Quality of life ignored

GDP and GNP are used as a measure of the well-being of various countries, but GDP was never intended to be used in this manner.

An open letter to mayor and council:

GDP and GNP are used by politicians and economists as a measure of the well-being of various countries, but GDP was never intended to be used in this manner. Somehow though, we use GDP and the generalized concept of “economic activity” as though it was the only way to show some sort of progress.

One fundamental flaw is that, because these measures are averages, enormous disparities can exist.

For example, and this has been happening for decades, the wealthy can continue to accumulate more wealth, while the vast majority of people continue to get poorer.

Yet GDP can continue to grow.

Other models for well-being have existed for decades, and have been used by some regions and nations for extended periods. Yet mainstream media focus on GDP because that is what economists and politicians use.

As an example of what one city does, Jacksonville, Florida, keeps long-term statistics on a whole host of quality of life factors, including public safety, health, education, the natural environment, the social environment, culture and recreation, and, yes, the economy.

Globally, alternative metrics in use include the Genuine Progress Indicator, the Human Development Index, the Happy Planet Index, and many others – all of which go far beyond simple GDP data and economic activity.

In terms of local activity in Salmon Arm, we frequently talk about creating jobs, improving economic activity and the like, yet really have no genuine way of measuring the well-being of the average citizen. I encourage you to think about these other measures, and to think about how Salmon Arm can become a leader in improving the real quality of life for every citizen.

After all, what is the point of encouraging economic activity if the majority of people do not benefit and in fact get even further behind?

Rick Shea


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