House Panel Hears Testimony on New Multi-Billion Dollar Foreign Aid Program

March 6, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC – Speaking today during a House International Relations Committee hearing on the Millennium Challenge Account Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY), encouraged Administration officials to support Armenia’s inclusion in this new multi-billion dollar foreign aid program proposed by President’s Bush, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“We want to thank Representatives Schiff, Sherman, and Crowley for raising the issue of Armenia’s eligibility for this new foreign aid program, not only on the merits of Armenia having met the program’s performance criteria, but also in terms of helping Armenia move even further in each of these areas in the face of the heavy burden of the dual Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “In the coming weeks and months we will continue to look to Congress, through its funding and oversight responsibilities, to play a central role in the development and implementation of this new foreign aid program.”

Rep. Schiff specifically raised the issues of the Administration’s support for Armenia’s eligibility, noting that, as a “historic ally, Armenia has really demonstrated considerable strength in the three area of criteria.” He expressed concern that nations such as nations such as Azerbaijan or Georgia may be prioritized over Armenia for perceived strategic reasons. He closed his comments by stressing that Armenia, as “the subject of a blockade that we don’t support,” is an especially ” compelling candidate for inclusion in this area.”

Rep. Sherman associated himself with Congressman Schiff’s comments, adding that Azerbaijan, a nation under the Section 907 restrictions for blockading Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh, should not be eligible for the MCA program. He explained that “a country that blockades a friend of ours should not be getting aid under this program just because they meet the more technical tests laid out in it.”

In written remarks submitted to the panel, Congressman Crowley supported Armenia’s eligibility for the MCA program and questioned why Armenia has not been included in the first tier of candidate nations. He noted, in particular, that the Administration should take into consideration the impact of the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades of Armenia.

The International Relations Committee hearing on the Millenium Challenge Account heard testimony from Andrew Natsios, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development; Alan P. Larson, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs; John Taylor, Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs; David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World; Charles MacCormack, President and CEO, Save the Children; Steven Radelet, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development, and; Brett Schaefer, Senior Fellow, The Heritage Foundation.

President Bush first announced the Millenium Challenge Account (MCA) program on March 14th of last year, proposing to increase assistance to developing countries by 50% over the next 3 years, culminating in a $5 billion budget in fiscal year 2006. The program is designed to provide assistance to countries that demonstrate a strong commitment toward good governance; the health and education of their people; and, sound economic policies that foster enterprise and entrepreneurship. To that end, the MCA has cited 16 specific criteria, based on concrete studies and indicators, to define country eligibility. Criteria include World Bank, Freedom House, and Heritage Foundation reviews on a range of issues including control of corruption, government effectiveness, rule of law, political freedom, among others.

Armenia is on the list of 70 countries currently eligible for MCA funding. It is anticipated, however, that only about 20 countries will receive assistance in the fiscal year 2004 budget of $1.7 billion. Administration officials expect that, in subsequent years, the number of countries will likely rise, as more governments strive to meet the MCA requirements.


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th Street, NW, Suite 904, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 *
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