Essay on the Impact of Technical Aid on Development


Essay on the Impact of Technical Aid on Development


Economic assistance takes the form of providing finance or capital. Technical aid on the other hand consists in providing exper­tise and training to bridge technological gaps in certain sectors of an economy. Technical assistance could lead to far-reaching benefits for a developing coun­try.


Development of Thought:

Technical aid, both official and private, has permeated various fields of economic activity in India which has received technical assistance from agriculture at one end of the spectrum to atomic energy at the other.

With new innovations and discoveries taking place every day in several parts of the world, technical assistance offers tremendous opportunities both for the developed countries and the developing countries and could ensure a continuous flow of assistance from the developed to the developing world.

A well-conceived technical assistance programme even with a small monetary input could prove highly beneficial to a country with the absorptive capacity/technology as seen in the case of India



Technical assistance requires negligible amount in mon­etary terms compared to other forms of aid. Therefore even when funds are scarce technical aid can be provided to ensure the survival and development of the Third World.

“Technical” assistance consists in providing expertise and training to bridge technological gaps in certain sectors of an economy while “economic” assistance consists in providing finance or capital to raise output like establishment of irrigation or a power project. If country ‘A faces shortage in food grain, making available the required amount of food grains to country ‘A’ or helping country ‘A’ with adequate finance to purchase food grains could be described as “economic” aid while the process of helping country ‘A’ to increase its food production could be called ”technical” assistance.

Though technical assistance in monetary terms is small compared to the magnitude of capital or other forms of economic aid. It could produce far-reaching results for a developing country which has the absorptive capacity for technology.


The announcement by the US President Truman in his inaugural address of January’ 20, 1949 that the United States should “make available to all peace-l loving countries the benefits of its store of technical knowledge in order to help them realise their aspirations for a better life” heralded the start of US technical assistance programmes to developing countries, namely.

The Point Four Programme under which the United States undertook to transfer its technical know-how to the least developed countries (I.DCs) and eventually led to the establishment of the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) for bilateral technical assistance and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) un­der the United Nations.

While institutions like ‘the UNDP and the Common-l wealth. Fund for Technical Cooperation (CFTC) under the Commonwealth Sec-1 retaliate devote themselves fully to technical assistance, international financial institutions like the World Bank also earmark part of their project funds for technical assistance in support of their primary lending functions.

The Interna­tional Monetary Fund has fairly a large technical assistance programme to assist countries in the field of monetary and fiscal areas.


Besides multilateral institutions bilateral donors have established separate institutions to provide technical assistance to developing countries. Countries like the United Kingdom. Australia and Japan provide a substantial amount of technical assistance to developing countries under the Colombo Plan.

The fact, however, remains that compared to other forms of aid; technical assistance does not receive the treatment which it deserves at the hands of economists, particularly its impact on economic development.

Does this mean that technical assistance is not significant in development? An answer to this question could be possibly found from the Indian experience with technical cooperation programmes.

Technical aid, both official and private, has permeated various fields of economic activity in India which has received technical assistance from agricul­ture at one end of the spectrum to atomic energy at the other. In what follows, we briefly discuss some typical case studies in selected sectors.


The green revolution of the Sixties is one of the earliest examples of a tangible and visible impact of technical assistance on India’s economic develop­ment.

The Rockefeller Foundation extended the necessary facilities for the intro­duction of high-yielding varieties from Mexico and supplying them to research laboratories at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute at Delhi and Ludhiana agricultural University in Punjab.

The Indian agricultural scientists successfully modified the new varieties of wheat seed through a radiation process to make ten suitable for making popular Indian food namely, chapattis.

The impact of Green revolution on Indian agriculture could be appreciated from the fact that India’s food grain production which was 50.8 million tonnes in 1951 reached 107 million tonnes by 1971 and the wheat production of 8.1 million tonnes in 1953- M rose to 23.5 million tonnes in 1971.

The experience of farm and by the Federal Republic of Germany in Mandi region of Himachal Pradesh makes an interesting case study in this field. Under project, the Germans acquainted the local farmers with the modern methods of agriculture and introduced them to inputs like chemical fertilizers.

In 1963, prior to the commencement of the project there was a deficit of grains to the tune of 16,000 tonnes in this region which comprised of 60,000 small holdings spread over an area of 200,000 acres. By 1965-66, the area witnessed a surplus of 8,000 tonnes of food grains. Fruit and vegetable cultivation on of 442 acres in 1962-63 went up to 2,900 acres by 1965-66.

While the Green Revolution helped India shift from a position of shortage to one of not mere self-sufficiency but a comfortable buffer stock of food grains, this was quickly followed up by modernization of various other branches of agriculture and updating the technology.

Technical assistance provided by the UNDP during 1973-85 enabled India establish centres of advanced studies for post-graduate agricultural education and search at various Agricultural Universities in different parts of the country, these include the Centre for Advanced Studies for Crop Protection at Bangalore Centre for Advanced Studies in Agricultural Engineering at Ludhiana in Punjab.

