COMPREHENSIVE AREA DEVELOPMENT OF MANI: 25 YEARS OF UNTAPPED POTENTIAL

A few decades ago, two Greek prime-ministers, out of patriotism and ambitious national targets made two very important decisions for the future of our country. In 1980 Constantine Karamanlis achieved full membership of Greece in the EEC, and in 2000 Costas Simitis achieved membership of our country in the Eurozone. We believe that both these decisions were premature. These two prime-ministers did not realise that what was lacking was the political education of the Greek citizens. Greeks were unable to understand and assimilate the new rules that were governing this large transnational European family. Greek citizens were not mature enough to see beyond the personal gain, falsified figures, corruption and political bargaining. The consequence was that the very generous EU funds, which have been channelled to our country for the past forty years, have not been used for projects for the common good. The economic crisis, which broke out ten years ago, exposed the iceberg that had been created by the long-term incompetency of various political groups to make use of the high EU subsidies by providing common-good development benefits in their region. Mani is a good example of this incompetency and of not having used the EU funds in the best possible way.

In 1994 the EU announced a new initiative called “Leader II”, according to which there would be funding available for private and state investments. The geographic areas that would be receiving  funding should be homogeneous in terms of geography and having a population of under 20.000 people. Mani fell exactly in this category, and it was as if this programme had been designed specifically for our area! The small communities of Mani reacted with enthusiasm towards this new initiative. In no time, as prescribed by the EU, the limited liability agency “Development Enterprise of Mani” was formed, and was given 2,7 billion drachmas, 2/3 of which was meant to support private businesses with subsidies up to 60%, and the rest was meant to support public investments with 100% subsidy. The memorandum and articles of association of this agency were approved by the EU, and the projects were allocated fairly to different areas and municipalities of Mani. So that the selection of the proposed projects was fair and transparent, a 10-member evaluation committee was formed. The selection of the members of this committee was done during a convention of  the three development committees of Mani, with each committee contributing two engineers and one economist. The evaluation committee unanimously chose 32 investment projects from the 100 projects that were submitted, and it was the first to finish the selection procedure. Unfortunately, their choice of projects was not approved by the Greek Ministry of Agriculture and by some of the politicians of our region, who were after personal gain and were negatively influenced by businessmen who were unsuccessful bidders. They tried to cancel the selection, but the European Ministry of Agriculture intervened and went ahead with the funding to the 32 investment projects mentioned above. After all this, 2/3 of the funding was lost, a very important loss, since about half of this funding was for cultural investments. After two or three years, the agency “Development Enterprise of Mani” became inactive and the EU subsidies had all been spent!

In the next fifteen years only a few of the original private investment projects were materialised through the Comprehensive Programmes of Development of Rural Areas (OΠΑΑΧ), which was run by the Greek Ministry of Agriculture. In 2014 more EU funds were allocated to the thirteen regions of our country, and this subsidy resulted in more “Programmes of Comprehensive Area Development”. Unfortunately, the planning, the strategies and the allocation of the funds are no longer controlled by the local and municipal authorities, but by the thirteen areas (περιφέρειες) of our country!

    During the past 25 years there has been a concentration/centralisation trend in the planning and management of the EU development subsidies to areas of special interest, such as Mani.  Unfortunately, we are all guilty for this unfavourable outcome, because when we were given the opportunity to plan and carry out investment projects on our own, we did not take this chance; instead we supported those politicians who were looking after their personal interest. We still have not understood that a comprehensive development of our area, which has so many unspoiled features, can only be successful if it is based on unanimity, on common actions by local groups and on local politicians who have the required knowledge, experience and management skills. This is the only way to use the EU investment subsidies to Mani effectively and make the best use of the special features of our area.

                                                                                                                                                THE EDITORIAL BOARD

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