US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Elizabeth Cheney announced the establishment of the Middle East Finance Corporation, which will loan capital to small and medium sized business owners in the region as part of the larger Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).
Cheney, speaking in Detroit on September 30, 2003, at the US-Arab Economic Forum, said said the Middle East Finance Corporation will be launched with $20 million for the current fiscal year and a planned funding increase to $30 million in 2004.
According to Cheney, the initiative was specifically "aimed at supporting micro-entrepreneurs." The small and medium sized business sectors targeted by the new MEPI initiative "have been the true engines for economic growth, and business leaders in those categories are the ones who are most likely to be able to generate the kind of job
creation that is necessary," said Cheney.
During her address, Cheney outlined the four major areas targeted by MEPI -- political reform, economic reform, educational reform, and the empowerment of women. She said the specific needs and priorities of the program had been identified through the 2002 United Nations Arab Human Development Report.
Cheney said the encouragement of political change is not an effort to impose an American-style democracy on the region. However, findings outlined in the 2002 Arab Human Development Report and supported by the World Bank, have sent the message that Middle Eastern societies have to "open up," she said. — (menareport.com)
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