The Millennium Challenge Corp. is expected to announce on Dec. 11 which countries are eligible to apply for grants from fiscal 2009 funds. On Dec. 2 in Washington, the Center for Global Development's Steve Radelet revealed his predictions on which countries would make the cut, as well what the new administration and fiscal reality means for MCC.
Elibigle nations are supposed to meet 17 criteria evaluated by organizations other than MCC, although the corporation does make some exceptions and provides assistance to some countries that fall short of one or two of the standards. Selections are made by MCC's nine member board - five government officials and four private citizens appointed by the president.
Radelet said that MCC has trended away from making smaller countries eligible for assistance, and does not provide aid to countries that are not democracies. The CGD senior fellow predicted that of the 72 nations eligible for funds due to their low-income status (meaning their per-capita gross national income is less than $1,785), 17 will be selected: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Honduras, Lesotho, Malawi, Moldova, Mongolia, Senegal, Tanzania, Indonesia, Zambia, Benin, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Philippines and Timor-Leste.
As for the 31 lower-to-middle-income countries (with per-capita gross national incomes between $1,786 and $3,705), Radelet said he expects seven countries to be added: Jordan, Armenia, El Salvador, Georgia, Morocco, Namibia and Vanuatu.
And of the 21 countries eligible for Threshold Program funding - countries that are on the cusp of qualifying for Millennium Corporate Account funding - Radelet believes only Liberia and the Dominican Republic will be chosen.
Radelet also speculated on what lies ahead for the MCC in the Obama administration. MCC's future (http://devex.com/blogs/17/blogs_entries/56028) is unclear: Will it be rolled into USAID or become part of the State Department or a super-agency focused on development? Will funding be cut given the dire fiscal environment? For those who support MCC, Radelet said there's good news: Support for the corporation is broad on Capitol Hill. The bad news, though, according to Radelet: It isn't particularly deep. Translated, this means that lawmakers like the idea of MCC even if they are disappointed with the results the corporation has achieved.
Radelet also raised questions about MCC funding. He said that the corporation, like all other government offices, would face some tough spending decisions in a tight fiscal environment. However, he did not believe these monetary limitations should limit country selection.