MCC Compact: Wrong information needs to be cleared, says US envoy | Sunday Observer

MCC Compact: Wrong information needs to be cleared, says US envoy

Alaina Teplitz
Alaina Teplitz

At no point will the United States own or administer land in Sri Lanka under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement with Sri Lanka, other than helping it expand economic opportunities and reduce poverty through economic growth, said US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Alaina Teplitz at the 27th Annual General Meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka last week.

She said there is so much bad and wrong information about the MCC Sri Lanka Compact in public domain which needs to be cleared. The agreement between the United Sates and Sri Lanka does not mean that the United States will own or manage land in Sri Lanka.

“The Compact aims at helping Sri Lanka address two major constraints to economic growth, transportation infrastructure and land development in the country,” Teplitz said.

The US Government approved a five-year grant of $ 480 million to Sri Lanka at its quarterly meeting in April this year to help Sri Lanka address two of its binding constraints such inadequate transport logistics infrastructure and planning and lack of access to land for agriculture, the services sector, and industrial investors.

The signing of the MCC Sri Lanka Compact has been put on hold due to opposition by political parties.

“The total lifetime of the program will not be more than seven years,” the ambassador said, adding that the US embassy is not the only institute investing in Sri Lanka but also many US companies which have invested in industries ranging from manufacturing to IT.

The transport infrastructure development under the MCC aims at increasing efficiency and capacity of the road network and bus system in the Colombo metropolitan region and to reduce the cost of transporting passengers and goods between the central region of the country and ports and markets in the rest of the country.

The land project aims at mapping underutilised State and private land and increasing information regarding such lands to increase land market activity.

MCC will fund the compact entirely through grants.

The MCC Compact also aims at promoting an environment that supports equity and freedom for the Sri Lankans as the Government maintains its commitment to democratic institutions, pursues sound economic policies and invests in the welfare and health of its people.

The MCC Compact which was suspended by the US government last year owing to the political coup in October resumed it in February this year. The MCC created by the US Congress in 2004 is an innovative and independent foreign assistance agency which helps lead the fight against global poverty.

MCC provides time-limited grants promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, and strengthening institutions.

MCC projects tackle some of the most pressing challenges people face in developing countries, such as supplying electricity so businesses can operate and students can study after dark; providing clean drinking water so women don’t have to walk long distances — sometimes at great personal risk — to get water for their families; and building roads so farmers can get their goods to market and children can get to school. MCC has invested more than $13 billion in compact and threshold programs worldwide that support country-led projects in areas such as agriculture and irrigation, anti-dumping, education, energy and power, finance and entrepreneurship development, health, land rights, transportation and water supply and sanitation.

“There has been a strong partnership between the US embassy in Colombo and the chamber and the goal is to enhance economic growth prospects between the United States and Sri Lanka. US Economic diplomacy is more than expanding trade. It entails promoting opportunities for entrepreneurs, peace and equality,” the Ambassador said.

“Since independence, Sri Lanka has received around US$ 1 billion in grants from the US and not a single dollar was given as a loan. Over 5,000 micro entrepreneurs have benefited from programs initiated by the United States. American diplomacy centres around principles of being open, free, fair, reciprocal, transparent and creating a level playing field for all,” Teplitz said.