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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 4, 2004

4 May 2004
Tatarstan To End Free Housing Project
The Tatar government will wind down a program to distribute free apartments to families living in ramshackle housing in 2004 and replace it with a mortgage-based scheme to help such families afford new homes, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 3 May. The transition is reportedly being undermined by an absence of relevant federal legislation, however. If put into force, the new scheme would tap the same funding source as its predecessor, which eventually relied on major industrial donors in Tatarstan. The republic levied a tax to support the program from 1996 to 2001, but the federal government abolished that tax after concluding that it violated local companies' rights and the jurisdiction of Russian tax agencies. The housing aid and relocation project will have distributed 49,000 free apartments in Tatarstan by the end of this year.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Delegation Returns From Germany
A government delegation from the Bashkortostan led by republican Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Minister Boris Kolbin returned from Germany on 1 May, Bashinform reported the same day. The delegation included Economic Development and Industry Minister Valentin Vlasov, Deputy Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Minister Ildar Ekhmetshin, Ufa-administration first deputy head Ramil Khelimov, and the heads of leading Tatar companies. The primary aim of the visit was to participate in Russian Economy Days in Stuttgart on 27 April. Delegation members met with entrepreneurs and officials from the Baaden-Wuerttemberg Economy Ministry.

An agreement was reached on the participation of German construction company Tzublin in a tender to erect an ice rink in Ufa. In Dresden, the Bashkir delegation met with officials of the Saxon Economy and Labor Ministry. Kolbin praised a 50 million-euro line of credit that was provided by the Saxon government to Bashkortostan in 1992 and is still being tapped. In late 2004, the two sides are expected to negotiate an extension of that credit. Deputy Minister Barbara Mayer said initial negotiations on prolonging the facility have been held with the Saxon Finance Ministry, adding, "We are all optimistic."

Few Trade Union Members Join May Day Event
The Bashkir Federation of Trade Unions failed to muster the 8,000 participants it vowed to attract for a May Day gathering, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 3 May. Many of the participants in the meeting on Lenin Square appeared to be pensioners. Federation Chairman Emirkhan Semirkhanov told the meeting that joint efforts by trade unions and employers have resulted in a dramatic reduction in unpaid wages. "The Russian president stated that it is necessary to cut in half the number of poor residents in the country," Semirkhanov said. "We believe poverty should be eliminated completely, rather than reduced. The task should be resolved through the development of production, economic growth, and a well-considered social policy."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova