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210 Note by Cumes

Canberra, 8 January 1952

The Colombo Plan: Present Status of the Australian Effort

1. The Economic Development Programme

The Australian achievements under the Economic Development Programme so far are:

(i) The whole of the wheat and flour allocation of �A3.7 million for India has been shipped or firmly ordered. (All of this from I.W.A.1 quota.)

(ii) The whole of the flour allocation of �A300,000 for Ceylon has been firmly ordered. (This is additional to I.W.A. quota.)

On the less favourable side:

(i) None of the �A2 million allocation to Pakistan has yet been spent.

(ii) Supplies for the �A500,000 allocation to India, additional to wheat and flour, have not yet been decided.

(iii) The fate of the �A2.25 million reserve set aside for other countries which might later join the Plan remains undecided.

The position then is:

�A million
Total Australian contribution to Economic Development for 1951–52 8.75
Spent or firmly committed 4.0
Allocated but uncommitted to supplies 2.5
Unallocated and uncommitted 2.25

One of the major needs has been for an officer who could effectively formulate supply programmes, assist procurement, and generally get supplies moving efficiently and smoothly. This need has now been met with the appointment of Mr J.B. Todd2 as Executive Officer. He will deal as a matter of first urgency with the supply programme for Pakistan and the residual programme for India. He has lists of equipment submitted by Pakistan on which to work, and is examining these lists with a view to recommending at least some immediate offers. It might also be possible to use import requirements revealed by the recent Australian trade negotiations with India and Pakistan to frame useful supply programmes.

It is also intended that (so far as may be possible) the Executive Officer should undertake forward planning for supplies to India, Pakistan, and Ceylon for 1952–53, and perhaps for future years. (Supplies for other countries, for example, Burma might also have to receive early consideration.) Forward planning would eliminate the serious time-lag in getting supplies moving in this first year.

The Executive Officer is probably the key man in the active implementation of our Programme. His appointment is probably the outstanding recent step forward.

2. The Technical Co-operation Programme

Our record for the Technical Co-operation Programme can be summarised briefly as follows:

(i) Progress in award of fellowships and scholarships has been good.

(ii) Although in a number of fields we have been unable to provide experts requested, we have been able to send quite a useful number of well-qualified experts in a wide variety of fields.

(iii) So far as concerns provisions of technical equipment, our contribution so far has been small; but we have taken action, through the despatch of Mr S.A. Clarke on a special mission, to frame a comprehensive and valuable equipment programme.

In more detail, the present position in each major section of the Technical Co-operation Programme is as follows:

(a) Fellowships and scholarships

Australia offered 150 fellowships and scholarships in 1951, and a further 150 in 1952.

By the end of September, there were 52 students already in Australia, and the number has since been increased above 60. There was an unavoidable gap between places offered and places actually taken up in 1951, because some nominations were made too late to enable courses to commence before the 1952 academic year. There should be a marked increase in the number of students in Australia this year, and nominations have been speeded up with this in view. The Commonwealth Office of Education is working to achieve a maximum of actual placements before the 1952 academic year begins.

Training has not been restricted to formal, 'academic' university courses, but has included practical training with, for example, the Bureau of Census and Statistics, CSIRO, Labour and National Service, etc.

In addition, a number of special, ad hoc courses have been or are being arranged. The successful seminar for Pakistani civil servants has been followed by arrangements for special courses in, for example, social services, library work, and further public administration courses.

(b) Provision of experts

By the end of September 1951, twelve experts had left Australia for Pakistan and Ceylon. We had sent an agricultural mission to Pakistan, a technical education expert to Ceylon, Pakistan and (informally) Indonesia, a marine biologist to Ceylon, a geological survey party to Pakistan, an expert on aerial pest control to Pakistan.

Since then, we have arranged for a monetary economist to go to Ceylon, two food technologists for Pakistan, a consultant on the brick and tile industry for Ceylon, an educational psychologist for Ceylon. It seems probable that we shall be able to offer an occupational therapist to India; and other projects for expert assistance are under consideration.

It must also be noted that an Administrative Officer for the Thai Project in Pakistan has been selected and should take up his post in Lahore about the end of January. His appointment will speed the technical and material assistance which Australia has offered to give Pakistan in the Thai Project, in co-operation with the Governments of Canada and New Zealand.

