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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 5. May 24, 1951

Colombo Plan: Aid For Asia — A Little Philanthropy . .

page 3

Colombo Plan: Aid For Asia

A Little Philanthropy . . .

A Great Deal of Dirty Politics

The report by the (Commission) Commonwealth Consultative Committee which met in London in September and October 1950 begins thus:

"The people of Asia have long felt the pressure of poverty and hunger. While the realisation of self-government could not of itself relieve this situation, it has made possible a new approach to the problem of raising living standards through the vigorous development of national resources."

The Report and admission it makes by way of explanation is highly instructive at the present time. It has become fashionable of late, particularly among British Cabinet ministers to say: "Yes Britain has been very wicked in the past in oppressing the peoples of Asia but now it is different." It is necessary at least, to pretend that the conscience of the Minister of State for the Colonies is free, enlightened and socialist We recognise the obligation to reform our ways—let us go forward together into the wonderful future, arm in arm with our coloured brethren—like the proverbial policeman—guide, counsellor and friend."

The rosy hues of this picture diminish into something much more anaemic, when the plans are examined more closely.

Over the last five years the French Army has dug 90,000 graves for its own men, not to speak of its losses in wounded. In Malaya the intensity of the struggle has not developed to the same extent but there, security forces of 100,000 men are hard put to it to maintain order and "good" government. Formosa and its waters are being protected and demilitarised by the forces of America, and Korea you know about already.

Major-General McClure of the American Army Air Force and a member of the Military Government of Korea for four years after 1945 himself said: "The South Koreans hate us; in fact they hate most white men." Their reluctance to be liberated by the United Forces is explicable. It would seem that here is a paradox. On one hand the Trade Union of Oppressors vie with one another in slaughtering their subjects with Napalm and white phosphorus, and on the other seem to be interested in promoting their material welfare. What then are the facts of the matter?

This is to be Done

The Colombo Plan envisages the expenditure of £1,868,000,000 in South East Asia over the next six years. No one can seriously doubt that India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo need and deserve as much help as we can give them. But what of Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia—are their needs any less?

The Report itself says: "It has described only economic problems of Commonwealth countries. It has not proved possible for these countries to discuss their economic problems, but it is hoped that this will be done later." It also has been said by another that Hell itself is paved with good intentions.

The plan then is totally unrealistic in attempting a solution for some and not all South Asian peoples.

Discounting this, the Plan superficially still seems a genuine attempt at ameliorating the harsh conditions which obtain at present.

Our Contribution

Even little New Zealand will play its part. Mr. Doldge announces that on July 1 £1,000,000 will be paid for each of the next three years. The Government, reviewing the position at the end of that time. He proceeds further: The purpose of the plan is to raise the living standards of millions of people who are below sustenance level. "So long as these vast populations are forced, through lack of adequate development and facilities, to endure starvation, undernourishment, lack of shelter and intolerable living conditions, the rest of mankind has a duty to assist in ending this unhappy [unclear: ate] of affairs, which is [unclear: o] fault of the individuals themselves."

Never has Mr. Doldge spoken a truer word. He cannot I suppose, imagine that these people became wretched last month or last year. There are quite clear facts shouting to the heavens why poverty abounds in Asia; and they merit the attention of the Minister of External Relations. This part of the world has been subject to imperialist exploitation for centuries now, and the discontent that exists there today is a direct result of it.

Charity Begins . . .

The Evening Post of March 3 has an extremely illuminating article garnered from the Manchester Guardian on the latest progress of the great Colombo design to aid Asia. Of the £1,868,000,000 estimate for the next six years, "something just over £1,000,000 will be provided from outside the area." For example, Britain is in debt to India to the tune of £250,000,000. The settlement of a debt of honour can hardly be called philanthropy. This is a disappointment but £1,000,000,000 still seems substantial relief. "It is understood that Britain will supply f300,000,000 of this." Here the Manchester Guardian displays shame and embarrassment in every line.

"Allowing for contributions from other Commonwealth countries and possibly loans from international institutions there remained a missing component of over £600,000,000. It was obvious to all concerned that the missing component could only be supplied by the U.S. Government One has only to compare this amount with the report that Congress is to be asked for a total allocation of 250,000,000 dollars. One gathers that the Indians who put their heart into this plan are now downcast. There has been a psychological shock. No doubt the American decision will have similar effects on others who took part in this stirring venture. It will cost the U.S. far more in the end to restore Asian confidence."

American Policy

In a leading article the Manchester Guardian comments that "when the conference of officials met at Colombo and made an uninformative statement, it was thought at the time to be due to caution but now it seems to have been due to embarrassment. When the plan was debated last autumn the Americans gave the impression that they thought it was just what South Asia wanted. What caused this change of mind?" After asking this extremely significant question, the Guardian carefully avoids answering it. They continue by stating the new American view but cannot, or dare not, suggest why that policy was reversed. "Apparently the American view now is, that each individual country should prepare its individual plan and approach the United States separately for the dollar aid which it needs. The essence of the Colombo plan was that it was prepared by the Aslans themselves." The article proceeds with a grossly patronising remark: "This was good for the prestige of the countries or Asians themselves."

The Guardian explains the essence of the Colombo plan at least as it appears to it. "Working through the Colombo plan, they avoid the feeling that they were client states of the U.S.A. and overcome their fears that political strings would be attached to the loans? Who can seriously doubt that the original philanthropy which started the scheme has long ago been tossed overboard? If concrete proof needs to be adduced, what else but sordid political considerations have prevented the United States from sending grain to India? Those dying of starvation in Bihar province today might have lived if India had not dared to be a Daniel in the Security Council discussions on the question of China and Korea. Very apologetically the Guardian explains that the U.S.A has tried to sugar the pill by making it known that it will go ahead with its Point Four programme which can be "dovetailed' with the Colombo plan. It cannot be gainsaid that whatever pious intentions professed by Washington, as far as the Asian countries are concerned "the fears of political strings are well justified." The article in the Guardian ends on a very strange note indeed: "The effort will be less well planned if there are Commonwealth and American schemes running side by side. There will be overlaps and waste." The article ends with the remark "temptation to borrowers to play off lenders against one another will be inevitable."

Politics not Food

One would be excused for thinking then that the rivalry of Imperial ambitions has not finished and they still exerted powerful. If subterranean, influences on present day events. The Colombo plan is a compound of a little philanthropy and a great deal of dirty politics. Certainly there is a great deal of hunger and poverty abroad in Asia but the final solution will depend not so much on the patronage of the "would-be-goodies" but rather on spontaneous people's movements themselves. We would do well to help these movements rather than try to attempt to lay down the particular line of progress for the Asians to follow that seems desirable to us.

Hector MacNell