Watt Reports on Congressional Delegation Visit to Cape Verde, South Africa and Ghana
Congressman Mel Watt (12th District of North Carolina) recently returned from a bipartisan Congressional delegation trip to the African countries of Cape Verde, South Africa and Ghana. The delegation was led by Rep. Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Congressman Watt is a member of the House Financial Services Committee, which has oversight jurisdiction over, among other things, international monetary matters such as debt relief and the Millennium Challenge Account and the involvement of the United States with the international finance institutions, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Africa Development Bank.
The delegation met with government leaders and officials, including President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, President John Kufour of Ghana and the President and Prime Minister of Cape Verde. The delegation also met with U.S. Embassy personnel, representatives of non-governmental organizations, business and labor leaders and recipients of assistance from foreign aid programs and from the international monetary institutions. The objective was to try to determine how to make U.S. aid and the assistance of the international financial institutions more effective at reducing poverty, increasing transparency and improving governance in the countries and programs receiving such assistance. Major issues of discussion included:
* Methods of assuring that assistance reaches poor people and helps reduce poverty and improve the health and living conditions of poor people;
* Whether excessive conditionality has limited the effectiveness of achieving the objectives of reducing poverty;
* How to reduce and eliminate corruption without micromanaging the use of funds;
* How to build skills and capacity in recipient countries and among individuals in addition to addressing immediate needs;
* How to increase transparency in the use of funds and accountability for results; and
* How parliamentary institutions, such as the US Congress and other legislatures, can have more effective oversight over funding decisions and conditions of that funding by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international finance institutions.
Congressman Watt said: "This was a tremendous opportunity to see and hear firsthand what is really happening and to see what real impact U.S. policies and international financial institutions are having in the beneficiary countries and on the ground in communities and in the lives of people. We definitely need to do a better job, not only of getting assistance to those who really need it but also helping people learn skills and build capacity that will enable them to help sustain themselves and move out of poverty. We got some really good ideas about how we might be able to accomplish these objectives as we authorize programs and as we discuss these matters with U.S. representatives to the international financial institutions. I felt like this trip served an extremely important purpose that will help me and the members of our Financial Services Committee do our jobs much better."