Dec 2019 Interview with Mr. Panagiotis Nikas, Governor of the Region of Peloponnese
Prisma Reports: Peloponnese is one of Greece’s 13th administrative regions. Can you give a rapid overview of the region? Which are the most important economic sectors and industries, the main exports? Can you offer some facts and figures to illustrate its contribution to the country’s economy, but also to its economic recovery?
Panagiotis Nikas: The region is Peloponnese has the most distinct characteristics amongst Greece’s regions. The primary sector dominates the economy of the region. Peloponnese has the capacity to produce the entire spectrum of agricultural products that are part of the Mediterrenean diet – including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. One of the main agricultural products produced in the region is olive oil, which is very pure and very high quality, and which is also exported to the US. In that regard we are very pleased that olive oil exports are not touched by the new raise of tarifs for imports to the US. In Peloponnese there are many food manufacturers who produce more than 40 different types of food products that are exported all over the world, from China to the US. In particular the region produces excellent wine – one of the best in Greece, especially the red wine of Nemea, which has been produced for hundred of years. Wine is one of our majors products.
In the service sector, tourism has gone through an exponential rise over the last years, and our plans are now to advertise the region. We want to invest further in infrastructure development, as well as in marketing and promotion for Peloponnese.
Prisma Reports: 2020 will be a decisive year for resetting the Greek economy. As the newly elected Governor of Peloponnese, you have an important mission in your hands. Can you summarize for us your main economic ambitions and strategic development plans for the region? What are your main ideas, what are you hoping to achieve, and what are your objectives?
Panagiotis Nikas: Having already a modern highway connecting Corinthos – Tripoli – Kalamata and Sparta, one of our big priorities is to improve the rest of our road network, starting from the area of Mani and also complete the direct connection of Nafplion and Argos with the highway. Due to climate change, we have an issue with the corosion of our sea side.
Another priority is around our agricutlural sector, where our main concern is over irrigation and in particular water usage management and optimisation.
Innovation is another priority that we have, as the region of Peloponnese is one of the lowest ranked region in the EU in terms of innovation, and therefore our wish is to improve this situation. We are planning to work with the universities in that regard, in order to use and leverage our youth and their ideas.
We want to reinforce the attractiveness of the agricultural sector, and focus further on our marinas, our airports and transport infrastructure, in cooperation with the country’s government. The idea is to reinforce the accessibility of our touristic areas for the visitors to the region.
Prisma Reports: What are your priority projects?
Panagiotis Nikas: We are planning to use the funds provided by the EU programs, as well as the funds received by the central government, in a wise and responsible way. There is enough funding, yet we are lacking some appraisal from above regarding the priorities of the region. That is because of the personal political agenda that previous governor had been following in order to raise enough votes at the regional elections which took place in late spring. My interest is not to be elected again, but to leave a sustainable and positive legacy for my successor.
Prisma Reports: In order to succeed with its economic program and sustain the economic growth momentum, the government is betting on an 11% increase in investment, both foreign and domestic. American investors are highly targeted as well and could play a fundamental role in Greece´s economic recovery journey. How would you assess the region’s needs in terms of investments, and how can American investors help and play a role?
Panagiotis Nikas: Chinese investors are very eager and willing to invest in Greece, and therefore they make an interesting group for us. We are planning to have a balance of foreign investors in the region. Peloponnese’s strong connectivity, with airport, roads, highways, networks, ports, makes it a convenient region for investors, easily accessible. If investors’ funding all goes to Attica the gap between regions will only increase.
I would personally invite all American investors to come to Peloponnese and look at our investment opportunities, and would be happy to personally try and resolve any bureaucratic issue that may arise in the investment process.
Prisma Reports: What would be in your opinion the top 5 reasons why to come to Peloponnese, rather than Attica for instance?
Panagiotis Nikas: First of all, Peloponnese has some excellent connectivity, and is very close to the region of Attica, and therefore we can easily take advantage of the region’s main gates. Secondly, Peloponnese has a great quality of life. Thirdly, the region has an international aiport in Kalamata, that serves 30 international destinations. Then we also have ports that provide us some additional links to the rest of the country and region. Last but not least the region has a very high quality man power, with both specialized and non-specialized workers who can support our economy. In case we need any extra specialized personal, we can always rely on the workers of Athens which is quite close to us.
There are very strong links between American and Greeks, and especially with people from Peloponnese. During the previous century, lots of immigrants from Greece fled to the US to look for economic opportunities. Lots of them came back and invested money in infrastructure in the region, in schools, in hospitals, in churches, and this benefitted greatly the economy. One of the reasons for that is the strength of the Greek-American links. My own grand-father had immigrated to America for example, and after many years there came back from the US to Greece.
Prisma Reports: To conclude this interview, would you like to address a direct message to our readers?
Panagiotis Nikas: Americans should invest in Greece, because we share many ties and common values. A funny belief that we have in Greece is that Greek could have been the official language in the US instead of English, but has lost just by one vote in the Congress.
Beyond that, Greece’s influence in the US is underrated. As example of Greek’s contributions in the US, the origin of Constantino Brumidi, the man who painted the Apotheosis of Washington in the eye of the U.S. Capitol Building’s Rotunda -in Washington D.C.- was the town of Filiatra, in Kalamata region, where his father was born. The Capitol and the White House, stand still on Corinthian order columns which shows the impact from ancient Greece and Greek achitecture. The ideas of democracy, freedom, medicine, philosophy, meritocracy were also born in Greece.
Business in not only money, but creating a humanitarian environment, with values and ideas. I am an extreme friend of Americans, due to the heritage left by my grand father who emigrated from the States, back to Greece.