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On December 24th, the full Senate confirmed Raj Shah as USAID Administrator. After eleven months of guessing-games and intrigue, this element of the drama is finally settled. Now, that same level of attention and energy needs to turn to the tougher stuff -- positioning of the agency in the U.S.
In its seventh round of selecting countries eligible to apply for assistance (and the first for the Obama administration), the MCC Board welcomed its new CEO and faced a decision tree with an awful lot of branches. And each branch seemed to have unknown variables: Would countries sustain eligibility? What final FY10 appropriations would it receive? Would Congress provide a short-term legislative fix for graduates? What to do about the trends that show graduation will continue, putting most of the better performers in the lower-middle income category (LMIC), capped at 25% of resources? Would Congress ever allow concurrent compact authority? What is the right balance between selecting new countries vs. implementing existing compacts? As the first set of compact countries near completion of their compacts, should it select them for a follow-on (second) compact? And then there always seems to be a case that challenges whether the MCC should be used as a purely diplomatic carrot. In the end, the Board navigated well all of the various pressures, adding no new countries to the existing pool but re-selecting those in the midst of compact preparation and selecting one country as eligible to prepare the first-ever second compact. Here are the headlines, along with our thoughts and comparison to our predictions:
Thirty thousand Americans (and counting!) have written to the White House this week asking for one thing: a global development strategy. President Obama is expecting recommendations from the Presidential Study Directive on U.S. Global Development Policy in January, and a growing chorus of constituents is clamoring for the recommendations to be taken seriously and to be turned into a national strategy for global development.
This is a joint post with Sarah Jane Staats -- I am so delighted to have her back at CGD and collaborating with the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance team!
Last week, in front of twelve of the seventeen senators that form the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (an impressive turnout!) many folks got their first look at the long-awaited nominee to head the embattled U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Raj Shah, a medical doctor, senior official of the Gates Foundation and most recently, undersecretary of USDA, took center stage. And wowed.
He wowed with confidence and poise in answering very pointed, very informed questions from Members. He wowed with his knowledge, at this early stage, of the issues at the forefront of the development policy and foreign aid reform agenda. He wowed with the story of his meteoric rise through the ranks of the Gates Foundation. He wowed with an obvious passion for global development and public service. Heck, he even wowed with his young son who sat in his chair through the entire hearing, studiously taking notes.
The consolidated FY2010 appropriations conference report hit the streets today, one step closer to a final House- and Senate-approved FY2010 appropriation bill expected before the Continuing Resolution expires December 18th. A more detailed analysis is forthcoming but for those of you MCC-watchers out there -- particularly given the budget's influence on today's Board meeting to select new countries eligibile for compacts -- I wanted to get you a quick overview.
Daniel Yohannes was sworn-in yesterday as the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s new CEO at a ceremony officiated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. At the ceremony, Yohannes stressed a commitment to results and innovative solutions to help the world’s poor. Yohannes' accession comes just in time – he will now be able to preside over today’s MCC Board meeting which will cover, among other things, FY2010