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Italy: Style And Courtesy Of Prime Minister Conte – OpEd


Accustomed to always criticizing every government, for whatever it does, it is the second national form of entertainment after football, the Italians seem to have abounded this hobby for the moment. It is hard to believe that this depends only on the difficult coronavirus situation facing the country, more likely that – strange to say – they are identifying themselves with the current political leadership. Leadership certainly not arising from the government coalition, which is not the result of electoral choices, but rather stems from the communication style of the current Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is always polite and increasingly convincing.


The present coalition is the result of two very distinct factors. The first factor, the resounding self-inflicting goal made by Minister Salvini to himself who, has thrown into crisis a government in which he had a special role convinced to go to elections and to be able to govern alone. Corbin having blatantly wronged politics resigned (the system left him no choice). Salvini who had not considered the possible jattura of the name Matteo, since the previous Matteo (Renzi) had also been betrayed by the same uncontrolled totalitarian ambition of government, should have done the same. The second factor, the surprising sense of responsibility of the 5-star movement in avoiding premature elections not only for not being decimated in the electoral round, something which certainly would happen, but perhaps also for the increased ability of its historical leader Grillo, to identify for the “movement” a more coherent political role with leftist and non-populist alliances.

This temporary abandonment in a very serious moment by the Italians of a consolidated hobby of always criticizing the government, should therefore be ascribed not to the coalition but to the current PM, who does not yet manifest in terms of leadership, but is increasingly affirmed for a style that could be a premise, in a country that perhaps begins to be tired of excessively blatant tones of certain oppositions.

If the rigor and determination shown by the PM in knowing how to speak to people has had and continues to play an extremely positive role, the still unsolved problem remains however why this coronavirus crisis has proved so dramatically more serious in Italy than in other states. I personally believe that it can be concentrated in two expressions: globalization equal for all, special delocalization for Italy.


Years ago an Italian PM made me ask by mutual friends for an introduction by his collaborators to professors from UCLA, University of California at Los Angeles. Although I studied at Columbia University in New York, I consider UCLA my natural university location. I’ve been working for it for years and my Californian friends have always considered me one of their own. Among other things, it is for this reason that the GDKA (Gross Domestic Knowledge of America, GDP Knowledge America) project will shortly be launched from there, which will extend the GDKP INDIA already approved by the Indian Ministry of Planning to the United States. I therefore declared myself perfectly available with the then PM. There were many meetings, some of considerable relevance, one with the Secretary of State’s personal friend, in which I expressed an absolutely different opinion from his. On which, however, I did not insist because the PM’s adviser was there to listen to him, not to me.

My different opinion was expressed again in clear letters in my book Darwinomics, by il Saggiatore, and was also summarized in a nice literary game that paraphrased a story by Kafka. My friend Bedy Moratti, a very good reader of texts, read for her part at the presentation of the book in Tor Vergata, a beautiful story by Kafka reworked and adapted by me at the end. Kafka told, as only he can do, the story of how entire families had moved for generations to build the Chinese Wall. I asked Bedy to read it almost in full, but I modified the end, making the western entrepreneurs, who flocked en masse, once the access doors in that wall was open, remain prisoners once the doors were closed preventing the persons who had rushed in to go out.


It is the synthesis of these two stories that was the subject of this morning talk in a long video call with one of the top officials of the United Nations statistics. The aforementioned friend had just asked me why Italy had had such a greater boost in Coronavirus than any other nations. I replied that in my opinion the explanation – so far not considered – is in two words Globalization equal for all, and specificity of Italian Delocalization.

The first. The American professor friend of the then secretary of state had made a hymn to the vision of China as a factory of the western world and had suggested a policy for Italy that would promote it. A vision that I did not share in the interest of the harmonious growth of the whole globe including China. A crazy push, like the one that was planned and occurred, to the transfer of production to China, would have put China, in my opinion, in a position of fragility when conditions had changed. In this case, as Kafka’s story, readapted and read by the talented Bedy anticipated, there would have been – I said jokingly – an obvious attempt to close the doors to the would be relocation of companies. But which ones would remain inside the Great Wall? Not all. And here comes the Italian specificity.

It’s true. 

By now many companies located in China are relocating to Vietnam, Thailand etc. OBOR is also the Chinese response to this phenomenon. But for the relocation in my opinion there is a fundamental distinction to be made that penalizes us and in my opinion it could have played an unconscious role in the serious departure in Italy of the Coronavirus infection. Large companies, such as the American, French, German, and English companies, relocate much more easily than small and medium-sized companies. It is known and confirmed. The decisions taken at the core of large companies implement faster radical decision-making processes.

Small and medium-sized enterprises, on the other hand, are relocating slowly because they have more “family” type decision-making processes. How many small and medium Italian companies have relocated in recent years and how many have remained in China? The overwhelming majority of Italian small and medium-sized enterprises have not moved. This is easily verifiable. This means that as regards the travels of managers or owners, China-Italy, they continued to manifest themselves even in the first critical months. Let’s say December, January, when the problem was not exploded and recognized, but existed. The “probi viri”, playfully healthy carriers, have operated.

Question. But what are the Italian regions from which these small and medium-sized companies mostly moved to China? Watch case: Lombardy, Veneto. Watch case: those in which the viral infection has manifested itself in a greater way. In my opinion, the failure to relocate P&M companies played a role in the specificity of the Italian case.

I believe that our government, which following the style of the current PM is proving serious, functional and well-functioning, should consider this specific aspect because it can open up new important operational scenarios. All to explore. Let’s just hope that in this very serious situation in which political management is proving to be excellent, the Conte style will prevail and continue to prevail.

Umberto Sulpasso

Umberto Sulpasso, senior Fellow of Center for Digital Future Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California has a Degree in Economics in Italy and MBA from Columbia University. Has been teaching in different countries Economy of Knowledge, and publishing books and directing ecnclopedias. His most recent publication has been Darwinomics where for the first time the model of GDKP was announced.

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