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A compact for growth

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At Large

A compact for growth

In 2004, the United States Congress launched an “innovative and independent” foreign assistance agency to fight global poverty. The agency, known as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, enjoys strong bipartisan support and aims to deliver “smart US foreign assistance” by focusing on good policies, country ownership, and results.

Some $8.79 billion have so far been granted through “compacts” with 24 countries around the world, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa, but including three countries in Asia: Mongolia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The inclusion of the Philippines is actually an indicator of the country’s potential for growth. Countries actually vie for inclusion in the list of MCC’s partners, with the Board examining a country’s performance on “20 independent and transparent policy indicators.” Matthew Bohn, MCC resident country director, said countries compete in three major criteria: governance, investments in health and education, and economic freedom. In fact, said Bohn at Tuesday’s Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel, some countries have actually had their compacts prematurely terminated due to failings in these three areas.

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Locally, the “accountable entity” that implements the projects identified in the compact with MCC is known as the Millennium Challenge Account-Philippines (MCA-P). Chairing the board of directors is Budget Secretary Butch Abad; the directors are the secretaries of three departments partnering with MCA-P—Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima (vice chair), Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, and Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson—and five representatives of civil society organizations.

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The $434 million granted in the compact between MCC and the Philippines is being spent on three major projects: the Secondary National Roads Development Project involving the rehabilitation of a 222-kilometer road in Eastern and Western Samar, Kalahi-CIDSS projects in Luzon and Visayas which will benefit some five million individuals through community-led development, and the Revenue Administration Reform Project aimed at improving the efficiency of the Bureau of Internal Revenue while addressing issues of corruption.

Marivic Anonuevo, MCA-P managing director, stressed that though the projects may seem to mainly benefit men beneficiaries, they have a policy to ensure that “in spending the $434-million Compact grant, the projects recognize the positive contributions of women and the vulnerable members of society [such as the elderly and the disabled].”

For instance, recounted Bohn, during a visit to a day care center in Balangiga, Samar, they found that the bare cement floor of a community day care center had been finished with tile flooring, which the mothers themselves raised funds for and had installed “because they wanted a more beautiful facility for their children.”

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As an expression of their collective concern regarding climate change and its impact on the environment, including the growing number of disasters that have visited the country, members of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) are launching an “information caravan” on climate change to deliver “critical, dependable and useful” scientific information to local government units.

The launch of the information caravan has been timed with the international observance of International Women’s Day on March 8.

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The idea of an information caravan on climate change first arose during a meeting last Feb. 15 hosted by Nina Yuson at the Museo Pambata and participated in by different women scientists.

Last March 3, a meeting led by TOWNS and attended by scientists, government officials and local government leaders firmed up the partnership. Moderated by Catherine Vistro-Yu, current TOWNS Foundation president and a professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, the meeting started off with Alyssa Peleo-Alampay of the UP National Institute of Geological Sciences, and Laura David and Helen Yap of the Marine Science Institute of UP, providing an overview of the current state of climate and disaster-related science. Jurgenne Primavera, scientist emerita of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, then shared her expertise on mangrove ecology and restoration to protect against the impacts of climate-related disturbances.

Among those who took part in the meeting co-convened by Harvey Keh of “Kaya Natin!” were mayors and LGU representatives from Batangas, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Ilocos Sur, Isabela, North Cotabato, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya and Quezon, as well as Antipolo City and Quezon City. At the meeting, it became clear that “very little of the fundamentals of climate and disaster science trickle down to the LGUs on the ground.” And yet, it was pointed out, efforts to prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters depend very critically on a sound information base.

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A building-wide “Summer Sale” is ongoing until March 17 at the LRI Design Plaza on Nicanor Garcia Street in Bel-Air, Makati.

Over 35 showrooms with high-end furniture, home accessories and furnishings, five art galleries with works of local masters and contemporary artists, and establishments such as restaurants, bars and a spa are participating in this annual sale. Patrons may avail themselves of up to 50-percent discounts on selected items and services.

The sale is held in conjunction with the national celebration of Design Week Philippines by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, celebrated every third week of March and October. The objective of the celebration is to promote the Philippines as an Asian design hub as well as a tourism destination for culture and art, of which some of the best exponents are to be found at the LRI Design Plaza.

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TAGS: economic growth, featured column, global poverty, governance, investments, millennium challenge corporation
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