I am delighted to welcome you to the Embassy for today’s seminar.
The United States has clear priorities for its engagement with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire that are meant to restore the Ivoirian people’s confidence in government institutions and expand economic opportunities. Chief among these is the promotion of democratic reforms to strengthen government institutions, instill good governance at the national and local levels, combat corruption and impunity, and increase the government’s ability to provide public services. At same time, we are also looking for ways to promote economic development, trade, and investment. As we look around the world, it is clear that countries with strong democratic institutions and a commitment to good governance enjoy economic growth and development that reaches down to their populations. We also see in these countries a high degree of public confidence in their governments with the public able to hold their government to account through democratic means such as elections. .
Over the past several years, the Government of Côte d’Ivoire has taken steps to put the country back on a positive trajectory. In a bold move, the Government established a committee to review Côte d’Ivoire’s achievements as measured by the indicators established by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The MCC is a U.S. Government program that offers financing to countries that implement policies that support good governance, economic freedom, and investment in their citizens, and uses 20 independently verified indicators to assess that performance. Those indicators offer countries a yardstick to measure to what extent their policies promote development. A country must past at least ten of the indicators to be considered for MCC financing, including those related to good governance, respect for human rights, and control of corruption. In the past year, Côte d’Ivoire passed nine indicators, up from just five the previous year.
The MCC’s Government Effectiveness indicator measures “the quality of public services, the quality of the civil service and its independence from political pressures.” The MCC cites research that demonstrates that “countries with more effective governments tend to achieve higher levels of economic growth by obtaining better credit ratings and attracting more investment, offering higher quality public services and encouraging higher levels of human capital accumulation.” Côte d’Ivoire currently ranks below the median of low-income countries on this indicator.
The MCC’s Control of Corruption indicator measures the “strength and effectiveness of a country’s policy and institutional framework to prevent and combat corruption.” The MCC cites research that shows that “corruption hinders economic growth by increasing costs, lowering productivity, discouraging investment.” Côte d’Ivoire currently ranks just above the median on this indicator. As government employees, I commend you for that achievement. The struggle to address corruption, however, must continue. Due to the way in which MCC ranks countries in comparison to one another, Côte d’Ivoire’s ranking on corruption could easily slip if gains are not consolidated and increased in the months ahead.
Last week, I was in Bouaké for the inauguration of Bouaké’s courthouse, which was rehabilitated and expanded with support from the U.S. government. This project is just part of our engagement to support the justice sector that also includes training and capacity building. Additional focuses of our support for good governance have been local government capacity building and our legislative strengthening project, which is designed to assist the National Assembly to perform its tasks of legislative drafting, representation, and oversight.
Today’s seminar on good governance, ethics, and the control of corruption is another part of our efforts to promote good governance. Today’s speaker, Eric Lisann, is a lawyer with experience both as a federal prosecutor and in activities related to international corruption. This seminar is the first of four seminars that Mr. Lisann will lead while in Abidjan. He will also address representatives of NGOs, members of the legal profession, and student journalists. We are launching this program with the Directorate General of Taxes, because the idea to hold this seminar originated in a request from the Directorate General for collaboration in the fields of fiscal ethics and internal controls. I salute your leadership for the commitment to address those issues and I wish you a successful seminar.