The Point Four Program began in earnest in early 1950. As policymakers weighed their options as to what types of aid should be emphasized, a consensus soon emerged that saw technical assistance to the developing world as the single best way to effect change there. The focal point of such aid would be in the areas of education, agriculture, public health, and medical care. The U.S. government relied principally on the private sector to plan and build necessary infrastructure, which it would reimburse in cash, tax credits, or other types of incentives. All but a small amount of the aid that went to the Point Four Program was administered bilaterally—between the United States and recipient nations—through the U.S. Department of State's Technical Cooperation Administration.
The Point Four Program was, in the end, rather limited in scope. It had no sooner gotten off the ground when the Korean War began in June 1950. The war shifted the focus from international aid programs such as Point Four to rearmament and military readiness. What's more, a good deal of Point Four assistance tended to be funneled into military and military support programs in recipient nations rather than to education, health care, or agriculture.
The advent of Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidency in 1953 marked the practical end of the Point Four Program as a stand-alone entity. Eisenhower, who eschewed handing out large amounts of foreign aid (at least in his first term), ordered the Point Four Program absorbed into general foreign assistance programs. Although Point Four's immediate legacy was quite modest, it did set the stage for future programs such as the International Finance Corporation (1956), the Inter-American Development Bank (1961), and the Alliance for Progress (1961).
Paul G. Pierpaoli Jr.
Mack, Robert T., Jr. Raising the World's Standard of Living: The Coordination and Effectiveness of Point Four, United Nations Technical Assistance, and Related Programs. New York: Citadel Press, 1953.