Include social well-being too

Experts: Don’t just rely on GDP to measure a country’s overall wellness

KUALA LUMPUR: Experts emphasise incorporating social well-being and economic sustainability indicators when assessing a country’s overall wellness rather than relying solely on gross domestic product (GDP) as the sole economic measure.

They argue that indicators for measuring the well-being of a nation extend beyond GDP and that a comprehensive measurement framework would better equip governments to prepare for crises.

These sentiments were expressed during the 10th Malaysia Statistics Conference, “Looking Beyond GDP: Towards Social Wellbeing and Environmental Sustainability”, yesterday.

Deputy Economy Minister Datuk Hanifah Hajar Taib inaugurated the conference.

She stressed the need for more detailed and granular data to minimise wastage in government allocations and enhance the efficiency of government expenditure.

She also announced that Malaysians could expect increased data accessibility from next January when an integrated database compiling information from 200 sources would become available to the public.

Hanifah underscored the importance of accurate and timely data for preparing and responding to floods and disasters.

Datuk Dr Richard Leete, former United Nations Resident Coordinator for Malaysia and UNDP Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, said governments should not pursue “utopian goals”.

Leete, an adviser to Malaysian governments since 2016, argued that prosperity must be distributed equitably for a nation to be considered truly well-off.

He pointed out that traditional measurements of national prosperity, such as GDP per capita, were insufficient in defining and measuring national development goals, as economic prosperity could coexist with challenges like increasing inequality and environmental degradation.

He highlighted that well-being encompassed multiple dimensions, including material and quality of life, extending beyond GDP per capita.

Leete noted the substantial improvements in Malaysia’s well-being in the past five decades, with significant reductions in infant mortality rates, fair access to healthcare and improved socio-economic conditions.

Statistics Department Chief Statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the department was ready to provide monthly GDP figures to assist the government in monitoring the nation’s development.

However, he said there were limitations to GDP, which solely measures economic aspects and does not take into account social well-being and environmental sustainability indicators.

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