Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Budget for growth - for whom? how? at what costs?

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I'm watching as Chancellor George Osborne is 'setting out plans to kick start Britain's stalled economy in what he says is a "Budget for growth".' Er...growth for whom, how and at what costs? Will growth enable: current and future needs to be met; a fairer more equal society and world; a less wasteful society; a more renewable society; less polluted environments; improving health and general wellbeing? Will it make local communities stronger and more self-reliant? If George's growth does enable these things then we will genuinely have made real progress - but I'm afraid they dont even enter his head and he's not even assessing and measuring them properly. Such is his fixation with GDP growth that his only interest is more money flow through the economy.

Senator Robert F Kennedy's words on growth as measured by GNP:
"The Gross National Product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. GNP includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm, missiles and nuclear warheads.

And if GNP includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry, the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. GNP measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country…"

Part of the solution to our problems is to assess and measure the right factors in our society and economy, as long as we dont at the same time get obsessed with and tied in to a rigid, narrow approach to measurement. Progress should be assessed in terms of: efficiency; renewability; respecting environmental limits; stronger local communities; meeting needs now and in the future; local and global fairness; health, wellbeing and quality of life; and the interconnection between these. An evidence-based, reasoned, systems-thinking approach needs to be taken.