Economist Forum: all words and no solutions, the editorial by Franco Michienzi Economist Forum: all words and no solutions, the editorial by Franco Michienzi
Do conferences really provide an opportunity to share problem-solving ideas? Sometimes they’re simply a chance to meet and acknowledge ongoing issues by Francesco Michienzi Are forums... Economist Forum: all words and no solutions, the editorial by Franco Michienzi

Do conferences really provide an opportunity to share problem-solving ideas? Sometimes they’re simply a chance to meet and acknowledge ongoing issues

by Francesco Michienzi

Are forums and conferences really an opportunity for cultural growth? Or do they just provide the chance to meet outside the workplace and exchange a few opinions? Attending a summit in Düsseldorf called Navigating a Sea of Opportunities, organized by the Economist, I would have expected to be bombarded with financial data and current trend analyses.

I hoped to hear some good ideas about the best way to tackle the somewhat confused situation we’re facing at the moment. A fairly well-educated person who reads the papers every day doesn’t need someone to tell them that the tensions in the Middle East between the Arabs and Israelis are an instability factor, or that the trade policy clash between the USA and China poses a risk.

Knowing that maritime tourism needs modern port facilities and clean seas to explore in order to develop is certainly nothing new.

I always feel like laughing when the speakers list the problems without offering any solutions. Some aspects of globalisation, such as the liberalisation of transport and communication, together with the digital revolution and growing interest in overseas travel, have given the sector a boast, leading to new and innovative services and infrastructures. On the other hand, the consequences of the latest global crisis, fears surrounding a new recession, government spending cuts and an ageing population have led to new concerns and challenges.

One matter we need to reflect upon carefully is that all these analyses of how the world economy will go, as well as those on Brexit and tensions in South America, have been swept aside by the new Coronavirus epidemic, which has reset all the baseline data and requires fresh consideration about what to do. Let’s be clear. I have nothing against illustrious government, political and business leaders, as well as key EU officials and figures from international institutions, taking part in these conferences.

However, I’m starting to think that we shouldn’t deceive ourselves regarding the quality of their contributions. We mustn’t expect great results, given their floundering through the thick fog of no ideas.

Let’s look at the regulations governing emissions of pleasure yachts over 24 metres long, which came into force in January. In practical terms, this regulation will create far more problems than it resolves. Some studies show that the implementation of this regulation will increase CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. The ideological furore about how to save the planet is destroying common sense and woe betide anyone who dares to say a word against it, observing how sometimes the proposed solutions are not always the best. Confindustria Nautica has asked the Italian Ministry of the Environment to tackle this issue head on, so as not to penalise a sector where we are the world market leaders.

We shouldn’t be discouraged by the fact that those who govern us fail to listen. However, we must insist that they place our issues at the centre of their political agenda. Maritime tourism has always accounted for a significant part of the economy in a coastal country like Italy, as well as being a real development factor and an important driver of growth, innovation and employment opportunities for people from coastal towns and cities. These are just more reasons why it is fundamental to pinpoint regulatory measures that are more suitable for supporting the sea-based economy. This has to be achieved without prejudice, even in times of environmental crisis such as these.

The sustainability issue is of prime importance and improving our environmental awareness is not only a necessity, but also an opportunity. This is why we believe that reasoning calmly on the basis of real scientific and financial data is absolutely indispensable.

(All words and no solutions – Barchemagazine.com – March 2020)