Fixating on GDP will not solve world poverty, says Christian Aid report

02 February 2018


Donald Trump arrives by helicopter at the Davos summit, at the weekend

Donald Trump arrives by helicopter at the Davos summit, at the weekend

CONCENTRATING only on GDP will not bring a solution to poverty around the world, a new report by Christian Aid has said.

The report, An Unquenchable Thirst for More: Faith and economic growth, argues that “those from the global South, living in poverty, bore witness to the suffering that the unrestrained quest for economic growth brings.”

The publication of the report follows the World Economic Forum at Davos last week, at which more than 3000 of the world’s political and business leaders gathered to discuss a range of topics, such as the global economy and the environment. In his message to the forum, Pope Francis criticised “ambition for profit at all costs”, and said that there was a “moral imperative” for people to be given the conditions to live in a dignified manner (News, 26 January).

One of the authors of the report, Sue Richardson, said: “The elite debate at Davos has been beset by quibbles over whether this or that policy increases or lessens inequality, while missing the most important point: this level of global inequality is morally repulsive.

“Extremes of inequality have very real human consequences for billions of people, and the relationships between them, that would be evidently unacceptable if they were not clothed in the jargon of economics.”

The chairman of Christian Aid, Lord Williams, wrote in the foreword that “we have stopped asking what wealth is for. Lacking a coherent picture of what a good human life looks like, we have filled the gap with quantified measures that tell us little or nothing about how far flesh-and-blood human beings are flourishing in all aspects of their experience.

“For Christians, in particular, this is a serious failure: we are in danger of not thinking about what is involved in our belief that we are made in God’s image, made for creative engagement in the lives of others that will build them up as they build us up. Wealth is instrumental to this, never an end in itself.”

Mrs Richardson said that the report “casts a critical light on the decades-long experiment in using the measurement of GDP and other economic indicators as a proxy for human well-being. We conclude that this experiment has failed.”

The report explores three possibilities for a reformed system: a reformed way of doing business; separating the use of resources away from consumption through the use of technology and reduced energy use; and changing economics with different ways of measuring goals and growth targets.

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