End of an era? Italians share their view of global industry

A writer for Italian automation magazine Automazione Oggi reports on how Italian industrial professionals view the global economic crisis and urges companies, the State and banks to work together to improve the economy.

We talk a lot about “The Crisis,” but it’s hard to understand exactly the size of this global economic crisis, because there are more and more companies that are keen to say that they are doing well—or at least they have been able to parry the blow. Recently, I attended a conference in Italy where some companies shared their views and talked openly about the environment in which they are working.

According to Roberto Bottacini, CEO of Pneumax, the current crisis is the sum of many crises: “It’s the crisis of the recession, unemployment and the effects on the life of everyday people. But it’s also the crisis of capitalism—an economic model that has no alternative for us but that is not free from defects. Behind this, there are crises of thought, ideas and behaviors. There is the difficulty of economic theory, economic policy and economists to predict, explain, and especially to cure.”

So this crisis isn’t exactly a crisis but it’s a real change: It’s the end of an era. In fact, all the great crises have brought with them a change, an opportunity, a choice, a decision—different cultures provide different names, but only one meaning. The questions are always the same: “Are companies and markets still able to trigger a new phase of development? How? And what should be the role of the State: with or against companies? How will the financial trends continue to influence the prospects for recovery of the global economy?”

According to Giulio Sapelli, professor of economics and economic history at the Università Statale of Milan, the focus of global growth have changed because the economic center of gravity is changing the world: The USA is shifting its economic capacity to Asia, while Europe, under a German blocking domain, discovers itself a shooting star.

For Italy, Sapelli says, the only safe bet is to refocus its manufacturing industry. That means refusing to relocate and, instead, to favor the internationalization of its companies. The process of relocating abroad just to reduce costs is driving the country into a process of de-industrialization that is making the Italy poorer, he said. So, Italy has to face a cultural ‘war’: focus on work.

All developing countries are rebuilding their manufacturing industry. It’s just a matter of common sense: If private companies cannot do it alone, they might need help through the public bodies. The State thus should encourage the growth of companies. Yet, the State cannot ask companies to invest and at the same time disrupt their growth by imposing excessive tax burden and bureaucratic and administrative distortions on them.

According to Guido Venturini, general director of Confindustria of Bergamo, the State cannot afford to restrict itself to financing the start-up; it also must help existing companies to revive. On the other side, companies must learn that to compete they need to cooperate with each other to create sustainable innovation. They must keep roots in their district and at the same time compete globally in different markets.

According to Gianfranco Fabi, journalist of Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy has a great talent to combine quality, innovation and design, and it exports a whole bunch of different products all over the world. Italy is a country full of excellence and who truly deserves to be rewarded by banks because companies need cash to invest.

To see the end of this crisis, all stakeholders must play on the same team. Companies, the State and banks need to share their goals. It is a game that’s played all together, with everyone aware that we will emerge from this period different from the way we entered.

>> Antonella Cattaneo, Antonella.Cattaneo@fieramilanomedia.it, is Managing Editor of Automazione Oggi, an Italian publication of Fiera Milano Media.

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