The Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) for a Local Authority: A Case Study in Italy
The Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) has been calculated for many countries, but rarely at the local level. This paper shows how the index has been calculated for the Province of Siena, Central Italy. The whole procedure is illustrated step by step, including the search for the most suitable and precise methods to obtain reliable values for each item composing the index. Application of ISEW at a very local level was found to be feasible. The most general difficulty encountered was the lack of an adequate institutionalised source of statistical information to support the construction of indicators other than purely economic or demographic ones. The availability of data depends on the interest in implementing projects of sustainable management of natural resources and land on the part of local authorities and their consequent willingness to invest money and human resources on such projects. The ISEW is a good tool for local environmental policy, because it gives a more realistic representation of the well-being of the population than GDP, since it includes environmental and social items not considered in conventional national accounting. Furthermore, in Italy, the principle of administrative decentralization has been implemented in recent years to such an extent that the central government devolved part of its power to Regions, Provinces and Municipalities. Arguably, local authorities should therefore allocate more resources to pursue their policies towards sustainability, an issue which modern electoral campaigns are often based on. The results for the Province of Siena show that there is a large gap between local GDP and ISEW (about 37% of GDP).
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