Article by Mr. Dimitris Maniatakis published at “ELEFTHERIA” on Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The contribution of historical memory in economic development

It is obvious that, in periods of intense economic crisis we seek, among other things, resources that are poorly used or not used at all, which, can, with low investment costs, generate a good profit.

This economic trend is favoured in areas with established under-exploitation and devaluation of the exchange value of existing productive resources. Undoubtedly, Greece has yet to fully exploit all productive resources for a sequence of causes that may be independent of any state management.

At times, various explanations have been given to cover this issue. However, these explanations not only do not facilitate growth, but sometimes actually render it more difficult. Especially when growth largely depends on private initiative, which in our country is actively present, rich and imaginative.

The above formed the motivation for a number of considerations and practical solutions, which led the Maniatakeion Foundation to prepare a series of themes and programs aiming to the growth of the average income in Messenia, in the medium term. These programs will be announced at the international conference on “Historical memory and economic development”, which the foundation will hold in Athens on Thursday 2 July and in Koroni on Saturday 4 July. The conference will present Greek and foreign teachers of History, Archaeology, Economics and business. The aim is to combine historical memory with economic growth, demonstrating the influence of the Venetian domination on the two Messenian castle-cities, on an economic and cultural level.

Messenia features some ‘invisible’ wealth resources, in the fields of both primary production and services. Combining these resources with historical memory, both in production and in the purely cultural sector, can lead to spectacular results. Already, several areas of the country, less gifted by nature and history, have improved their income, with respect to environment and sustainable development. Certainly there is no model for development which can operate automatically and with state assistance. The experience of other regions which have already implemented similar models of development (e.g. Anavra, Magnesia; Tychero Evros; Forest Village of Drama; Milies of Metsovo, etc.) showed that local leaders and by extension the local communities are the main drivers for growth. However, this is always with the involvement of all factors that have the capacity and willingness to offer to the community. The mobilization of Mayors in the direction of ensuring the development of living standards is, at the same time, within the context of the “civil society" actively promoted by the European Union in recent years.

Compared with other regions of the country, Messenia has a rich history, with continuous changes and tremendous upheavals, a rich and productive economic tradition and a long history in the services sector, especially in transport, trade and banking. But how many know this fact? Unfortunately, for several established reasons, historical memory is poorly developed in the prefecture of Messenia.

How many of the potential visitors know its history fig production, olive growing - and the local Koroni variety, raisin production and their active role in international trade throughout history?

How many know Navarone not only as the theatre of the famous naval battle but as a military port that flourished in ancient times?

The answer to these questions, the knowledge and use of the historical, cultural and productive wealth of the area, can contribute directly to the development and growth of income. The combination of production-services-culture is one that can activate a whole series of resources. Particularly when we know that this combination can be financed either by the European Union, by private funds or state grants, or even a combination of these three sources.

The Maniatakeion Foundation will proceed with efforts to optimize these themes gradually, seeking to understand the issue, but mainly to activate local factors and the "civil society", i.e., those groups that seek progress for their homeland. Thus, in this effort, the Foundation started with the highlighting and promotion of historical memories, while preparing a master plan which will describe the methodology and practical implementation of the above.

It should be noted that the Maniatakeion Foundation seeks to contribute actively, and not just to preach to the converted. In this endeavour, it aims to join forces with the most robust local factors. Thus, its first objective is to awaken the attention, primarily of local factors, and, in parallel, of scientific specialists in the region, and of every single citizen who wishes to contribute.

The development of a general development plan, which is practical and feasible, is not an easy task. At times many interesting projects have seen the light of day but they have unfortunately remained unused in some office.

The problem in such planning is not only in their implementation. The main issue is that they become property of the local communities, which must understand and embrace them, mobilizing the full potential of active citizens who will turn the theory into practice. Because time waits for no one.

Dimitris L. Maniatakis
President, Maniatakeion Foundation