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Introductory Overview Lecture: Introduction to New Measures/Indicators for the Economy

Gross Domestic Product and National Accounting: The Past and Present (308247)

*Steve MacFeely, UNCTAD 

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is arguably the most powerful statistical indicator ever compiled. Combining a vast array of business, household and government statistics, it is the main measure of economic output and a proxy for the health of national economies around the world. In recent decades, the SNA and especially GDP, have been criticized for a variety of reasons. Addressing these concerns will have important consequences for business statistics.

This IOL outlines the origins of national accounting and GDP. Describing early attempts to measure national income in both England and United States, the reconciliation and alignment of these approaches with Keynesian economic theory is explained. It also describes how the Great Depression and WWII led Gross National Product (GNP) to become the dominant economic indicator; how the post-war reconstruction of Europe helped to propagate it; and how the emergence of development economics and the cold war cemented its hegemony. The lecture also outlines how globalization and concerns over inequality, wellbeing and sustainability culminated with another crisis – the global financial crisis of 2008 - renewing calls to move beyond GDP.