connected with poverty but rather seen as a new frontier for opportunity. People believe in the MCC model in El Salvador — and rightfully so, as their fingerprints are on display from start to finish.
President Obama took a moment to stand with the Salvadoran people, extol the virtues of host-country ownership, and recommit his support for helping this small nation fight the threat of crime and solidifying an economic development model based on a partnership to confront the hurdles to growth and prosperity.
The MCC model has become a favorite strategy in this fight against poverty. The people and Government of El Salvador are proud to call it their own.