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In its seventh round of selecting countries eligible to apply for assistance (and the first for the Obama administration), the MCC Board welcomed its new CEO and faced a decision tree with an awful lot of branches. And each branch seemed to have unknown variables: Would countries sustain eligibility? What final FY10 appropriations would it receive? Would Congress provide a short-term legislative fix for graduates? What to do about the trends that show graduation will continue, putting most of the better performers in the lower-middle income category (LMIC), capped at 25% of resources? Would Congress ever allow concurrent compact authority? What is the right balance between selecting new countries vs. implementing existing compacts? As the first set of compact countries near completion of their compacts, should it select them for a follow-on (second) compact? And then there always seems to be a case that challenges whether the MCC should be used as a purely diplomatic carrot. In the end, the Board navigated well all of the various pressures, adding no new countries to the existing pool but re-selecting those in the midst of compact preparation and selecting one country as eligible to prepare the first-ever second compact. Here are the headlines, along with our thoughts and comparison to our predictions:
This is a joint post with Sarah Jane Staats -- I am so delighted to have her back at CGD and collaborating with the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance team!
Last week, in front of twelve of the seventeen senators that form the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (an impressive turnout!) many folks got their first look at the long-awaited nominee to head the embattled U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Raj Shah, a medical doctor, senior official of the Gates Foundation and most recently, undersecretary of USDA, took center stage. And wowed.
He wowed with confidence and poise in answering very pointed, very informed questions from Members. He wowed with his knowledge, at this early stage, of the issues at the forefront of the development policy and foreign aid reform agenda. He wowed with the story of his meteoric rise through the ranks of the Gates Foundation. He wowed with an obvious passion for global development and public service. Heck, he even wowed with his young son who sat in his chair through the entire hearing, studiously taking notes.
The Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) has received wide praise for its innovative approaches to aid allocation and delivery but has not yet reached its full potential. Now, with the transition to a new administration, the MCC must take bold steps to achieve greater effectiveness, clarity of purpose, and integration with the broader U.S. foreign assistance framework. CGD analysts Sheila Herrling, Steve Radelet, and Molly Kinder offer timely suggestions, including introducing smaller, multiple compacts, reorienting the Threshold Program, and focusing exclusively on low-income countries.
Braving freezing temperatures and gusty winds, hundreds of development experts and members of the policy community packed a Washington hotel ballroom for a discussion with David Gergen on the outlook for global development policy under new U.S. president Barack Obama. Gergen, an advisor to four presidents and senior political analyst for CNN, sees both opportunities and risks in the years ahead.
On December 12, the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) Board will choose which countries are eligible for FY2008 funding in what may be the toughest selection round to date. With funding tight, new countries passing the performance test, half of the countries with signed compacts failing, and an MCC decision to shift its focus to implementation, this round should test the MCC's adherence to its principles and perhaps set new standards. As it does each year, the MCA Monitor team takes a hard look at tough choices and predicts which countries the MCC Board is likely to choose.
As Congress gears up to allocate some $36 billion in the international affairs budget across a multitude of foreign aid programs, CGD senior policy analyst Sheila Herrling and research assistant Sarah Rose ask whether the MCA should receive the full $3 billion requested by the president for the initiative. The authors applaud the MCA as one of the few U.S. foreign aid programs specifically dedicated to long-term global growth and poverty reduction and argue that reduced funding could jeopardize its core credibility.