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Contents and Measures of Sustainable Progress:the Performance of Italy in a Selection of Synthetic Indices

  • Priscilla Altili
  • Annalisa Cicerchia
  • Pietro Zoppoli

Indicators are used in all steps of the policy cycle: to assess existing policies or to develop new strategies. They mark where a society stands, where it wants to go and how remote is it from where it wants to arrive. Indicators (and indices) are widely used tools to measure the progress of a nation, in its different aspects. The definition of a concept conditions strictly its measurement. Therefore, a definition the concept of progress will determine the appropriateness of the variables selected for its measurement. The first part of this paper explores why it is impossible, at the present time, to have a univocal definition and measurement of progress and, consequently, of sustainable development. The second part is devoted to the analysis of a set of synthetic indices – Human Development Index (HDI), Adjusted Net Saving (ANS), Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) Ecological Footprint Index (EF) and Ecological Balance (EB) – that could offer a realistic frame for measuring the progress towards sustainability of nations, as well as a way of ranking their performances. In the third part of the study, based on the selected indices, a comparative analysis of a sample of countries is proposed, aimed at showing how the variables taken into account modify the countries performance in terms of measured progress and sustainability, and also comparing the resulting shifts in Italy’s rank. In brief, the main result of the paper is related to the Italian performance with respect to these indices. Italy shows shadows and light; in fact from the GDP point of view it ranks coherently with the other HIC nations. Italy, moreover, performs fairly in the indices focused on socio-economic results: HDI and ANS. When taking into consideration the natural resources consumption path (EF), the Italian performance is better than the HIC average. The Italian position worsens when other environmental-oriented indices are applied: EB and ESI. The environmental low rankings are linked with the biocapacity/natural assets of Italy, insufficient if compared with its natural resources consumption paths.

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Handle: RePEc:itt:wpaper:wp2010-1
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