Oct 18, 1988

TECHNOLOGY: NORTH-SOUTH TRANSFERS NEED GLOBAL ACTION ON DEBT

GENEVA OCT 14 (IFDA/IPS-CHAKRAVARTHI RAGHAVAN) Global action to significantly ease the debt crisis is one of the measures needed to revive technology flows to third world countries, a symposium an north-south technology flows was told here friday.

Alfredo Basalo, senior vice-president of the Venezuelan "Empresas Mendoza" business group, who chaired the symposium, also called for increased emphasis on adapting imported technologies in recipient rather than supplier countries.

The participants appeared to be mostly from enterprises, mostly TNCS, from the north, and some from the south who appeared to be linked to TNC operations in their countries.

The symposium has been organised by the U.N. conference on trade and development (UNCTAD) to discuss ways of facilitating flows of technology between the industrialised countries and the third world.

Other measures identified by Basalo include:

--More longer-term cooperation agreements between enterprises to minimise immediate outflows of foreign exchange from recipient countries and committing suppliers to most efficient application of technology.

--Reduction of barriers (both at supply and import sides) that inhibit effective technology transfers.

--Improved education and training in third world countries to enlarge capacity to absorb imported technology.

--Fostering competition in technology supply through a reliable legal framework in an imparting, country which would offer security of know-how and contracts, and avoid ceilings on royalty payments.

--Responsible behaviour on the part of technology suppliers as an important factor in furthering the liberalisation process in importing countries.

--The need to fully mobilise the capacity of small- and medium-sized enterprises to contribute to transfer of technology.

Basalo said the big group of firms with which he is connected bought its technology from abroad, and suggested that technology transactions should be left at enterprise level to be dealt with between supplier and buyer, with "governments playing little or no role".

However, the Venezuelan could not say whether governments have no role when the foreign exchange for the transactions has to be found by the state out of the country's total foreign earnings.

Nor could he say whether governments do not have a duty to make sure that the best technology is being obtained from the cheapest source.

Asked about the role of governments, considering that even in advanced countries governments are now funding and promoting research and development of technology, some European businessmen suggested that expenditure is only on military work.

But a report from the U.N. conference on trade and development (UNCTAD) has shown heavy government outlays an research and development in such as robotics, precision-manufacturing systems, new materials, development of computer software to solve manufacturing biotechnology, and electronics.