Now that MCC has completed 18 compacts worth over $6 billion, many stakeholders are increasingly anxious to understand more about what these investments have actually achieved. After all, a focus on results is a key component of MCC’s core model, and the agency is known for pushing the envelope in this area. MCC’s rigorous ex-post evaluations will be the critical piece that tells the story about development impact, but the results of these studies aren’t usually available until a few years after compact completion. In the meantime, there is increasing appetite to know something sooner about how the compact went. A new web feature MCC released this week begins to help stakeholders more easily answer some of those questions. Just one country—Mozambique—is available so far, but others are on the way.
In truth, while the new “completed compact” page does contain some new content, much of its value comes from repackaging existing content in a much more accessible, obvious, and coherent way. MCC has historically been quite good at publishing a lot of information on its programs, but several key pieces have been scattered in places an interested stakeholder might not know to look. This new webpage makes the information much more accessible with an easier-to-find, more comprehensive summary of (non-evaluation) results—things like: Did the projects achieve their targets? Are they still considered cost-effective? What were some of the successes and challenges of implementation?
Here are a few of the things I’m happy to see featured:
The final balance sheet on cost-effectiveness. MCC commits to fund only projects whose projected benefits exceed the total costs of implementation. This is one of the key characteristics that sets the agency apart from other donors. The new webpage lays out in clear, simple terms the final estimates for these metrics, both for the compact overall, and on a project-specific basis. This is a big deal. In a world of tight budgets where value-for-money is an important consideration, MCC is the only USG agency doing cost-benefit analysis for the vast majority of its portfolio and then showcasing the results (even when they fall short of MCC’s cost-effectiveness standards—see Mozambique’s road project).
Evaluation plans (and in some cases results). It’s nice to see on the main page what evaluations are planned, when to expect the results, and (refreshingly frank) summaries of the results of available evaluations.
The low-down on mid-course changes. Most of MCC’s early compacts ended up undergoing “re-scoping” due to things like higher-than-expected costs and implementation delays. The new webpage summarizes the changes that were made and why. It does require more digging to find out how the changes affected re-scoped projects’ expected rates of return, information that’s crucial for holding MCC management accountable for their decisions. And it would be even better if MCC publicly discussed re-scoping decisions as they happened in the middle of the compact, not just at compact closure. But this is a nice start.
I’m still holding out hope for:
The record on reform: MCC has a reputation for being at the forefront of incentivizing policy reform. All of MCC’s compacts contain policy, regulatory, and/or administrative conditions, and there are a number of good success stories in this area. However, without a systematic review of the conditions placed and the extent to which they were completed, it’s difficult to assess the overall compact partnership. MCC does sometimes obliquely refer to conditions that were less successfully implemented, but the lack of comprehensive review hampers greater accountability and the potential for learning by others.
MCC deserves a lot of credit for furthering its efforts to transparently tell the story of its compacts. And I give it extra kudos for launching this effort with Mozambique, which was apparently one of its more challenging programs (based the fact that MCC has not selected it for a second compact). This showcases MCC’s laudable commitment to openness about both the good and the not-as-good, a commodity in short supply among other US aid agencies. I’ll look forward to seeing other MCC countries’ pages come online. But of course, what I’m really looking forward to is the completion and release of more ex-post evaluation reports. After all, these are the results that will be key to gauging a compact’s success.