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Cablegate: Niger: Successful Launch of Mca Threshold Program

VZCZCXRO0524
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0334 0801337
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201337Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4202
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 0477
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0664

UNCLAS NIAMEY 000334

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W Jane Dennison
ACCRA FOR USAID/WA Henderson Patrick
MCC for Deputy CEO Rodney Bent
DEPT FOR MCC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIN ECON EAID ETRD NG
SUBJECT: NIGER: SUCCESSFUL LAUNCH OF MCA THRESHOLD PROGRAM


1. Summary. The March 17, 2008, signing ceremony to launch a
US$ 23 million Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Threshold
Program for Niger was a huge success. USAID/WA Director Henderson
Patrick and GON Finance Minister Lamine Zeine signed the
agreement; MCC Deputy CEO Rodney Bent and Ambassador Allen signed
as witnesses to the agreement and Prime Minister (PM) Seini
Oumarou served as the senior GON official at the event. The PM
and MCC Deputy CEO Bent also delivered remarks at the signing
ceremony. Nine GON cabinet ministers, the Embassy DCM, other
donor country ambassadors, international organization resident
representatives (UNDP, IMF, World Bank) and members of civil
society were present for the event. The Embassy Public Affairs
Office, USAID PSC and FSN Protocol Assistant worked closely with
the GON Protocol Office on preparations for the ceremony and
other activities that all received wide media coverage
(television, print and radio) for three days.
End summary.

2. Niger's newly launched Threshold Program received extensive
media coverage from March 17 to 19. At the signing ceremony
press conference, the US delegation lauded the Nigeriens who
worked on the concept plan and congratulated the Nigerien people
as beneficiaries of the program. The Ambassador emphasized that
the concept plan was developed by Nigeriens, truly making
it "Niger's" program. Other media coverage included meetings
conducted with the GON PM, cabinet ministers (Finance, Commerce,
Education, Justice and Foreign Affairs), sectoral committees that
worked on the various components in Niger's Threshold Program
and, under the escort of both the Minister of Education and the
Governor of Tillaberi Region, the US delegation visit to three
villages targeted for the girls' education component of the
Threshold Program (two of the villages host Peace Corps
volunteers). The other components of the Threshold Program
relate to reducing corruption, streamlining business creation
and improving rights and access to land.

3. With the ink barely dry on the Threshold agreement, GON
officials, civil society members who worked on the Threshold
concept plan and the press raised questions about what needs to
be accomplished to reach Compact status. MCC CEO Bent responded
by discussing the 17 criteria, emphasizing the importance of
fighting corruption and noting that there is an annual evaluation
process.

4. USAID/WA Director Patrick responded to questions about
USAID's role in the implementation of the Threshold Program, and
fielded questions related to whether Niger would again play host
to a USAID Mission. He emphasized that even without a USAID
Mission in Niger, USAID assistance levels for Niger in various
sectors (e.g., agriculture, health) are higher than in some
USAID-presence countries and are higher than the period when Niger
had a USAID Mission. He added that USAID is hiring an employee to
work with the GON solely on the MCC Threshold Program.

5. To celebrate the signing agreement, the Minister of Finance
hosted a March 17 reception and the Ambassador hosted a March 18
dinner at the Chief of Mission residence.

6. In addition to the GON cabinet ministers with ministries that
will directly benefit from the Threshold Program (i.e., Education,
Commerce, and Justice), several ministers from ministries that will
only indirectly benefit from the Program participated in several
signing ceremony activities (i.e., Women's Protection, Youth
Training, Community Development and Agriculture).

7. On March 19, MCC CEO Bent and the USAID Niger PSC visited the new
MCC Coordination Office and, with UNDP serving as host, met with
representatives of most major donors.

8. GON officials' remarks consistently focused on the fact that with
the signing of the agreement the hard work must immediately begin.
Great emphasis has been placed on the need for the Nigerien people
to act quickly in order to obtain eligibility for a Compact
Agreement in the shortest possible time.

ALLEN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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