Ideas to Action:

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US Development Policy


CGD senior fellow, Steve Radelet and MCC CEO Paul Applegarth were featured guests on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi show on Monday, March 21. The show provided a public platform for discussion about the MCC approach, the pace of its progress to date, and how the MCA fits into broader U.S. policy towards the developing world.
With regards to the MCA's pace of progress, Steve commented that the slow progress is due mostly to the long delay between initial announcement of the program in March 2003 and final passage of authorization legislation in early 2004. Steve also made detailed remarks on the MCA approach and its role in a broader US development strategy. The show can be heard at WAMU

The MCA Approach
Kojo asked Steve how the MCA differs from traditional US development programs administered through USAID. Steve responded:

  1. Selectivity: The MCC is very selective in the countries it works with, choosing only those that have proven track records of good governance, economic policies that promote economic growth, and commitment to investments in its people.
  2. Country ownership: The MCA provides an opportunity for countries to set their own priorities rather than having the US government design the programs to be funded. This is reflected in the MCC practice of inviting countries to submit their own proposals for funding, outline their own benchmarks for success, and determine who will implement the funded programs.
  3. Accountability: The MCC places strong emphasis on measuring results, and holding recipient countries accountable for their commitments. This means that the MCC will channel additional funding towards countries and programs that are meeting their objectives, and away from those that are not.

Kojo also asked Steve about the pros and cons of the MCA approach. Steve responded that the MCA is an innovative and valuable development assistance tool for the countries that are "good performers" where the US can confidently work with the government. It is not, however, designed for countries with weaker leadership and higher rates of corruption. The MCA is one tool in America's aid toolkit, and must be considered part of a broader strategy for engaging with developing countries.
The other side of the MCA
Steve argued that global poverty and health crises such as HIV/AIDS both pose a moral dilemma and a represent a national security imperative for the US - and these issues face all poor countries, not just the "good performers." But unlike its concerted efforts to overall homeland security and national intelligence capacity, the Bush Administration has fallen short of revising its development policy to include different strategies for different countries. This is particularly true of the lack of a coherent US strategy toward weak and failing states.
Steve also argued that the US "speaks out of two sides of its mouth" when it comes to supporting poor countries. While the US increases development assistance or promotes preferential trade arrangements with some countries, it also maintains policies - such as farm subsidies and other trade barriers that target goods produced in poor countries - that directly jeopardize the potential for poor countries and people to pursue their own economic development.
To read more on the need for an overarching strategy for US development assistance, see US Foreign Assistance After September 11th: Testimony for the House Committee on International Relations by Steven Radelet, 02/26/2004.
To read recommendations on US policy towards weak and failing states, see Rebuilding Weak States by Stuart Eizenstat, John Edward Porter, and Jeremy Weinstein of CGD's Commission on Weak States and US National Security. Foreign Affairs 01/01/2005.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.