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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 19, 2004

19 July 2004
Tatarstan To Develop 'Innovative' Education...
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told a meeting of Tatarstan's Security Council on 16 July that the existing quality of higher education in the republic and Russia is characterized by a lack of innovation and "slows down the development of the country's and the republic's economy," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Shaimiev said that the issue was topical for industrial regions like Tatarstan and it was vital to introduce innovative studies to all levels of education in the republic. Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva said at the same meeting that the government is working on the concept of innovative education. The new educational concept will reportedly rely on close interaction between the state and the private sector.

...And Seeks To Privatize Housing Sector
Also on 16 July, the Security Council discussed housing-sector reform in Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. In Tatarstan, 65 percent of apartment blocks are serviced by private companies. Nevertheless, state-owned companies still control 75 percent of the housing services market, which is worth 15.1 billion rubles ($520 million). President Shaimiev hinted in his address to the council that it was essential to privatize the state-owned housing-sector companies in order to attract new investments. Construction, Architecture, and Housing Minister Marat Khosnullin said that 34 of the 236 state housing companies are currently facing bankruptcy proceedings and the state is unable to provide the necessary investments for modernizing the energy, water supply, and sewage systems.

Nefis Chemicals Company Increases Production
According to results from the first half of 2004, the Kazan-based Nefis company, which manufactures home detergents and cosmetics, is one of the most dynamic ventures in Tatarstan's petrol, gas, and chemical sector, Intertat reported on 16 June. In the first six months of 2004, Nefis increased its year-on-year production by 25 percent, earning 80 million rubles ($2.7 million) in profits. However, despite the reported breakthrough in the liquid detergents market, the company's profitability decreased compared to the first half of 2003.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

BAL Management Sets Up Group Opposed To Strikers
Following the 8 July strike of Bashkir Airlines' (BAL) employees, the company's management has set up "an initiative group" of those employees who did not support the strike, an unidentified BAL source told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 18 July. The newly formed group made a public statement condemning the strikers who halted BAL flights from Moscow, Ufa, Istanbul, Norilsk, Sochi, and other cities in the Commonwealth of Independent States, and demanded that they should be fired. Earlier this month, BAL pilots decided to strike after the management refused to sign an agreement proposed by the trade union. The agreement has been under discussion for seven months. BAL is currently being prepared for privatization.

Tatar Civic Groups Unenthusiastic About Presidential Meetings
At a 15 July congress, Tatar civil rights organizations in Bashkortostan spoke unenthusiastically about past meetings with the heads of Bashkortostan's and Tatarstan's presidential staff earlier this year, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. According to the Tatar rights activists, such meetings are used to downplay the current situation concerning the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan. A working group of Tatar activists is currently preparing a republic-wide referendum on granting official status for the Tatar language, which is spoken by about 1 million Tatars living there.

Bashkir Residents Hungry For Mortgages
Bashkortostan is topping the mortgage-lending charts in Russia, with some 290 million rubles ($10 million) worth of loans distributed to its residents in the first half of 2004, Bashinform reported on 18 July. The majority of the loans were obtained by residents of the capital Ufa. Of the loans, 97 percent of them were offered by Bashekonombank.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi