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

Geraldine Thiry () and Isabelle Cassiers

No 2010018, Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) from Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES)

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.

Keywords: Beyond GDP; Indicators; Adjusted Net Savings; Sustainable Development; Epistemology of Statistics (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A13 B4 B5 Q01 Q51 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hap
Date: 2010-05-12
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