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A Renaissance In Italian Governance?


In "Europe's old ways die fast" (Special Report: Corporate Governance, May 17), BusinessWeek implies that 300 Italian-listed companies do not comply with the country's corporate governance code. This is misleading and fails to reflect the enormous progress Italy has made.

Borsa Italiana has worked to improve governance systems and processes, especially by establishing regulations requiring Italian companies to disclose their compliance with the exchange's rules.

The Corporate Governance Code is bearing fruit. By the end of 2003, every company in the key indexes (that is, 93% of Italy's market capitalization) employed an investor-relations manager, compared with just 79% in 2001. Or take the best practice that companies set out strict internal procedures for the disclosure of confidential information: Fully 90% of the same group of listed companies now meet the standard, up from 58% in 2001.

The proportion of companies with a remuneration committee has risen to 81%, from 72% in 2001, and the proportion of those with an internal audit committee has increased to 88%, from 73% in 2001. True, just 47% of companies meet best practice on the quantum of independent directors represented on their boards, but in some instances the ownership of companies that are noncompliant may be reflected in this ratio.

There is always room for improvement in governance. However, it is inaccurate and unfair to present an impression of noncompliance across the Italian market.

Massimo Capuano

President and CEO

Borsa Italiana

Milan

Sonia Gandhi showed the world that her love for her party and respect for her role as caretaker of her family legacy is not greater than her love for her country ("India: Will the election shock end the boom?" Cover Story, May 31). She had no desire to be the main cause of a divisiveness that could inflame sectarian and maybe even religious passions (since she is an Italian-born Roman Catholic) -- and may even undermine India's status as a secular democracy. By refusing the honor and prestige, without hesitation and with graceful simplicity, of being the first foreign-born Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy, she has brought back decency to the world of politics. I hope that many political leaders in the world are inspired by her wise decision.

Jos? V. Arcenas

Makati, Philippines

The biggest problem India has is its population. No matter how good the economic numbers are, if India cannot control the population, its standard of living won't be at par with those of Western nations today, even in another 100 years.

While a single-child mandate such as China's may not be a popular option, better education and awareness could help. India's politicians need to focus on population reduction -- a subject that every politician avoids very conveniently.

Kaushik Roy

Cambridge, Mass.

I take exception to your characterizing India as a mature democratic state ("Opportunity knocks in India," Editorials, May 31). You mean to be positive, but it shows poor choice of words. Would you characterize U.S. Presidential elections that way? India has problems, but it always had proper democratic transitions. Why even make comparisons?

You must also do your math properly. This was a close election, with all parties getting close to the same percentages as before. Slight shifts caused election results to go topsy-turvy. There is no specific mandate for anything. We do wish Manmohan Singh and company luck.

Rajiv Agarwal

North Wales, Pa.

I have many doubts that the Russian economy is as good as it is presented ("Putin's game," Special Report, May 31). And even if the figures are true, the picture is not. I am saddened to see only the statistical numbers showing the growth of the Russian economy, and not those that could be harmful to the image of this country -- e.g., poverty level, population growth in the provinces, etc.

I am very happy for the Shershniev family, but probably this example does not correspond to reality either. As far as I know, the level of illiteracy and children not attending school is impressive. (Or should I say depressing?) Moreover, so-called prestigious universities are "reserved" for politicians and their children. What democracy and increase in quality of life can we then talk about?

The article praises Vladimir Putin for fighting with oligarchs. However, he acts just as they do by making his own empire of silovikis (ex-KGB agents), trying to flick democracy away, and recreating the "Russian empire." "This 'monarchy' does have its critics," you say, but is it really so? I would be very happy to find a newspaper, TV channel, or a radio station in Russia that is not under government control.

Liudas Jurkonis

Vilnius, Lithuania

Some may remember that Toyota Motor Corp.'s (TM) first export to the U.S. in 1957 was the Toyopet (Crown) , the second a Corona in 1965, and the third was a Corolla in 1968 ("Blazing the Toyota way," The Great Innovators, May 24). They've come a long way since the Toyopet.

Richard Sing

San Diego

I read with interest "Can Nokia get the wow back?" (European Business, May 31) and believe its problems are related to my own requirement for a new mobile phone. I have bought only Nokia (NOK) phones (in all, over 15 models) from the 3210 to my last purchase, four years ago, a 6310i to replace an 8850. Since the 6310i, I have not seen Nokia produce a good standard phone for business.

Some of Nokia's designs are definitely bizarre, and I am unsure who they are catering to -- not me, that's for sure. I don't need a camera, radio, media player, torch, thermometer, video camera, calorie calculator, etc. I want a plain, reliable tri-band phone with good battery life.

Nokia should also not forget that companies do not want to provide employees with "gadgets." They will be looking for plain-vanilla, phone-only functionality.

Tim Bennett

Braintree, England


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