On public trust and Italian public relations

Hobbes, I guess that continuing on my cheese series of late, I cannot but comment on the similarities between Bear Stearns management and the Italian government (and I am not talking here about Alitalia, or Fiat, or Autostrada, or Banca Antonveneta or… c’mon! what’s wrong with these people!).

As you may know by now, my obvious concern is buffalo mozzarella. South Korea, Japan and now France have already banned imports of mozzarella cheese from 66 herds of buffalo around Naples. After much naysaying, Paolo De Castro, Italy’s farming minister, blamed the media for a food scare. But he confirmed that 83 of 1,900 buffalo dairy farms had been affected by the findings.

Italy herself disclosed last week that high levels of dioxins – mostly poisonous chemical byproducts of the manufacture of herbicides and bactericides – were found in the milk of buffalo around Naples.

These sort of commentaries/lies are the kind that undermine public confidence. On March 14 a Bear Stearns spokesperson said that the investment bank ‘ has $8bn of ready credit lines and enough funds to meet its debt obligations for the next year without having to sell assets or take out fresh debt’. And the London Times reported on March 28 that James Cayne, the bank’s chairman, had sold 5.66m shares which had belonged to him and his wife worth $61.3m at $10.84/share.

Now, going back to the cheese obsession, it is not about the EU chasing and threatening the Italian government, it is not about carcinogenic dioxins or bad investments. It is about accountability, responsibility, public relations and keeping the public informed.

However, I am starting to think that democracy is also overrated and as the unstable Italian Parliament reminds us almost every year, when you give information and power to people, they don’t know what to do with it.

Living in denial is a better option for some. Or most.



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