- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Millennium Challenge Account, a U.S. aid program that demands accountability and responsible governance from recipient countries, added three more countries last week to its list of candidates for aid, bringing the total to four.

The Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC), the government agency that administers the program, signed “compacts” with Honduras, Nicaragua and Cape Verde on Monday.

Nicaragua and Cape Verde will receive $175 million and $110 million, respectively, over five years, MCC Chief Executive Paul Applegarth said at a George Washington University conference Thursday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who chairs the MCC board, and Honduran President Ricardo Maduro Joest signed the compact that would grant that country $210 million, taking the total aid pledged by MCC so far to more than $600 million.

The first agreement under the program, a pledge of $110 million in aid over 10 years, was signed with Madagascar in March.

In 2002, President Bush spoke of a “new compact for global development,” which would “provide greater resources for developing countries taking greater responsibility for their own development.”

The MCC was established in January 2004 after Congress approved the Bush administration’s initiative. Congress provided nearly $1 billion in initial funding for fiscal year 2004 and $1.5 billion for 2005. The president requested $3 billion for 2006 and pledged to increase annual funding for the account to $5 billion in the future.

However, a House Appropriation Committee announced Thursday that it will allocate only $1.75 billion to the account for 2006.

The program had been in the pipeline for a number of years after a 1998 World Bank report that linked effective use of foreign aid to developing countries with good governance and political reform, particularly with respect to combating corruption.

The MCC board, which includes the Treasury secretary and the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, listed 70 countries as candidates for aid under the program last year, and found seven eligible after close scrutiny.

The heads of state of five African nations — Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia and Niger, who were in Washington last week — expressed disappointment that their countries were not chosen for aid under the program, even though they have very high rates of poverty.

Mr. Applegarth, who announced his plan to resign last week, said the pace of selection was picking up, and MCC expects to sign compacts with three or four more countries this year.

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