Italy was sitting in the middle of the biggest pandemic in 100 years when
we spoke to Antonella Straulino, Francesco Parisi, Massimo Roccasecca,
and Jean-Claude Delen on March 11, 2020.
It was just before the “Ides of March”
2020 and COVID-19 was already ravaging the country and the continent,
but the shocking numbers that were gradually becoming apparent had not
reached the levels that scared us later on.
Italy had just entered the harshest lockdown
in its recent history and the rest of Europe was about to follow suit.
COVID Eases, Italy Regains Clipped
We shall not dwell too long on the concept:
We believe all countries are aware of the consequences by now, the escalating
numbers having forced open even the most skeptical eyes.
Unlike other areas of the world that are
still in big trouble, at the moment most of Europe and Italy seem to enjoy
a relative respite, if not the complete extinction of the infection.
Read the Numbers
The available statistics
show very clearly that the epidemic has been amply reduced, thanks to
the harsh countermeasures adopted by Italy and the continent.
This is a time when we can reflect on what
happened and try to figure out what comes next, whilst we are all firmly
keeping our fingers crossed.
The Whip of Consequences
With very few exceptions, COVID-19 has upset
paradigms, habits, and expectations set in place after WWII.
Most economies are now suffering the consequences
of a large-scale pandemic.
It is a bitter lesson for many of us and
one we would have had trouble to imagine less than six months ago.
This being said, Italy is “back,”
at least in Turin.
It is not “normal,” but people
are out and about, some even dare defy the rule of “wearing a mouth
and nose mask” whenever they are “close to other people.”
When the risk was burning hot, nobody would
dare think of appearing unmasked, but the risk already seems like a relic
when most minds are eager to forget. In a way it is understandable, especially
after spending most of the last three months confined inside your own
house, as many have been obliged to do by these incredible circumstances.
We can only hope that the virus continues
to fade away and hope we can find a cure for it soon.
Antonella the Stalwart Leader
Antonella Straulino talked to us from her
countryside residence, where she works in a way that Italians call “smart
working.” She said she is “permanently on video calls”
and my experience tells me that at times this can be quite a time-consuming
“Issues,” Anton said, “are
now coming to the tables, safety and health measures, issues connected
with possible distortion of competition, responsibilities… the list
is long, involving both workers and employers.
“The levels are down and the turnover
that has been lost is in excess of 25 percent, at least judging from the
“The government has come to assist,
but in some cases, bureaucracy has lambasted the best intentions.”
All Together Now
Last week the ‘Stati Generali’
debate took place in Rome, where the principal players of the Italian
‘contratto sociale,’ i.e. the social covenant, put their cards
on the table: trade unions, employers, and the government joined experts
to discuss what the future of Italian society will look like.
Debt Levels & Personal Savings
One thing is for sure: the level of debt
has exploded all over the world and Italy is second to none in this area.
Italy can probably still afford it, because
we flank our high public debt with an exceptional level of private savings,
which is pretty unique in the world, but the way forward is uncertain
and our stamina will be put to test.
Francesco Marvels at Change
these latter items, Francesco Parisi, who has operated a family business
in Trieste since 1807, shared some thoughts.
“I’m confident to see some light
at the end of the tunnel, but am concerned for the collapse of international
trade, which also seems to depend on the approach taken by some governments
that are talking more and more openly about isolationism and sovereignty.
“These ideas will not help to recover
their economies; on the contrary, they will affect those who try to promote
them as harshly as the others, if not more,” Francesco declared.
Obviously Francesco has doubled his efforts,
as a wise entrepreneur should, in order to acquire the necessary flexibility
and has allowed most of his workers to assist “from home, when this
was possible” during this not-so-short crisis.
Parisi Service in Global Forwarding
Francesco is no longer a member of the FIATA
Presidency. He stepped down at the end of 2019 after serving for more
than a decade in the organization, and after having served as President
and Immediate Past President for four years.
But he stays close to the flame that makes
FIATA what it is today, saying:
“FIATA is going through big changes,
but I am confident that this situation will return to us an organization
that will be fully equipped for the new challenges.” He
also said that “nobody could foresee the magnitude of the challenges
that FIATA is facing in these times of trouble for all countries.”
“In its 90+ year history FIATA had
witnessed quite some epochal changes, but never have all the countries
in its constituency been affected at the very same time by a problem as
severe as COVID-19,” Francesco declared.
The Great Jean-Claude Delen
Delen has served as President in both FIATA and CLECAT.
Speaking late last week from Belgium, Jean-Claude’s
international perspective is to sit up and take notice.
He said that “the combination of Brexit
and COVID-19 is toxic for Brussels; this affects all aspects of the Belgian
society both here and now, as well as in the future.”
He sees “customs offices being rebuilt,
lines of waiting trucks.
“After one-day testing only trucks
were parked everywhere . . . People are no longer used to showing papers
at borders and issues such as pre-clearance have not been prepared yet.
“We changed the aim of our conversation
to touch on airfreight, which has been my main mission in FIATA for a
long time: Airlines have been skinned to the bone . . . ”
Not Normal Until 2023
“For example, Brussels airport appears
to have lost more than 40 percent of the usual traffic and operations
will resume to ‘almost normal’ by 2023, but that will not
be more than 80 percent of what it used to be. The €9 billion EUR
Lufthansa bailout may fall short of the final requirement.
“SMEs all over Europe are uncertain
about their future and they risk being affected even more than big multinationals.
“All over Europe we contemplate an
increase in unemployment and higher debts; the level of indebtedness will
be long lasting now for many, many years.”
Pray for a Vaccine
In a more general perspective Jean-Claude
was persuaded that “things will hardly improve significantly until
a vaccine is found.
“People are losing confidence and
Globalization Will Continue Non-Stop
But JC was more open to hope regarding trade,
saying that “globalization will not stop here; maybe some manufacturing
will be moved to closer areas, for example in Eastern Europe, but globalization
and international trade will continue to foster growth.”
In the end, the picture we are looking at
is not yet complete, we are still right in the middle of ‘big changes’
for the countries, for our society and trade.
Need for Solidarity
While our most urgent priorities shift from
the pandemic emergency to the economic recovery in more and more countries,
we must not lose faith in the cathartic potential of working together
in the most inclusive manner.
In 2020 we have been affected by a big problem,
but we have had all these years to learn that working together in good
cooperation is indeed the panacea that has allowed most of our societies
to develop and resolve many issues.
Solidarity is a word that has often been
misunderstood and some do not see it in its proper light.
Seeing solidarity as a sheer cost as some
do is a mistake; we should see solidarity as an investment in our future
and we should have “blind faith” that we can work it out.
Greek Tragedy Recalled
Aeschylus’ Promethean Greek tragedy
concerns the God Prometheus, who in defiance of Zeus (Jupiter) saved humanity
with his gift of fire.
Let me draw a conclusion by quoting Aeschylus’s
Did you [Prometheus]
perhaps transgress even somewhat beyond this offence?
caused mortals to cease foreseeing their doom.
Of what sort
was the cure that you found for this affliction?
blind hopes to dwell within their breasts.
A great benefit
was this you gave to mortals.
Our great benefit, once given to us, still
dwells in our breasts and this is the time to use it appropriately, possibly
without duplicating the inevitable mistakes.
Stay healthy, safe, and in good spirits.
Marco L. Sorgetti—Turin, Italy 22.6.2020