Who is accountable if the MCG bird flies away?
The Sunday FT Editor some years back set up a successful "Business Managers Club" which meets regularly to discuss issues impacting them, share knowledge and network. The Wise Old Owl took a cue from the Editor's book and invited a set of the feathered kind to a similar meeting last week, held atop the Animal Farm barn. Those attending were business birds, professional banking birds, migrating AID birds and returning Diaspora birds from the stars and stripes country. The topic for discussion was "Who is Accountable if the MCG (not the Cricket Ground but the Millennium Challenge Grant) bird flies away from Sri Lanka?"

A bird tracing the background began the meeting stating, "the US Government announced a billion dollars per annum budget package for a five year period to help nations to move towards the Millennium Development Goals and Sri Lanka was one of the first group of nations so selected ". Another said," being so high up on the MDG indicators Sri Lanka was lucky to qualify. A skeptic bird asked, "did the US Government look to Sri Lanka to deliver a positive result on its AID investment, believing it will definitely succeed."

"In 2004, internationally recognized Consultants and AID Associates visited Sri Lanka to set up a process to get good proposals developed and presented to the MCC (not related to Cricket!) and they went around getting at the business, chambers and NGO types in addition to the government to submit proposals," recollected one bird. It further recounted, "the chambers and NGO's invested time and effort and with the help of the Consultants made network partnerships and were ready with good proposals, when the new government decided that Consultants must go and " government Buru-Cats" must prevail and all proposals must be centrally reviewed, developed, consolidated and submitted by the Sri Lanka Government. The Chambers and NGO's went behind the powerful and several Ministers were tapped for networking but in the end one Ministry prevailed with its iron fist to submit a consolidated proposal."

One bird with an insight into the workings of the inner sanctum of MCC reported, " the first proposal of 29 pages was so poor in quality and presentation that it was returned by the Sri Lankan Ambassador in the USA to the Foreign Ministry for improvements before submission". One other AID networked bird said," the final product is nearly double the original length and applies for nearly 25% of the available grant of one billion dollars, but the quality is yet second to many submitted proposals from smaller and more backward African and Caribbean countries".

The bird who perched atop the building where the MCC met had heard through the chimney that, "the verdict on the first round review of Sri Lanka’s proposal was that it lacked credibility (100 public officials capacity building costs budgeted at twice the actual costs for all of them to attended PhD programmes in the USA), attempts to transfer usual national budget line items to the MCG programme and above all lacks the involvement, consultation and commitment of the community to be taken up the indicators towards the 2015 goals."

The AID bird says with authority, "these are usual issues and teething problems which the Treasury Boss will resolve in his usual clever style and in the end the government will prevail and MCC will relent, for whether there is community commitment or not, despite public officials taking joy rides and budget items being substituted, and better quality Chamber and NGO proposals being left out, for Sri Lanka can only go up the indicators ladder and not down and thus worthy of aid investment".

Did someone who once lived in and ruled the nation from the Highest Echelons not say that, "God is a Sri Lankan and he will look after Sri Lanka's interests and take the country out of the mess even at the very last moment?" Was tsunami God's way of pushing Sri Lanka to the brink of disaster and picking it up at the last minute with a hefty pack of aid? Therefore it matters not whether the Millennium Challenge Grant is there or not! The unanimous verdict of the birds', "tsunami aid or not the nation and its people must demand accountability from those responsible, if the Millennium Challenge Grant flies away or is wasted away without tangible results".

The Wise Old Owl wakes up from its deep sleep and decides to forget the bad dream that he just remembered about a meeting of birds! (The writer, a respected business leader, could be reached at - wo_owl@yahoo.co.uk). 

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