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GNP and beyond: searching for new development indicators ‐ a view in retrospect

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Purpose ‐ World wide, the gross national product (GNP) has been and still is the basic accounting concept and the dominant societal goal and performance indicator. As the concept is full of flaws and deficiencies, national and international committees are searching for alternatives. A view in retrospect may help in this search. The purpose of this paper is to present such a view in retrospect, by looking at the early attempts made to get out of the impasse and to break the deadlock of outmoded concepts. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This paper deliberately looks at the early attempts made to get out of the impasse of the flawed GNP concept, and to improve and extend traditional accounting. Several of these early attempts are presented in some detail. Findings ‐ Both the "Growth and Distribution Index" and the "Net National Welfare Index" were useful conceptual innovations. Over time, however, they got lost or were forgotten. The time has come to reactivate such initiatives or to start and implement similar ones. Practical implications ‐ The traditional GNP concept neglects significant distributive and environmental effects of economic growth. The time has come to either supplement or replace the concept ‐ to go beyond GNP. Originality/value ‐ The conceptual deficiencies of the traditional GNP concept are on the agenda again. A view in retrospect ‐ as presented in this paper ‐ could help, so that in due course a breakthrough becomes possible in the search for new development indicators.
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Keywords: Accounting; Gross national product; Growth and distribution index (GDI); Net national welfare (NNW); New development indicators

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 18, 2011

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