Tag Archives: The Coca-Cola Company
As noted in this blog on 13th November 2011, Mario Monti – a man with the enviable moniker of ‘Super Mario’ – has been appointed as Prime Minister of Italy. A distinguished technocrat with the European Commission (1995-2004), stylistically Monti is a world away from his flamboyant and legendarily corrupt predecessor Silvio Berlusconi; bespectacled and professorial, Monti’s decades of involvement in academia at both the University of Turin and Bocconi University have engendered a thoughtful, intellectual approach to finding solutions. An October 2010 interview with the man who is now in charge of the boot-shaped peninsula reveals a contemplative personality trying to grapple with the problem of making Europe more competitive without diluting the identity of what is still by global standards a social market: a paradigm, albeit flawed, of capitalism with a human face.
Yet as a recent Al Jazeera English report filed by the evergreen Copenhagen-raised Italian Barbara Serra illustrates, ‘Super Mario’ is faced with a predicament so multitiered that his computer game namesake would be daunted by it. Like in many eurozone economies, the Italian labour market is characterised by enormous structural youth unemployment: at 24%, it is three times the 8% general rate of unemployment. This demographic is arguably the most troubled sector of the Italian economy, since it is relatively impoverished, exploited and, lacking any profound stake in the system as a whole, liable to explode. And given Monti’s corporate links – the new Italian Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance is also an adviser to Goldman Sachs and the Coca-Cola Company – there is every chance that any approach to growth will be focused on the cream of the most privileged actors in the macroeconomy, rather than the millions on the social and economic margins of Italy.
To avoid this scenario – and turn Italy into something approaching the economic behemoth of twenty years ago – we at Mediolana think that Monti needs to concentrate on the following objectives:
1. Entrepreneurship. As things stand, millions of young Italians are collecting degrees which are practically worthless in the job market. Monti needs to recalibrate Italy’s education policy to make sure that the link between qualifications and jobs is strengthened, and promote self-employment – with generous government incentives – as the way to slash Italy’s huge welfare bill and empower the next generation of wealth creators. Otherwise, an entire cohort of Italians will continue moving from job centre to job centre and temporary contract to temporary contract without any long-term prospect of security or satisfaction.
2. Exports. Despite intense competition from China, Italy is still a remarkably resilient player in industries such as textiles, food production and design; moreover, anything that requires an artisanal touch and which possesses durability and class will almost always have a market, even in the deepest of recessions. Furthermore, the global middle class is expanding at a phenomenal rate, particularly in Asia and Latin America; as Turkish entrepreneurs are showing – while cutting into Italian market share – there is an unfathomable desire for pasta even in Africa.
3. Emigration. In the short term, rebuilding the shaky foundations of Italian capitalism will take time: the cultural and political shifts necessary to prioritise the creation of SMEs and the families that are their incubator could take at least one generation. In the interim, the current generation of Italians cannot afford to wait: they must emigrate if opportunities cannot be found closer to home. As native speakers of a Romance language, those born and raised in Italy enjoy a natural advantage in seeking their fortunes not merely in swathes of the largely depressed EU, but also much of the booming developing world, most obviously Latin America.