Ávarp á ráðstefnunni Conference on Development of Regions and Organizations – Challenge for Economics and management Science

Ávarp á ráðstefnunni Conference on Development of Regions and Organizations – Challenge for Economics and management Science sem haldin var í Háskólanum á Akureyri á vegum samgöngu-og sveitarstjórnarráðuneytisins, Byggðastofnunar og Nordregio.

Dear guests. Welcome to Akureyri Municipality. It´s an honour to have you here to discuss the matter of Development of Regions and Organizations – Challenge for Economics and Management Sciences.

One might say that almost every second conference which takes place these days is about this topic – the regions, the rural, the urban and how the rural will survive in a fast development worldwide and the big question is of course will it make it! Or will it simply die.

I´m no fortune teller but I do know things about the rural with my eight years experience as a Mayor in Vesturbyggð, a small Municipality in the Westfjords and now being a Mayor in a Municipality with around 19 thousand inhabitants. And my experience tells me that we have been a little bit slow to jump on the train of knowledge. We have been a little bit to slow or maybe just scared of using technical solutions to maintain all kind of service which has been difficult to keep in the rural areas. But hopefully that will change – and if not, then we will perhaps have to face the fact that the rural areas will in the future be rural but without people.
So, what is really the challenge for the economics in the rural areas? Well, if we begin to connect economics to budget, I can tell you that now when we, the politics and I, are working on the budget for the Municipality, we would really appreciate to have more income to be able to keep on offering all the services in the Municipality – some of the service is obligated and others not.

Akureyri like other municipalities is having a hard competition about inhabitants and companies. We need more people so that the puzzle, let´s call it the service-puzzle, works out. Some of the pieces in the puzzle we can´t control, because they are rules made by the government and some of these rules are big influence on the municipalities budget. And how can we manage that? Well, the discussion about fewer and bigger Municipalities is always getting louder and the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities has emphasized that Municipalities with less than hundred inhabitants must combined with others. By doing so it´s more likely that the municipalities can fulfil their obligated projects. This suggestion is debatable and it´s understandable. People are afraid that they will have less service, for example that schools, and health service will only be located in the largest Municipalities. The discussion is full of emotions and we need to be careful on how we do those changes, and now I mean both the Municipalities and the Government.

Dear guests – I hope you will have and have been having a fruitful conference here in Iceland. You are discussing an issue that has to be addressed and it´s important that it´s done not just in the urban area but also here in the rural.