Is De-Growth the new mantra – Beyond GDP?

Humans think of themselves as the world’s apex predators. But sars-cov-2 shows how people can also end up as prey. Viruses have caused a litany of modern pandemics, from covid-19, to hiv/aids to the influenza outbreak in 1918-20.

A group of economists and anthropologists have converged on a way to address both climate and ecological crises that will also make the world happier, healthier, and more equal: “less is more”— Known as the “degrowth” movement, these scholars first want the world to reconsider the value of gross domestic product as a metric for progress, as GDP may still be rising even as inequality worsens and overall well-being falls.

Second, they contend that a sustainable planet must find a way to live within certain limits for things like climate change, ocean acidification, and biodiversity loss, called “planetary boundaries”—and that rich countries are abusing these boundaries by consuming too many resources. And third, they question the wisdom—and even the morality—of most climate models looking to keep temperature increases below 1.5°C, which require the use of negative-emissions technologies that draw down carbon dioxide from the air and are still in early stages of development.

When countries focus solely on increasing their annual gross domestic product (GDP), concerns for the environment, erasing poverty or even basic services such as providing safe drinking water run the risk of being left on the back burner.

The spread of the new coronavirus was set against the backdrop of the crisis of multilateralism, growing inequality, climate change, trade wars, unprotected migration, demographic change and mounting global geopolitical tensions.

This does not mean that we should stop measuring GDP, but rather that it must be complemented with information that captures dimensions of well-being and sustainability beyond economic production.

Measuring Inequality:

The challenges involved in producing relevant and timely statistical information for decision-making, for both nation-states and the international cooperation system, are enormous.

One main critical issue is how we monitor inequalities.

First, there is a need to improve the way we measure the income of the richest segments of the population. Current household surveys have limitations to gauge and portray these groups accurately. The way forward is to use information from other sources, such as tax and administrative records. The challenge is to develop methodologies that make these data sources compatible and comparable across countries. Information is also needed on the concentration of wealth and assets — the region is only just beginning to develop statistical competencies in this area.

For low-income earners, we must measure inequalities in the quality of education, health, housing, employment and social security. In many countries, asymmetries in these areas tend to be expressed more in differences in quality than in access itself.

The extraction of natural resources at rates above their replenishment level, and increasing levels of air, water, soil and ocean pollution, affect human and ecosystem health. To move toward a more sustainable development pattern, statistical information is required to determine the conservation status of natural heritage, in particular that of non-renewable goods, and data is also needed to monitor international commitments on reducing carbon emissions.


De-growth is building an economy that does not require growth in the first place, which can deliver high levels of human flourishing without growth. In a recession you see inequality rise, you see joblessness rise. In degrowth, you have a reduction of inequality. You have full employment, which you achieve through a shorter working week and a job guarantee.

A lot of people when they initially encounter the concept of degrowth, they think that sounds bad because we have so much poverty in the world. To point out this is just for high income countries that are exceeding planetary boundaries and need to reduce excess material and energy throughput.

And it just became clear that, look, we could reorganize the economy in such a way that the main focus is not growth or capital accumulation, but rather human welfare and well-being.

Trade Deals to Improve Human Well-being:

To lower or eliminate cross-border tariffs on goods, facilitate the movement of capital and people, promote investment and pave the way for customs union. The current FTA being negotiated amongst the 55 African Countries, the World Bank sees the pact bolstering Africa’s income by $450 billion and lifting 30 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035. In the near term, lower trade costs could help the continent mitigate output losses of between $37 billion and $79 billion due to the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, according to the Washington-based lender.

To conclude, make no mistake, economic growth is needed to boost the population’s well-being, but that growth must take place within the framework of a new development pattern—one that is compatible with using natural resources sustainably and reducing social gaps, among other considerations. This is not about Soviet Russia or any other kind of experiments with totalitarian communism. It’s kind of evolution beyond the constraints of capitalism toward something new for the 21st century that is organized primarily around democracy.

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