Not for quotation

Prepared for presentation at an international symposium

"In Pursuits for Sustainable Development in Asia,"

organised by the National Federation of Statistical

Association, Japan, 27xi1997

Understanding and Sharing Asian Economic History:

On the Significance of the Asian Statistics Database Project*


Konosuke Odaka

Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University


      1. Introduction

      2. The Objectives and Methods

      3. The Composition of the Database

      4. Historical Digression

      5. Conceptual Tool Box for Database Creation

      6. Possible Uses of the Project Outcomes

      7. Illustrative Questions in Comparative Economic Development

      8. Concluding Remarks

      9. References


This essay describes the aims and methods of a five-year, inter-university project to create an economic database covering most of Asia. Named ASHSTAT, its purpose is to construct long-term, macro economic time series for the Russian Far East, China, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, and Turkey, using a standardised framework designed to maximise the compatibility and comparability of the data. The essay also discusses the value of the project, citing several illustrative examples, to show how cross-country comparison as well as time-based analysis can enhance our understanding of national economic development.


In the fiscal year 1995, an academic project was launched at the Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University, with the financial support of the grant-in-aid program for scientific research administered by the Ministry of Education and Sciences, government of Japan. It is officially entitled as "The compilation of long-term economic statistics (or LTES for short) of the trans-Asian region."(1)

In the present essay, I wish to outline the main conceptual framework of the project, which I shall abbreviate as ASHSTAT to stand for Asian Historical Statistics Project, followed by possible applications of the proposed outcomes of the project.

* The editorial assistance by Mr. Chuck Weathers is gratefully acknowledged.


(1) More information about the project, including its newsletters, may be obtained via internet: http.//

(2) The measurement of depreciation(both economic and physical)is an area of technical difficulty as far as long-term economic statistics are concerned. In the early days(after WWII)it was argued that national product net of depreciation would be the most relevant concept in assessing the potential of economic growth, since depreciation is an activity designed(by definition)to ensure the maintenance of the same reproductive capacity by getting rid of obsolete equipment and replacing worn-out capital goods, etc. One could argue, however, that the productive capabilities of a society are represented much better by the gross concept, since depreciation also forms an essential part of the day-to-day production.

(3) Care is needed to evaluate the product of banks and financial intermediaries. First, it should include, in addition to the net interest payments they actually receive, an estimate of imputed service charge, which is "the excess of the property income received by [them] on loans and other investments made from the deposits they hold, over the interest they pay out on these deposits"(United Nations, 1968b, p. 97). Second, the imputed service charges thus estimated are treated as intermediate consumption by other industries. This "is tantamount to sub-dividing the charges of banks and similar institutions for loans to industries into two elements ? a service charge and "pure" interest"(ibid.).

(4) Economists have always been keen on following closely on macro economic issues, and their discipline, economics, has had a built-in inclination to view things from a macro perspective. This was evident even in the days of classical economics; remember authors like J.B. Quesnay, Adam Smith, or even Leon Walras.

(5) The definition of labour force included persons of age 11 and above, which was changed in 1989 to persons of age 13 and over. Adjustments of the data to reflect the change will not, in all likelihood, eliminate the drastic upward shift in the 1980s of the Thai unemployment rate.

In Figure 5, U stands for the slack(dry)season, whereas Uf for the busy(wet)season, and U Avg for the weighted average of the two.

(6) Hayami and Kikuchi(1981, Parts I and II)offers fascinating evidence of the Phillipine rice-growing village, where the sum of non-pecuniary rewards and monetary figures brought the total agricultural compensation equal to the marginal value productivity of labour.

One is reminded here of an independent finding that wage earnings in the mid nineteenth century sale farm in western Japan were exactly equal to the marginal value productivity of labour(Nishikawa 1978).