Following effective reforms against corruption and a budget deficit, Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh received good news last month: the U.S. government is reinstating his country as a beneficiary of the Millennium Challenge Account after a 15-month suspension.
Since its launch in 2002, Bush’s pet aid program has given grants valued at over $3 billion to countries that have demonstrated viable open markets and social spending, as well as honest, democratic governance. “There are many, many countries that want to be part of the Millennium Challenge Account, and the competition is stiff, and the elbows are getting sharper,” said John Danilovich, who heads the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which runs the program. The recipients to date include Armenia, Benin, Cape Verde, El Salvador, Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mali, Nicaragua, and Vanuatu.
Envisioned to fight poverty and disease overseas, the MCA, according to the agency, has effectively motivated countries to shape up and embrace political and economic reforms. “Countries care really deeply about this seal of approval of good governance,” says Sheila Herrling, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Development, who credits the MCC for Yemen’s turnaround.
The program’s strict eligibility criteria often requires the implementation of difficult policies, as was the case in Lesotho, where, contrary to tradition, a law was passed in November giving married women equal legal footing with their husbands. Not all countries, however, have found the program’s demands to be a valid impetus for change. The Gambia, which was removed from the program in June, has balked at the suspension, arguing that foreign-policy tensions, and not the increasingly dictatorial regime as cited by the MCC, were the real reason behind the disfavor. At present, no steps are being taken by the Gambian government to regain eligibility in the program. (Source: Bush’s Aid Policy Prods Countries/Wall Street Journal)