In order to truly “rebuild better”, we must reimagine what prosperity looks like

UK Social Mobility Update

The author is the founder and director of the Global Prosperity Institute, University College London

The British government’s unfinished commitment to “rebuild better” and “upgrade” the country faces the unpleasant fact that all the difficult things before Covid—increasing productivity, turning economic growth into well-being, and protecting the earth’s resources , The transition to renewable energy-has not suddenly become easy.

The question for “rebuilt better” suppliers is whether they can define goals that are not just transportation infrastructure, housing construction, and job creation. The road to prosperity is often paved by goals that measure success in terms of GDP growth, but these goals have limited practical impact on improving the living standards of individuals, families, and communities.

For decades, economic orthodoxy has held that large-scale spending plans will increase GDP and eventually penetrate gradually to promote personal prosperity. But what if this is not enough to really upgrade? If the US President’s US$3.5 trillion infrastructure bill and Boris Johnson’s US$6.6 billion “upgrade” fund succeeded in boosting GDP, but the residents of the Rust Belt and Durham Coalfields in Pennsylvania feel that their prosperity is indifferent? What if building more houses in Carlisle does not reduce the unemployment rate in the city’s residential areas because the parents who live there cannot access affordable childcare services? If rebuilding better in 2021 requires us to reimagine what prosperity is like?

A four-year research project in East London provides a new approach.Focus on the communities that are expected to benefit from it Olympic heritage regeneration strategy, A team of civil society scientists and community organizations created a Local climate index According to the local residents, what prosperity means to them, what factors support their ability to prosper and lead a good life, and what factors hinder them.

The index does not measure growth, productivity, and income. Instead, it identifies 15 main indicators that reflect the life experiences of people in these places. It establishes that “human infrastructure”—public transportation, affordable or free childcare, social care, and low-cost or free digital services—is what makes life livable and lays the foundation for a prosperous life. Prosperity is also affected by high-quality and truly affordable housing, the feeling of being integrated into urban economic and social life, rewarding work, lifelong learning, good health, a healthy living environment and hope for the future.

Some (but not all) of them can be delivered from the center. Much depends on whether residents participate in policies that improve their prosperity. The core is to emphasize people and society, rather than physical infrastructure.

Interestingly, the United States, the leader of the free market, came closest to realizing this. This is why Joe Biden plans to invest more than $1 trillion in “human infrastructure” in the form of the American Family Plan. In contrast, based on evidence of his plan to so-called backward towns so far, Johnson’s upgrade plan is almost entirely focused on physical infrastructure.

If Biden and Johnson are to create common prosperity, they must start by reimagining the role of the economy in society. They must re-establish the link between macroeconomic policies and the daily struggles of the people in Pennsylvania and Durham, realities that are not the same even within the community.

In order to heal their divided country, both need to replace their unequal economy with a sense of belonging. They must stop believing that prosperity is something that can be built with bricks and plaster, and instead promote a human-centered response to promote long-term prosperity.

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