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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 20, 2003

20 February 2003
State Council Begins Two-Day Session
The Tatar State Council began a two-day plenary session on 20 February, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. During the session, deputies are expected to discuss amendments to this year's budget, the protest by the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office against the recently adopted Tatar Constitution, and the drafting of an appeal to the federal government with proposed amendments to planned reforms of the system of paying state employees. RIA-Novosti reported on 19 February that the State Council decided to remove from the agenda the issue of restarting construction on the nuclear-power plant at Kama Alani, which the Tatar government had requested (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 14 February 2003).

Turkish Tycoon Talking Business In Kazan
The president of Turkey's Okan Holding Company, Bekir Okan, arrived in Kazan on 19 February to hold talks with the republic's Cabinet of Ministers, the Kazan city administration, and officials from the State Nonbudgetary Housing Fund on cooperation with republican industries, the Tatar Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation announced the same day. The company has holdings in the construction, food, textile, tourism, and banking industries.

Republic To Carry Out Mass Privatizations
Tatar Land and Property Minister Valerii Vasilev told a government meeting on 19 February that the Tatar cabinet is currently preparing a list of state-owned companies that are to remain under state management, reported the same day. Deputy Prime Minister Ravil Muratov said at the same meeting that all but 35-40 of the 1,088 state-owned companies in the republic will be privatized. Muratov noted that state-owned companies generated only 4 million rubles ($126,200) in profits in 2002, whereas the government had predicted profits of some 64 million rubles.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Agricultural Companies Obtain Chance To Restructure Debts
Bashkir Deputy Agriculture Minister Albert Loqmanov told a ministry meeting devoted to reducing the debts of agricultural producers on 19 February that of Bashkortostan's 1,112 agricultural companies, in 2002 575 made 638 million rubles ($20 million) in profit, 447 accrued 726 million rubles in losses, while 90 of them broke even. Loqmanov said Bashkir agricultural companies owe a total of 16 billion rubles ($505.5 million). He also said those companies usually pay only 20-45 percent of taxes owed, while the remaining debt then triples within 12 months.

The meeting discussed ways of restructuring the debts provided by the federal law. Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister Shamil Wakhitov said agricultural companies have been given a real chance to get out of debt for the first time since the beginning of reforms. According to the law, agricultural producers are allowed to postpone payment of their debts for at least five years and then to arrange an installment system for at least four years. It also allows companies to restructure debts for goods and services in addition to back taxes. The program also includes writing off fines in proportion to repaid debts. Companies are permitted to join the restructuring program only once. The UralSib bank was nominated to serve the restructuring program.

Bashkir Opposition Leader Criticizes Authorities For Low Wages
The head of the Bashkir opposition movement Equality, Aleksandr Arinin, who also announced his intention to run for the Bashkir presidency, wrote in the February issue of the opposition "Otechestvo" monthly newspaper that Bashkortostan, with its strong industry and agriculture and bountiful natural resources, faces a deep socioeconomic and political crisis. Arinin cited data by the federal Statistics Committee, according to which the average salary in the republic in 1990-2002 was 20-40 percent lower than the Russian average. Currently the republic holds 41st place among Russia's 89 regions in this respect, Arinin said.

Writers Concerned About Publishing Of Literature
Speaking at an annual meeting of the Union of Bashkortostan's Writers on 19 February, Marat Kerimov, the head of union's Tatar section, criticized the constant decrease in the number of books by Tatar writers printed in the republic, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Kerimov said only three Tatar books were included in the 2003 plan by the republic's publishing house, which currently has in its portfolio 60 manuscripts by Tatar writers recommended by the union for publication. At such a rate, Kerimov said, young writers won't have their first books printed before they retire.

"Agidel" magazine employee Renat Kamalov sharply criticized Bashkortostan's policy regarding the publishing of literature, saying the 14 books by Bashkir writers and another five Bashkir books for children planned for publication in 2003 is too small a number. Kamalov described the situation in publishing literature as "catastrophic," adding that writers are the lowest-paid group in the republic. He called on writers, if the situation does not improve, to announce a boycott of republican parliamentary and presidential elections.

First Multimedia Bashkir Textbook Issued
A Bashkir-language textbook was issued on a multimedia CD-ROM for the first time in Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 19 February.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova