Page 8 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2013

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8
April 2013
|
the foreign Service journal
letters
Unite the Development
Organizations
Te article by Ben Barber in the Janu-
ary
FSJ
, “Te Millennium Challenge Cor-
poration: Of to a Good Start,” was infor-
mative and well balanced.
However, in my opinion, the
MCC should not exist. Te
signifcant resources used to
create and run it should have
been used to bolster USAID
instead.
Te MCC is another one of
the too-numerous spigots for
U.S. economic development
assistance. Te largest and most
prominent of these is, of course,
USAID. Tere are also the Overseas
Private Investment Corporation and the
Trade and Development Agency (which I
briefy headed), both of which were cre-
ated in USAID.
Others include the State Depart-
ment, which directly manages many aid
programs, and several other departments
(Treasury, Justice, Agriculture, etc.), as
well as the Peace Corps. In addition, the
Department of Defense conducts some
assistance programs that once were
under the purview of USAID.
Each of these programs has its own
political appointees, superstructure,
policies, budget, personnel, ofces,
lobby groups, supporters on the Hill
and the like. Te result is gross overlap,
confusion, inefciency and waste of the
taxpayer’s money. I guesstimate that
between a quarter and a third of our total
assistance may be thus squandered.
Our peers at the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Develop-
ment’s Development Assistance Commit-
tee (where I once represented the United
States) periodically criticize this confu-
sion, as do many of our client countries.
Tis system seems designed as much to
provide jobs to appointees, bureaucrats
and consultants as to promote economic
development.
Moreover, the Millennium Chal-
lenge Corporation is built
on questionable premises.
First, it seeks to work
only in well-performing
developing countries. But
over time, there is no clear
distinction between good
and poor performers.
Instead there are grada-
tions, with countries
moving up and down
the scale. Barber notes
that Madagascar, Mali,
Armenia and Nicaragua have gone from
good to poor in just a few years. Others
that appeared to be poor performers now
look good. Such variations are bound to
continue.
Second, the MCC stresses capital proj-
ects. But again, there is no absolute dis-
tinction between most of those and other
types of aid, such as technical assistance.
Indeed, aid programs generally encom-
pass more than one of these categories.
Tird, the MCC tries to be more
“businesslike” than USAID. But foreign
assistance is not a business. Rather, it
is a tool of foreign policy, with diferent
objectives. In any case, USAID uses stan-
dard economic assessments to achieve
the best results from its projects.
Finally, the MCC seeks to jolt recipi-
ents into more rapid development
with large injections of money. But its
resources are meager. A few hundred
million dollars spread over several years
is modest compared to the total domestic
and external resources available to most
developing countries.
Moreover, money is just one factor
holding back growth. Culture, history,
ethnic and religious rivalries, misman-
agement, corruption and other factors
usually are far more important.
To improve our inefcient and waste-
ful foreign assistance apparatus, I sug-
gested possible solutions in two issues of
Te Foreign Service Journal,
November
2009 and December 2010 (archived at
www.afsa.org/foreign_service_journal.
aspx).
One idea is to combine all or most
of these spigots into USAID (perhaps
with a new name), making it again a
strong, independent agency. Te other
option would be to merge USAID—which
currently has functions within State or
straddling the two agencies—and the
other spigots completely into State as
a development bureau and specialty/
career track.
Raymond Malley
Senior FSO, retired
Hanover, N.H.
Fortress Embassies
I am not surprised that a regional
security ofcer, especially one who
entered the Foreign Service after 9/11,
supports New Embassy Compounds
(also known as “fortress embassies”). But
longer-serving FSOs and retirees may
well have a diferent view of the impact of
such structures on both our own diplo-
mats and host-country nationals.
I served in Copenhagen from 1973 to
1975. Tis was during the VietnamWar,
which most Danes opposed, often quite
vociferously. Te back of our embassy
faced the back of the Soviet embassy,
separated by a cemetery. You can imag-
ine the dark comments that evoked.
Our building was situated on a main
avenue and featured a ground foor
walk-in library that was well used every
day. It was guarded by a lone Danish
policeman outside and a single Marine
inside. On one after-hours occasion, the
policeman was distracted by an attractive