San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Two Countries Qualify for New U.S. Development Aid

NICARAGUA and Honduras this week were named two of the 16 impoverished countries to qualify for a new $1 billion U.S. development fund called the Millennium Challenge Account.Created last February by the administration of President George W. Bush, the fund aims to assist development initiatives proposed by qualifying countries chosen for taking steps to improve governability and rule of law, while fighting corruption and promoting market opening.The 16 finalist countries, chosen from a list of 63, were announced Monday during a conference in the White House with President Bush, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and diplomats representing the qualifying nations.Bush lauded Honduras for its efforts to improve education and health care in recent years, noting that the Central American nation’s 96% immunization rate is among the highest of poor countries.The qualifying countries must now present proposals asking for a specific amount of money with detailed accounts of how the funds will be spent. Not all countries will receive the same amount of development aid.Nicaragua’s Minister of the Presidency Eduardo Montealegre announced this week that Nicaragua’s proposal would include a request for funds to support small agricultural and business initiatives, as well as money to finance municipal health, education and infrastructure development. He did not mention how much Nicaragua would request.The U.S. Congress this year appropriated $1 billion for the millennium account, and the Bush administration hopes the fund will increase to $5 billion by 2006.Of the 16 countries, Bolivia was also selected to participate, with the remaining 13 nations representing Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

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