Myanmar's sources with historical statistics

Myanmar was internationally known as Burma until 1988. Historical statistical data on the economy of Burma became gradually available in the course of the country’s colonisation since 1825 and its administration as a province of British India. The provincial government of Burma was required to publish annual administration reports, which contained statistics on a range of administrative issues. 


1855-1937
 

Following the end of the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852, such reports started first appeared as the annual Report on the Administration of the Province of Pegu since 1855-56, later the annual Report on the Administration of the Province British Burmah since 1863-64. These reports and the statistical data they contained were effectively aggregations of the reports produced by district officials in the main administrative divisions of Burma. 


The territorial coverage of these data expanded over time, until after the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1885 they in principle covered the whole of Burma. In practice, districts in remote regions of the country remained uncovered until the late-1930s. 


Burma’s statistical data were included in the annual Statistical Abstract relating to British India since its first publication in 1866 in the UK. The coverage of statistical data gradually expanded further as various commissions and committees appointed by the government of British India inquired into particular issues and recommended that data be collected in districts on a growing range of topics. New data found their way into the district and province reports. 


Since 1862, the government of British India sought to standardize the collection of statistical data in districts, which in 1895 led to the Statistical Bureau at the Department of Finance and Commerce in Calcutta, and in 1905 the Department of Commercial Intelligence & Statistics (Subramanian 1960). In collaboration with other departments, it coordinated and standardised the methodologies underlying the collection of a growing range of data. 


This contributed to the publication of other annual publications of economic statistics for British India, such as Review of the Trade of India, Returns of Agricultural Statistics of British India, Prices and Wages in India, and Index Numbers of Indian Prices. Until Burma separated from British India and became a British colony in 1937, it was included in the statistical publications of British India as a province. 


Before 1937, the government of the province of Burma also published some annual statistical series, such as Report on the Land Revenue Administration since 1914-15, foreign trade statistics since 1931-32 and agricultural production and price statistics since 1933-34. 


Furnivall (1957-1960) was the first to compile all these annual data for Burma into time series covering 1861-62 to 1937. Most of Furnivall’s data collection was republished in Saito and Lee (1999). 


Various studies by Burmese graduate students studying at UK universities in the 1950s and 1960s have collected and analysed the historical economic statistics of Burma in their PhD and Masters theses. For example, U Aye Hlaing (1965), used them to quantify economic growth in Burma during 1870-1940. 


After 1937
 

The government of British Burma continued to collect statistical data on the basis of practices established before 1937, with responsibility for their collection delegated to district officials and coordination of collection delegated to functional departments of government. This work was interrupted by World War II and the Japanese occupation of Burma, which caused a gap in statistical data collection between 1941-42 and 1945-46. 
 

Burma became independent 1948. In 1951 the government created the Central Statistical Office in the new Ministry of National Planning, which in 1952 became the Central Statistical and Economics Department (Hauser 1954). Its main statistical publication was the Quarterly Bulletin of Statistics (1951-1967), which contains data back to 1945-46. 
 

Since 1961, the department published the Statistical Yearbook of Burma, which was issued irregularly between 1961 and 1998, and the Myanmar Statistical Yearbook, also published irregularly until its annual publication since 2015.  


In 1962, Burma became in effect a military dictatorship and a Socialist republic until 1988. In 1970, its statistical agency became the Central Statistical Organization in the Ministry of Planning and Finance (renamed Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development in 1994). These institutional changes contributed to discontinuities in the published statistical data, which nurtured international doubts the quality of the country’s statistical data published during the 1970s and 1980s. Particularly the published national accounts data showed anomalies and inconsistencies. In addition, ongoing conflict between the central government and semi-independent regional governments limited the coverage of statistical reporting.  


Since 1988, the government of Myanmar introduced economic reforms. In addition, Myanmar accepted international assistance for the purpose of improving its statistical reporting systems. 

 

References

 

  • Furnivall, John S. (1957-1960) A Study of the Social and Economic History of Burma (British Burma). Rangoon: Economic and Social Board/National Planning Commission (7 volumes).
  • Hauser, Philip Morris (1954) Development of Statistics in Burma, 1951-1952. New York: Technical Assistance Administration, United Nations. 
  • Hlaing, U Aye (1965) International Trade and Economic Growth, A Burmese Case Study: An Economic and Statistical Analysis of Economic Development of Burma under British Rule. PhD Thesis, University of London. 
  • Saito, Teruko and Lee, Kin Kiong (1999) Statistics on the Burmese Economy: The 19th and 20th Centuries. Singapore: ISEAS.
  • Subramanian, S.  (1960) ‘A Brief History of the Organisation of Official Statistics in India during the British Period’, Sankhyā: The Indian Journal of Statistics, 22 (1-2) 85-118.

Last update on Tuesday 25 January 2022 (04:03) by  Pierre van der Eng

 

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