Strengthening Education—and the Environment—with our partners in El Salvador

I can now give it my best and reach the goals I set for myself.  These were the words of Jennifer, one of the students who today received a scholarship for technical and vocational education in El Salvador.  I was pleased to be part of this ceremony and watch as these teenagers were recipients of something more than money for school today they received a chance to succeed.  This pilot scholarship program for youth in the impoverished Northern Region is just one aspect of a broad initiative on education that MCC is proud to fund as part of our $461 million compact with El Salvador.There is a clear link between education and economic development in El Salvador, where human capital is one of the countrys more promising and precious resources.  Infrastructure improvements are greatly enhanced by our sustained investment in the Salvadoran girls and boys that will be shaping the economic and social future of their country.  The scholarships that we awarded today underscored this link and pointed to a visible commitment by the government of El Salvador to invest in the education of its people.  President Saca and I discussed this issue at length during our trip to and from the events today in Chalatenango.Another issue at the forefront of my meetings in El Salvador was the environment.  Working in developing countries, MCC recognizes our responsibility to help partners prioritize social and environmental considerations within their compact design and implementation process.  Many people are aware of the environmental indicators that are already part of our selection process.  Fewer people know, however, of the environmental impact assessments and other considerations that are an integral step in our ongoing work with MCC partner countries.In the case of El Salvador, the environment is the subject of the countrys first-ever strategic environmental assessment.  I was presented with a copy of the report this morning as part of what has been a very public discussion of the issue here in the country.  A product of MCCs collaborative relationship with the World Bank, the report takes a hard look at both the individual and cumulative environmental impacts of development projects in the Northern Region where MCC and other donors work.  This has enabled identification of key opportunities for strengthening the framework for social and environmental sustainability, and filling gaps in the institutional structure at both the local and national levels.This is the sort of cooperation that makes MCC a sound investment in these partner countries, and a good investment of U.S. taxpayer dollars.  Our assistance is helping make our neighborhood in this case the Western Hemisphere a more democratic, more prosperous, and more stable place.