Reissue of 1991 book on economic growth indicators ‘depressing’, says author

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An academic who in 1991 published a book outlining the need for alternative measures of economic success or failure has described its recent reissue as “depressing”, adding that it proves just how little progress has been made.

Victor Anderson, who is visiting professor at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, said that gross domestic product (GDP) – how economies are currently measured – gives a misleading picture and does not take account environmental or social circumstances.

His book, Alternative Economic Indicators, has been republished by Routledge 22 years after it was initially launched. While he admitted it is flattering, Anderson added that it was “depressing” that so little ground had been covered in over two decades.

“The continued relevance of the book is an indication of what a short distance the world has come on the topics I wrote about”, he told Blue & Green Tomorrow.

The book is basically a critique of the dominance of gross domestic product in economics, and a search for alternative ways to measure the success of economies.”

He added, “George Osborne thinks the economy is getting better because the figures suggest a 0.8% increase in GDP year on year – but public opinion polls show a different story.

“In some limited respects, GDP is a useful statistic. However, what it is not useful for is measuring the success of an economy, as its growth is perfectly compatible with both environmental disaster and deterioration in living standards and living conditions.”

He added that GDP “looks away from society and the environment”.

Anderson’s comments come a week after the chancellor’s autumn statement, in which Osborne said the economy was getting better. These claims have been questioned by charities and campaign groups, who claim that social conditions are worsening, with more and more being pushed into fuel and food poverty.

Further reading:

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Climate change threatens 31% of global economic output

Sustainability: a real growth opportunity for investors