Agricultural Microbiology Centre, Coimbatore, Plant Physiology Centre at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, Centre of Advanced

Studies in Post Harvest Technology. GB Pant University of Agriculture, Pantnagar Uttar Pradesh, Central Avian Research Institute, Izatnagar and Centre of Soil and Water Management. Hissar (Haryana).

An example is the success story of Rampura village in Haryana adopted the Haryana Agriculture University as part of its lab-to-land programme.

Under the extension programme which involved the visit of scientists to the village every month, 40 small and marginal farmers and 10 landless laborers were given advice and training on seed quality, plant protection, management and the use of fertilizer and other small machinery.

This brought about major changes in the cropping patterns and the fanner could increase his crop yield by 15- percent. All these centres at various agricultural Universities have become important focal points for agricultural education and research in Southeast Asia.

Under the Indo-Norwegian project (1952-62) which covered two set villages, Sakthikulangara and Neendakara in Kerala, the local fishermen were exposed to and trained in modern methods of fishing techniques including mechanization and trawler-fishing with bilateral technical assistance from Norway.

The process of mechanization introduced by the project led to a greater landing efficiency of prawns in the area, resulting in a much better exploitation of the resources, realizing catches of more prawns, seer fish and tunas.

The catch, which was about 2,000 tonnes in 1950 prior to the project, rose to 13,009 tonnes in 1968 and 85,000 tonnes in 1980.

The greatest impact of mechanization was on the level of income of the people in the two villages in the target area. The annual income per fisherman household in the project area which, was Rs 624 in 1954, rose to Rs 1,251 in 1963, and by 1980 it was Rs. 4,975, the per capita income being Rs 887-registering an eight-fold increase since 1954. Per capita income per fisherman household in Sakithi Kulangara village more than doubled during this period.

The indebtedness of fisherman households in the project area declined by 35 per cent between 1955 and 1963 and the level of indebtedness was only 53 per of that prevailing in Cannanore, Calicut, Palghat and Trichur districts in 1964.

Fishing and fishery related activities provided employment to 2,100 persons in 1953, 2’400 persons in 1963, 5,800 persons in 1968 and about 7,500 persons in 1982, the increase in 1982 being more than 3.5 times over that of 1953.

The pelagic Fisheries Project, which was a joint venture of the Government of India, UNDP and FAO, was another milestone in the development of fisheries in India.

Results of the project had shown that the prevailing level of exploitation was found to be far below the average stock position in the case of mackerel, oil sardine and white bait. The project helped discover the hidden potentialities of the sea and facilitate export promotion of the marine products.

India has abundant reserves of iron ore distributed widely throughout the country, estimated at over 20 million tonnes. Known reserves of good quality coking coal are relatively low and are mainly confined to a small area in eastern India the net available reserves of metallurgical coal in the Jharia.

Raniganj and Hast Bokaro coal fields in eastern India are estimated around 3600 million tonnes of which only 1360 million tonnes are of prime coking quality.

It has been estimated that the present level of off take, the available reserves of coking coal may last only for 40 years. Until recently, India was importing «coking coal to bring down the ash content.

Thus, the availability of domestic coking coal imposed a constraint on the development of future steel-making capacity based on the conventional blast furnace route in which coke produced from metallurgical coal is required as a reluctant for smelting iron ore.

In view of the huge reserves of non-coking coal available in the country it was felt that the use of non-coking coal in the production of iron and steel would relieve the pressure on the economy caused by the scarcity of coking coal.

Thanks to the technical assistance provided by UNDP with UNIDO as the existing agency. India has made a major breakthrough in steel technology by using 100 per cent non coking coal as solid reluctant at a Demonstration Plant established near Kothagudem in Andhra Pradesh.

The project facilitated elimi­nation of the use of scrap iron which was scarce and costly and permitted use of non-coking coal, the reserves of which are substantial in India.

Encouraged by the results of the Demonstration plant, the Government of India permitted the Bihar Government to put up a 120,000 tonnes capacity plant based on the same process in collaboration with Modi Industries in a private sector.

Similarly, a pellet plant with 1.8 million tonnes capacity per annum has been set up in Goa with a view to export the entire output to Japan.

Introduction of sponge iron is expected to go a long way in augmenting steel production through the use of sponge iron in 200 electric furnace-based mini steel plants located all over India with an annual capacity over 3.6 million tones.

This forms an integral part of India’s plans to step up production of steel from the 8.5 million tonnes level in 1980 to 75 million tonnes by the turn of the century.

There are several such cases where technical assistance has been found highly productive in the field of industry. Another example is the hosiery and knitwear industry in Ludhiana, Punjab which has been one of the major beneficiaries of technical assistance from UNDP/UNIDO.

The knitwear facility set up with technical assistance from UNDP for training of local technicians with an input of US $ 2.5 million during 1977-78 resulted in 200,000 persons engaged in the trade in the small-scale sector being exposed to modern methods of the knitwear industry.

