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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 30, 2002

30 July 2002
Government Discusses Budget For Upcoming Year
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said at a government meeting on 29 July that the gap between planned budgetary revenues and expenditures in 2003 will force the government to cut payments in all spheres, including social security, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 30 July. Later the same day, however, Minnikhanov said the republic's budget for the upcoming year would "retain its social orientation."

The prime minister said that of a planned budget of 33.7 billion rubles ($1.08 billion), the government would spent about 28 billion rubles on health care, culture, education, and subsidies to residents of the republic.

At the same government meeting on 29 July, Tatar Finance Minister Radik Gizatullin said that the 2003 budget may not have a deficit. While speaking with journalists afterward, Minnikhanov responded to this comment by saying that: "This is the way that finance ministers have to reason. In reality, however, the budget will most likely have a deficit: Expenditures will exceed revenues by at least 10 percent."

The Tatar State Council is set to review the draft 2003 budget in September.

Tatar Congress Leaders Meet With Youth Activists
The chairman of the Executive Committee of the World Tatar Congress, Indus Tahirov, met with the leaders of various Tatar youth organizations from a number of Russian cities, including Samara, Yaroslavl, Nizhnii Novgorod, Tolyatti, Vladimir, Yoshkar-Ola, Moscow, and Buguruslan, on 29 July to discuss ways to fight assimilation and to preserve and promote Tatar culture and traditions in Tatar communities outside Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The meeting resolved to form a special roundtable discussion at the third World Tatar Congress to be held in Kazan in August, as well as to create an informational website for Tatar youth and to ask the congress and the Tatar government to provide funding to support the "young Tatar intelligentsia."

Muslim Organization Supports Protest Over Passport Photos
The Tatar Muslim Religious Board made a public statement on 26 July in support of the protests of Muslim women who are unwilling to have their passport photographs taken without wearing their traditional headdress, as is required by Russia's passport-visa service, reported on 29 July. The statement said that the requirement that Muslim women remove their head coverings "humiliates Muslim women who are forbidden [from removing their head coverings] in the presence of any stranger." The board also argued that despite the claims of the Interior Ministry, it is possible to identify a woman who has her head covered since "Muslim women always wear their head coverings," adding incorrectly that, "this problem has been solved in Western, democratic countries in favor of Muslim women."

Thousands Of Tatar Pensioners To Benefit From Pension Hike
Nearly all the 959,000 registered pensioners in Tatarstan will receive a 9 percent increase in benefits in accordance with a 19 July resolution of the Russian federal government. The head of the Russian Pension Fund in Tatarstan, Airat Shafigullin, told a press conference on 29 July, however, that 15,000 former republican officials who retired in the past decade will not be eligible for the pension hike since they receive pensions on the basis of Tatarstan's law on state service. The pension hike also won't be applied to the handful of former republican employees of Russian nuclear-power plants who are receiving special lifetime pensions already.

Pension Fund officials stated previously that 12 percent of the republic's pensioners receive benefits below the minimum wage, which is currently 1,215 rubles ($39) per month.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Government Delegation Visits London For Credit Talks
A government delegation led by Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov was in London from 23 to 27 July to discuss the republic's economic performance in the first half of 2002 and its plans for socioeconomic development until 2006 with the heads of international ratings agencies Standard & Poor's and Moody's, the Bashkir presidential press service reported on 29 July. The agencies agreed to begin preliminary work on granting credit ratings to Bashkortostan's major industries.

The delegation also reached an agreement with HSBC Bank to receive a loan to help the government meet its obligations regarding its program on socioeconomic development.

Trade Ministry: No New Markets In Ufa
The Bashkir Trade Ministry has announced that it plans to curb the opening of new markets in republic's capital Ufa in order to ensure the stable operation of existing markets, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 29 July.

Back Wages Big Problem In Bashkortostan
The Bashkir State Statistics Committee announced on 29 July that approximately 2,000 companies in the republic are currently in arrears in terms of wages owed to employees, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Back wages total 1.2 billion rubles ($38.7 million).

Republic Sees Baby Boom In First Half Of 2002
The Bashkir Department of Public Records announced on 29 July that there were 23,000 births in the republic in the first six months of 2002, which already exceeds the total number of births for all of 2001 by 1,500, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi