Economic Development and Agricultural Surpluses

Courtesy Reuters

AMONG many pressing contemporary problems are two which receive much attention but without adequate recognition of the possibility that they may be related. These problems are, one, the insufficient economic growth of the underdeveloped countries of the free world, and, two, the agricultural surpluses of the free world, primarily those in the United States. Approached separately, they have remained insoluble; but a new coördinated approach might help to solve both. Aid to underdeveloped countries in the form of agricultural surpluses might enable them to progress economically at an even faster rate than would be possible under the forced-draft methods of the Russians and Chinese; and at the same time the crisis of agricultural surpluses in America and other countries of the free world would be alleviated.


In the early stages of economic development large expenditures are necessary to provide basic public facilities and services such as roads, bridges, docks, power, water supply, irrigation, housing, health and education without which there can be no satisfactory agricultural and industrial development. The creation of this essential substructure, accounting for more than half the cost of initial economic development, requires largely domestic manpower and materials and relatively small amounts of capital goods and technical assistance from abroad. The basic deficiency in our present aid program, which emphasizes capital goods and technical assistance, is that it does not sufficiently concern itself with the financing of this substructure of public facilities and services without which the assistance offered cannot be effectively absorbed.

In most underdeveloped countries at least 70 percent of the people derive their livelihood from agriculture. Perhaps 25 percent or more constitute a manpower surplus, unemployed or underemployed a good part of the year. The recent All-India Agricultural Labour Enquiry revealed that the country's 35 million landless laborers were employed only six months each year. This lack of full employment of the country's manpower prevents maximum production of goods and services and keeps the people poor, depriving many of even the minimum requirements for a healthy

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