Flavio Delbono: Emilia Romagna Brings Success Story to Bulgaria

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | November 12, 2004, Friday // 00:00
Flavio Delbono: Emilia Romagna Brings Success Story to Bulgaria Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (Sofia News Agency)

Prof. Flavio Delbono took office as Vice President of Italy's Emilia Romagna region in February 2003, retaining his position as Councillor to Finance, Organization, Information Systems and Strategic Control. Prof. Delbono is one of the founders of the Democratic Party, a long-term friend with Romano Prodi, Italy's prime minister from 1996 to 1998. Graduate of the Economics University in Parma. Married, with two children.

Prof. Flavio Delbono spoke to Sofia News Agency Editor-in-Chief Milena Hristova

Q: How does Emilia Romagna contribute to the Industrial Cluster Development project, which involves Bulgaria along with Poland, Romania and Central Hungary?

A: The region's contribution to the project is channeled in at least in two directions - directly, by devoting resources, and indirectly, by connecting Italian and non-Italian regions and exploiting our expertise in SMEs and cluster analysis. This explains the presence of an agency, designed to promote economic development in and outside the region. Another indicative fact is that Emilia Romagna desk in Sofia has invested three hundred thousand euros so far.

I am fairly faithful that at this point we have all the conditions to become operational very soon, but the last step is up to the companies themselves, which are responsible for the technological implementation.

Q: Small and medium-sized businesses are the driving force behind Emilia Romagna economy. What lessons can you teach Bulgaria about SMEs development?

A: This is the main rational behind the project. We believe that in territories like Emilia Romagna and Bulgaria, where a very few private companies have undergone a significant growth, the roots of the economy are based on very small units. The average size of the companies in Emilia Romagna is three employees, the number of companies in the region total 420 000, which means one per every three inhabitants or one per every fourth families. This background shows that in many cases we have a coincidence of firms and families.

There are strong analogies between Emilia Romagna and Bulgaria, particularly in some fields. What we did for our own clusters thirty-forty years ago was unquestionably a success story, turning Emilia Romagna in one of Italy's richest region is terms of per capita income. Our experience in food and timber sectors - which are the two cluster identified in Bulgaria - can be very helpful here. We would like to transfer our knowledge and experience to Bulgaria, fully aware that some of the instruments, that were used in Emilia Romagna will have to be corrected due globalization and new technologies.

Q: What are the differences and similarities between the development of industrial clusters in Bulgaria and Emilia Romagna?

A: The size of the productive units and the size of the territories with respect to Europe, the presence of decentralized institutions set-up are the first three similarities to point out. Last but not least it is the fact that Bulgaria, like Emilia Romagna several years ago, is still on track to European Union membership, but not yet a part of the common market and the euro area. In my opinion the similarities are strong enough to make the overlap relevant and interesting.

Q: Emilia Romagna desk started operations in Sofia three years ago. Which were the institutions that were most responsive to your initiatives at the beginning? How did your contacts with Bulgaria change over the years?

A: At the beginning we had contacts with everybody - ministers, the mayor of Sofia and the region. Later on it was small communities that were most responsive. The overall reaction of Bulgaria's institutions has been positive, but our contacts will be more fruitful on the local level, where establishing links is easier.

Q: What do companies from Emilia Romagna find most attractive about Bulgaria? You already mentioned it was not only low wage and skilled work force...

A: The strategy that Emilia Romagna companies have been using in the last years, in opposition to other Italian regions, has not been delocalization of plants to exploit lower wages and labour cost. The main involvement has been in trade and partnerships. This role is not only more democratic but also more forward-looking.

Delocalisation does not pay in the long run. It is much more prudent to establish long-term relations, that is partnerships, mixed companies, joint ventures on special projects. Trade, tourism, food and agricultural products are among the fields in which our companies are willing to team up with Bulgarian partners, where low transportation costs make operations easier.

There are also many opportunities to take advantage of in the modernization of the country - the utilities and public administration sectors.

Q: Can you cite figures?

A: In two or three years the public sector side could involve some dozens of millions of euros, while the rate of growth of commercial trade will increase.

Q: How will Bulgaria 2004 project facilitate and stimulate cooperation between companies in Emilia Romagna and Bulgaria?

A: That was one of the main goals of Emilia Romagna desk in Sofia, namely regional administration as a bridge between the region and the country. This requires making possible for entrepreneurs to discover the opportunities that Bulgaria offers. We have taken about more than hundred firms from Emilia Romagna only this year. We need to do the same with Bulgarian operators and show them what our system offers.

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