The Import-Substitution Strategy of Economic Development: A Survey

Henry J. Bruton


Over the past several years, the import-substitution strategy
of develop¬ment has been examined in considerable detail by numerous
economists. For the most part, these studies have been concerned with
one or another side of this many-sided approach to development policy.
It now seems useful to review this literature in an attempt to isolate
major themes and arguments and to try to put together a cohesive and
comprehensive picture of where we stand now. This paper is not intended
as a summary of the individual articles and books on import
substitution, but rather is aimed at bringing together the theoretical
issues and the empirical results that not only are of interest in
themselves, but which also seem to add up to something that might
legitimately be called an approach to development. To do this, I asked
three general questions: 1) what appears to be the essential mechanics
of import substitution as it has been practised in various countries
that have been investigated; 2) what problems have emerged, and why, as
a consequence of the conventional import-substitution (IS) strategy; 3)
what has been found that suggests or leads toward an alter¬native
approach to development that incorporates the good and eliminates the
bad of this conventional approach.

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