President Bush is urging more developing countries to adopt economic and political reforms, saying it will qualify them for increased American aid. Mr. Bush honored the first sixteen countries to become eligible for a new aid program that rewards reforms with development assistance.
Under this newly implemented program, countries that can prove they are implementing reforms can apply for money from a special aid fund called the Millennium Challenge Account.
That fund is expected to result in a substantial increase in U.S. foreign assistance in the next few years, and is the focal point of the administration's aid policy.
Although creation of the fund was announced by the president two years ago, the first recipients were announced last week. President Bush personally congratulated the qualifying countries Monday at a ceremony attended by their ambassadors to Washington and other officials.
"The 16 chosen in this round are showing the way, are showing what is possible, are serving as a bright light in the developing world," he said. "You have taken the first courageous steps toward greater independence and greater wealth, and greater hopes for the people you serve."
These countries span the globe - from Armenia to Madagascar... Bolivia to Sri Lanka... Mali to Mongolia. The president said they have chosen the path of reform, and their people are better off as a result.
"For example, Madagascar is aggressively fighting corruption," said the president. "The Ministry of Justice has suspended a dozen magistrates on suspicion of corrupt activity. The government is also implementing an ambitious program of judicial reform. Senegal, Africa's longest-standing democracy, has also enacted new anti-corruption laws, and is implementing new measures to fight money-laundering."
Mr. Bush also cited government reforms to improve health care in Honduras, and boost both health and education spending in Georgia. He said these steps prove these countries have the will to do what is necessary to really combat poverty.
"Reform can bring more aid from America, and it will also bring more investment and more trade, lessening the need for aid over time," said Mr. Bush. "Reform will be repaid many times over in the relief of poverty, and rising national wealth and stability for their countries."
In addition to implementing reforms, countries seeking Millennium Challenge Grants are required to list their goals for the future and outline further steps they plan to take to meet the needs of their people and increase economic growth.