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Russian authorities hope free distribution of land to stem exodus from Far East

January 20, 2015, 17:28 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Yuri Smityuk

MOSCOW, January 20. /TASS/. The authorities of Russia’s Far Eastern regions, sparsely populated but very rich in natural resources, have come up with an idea of free distribution of plots of land in a bid to draw migrants from other regions or, at least, to stem the exodus of the local population. Foreign nationals have nothing to count on, though. Experts’ opinions of this initiative are plentiful and varied.

The idea of giving each resident of the Far East one hectare of land for free was proposed by the presidential representative in the Far Eastern Federal District, Yury Trutnev, to have met with approval from the head of state.

Trutnev said that in the Far East, 614 million hectares of land were state property.

“Under our plan, each resident of the Far East and each individual who would like to move to this region would be given one hectare of land free of charge. The land might be used for farming, for starting a private business, for timber production or as a hunting estate,” Trutnev said.

This land, he said, “would be provided for an initial period of five years, and, if used properly, made the owner’s full-fledged property.” On the contrary, if the land remains abandoned, it will be taken back.

Putin said that “as such the idea is correct and in Russia’s history it was already implemented once, in Siberia.” At the same time, he said the conditions related with the need for using that land must be formulated and the mechanism devised in detail.

Trutnev’s initiative enjoys enthusiastic support from local governors, in particular, Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of the Amur Region, where 400,000 hectares of land have fallen into disuse.

And the governor of the Magadan Region, Vladimir Pechyony, has expressed the readiness to grant plots of land larger than one hectare to both local residents and potential migrants. “We will be able to give five hectares of land to each new-comer, provided there are people eager to have it,” he said.

As for foreign nationals, there is no chance for them to join the program. The plots of land that may begin to be distributed in the Far East on the disinterested basis cannot be sold to foreigners, an aide to the Economic Development Minister, Yelena Lashkina, has said.

At the moment, the Far East has a population of 6.3 million. Theoretically, there are nearly 100 hectares of land per each resident. However, a considerable part of that remote territory is inaccessible as there are no roads.

The expert community shows no unanimity regarding the prospects of the presidential representative’s initiative.

The deputy head of the real estate and land management chair at the Russian presidential academy RENAPA, Yelena Ivankina, has described Trutnev’s proposal as “rational and constructive.” At the same time, there must be a well-tuned mechanism of its implementation, which, in turn, would be impossible without public-private partnership, she told TASS. “Land is a precious gift. Its value always grows. It is not prone to wear and tear, but reforms can do good only if there is a well-considered mechanism of its implementation. In this case, the availability of infrastructure is of tremendous importance,” she said.

Ivankina believes that for building roads and other infrastructures, public-private partnership is essential. Businesses need tax benefits and other preferences. “It is possible to create a system that would benefit both businesses, individuals and the state,” she said with certainty.

In her opinion, the implementation of the Trutnev plan will at least stem the exodus of the population from the Far East, and this is already good.

Leading research fellow Alexandra Polyakova, of the presidential Social Analysis and Forecasting Institute, sticks to a different opinion. “It is very unlikely to work as an economic booster, but there is the risk the land market will slump. If land gets cheaper, part of the population will stand to gain, while another part will lose,” she told TASS.

Polyakova suspects that people will be taking plots of land with a view to its subsequent sale. “The mechanisms of bypassing restrictions are well-known to our people,” she added.

Senior lecturer Ivan Rodionov of the Higher School of Economics is pessimistically minded. He, too, fears that the free distribution of land will bring about various fraudulent schemes. “Whereas in the 19th century the distributed land was used for farming, now it will most probably be taken up by commercial real estate, because one hectare of land is too small a plot for starting a farm,” he told TASS.

TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors