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Sustainable Development Goals and Measurement of Economic and Social Progress

Kanbur, Ravi; Patel, Ebrahim; Stiglitz, Joseph E.

The report by the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission raised fundamental questions about GDP as a measure of economic performance and social progress. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) process put in train by the UN system proposes a number of goals and targets going beyond GDP that apply universally, to developing and developed countries alike. This chapter takes stock of the SDG process in relation to the general movement towards a broader perspective on the measurement of economic performance and social progress. Three central themes emerge. First, the inevitable and enduring tension between the pull to broaden and expand indicators for assessing and monitoring economic and social progress in development on the one hand, and the imperative to keep a relatively small number of top-level indicators, in order to facilitate national discourse and policy-making, on the other. The SDG list of 17 goals and 169 targets is useful as a platform from which to choose and narrow down, but choose we must at the national level. Second, National Statistical Offices must be given the governance independence and the financial resources with which to provide the framework for a data-based dialogue on economic and social progress at the national level. Third, some aspects of the measurement of progress and development are global and beyond the sole remit of any one National Statistical Office. For these exercises, and as a conduit for providing support to National Statistical Offices, the international community needs to commit resources for the provision of this global public good.


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For Good Measure: Advancing Research on Well-being Metrics Beyond GDP
OECD Publishing

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February 5, 2019