Poverty Plan Receives Boost

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Namibia’s challenge to reduce poverty by the year 2030 received a boost after the country was nominated recipient of financial assistance from the American Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). A delegation from MCC, led by its Managing Director Maureen Harrington is visiting the country and has initiated high-level talks with President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Prime Minister Nahas Angula as well as ministers and MPs. The aim of the visit was to help start dialogue on how best to plan for an effective proposal to benefit from the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). The American-based initiative established by United States President George W. Bush on January 23, 2004 is a foreign assistance programme designed to “reduce poverty through growth” in developing countries. Namibia was successfully selected as an eligible country to participate in the programme alongside 22 countries in November last year. Within the next six months, the National Planning Commission (NPC) together with civil society and the private sector will draft a strategic developmental proposal for submission to the MCC. Once approved, an MCC grant could alleviate poverty and stimulate economic growth. Such proposals fall well in line with the country’s developmental plans of Vision 2030 and National Development Plan II. Addressing the media at a press conference last Friday, Harrington said Namibia was chosen for the programme “because your country is pursuing policies which include governing justly, investing in people and encouraging economic freedom that can lead to economic growth”. However, in order to receive the grant through what is called “MCC Compact” – a grant agreement between the Namibian government and MCC, the country first needs to come up with a strategic proposal that outlines Namibia’s development priorities through consultations. “We encourage government to hold a participatory, meaningful consultative process. We are (therefore) encouraging government to think big, so that we can try and solve maybe two of its problems,” said Harrington, adding that the approval was mainly dependent on the quality of proposal submitted to MCC within the next six months. These qualities range from whether the proposal focuses on reducing poverty through economic growth; whether it has an effective evaluating and monitoring plan; whether it incorporates the broader sector of civil society and whether its plan is technically feasible. No fixed amount of money is granted to the beneficiaries of the programme as all depends on the type of development needs each country puts forward. Currently, 23 countries are eligible for MCA assistance. The latest partners in Africa besides Namibia are Tanzania, Gambia and Burkina Faso, while prior beneficiaries are Cape Verde, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Benin, Lesotho, Mozambique and Madagascar. The lowest MCC Compact stands between US$60 million and US$65 million, while the highest grant of over US$300 million recently went to the government of Benin. Main areas of financial assistance in Africa were based on boosting agricultural productivity, land reform, water and sanitation, business service development and land tenure issues. The MCC delegation is currently in the country until Wednesday to continue talks with the National Planning Commission and relevant stakeholders.