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Remedial Capacity Indicators versus Performance Indicators


Remedial Capacity Indicators
Performance Indicators
Remedial Capacity Indicators
Sharpening Public Debate
Highlighting Action Substitutes
Range of Remedia1 Capacity Indicators
Non-linear Development
Integrating Indicator Sets
Controlling Performance Misinterpretation

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Paper prepared for a meeting on social indicators of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development (GPID) project of the United Nations University (Warsaw, December 1981). Published in: Insights into Maldevelopment: reconsidering the idea of progress (Edited by Jan Danecki in cooperation with Jerzy Krycki and Danuta Markowska). Warsaw, University of Warsaw, 1993. Also published in Polish under the title: Wskazniki zdolsnosci naprawcej in Jana Daneckiego and Marii Daneckiej (Ed). U Podloza Globalnych Zagrozen: Dylematy rozwoju (Instytut Politiyki Spolecnej, Uniwersytetu Warswawkiego, 2003, pp. 62-68).


The purpose of this note is to draw further attention to a certain futility associated with the production of new social indicators as they are currently conceived.

This is not an attempt to argue against the production of such information. For, as with 'motherhood', few can argue satisfactorily against the value of obtaining further 'facts'. The difficulty is that the accumulation of data on what is unsatisfactory appears to be accompanied by a reluctance to recognize or respond to such information. This can be called 'indicator overload'. The accumulation of indicators of maldevelopment thus contributes to some degree to a build up of resistance to initiating new action on the basis of such data. Even 20 years ago it was noted that:

... it is difficult to escape the conclusion that, in spite of governmental efforts and similar programmes by nongovernmental organizations, the state of public opinion on matters of development, particularly in the industrialized countries, is generally less favourable than it has been in the past.... It would probably be unfair to conclude that a sudden callousness had overcome public opinion in the developed countries. It is more like a closing of the gates to a pattern of generalizations perceived as out-worn by over-use (1)

As has been pointed out on many occasions, there is no lack of information on the inadequate quality of life in many sectors of society in most countries. Indicators have been designed to give legitimacy to such information and to portray developments over a period of time. The problem seems to be that it is very easy for authorities to ignore published indicators and particularly non-economic indicators. Indicators easily become a tool of lively debates which are only remotely connected with actual decision-making processes.

As has been frequently remarked, governments are experiencing increasing difficulties in managing societies within the present constraints - which are already forcing the simplification of many issues. Formulating new indicators of the inadequacy of conditions in society is then of somewhat limited value.

This note is therefore concerned with the need to take into account the incapacity to act anainst maldevelopment even when appropriate indicators are available.

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