Andrea Mennillo’s interview at the International Made in Italy Forum

Made in Italy International Forum, First Edition, March 14-16, 2014 – “His Excellency Italy”

1. As a member of the Grimaldi Forum organizing committee and business owner, perhaps you could speak to the important discussions coming out of this event. During these next few days, we will hear much about “His Excellency Italy” – a brand that is known worldwide but still must grow and be preserved.

As Italians, we should be proud of the forum here in Monaco. There will be conversations that will challenge us but they will be energizing and thought provoking given the great minds leading them. Take this morning’s exchange, for example. The Executive Chairman of the Walgreen Boots Alliance Dr. Stefano Pessina, one of the unfortunately few great captains of Italian industry, and Italian Deputy Minister for Economic Development Carlo Calenda debated about Italy having the right resources but insufficient conditions for Italian entrepreneurs to thrive.
Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta, chairman of Servizi Assicurativi del Commercio Estero (SACE), made another critical point in today’s discussion – we need to be smart about the opportunities coming from countries with close ties to Italy. This is coming from a man who has dedicated his career to serving Italian interests. We will need to be careful of any agreements we forge – and hopefully finalize – with NAFTA countries but, at the same time, be mindful that Mediterranean and Arab countries are important organic markets for Italian products and services.

2. Historically, the United States has not had good relations with some countries in these regions you are referring to, Italy not being among them. Could this be a competitive advantage for us?

I believe so, yes. Having lost independent, effective leadership is only a perceived weakness for Italy. Our country respects other cultures and, historically, has been minimally imperialistic when compared to other European countries.
Our history gives credence to the strength of our national identity. The Romans built roads 2,500 years ago that still exist. They created fundamental legal principles that, even today, are employed by governments around the world. They established a moral foundation that, if observed, could help to make the world a better place.
Italy collaborates with countries where many of our Western partners – England, France, the United States – have more strained relations. We are respected and appreciated in Mediterranean countries, in Arab countries, in Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union – all geographical areas with great spending power. In fact, part of the debate this morning touched on Consorzio Costa Smeralda and its large Russian client base. Luxury sector aside, industrial Italian companies are deeply interested in these markets.

3. Today’s debate between Dr. Pessina and Deputy Minister Calenda took a political turn. Dr. Pessina insisted on serious, concrete political action given the ongoing exploitation of Italian companies, which are the country’s core business, he argued. The newly elected government, however, appears to be changing course, widening the chasm between government and Italian businesses and entrepreneurs. What are your thoughts on this?

Words coming from someone as influential as Dr. Pessina are etched in stone. He speaks the truth; just look at his track record. However, I will say the reality he speaks of can be objective.
Unfortunately, our shortcomings to make Italy impervious to delinquent infiltration are there for all to see. Just imagine if you experience abuse or have something stolen from you, large or small, and report it to the police only to be told they are powerless and have no authority.
I will say Deputy Minister Calenda responded to Dr. Pessina with acumen; what and how he replied was thoughtful and principled. He is acutely aware of our previous government’s failures despite its promises because it did not fully discern key points of meaningful and necessary state reform. In the end, there is about €801 billion in expenses in the state budget, which does not include €45 billion in financial charges. A serious operation should act on at least €100 billion.
The private sector’s leading representatives attended the debate today as well, which was important given the significant disparity between private and government employees. Both are good people with responsibilities and families but the truth is those employed by the state are considered “the son of a greater God.” We have to fix this social injustice. As was mentioned today, we will unfortunately have to watch companies fail or reduce their staff dramatically. Lowering the tax burden or cancelling social security contributions would only allow these people to re-enter the production cycle. We will only see our country progress only if we move in this direction.

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