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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 13, 2004

13 April 2004
Joint Tatar-South Korean Venture To Build Housing In Tatarstan
The Tatar Construction Company and the South Korean POSCO Engineering and Construction company registered their new joint venture TKSK-250 in Kazan on 12 April, reported the same day. The registration came following the signing of an agreement on 18 February by Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and POSCO E&C Vice President Yong Kyung Cho for the joint construction of at least 250,000 square meters of common housing a year in Tatarstan. POSCO E&C will own a controlling share of the venture, while the Tatar government will own a blocking stake. POSCO E&C plans to invest $300 million in the project over the next five years.

Tattelcom Wins Tender To Connect Tatar Schools To The Internet
The Russian Education Ministry and Tatarstan's Tattelecom communications company signed a contract to connect Tatarstan's schools to the Internet, reported on 12 April, citing the Tatar Communications Ministry. According to the project, 1,306 schools in the republic are to be connected to the World Wide Web. The funding for the 40 million ruble ($1.4 million) project will be provided in equal shares from the federal and republican budgets. Republic-wide there is currently one computer for every 32 students, and one computer for every 27 students in Kazan, one of the best rates in Russia. Russia seeks to reach an overall rate of one computer for every 50 students by 2008.

Education Official Indicates State Cannot Set Up Nursery Schools For Muslims
Commenting on an appeal by more than 500 parents demanding the establishment in Kazan of nursery schools for Muslim children, Kazan Education Department senior specialist Roza Bogdanova told "Vechernyaya Kazan" on 13 April that the state education bodies will likely have to refuse the appeal because of the separation of church and state. On the same issue, Tatar Muslim Religious Board Deputy Chairman Weliulla Yaqupov said people often appeal to the board on this issue but that the board is not authorized to establish such institutions. "We often see on TV that Orthodox nursery schools and gymnasiums successfully operate in Russian oblasts," Yaqupov said. "It is evident that they are financed from the state budget. It would be good if similar nurseries [for Muslims] are established at the state's expense."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkortostan Seeks Cooperation With Dutch Ag Companies
While visiting the Netherlands on 12 April, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov met with that country's deputy minister of agriculture, nature, and quality of foodstuffs, Ate Oostru, and offered joint projects to share experiences in the agricultural industry, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day, citing the presidential press service. Rakhimov expressed interest in training Bashkir specialists in agriculture with Dutch companies and to share modern technology in the production and processing of agricultural products. In addition, the Bashkir president suggested that Dutch farmers could benefit from attending an Ufa seminar on investing in Russia's regional agricultural industries. During the visit both sides reportedly agreed to establish a working group to further develop mutual cooperation. The Netherlands is Bashkortostan's fifth largest trading partner with annual trade turnover of $223 million.

BAL's Management Ready For Talks With Trade Union
Top management of Bashkir Airlines (BAL) is ready to resume the talks with trade union representing its staff and to discuss the draft collective treaty for 2004, Rosbalt reported on 12 April, citing the deputy chairman of BAL's trade unions, Sergei Eshtokin. Last week's refusal by Bashkir Airlines' company's directors to discuss the draft, which reportedly reflects the recent policy changes in the Russian Labor Code, brought a strike warning from the union. The draft document requires BAL's management to obtain permission from the trade union before initiating any layoffs, report its business activities to the union, and give a 30 percent pay raise to the staff. Eshtokin told the agency that in 2003 the trade union tried reaching a compromise with management by agreeing to a temporary 25 percent cut in salaries, "but our recessions have brought no results and due to the poor management our situation has only worsened." In his words, the Bashkir company's pilots currently earn at least two times less than their colleagues in neighboring regions. In 2002, the federal government managed to annul the Bashkir government's ownership of BAL and made the company its own property. Over the last two years BAL's fleet has been cut to one-fourth of its size, and up to half of the planes in its fleet are run down.

Ural Area Said To Be Prepared For Spring Floods
According to Rosbalt on 12 April, due to the excessive rain this spring -- which exceeded by twofold the normal amount -- the Ural area of Bashkortostan is threatened by floods. Vasilii Lapikov, head of Bashkortostan's hydrometeorology center, told the agency that in order to avoid flooding the republican ministry of emergencies will reduce water levels at dams and reservoirs.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi