Tuesday was one of those remarkable days that bring a smile to your face and a special satisfaction for all the hours of work put in at MCC. I was able to share in the excitement and promise afforded by our MCC investment in El Salvador—the start of construction on the Northern Transnational Highway (NTH). From what I heard time and again from the wide variety of those present to witness this historical event in Metapán, it was more than just another ribbon-cutting ceremony; it was a celebration of a dream 50 years in the making.
Despite the heat, a crowd of over 500 gathered to witness a ceremony kicking off construction of the first segment of the NTH, as marked by the delivery of the official construction initiation orders. The highway is a major component of El Salvador’s $461 million MCC compact and represents a timely economic opportunity for the hundreds of thousands of people who reside in the Northern Zone. The construction of this road will effectively cut travel time, reduce transportation costs, facilitate domestic and regional trade, create numerous jobs, and, on the whole, improve access to economic and social opportunity.
It was an honor to stand with El Salvador’s President Elías Antonio Saca at the ceremony. Like all of us, he recognizes that constructing the NTH is a valuable investment not only in the Northern Zone but also for the whole of El Salvador. The NTH reflects a top development priority Salvadorans themselves determined as vital for sustainable poverty reduction and economic growth. I smiled with delight as one Metapán resident asked me in disbelief, Is the construction really starting next week? He recounted that a similar promise was made in 1980, when the much-anticipated construction stopped because of the outbreak of war. And, that wasn’t even the first time. Attending yesterday’s ceremony was J. Edgard Guevarra, the engineer who actually developed the original feasibility study and designs for the NTH in April of 1969. Still hard at work, Mr. Guevarra could hardly believe that forty years later a new version of his northern highway was about to be built. Even though construction is just starting, benefits are already accruing. We were joined by Lucia Viuda de Recinos, who barely held back tears when describing that for the first time in her 65 years of life she has a solid and safe home thanks to the resettlement plan associated with this road project. The MCC investment in the NTH is about progress and prosperity, not politics and partisanship. I am proud that MCC could provide the financial assistance to enable the Government of El Salvador to make good on an historic promise to the residents of the Northern Zone. As President Saca said, “The only promises that matter are those that are kept.” Even amid the transition in power here, the transition to prosperity is what really matters. MCC’s funding for the construction of this major thoroughfare—and for other compact projects—is not tied to who is in power; it is tied to El Salvador’s ongoing commitment to effectively practice the sound political, economic, and social policies necessary for growth to take root and flourish.