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McKinsey Quarterly

Monday, November 23, 2009

Slow Economy by Federico Rampini

Slow Economy by Federico Rampini

Friday the 20th of November at Librerie Feltrinelli in Piazza Piemonte, Milan, was held the presentation of "Slow Economy" (published by Mondadori) by its author Federico Rampini, columnist of La Repubblica.
Just coming from Beijing, where he had a meeting with President Barack Obama and some chinese students who interviewed the american leader, back in the same borough where the author reminded the audience he had been working for so many years and thus so familiar to him as to consider it a point of reference, he deeply tackled many topics of his brand new book Slow Economy giving a good insight of his last work.

The author told the audience about his three main voyages from the US, California, to China in Beijing and then back to the US, in New York. He observed that whereas the first move led him to a still old fashioned China, the last one to New York caused him to leave a completely changed China, by far most modernd and efficient. For istance, he remembered how his last move from China to New York made him notice how modern and big was the Beijing airport, which has its sizes five times larger than the Heatrow airport, a huge, iper-efficient and modern airport and structure; this latter, compared to the New York one he found when he landed in New York, made him notice how broken, crumbling, dirty and inefficient it was.
In the same conditions is also the New York subway, that in many respects reminds the bad conditions of Mumbay underground.

After the last dramatic economic crisis the world economy won’t be anymore as we were used to see it before; what’s for sure, we’ll continue being assisting to a further development of eastern economies and to a slower rate of growth of western economies; yet, as I often heard it said, we don’t know yet how exactly the structure, the system of the economy will be after being so dramatically affected.

The same President Barack Obama is aware of this situation and tries to tackle it in a way that sometimes make him even unpleasant and unappealing to his same fellow citizens.

For sure, western people will have to adapt to a different, more frugal habits, abandoning the consumerism way of life.

Rampini cited the effective example of US families and consumers whose attics are full of goods that they’ll never use, to give an idea of the consequences and waste caused by some of the worst aspects of pre-crisis economic system.

In a world that risks to be led by a so called G2 (USA and China), Rampini rightly stressed the necessity of a major role to be played as an actor in the global scenario by Europe. As known, currently Europe as an institution is not living a bright time, yet Europe should be able, must and should be advisable to get a major role in the global policy.

The book, whose title rightly remind us, according to the same author, the Slow Food, mediterranean philosophy and all the positive concepts accompanying it, not least a healthier way of life against obesity, talk also about the studies presented by Sarkozy and led by two renowned Nobel prices: Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen about the possibility of susbstituing the old way to measure GDP, with a new one, taking into account differents and more well-advised that make more sense, since it's clear that western economies are changed and probably won't never regain the same pace and rate of growht as before this last great global crisis. Rampini also cited about a provocative proposal made in Buthan about substituing the GDP with a "Gross National Happiness" Index.

Overpaid managers and their benefits paradoxically increase the GDP measure, while on the other hand the precious work made by some women, such as in the field of the care for persons, is neglected as a GDP input: paradoxical example brought by Rampini to show the necessity to change the old GDP measurement.

Severe recession hit the Globe due to bad Finance, the economy is slowly recovering, yet it really seems that the lesson from the crisis has not be learned so well, since Finance still seems to show unfair behaviours and seems having not much accordingly changed.

The book in many respects reminds me about the thesis and arguments sustained in the great book by the great scientist Fritjof Capra that I recently read: “The turning point” : the importance of the environment and, more generally, of eco-related topics, of sustainable growth, the necessity of a greater appreciation of works traditionally made by women, such as those in the field of care for persons, the necessity to change the way we measure the wealth produced by a nation, the philosophy, the tradition and habits of eastern people as models, as the author himself cited in his examples. All very important topics tackled by Capra in his book of the first years of the eighties; yet, as Rampini himself reminds us, they are nowadays than ever still topical issues. Exactly in the same place where, in a recent past, Capra introduced his last work “The Science of Leonardo”, Rampini has been stressing those vital issues for our Globe.

As the cosmopolitan Rampini said, “Slow Economy represents a distillate of lessons learnt from his voyages, observations and experiences in the Far east.

The books talks about the necessity to pursue Quality in the midst of a slow rate growth world, achieving a sustainable growth.

Lessons learnt from the East: humbleness, modesty, frugality, eastern habits and way of life.

A last example cited by the Author, hinting at his high quality cashmere sweater, is the textile industry: in particular the cashmere clothing made in the Biella textile district.

As known, Chinese economy has repeatedly tried, in a vain attempt, to replicate the quality of our Italian domestic textiles, by building factories perfectly identical to the Italian ones, adopting the same identical processes. Yet, they so far have never achieved to made a cashmere quality product comparable with the Italian ones.

Where does the secret of this lie ? The answer is in the purity of water flowing in the streams where the factories of Biella draw water in order to be used in their production processes for making quality cashmere clothing. The polluted Chinese rivers does not allow to achieve such a high quality standard that the factories of Biella have been able to achieve. (You could find an excerpt from the book (in Italian), dealing with this case, in http://garda2o.wordpress.com ) Of course this is also an example to stress the importance of environmental issues and of sustainable growth, an aspect so crucial and strategic even for the industrial sector.


Slow economy - Rinascere con saggezza


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