Our country has been a member of the European Union for 35 years and of the Eurozone for almost 20. As such, it participates in the planning of common policies and in the shaping of the institutions that will promote these policies. One of these common European Union policies is the formation of an additional decentralised decision-making level of municipal government, on the regional level, which in our country came into effect in 2010. Problems related to the implementation of this policy surfaced even before it became law, as politicians could not agree on the population and the geographical size of the regions that were about to be established. Instead of following the corresponding European standards (formation of a small number of socially homogeneous areas with common characteristics), the needs of special interest groups prevailed and in Greece we ended up with 13 regional governments (περιφερειακές αυτοδιοικήσεις). Τhe best example of the irrationality of this kind of planning is what happened in our region: the Peloponnese was cut into two areas and so that the geographical size of the smaller area was increased, it was given a part of Continental Greece. As a result, right from the beginning, the demarcation of the Regional Government of the Peloponnese was saddled with problems which negatively influenced the undertaking of any far-reaching development programmes. This unfortunate demarcation could possibly have been counter-balanced by the effective management of our elected regional politicians. However, a careful examination of the development initiatives during the last eight years demonstrates that this definitely was not the case.
Slowly but steadily, from 2010 onwards, the management of the regional operational programmes (which until then were run by central state authorities) was transferred to the new regional government politicians, a process which was completed within two years. Thus the regional governments (περιφερειακές αυτοδιοικήσεις) took over the agencies/services of civil works, which were previously organized by departmental governments (νομαρχιακές αυτοδιοικήσεις). It stands to reason that the regional governments should have been able to run these already undertaken programmes more efficiently, since they could have watched the progress of the works more closely. They could also have watched the progress of the civil works and other initiatives implemented by the 2006-2013 Community Support Framework closely and also planned and promoted the initiatives of the new Community Support Framework for the period 2014-2020. Democratic planning is a principle that was established in our country in 1986, and which unfortunately was again not followed in this case, because small-minded and special interest politics prevailed. Regional government politicians should have collaborated closely with the municipal politicians, so that common development policies and policies for determining the necessary public works could have been drafted. In this way, a common line could have been agreed upon for both the overseeing of already undertaken works and the materialisation of the newly proposed projects. The small number of local government institutions following the implementation of “Callicrates” (policy for merging of municipalities) would have facilitated direct consultations, integrated application of programming, and common plan of action. Unfortunately, we have not seen any such initiatives and actions in the documentation that we examined. What our regional politicians chose to do instead was to draft their own development planning, and decide by themselves which new public works were necessary. In other words, all planning and implementation of public works was exclusively decided by the regional government authorities (περιφερειακές αυτοδιοικήσεις).
The 2014-2020 Regional Operational Programme has allotted 250.000.000 € to the Peloponnese, out of which 40% had to be spent on public works. This sum is in addition to the significant public investment programme funds that have been transferred from the central government to the regional government so that local public works can be materialised. If these two sources of funding were to be used effectively, this could considerably improve the infrastructure in Peloponnese. Since it is a fact that tourism in Mani is the main source of income for a very large group of the local population, it is obvious that the public sector and the regional government need to promote tourism infrastructure such as roads, ports and squares that make access easier to landscape assets and cultural heritage sites and thus help bring more tourists to our area. These tourists will patron private businesses, such as hotels, restaurants and places of entertainment. Such initiatives are very scarce and are unfairly and disproportionally allotted to certain local areas. Our local politicians prefer to promote tourism through various activities in national and international presentations and campaigns. These campaigns and the travel expenses of those participating in them have absorbed a high percentage of the funds allocated to our area. Tourism promotion is necessary, however, it needs to be done in a cost-efficient manner, and most importantly, it needs to always showcase the latest tourism infrastructure which has been completed.
In conclusion: the regional development should always start with a sound knowledge of the area and democratic planning for a fair distribution of the proposed public works; it should end with the most efficient management of all available funds. Since we are in a pre-election period, we wish that the politicians who will be soon elected will follow the ideas presented in this article, so that we, the citizens of Mani, can finally see the regional operational programmes run efficiently and the funds allotted to our area used in the best possible way.