Political Tension Compromises Greatly Salone’s Ability to Fully Qualify for MCC Compact

Chief Executive Officer of the American Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Sean Cairncross

By Amin Kef Sesay

The Chief Executive Officer of the American Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Sean Cairncross visited Sierra Leone past on Friday 16th October, 2020 to discuss progress made on the threshold program which seeks to improve the financial viability of water and electricity sectors in the country.

Entering the MCC Compact program during the last Government which qualified the country to benefit from a four years water viability grant of USD44.4 million, if Sierra Leone can pass the remaining ten MCC Compact scorecard indicators, the country direly in need of funding for development, would get a very hefty development assistance package from the USA worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

This depends on the Selection Criteria and Methodology Report which determines the Eligibility of Candidate Countries for Millennium Challenge Account Assistance. The MCC Board looks at three legislatively-mandated factors in its evaluation of any candidate country for compact eligibility:

(1) Policy performance;

(2) The opportunity to reduce poverty and generate economic growth; and

(3) The availability of MCC funds

The 20 indicators for eligibility fall under the categories of:

  • Encouraging economic freedom
  • Investing in people, and
  • Ruling justly

To pass the indicators on the scorecard, the country must perform above the median among its income group ,except in the cases of inflation, political rights, civil liberties, and immunization rates (for LMICs only), where threshold scores have been established. In particular, the Board considers whether the country:

  • Passed at least 10 of the 20 indicators, with at least one in each category
  • Passed either the “Political Rights” or “Civil Liberties” indicator, and
  • Passed the “Control of Corruption” indicator

While satisfaction of all three aspects means a country is termed to have “passed” the scorecard, the Board also considers whether the country performed “substantially worse” in any one policy category than it does on the scorecard overall.

Appendix C describes all 20 indicators, their definitions, what is required to “pass,” their source, and their relationship to the legislative criteria.

The mandatory passing of either the “Political Rights” or “Civil Liberties” indicators is called the “Democratic Rights” “hard hurdle” on the scorecard, while the mandatory passing of the “Control of Corruption” indicator is called the “Control of Corruption” “hard hurdle.” Not passing either “hard hurdle” results in not passing the scorecard overall, regardless of whether at least 10 of the 20 other indicators are passed.

Democratic Rights “hard hurdle:” This hurdle sets a minimum bar for democratic rights below which the Board will not consider a country for eligibility.

Requiring that a country pass either the Political Rights or Civil Liberties indicator creates a democratic incentive for countries, recognizes the importance democracy plays in driving poverty-reducing economic growth, and holds MCC accountable to working with the best governed, poorest countries.

When a candidate country is only passing one of the two indicators comprising the hurdle (instead of both), the Board will also look closely at why it is not passing the other indicator to understand what the score implies for the broader democratic environment and trajectory of the country.

With political tension in the country high since the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections, and rampant reports by the main opposition political party of harassment, intimidation, bullying and injustice against them by the ruling party and the judiciary, this places a big question mark on Sierra Leone’s ability to meet the critical political and democratic rights criteria.


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