Vol. 4 Num 318 Wed. April 21, 2004  
Front Page

US funds drying up for graft
USAID director says at AmCham meet

US aid to Bangladesh is drying up due to corruption and the absence of transparency in project implementation, a high US government official said yesterday.

"Transparency is below acceptable level in Bangladesh," Gene George, director of United States Agency for International Development Bangladesh (USAID) said at the monthly luncheon meeting of American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham).

The Bush administration has set up the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) which focuses on growth-based approach to US foreign development assistance. Transparency is a key to getting aid through MCC, he said.

MCC will only support poor countries committed to growth-promoting governance, health, education and economic policies. The Bush administration has allocated $5 billion to MCC to support poor countries in addition to its $11 billion foreign aid budget.

MCC reflects a new international consensus that development aid produces the best results when it goes to countries that adopt pro-growth strategies for meeting political, social and economic challenges, said George who has been in Bangladesh since 1982.

Bangladesh is among the 63 countries Washington has listed for receiving US aid through MCC, but it is yet to get the final nod from the MCC board headed by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Pointing out the declining trend in US aid to Bangladesh, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue Dr Debapriya Bhattachariya said though US foreign aid is rising globally, it is declining in Bangladesh.

George said the US government has provided $4.3 billion to Bangladesh through USAID and it made significant improvement in areas like population and health, enterprise development, energy, environment, food security, disaster management, education, anti-trafficking and democracy and governance.

AmCham President Aftab ul Islam said foreign investors are concerned about the current law and order situation in Bangladesh and added that political unrest is negating the success in financial reforms.

"Investors are worried about security of their life and business establishments due to the confrontational political situation," he said.

"Poor infrastructure creates little interest for American companies to come to Bangladesh," George said taking a question from former ambassador Mohammad Zameer who asked why US companies do not outsource from Bangladesh as they are doing with India and other Asian countries.

Mark Tesone, economic officer of US Embassy, Kim McQuay, member of AmCham Executive Committee, Bruce McMullen, senior energy advisor of USAID, and A Gafur, executive director of AmCham, were present.