At the beginning of the meeting, the President noted that the region was implementing 42 ambitious multi-billion investment projects. Nevertheless, there are problems linked with the construction industry, expanding housing construction volumes, educational institutions and other social facilities.
According to Andrei Chibis, the outflow of the population is the biggest challenge for the region. In 2018, this outflow increased by 26 percent on 2017. Unfortunately, it is the economically active population, mostly young people, that is leaving. This can be explained by a number of problems, including inadequate healthcare and housing and an urban environment that does not meet modern standards. More jobs are being created, and major companies are implementing projects to create a new logistics corridor for the Northern Sea Route. However, life is hard in the North.
Mr Chibis, who has served as Acting Governor since March 2019, said that he approached his work by tackling key challenges: establishing law and order, making local cities cleaner, improving living standards and resolving healthcare problems. All this was aimed at changing people’s attitude towards the Kola Peninsula and the North in general. Regional authorities launched a project under the slogan Living in the North.
An anti-crisis healthcare plan was adopted, making it possible to buy new equipment and ambulances and to support medical personnel. Authorities established an air ambulance system and purchased intensive care ambulances. However, it is necessary to overhaul the system and to create a powerful medical complex.
The Acting Governor moved to improve the housing and utilities sector and his first steps were to clean the cities after the winter season, resolve waste-related problems and improve the housing management system. The quality of the urban environment was another urgent matter. The region has a shortage of sports facilities and playgrounds. Over 50 of these facilities are now under construction, and the first four projects have already been implemented in small towns. Another 15 towns are to get new playgrounds soon.
Mr Chibis also discussed the quality of life in restricted-access towns where Northern Fleet service personnel and their families live and noted that it was necessary to change the situation there.
They also discussed the education sphere and the creation of a science and education centre. Mr Chibis reported on the creation of a regional centre involving the Kola Science Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Knipovich Polar Scientific Research Institute of Marine Fisheries and Oceanography, whose specialists study the Barents Sea and its biological resources, as well as the region’s higher educational institutions.
The Acting Governor asked the President for his support with converting the regional science and education centre into a world-class facility. According to him, local authorities are already cooperating with companies implementing ambitious projects in the region, including NOVATEK, the Murmansk Transport Hub, Nornickel and PhosAgro Co. They are ready to finance the modernisation of educational institutions that would train specialists to meet the region’s needs and for high-tech companies. Some proposals aim to expand competences in the area of nuclear physics because the region accommodates nuclear-powered icebreakers and submarines.
Mr Chibis said there was an idea to build a new Murmansk that would consolidate the entire Arctic agenda, create a new focal growth point and assert the status of Murmansk Region as the capital of the Arctic.
Vladimir Putin said the projects were interesting and important but suggested first discussing the matter of restricted-access towns because it required special attention.