Egocentricity or hypocrisy
Much discussion has recently taken place around the expansion and transformation of Paros Airport into an international one. The debate on the internet and the press appears rather polarised, with one side supporting the expansion, citing the “growth” of the island’s economy, and the other challenging it, fearing the excessive burden on inadequate infrastructures and the environmental damage caused by the further increase in tourism.
We do not intend in this article to set out all the arguments already developed by all sides in other articles published by the Friends of Paros, other newspapers or on the site Green Paros’ Airport. But we consider it necessary to focus on what is presented as ‘two-poles’ supposedly reflecting the debating camps. On the one hand, there would be the island’s ‘indigenous’ or permanent population, which, although not officially asked or ever properly informed, is supposed to want, in its alleged ‘majority’, to further increase the number of arrivals (regardless of the origin and quality of tourists), arguing that this would also help the locals to earn something more in order to better live the rest of the year without having to migrate, as in the past. On the other hand, visitors of the summer season having their holiday homes, all of which are described as ‘luxurious’, who would not want to be disturbed by flights and noise and would only be interested in the traditional beauty and quietness.
This schematization dignifies those who struggle to gain their income and makes the owners of holiday homes a scapegoat, in a way that gives the former the ‘moral advantage’ and removes it from the second to be condemned in the conscience of the former…
However, that is not exactly the case. Not only because in the public debate there are several voices among the island’s permanent residents who also express their concerns about the future of the island with the development of the airport and the tourist traffic. But also because the ‘economic’ argument is misleading. Indeed, according to data from the Hellenic Statistical Service, the per capita income of residents of the Cyclades such as Paros is among the highest in Greece, i.e. 30 % higher than the average income of the country and comparable only to Attica. Therefore, we are (fortunately) far from the reality of ‘60es or ’70es, when poverty forced the inhabitants of the islands to migrate or “embark” on the ships. What is sought is therefore their additional enrichment. And of course, this is not in itself open to criticism, since in the free economy it is legitimate for all people to try to improve their position, even if that further enrichment should not be achieved at the expense of the common good which is the island itself.
However, it is not just the real Parians who want to have their rooms filled and well rented during the tourist season. What remains concealed in the above pattern is another much more ‘business-oriented‘ reality. Apart from the Parians who hope for higher numbers of tourists, there are a multitude of other ‘investors’, not only large hostellers but also private individuals who, in addition to any other occupation, purchased land and built large houses, with the purpose not of occupying them themselves but of renting them. With the increase in the number of tourists present on the island during the tourist season (to 130000 official, perhaps even 200000 in reality in August), the demand for rooms also increases, with the result that two-bedrooms are easily rented at the price of EUR 400-500 per day (especially if they are accompanied by swimming pool, jakuzi or other ‘water elements’), while the 4-5 rooms villas are rented at the price of at least 2000 per day or 10000 per week. If these monies went to the ‘Parians’, one could see the ‘economic’ argument (even though it could seem strange — from the point of view of ‘social justice’ — how with 1-month work you can live all the year round doing nothing). But here we have organised business from people (not just professional hoteliers) who invest on the island coming from Athens, Thessaly, Macedonia and even other countries (e.g. France or Belgium). Many of them hardly live in their homes, since they only intend to generate income through (often tax-free) rental. This explains how the high numbers of arriving tourists do not stay on beaches or streets, whereas the available hotel beds cannot cover their needs (their number does not even reach 1/3 of the tourists). This category of non-professional “hoteliers” has not been precisely calculated, since recording it would amount to combating the tax evasion achieved by undeclared renting to “friends”, but it should be a big one if one considers the pace of housing construction on the island (600 permits in the first half of 2021 alone, with the construction outside the urban plan thriving even through the revival of expired permits).
Interestingly, this ever more large category of atypical hoteliers is hidden behind the ‘people’ of Paros, who struggle to win their living. Experience shows that the villas of atypical hoteliers have as a rule not been built by Parians, but by external investors, who, like many “big hotels”, want to fill their rooms and thus generally support the expansion of the airport or rather “hide” behind the desire of the native Parians for more prosperity and not even need to emerge. However, they are served by the expressed desire of the latter and the simplistic presentation of the opposite view as “egocentric”.
Thus, ‘egocentric’ are not those who, having merely a house on the island, love it and try to preserve certain elements of its character, which will be irreparably damaged by the size and the operation of an international airport, but rather those who speculate at the expense of the island’s environment (sometimes sponsored by the Greek State) disregarding its character, its infrastructures and hoping even to later make surplus value. The profit seems to guide them, be they the native-born, for whom it may be, to some extent, legitimate, or the new or hidden (informal) hoteliers, who criticise those worried about the island as “egocentric”… The first two categories “prostitute” Paros to international tourism for money.
Once permanent residents realize that their all-over build island has been destroyed by speculators, whereas only a few of them become employees of the latter, forgetting their current occupations, it will be too late.
 Because cheaper foreign labour is preferred (see what happens in Mykonos with the migrants in containers)