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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 22, 1999

22 July 1999
Parliament Adopts Controversial Electoral Laws
Tatarstan's State Council approved a package of electoral laws on the third reading on 21 July that included changes and amendments to the republic's constitution. The legislation will abolish party lists and move State Council elections to December where they will be simultaneously held with Russian State Duma elections. Representatives from 15 opposition parties went on a hunger strike to protest the laws. They demanded that the republic continue holding elections using party lists and that it bar local administration heads from running for State Council seats. Both requests were rejected by the State Council. Deputies also passed, on second reading, a bill that would switch Tatarstan to a Latin alphabet. A bill on the expansion of Tatar-language radio and TV broadcasting was also discussed. Insufficient financing and and a lack of necessary resources were the main reasons given for the lack of development of Tatar-language journalism. The government introduced a program to the council that would create separate state radio and TV channels in Tatar and financial support for Tatar-language broadcasting. The State Council also decided to open a Tatar-language university in Kazan, Tatar Radio and Television reported.

Overdue Wage Total Reduced
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said debts on wages have been reduced in Tatarstan by 900 million rubles ($36 million) this year, with the current debt to state workers totalling some 2 billion rubles ($80 million). Shaimiev made his comments at meeting in Kazan attended by the heads of city and district administrations, and the directors of ministries and departments from which the first six-month totals were summed up. Shaimiev said production growth went up 5.3 percent in 6 months, and was up 13.6 percent in June alone. He added that the growth is much higher than was forecasted, and most companies in the republic increased production. It was reported that the collection of taxes also increased. Of Tatarstan's 48 districts, 32 received 100 percent of their planned budget income, Tatar Radio and Television reported.

Drought Reduces Grain Harvest
Tatarstan's agriculture and foodstuff minister, Marat Akhmetov, said a drought has brought this years' grain crop down by between 1,000 and 1,500 kilograms per hectare. Akhmetov made his comments in an interview with Tatar-Inform on 21 July. Akhmetov said that the last increase in gas prices has not affected the republic's farmers because their contracts with Tatarstan's Finance Ministry were made before the increase and allow farmers to purchase fuel at the lower prices. In the autumn, farmers will be able to barter two kilos of grain for each kilo of fuel.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova