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Decent to live and work: what awaits Chukotka

Interview with the Governor of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Roman Kopin

Chukotka is a region where you want to live, develop your business and raise children. This is how Roman Kopin, the governor of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, sees the region fifteen years later. In a conversation with the correspondent of the Arctic-Russia portal, he touched upon, among other things, the issues of digitalization, infrastructure modernization, improving the standard of living and developing the region's tourism potential.

Decent to live and work: what awaits Chukotka

- Roman Valentinovich, now, in connection with the implementation of the new Development Strategy for the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation, this territory is receiving a new impetus. How will this affect Chukotka? Which industries will receive support in the region? 

- Chukotka is a northeastern outpost of Russia with a unique mineral and raw material potential and experience of working with large investors.

The driver of dynamic development is the creation of mining clusters in two priority development zones: Chaun-Bilibinskaya and Anadyr.

The success of the Kinross Gold Corporation and Polymetal, which set up production facilities at Kupol and Mayskoye from scratch, became a catalyst for investor interest in Chukotka. The experience of the projects has proved that, despite the harsh climate, it is possible to build an effective business here. Now we are expanding the geography of mining. In addition to gold, we rely on the development of the richest reserves of copper, tin, coal, oil and gas.

First of all, we expect support in terms of the creation of transport and energy infrastructure, both for specific projects of investors, and in the general system for the development of the Arctic as a single business space. Among them: modernization of the Chaun-Bilibino power center, the "heart" of which was the world's first floating nuclear power plant in Pevek; use of the transit potential of the Northern Sea Route; construction of the Kolyma trans-highway across the whole of Chukotka with access to Magadan and Yakutia; development of airport infrastructure, aircraft fleet, small aircraft.

Such projects will undoubtedly affect the prestige of the region, including on the market of tourist services, activate the development of small and medium-sized businesses, service industries, traditional spheres of employment of the indigenous peoples of the Far North.

The development of production is not an end in itself; the end result should be an increase in the standard of living and the creation of a comfortable environment for the residents of the district.

Already, in terms of GRP (gross regional product) per one resident, Chukotka is in second place among the subjects of the Far Eastern Federal District, in fifth place in Russia, the district is traditionally in first places in terms of the average salary. We have a low unemployment rate (first in the Far Eastern Federal District and sixth in Russia). More than 20 years in the district - natural population growth.

Thus, an incentive is created for the inflow of new personnel in the developing industrial and infrastructure sectors and the social sphere. Young people willingly come to Chukotka - as a rule, first to work for several years, then stay here for a long time, creating families.

As part of the Arctic Development Strategy, we will be able to consolidate this trend by increasing the prestige of Chukotka, where you can realize your professional and personal potential at the most modern level.

- One of the designated areas of development of the Arctic zone is its digitalization. How can this be used for the region - to improve the quality of mobile communications, the Internet? Will this help to reduce tariffs for communication in Chukotka? 

- Of all the subjects of Russia, only Chukotka is not connected to fiber-optic communication lines. We use an expensive satellite resource - the speed of the Internet connection is significantly lower, and the cost is several times higher than the average values ​​for the Far Eastern Federal District.

The only way to improve the quality of communication for our region is to lay the main FOCL and create an internal FOCL network.

As part of the digitalization of the Arctic zone, it is envisaged to build an underwater fiber-optic communication line (FOCL) on the section of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky - Anadyr. The cable route has been agreed, engineering, geological and deep-sea surveys are underway. Thanks to this project, we plan to provide modern communication services to about 20 thousand people in the Anadyr urban district and the village of Ugolny Kopi. This is 40% of the population of Chukotka.

Another promising option for connecting the regions of the region to a high-speed network is the project for laying an underwater FOCL "Frankfurt-Tokyo", which is proposed by PJSC "Megafon". The cable will run along the Northern Sea Route along the entire coast of Chukotka and provide for the organization of locks to the cities of Anadyr and Pevek. We are working on the possibility of creating additional branches to coastal settlements. We hope that this project will additionally provide high-speed Internet access for about 7,6 thousand people, which is 15% of the population of Chukotka.

For a wider coverage of the population, options are being considered for laying an additional fiber-optic cable using the existing high-voltage power lines to Egvekinot and Beringovsky.

The implementation of the above-mentioned FOCL projects will provide high-speed access to about 80% of the population.

- Do you expect an inflow of investments and new projects in connection with the new regime for residents in the Arctic zone? What projects does the region need most of all? 

- With the adoption in the summer of a package of laws to support entrepreneurial activity in the Arctic, Chukotka acquired the status of a unique entity - there are three preferential regimes in the region at the same time: ASEZ Chukotka, which includes the territories of three municipalities, the free port of Vladivostok in the Pevek urban district, and the Arctic, which covers the entire territory of the region.

Today, 60 business entities are already residents of the Chukotka ASEZ and the free port of Vladivostok, whose projects provide for the creation of over 4 thousand new jobs, with an investment of over 38 billion rubles in fixed capital investments.

Of course, the inclusion of the entire Chukotka in the preferential regime of the Arctic will lead to an increase in the investment component. At the same time, taking into account the established comfortable "entry threshold", acceptable for small businesses, we expect a large number of new projects and a significant increase in investment activity in this particular business sector.

In Chukotka, there are objectively difficult conditions for conducting any entrepreneurial activity, high capital intensity of production, therefore, the launch of each new project, regardless of industry specifics, is certainly supported by the region.

Given the urgency of ensuring food security in the district, which is completely dependent on the "northern delivery", we consider the most important and priority projects in the areas of agriculture and food production.

