“In Italy, production has been at a standstill for far too long,” said the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Olivier Branchard (in an interview with Il Sole24Ore of 28 March). How well we know that. These words of foreboding coming from the highest levels of the IMF are actually helpful, though, in getting policymakers to bring about reforms (in the areas of bureaucracy and fighting corruption, taxation, civil justice, infrastructures, education, research, and the job market) as quickly as possible to help improve Italian production and facilitate growth and internationalisation for businesses.
Nonetheless, over the last decade, Italian businesses have done a great deal in order to become more competitive. They have reorganised, opened up more to international markets, brought about innovation in both products and processes, worked to assert themselves as high-quality international manufacturers in the areas of automation, advanced engineering, food and agriculture, interior design and fashion, all industries that epitomise Italian quality (along with areas such as engineering, specialist chemicals and pharmaceuticals, rubber, nautical, etc.). However, overall productivity remains low due to limitations within the Italian system as a whole. But it is also the responsibility of the community of businesses that have remained small and under-capitalised, held back by a capitalism rooted in the family business that has not yet managed to realise the full potential of a virtuous synthesis of family entrepreneurship and sound management.
In order to be more productive, we will need to see a radical transformation in the culture of enterprise towards the rules and strategies of a more open market, thereby closing the book on excessive government support and focusing on public industrial policies based on innovation, research and growth, while also promoting collaboration within business districts, meta-districts and “long value chains” of international scope.
In other words, we need to see a leap from “entrepreneurial solitude” towards “collaborative competition”. At the heart of increased productivity at the level of both the individual company and the system as a whole, there needs to be an understanding of one of the key words: competitiveness, from the Latin cum petere, i.e. to set a target and seek to achieve it together.