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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 20, 2002

20 February 2002
Local, Republican Leaders Discuss Development In Chally
President Mintimer Shaimiev chaired a meeting of senior Tatarstan and Chally city officials on 19 February. The president praised the city administration's achievements in the field of waste-recycling and city maintenance. Switching to republic-wide issues, Ecology and Natural Resources Minister Boris Petrov stressed the necessity of forming a waste-recycling industry in Tatarstan.

Meanwhile, Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov reported that local markets, which provide hundreds of thousands of residents with cheap consumer goods and contribute 25 percent to the total retail sale turnover, are in a critical state. President Shaimiev summed up Salikhov's report by saying it was important to enable private businessmen and help them maintain order, rather than "endlessly expand the markets."

According to the director of an economic and social affairs center, Alevtina Kudryavtseva, real estate surveys have revealed that 427 unfinished buildings lie dormant -- representing 17 billion rubles ($566 million) in investment. Another 21 billion rubles ($700 million) is necessary to complete the projects. Shaimiev talked of a "cautious approach" to the construction of new buildings. He noted a possible model for dealing with unfinished, Soviet-era projects, citing the sale of a planned hotel for a symbolic price of 1 ruble to a Chally businesswoman after city officials tried for years to sell it.

TPC Demands That Key Constitutional Clauses Remain Unchanged
Tatar Public Center leaders Reshit Yagafarov and Mars Shamsutdinov issued a public statement on 19 February urging Tatarstan authorities to hold an open forum on proposed amendments to the 1992 constitution. The TPC called the republic's parliamentary deputies "traitors" for considering constitutional amendments without appealing to voters. The center demanded that major provisions on sovereignty and the republic's status as a "subject under international law" be left unchanged. According to TPC Chairman Yagafarov, amendments foisted on Tatarstan demonstrate Russia's move toward re-establishing a unitary state and eliminating ethnic republics.

The same day, Shamsutdinov announced the TPC has established ties with Boris Berezovsky's Liberal Russia Movement to team up for upcoming State Duma elections. (Regional organizations such as TPC are not allowed to field candidates under federal law.)

Official Says Wage Arrears Are Not Climbing...
Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Shishkin said on 19 February that "Tatarstan currently possesses all opportunities for maintaining the timely payment of wages to budget-sector employees." He added that the overwhelming majority of rural regions -- aside from Aksubay and Elke -- managed to distribute wages to state employees for January, although they faced difficulties in making cash remuneration. The republican budget has reportedly spent 334 million rubles ($11.13 million) on financial subsidies to regions to avoid an increase in wage arrears. Shashkin said Tatarstan's situation in this field is "calmer" than in other regions and oblasts in Russia.

...But They're Not Falling, Either
Deputy Economy and Industry Minister Sergei Mukhin told reporters on 19 February that Tatarstan residents are owed 962 million rubles ($32 million) in back wages. He added that the average monthly salary in the republic grew by 44 percent in 2001 to about 3,000 rubles ($100). KamAZ automotive concern, Kazan Gunpowder Plant, and Kazan Sviyaga electric equipment factory were named the biggest debtor companies with a combined 162 million rubles ($5.4 million) owed in back wages.

Agriculture Industry Maintaining Stability, Minister Says
In his turn, Deputy Agriculture Minister Nikolai Yakushkin told a news conference on 19 February that agricultural companies in Tatarstan are not exceeding 2-3 month delays in salaries payment and, for the first time in several years, employees are being paid in cash. Farms reportedly have repaid 90 percent of the 2.75 billion rubles ($91.66 million) credit taken from Tatagroprombank, Ak Bars Bank, and Tatfondbank in early 2001.

Kazan Gunpowder Plant To Undergo Government-Run Downsizing
Deputy Economy and Industry Minister Sergei Mukhin told reporters on 19 February that the federal government recently decided to restructure and downsize the Kazan Gunpowder Plant, which is currently facing bankruptcy due to a lack of orders. The same day, the plant's top managers told Efir TV that about 1,000 of the plant's 3,000 employees, who are owed 30 million rubles ($1 million) in salaries for the past six months, will be dismissed due to the restructuring. Before the collapse of Soviet Union, the 200-year-old plant provided the Soviet bloc with ammunition and chemical agents.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Duma Deputy Talks About Centralization And Bashkortostan
State Duma Deputy from Bashkortostan Rim Bakiev (Fatherland-All Russia) said on 18 February that he thought Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov successfully implemented the principle of centralization of political power in the republic. Bakiev stated his support for the process of appointing regional administration heads in Bashkortostan by presidential decree, after which the appointee must win a majority of votes in his region. "This is democratic principle in staff policy."

Referring to the trend toward centralizing state bodies in Russia, Bakiev said that it was "good for politics, but it can be harmful for the economy, budget, and tax spheres.... In this situation, Moscow officials are given an opportunity to decide on granting support to the regions which tend to ask for more sums from the capital, which may involve bribery."

Social Insurance Fund Chief Arrives In Ufa
The chairman of the Russian Social Insurance Fund, Yurii Kosarev, arrived in Ufa on 19 February to discuss the development of social insurance in Bashkortostan with President Rakhimov.

Bashkortostan Cultivating Cooperation With Western Agricultural Machinery Producers
A delegation made up of representatives from the Russian ministries of Agriculture and Economic Development and Trade, along with executives from the CNH Int. Corp., Belgian New Holland company, and Italian Agrotekhnika visited Ufa on 19 February for talks on establishing a repair station for New Holland harvesters assembled by Bashkir Agromash.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi