The Economies of Latin America: New Cliometric Data

By César Yáñez; Albert Carreras | Go to book overview

4
THE STRUCTURE OF LATIN AMERICAN
INVESTMENT IN EQUIPMENT GOODS
DURING THE MATURE PERIOD OF THE FIRST
GLOBALIZATION

Xavier Tafunell


Introduction

Specialist literature on the Latin American economies during the mature period of the first globalization (1890–1929) has to date not studied the characteristics of the process of capital formation in these countries. This study presents a global while also detailed quantification of their investment in equipment goods, which helps to better understand the growth dynamic of these economies during this historical period, which was of vital importance in the race for economic development.

The first contribution of this study is the homogeneous annual series for spending on different types of equipment goods for a wide and representative sample of Latin American countries. This essay does not shirk the discussion of methodological problems of calculation which severely limit the overall results obtained from the sources. If reservations about methodology invite caution when dealing with the data, the results obtained advocate a revision of historiography. The most important contribution of this quantitative elaboration is that the results support the traditional view on the characterization of the productive systems of the Latin American nations as primary export economies. This, then, refutes the revisionist thesis which proposes that some nations made significant industrial progress during this period. The investment structure did not undergo any relevant change. Investment efforts focused on goods typical of the agroexport model: agricultural machinery and means of transport. The only element that apparently altered the investment model arose from the process of electrification. Those countries which channelled a greater proportion of resources into the acquisition of electrical equipment were those which invested most per capita and stood out for their relative level of economic development.

Over the past twenty years, economic history studies of the Latin American economies during the half century before the Great Depression have uncovered

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