THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Today I am pleased to sign into law H.R. 1143, the "Microenterprise for Self-Reliance and International Anti-Corruption Act of 2000." The primary purpose of this legislation is to authorize continued and expanded efforts to provide assistance to the world's poorest entrepreneurs. The Act is the result of a long process of collaboration and negotiation among Members of Congress, my Administration, and the nonprofit microenterprise community represented by the Microenterprise Coalition. I congratulate all who worked on this bipartisan, public-private effort.
I am proud that my Administration has put microenterprise development and democratizing access to capital on the national and international agenda. When I was Governor of Arkansas, the First Lady and I encouraged and supported some of the first microenterprise programs in the United States. Thanks to the work of pioneering microenterprise development organizations around the world, all of us have come to appreciate the potential of microenterprise as means to empower poor people, especially women, to help themselves and their families.
Microenterprise programs help self-employed entrepreneurs obtain loans for small business enterprises to begin the process of growing out of poverty. Without microenterprise programs administered by the Agency for International Development and many nongovernmental organizations, these poor entrepreneurs abroad would not be able to borrow the small amount of money needed to get their repair shops, sewing shops, or similar businesses, off the ground. This is not a gift to these entrepreneurs, it is a loan. And experience has shown that these small loans are repaid and, in the process, these small-scale enterprises generate income and jobs for poor families.
This Act also represents a breakthrough in recognizing the value of business development services to the very poorest entrepreneurs. To many poor entrepreneurs, basic training and technical assistance in running a business can be as important as a loan.
In addition, H.R. 1143 authorizes a range of programs to promote good governance and democratization overseas. The United States has long encouraged and funded programs that foster an independent media, establish audit offices for executive agencies, and promote judicial reform. This legislation contains authority to provide assistance in furtherance of these programs to countries that would otherwise be prohibited from receiving U.S. assistance. While no direct assistance to the governments of such countries can be provided under this authority, the legislation and its history make clear that assistance to such governments through nongovernmental organizations would be permissible.
The Act also contains the "Support for Overseas Cooperative Development Act," which expresses support for the development and expansion of U.S. economic assistance programs abroad that fully utilize cooperatives and credit unions. My Administration and the Congress value and support the direct involvement of U.S. cooperative organizations in transferring their knowledge to local cooperatives in countries overseas.
Lastly, I note that H.R. 1143 includes the "International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000," which authorizes the Department of State to establish a grant program, to be called the "Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships." These scholarships will enable American undergraduate students of limited financial means to study abroad, and better prepare them to compete in an increasingly global economy.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
THE WHITE HOUSE, October 17, 2000.
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