(c) Provision of technical equipment

Up to the end of 1951, comparatively little technical equipment had been provided by Australia. The main items were:

(i) Text-books and educational materials valued at about �A8,000 for Ceylon.

(ii) Text-books valued at about �A 1,200 for Pakistan.

(iii) Two mobile cinema vans, valued at �A9,000, for India. (An additional four vans might be supplied later.)

(iv) Reference works on agricultural subjects, valued at �A400, for Pakistan.

(v) A small parcel of books, valued at about �A30, for Indonesia.

As already indicated, the mission of Mr S.A. Clarke should speed up the provision of technical equipment. Some preliminary reports have already been received from him, and he should be able to submit final recommendations for the whole equipment programme shortly after he returns to Australia, about the end of this month.

3. Finance

Expenditure under the Economic Development Programme has already been set down. Expenditure under the Technical Cooperation Programme was �A17,274 on 30th June last. Figures for expenditure since can be only rough estimates. The following however gives the approximate magnitude of commitments:

Technical equipment 19,000
Fellowships and scholarships 600,000*
Experts 17,000**
Total 636,000

* This is a very rough estimate, taking the full offer of 300 places and assuming that each costs �2,000. It is the cost to completion of each fellowship and scholarship, and far above the actual expenditure to date.

** This also is a very rough estimate, and assumes that the average cost of experts so far provided has been �A 1,000 each.

Adding in our expenditure up to June 1951, therefore, our commitments so far under the Technical Co-operation Programme are in the vicinity of �650,000, out of a total contribution of about �A2.5 million. If Clarke's mission resulted in the speedy implementation of our equipment programme, it would mean the expenditure of up to about �850,000 more, bringing total commitments to about �1,500,000 and leaving about �1 million for expenditure before the end of the Programme in June 1953.

4. Publicity

In the past, there has been a general insistence on the need for publicity. Press releases and other routine means have been used where appropriate. In addition, there is at the moment:

(i) The Colombo Exhibition in which Australia is participating. (Because of rising costs in Ceylon there is some danger that the original vote of �10,000 will be inadequate for proper Australian participation.)

(ii) A film on the Australian effort in the Colombo Plan, under preparation by the Films Division of the News and Information Bureau.

(One item for consideration is whether there should be a small fund set up from which costs for publicity projects might be met from time to time.)

5. Administration

The Executive Officer should mean that procedures for the implementation of the Australian programme will be improved; and should reduce the administrative burden on existing Departmental staffs.

A large amount of interdepartmental consultation is essential. Interdepartmental committees of one kind and another are therefore unavoidable. The committee procedures are however slow and cumbersome and, it seems, should be used only where there is no effective alternative. Membership of interdepartmental committees should also be kept to a minimum. (The present Technical Assistance Committee, for example, seems too large, and might be reduced to an essential four to six members, with the right to co-opt.)

One other point is that the Economic and Technical Assistance Section has, for long periods, been understaffed, and there has been insufficient continuity of staff.

6. Colombo Plan membership

There have been recent United Kingdom approaches to the non-Commonwealth countries, of South-East Asia to join the Colombo Plan. Perhaps as a result of these approaches, Burma has recently announced that she will join the Plan, though with some reservations. We have not yet been able to ascertain what these reservations are.

Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam have now also joined the Economic Development Programme, and Cambodia and Vietnam will also participate in the Technical Cooperation Programme. Laos has declined to join the latter.

There are no other final decisions on membership, although Indonesia might join in the near future. The United States position is unchanged.

7. Summary

Taking the Colombo Plan as a whole, it is probably fair to say that the Australian effort is not, at this stage at least, as impressive as might have been hoped.

Separating out the two component programmes, it might be said that the Economic Development Programme has scarcely got under way yet, except for the provision of wheat and flour–which we probably would have sent to India and Ceylon (though not as a gift) whether there had been a Colombo Plan or not.

Our Technical Co-operation Programme has been much more impressive. It has of course been going a year longer, and is probably the programme which has, to date, had the greatest impact on the public mind.

In any event, it has always been recognised that the Colombo Plan involves a 'long haul'. It is much too early yet to look for impressive results. The question is whether the procedures so far established and the planning so far carried out promise worthwhile results in the future.

[NAA: A1838, 2020/1/12 part 1]

1 International Wheat Agreement.

2 Formerly Australian Trade Commissioner in London, Todd was appointed Director, Colombo Plan Supplies, Australia, in 1952.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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