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U.S. is praised for helping poor countries

UNITED NATIONS — In words of praise rarely heard at the United Nations, leaders of several poor countries thanked the U.S. government and American taxpayers Tuesday for helping with economic development.

The presidents of Tanzania and Burkina Faso and the prime minister of Albania said a U.S. government aid agency — which lets recipients decide on the best programs to reduce poverty — is having a major impact on the development of their countries.

The three countries are among 38 nations in Africa, Asia, Europe and Central America that are receiving grants totaling over $7.3 billion from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent agency created by Congress in 2004 to help fight against global poverty.

On the sidelines of the U.N. ministerial meetings, the assembled leaders strongly backed the corporation’s innovative approach. It requires recipients to commit to good governance, economic freedom and investments in their citizens. That done, recipients are free to choose their own projects but within strict timetables.

“I would like to thank U.S. government and U.S. taxpayer for their very generous help,” Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said. “It is my deep belief that this money was of great efficiency and help to my nation. Sixty million dollars granted three years ago...were used in several projects which really changed my country.”

Berisha said Albania used part of the money to streamline the lengthy, bureaucratic and corrupt system for registering a business with the government.

This “changed the climate for business in my country,” he said, citing a recent World Bank survey in which Albania now ranked second in the world in improving opportunities for business.

Albania also used part of the money for a system to file tax returns on the Internet. “No more ‘friendly meetings’ between taxpayers and tax collectors,” he said, noting government revenue increased by $5 billion in four years.

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