Tuesday, August 25, 2015

MUSING FROM PRIYADARSHINI KARVE: Measuring Sustainability...

In the last couple of musings I have talked about GDP and GINI coefficient. But both of these indices only assess the economic aspect of development. Sustainability is about achieving economic growth with social empowerment and preservation of the environment. Are there any indices that help us assess how we are doing on all three fronts?

There have been a few attempts in this direction. The main difficulty is how do you put numbers on social empowerment and protection of the environment? One attempt that tries to measure the various aspects of development in a partly quantitative and partly qualitative manner is the Happiness Index. Our neighbouring country of Bhutan invented this parameter in the 1970s. However, its measurement is based on subjective assessment through surveys of citizens rather than on hard and impartial data. Therefore, this index is not accepted worldwide. 

A more scientific and universally accepted index is Human Development Index or HDI. The formula for calculating HDI is based on the following parameters: 
–Average life expectancy at birth
–Mean and expected years of schooling (number of years spent in school by a 25 year old, number of years a 5 year old is likely to spend in school)

–Gross national income per capita

Thus, HDI takes into account some parameters that are indicative of social empowerment and economic prosperity of a country. However, the environmental parameter is totally left out from this index. There are now attempts to expand the formula to include some measurable indicators of overall environmental health. 

It might interest the readers to know that the concept of HDI was put forth by the Nobel Laureate Indian economist Dr. Amartya Sen, and the actual formula was developed by a Pakistani economist, Dr. Mahbub ul Huq. 

Mixing the social factor with the economic factor too helps in getting a more realistic picture of the living conditions in a nation, than just looking at GDP. 

Food for thought: At this point in time - 
•Top Rankers in GDP: USA, China, Japan
•Top Rankers in GDP growth rate: China, Brazil, India

•Top Rankers in HDI: Norway, Australia, USA

Priyadarshini Karve
Samuchit Enviro Tech

    Samuchit Enviro Tech.     samuchit@samuchit.com     www.samuchit.com