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Investments, good services can make living in Arctic more attractive — experts

Comfortable living conditions and bigger investments may decrease migration from the Arctic

MURMANSK, November 17. /TASS/. Migration from the Arctic remains a key problem in development of the northern territories. Comfortable living conditions and bigger investments may favor settlement of this problem, experts said at the Russian Regions: New Growth Points session of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum.

Deficit of specialists

According to the Murmansk region’s Governor Marina Kovtun "the most important objective of the state program for development of the Arctic is to improve life of people there. The migration problem is typical not only for the Murmansk region, but also for the territories which are not that far in the north."

The northern regions are facing problems because of shortage of specialists: the infrastructures, which were built back in the Soviet times, require maintenance. Hospitals do not have many patients and thus receive less financing.

"What will doctors earn? Were can we take money to support medical institutions? We are facing a tremendous shortage of doctors, the young would not want to work here. All the stimulating measures prove to be not effective enough to attract young people to the north, the region’s remote districts and low-populated areas are short of doctors and other specialists," the governor said.

Nornickel’s head of the department for federal and regional programs Andrei Grachev says in the Arctic people have only limited access to services. "The Arctic zone is different from the classic mainland - people there are limited in access to information, to good-quality services," he said.

"The situation is getting worse not only because of the migration processes, but also because of the demographic situation - we are in the demographic gap for a few coming years. And every employer should realize it and should care for every specialist," acting Vice President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) Viktor Cherepov said.

A solution is possible

However, experts say, a solution is possible. In order to have people stay in the Arctic zone, they should have a good living level, and for reaching that the regions require investments. It is also important to offer new support measures and to change approaches to training of specialists for working in the Arctic.

The Murmansk region has suggested implementing at the federal level of its Arctic Doctor program to attract medics to the Extreme North.

"We have own measures of support, but we cannot solve the problem at the region’s level. We have suggested replacing the Village Doctor program. Our region is urbanized, 93% live in cities. Our suggestion is to pay in portions to doctors, who come to work in the Arctic, two million rubles ($33,558). We are ready to undertake a part of the expenses, but the other part should be financed from the federal budget," the governor said.

The businesses, working in the Extreme North, also work on raising the living standards there. "We - as a socially responsible company - are doing everything to remove the differences [in social development of regions]. We are reconstructing the airport in Norilsk. We have laid the 957km fiber-optic communication line from Novy Urengoi to Norilsk, thus we have eliminated the deprivation of information rights for people living in the Arctic zone," Nornickel’s representative said.

Investments in the North

In order to raise the living conditions in the Arctic regions, the northern territories should be attracting more and more investments. Local authorities say about the improving conditions for doing business there: new infrastructures, including the energy infrastructure.

"The Arctic is attractive nowadays," Russia’s First Deputy Minister of Energy Alexei Teksler said. "The state commission on development of the Arctic has a working group on development of the energy sector there. Today, we already have practical results. We have the task and we have analyzed all the nine Arctic regions; our focus was on having development of the energy correspond with investments in [the regions’] development."

The Murmansk region has many directions, which are potentially attractive for investors, the governor said. "The low costs of the electric energy for new enterprises could be a mighty stimulating factor [in the Murmansk region]. The export potential of our deep-water unfreezing seaport is still underestimated. The Murmansk region has a unique base of raw materials - this is our export product, it should go across the world via our port in Murmansk," she said.

Human resources for the Arctic

The existing potential, which the regions should use, dictates development of yet another direction - training of specialists for working in the Extreme North. Experts are speaking about a few solutions.

"We are preparing specialists, we are changing our education system, beginning from the kindergarten, we know what skills and competences would be of demand in future, we are working with our partners - major industrial giants," Marina Kovtun said.

According to Viktor Cherepov, RSPP is implementing in the regions the program on the national system of qualifications. "We have entered actively the regions with the system of professional qualifications. But in the Arctic zone, as yet only the Krasnoyarsk territory has begun the work. From next year [2018], the system would be used across the country: it offers federal subsidies for training and post-graduate training," he said.

It is also necessary, he continued, to monitor what specialties are of demand in the Arctic, so that 90% of the graduates could go to businesses. Besides, it is necessary to have more students undergoing special training with support from the government. "We should be using more actively the opportunities, which the Arctic zone has already, the experience of the Arkhangelsk State University, for example," he said.

The St. Petersburg Forum’s special event devoted to the Arctic zone was organized on Wednesday at the Murmansk International Business Week.