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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 23, 2002

23 September 2002
Government, Trade Unions, Industries Discuss Social Protection In Tatarstan
Tatarstan's government officials, leaders of the republican Trade Unions Federation, and top managers of Tatar industries gathered on 20 September for a meeting of the trilateral commission on settling social-labor relations chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. Discussion reportedly centered on the regulation of rent and other methods of social protection for Tatarstan's less-privileged population in light of recent rent increases and inflation in other costs of living.

Deputy Minister of Construction, Architecture, and Housing Rauzil Khaziev told the meeting that since 1998 Tatarstan's cabinet has been promoting reform in the housing sector, which has turned into a critical situation because of the vast gap between the real cost for apartments and official rents charged to tenants, which are subsidized. He added that by 2004 Tatarstan's residents, as well as other Russian citizens around the federation, will begin paying 100 percent of housing costs, while currently this figure in Tatarstan is reported at 61 percent with 79.7 percent being the Russian average. Khaziev said that the Tatar government is currently preparing a housing-sector development program for 2003-2007, which will stipulate the amount of subsidies that poorer people in society will receive from the government. The first stage of this program, beginning next year, would require additional expenses from the republican budget, but later the federal budget will fund these expenses.

Tatarstan's Trade Unions chairwoman, Tatyana Vodopyanova, said in her report that during the first half of 2002 rent rose by 32.8 percent and prices for electricity and gas increased by 30 percent. At the same time, the population's average income gained rose only 23.6 percent. She also pointed out that beginning in 1997, state employees in Tatarstan lost their rent subsidies. Vodopyanova asked the commission to maintain the 39 percent rent subsidies that currently exist next year as well and to prohibit any rent increases if the percentage increase is greater than the increase in the growth of people's incomes.

Boris Zakharov, minister of labor and employment, said during the same meeting that as of 1 September Tatarstan's industries owed 823 million rubles ($25.96 million) in wage arrears. Deputy Premier Zile Welieva indicated that long-term arrears in wages is the core of this problem, as wages in recent months have mostly been paid.

The commission agreed to accept the connection between a growth in rent and a growth in the real income of the population in the aforementioned program for housing-sector development in 2003-2007. The program will reportedly also include measures for paying off long-term wage arrears.

Federal Committee Calculates Average Real Estate Price In Tatarstan...
According to the Russian State Construction and Housing Complex Committee on 19 September, cited the next day by Tatar-inform, the officially estimated market cost of an apartment in Tatarstan is 7,700 rubles ($242.9) per square meter. This figure will be used for granting official real estate loans, the agency said. The committee's table of costs shows that Moscow and St. Petersburg have the highest average real estate costs at 16,000 rubles ($504.7) and 10,300 rubles ($324.9) per square meter, respectively, while the lowest price is reported in Kalmykia, where the average apartment costs 5,100 rubles ($160.8) per square meter.

Interior Ministry Preparing For Census
Tatarstan's Interior Ministry said in a press release issued on 20 September that it is thoroughly checking the backgrounds of census officers who will work for the republican State Statistics Committee in the October census, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The ministry seeks to prevent an abuse of power by the officers, each of whom will visit hundreds of residences across Tatarstan.

In preparation for the census, the republican police have already reported that they have discovered "tens of thousands of dead citizens who are still registered as being alive [as well as] many newborn babies who have not been officially registered." Interior Ministry officers will assist census officials in polling residents with criminal backgrounds, street children, and other homeless people, the statement said.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

EES, Bashkirenergo Agree To Get Along...
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov and the head of Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES), Anatolii Chubais, told a press conference in Ufa on 20 September that the basic principles of energy reform are the same in Bashkortostan and in Russia as a whole, Bashinform reported the same day. Chubais was in Ufa for meetings regarding cooperation between EES and the Bashkir government. He met with Rakhimov; Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov; the chairman of the board of Bashkirenergo, Ural Rakhimov; and Bashkirenergo General Director Nikolai Kurapov.

Chubais said the talks were focused, in particular, on his company's investments into the installation of a steam-gas-turbine facility at Ufa's TETs-5 heat-and-power plant. With a capacity of 450 megawatts, the turbine would be the most powerful in Russia.

Chubais also said that all prior issues causing controversy between EES and Bashkirenergo have been resolved, including a lawsuit over customer fees and fines that EES wanted Bashkirenergo to pay (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 31 May and 14 March 2002).

EES and Bashkirenergo promised not to file any more lawsuits against one another, with Rakhimov commenting that "We're starting from scratch." The Bashkir president added that he had sent a letter to the Russian State Duma endorsing plans to reform Russia's energy sector. Chubais said that Bashkir support is important for energy-sector reform.

...As Chubais Praises Ufa For Developing Alternative Energy Sources...
While in Ufa, Chubais praised Bashkortostan's experience in developing alternative energy sources, Bashinform reported on 21 September. Chubais added that the development of alternative sources of power is a matter of great importance for thousands of people. The EES head pointed out that only two regions in Russia, Bashkortostan and Kaliningrad Oblast, use wind power to create energy.

Chubais declined to comment on construction of a nuclear-power plant in Bashkortostan, though he added that the development of nuclear power is "correct and wise."

...And Responds To Critics
Chubais responded on 20 September to criticism of his work by presidential energy-policy adviser Andrei Illarionov by saying that he does not plan to resign, Bashinform reported the next day. Chubais said criticism by his opponents is just one final attempt by those who were unable to persuade the president and government to follow their ideas at previous stages of the energy-reform process.

Speaking at the Baikal Economic Forum in Irkutsk on 19 September, Illarionov accused Chubais of a lack of professionalism and claimed he was incompetent, adding that what is happening at EES is a "national shame." Illarionov said that the company's shares have decreased in value by 60 percent over the past 18 months, while it has lost $6 billion in assets and market capitalization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 September 2002).

Chubais, however, said that the most important thing for EES is that it is ready for winter. He also pointed out that the company, which had 17 billion rubles ($537.3 million) in losses just three years ago, earned 42 billion rubles in net profit in 2001, which he called "an absolutely fantastic result."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova