Courtesy Reuters

The Aid Programs of the OPEC Countries

During the past two years the oil-producing countries of OPEC have become important donors of economic assistance to non-oil Third World countries. There has been widespread interest in these aid efforts, with one major British newspaper stating that "never before have nations been so generous with their wealth as the OPEC countries are now showing themselves to be." Others applaud what they regard as the "Robin Hood role" of the OPEC countries in taking from the rich and providing for the poor.

OPEC spokesmen themselves have stated that they are "the world's largest donors of financial assistance to developing countries and contribute the majority of funds for the World Bank and IMF borrowings." Repeatedly claims are heard that OPEC aid levels more than compensate developing countries for the increased price of oil. And it has been announced in councils of developing countries that OPEC aid will far exceed the aid flows of the traditional donor countries, whose aid programs it is alleged are rapidly declining in significance. Hence, many appear to believe that OPEC countries can and will provide the means for non-oil developing countries to realize their aspirations for economic development.

On the other hand, claims of large transfers of wealth and generous assistance from OPEC countries seem to some observers to be grossly exaggerated. It is claimed that aid from the oil exporters has been inadequate, well short of the billions of dollars that the oil price increases have cost the non-oil developing countries. Further, it is alleged that OPEC aid has been slow to materialize, and that the bulk of OPEC assistance is going to fraternally associated countries. In the years ahead it is thought that aid is likely to decline as the oil exporters rapidly adjust to spending their revenues at home.

On one point there is general agreement, namely that the dramatic oil price increases of late 1973 created severe balance-of-payments and economic growth problems for most less-developed countries. Not only must they pay higher prices for

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