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“This is what Murmansk will be in 2013”

Infrastructure development remains a key objective for Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun. Photo: duma.murman.ru

The regional development plans presented this week by regional Governor Marina Kovtun include the Murmansk Transport Hub, a regional investment fund and improved infrastructure to neighboring Finland and Norway.

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“We are not making up fantacy tasks, or making abstract declarations”, the governor stressed to journalists in a press conference this week. “I can with confidence say that this is the way Murmansk will be in 2013”, the governor added.

The development plans includes continued focus on the Murmansk Transport Hub, a grand infrastructure initiative, which includes the construction of a new railway connection along the Kola Bay, as well as the construction of a new major passenger sea terminal in the immediate vicinity of the Murmansk city center. “All project documentation will be completed and handed over to federal authorities in the course of the year”, the governor confirmed in a press release.

The development plans also include measures on how to revitalize the local fishery industry, as well as investments in road infrastructure. About 2 billion RUB will be invested in the upgrade of a total of 2018 km of road, including the Salla road leading towards the Finnish border.

Also investments in the regional heating system, waste management, new housing, kindergartens and electronic public services will be made in the course of the year, Kovtun said, underlining her government’s realistic approach towards regional planning. “This is the way 2013 will be like”, she stressed, adding that the regional plans are based on “careful estimates and measuring of our own capacities”.

In order to stimulate business in the municipalities, a regional business investment fund will be established.

“We know what to do and how to do it, and I do not doubt that we in December 2013 will look back with satisfaction and pride”, Kovtun said at the press conference.

The clear speech is in line with the Governor’s honest analysis of the regional economy made after her inauguration in April. “It is time to tell the truth – we have a crisis”, the newly appointed regional leader then highlighted in a speech to the regional parliament.

As outlined in the Barents Monitoring reports, the Murmansk regional economy is currently facing serious economic hardships. The regional budget deficit is significantly on the increase and investors flee the region following Gazprom’s decision to postpone the great Shtokman project.

Meanwhile, the neighboring countries of Norway and Finland continue to see Murmansk Oblast as a potentially key partner in economic cooperation in the High North. Speaking at a conference organized by the Norwegian-Russian Chamber of Commerce (NRCC) this week, Norway’s local Consul for Commercial Affairs Kristin Høiby underlined that Murmansk still constitutes a market with major potentials where Norwegian companies has a unique opportunity to take leading positions.