Island stories

Many billions of euros flowed into Greece over the last 30-odd years and one cannot help but wonder where all that money ended up going and how it was spent.

Take the Greek islands for instance. At this point all of them should have quality ports, proper biological wastewater treatment plants, small-scale dams or desalination plants, as well as reasonably good road infrastructure.

However, the truth is that most of them have none of the above. The strange thing in this case is that European Union funding for such public work projects was and to a large extent still is available. So where did it all go wrong?

A major issue up to now had been the general ignorance and lack of professionalism on the part of local government leaders. Very few mayors can be credited with leaving behind any kind of positive tangible legacy, with having a vision and with being able to implement some kind of growth plan in their local communities.

In most cases local government heads were sucked into partisan games, while the idea of “management” remained a foreign – if not downright evil – term during their tenure. Then came the middlemen, in the form of advisers. These people would design a biological wastewater treatment plant in an area where they knew only too well such construction was prohibited, before going back to their desks and redesigning the entire project all over again, while billing the municipality two or three times. Eventually they ended up constructing something which resembled a biological wastewater treatment plant, but which had several flaws. The same is true of marinas. There are many islands with half-finished marinas in odd places and operating with vague management regimes.

Last but not least are the politicians back in Athens. These are the kind of people who would rather share out National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) subsidies in the form of small gift packages to tourist shop owners as opposed to developing an operational plan that could solve the islands’ basic problems.

If you add to the mix the plethora of various laws and restrictions that render everything in this country so difficult, you will swiftly understand why the islands still display such poor infrastructure.

It’s a pity because it would be relatively easy to remedy the situation. What the country needs is eager young people with a sense of professionalism who will be able to untangle the mess of pending red tape issues and go in search of funding for major infrastructure works.