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Alternative Indicators to GDP: Values behind Numbers. Adjusted Net Savings in Question

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Author Info

  • Geraldine THIRY

    ()
    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES))

  • Isabelle CASSIERS

    ()
    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES) and FNRS)

Abstract

After sixty years of predominance in the western countries, both the objective of economic growth and its core measure, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), have been questioned. It no longer seems consistent to maintain growth as a societal goal and to keep GDP as the major reference for socioeconomic policies. Numerous alternative indicators have been suggested. These new indicators potentially constitute a great opportunity for change: it is now broadly accepted that what we measure affects what we do. We go a step further, claiming that the way we measure it is just as crucial: indicators intrinsically carry axiological and normative conceptions, embedded in the specific way they are built. As indicators are increasingly being used for shaping political ends, light should be shed on these underlying conceptions. Our analysis of the Adjusted Net Savings (ANS, the sustainability indicator proposed by the World Bank) attempts to illustrate these normative underpinning, often obscured by technical concerns around the numbers. By systematically deconstructing the ANS, from its conceptual framework to its sub-dimensions, we shed light on the singular and debatable conception of ‘sustainability’ (in its human and ecological aspects) encompassed in the ANS. This exercise aims to provide an insight into the societal values embedded in such indicators, which can strongly influence decision-making.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES) in its series Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) with number 2010018.

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Length: 21
Date of creation: 12 May 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2010018

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Related research

Keywords: Beyond GDP; Indicators; Adjusted Net Savings; Sustainable Development; Epistemology of Statistics;

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References

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  1. Giles Atkinson & Kirk Hamilton, 2007. "Progress along the path: evolving issues in the measurement of genuine saving," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 37(1), pages 43-61, May.
  2. van der Ploeg, Frederick, 2010. "Why do many resource-rich countries have negative genuine saving?: Anticipation of better times or rapacious rent seeking," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 28-44, January.
  3. Karl-Göran Mäler, 1991. "National accounts and environmental resources," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 1(1), pages 1-15, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Isabelle CASSIERS & Géraldine THIRY, 2014. "A High-Stakes Shift: Turning the Tide From GDP to New Prosperity Indicators," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2014002, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).

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