Bush Set to Announce Nations Eligible for New Aid

ABC News, Reuters
May 3 2004

Bush Set to Announce Nations Eligible for New Aid

May 3 – By Adam Entous
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Bush is expected to announce next
week the countries that qualify for U.S. aid under a new government
program that provides cash in exchange for reforms, congressional
officials and aid groups said on Monday.

The so-called Millennium Challenge Account, proposed by Bush two
years ago in Monterrey, Mexico, was set up to funnel aid directly to
poor nations that embrace civil rights, root out corruption, open up
their markets and adopt other policies favored by Washington.

The board that administers the money — $1 billion in the current
fiscal year — will meet on Thursday, and is expected to approve the
list of qualified countries, clearing the way for Bush’s announcement
next week, the officials said.

Seventeen countries are likely to qualify, according to an analysis
by the Center for Global Development.

The countries are Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar,
Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Armenia, Bhutan, Mongolia, Sri Lanka,
Vanuatu, Vietnam, Guyana, Honduras and Nicaragua, according to the
center’s Steve Radelet, who used the Bush administration’s own data
and eligibility requirements to come up with the list.

Radelet said flaws in data collections and other factors could result
in some changes in the countries that qualify.

Under the program, 90 percent of this year’s $1 billion in aid would
go to the countries that qualify. The remaining 10 percent would go
to the runners’ up to improve their chances of making the cut next

Bush has asked Congress to provide $2.5 billion for the program in
fiscal year 2005, which begins Oct. 1.

The number of eligible countries would expand as program resources
grow to a total of $5 billion annually.

But lawmakers have warned that U.S. aid to poor countries is at risk
as Congress looks for ways to keep election-year spending under

To win a share of the new resources, countries are ranked based on 16
“performance indicators,” from civil rights to spending on public
health and education.

A country’s “economic freedom” would be judged on its credit rating,
inflation, budget deficits, openness to trade and quality of
regulatory policies.

Bush drew the line at corruption. “Corruption is pass-fail,” an
official said.