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Brussels wants wider measure of well-being than mere GDP

Agence France-Presse8/31/2009 5:19 PM GMT

The EU Commission plans to develop wider indicators for Europe's progress, including quality-of-life and environmental factors, deeming the traditional focus on GDP to be outdated.

In a paper to be officially published next week, the European Union's executive arm argues that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figure, used to mark growth since the 1930s, is too limited.

"By design and purpose it cannot be relied upon to inform policy debates on all issues," the commission says in its presentation paper.

"Critically, GDP does not measure environmental stability or social inclusion," it adds.

Brussels therefore intends to build up "more inclusive indicators, for better public debate and policy-making."

The commission sets out a number of measures it will take to achieve that goal including creating "a comprehensive environmental index."

The EU executive also wants to use social "outcome" indicators to help develop "increasingly robust measurements of quality of life and well-being."

The commission intends to present a pilot version of an "index on environmental pressure" in 2010.

Such an index will reflect pollution levels. A fall in the value of the index would indicate progress on environmental protection.

It will include indicators on such things as climate change and energy use, biodiversity, air and water pollution.

The EU executive will also look into using indicators of citizens' well-being and of developing a "sustainable development scoreboard", measuring how policymakers respect the limits of natural resources.

The commission services intend to present a pilot project for that scoreboard before the end of the year.

The initiatives reflect "societal and political priorities," according to the commission.

A Eurobarometer poll last year showed that more than two-thirds of EU citizens feel that such social and environmental factors should be used to evaluate progress, along with the traditional economic indicators.


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