The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a bilateral United States foreign aid agency established by the U.S. Congress in 2004, applying a new philosophy toward foreign aid. It is an independent agency separate from the State Department and USAID.
At the Inter-American Development Bank meeting on March 14, 2002, President George W. Bush called for a new compact for development with accountability for both rich and poor countries. He pledged to increase development assistance by 50% by fiscal year 2006 (which, by the end of 2004, doubled and was to double again by 2010). Other development programs like USAID have been thought to suffer from many different and sometimes conflicting goals, which often are a result of political pressures, and for not delivering long-term economic improvements.
MCC was authorized in 2004 with bipartisan support. Its guiding principles are:
The first CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation was Paul Applegarth, a private business person with experience managing emerging market investments. Applegarth was followed by John Danilovich, a private business person who had served as the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica from 2001 to 2004 and then U.S. Ambassador to Brazil. On November 20, 2009, Daniel W. Yohannes, an Ethiopian-born American business person, was confirmed by the Senate as the newest CEO of the corporation. The current Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO is Dana Hyde.
The MCC Board is made up of representatives. These include the MCC's CEO, the U.S. Secretary of State who is the chair, the Secretary of Treasury who is the vice chair, the administrator of USAID, the U.S. Trade Representative and other private-sector or development-related officials.
A country is considered eligible for a compact (aid grant) if its score on 17 indicators exceeds the median score of its peer group. All 17 indicators are compiled by third parties with no connection to MCC; MCC grants are made without considering politics. This is perhaps the most innovative aspect of MCC, as previous foreign aid missions were plagued by political considerations. The focus of the MCC is to promote economic growth in the recipient countries. The program emphasizes good economic policies in recipient countries. The Bush administration has stated its belief that development aid works better in countries with good economic policies, such as free markets and low corruption.
The indicators are:
|Civil liberties||Ruling justly||Freedom House|
|Political rights||Ruling justly||Freedom House|
|Voice and accountability||Ruling justly||World Bank Institute|
|Government effectiveness||Ruling justly||World Bank Institute|
|Rule of law||Ruling justly||World Bank Institute|
|Control of corruption||Ruling justly||World Bank Institute|
|Immunization rate||Investing in people||World Health Organization|
|Public expenditure on health||Investing in people||World Health Organization|
|Girls' primary education completion rate||Investing in people||UNESCO|
|Public expenditure on primary education||Investing in people||UNESCO and national sources|
|Natural resource management||Investing in people||CIESIN/Yale|
|Inflation rate||Economic freedom||International Monetary Fund WEO|
|Trade policy||Economic freedom||Heritage Foundation|
|Land rights and access index||Economic freedom||IFAD / IFC|
|Regulatory quality||Economic freedom||World Bank Institute|
|Fiscal policy||Economic freedom||national sources, cross-checked with IMF WEO|
|Business start-up||Economic freedom||IFC|
These are only criteria for eligibility. An eligible country must apply for a grant with a specific project in mind. The criteria have been updated as of 2012.
|Compact countries||Threshold countries|
|Namibia||São Tomé and Príncipe|
MCC signs either a compact or a threshold agreement with a partner country. A compact is awarded if the country scores highly on the selection criteria indicators. If the country scores poorly but has a positive, upward trend on the selection criteria, it can still be eligible for a smaller grant, called a threshold program.
MCC requires that each partner government creates a special purpose legal entity that will be accountable for implementing the compact program.
In the first year (2004), 17 countries were made eligible for an MCC grant: Armenia, Benin, Bolivia, Cape Verde, El Salvador, Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Senegal, Sri Lanka, and Vanuatu. Madagascar and Honduras were the first countries to receive actual funding from the MCA. On June 16, 2006, the Gambia was suspended, citing deterioration in 8 of the 16 criteria categories. Mali was approved in October 2006 for a $461 million program to develop modern irrigation systems and an industrial park. Jordan was granted full compact eligibility, despite objections from Freedom House for its lack of full political and civil rights. MPs in Uganda from the opposition party hailed their country's rejection from full compact status, demanding instead a stronger effort in stopping the corruption that disqualified their country. In June 2007, MCA-eligible countries in Africa held a meeting in Accra, Ghana, to discuss their experiences. Malawi qualified for a full compact in 2007, while Mauritania became threshold eligible.
