General News Thu, 6 May 2004

Ghana eligible for MCA funds

... but, no guarantees of receiving funds
WASHINGTON, May 6 -- The US State Department on Thursday designated Ghana and 15 other countries as the first participants under anew program that could provide them with 1 billion dollars.

The program, or the Millennium Challenge Account, allows the funds to go to those countries considered to have effective governments and attractive programs for foreign investors as well as projects meeting their people's basic health and education needs.

The 16 countries, selected from a list of 63 nations, include Armenia, Benin, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Senegal, Sri Lanka and Vanuatu.

However, there are no guarantees that the above-mentioned 16 countries will receive the funding, State Department officials said.

US President George W. Bush outlined the program in March 2002 and the Congress has approved 1 billion dollars for the program for the fiscal year beginning from October 1

The aid program has $1 billion this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. President Bush, who proposed the program two years ago, has also requested $2.5 billion from Congress next year and hopes to increase this to $5 billion for 2006.

But lawmakers have warned such aid is at risk as Congress tries to control election-year spending. Steve Radelet at the Center for Global Development said he doubted Congress would approve the $5 billion target.

Washington is often criticized for trying to impose what it deems appropriate reforms on weaker countries. But unlike traditional schemes where the donor designates how funds are used, the 16 nations may propose programs to receive the aid.

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