By Innocent Anguyo
DR. Devan Pillay, a South African academic has told Uganda and other African countries to consider dropping the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in favour of the Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a major criterion for measuring wellbeing of people.
GDP is the sum of all goods and services produced in country overtime, while the GNH measures the satisfaction people in country derive from the way they live. GNH records the percentage of people who say they are happy.
The GNH was designed in 1972 in Bhutan, Asia in an attempt to define an indicator and concept that measures quality of life or social progress in more holistic or psychological terms rather than only the economic indicator of GDP.
For now, the GNH has only been officially used in Bhutan, but is increasingly becoming popular among decision makers worldwide. It is seen as an alternative to the GDP.
Pillay was speaking over the weekend at a youth dialogue on GDP held at Lake Victoria Hotel, Entebbe. The dialogue was organized by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a German political organization.
Pillay argued that there are many activities that play an important role in raising the wellbeing of people but are not included in GDP because they are not monetised.
Such activities include care labour provided in a household, taking care of children, taking care of elderly, and taking care of disabled.
Unlike GDP, participants at the forum noted that GNH measures economic, environmental, physical, mental, workplace, social and political wellness of people in a certain period.
Despite these failures of the GDP, many speakers noted that it largely remained the most used criterion for measuring development, and governments, businesses and probably most people swear by it.
Prof Lorenzo Fioramonti noted that GDP does not measure the cost of doing business in areas like employee wellbeing and environments. The South African academic said it was high time GDP was dropped since it was developed in 1930’s to measure evolution of production not necessarily wellbeing of people.
He urged other African countries to produce alternative indicators that reveal the actual state of a country, saying South Africa is the only state on the continent that produces alternative indicators.
Prof Nnimo Bassey from Nigeria said African countries need to abandon GDP because it is a rude reminder of colonial legacy.
Dr Michael Kizito of Makerere University told Ugandans to question GDP statistics relayed to them by politicians because they are used to hoodwink the populace into believing that the economy is rosy.
Other arguments against GDP were that- it measures income but not equality; it assesses growth but not destruction; and it ignores values like social cohesion and environment.
Generally, it was concluded at the dialogue that GDP does not paint the real picture of progress a country.
Abolish GDP in favour of the Gross National Happiness - expert