Several countries were chosen in 2004 for a new part of the program called Threshold Program Assistance, which are smaller compacts used to assist a country close to meeting account eligibility to become eligible for a full program. Jordan received a Threshold program aimed at democracy and trade totaling $25 million. Yemen was previously eligible for a threshold agreement, but was suspended after their indicators fell too low to qualify. But having successfully competed a democratic election and various economic reforms, the MCC made Yemen eligible again for a threshold agreement. On December 12, 2007, the MCC Board selected Malawi for a compact and Mauritania for a threshold agreement, as well as allowing Albania, Paraguay, and Zambia to submit a first ever second stage threshold agreement. In 2007 the U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland highlighted the progress on the MCC indicators over the last few years and encouraged the country to work toward eligibility.
A full listing of MCC partner countries can be found at https://web.archive.org/web/20130101234121/http://www.mcc.gov/pages/countries. MCC's portfolio focuses mostly on African nations.
Congress has consistently provided less funding for the program than the president has requested. In fiscal year 2004, $650 million were provided for the program, with an increase up to $1.5 billion the next year. For fiscal year 2007, $2 billion were provided, a 14% increase over the previous year but still under the $3 billion target. Again for fiscal year 2008, less funding will be provided than was hoped for, and only $1.2 billion was budgeted; the CEO of the MCC commented that it would undercut the program's efforts. Congress declined to re-authorize the program, which technically was not needed since the program had been authorized already, but also since there was argument over the authorization language. In discussions of the FY 2009 budget, the United States Senate proposed that only half of the money needed for a compact be provided up front, as opposed to full funding for each one provident in advance, which officials at the corporation insist would be a "large step backward" causing too little aid to make an impact on recipient countries. Senator Richard Lugar, the author of the amendment, responded that more "realistic" funding levels allowed for more compacts, thus spreading the "MCC effect". The amendment did not make it into the final bill. President Bush's FY 2008 budget requested $2.225 billion, the first time since the program's inception that the amount was not $3 billion, and enough money for five compacts, several threshold agreements and administrative funding.
Studies by groups such as the conservative Heritage Foundation in the United States have shown that many developing countries that have received foreign aid have seen their per capita income fall or stagnate over the last 40 years. The Heritage Foundation has consistently supported the MCC's approach, which has used their trade measure from the Index of Economic Freedom. In April 2005, the United States Government Accountability Office issued a favorable report about the work of the MCC and its work thus far. The Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART), which reviews the efficiency and results produced by U.S. government programs, was scheduled to be reviewed in 2007. A study in 2006 looking at the "MCC effect" estimated that potential recipient countries improved 25% more on MCA's criteria than other countries, after controlling for time-trends. The World Policy Council, headed by Ambassador Horace Dawson and Senator Edward Brooke, recognizes the MCC as the most recent and most promising program in its area, and recommended that the Bush administration and the Congressional Black Caucus focus on full funding and an accelerated pace of spending. Doing Business 2007 cited the Millennium Challenge Accounts as a catalyst for reforms underway in 13 countries. Also, Freedom House released subcategories for the first time since it was being used as part of the MCC's measurements to allow for more granular distinctions. Also, the number of days it takes to start a business in low and low-middle income countries has decreased significantly since 2002, which is one of the factors the accounts measure since rapid business registration is thought to increase economic activity.
Some critics have charged that the program uses indicators by conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation and is therefore biased toward free market economics and reimposing American imperialism on the Global South. The program is said to have resulted in countries receiving less funding from other U.S. government development organizations and not more. Some development agencies have felt frozen out of the process since the compact programs are designed primarily by the country involved. Implementation has been difficult in Armenia, and concern about its effectiveness has been expressed.
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