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NEW USAID APPROACH IS WHAT PROJECT PARTNERS FOCUS ON

posted Feb 1, 2011, 5:54 PM by Unknown user
Rajiv Shah (see photo) is the Administrator for USAID.  He's a medical doctor and formerly with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

The message of the article which follows is that USAID will no longer support very costly international consultants based in places like Washington DC.  Shah wants to work with local and regional organizations and be more private sector focused.

That's EXACTLY what Project Partners is set up to do. We want to work with and through our local partners, providing them with the means to build capacity and do the job themselves.  Of course companies like ours will gain; but we are based in the emerging world and none of our companies have hugely expensive overheads to transfer to the tax payer.  

This is a great opportunity for us all, especially our regional partners who we wish to support.  Let's take it!

Here's the article:

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 25, 2011; A17


"This agency is no longer satisfied with writing big checks to big
contractors and calling it development."

Those challenging words, spoken last week by Rajiv Shah, the
administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID),
were just one part of his speech forging a new direction for an agency
that has been in the backwater of U.S. foreign and national security
policies for years.

With little more than a year on the job, the 37-year-old medical doctor
and research scientist, who once handled the $1.5 billion vaccine fund
for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, criticized development
programs designed to be "extended in perpetuity while goals remain just
out of reach."

And he challenged another industry practice.

"There's always another high-priced consultant that must take another
flight to another conference or lead another training," he said. "This
practice simply must end." The declaration drew applause from the Center
for Global Development audience.

Shah said development funders and practitioners need to understand that,
unlike commercial businesses, "We have no interest in our own growth and
our own perpetuity. We must seek to do our work in a way that allows us
to be replaced over time by efficient local governments, by thriving
civil societies and by a vibrant private sector."

He said reform of USAID contracting will mean accelerated "funding to
local [non-governmental organizations] and local entrepreneurs, change
agents who have the cultural knowledge and in-country expertise to
ensure assistance leads to real local institutions and lasting, durable
growth."

Shah believes "that if we're not building real incentives into the
system to transition to make our projects more sustainable, to work
through host-country systems and ministries or local institutions, you
know, we're not going to have viable, long-term sustainability
strategies." The two things that sustain development activities are the
local public and private sectors, he said.

He cited Haiti as an example.

Instead of going completely with U.S. or other contractors who could put
up all the needed housing immediately, Shah sent procurement-reform
teams to Haiti to work with local construction companies. He admitted
this approach slowed "the process a little bit because it would always
be faster to just go in with prefab housing" built elsewhere. But
helping local construction companies learn how to use local materials,
including from the rubble, meant rebuilding damaged homes to a higher
earthquake standard and "allowed us to work with and nurture a local
construction industry," he said.

He offered Senegal as a second example.

The African country is one of the 20 priority USAID sites in its Feed
the Future program. The goal is to construct an agricultural development
program based on rice and dairy products. And to have impact, he said,
there must be a partnership with the government and with private-sector
investment that will "reach, you know, hundreds of thousands of
smallholder farm households."

That also meant USAID was not going to continue helping women in
cooperatives producing and selling honey and jam. Shah said the program
did help women move out of poverty, and it was "not pleasant" to tell
USAID employees that it was ending. But, he added, "If you can use those
same resources to have, you know, four or five times the kind of scale
and impact, then you have to stop doing what you were doing and start
doing something new."

Oversight is another key area for Shah.

USAID, which once set the world standard for evaluating programs, he
said, had "fallen far from that world-class distinction."

He ridiculed evaluations that followed "a two-two-two model." These
were, Shah said, "Two contractors spending two weeks abroad conducting
two dozen interviews. For about $30,000, they produce a report that no
one needs and no one reads."

He drew laughter by citing a contractor who claimed "over a quarter of a
million people benefited from a $14,000 rehabilitation of an Iraqi
morgue."

His new evaluation policy calls for independent third parties who also
will "employ study designs that explain what would have happened without
our interventions, so we can know for sure the impact of our programs."

And for transparency, he said, "We will release the results of all of
our evaluations within three months of their completion, whether they
tell a story of success or failure" and provide them on USAID's Web
site, ForeignAssistance.gov.

Shah said his changes will require more personnel, but he also plans to
eliminate costly senior positions in Paris, Geneva, Rome and Tokyo, as
well as cut assistance programs in seven countries over the next four
years.

All these plans may be for naught, however. The new chairman of the
House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), said
last month that she already had in mind cuts in foreign aid programs.
Then last week, the Republican Study Committee, an unofficial group of
165 conservative House members, called for saving $1.39 billion annually
at USAID, though specific cuts went unstated.

That all could put Shah's reforms somewhat in question.


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