Liberia: MCC Grant ‘Hardest Donor Money To Get’ Ex-Finance Minister Konneh on Liberia’s Scorecard Fail
Washington – Liberia’s former Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr. Amara Konneh says securing the Millennium Challenge Corporation Account is no small feat and requires a lot of work and preparations in successfully passing the annual scorecards.
“The MCC Grant is the hardest donor money to get, said the former minister in a Facebook post shortly after the release of the MCC’s 2020 scorecard which showed a dismal performance for Liberia.
Under Sirleaf, Liberia benefited immensely from the compact, since first qualifying in 2015, when it signed the first grant, which is now being used to support the energy sector, providing access to reliable and affordable electricity and building the foundation for the periodic maintenance of primary roads in the country.
In 2016, Liberia received a grant of US$257 million from the United States through the MCC to enhance its electricity and road projects. A total of 85% of the Compact funds have been committed in contracts, while 73% of total compact budget has been disbursed. The five-year compact is already into its halfway stage and intends to impact an estimated half a million Liberians before ending in 2021.
Mr. Konneh said getting the grant was often difficult, but not impossible. “Through hard work we were able to secure critically needed grant funding for the Mt. Coffee Hydro project, the creation of an independent energy sector regulator and building capacity and strengthening institutions for a cost-effective approach to nationwide road maintenance,” the former minster said.
In the latest 2020 scorecard, Liberia failed in 12 key areas and passed in 8 areas, including, two critical indicators – control of corruption and democratic rights.
The country fell short after failing in twelve out of twenty of the major indicators, including: Fiscal Policy, 38 percent, Inflation, 23.5 percent, Regulatory Quality, 40 percent, Trade Policy 28 percent, Gender in the Economy, 50 percent, Land Rights and Access, 35 percent, Government Effectiveness, 31 percent, Rule of Law, 50 percent, Natural Resource Protection, 21 percent, Girls’ Primary Education, 17 percent, Child Health, 42 percent and Primary Education, 24 percent.
The country passed in eight areas, namely: Access to credit, 53 percent, Business Start-up, 64 percent, political rights, 27 percent, civil liberties, 35 percent, control of corruption, 52 percent, freedom of information, 83 percent, health expenditure, 52 percent and Immunization rates, 54 percent.
Liberia has benefited immensely from the compact, since first qualifying in 2015, when it signed the first grant, which is now being used to support the energy sector, providing access to reliable and affordable electricity and building the foundation for the periodic maintenance of primary roads in the country.
Responding to the results last Friday, President Weah says he still has hope for next year. “Am I disappointed? No! I’m not disappointed in the MCC but I have hope because I believe the MCC is a good thing for Liberia and it can help us. But we need a paradigm shift, so we can work together so, at least our passing grade can be of use to us.”
The President prevailed on the United States government to work with Liberia to improve its score. “I did not go to university to stay in school for the rest of my life – that’s why I was doing homework and what have you. So, if we get homework to do and we have courses to take, please give us the extra study class and let teachers be there, so we can make an effort.”
Minister Konneh says he is encouraged by the President’s attitude. “All is not lost. Like President Weah said, there is time to turn things around but his team must be vigilant, and make continuous and holistic progress on the MCC scorecard. A country relationship with MCC is beyond the scorecard. It strengthens bilateral relationships with the US Government as well. About five USG agencies sit on the MCC Board.”
Minister Konneh said the good thing about the MCC account is that it is not a loan where you have to pay back. “It is released in tranches, with continued progress on the scorecard every year necessary to continue to receive the funds. Additionally, passing the scorecard cements a relationship with development actors within the American Government and attracts new investments.”
The former Minister Konneh said passing two of the key indicators is a good thing for the country. “The good news is Liberia passed the two most important indicators: Democrat Rights and Control Corruption. Passing the scorecard takes serious work. Former President EJS had a task force (MFDP, MPW, MLME, MOS, MOJ, MOE) that met regularly to do the technical work which I coordinated, while she did the political heavy lifting with Washington with strong support of US Ambassadors to Liberia and KRL International. Together, we successfully completed a $20 million Threshold Program, got a $257 million Compact and brought home approximately $277 million. It was truly a team effort.”
Minister Konneh described the MCC’s competitive selection process as a data-driven, transparent method for determining where this USG agency invests its development dollars. “To be considered for MCC funding, countries must first pass MCC’s scorecard – a collection of 20 independent, third-party indicators that measure a country’s policy performance in the areas of economic freedom, investing in its people, and ruling justly. To pass it, a country must consistently pass 10 out of 20 indicators and not fail the democratic rights and control of corruption indicators. Even after a country has been selected for compact or threshold eligibility as we did for Liberia, MCC regularly reviews its partner countries’ policy performance throughout the development and implementation of a compact or threshold program.”