11 Economic and administrative consequences
Three comprehensive white papers on Svalbard have previously been presented to the Storting at approximately 10-year intervals. The white papers have each helped guide the archipelago’s development for a number of years, and the comprehensive review process has encouraged balanced development within the framework established by the Svalbard policy objectives.
The objectives of Norwegian Svalbard policy have remained the same for a long time and are set out in Report No. 40 (1985–1986) to the Storting Svalbard, Report No. 9 (1999–2000) to the Storting Svalbard, and Report No. 22 (2008–2009) to the Storting Svalbard. These objectives have been reiterated in subsequent Storting documents relating to Svalbard and are reaffirmed annually when the Svalbard budget is approved.
With this white paper, the Government confirms that the overriding objectives of the Svalbard policy remain unchanged. Continued predictability in the administration of Svalbard in line with these objectives provides security for the population of Longyearbyen while enhancing stability and predictability in the region.
This white paper describes challenges and possible measures for Svalbard. The Government will continually assess the need for measures to ensure that further development of the Longyearbyen community aligns with the Svalbard policy. The avalanche disaster has also demonstrated the necessity of ensuring that Svalbard’s infrastructure can accommodate the present level of activity, as opposed to introducing new activities that might trigger a need for heavy investment. Within these parameters, further development in selected areas is being facilitated.
It has been decided to suspend operations at the Lunckefjell mine in Svea, and the company’s workforce has been heavily reduced. The workforce reduction has so far not led to a corresponding reduction in the number of inhabitants in Longyearbyen. This is partly because of the high level of commuting by the company’s employees. It must nonetheless be acknowledged that the consequences could have additional effect in future.
11.1 Measures with limited or no budgetary consequences
In this white paper the Government stakes out a course for development of Longyearbyen and management of the archipelago, in accordance with the overriding objectives of the Svalbard policy and in line with our long-term interests. Account is given of measures which contribute to achieving these objectives in different areas.
To ensure that Longyearbyen maintains a breadth and quality that coincides with Norwegian interests, this white paper outlines further development in selected areas. Tourism is an important industry, and since the 1990s has become highly significant for Longyearbyen. This white paper signals the authorities’ intention to now take coordinated action to better facilitate tourism in the areas surrounding Longyearbyen by allowing, for example, for the establishment of new commercial tourist cabins and facilitating disembarkation at selected locations in the Isfjorden area. It also issues signals about facilitating the landing of fish for commercial use in the local hotel and tourism industry.
Another key topic in this white paper is research. Svalbard has been developed as a successful platform for Norwegian and international research. It is important for Norway to be in the driver’s seat, visibly and clearly hosting activities.
11.2 Measures proposed in the Revised National Budget for 2016
Longyearbyen was struck by a major avalanche on 19 December 2015, and several houses were destroyed. These houses cannot be rebuilt in the same area. The Government has therefore proposed increasing the allocation to the Longyearbyen Community by NOK 10 million for housing and land development in Longyearbyen.
11.3 Major measures already begun
In the estimated accounts for the 2015 central government budget, NOK 50 million was allocated for restructuring measures to develop Longyearbyen and pave the way for new economic activity and new jobs.
The Longyearbyen Community Council was allocated NOK 4.5 million of these funds for restructuring and economic development efforts in Longyearbyen.
There is currently a maintenance backlog for infrastructure measures in Longyearbyen. To reduce this maintenance backlog and simultaneously contribute to new jobs in the construction sector, NOK 22 million of the NOK 50 million total was allotted to infrastructure projects in Longyearbyen.
The Svalbard Business Council represents local business and industry, and works to promote economic interests in the archipelago. The council was allocated NOK 0.5 million in restructuring funds to facilitate restructuring and economic development efforts in Longyearbyen. These funds are intended to generate cooperation between local business and industry and local authorities. Innovation Norway was allocated NOK 20 million in restructuring funds towards establishing a stronger presence in Longyearbyen and towards developing and funding projects.
New business and innovation expertise will be brought to strengthen opportunities for generating a new economic boost in Svalbard. NOK 3 million has been allocated to develop a business and innovation strategy specifically for Svalbard.
11.4 Other measures
The current capacity of Longyearbyen’s port facility is limited. New port infrastructure is highlighted locally as an important measure for further development. In the National Transport Plan for 2014–2023, up to NOK 200 million in government funds was set aside for harbour infrastructure. The Norwegian Coastal Administration is already examining various solutions, and this work is expected to be completed in October 2016. The Government will then decide on the way forward.
With this white paper, the Government presents an account of various measures that help reinforce the work involving Svalbard. Most of the measures described in this white paper can be covered by the relevant ministries’ existing budgetary frameworks. Beyond these measures, the white paper also discusses other measures that could lead to spending increases within the national budget. Measures discussed in this white paper will be considered in connection with the Government’s further work related to Svalbard. The Government will return to proposals for specifying and implementing the measures mentioned in the white paper in connection with the annual budget proposals.