In a few days the yearly celebrations for the anniversay of the Maniot uprising and the beginning of the 1821 revolution will start. We will hear celebratory speeches that will praise the common war undertakings by Maniot warlords and their troops. The celebrations and festivities will break the routine in our daily lives and will remind us of Mani at the height of its glory. Unfortunately, after the celebrations, we will continue to approach in a fragmented and individualistic manner the new situations brought upon us by the third industrial revolution’s information, economy and job market. In the meantime, we the inhabitants of Mani will continue to sell our land, so that we can meet our financial obligations. The monoculture of the olive tree, the badly organised marketing of the Maniot oil and the global overproduction of this product have all resulted in a lower income for us. Tourism, due to the specific characteristics of our region, brings additional income, which is unfortunately also significantly lower than what it could potentially be, if we only were able to manage this new source of wealth in a firm and orderly manner.
It seems as if we have forgotten what the popular term “Unified Mani”, which Maniots and philo-Maniots like to use in every possiblle occasion, means. To us, the members of the “Maniot Solidarity” association and the stakeholders of our newspaper, it means forming common understandings and undertaking common actions for developing the potential of our area. This means full exploitation of the geographical, climatic and cultural characteristics of Mani. In order to achieve maximum potential, all planning and proposals need to refer to Mani as a whole, and then funding for smaller development projects should be distributed according to the particular characteristics of each area. In this way, the term “Unified Mani” will acquire reality and substance and will help bring maximum benefit to specific Maniot municipalities and their people.
During the 20 years since the first publication of our newspaper, we have been closely observing the course of events in Mani. In the past 20 years we have seen the merging of communities and local authority associations to seven municipalities in 1998 and to two municipalities in 2010. Since the municipalities are now only two, we would have expected that there would be increased possibility for achieving a common understanding and developing common development proposals. What we have observed instead was increased bureaucracy and lack of coordinated action. Instead of development potential, what we have observed is just simply managing everyday life in our region. During the past 20 years we saw minimal development in the public sector. There were few initiatives, which resulted in small public works that were carried out in a fragmented manner.
Unfortunately, the Development Agency of Mani (Aναπτυξιακή Εταιρεία Μάνης), which was founded in 1994, initially tried unsuccessfully to bring common understanding and common action between the 80 municipalities and the 4 local authority associations of Mani. Ten years later, the agency became inactive due to different ideas that were formed after the changes in the local government administration. These new ideas and the bureaucracy of the state government resulted in separate development proposals, fragmentation and disassociation between different public work projects.
After the last elections, it seems that a new situation is developing between state and local (both regional and municipal) governments, with a view to less state control and assigning more jurisdiction to local authorities. Hopefully this new trend will benefit the local development projects of Mani. The many voices of the municipal councils could have a positive influence on new proposals and projects. It would be a good idea if, not only new, but also older development proposals would now be discussed and re-examined, such as the ones that were presented in the OXE program (Πρόγραμμα Ολοκληρωμένων Χωρικών Επενδύσεων Μάνης) and integrated in the ΠΕΠ program (Περιφερειακό Επιχειρησιακό Πρόγραμμα Πελοποννήσου). An old project that really needs to be brought back to the table is the road Milea – Panagia Giatrissa, for which funding was already allotted in 2014, however, for the past 6 years the funds remain locked in the coffers of the Regional Fund of Peloponnese (Περιφερειακό Ταμείο Πελοποννήσου). We need to finally understand that Mount Taygetos is a unifying and not a dividing feature of the different areas of Mani. We need to remember that Taygetos is the mountain that has formed the special geographic and climatic characteristics of our area that attract tourists to Mani; it is due to Taygetos that our ancestors were able to stay independent during the centuries of Turkish occupation and it is due to Taygetos that they developed their free and fighting spirit, which we have proudly inherited from them.