Global poverty will continue to plague our world as long as corruption remains unchecked. From boardrooms to farm fields, the corrosive effects of corruption rob countries large and small of the chance for long-term economic growth and sustainable development. This issue is one of the constant themes that people around the globe raise with me as we discuss ways that the U.S. Government can help lift people out of poverty in the most effective, results-based way. Addressing the problem is at the heart of the MCC model, and we partner exclusively with those countries that are taking concrete steps to free their countries from corruption’s strangulating grip.
A prime example of this partnership is MCC’s relationship with Paraguay. We have worked with Paraguay since May 2006 in targeted sectors identified by the Paraguayans as high priorities in fighting corruption. MCC’s $34.64 million anticorruption Threshold Program in Paraguay is nearing completion, and some of the early results paint an impressive picture of what can be accomplished when a country confronts corruption in an open and aggressive manner. A new forensic laboratory will help Paraguay’s prosecutors carry out investigations with the right tools and with integrity. Discipline of judicial personnel has improved significantly now that complaints can be filed and processed in an open and transparent way. Internal controls and ethics awareness are helping thousands of Paraguay’s public servants serve with greater accountability, quality, and integrity. Paraguay’s tax authority is aggressively pursuing noncompliant businesses and contraband, and illegal merchandise totaling over $6 million has been seized thanks to enhanced systems in Paraguay’s customs service.
These actions are tangible steps toward rooting out corruption. In recognition of these concrete efforts-and of the commitment of Paraguay’s new President Fernando Lugo and his historic government to sustain reforms and further control corruption-MCC invited Paraguay to submit a second, ““Stage II”” Threshold Program proposal, which is currently under review. Partners like Paraguay understand why MCC considers corruption as one of the ““hard hurdles”” that must be overcome in order to be eligible for a large-scale grant, or MCC compact. It makes sense that U.S. taxpayer investments go to countries that are tackling these problems on their soil. It makes sense for our partners to join with the U.S. in fighting a common enemy like corruption, the negative effects of which infect our global economy and hurt all of us in the long-run. A less corrupt world is a better place to do business, a more nurturing environment for democracy, and a better home for all of us. The fight against poverty requires the fight against corruption. It’s as true in countries like Paraguay as it is in places like our own country and our own hometowns, and it requires our combined efforts as partners.