The first statistics of the modern Greek state show that Mani was overpopulated, with a population higher than 30.000 inhabitants. Two hundred years later, migration, mainly for economic reasons, combined with low birth rates, have resulted in population much less than half of that! If we look at the age demographics, the conclusion is disheartening, because of the very advanced age of most of Mani’s permanent population. Low birth rates and migration are fully justified social phenomena, since both usually happen when people cannot satisfy basic needs. Unfortunately, in Greece we have not had coordinated state policies aiming at retaining the existing population and increasing the low birth rates of rural areas, and particularly of Mani. We believe that many areas in the countryside, particularly areas like Mani which have low production, but are endowed with desirable geophysical, climatic and cultural characteristics, could contribute to the increase of the population and the wealth of our country, if the state showed more interest and implemented area-specific development programs.
It is certain that in recent decades Mani has attracted many visitors and that the income of its permanent residents has increased. It is also certain that the tourist needs of the summer are such, that the local workforce does not suffice and it has to be strengthened with workers coming from the neighbouring urban areas and even foreigners. However, this staff is seasonal, and in winter even the seaside resort towns are sparsely populated. The increased value of real estate is very beneficial to its owners, however, it is a deterrent for the permanent settlement of the seasonally employed. If real estate were cheaper, the seasonally employed staff could potentially settle in the area, have families and increase the population of Mani.
If we do not want our country to be weakened in terms of population, we need efficient general measures and complete development problems that will have as a goal the strengthening of its population. These measures should be area-specific, with an emphasis on areas which have growth potential in critical areas, such as tourism. The characteristics of these programs should be the strengthening of public education from day care centres and kindergarten to High School, subsidised low-interest loans so that those who cultivate the land could buy it, and financial support of small year-round tourist units, the operations of which will be coordinated through a specialised “chamber” service run by the state. Of course, all of these integrated programs should be supported by state infrastructure, with the emphasis on roads, so that products and services can be moved quickly and efficiently to their final destinations.
The development policies applied so far have led to the creation of a hydrocephalic urban center, the capital Athens, and 5 or 6 other big urban centres of smaller population. Ιn these urban centres is concentrated the secondary sector (handicraft, industry etc.), assisted by the service sector. The potential for employment in these sectors leads to the gradual movement of persons from the countryside to the cities, and weakens the population of rural areas. What should really be happening instead is that area-specific state programs should promote the establishment and operation of industrial units for the processing of local agricultural products in each of the production areas. These programs should also connect the local industrial units with the export trade network, so that the part of the production that is not absorbed inland can be exported to other countries.
Α popular Greek proverb says: if a child does not cry, his mother does not give him food. It seems that in the area of active promotion of “substantiated proposals”, rural areas fall behind. There has been a lack of the necessary “good pipelines” that will present the needs of the residents of the countryside to the central administration, so that priorities can be established and appropriate political decisions can be taken. The weakening of the rural population has resulted in its under-represenation at both central and regional level. Consequently, the few representatives remaining in each place are overwhelmed with multiple obligations. This situation requires a particularly high level of coordination of residents in each sub-region, in order to strengthen the conditions for submission and promotion of the substantiated proposals to those state and regional institutions which are responsible for making critical decisions for the future of the country.
THE COORDINATING COMMITTEE