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“I believe that there is a place for measuring happiness and wellbeing alongside more traditional measures”, he adds, “I think an improved economic measure has its place, but we must be more holistic in our accounting of human conditions … objective economic measures and personal wellbeing measures should be used in tandem to develop and track a more complete accounting of population conditions.”


Perhaps the most exciting GDP disruptor is Bright Lights, Big Cities an attempt to measure economic growth in Africa from outer space.The study, funded by The World Bank, uses satellite imagery from 1992 to 2012 to measure light emissions from counties and districts in 47 Sub-Saharan African countries.


An idea with huge disruptive potential, it actually sounds more complicated than it really is.“We worked on the assumption that as almost all consumption and investment activities in the evening or night require lighting,” Apurva Sanghi the World Bank’s disruptor behind Bright Lights, Big Cities tells Forbes, “The intensity of night lights–or its growth over time–can be used as a proxy for the intensity of economic activity and growth.”It’s an interesting idea, can “light emissions” really tell us more about our financial wellbeing and progress than GDP?


Sanghi and his team tested the idea on “dimly-lit” sub-Saharan Africa. “We did some tests and surprisingly found that night lights do a pretty good job in tracking official GDP numbers. Whether it is a massive contraction of economic activity as in the early 2000s in Zimbabwe or a slight temporary downturn in the late 1990s in Eritrea during the border conflict, the evolution of night lights as observed from space closely follows official GDP.”



But perhaps the most disruptive and exciting aspect of Bright Lights, Big Cities is its ability to put an understanding of economic activity and growth back in the hands of the people.Take for example one of the world’s fastest growing economies–India. Before the 2019 elections it became apparent to voters in the largest democracy that India’s place at the top of the GDP growth league table for much of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s five-year tenure, had not had any real impact on the lives of ordinary Indians. Seeking reelection, it was clear to see Modi and his BJP party slowly stepped away from the GDP platform they’d occupied for so long.


With joblessness and under-employment deepening in India, former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan dared to state what the entire country had been thinking when he told CNBC TV, “how can we be growing at 7 percent and not have jobs. Well, one possibility is that we are not growing at 7 percent”.


Although Bright Lights, Big Cities acknowledges the difficulty of tracking agricultural communities like those found in certain parts of India, Sanghi and the World Bank warn of the massive social repercussions of GDP “mis-measurement’, both accidental (in the form of failing or ill equipped national statistics agencies) and intentional, when, he adds, “countries deliberately start twisting or falsifying GDP stats for political gain”.


This leaves us all with the puzzle of figuring out what numbers we can and cannot trust. In a time of fabrication and deceit, using an already broken-down system of measurement, how can we ever be certain that the statistics on our country’s financial performance are accurate?
In short, we need the tools to test the economics of what affects us most, and not merely to trust what we’re told by those in power.



For example, Bright Lights, Big Cities decided to test the “received wisdom” that Nairobi represents over 60% of GDP in Kenya. Sanghi tells Forbes, “Our work showed that Kenya’s capital city represented only 13% of national GDP— a far cry from 60%!”This is big. It shows how the disruption of bad stats has huge social and economic potential. A richer understanding of Kenya’s GDP would change policy-making and potentially better direct development and infrastructure spending towards areas and industries more likely to benefit.


Imagine what a generation of rural entrepreneurs could do with broadband access, or better roads? They’re not going to get it if lawmakers are not challenged on the bad data that underpins their policy and spending decisions.Unfortunately, for the moment, GDP is not going anywhere. It’s deeply entrenched, deeply institutional metric that represents the status quo of political and economic thought and understanding. It is part of the fabric for both emerging economies like India and Kenya, and slower, sophisticated economies like U.K. and U.S. It is vital data–and more often than not– a tool used against us, never by us.


Right now it’s the best we’ve got, an easier thing to bash than to replace.But, in the future, with a better tool box we might well soon be better able to test the claims made by our politicians and take control of the narrative. And we’re inching closer. Despite different disruptors–some tracking light, or reserves of raw materials, while others track happiness–Carrie Exton from the OECD says that a “consensus” and “the key ingredients” for a better GDP is beginning to emerge around the world.


Message déposé le 07.08.2019 à 03:46 - Commentaires (0)




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