Littlefield: Large Impact

UPDATE, Friday, June 25 2010: Elizabeth Littlefield is the new OPIC President and CEO.


The Obama presidency’s first birthday has come and gone, yet several key departments and agencies in the administration remain leaderless. However, Sarah Jane Staats at the Center for Global Development remarks that one nomination, if confirmed, may be a cause for celebration (or a sigh of relief) to all of us who believe in the ability of the private sector to stimulate growth and development.

The promising candidate, Elizabeth Littlefield, seeks to contribute a private sector perspective to US international development policy by serving as President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a US government agency that provides political risk insurance and financing to US businesses investing in new and emerging markets.

OPIC is an unusual government body. It is not tax-funded and it generates revenues (surprise!) and boasts financial reserves exceeding $4 billion. Its mission is to promote economic development, support US foreign policy—oh hey there, 3D approach—and create jobs for US citizens.

During her confirmation hearing before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Littlefield explained her qualifications to lead OPIC in further involving the private sector in global development. She is currently a director of the World Bank and the CEO of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a consortium of 33 private and public development agencies dedicated to increasing access to financial services and serves as a sort of resource center for the microfinance industry. She also has established and advised microfinance institutions in Africa as the managing director of JP Morgan’s Emerging Markets Capital Markets in London.

At the hearing, she stated that “I have seen how skillfully-deployed foreign investments provide not only jobs, but also hope and stability in poor countries…Today OPIC’s work is the nexus of just this kind of U.S. development assistance.” Let’s keep our fingers crossed.


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