Argentina in the Twentieth Century

By David Rock | Go to book overview

1
British Investment and Argentine Economic Development, 1880-1914 A.G. FORD

Between 1880 and 1914 the Argentine economy was transformed into one of the world's major exporters of primary produce and the foundations of modern Argentina were laid, while the process gave rise to certain economic legacies which have not all been to her benefit. This transformation had come about as a result of specialisation of production in accordance with comparative advantage and as a result of rapid growth in the limited range of output. In particular, production and export of cereals, meat, and hides grew rapidly as did import in exchange of manufactures, fuels and chemicals. The main agents of this transformation were the immigration of labour and capital which enabled this labour-scarce, capital-scarce economy to exploit its abundant natural resource -- fertile, but hitherto unused, land. Of critical importance here was the creation and development of transport facilities in order that primary production could reach major markets cheaply; it was of no avail to produce wheat, maize, and linseed if there were no low cost transport services to move them to the ports or to Buenos Aires. Without doubt, the single most important factor here was the Railway, and it was in this area above all others that foreign interests were dominant.

When considering this development pattern, we must not only pay regard to domestic elements, but we must see it within the context of contemporary world economic development in terms of growing markets for Argentina's products and in terms of the varying supply of factors of production from abroad by the immigration of capital and labour. Much international economic development of this period took place on the basis of the comparative advantage of particular areas for producing particular products, and this advantage dictated the pattern of investment, especially that from abroad.

Further, it gave rise to a particular pattern of international

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