The project helped in identifying problems the industry was facing: ‘pilling’ on the garment surface; lack of knowledge about techniques of quality was dyeing, chemical treatment for shrink-resistance and super-wash accord­ing to international specifications.

As a result of the facilities made available coupled with training, several small scale knitters could be “upgraded” technically to qualify for wool mark which made it possible for them to export a large number of garments to the countries of eastern Europe and the erstwhile Soviet Union.

Though there are several insti­tutions in this category like the centers of agricultural education and research a various agricultural universities, Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS) in Pune, Maharashtra and Central Soil and Materials Research Station (CSMRS) in New Delhi provide two excellent illustrations of this phenomenon.

CWPRS, Pune during the early sixties carried out applied and basic re­search mainly on irrigation, flood control, hydropower and water-related struc­tures like bridges, railways, ports and harbors.

Projects in the early seventies and mid-seventies were formulated for obtaining technical assistance from UNDP for modernizing and updating the facilities available at CWPRS in view of priority accorded in the successive Five Year Plans for irrigation, flood control, ports, harbors and power generation.

As a result of the expertise built up at the station, CWPRS has been recognized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission as a regional laboratory with special preference to ports, estuaries, and inland waterways.

The port of Singapore Authority assisted by the station in a port-development project formed part of a twenty year consultancy contract which the Station secured after the scrutiny of international tenders.

CWPRS has also provided assistance to Egypt, Iraq and Sri Lanka in the establishment of hydraulic laboratories and has assisted irrigation projects in Afghanistan. Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal.

After harnessing the available hydro-electronic potential in the country, the Government of India, by early seventies, wanted to exploit the potentials avail­able in the more difficult areas like the Himalayan foothills which, offering good scope, posed complex technical problems which underlined the need for devel­oping a strong rock-mechanics expertise covering all aspects of field, laboratory and design work suited to the Indian engineering skills and more particularly.

To resolve the problems encountered in the planning, design and execution of irri­gation projects in the hilly regions. The Central Soil and Materials Research Station (CSMRS) received bilateral technical assistance from the United King­dom during 1972-76 for the rock mechanics project.

The scope of the rock-mechanics project was amplified and widened with a full-scale programme in 1980-82 with assistance from the UNDP.

Technical assistance from ODA (UK) and UNDP enhanced the research capabilities of the station substantially and enabled the station to carry out an earthquake resistant deign at Tehri Dam Project in Uttar Pradesh and geo-technical investigations and construction material survey at the Narmada Sagar Project in Madhya Pradesh.

The technical expertise developed at the station has equipped the institute with the necessary capacity to investigate complicated problems of rock-mechan­ics associated with tunnels, underground power stations, dam abutments and alley slopes in irrigation projects both in India and several other developing countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Iraq, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The two stations, CSMRS and CWPRS, are in a position to form functions comparable to those performed by The United States Army Crops of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station in assisting the erection of civil works in the United States.

Though technical assistance has made a positive contribution to certain ors of India’s economy, it cannot be claimed that its impact has been so spectacular in other areas as in the case of agriculture-related areas.

This is because an important criterion for aid effectiveness is the level of a country’s development, namely the degree to which existing institutions and capabilities are able to absorb and exploit the technical and material resources provided from outside.

Technical cooperation programmes, even in the field of agriculture which pre successful in Asia, were not equally successful in Africa.

The fact that technology transfer and technical cooperation effectiveness increase through time, only implies that effectiveness would be lower among the least developed countries.

Even in India, technical cooperation programmes in the post-Sixties and Seventies in the field of industry were more encouraging Ito in the degree of development achieved through these years in the field of science and technology.

Upgrading of industry standards which requires a longer period for adaptation of industrial technology to suit local conditions compared to agriculture explains the slow speed in technology absorption.

With new innovations and discoveries taking place every day in several parts of the world, technical assistance offers tremendous opportunities both for developed countries and the developing countries and could ensure a continuous flow of assistance from the developed to the developing world.

However, technical assistance is not all that easy. It involves a considerable amount of me work on the part of the donor/funding agency and the recipient country to identify areas where the latter requires technical assistance and provide the necessary assistance in such a way that the recipient would be in a position to absorb d adapt the technology to suit local conditions.

In the case of India’s Green Revolution, considerable amount of preliminary work proceeded as early as 1959, namely six years prior to the launching of the new strategy and the Indian scientists had the task of adopting the high yielding varieties of seeds to the domestic requirements.

There could be no uniform formula for technical assistance as different countries may require technical assistance in the same sector may be in differ -stages of development.

In the final analysis, one feature which deserves consideration from bilateral and multilateral agencies is that technical assistance quires negligible amount in monetary terms compared to other forms of aid.

A well-conceived technical assistance programme even with a small monetary input could prove highly beneficial to a country with the absorptive capac­ity/technology as seen in the case of India.

It would be no exaggeration to say that even if aid funds to developing countries were to face extinction in the lone run, the one form of aid which could still survive and make the South survive could be technical assistance.

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