Monrovia – United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy has called on the Liberian Government to step up its effort to strengthen areas of governance, especially the fight against corruption, as identified in the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) scorecard.
The Liberian Government’s hope of securing a second compact from the MCC has been dealt a huge blow after the country, for the fourth year in a row, failed its Scorecard.
Like last year, the country only passed nine of the twenty indicators, as released by the MCC in its Fiscal Year 2022 report on Tuesday.
The eleven indicators that Liberia failed include the Rule of Law, fiscal policy, primary education expenditure, natural resource protection, inflation, trade policy, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, immunization rates, girls’ primary education completion rate and child health.
While the nine indicators it passed include political rights, civil liberties, freedom of information, gender in the economy, land rights and access, health expenditures, access to Credit, business start-up and control of corruption.
Speaking in his monthly press roundtable on Wednesday at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Ambassador McCarthy commended Liberia for scoring well in some of the indicators that other countries struggled to pass, including political rights, civil liberties, and freedom of information.
However, Ambassador McCarthy urged the country to redouble its efforts in strengthening area of governance identified in the scorecard to stand a better chance to be awarded a second MCC Compact.
“We urge Liberia to redouble its efforts to strengthen areas of governance identified in the scorecard, with particular focus on taking concrete steps to combat corruption sustainably increasing the overall number of indicators passed,” he said.
He said, at the Weah administration’s urging, the Legislature has passed some ‘excellent’ legislations devolving power out to the counties, and down to the municipal level. Actual Level implementation of that new funding approach would go a long to increasing transparency and responsiveness in government funding.
He added: “Not only would concrete gains in combatting corruption greatly improve Liberia’s chance of being awarded a second chance MCC Compact, it would be low-hanging fruit for demonstrated progress towards pledged goals in this year’s Summit for Democracy.”
Liberia and the MCC
The MCC is an independent U.S. foreign aid agency created in 2004 to promote economic growth, open markets, and increased living standards in select countries.
MCC applies specific criteria in focusing its work abroad, using indicators regarding countries’ commitment to good governance, economic freedom, and investing in their citizens.
MCC provides selected countries with large-scale grants to fund projects for reducing poverty through sustainable economic growth. These projects include building infrastructure, reforming institutions, and promoting access to healthcare and education. MCC grants may complement other U.S. and international development programs. The MCC utilizes two primary types of grants: compacts and threshold programs.
Compacts are large, 5-year grants for countries that pass MCC’s eligibility criteria; while
threshold programs are smaller grants awarded to countries that come close to passing these criteria and are committed to improving their policy performance.
Liberia began benefiting from the MCC in July 2010, with the launched of a three-year, US$15 million threshold grant, which ended in December 2013. Then in January 2016, the MCC and Liberia launched a five-year, US$257 million compact aimed at encouraging economic growth and reducing poverty in Liberia by addressing the inadequate access to reliable and affordable electricity in the country and poor quality of road infrastructure. Bulk of the money was spent towards resuscitating the Mt. Coffee Hydro power Plant. The compact was completed in January of this year.
Since its completion, the Government of Liberia has been opting to secure a second compact. While this latest MCC report may be viewed as a setback in the country’s quest to re-enlist, Ambassador McCarthy said all is not lost.
He said the scorecard is not an indicator of failure. It helps countries understand which governance areas need attention in order to qualify for a compact.
He clarified that compact and the threshold are not loans to the Government of Liberia that Liberia and taxpayers must pay back in the future; nothing: “These are grants freely provided by American taxpayers to the people of Liberia.”
Making further clarity, he said the scorecard is not a commentary on the U.S. – Liberia relationship, but an independently calculated, technical set of scores that measures 20 indicators of governance. He mentioned that the scorecard is not political decision made by politicians. Rather, it is a composite measurement of performance with no political influence.
He added: “The scorecard is not a reflection of this Embassy’s opinion. We have no role in the development of the scorecard. The MCC does not call us to ask us what we think Liberia’s score should be on any of these indicators. We find out about the scorecard the same way everyone does – after the MCC finalizes them. We have no influence beforehand and no appear after the fact.”