SWZ: Spring is in the air here in Bozen. Is it your favourite season?
Gioachino Fraenkel-Haeberle: I wouldn’t say so. You see summer and autumn are so nice here also.
So you are ‘a man for all seasons’?
I don’t know about that but let’s say yes anyway!
Bozen seems a good place for bringing up a family…
Yes it certainly is, with the outdoor opportunities and the infrastructure. It was one of the positive aspects of life here after we came here from Rome in 1976.
Important factors for business investment and attracting quality staff?
Maybe, but I don’t think much attention is given to that. A pity really.
A bit more about yourself, if I may?
Certainly. Go ahead. Feel free to ask.
You came to Bozen at a fairly advanced stage in your career, didn’t you?
Yes, I guess so. I came to take up the position as Director of the Industrial Association in 1976 and held that position until 1992.
Why were you selected?
Well I think the decisive factor was that I was bilingual and there was a will at that time to make the Association an association for both the communities, and not just a mouthpiece of the Italian state industry.
What particular changes did you oversee?
Well, I think I achieved the priority aim and then of course it was on my watch that information technology and computers and other IT instrumentations were introduced.
Was that a testing period?
Well, the secretaries used to complain a lot for it was they who were most effected but I knew it was a necessary transition.
You are known as a bit of a culture vulture. Has that all to do with your family background?
I have a very traditional bourgeois background and this has given me a certain self-assurance and a balanced way of evaluating things.
Have cultural interests helped you in assessing business situations and making decisions?
I wouldn’t go that far but perhaps cultural interests give you a greater sense of curiosity and openness to certain things – for example, I was very keen to open up to the Industrial Associations in Innsbruck and Trento and have meetings with them so as to broaden horizons – that was definitely something of a cultural awakening.
Is there any particular interest you have nurtured over the years here in Bozen?
Two things really. I got the opportunity of teaching Economic Policy at Innsbruck University and that was enormously satisfying. I was quite sad when it did come to an end. On the cultural side I would name my love of modern art for I do feel that it represents a reflection of society. When I say ‘modern’ that does not include ‘contemporary’ as I think this form can be rather lacking in beauty and pretty obscure at times!
I imagine in your prime working time that women didn’t hold many managerial positions. Do you regret that?
True, there were not many women in leading positions and that remains true today. We only have about 20 percent of women in managerial positions. I just wrote an article on it the other day actually, highlighting the fact for the Bozen Chamber of Commerce.
Talking about females, you have a wife, a daughter, and a grandchild? What skills and contributions do females bring to the table? … I mean in terms of thinking processes?
I guess they are very instinctive whereas we men are more rational… but I mustn’t say too much on the topic!
Let’s not forget the men! What qualities do you admire in an entrepreneur?
There are many qualities and defects which go to make up an entrepreneur but I guess the critical thing is if they are successful or not – that is how they are judged at the end of the day.
Can politics be likened to business in terms of qualities and defects?
I am afraid that again it is a question of whether they are successful or not in seeing things through. We are very much in a results based world.
Just to look in detail at Bolzano for a moment. Has the whole story of bilingualism been eclipsed by the need to respond to a broader global economy?
No, not at all. Of course, you have a few industries here which operate globally and need English but not many other nationalities have arrived here in force – not yet at least.
What about the Chinese and the Pakistani communities?
So far they have limited themselves to the small services industries such as bar and restaurants and hairdressing, and as popular and as successful as they are in this sector they have had no great industrial impact on the province.
Would you say that the financial assistance industry and the economy has had in South Tyrol been a blessing or a curse?
A bit of both really. It has provided much assistance when necessary but has also resulted in a blinkered approach to development, and the consequences of this are becoming more apparent now.
You are an expert in economics, writing reviews and articles.
Since my days in the association it has become an interest of mine.
What do you have to say about the distinctive nature of the South Tyrol economy?
There are three aspects I could draw attention to. First is the management of the environment which has been done quite well, and this has brought advantages in the development of tourism. Then, the support of the poorer communities in the valleys and mountains has been successful, and we are now seeing more entrepreneurial return from there. And thirdly, I mention the fact of the support for agriculture, chiefly in the mountains that is, which has been and remains really significant and by and large has helped to maintain communities.
Anything else worthy of mention?
Well, of course it is interesting here in South Tyrol that the relatively wealthy economy has produced an efficient and quality social services structure. Such can only really be done effectively if part of the wealth is redistributed. It is very much a quality of life factor.
And the autonomy model itself – do you think it could be effectively used in places as wide apart as Tibet and Ukraine?
Yes, I do. I think it could be adapted to many situations – even in Belgium and Canada for example. Notwithstanding all the criticism it has been a fairly successful experiment and even more so since the 70s.
Is there anything which has remained a conundrum for you?
Well, in my life as an economist I or nobody else has really found the solution for this repetitive cycle of progress and of crisis – it seems all we can do is refer to the bible stories of times of plenty and times of little.
And finally a few provocative questions to get some instinctive responses: Do young people and their ways excite you or infuriate you?
I would say excite. I very much appreciate their kind consideration at times – especially as my wife and I get older.
Retirement is the ruin of a man – true or false?
Very true. It’s important to keep active, keep interests, and keep the brain working on problematics. I try to keep all of it going!
About Gioachino Fraenkel-Haeberle
Born of German parents in Milan, Gioacchino Fraenkel-Haeberle, completed his school education in Switzerland, earned his doctorate in law in Ginevra and Rome and gained professional experience in Milan and Rome. Between 1976 and 1992 he was Director of the South Tyrolean Industrial Association. Furthermore, he was guest professor at the University of Innsbruck, where he taught economic theory and history for a number of years. In 2007 he was conferred the title of Honorary Professor. He is author of a number of publications and articles, also several quite recent ones. After nearly 40 years he is still resident in Bozen.
A Man for all Seasons: Sir Thomas More im Theaterstück von Robert Bolt
on my watch: es fällt in meine Zeit hinein
culture vulture: Kulturliebhaber
to nurture sth.: etw. aufziehen, fördern
to eclipse: in den Schatten stellen
by and large: insgesamt
notwithstanding: ungeachtet, trotz