Industrial policy is back on the agenda and the consensus is that it must be different ‘this time’ from the past. Following Aiginger et al. (2013) we redefine industrial policy for industrialised countries as a strategy to promote ‘high-road competitiveness’, understood as the ability of an economy to achieve ‘Beyond-GDP’ Goals. ‘Highroad strategies’ are based on advanced skills, innovation, supporting institutions, ecological ambition and an activating social policy. This ‘new industrial policy’ is systemic, working in alignment with other policy strands and supporting social and environmental goals; it affects the structure of the economy as the whole not only the manufacturing sector. Shortterm actions, such as protecting employment in unviable companies, low prices for fossil fuels, or reducing wages in high-income economies are counterproductive. To pursue an industrial policy that targets society’s ultimate goals without public micromanagement will be challenging. It could be achieved (i) by setting incentives, particularly those impacting on technical progress (e.g. to make it less labour-saving and more energy-saving), (ii) by the use of the important role governments have in the education and research sectors, (iii) by greater public awareness and (iv) if consumer preferences will call for socio-ecological transition.
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The gross domestic product (GDP) is the world’s most powerful statistical measure. Its underlying economic principles have contributed to splitting the planet into two worlds: the ‘developed’ and the ‘developing’ countries and/or the North and the South. Paradoxically, the GDP mantra was imposed on poorer
nations in spite of its creators’ conclusion that its approach should not be applied to countries largely dependent on informal economic structures, as these are not considered by income accounts, which are threatened by policies designed to increase GDP (Fioramonti 2013). The economist Simon Kuznets, one
of the architects of the GDP system, is also known for having demonstrated how income inequality rises in times of fast GDP growth. His famous ‘curve’ shows
how relative poverty is exacerbated, especially in under-industrialized countries, leading to a concentration of resources and income in the hands of
a few. This brief makes the argument that GDP is a highly inappropriate measure to gauge progress, especially in the so-called developing world. It will
therefore focus on Africa to show how moving beyond GDP may open up creative opportunities to fight poverty and achieve sustainable wellbeing.
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In 2009, the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission submitted a report to the French President on the new measures of societal progress (Stiglitz et al., 2009). Against a backdrop of financial crisis and the questioning of an unsustainable and unequal growth model, the critiques that for many years had been levelled against the gross domestic product (GDP) resonated anew (Van den Bergh and Harmen, 1999; Daly, 1977; Meadows, 1972). These critiques underline the inability of this key economic indicator to capture worrying developments such as widening income and wealth inequality or the degradation of the environment and public health.
Several countries, such as the U.K., Belgium or Bhutan, have developed new accounting frameworks and officially adopted new prosperity measures. Beyond-GDP indicators represent an opportunity on several counts for policy makers that know how to seize it. The current abundance of new indicators is helping to reshuffle the cards of political discourse, thus making it possible to legitimise new issues (Röckstrom et al. 2009). Beyond-GDP indicators in fact offer political actors the possibility of constructing an innovative narrative: faced with the exhaustion of our current growth model (Demailly et al., 2013), they can help to open up a new space for public action and breathe life back into the democratic debate in a context of indepth reconsideration of political action and discourse….
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