What we do in places like Malawi matters to people in places like…Miami

With Nilda Pedrosa and Marielena Gillamil during a dialogue with business and government leaders in Miami on February 1, 2008.

Last Friday, I met with a number of groups in Miami who have taken an active interest in MCCs work in Latin America and throughout the world. There is an obvious connection between our work in the Western Hemisphere and the communities of South Florida, but what impressed me about these groups, and the questions they posed, was their level of engagement on issues related to poverty reduction worldwide. During a meeting with students and development experts at Florida International University’s Summit of the Americas Center, my fellow panelists and members of the audience delved deeply into the issue of civil society participation in our MCC compacts. It was clear from their comments that a part of our model for development assistance that resonates deeply is that of meaningful, broad-based consultations with the public. I hope that people realize that the consultative process does not end when we sign a compact. It is present during the creation, continues throughout the life of a compact and, in many ways, is directly related to the steadfast policy of transparency that distinguishes MCC. I push my staff—in Washington and abroad—to put as much information as possible about our dealings with countries (including our indicators, scorecards, reports) on the internet and to share our data about how we do business in our partner countries and in Washington. When people want to talk about MCC, we want to engage with them. We owe it to the people in the partner countries where we work and to the taxpayers whose dollars are working hard to build the bridges, roads, irrigation systems, and schools overseasto be transparent in our actions undertaken on their behalf.

With Carl Cira, Edward Glab, Michael McClain, and Richard Olson during a public conversation sponsored by Florida International University’s Summit of the Americas Center.

Another interest repeatedly expressed during the days events (which included a meeting sponsored by the Global Leadership Campaign and Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami) was corruption. There were many questions about MCCs corruption indicator, a measure a country must pass to be eligible for MCC assistance. Corruption is a killer of long-term economic development. I raised this point during other meetings this week (with CSIS as part of their Smart Power series and with the Inter-American Dialogue). Weve got to open our eyes when we talk about how this problem affects burgeoning economies. We cant simply think of corruption as something that happens when a public official takes a bribe or skews his balance sheets. There is a lot that goes into corruptionwhich is why it deserves a hard look. MCC has put together some ideas on the issue which you can read on our web site’s anticorruption page. Corruption is a complex issue, and not always easy to measure, but it has to be a part of our equation when we are investing US assistance funds. At the end of the day, we in America pay for corrupt practices abroad because it limits our ability to do business honestly and efficiently and jeopardizes our opportunities here at home.

I got an earful regarding corruption this past week—which tells me that we are on the right path by helping to fight it through the MCC process. Its just one of the reasons why what we do in places like Malawi or Madagascar matters to people in Miami or Maryland. As well it should. (Let me know what you think at info@mcc.gov).