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The maximum index

The fifth Polar Index sustainable development ranking of the Arctic regions published

11 december 2022

Every year since 2018, the Project Office for Arctic Development (POAD) and Moscow State University's Department of Economics publish the ranking Polar Index. Regions. This is the first specialised ranking of the regions included in Russia's Arctic Zone.

When working on the ranking, POAD and MSU experts analyse the development of the economy, social sphere and environmental policy in the Arctic regions of Russia. These three factors make up the triangle of sustainable development — the universal model of human community development introduced by the United Nations.

During the first stage, the experts use a special method to calculate the index of sustainable development of the regions. The state of the socio-economic sphere is determined by such indicators as production volume, personal income to the cost of living ratio, transport infrastructure, housing and Internet availability, the unemployment rate, etc.

The environmental situation is characterised by the cost of environmental protection, the amount of reclaimed land, wastewater treatment, the rate of hazardous waste disposal, etc.

To assess the socio-environmental situation, the experts look at the quality of drinking water, the existence of climate change adaptation programmes in the regions and the increase in the life expectancy of the small-numbered indigenous peoples of the North.

During the second stage, the experts score the regions on a ten-point scale using three blocks of questions: economic, social and environmental. As a result, each region is assigned an integral index of sustainable development.

"Rankings like these allow us to assess the balance of the regions' development indicators from the sustainable development point of view. Some AZRF regions may have imbalances like a developed economy matched with a not-so-good environmental situation or vice-versa. The ranking is a tool that brings indicators to a common denominator. It shows us the whole picture," says the General Director of POAD, Aleksandr Stotsky.

In 2022, the leaders of the last year's rankings have maintained their positions, with the Murmansk Region again placing first and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) — second. As Professor Sergey Nikonorov, head of the MSU project team, explained, Yakutia has failed to beat its "competitor" due to insufficiently high social indicators, for example, the rate of new housing commissioning. The Murmansk Region has retained first place thanks to the most balanced indicators of all three sustainable development components. 

"The Murmansk Region owes its first position to its policy of attracting investment to the region and its efforts to reduce pollutant emissions. It has successfully overcome many problems typical for other Arctic regions. It has a stable, diversified economy. It is the most popular destination for Arctic tourism. It also has the best transport accessibility of all the nine AZRF regions," said Nikolay Doronin, POAD Chairman of the Management Board. 

When commenting on the success of the Murmansk Region in attracting investment, Doronin stressed that the region was becoming more deeply integrated into the processes associated with the accelerated development of the Arctic Circle's resources.

The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area has improved its standings this year, rising from fourth to third place and a virtual bronze medal. Yamal has made it to the top three thanks to Its strong economic indicators: as Russia's strategic base for gas production, the region is ahead of its neighbours, primarily in the number of profitable companies, investment volume, income and salaries. However, Yamal still has work to do to improve its environmental situation.

The Arkhangelsk Region placed fourth, the Krasnoyarsk Territory — fifth, the Republic of Karelia — sixth, the Komi Republic — seventh and the Chukotka Autonomous Area — eighth. The Nenets Autonomous Area took the last ninth place. 

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