Kirkenes, Norway: In April, the Norwegian government will present its new High North Strategy. Despite its optimistic faith in the future in the North, the government has one significant worry: The population development represents a threat to the expected economic growth.
This point was referred to both by the government’s own strategic notes as well as by the speech made by Jan Tore Sanner, Minister of Local Government and Modernisation, at the Kirkenes Conference last Wednesday.
- The development has its challenges, Jan Tore Sanner said.
- We have a challenge providing work labor with the competences we need. We therefore need a knowledge boost.
Met with North Norwegian politicians
The Kirkenes Conference is an arena for both talks and for closed political meetings. On Wednesday morning, prior to the opening of the conference, Jan Tore Sanner and Foreign Minister Børge Brende met with representatives of the three northernmost Norwegian counties, the so-called High North Forum. The theme was the government’s new High North Strategy.
The demographic development of the region was a key feature of this meeting, High North News has learned. In a preliminary strategy proposal, it is argued that the population growth is deflating, the competence required in order to secure continuing growth is lacking and the population is growing older.
Jan Tore Sanner says the previous High North Strategy has been too top-down.
- This was the first meeting where both the Foreign Minister and I participated. This is a forum where we can try to agree on a few clear strategies. We must place emphasis on key areas, and education must be one of the most important ones, Jan Tore Sanner says.
Both Børge Brende and Jan Tore Sanner in their respective speeches forecasted strong and continued growth in the North.
High up the value chain
- If Northern Norway succeeds, then the rest of Norway succeeds, Sanner said. Brende argued that the growth is higher and unemployment lower in the North.
Børge Brende emphasized that the High North initiative is much more than just money.
- We must create jobs that can handle the Norwegian cost level, and that requires efforts high up in the value chain, Børge Brende said.
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