The Happy Planet Index- A new rival to GDP?

In this video, statistician Nic Marks talks about a new way to measure the development of a country. He introduces a new index known as the Happy Planet Index. It is calculated using two factors; the living standards of the average citizen and the amount of resources used up by the country in order to achieve those living standards. This index was introduced in order to be more effective in measuring a country’s progress; Robert Kennedy once said that the current measurement of development, GDP, “measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile”. It shows that while the standard of living in the UK and the USA are reasonably high, the environmental costs that these countries generate are huge. Sub-Saharan countries with low life expectancies occupy the other side of the scale.

Interestingly, the index suggests that the Latin American nations are the type of country to which all other countries should aspire. In particular, Costa Rica has living standards above the global average as it does not cost a lot of resources to achieve that standard. Personally, I think that this index has some credibility. It reflects the fact that developed nations such as America and the UK ought to think about economic welfare in terms of its long term sustainability.

Do you think that this is an effective measure of economic welfare or do you have another idea for a more efficient way of measuring a country’s economic progress?

Contributed by Krishan Gobithen

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