Vice Minister Escobar—wonderful to see you again.
Friends of El Salvador,
Bienvenidos! What a fantastic turnout, and it’s great to be here!
At the start of this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Margarita Escobar, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for Salvadorans Living Abroad, when I was in Chalatenango to check on the progress of El Salvador’s $461 million compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Together, we reaffirmed our shared commitment to the success of the compact, and recognize the role that Salvadoreños abroad can—and should—play in that success.
From our meeting came the idea of holding a series of events with major Salvadoran communities throughout the U.S. to showcase the opportunities created through El Salvador’s MCC compact. Our successful event in Washington, D.C. in February was very well-attended and resulted in a robust and educational discussion of our partnership with El Salvador.
I’m sure this gathering here in Los Angeles will be just as successful, particularly with the signing of one additional grant from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to facilitate investment and economic development opportunities in El Salvador’s Northern Zone.
We are extremely pleased to partner with
- the El Salvador Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
- the Embassy of El Salvador, and
- FOMILENIO, our counterparts in El Salvador implementing the program,
to host this special event to discuss positive developments and investment opportunities in El Salvador. And we are delighted to stand with Overseas Private Investment Corporation and United States Trade and Development Agency in support of growth in the Northern Zone as well. The presence of my esteemed colleagues from these two fine U.S. Government agencies, sends a strong signal that the United States supports El Salvador’s goal of prosperity as a friend and partner.
The MCC compact with El Salvador focuses on transforming the Northern Zone, which has suffered from poverty for decades. MCC is proud to work with the people of El Salvador to contribute to the economic rejuvenation and empowerment of this strategic area—a region of
- great promise,
- great potential,
- and great people.
I know that you would agree with me that there are buenas noticias in the north of El Salvador, thanks to our partnership.
The Salvadoran community, as stakeholders in the country’s progress, is a powerful force for change, and your ongoing support for development in El Salvador, particularly in the Northern Zone, will continue to usher in a new day of promise for a country that is of tremendous importance to MCC and to the United States.
I want you to know that your presence here is, in a very direct way, a reflection of the consultative process that distinguishes the work of MCC’s partners in countries like El Salvador. Our partners believe that only through open and honest dialogue with their citizens, who are invested in their country’s future, can economic growth yield real, long-term, sustainable benefits. Therefore, thanks for joining us today.
Your questions and comments are part of an ongoing conversation that began before the MCC compact was signed, and will continue throughout the life of MCC’s compact with El Salvador, and beyond. The consultative process engages Salvadoreños to define a new vision for El Salvador’s development, gathering feedback from
- the private sector,
- women’s advocacy groups,
- international institutions,
- municipal officials,
- community leaders,
- and Salvadoreños abroad.
Over 2,500 participants were consulted during program design in 2006, resulting in a
- and finely-tuned
compact to reduce poverty and spark new economic growth.
Recent Trip to El Salvador
To date, MCC has committed nearly $1 billion in the Americas through our programs as proof of how the hemisphere is a priority for the United States. El Salvador’s compact represents an important part of this investment in the Americas, and reflects the development priorities defined by Salvadoreños themselves, which include investing
- in human development through skills training and vocational education,
- in essential community infrastructure and services,
- in agricultural production and rural business development, and
- in transportation.
El Salvador is a model MCC country for the quality and speed with which it developed its compact, and I also want to commend El Salvador for achieving early progress on the ground.
- When I was in El Salvador, President Saca and I presented the first of thousands of scholarships funded by MCC to students in the Northern Zone to attend vocational training. What a pleasure that was to see!
- I was also presented with a copy of El Salvador’s first-ever Strategic Environmental Assessment. El Salvador’s assessment reflects our shared goal of protecting the environment as we pursue sustainable development.
Private Sector Role
Moving forward, we welcome and encourage private sector engagement as the best way to leverage MCC’s development assistance in El Salvador to deliver further sustainable results in the lives of the poor. And, we contribute to this in three main ways.
First, MCC creates the right policy conditions for the private sector. By insisting on sound fiscal and regulatory policies, MCC creates a pro-investment environment grounded in pro-business policy reforms. For example, motivated by its desire to qualify and remain eligible for MCC funding, El Salvador slashed the time it takes to start a business, leading to a spike in business registrations.
Second, MCC promotes a trade agenda. MCC compacts in the Americas contain “aid-for-trade” activities to build each country’s capacity to maximize regional and international trade opportunities. MCC funding is constructing and improving transportation links between El Salvador and Honduras and between Honduras and Nicaragua. These linked routes will help farmers more easily move their products to markets not only in the region but also to the U.S. and beyond.
And, third, MCC generates further investment opportunities. MCC investments provide the private sector with a point of entry to initiate or expand their own commercial and corporate social responsibility activities. We want the private sector to leverage MCC’s significant investments to
- build infrastructure,
- increase agricultural productivity, and
- improve the business climate
to stimulate their own investments.
I invite members of the business community—many here in this room—to look closely at MCC investment possibilities in El Salvador and explore opportunities of your own. I encourage you to
- meet with the experts who are assembled here and in El Salvador,
- make business connections, and
- think of how we can, together, make strategic investments in El Salvador’s future.
In addition, MCC is combining its efforts with those of other U.S. government agencies, like OPIC and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, to create even stronger incentives for investment in the north.
Clear proof of this is the technical assistance grant from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency that will be signed today with El Salvador’s National Development Commission, and that I am very pleased to be here to witness.
This grant joins two others that were signed earlier this week in El Salvador.
All three grants build upon and complement MCC’s investments in El Salvador to improve
- connecting roads,
- and business support services.
- They will create jobs.
- They will facilitate further investment opportunities for entrepreneurs.
- They will help ensure that MCC investments succeed and are sustained long after MCC’s work is done.
- And, they are excellent examples of the power of combining MCC efforts with those from other U.S. Government agencies to stimulate private sector activities in MCC countries.
I am pleased that Director Walther is here with us and can tell us more about the grants in a few minutes.
MCC is a catalyst for growth. MCC investments in El Salvador are creating a strong foundation for economic growth—one that is conducive for doing business. This is attracting not only other agencies of the U.S. government in a coordinated and comprehensive manner to add to the unfolding progress, but also entrepreneurs eager to seize and maximize the new possibilities on the horizon.
Together with the private sector, the Millennium Challenge Corporation is proud to partner with El Salvador. Through this partnership—based on
- mutual respect,
- teamwork, and
MCC will continue to help El Salvador achieve its goals for stimulating growth and reducing poverty for the benefit of Salvadoreños committed to a more prosperous life for themselves and their children.
Thank you again for you interest in MCC’s work in El Salvador.
I congratulate all those involved in making the signing of today’s grant a reality. Such hard work builds on MCC’s progress so far in El Salvador, and will change the lives of the poor living in the Northern Zone for the better.
I’d now like to turn the podium over to the Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency Larry Walther. Larry has been at the helm of USTDA since March, bringing with him years of extensive private sector experience. He most recently served as the Director of the Arkansas Department of Economic Development and worked for some 30 years at SBC Communications, now AT&T, as a switching engineer and ultimately Vice President for Corporate Services and Chairman of the SBC Foundation. As today’s USTDA grant is signed, please join me in welcoming USTDA Director Larry Walther…