The attendance of Christine Lagarde at the opening ceremony of the academic year 2014-2015 is the accomplishment of a promise made three years ago. At that time, Professor Monti had been recently appointed Prime Minister of Italy, while the former French minister of economic affairs was facing the first issues as Managing Director of the IMF.
Eurozone was struggling, Greece was rescued by the Troika bailout and Italy was expected to be the next one. However, after several negotiations and structural reforms, the Italian government showed the country capability to face the crisis without the Troika’s help. During one of the last meetings between the former Italian Prime Minister and the IMF Managing Director, they promised each other they would meet again in a different and more pleasant situation.
While Professor Monti recalls this turbulent period in his inauguration speech, Christine Lagarde imagines how the Italian economy might change in the forward future. Structural improvements of the labour market, lower taxation and reform of the law system are the essential ingredients for productivity and growth.
The IMF managing director shows strong confidence in Italy and in Italians, affirming that education can give them the instruments required to build a new and brilliant future.
Sofia & Lorenzo: Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of NYC, stated that becoming a plumber is better than invest on a mediocre school for a non super smart student. Do you think that investing in education is worthless in some cases?
C. Lagarde: Before becoming Minister of economic affairs of France, I was a lawyer. And you know the difference between a lawyer and a plumber. When the plumber travels abroad, he is always a plumber. When a lawyer crosses a board, he becomes a tourist. The beauty of technical skills and vocational training is that you have a job in your hand and you can be completely mobile. This is not always the case for other professions which are more deeply rooted in the national societies.
I would say that investing in education and knowledge, enhancing your skills and developing your potential is fundamental. And tremendously important. You are very lucky to study at Bocconi and to do that.
Sofia & Lorenzo: Today many students argue that the macroeconomic models taught in class are too old and far from reality. Do you think that a substantial change in the academic subjects toward new and more concrete models is necessary?
C. Lagarde: I am a great believer in learning and teaching history. Farmers usually say “You don’t plant cut flowers”. You have to know about the historical background and what has structured our economy. So it is ok to understand first the doctrines of the previous centuries. But it is equally critical to look at different options and think outside the box: you should tolerate alternative thinking and consider how technologies modify business models and the economic environment in which we operate. Both are very important.”
Sofia & Lorenzo: How can a Bocconi student become the next Managing Director of the IMF? Which career path would you suggest him/her?
C. Lagarde: I think a solid economic background is good but not sufficient. You need to be able to communicate. That is critically important. You need to understand the world and appreciate that not everybody is the same, not common solutions work across the borders. Whatever study you can do in that respect will be great.
Despite we were not able to discuss about politics and monetary policies, Christine Lagarde gave us clear recommendations answering to our questions.
We finally report a brief extract from her inspirational speech.
“Italy has so often demonstrated its resilience in the face of difficult circumstances. So today I appeal to you to bet on a new future: one where the Italian genius is once again unleashed, where creativity and dynamism are the hallmarks of broad-based prosperity—among youth, women, entrepreneurs, and all Italians.”