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Does America qualify for assistance?

By Val Payne

Dear Editor,

Recently, through a Federal Register Notice, I became aware of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. My curiosity was sparked by the fact that a corporation would publish a notice of the meeting of its Board of Directors in the Federal Register. But, my curiosity was heightened by statements within the Notice, including: "The Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation will hold a meeting to consider the selection of countries that will be eligible for FY 2011 Millennium Challenge Account assistance under Section 607 of the Millennium Challenge Act of 2003, codified at 22 U.S.C. 7706;" and, "The agenda items are expected to involve the consideration of classified information and the meeting will be closed to the public."

It turns out that the MCC is a Congressionally created entity and program to "deliver smart U.S. foreign assistance" to some of the worlds poorest countries, based on a country's commitments to: "good governance", "economic freedom", and "investments in their citizens". According to the MCC website, "MCC provides these well-performing countries with large-scale grants to fund country-led solutions for reducing poverty through sustainable economic growth. MCC grants complement other U.S. and international development programs. There are two primary types of MCC grants: compacts and threshold programs.

Compacts are large, five-year grants for countries that pass MCC's eligibility criteria. Threshold programs are smaller grants awarded to countries that come close to passing these criteria and are firmly committed to improving their policy performance. MCC is managed by a chief executive officer, who is part of the nine-member Board of Directors. The Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the U.S. Trade Representative, and the USAID Administrator serve on the board along with four private sector representatives." The MCC website lists 45 countries to which $7.495 billion has been provided through Compacts and Threshold Programs.

Additionally, the website states: "MCC is a prime example of smart U.S. Government assistance in action, benefiting both developing countries and U.S. taxpayers".

Finally, "The aggressive implementation of compacts and threshold programs is promoting growth opportunities, opening markets, raising the standard of living, and creating a more prosperous future for some of the world's poorest people".

While I'm proud of the U.S.'s historical reputation as a caring and generous nation, and I support the continuation of its actions, some questions come to my mind. Considering the levels of joblessness, hunger, and homelessness in our nation; reports of which are particularly poignant at this time of year, what "smart U.S. Government" efforts are being made to help our country's citizens? Do they deserve boasting about, comparable to the MCC's? Do we as a nation qualify as one of the "well-performing countries" when measured by the MCC's criteria of "good governance", "economic freedom", and "investments in their citizens,"

Just wondering.

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