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Millennium Challenge Corporation Targets Countries with Strong Political, Economic Record

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, MCC, is an independent agency of the US government that disburses aid to developing countries. Maureen Harrington is the vice president of policy and international relations for the MCC. She tells Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Joana Mantey in Accra, Ghana, that the role of the agency can profit from other donor agencies' efforts, "Because we are new, we have an opportunity to learn from the experiences of other donors for the past 50 years."

The program offers two levels of assistance. "Large compacts" disburse funding of up to 700 million dollars for poverty reduction. They go to countries that have reached a high level of democratic development and have proven economic management skills. Smaller grants make up what are called "threshold programs," which are designed to help countries to qualify for the large compacts.

"The program is global," she says," but a large majority of our assistance goes to African countries." These include Ghana, Tanzania, Cape Verde, Benin and Burkina Faso, Namibia, Lesotho, Madagascar and Morocco.

The MCC makes a five-year commitment. Funds are made available on a continuous basis to ensure that ongoing projects are not interrupted. Beneficiary countries are also given the freedom to create and manage projects funded by the MCC.

"One of our core principles is based on country ownership. So for the compact countries, not only do they decide what the priorities of the compact are, they also design the compact, implement and are held responsible for the result." Harrington says.

Not all projects are given support under the program. Harrington briefly describes the MCC goals in selecting countries:

"Countries will have a broad consultation process by reaching out to civil society, the private sector, parliament and government and [identify] the key constraints to growth. The key criteria we use when we are deciding what program to finance are the extent to which these programs are going to reduce poverty and offer economic growth."

Harrington said after four years of operation, the MCC, is bearing fruit:

"We are beginning to see some of the policies have a big impact," she explains. "For example, the number of days to start a business has lessened. Also some of the opportunities for corruption are being reduced through our programs."