Vague prospects for the Arctic hectare

In July 2020, the Russian government announced the expansion of the current state programs for the provision of land plots in the regions of the Far Eastern federal district and in the Arctic zone of the country. But since part of the subjects of the Far East is also located in the Arctic (Chukotka, Yakutia), then the innovation will actually affect only a number of municipalities in the Republics of Karelia and Komi, Krasnoyarsk Territory and Arkhangelsk region, as well as the entire territory of the Nenets and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous districts.

This is not the first example in history of state incentives for the development of the territory by the citizens of the country. It is enough to recall the Land Endowment Act (US Homestead Act 1862). But, unlike the Russian realities of the XXI century, the US law of the XIX century, actually, legislatively fixed the procedure for the already ongoing transfer to private ownership of land plots of up to 160 acres (almost 65 ha) in areas with much more fertile soils than most of the Russian territories. In addition, agroclimatic resources in The United States are more favorable: the northernmost settlement in the United States outside Alaska is located on the latitude of Tula.

The effectiveness of implementing a similar program in Russia should be considered with several items, including: construction cost, assessment of natural and climatic soil and land resources in terms of entrepreneurship development, level of infrastructure development and legal framework for eventual obtaining certain land plots.

Prospects for construction in the Arctic are even more vague than in the Far East: transport and logistics difficulties with the delivery of construction materials to hard-to-reach areas where the share of transport costs reaches 70% of the final construction cost, very short terms of operation of transport routes: winter autoroutes are available for less than 50 days, along the Northern Sea Route — up to 2 months, along rivers — from 20 days to 4 months. As a result, the cost of construction in the Arctic zone significantly exceeds construction costs even in the territory belonging to the Far North and similar districts: on average in Yakutia, the cost of building a square meter of housing is about 70 thousand rubles, and in the Arctic regions it can exceed 160 thousand rubles. Besides, already existing engineering infrastructure is characterized by a high degree of wear, dilapidation, and accidents.

The most prosperous project prospects look in the Murmansk region and Republic of Karelia. But here there will be another problem: the legal status of land plots. So, 12.5% of the area of ​ ​ the Murmansk region are 72 specially protected natural areas, which cannot be included in the program under existing legislation. Another part of the territory cannot be provided for use as sections of the subsoil of federal significance (this applies to a significant part of the Yamal-Nenets and Nenets Autonomous Districts, Arctic territories of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, etc.).

In addition, a significant part of the Arctic zone are areas inhabited by indigenous minorities’ peoples of the North with special legal status of territories of traditional environmental management, which can be provided to persons belonging to small peoples and communities of small peoples. Regional Law on Reindeer Breeding in Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region regulates the special legal status of deer pastures, and this is almost half the area of ​ ​ the region. Economic development of the lands of the forest fund remains also in great doubt: they can only be engaged in certain types of activities related mainly to wood treatment, which will require production permissions and licenses.

There will be a question with the territories subordinate to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. Some of them are included in the list of areas where the program will be implemented. In addition, there is always a risk of returning to the idea of ​ ​ implementing some state projects, for example: in case of another return to the idea of ​ ​ building the Evenki hydroelectric station the rural settlement “Tura settlement” (included in the program implementation territory) will be under threat of flooding.

You can evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the project during the implementation of the program in Arctic regions of the Far East: almost 50 thousand residents of the Chukotka Autonomous District during the three years of the program, 683 land plots were transferred (that is, approximately 1.5 per cent of the region’s population took advantage of the program). Mainly hectares were used for personal subsidiary economy, and most of the owners appeal for additional measures of state support, even in the Republic of Yakutia (the second region in the number of plots received with almost 15 thousand applications, which is approximately the same 1.5% of the population of the region). At the same time, the regional authorities provided part of the infrastructure for land areas taken under the Far Eastern Hectare program (including construction of access roads and electricity supply).

It should be noted that the applications for hectares in the republic affected the territory of the south of the region. To assess the prospects, it is enough to give a figure of the implementation of the program in Primorsky Territory, where more than 22 thousand plots were transferred to ownership (leader among 11 regions in the Far East), which actually means only 1.2% of the population of the region participate in the project.

According to the Deputy Prime Minister — Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Far Eastern federal district Yuri Trutnev, “Far Eastern hectare” should stimulate the creation of more than 100 new settlements. But who will create the infrastructure for these settlements, what additional measures of state support will be used as the program will be related to the creation and development of pivot zones in the Arctic — the question is open. Of course, the effectiveness of the implementation of the proposed program is connected only with a set of measures by the state aimed at the development of this territory.

Does it make sense to use new tools if the old ones are still not working in full force? Perhaps it is worth increasing the effectiveness of existing ones?

By Tatyana Kreidenko, Candidate of Geographical Sciences, Associate Professor of Regional Economics and Geography, RUD

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