Marshall Plan still working, 60 years later
by Nelson Lees
The Marshall Plan is widely regarded as a very successful U.S. assistance program that helped rebuild Europe following World War II. As we approach the Marshall Plan’s 60th anniversary in 2007, its concept still has fantastic potential.
This bold and unprecedented program brought transformational change to Europe. Today, the task of improving and sustaining the health and prosperity of those living in developing and transitional societies is no less complex and challenging. But with the Marshall Plan, the “blueprint” for this task exists.
The United States poured $12 billion in aid, such as food, into 16 countries over three years through the Capital Assistance portion of the Marshall Plan. The Technical Assistance Project portion of the Marshall Plan financed with only 1.5 percent of the Plan’s total budget, trained Europeans to run modern, successful businesses. It raised the European standard of living as much as did the Capital Assistance portion.
For the past decade, the Center for Economic Initiatives (CEI), a nonprofit NGO based here in Cincinnati, has been using the Marshall Plan’s blueprint in its extensive work with countries of the former USSR. CEI’s study tours, modeled after those run by the Marshall Plan’s Technical Assistance Project, have brought significant economic benefit to these countries.
Interestingly, the original Marshall Plan Technical Assistance Project was designed by James Silberman, who today, at age 93, works actively with CEI. Because of his expert guidance, CEI is the only organization applying all eight Marshall Plan principles in its programs. These include extensive follow-up as well as requiring study tour participants to share their learnings, thus multiplying the study tours’ effectiveness.
People from the former Soviet Union who have participated in CEI’s study tours tell over and over of significant improvements they’ve made in their businesses – manufacturing more efficiently, increasing productivity, starting marketing campaigns. This enriches their own prosperity and also the prosperity of their co-workers and communities. Quantitatively, the cost of a CEI study tour results in 18 times that amount in financial impact. Given these remarkable results in the former Soviet Union, we’re now looking at ways to replicate them in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.
We are glad to celebrate the Marshall Plan’s 60th anniversary by keeping its legacy alive via our commitment to making a difference in developing countries.
Nelson Lees serves on the Board of Trustees of the Center for Economic Initiatives.