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CGD’s response to Senate’s MCA slashing September 18, 2008

Posted by eldelph in Uncategorized.
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The often spot-on analysis at CGD turns to look at the recent meager appropriation to the US Millennium Challenge Account.  Their direct responses to the three main justifications put forth by Senate for the amputation of funds follow.

“1. MCC not spending what is has. I believe the rate of disbursement should, at this point in time, be higher than it is. It is a measure, albeit not the most important measure, of program effectiveness both in terms of MCC and partner country implementation capacity. And that argues for a substantial shift of focus and resources to implementation of existing programs over design of new ones. It does not, however, justify a complete halt. Zero compact funding in FY09 will impact Moldova for sure and quite possibly Senegal, thereby sending a message to those countries that the U.S. does not follow through on its promises. There needs to be a better balance between Congress being more flexible on letting a multi-year funding program run its course and the MCC truly demonstrating stepped-up implementation.

2. MCC has delivered few tangible results. On this one, it depends what one means by “tangible results.” On the one hand, it’s simply too early to measure the end-of-compact results of income growth and beneficiary impact. But there are certainly sufficient outcome results to demonstrate the effect that the MCC model is having on changing the way U.S. development assistance is viewed by partner countries and on reforming local policies that pave the way for sustained development. Repairing a gas pipeline in Georgia to prevent environmental and safety hazards and prevent the disruption of gas delivery, enhancing transparency of government operations and budgeting in Cape Verde, increasing access to credit by women in Madagascar, raising crop productivity and farmer incomes in Honduras are but a few of the very real results from MCC investments. These kinds of outcomes are the building blocks of long term, country-owned development that can build a better safer world and utlimately transition countries away from foreign assistance.

3. The U.S. must address more immediate and pressing needs. Well, simply put: if we don’t begin to prioritize making long-term investments in building capable, prosperous democracies that can address the needs of their people, our short-term “more pressing” costs — both in terms of military and humanitarian — will only rise. We need to find a way to recalibrate and reorganize our foreign assistance apparatus to strategically and coherently fund short-term and long-term need that together serve our national interest. Senate appropriators took the rest of the $2 billion MCC request and scattered it largely over short-term security and humanitarian programs, but also provided a huge top-up for global health and HIV/AIDS programs. While recognizing the development impact of child survival and HIV/AIDS programs, simultaneously cutting the complementary long-term MCC funding that builds economies to provide jobs and security for those individuals saved and could build health systems more broadly is ultimately short-sighted.

So, was the Senate appropriation responsible? The reality is that your answer will always depend on where you sit. But for someone who believes that U.S. interests are served by investing in global poverty reduction and economic growth and applying the lessons we have learned about investing in well-governed countries that can own and drive their own development, it makes little sense to kill — or “pause” — the one experiment we have.”

See http://blogs.cgdev.org/mca-monitor/archives/2008/07/responsible_app.php for more.

What’s up with this constant demand for quick and measurable results? I find it overzealous and ignorant of the realities of development.  Particularly given how little impact evaluation is funded.

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