Sri Lanka can get Millennium Challenge grant: not linked to defence deals: official

mcc sri lanka jenner eldeman
UNIQUE: Sri Lanka is the only country in the 15-year history of MCC that has proposed projects with grants and failed to approve.

ECONOMYNEXT – A 480 million US dollar grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation was to be signed by Sri Lanka before defence related agreements with the US and there is no link between them, an official said.

The MCC grant was to be signed in December 2018 and did not coincide with the renewal dates for two longstanding defence agreements, Jenner Edelman, Country Director for MCC in Sri Lanka said.

“That is not true. This (MCC) program was developed over a period of several years,” Edelman said speaking at a forum organized by Advocata Institute, a Colombo-based think tank. “

“We had a signing date December 14th. The President was going to sign it.”

“And it was only in the spring that these renewals were proposed. They had nothing to do with each other and the contract was finalized and ready for signature long before that.”

She said that signing the MCC agreement was postponed due to the political crisis which erupted in late-October.

Edelmen was responding to a query from the audience that there was strong opinion that the US was giving the grant as a gift, if the two defence agreements were signed.

“I am not sure how we can shake that (opinion). But I will say it again they have nothing to do with each other. We (MCC) are a development agency.”

The MCC grant will be used by several government agencies to develop a traffic management system, modernize the archaic land deed system originally started by the British colonial to and build key roads to improve remote farmer’s links to urban and export markets.

Jenner said the MCC grants looked at government policy and governance.

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The programs for which the grant was to be used was decided by the government.

She said the Millennium Challenge Corporation was dealing with a policy development unit at Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister’s office for several years and the MCC itself did not have an office there.

Jenner was also asked whether there was anything unique about Sri Lanka’s program compared to many others that the MCC had one.

“What is unique is that on our 15 year history we’ve never had a situation where an eligible country had come to us and proposed a grant, and our board has accepted it to the tune of nearly half a billion US dollars and the partner country has not approved it,” Jenner explained.

“It is up to you whether you want to want to take a grant or you wish to take loans.”

Jenner said a typical MCC program may take from 8 to 10 years from design to completion. And in other countries the MCC had worked with multiple administration.

MCC would support whatever government that was democratically elected, she said. (Colombo/Sept20/2019)