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Free land allocation to Russians in Far East requires large infrastructure investment

July 29, 2015, 17:27 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Andrei Babushkin

MOSCOW, July 29. /TASS/. Many Russians are not against the idea of receiving land plots for free in sparsely populated areas in the Russian Far East on the authorities’ proposal. Experts warn, however, that this idea can crown with success, only if it is backed by measures to create the necessary infrastructure on these lands, which requires large capital investment.

As many as 20% of Russians or about 30 million people would agree to move with their families to the Far East for permanent residence, if they are allotted land for free, according to a poll by the pollster VTsIOM, the results of which were announced by Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka recently.

In the minister’s opinion, these figures inspire hope. Today 614 million hectares of land are in state ownership in the Russian Far East.

Most frequently, the respondents mentioned their desire to run a peasant farm (28%) or a farming business (19%) as the main goal of receiving land. Meanwhile, 26% of those polled said they would like to set up their own business on these lands (for example, to open a hotel).

Russia has launched public debates of the bill on the allocation of land to citizens for free in the Russian Far East. The bill stipulates that land plots of 1 hectare (2.5 acres) each will be provided to any citizens initially for free use for five years and eventually for ownership for free. If no activity is conducted on a land plot, it will be withdrawn from such ownership. No land will be allotted to foreigners.

The authorities believe that this measure will help halt or at least slow down the exodus of residents from the Russian Far East. Since the early 1990s, the region’s population has shrunk almost by a third, largely due to migration. Now, the population in the Russian Far East stands at 6.3 million people or about 5% of Russia’s entire population. Meanwhile, the region accounts for about 36% of Russia’s territory.

Most experts largely support the idea of land allocation but with reservations.

"This measure is reasonable," General Director of the Institute of Regional Problems Dmitry Zhuravlyov was quoted by Free Press web portal as saying. "But this is a half-measure. The main thing that should be done in the Far East is to develop transport infrastructure. And this is a very costly and difficult task. It is hard to resolve this problem in a market economy."

The initiative of land allocation will work, only if the persons wishing to move to the Far East will be given noticeable support in the form of a state interest-free or low-interest loan and relocation allowance to move to a new place together with the family, Chairman of the Committee for Fiscal and Tax Policy and Finances of the Primorye Territory legislature Vladimir Bespalov said.

‘It is also important that the land plots, which are allocated, should have infrastructure like electricity, roads and, ideally, water supplies. But all these measures will result in large state expenses," the regional lawmaker said.

"The very idea of attracting people is good," Senior Researcher at the Russian Presidential Academy of the National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) Alexandra Polyakova told TASS.

"In principle, the population is ready to move to the Far East. I usually ask students: ‘Are you ready to go to the Far East? They reply: ‘Why not? But if we have not only land but also jobs and social security.’"

In the expert’s opinion, the problem should be resolved comprehensively and large funds should be invested in advanced development territories, which are being established in the Russian Far East and are intended to serve as the base for creating powerful production clusters as part of integration with countries of the Asia and Pacific region. "The question now is whether sufficient financing will be provided for the implementation of all these projects."

"There must be some concept for the development of territories, the relevant infrastructure and science-intensive industries and then there will be sense in allotting land in such conditions," RANEPA Senior Researcher Yuri Sivachyov told TASS.

"This is good as an instrument but there must be a plan," he added.

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