Bilateral assistance normally involves dialogues and coordination between the governments of recipient and donor countries. The Millennium Challenge Corp., however, is shifting gears and going proactive to reach out to the business sector.
The agency is calling on companies and individuals to participate in its request for information on road development, basic services and watershed management projects proposed by the Philippine government. This is to ensure that project proposals reflect current and available technology.
"Through the RFI, we seek to systematically reach out to the business sector. This is an opportunity to ensure that the project proposals reflect current and available technology," said MCC Managing Director for Private Sector Initiatives Jeri Jensen.
RFIs are a way to further improve MCC's processes in compact development. A compact is a multi-year agreement between MCC and an eligible country to fund programs targeted at reducing poverty and scaling up economic growth. Views expressed by companies and other stakeholders familiar with the project sites as well as the types of projects proposed will be valuable as MCC decides on which ones to back and include in the compact.
Troy Wray, MCC's associate country director and transaction leader, sees participating in the RFI as a win-win situation.
"A win for us because we can sharpen the focus of projects," Wray said. "We can learn more information up front about potential projects and potential ways to deliver them and companies should benefit down the road by having our systems being well targeted and provided where companies are best placed to make use of it, individuals are best placed to make use of it."
The RFI is a first for MCC. The Philippines was selected as the pilot country because of its geographic expanse and population size.
"Given the challenges that we would face trying to consult with a population as large as that of the Philippines, recognizing that no matter how many times we meet with various stakeholders, we will have invariably not been able to talk to everyone," Wray explained. "This is something MCC has not encountered in the other countries that it has worked in."
Inviting comments and suggestions from the private sector may become standard procedure for future compact development. According to Jensen, MCC may also conduct an RFI for Malawi but this still largely depends on how the process fares in the Philippines.
It has been a year since MCC deemed the Philippines eligible for compact funding. The agency is currently reviewing the proposals set forth by the government. A team from Washington should arrive in Manila sometime in May to June to assess the proposals. After which, recommendations will be made to MCC's board and U.S. congress. If all goes well, the Philippines would have a compact by the end of the year or in early 2010, as hoped for by Nelson Guevara, program manager for MCA Philippines.
More details on the RFI are can be found here. All firms and individuals that wish to participate may email their comments and feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org by 5:00pm EST on Tuesday, March 31, 2009.