Following extraordinary GDP growth rates in
recent decades, the Asia-Pacific region has,
since 2006, become the world’s second largest
aggregated economy – accounting for 29% of
Between 1990 and 2008, the region’s aggregate
GDP nearly doubled – to $17.7 trillion, and is now
not far behind that of the largest region, Europe, at
$19.7 trillion. In 2008, the real GDP of Asia and the
Pacific grew at 3.8%, faster than the world average
of 2.2%. Other fast growing regions included Africa
(5.9%) and Latin America and the Caribbean
The picture changes somewhat when
considering GDP per capita. Of the global regions,
Africa had the highest population growth rate,
which reduced its GDP per capita growth rate in
2008 to 3.5%, compared with Latin America and
the Caribbean’s 3.2%, and Asia and the Pacific’s
2.7%. The remaining two regions were some way
behind in this regard – Europe at 0.6% and North
America at 0.1%.
Figure 16.1 - Index of change in GDP, world regions, 1990-2008
Figure 16.2 - Index of change in GDP per capita, world regions, 1990-2008
Within Asia and the Pacific, the highest
growth rates in 2008 were achieved by the group of
middle-income economies, at 6.9%. The low-income
economies reached 5.7%, while the high-income
economies only managed a modest 0.8% increase.
This pattern reflects the fact that the middle-income
economies have been the best performers since the
early 1990s – some having graduated to the higher
group from among low-income economies. Since
the Asian crisis in 1997, the high-income economies
have had the slowest growth.
China has been one of the fastest growers,
averaging 11.2% annually in the period 2005-2008.
In 2008, however, mainly due to decreased export
demand and declining real estate investment,
China’s GDP growth sank to 9.0% – its lowest rate
since 2002. Other fast-growing economies included
Macao, China (13.2%) and Azerbaijan (10.8%).
At the other end of the scale, the economy of
the small Pacific island of Nauru contracted by
12.1% in 2008, as consumer demand decreased and
private-sector investment slackened. Negative
economic growth was also recorded for the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Brunei
Darussalam and New Zealand.
Figure 16.3 - Index of change in GDP, by income groupings of Asia-Pacific countries, 1990-2008
Among the subregions, North and Central
Asia had the highest GDP growth in 2008, 5.7%.
Azerbaijan, thanks to its booming construction
sector, held the subregion’s top position for a
fourth consecutive year. Nevertheless, between
2007 and 2008 its growth decreased from 25.1 to
10.8%. Growth in the Russian Federation reached
5.6% of GDP – a consequence of rising agricultural
production, growing retail turnover and investment
in fixed capital.
In the Pacific, aggregate GDP growth slowed
significantly between 2007 and 2008, from 3.8 to
0.9%, giving it the slowest growth rate of all the
subregions. This was mostly due to slowdowns in
the region’s two main economies, Australia and
New Zealand, with the latter facing negative growth
Among the South and South-West Asian
countries, only Nepal saw its GDP growth rate
increasing in 2008. Most economies still grew by
more than 5%. India’s growth, of 7.3%, was aided
by increases in investment and consumer demand,
as well as by robust exports.
East and North-East Asia’s aggregate rate fell
between 2007 and 2008 from 5.9% to 3.4%. This
was mainly attributable to the slower growth rate of
the Japanese economy, at only 0.4% in 2008, which
was not sufficiently offset by strong GDP growth in
Macao, China at 13.2%, China at 9.0%, and
Mongolia at 8.9%.
Figure 16.4 - GDP growth rate, Asia and the Pacific, 2008
In South-East Asia, aggregate GDP growth fell from 6.3% in 2007 to 4.6% in 2008, as all the
region’s economies slowed down. Brunei
Darussalam performed the worst: having had
positive growth of 0.6% in 2007, it experienced
negative growth of 1.5% in 2008.
Figure 16.5 - GDP growth rate of Asia-Pacific subregions, 2007-2008
The Asia-Pacific region has high rates of gross
domestic investment – which is gross fixed capital
formation as a proportion of GDP. For many years
its rates were the highest of the world regions. In 2008, it pulled even further ahead, increasing the
rate to 32.1% from 30.1% in 2007. Meanwhile the
rates dropped in Europe, North America and
Within Asia and the Pacific, growth in
aggregate investment differed substantially between
groups of countries. While in 2008 Central Asia and
the landlocked developing countries decreased
investment by 18.2% and 16.9% respectively, the
ASEAN countries increased their aggregate
investment by 7.6%.
In 2008, with 15.9% growth, Chinese
investment grew faster than that of any other major
economy, and was a main contributor to the
aggregate investment growth of 6.9% in the
Figure 16.6 - Gross domestic investment, world regions, 1990-2008
Generally the level of GDP per capita is
connected to the structure of the economy, and
particularly to the shares of agriculture and services.
Africa, with the lowest GDP per capita, has the largest percentage of agricultural value added.
Similarly, North America, with the highest GDP
per capita, has the lowest share of agricultural value
added. The contribution of the service sector to
total value added follows the reverse pattern.
The Asia-Pacific region has seen a long-term
decrease in the contribution of agriculture to total
value added. Between 2007 and 2008, however, it
increased somewhat, from 7.0 to 7.3%. The share
of the service sector peaked in 2002, subsequently
falling to 57.9% in 2008, while the contribution of
the industrial sector increased. In 2008, the growth
of value added in the agricultural sector amounted
to 9.7%, while growth in both the industrial and
service sectors were pegged at 3.4% and 3.3%,
Figure 16.7 - Value added by sector, the regions of the world, 2008
It is important to remember, however, that
although in Asia and the Pacific agriculture is less
than 8% of value added, the sector still employs
around 40% of the working population. Details can
be found in Chapter 17 on employment.