At the same time, in the harsh conditions of the Arctic, we strive to create the most "warm" investment climate in the region. We develop the infrastructure to support business and investors, providing services in a "one" window.

- How much will road construction, modernization of ports and development of the Northern Sea Route contribute to the transport accessibility of Chukotka? Does the region have any suggestions on this? 

- In Chukotka, work continues on the creation of an internal transport frame of the district with access to neighboring regions of the Russian Federation, which will provide access to mineral deposits.

In particular, the construction of the Kolyma-Omsukchan-Omolon-Anadyr highway with entrances to Bilibino, Komsomolsky, Egvekinot is underway.

Last year, the design of sections of the road that provides access to the Peschanka fields began. As well as transport links with the largest settlements in the region and the connection of fields with the seaport of Pevek. In the future, we intend to combine it with the road network of the Magadan Region.

In addition, in accordance with the plan for the development of the infrastructure of the Northern Sea Route until 2035, a list of projects is provided, the implementation of which will also improve the transport accessibility of the region and the fields in the district.

The list of projects includes the construction of a new terminal in the port of Pevek and equipping it with a port fleet for year-round operation; transshipment of goods of the Baimsky GOK in the port of Provideniya from ice-class vessels to conventional vessels. This can significantly improve the economics of the project.

Reconstruction of federal property objects in the seaport of Pevek is also underway, which will allow mooring and handling simultaneously at two berths vessels up to 140 meters long with a draft of 10 meters, with a gross tonnage of 10 tons each. The territory and water area of ​​the seaport of Pevek is included in the boundaries of the free port of Vladivostok.

To improve the transport accessibility of the region and the Okrug's fields, the government of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug proposes to consider the possibility of creating a sea transport and logistics hub in Provideniya within the framework of the international cooperation and export national project funded from the federal budget.

- One of the directions of the development of the Arctic zone is assistance to indigenous peoples. What can Chukotka offer in this area? Or maybe you intend to ask for new benefits for this category of citizens? 

- The Strategy for the Development of the Arctic Zone of Russia and Ensuring National Security until 2035 provides for specific measures to improve the living standards of indigenous peoples. This is the development of outbound forms of medical care on the routes of nomadic small peoples, and the creation and modernization of infrastructure facilities in places of traditional residence and traditional economic activity. Attention is paid to the provision of mobile power supply sources and communication facilities. Separately, it is said about the need to ensure the preservation and popularization of the cultural heritage, languages ​​of small peoples. These measures are really necessary and relevant for the population of Chukotka, as well as the need to build housing in rural areas, which is also indicated in the Strategy.

We realize that the age-old way of life of the indigenous peoples, their distinctive culture, is one of the main treasures of the region. Reindeer husbandry and marine hunting are priority areas in terms of support from the regional budget. So, in 2020, regional laws were amended, which significantly increased measures of social support for reindeer herders, marine hunters and their families.

- What areas can be developed in the tourism sector of the region? 

- The first direction is sea cruises. Among the most popular routes are the travel from Anadyr to Wrangel Island (about 14 days) and routes passing by the most beautiful fjords of Provideniya, Lavrentiya and Tkachen bays. The cruises are organized by the Kamchatka company Pacific Network Ltd and the New Zealand company Heritage Expeditions Ltd.

At the same time, despite the fact that cruises in the North Pacific Ocean with a call to the Arctic Ocean are very popular, only a small part make a landing in Chukotka. The total cruise flow arriving annually on the territory of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug is about 1 people. Chukotka is the most popular among cruise tourists from the USA and Germany, because it costs much less than cruise tours in the Scandinavian countries.

Chukotka is the territory of the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, it is simply necessary to involve the population in the development of the tourist infrastructure. The indigenous peoples of the region live in authentic conditions as they did hundreds of years ago. In Chukotka, whaling has survived, the only analogue of which in the world is represented only in Alaska. There is a long-term bone carving school, and the work of local craftsmen is highly regarded in the international market. Those who want to learn more about the life, culture, traditions of the Chukchi and Eskimos cannot but be interested in installing a yaranga and rafting on a national kayak. In this regard, Chukotka has unique opportunities for the development of ethnographic tourism.

The Russian Arctic is a unique flora and fauna, unique landscapes that have been preserved intact. In this context, it is ecological tourism that carries an important social mission, since it allows not only to preserve natural objects, but also to popularize them for future generations.

On the territory of Chukotka there are unique objects of ecological tourism: the Beringia National Park with an area of ​​more than 1,8 million hectares, which is annually visited by 2,5 to 3,3 thousand people (mainly foreign tourists), and the Wrangel Island reserve - UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. It is called the "maternity hospital" of polar bears.

At the same time, the potential for using specially protected natural areas remains unrealized due to the undeveloped tourist infrastructure. To eliminate this limitation, it is necessary to equip walking ecological paths, parking places, observation platforms, create conditions for the development of sightseeing tours by land and water, by analogy with the existing ecological paths in Russia. The profit received from ecological tourism can be directed to the development of infrastructure that limits the impact of tourists on the environment and ensures sustainable use of natural resources.

- How do you see your region in 15 years? 

- First of all, this is a region where you want to live, work, develop your business and raise children, having for this a decent level of material and creative needs.

I am confident that the vector of movement set by the Arctic Development Strategies will create a stable industrial cluster in Chukotka, ensuring that the region is not subsidized and positioning it as a supporting eastern base of the Northern Sea Route, a reliable geopolitical foothold in the North-East of Russia.

A source: Investment portal of the Arctic zone of Russia

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