Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The web chatting ambassador

It's great to see web technologies like web chat coming into general use. The U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania, Mark Green, featured in a web chat on Monday, October 29. Check out the transcript.

Mark Green

In the exchange, he answered questions that had been sent in earlier, and also fielded live questions from chat participants. The focus was on the Millenium Challenge Corporation Compact whereby the US government will give $698 million dollars over five years to specified infrastructure projects in Tanzania. The projects relate to electricity, roads and water, and the money is paid directly to companies who have tendered for them.

In the web chat, Green sounds like the consummate professional, fielding all questions very carefully, and taking every opportunity to get his messages across. However, he also seems to have a real feeling for Tanzania and to really care about the country. Before he was a politician he spent some years teaching in Kenya. Perhaps that has given him some direct experience that now shows through.

One of the key issues brought up was the question of government corruption. Green pointed to the $11.5 million the US government has contributed toward strengthening the Prevention and Combating Corruption Bureau. He also said that the $698 million will not be disbursed through the Tanzanian government, instead it will go directly to the projects.

It's good to see foreign aid to Tanzania take a variety of forms. Direct budget aid is very useful in helping the Tanzanian government build capacity, while independent aid helps projects more directly.

Check out the web chat transcript to gather more of the specifics of projects under the US government MCC initiative.

Your assistance to the School of St Jude goes directly to them and they are very careful to see that maximum benefit comes from each dollar. It also means that all of the money donated to the school (AU$1 million in 2005, AU$1.7 million in 2006) goes into the local economy providing jobs for hundreds of teachers, builders, drivers, cooks, guards, retailers, etc, etc.

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