Import substitution and economic growth

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In spite of Latin America s dismal economic performance between the 1950s and 1980s, the region experienced strong capital deepening. Furthermore, pro- ductivity (measured as TFP) grew at low rates in comparison with the U.S. In this paper, we suggest that all these facts can be explained as a consequence of the restrictive trade regime adopted at that time. Our analytical framework is based on a dynamic Heckscher-Ohlin model, with scale economies in the capital- intensive sector. We assume an economy that is initially open and specialized in the production of labor-intensive goods. The trade regime is modeled as a move to a closed economy. The model produces results consistent with the Latin American experience. Speci cally, for a su¢ ciently small country, there will be no long-run growth in income per capita, but capital per capita will increase. As a result, measured TFP will fall.

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