PRIORITY TO SCIENCE

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PRIORITY TO SCIENCE

Parlamentskaya Gazeta, March 21, 2002, p. 1

Yesterday President Putin chaired a joint meeting of the Security Council, the State Council board, and the Presidential Council for Science and High Technology. They looked at policy fundamentals in the sphere of developing science and high technology for the period to 2010 and later.

The session discussed and approved priorities of the state policy in the sphere of developing Russian science and technology. Thus, special emphasis will be placed on development of basic research, the most important applied research and projects, improvement of state regulation in these spheres, formation of a national innovation system, preservation of human resources, and integration of science and education. It was found necessary to create a system of measures aimed at stimulating scientific, technological, and innovation activity in the priority areas of developing Russian science. As a result, basic formation of the innovation system and an integrated structure of the scientific and technological system capable of stable functioning in market economy conditions is supposed to be completed within less than a decade.

Academics themselves, who are constantly short of funding, hope everything will now change for the better. Things can’t get any worse. The federal law “On science and state scientific-technical policy” is not actually observed. The “four percent of budget spending” which ought to be allocated to science is a myth. At the same time, the government is not promising a flood of funding in the near future. Scant resources are distributed between ten priority areas of developing scientific research, and twenty critical areas specified by the Academy of Sciences. Other fields will have to survive on their own.

All this is only half the problem. There is also a great shortage of personnel. Around 200,000 young scientists have emigrated in recent years. As a result, the average age of Russian academics is now 56, while in other countries it is less than 45.

SELEZNEV LOST VOTE, WILL LEAVE FOR SPAIN

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, March 21, 2002, p. 1

The Duma deprived the speaker, Gennady Seleznev, of the casting vote at meetings of the Duma Council.

This amendment approved by the Duma had been initiated by a few deputies of the Duma Regulations Committee, centrist representatives. According to the amendment, leaders of all Duma associations, both factions and groups, will have the casting vote at sessions of the Duma Council that determines in particular the agenda for plenary sessions. Gennady Seleznev, who is a communist faction member, will not have this vote.

Seleznev himself took part in discussions and claimed the decision had political sources. “I know what the voting will be,” he said, and left the Duma on account of the need to deliver the decision of the lower house to Sergei Ignatiev, who had become head of the Central Bank.

STEEL RESPONSE

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, March 21, 2002, p. 1

The US has introduced its 30% steel import tariffs. This measure affects about a third of Russian metal. EU countries have already taken response measures. We have no means of response. Therefore, Russian-American talks continue, in the hope of finding a compromise.

The United States has been forced to produce extra arguments in favor of imposing the tariffs. Some American companies spoke in favor of some concessions as soon as the talks had started: this is connected with the clear and unanimous position of all the fifteen countries that are affected by the U.S. tariffs. Apparently, the US fears some form of retaliation; and this is indeed happening. The EU decided yesterday to protect its internal steel market and is going to introduce “temporary” restrictions on imports of steel products. The new, very high tariffs will be introduced “within the next few days” and will last for 200 days. As for Russia, the matte will finally be settled during Economic Development Minister Herman Gref’s upcoming visit to Washington. Both parties are currently outlining their positions.

RUSSIAN CONFIRMED ITS PLAY

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, March 21, 2002, p. 3

Russia will maintain the oil export restrictions in the second quarter. This decision was made yesterday at Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov’s meeting with the heads of Russia’s largest oil companies. Since the start of this year, Russia introduced restrictions on oil exports in order to support global oil prices. Exports were reduced by 150,000 barrels per day compared to the end of 2001. The first quarter’s experience proved ambiguous. Oil prices continued to fluctuate. In any case, prices determined for April in futures trading on the New York Stock Exchange, fell almost 1%, to around $24.88 a barrel. Analysts say this is because trade participants had expected increase in the U.S. oil products reserves after a three-week reduction.

In this situation, some called for further cuts in exports. However, this would not be profitable for Russia. Kasianov said at the New York World Economic Forum that Russia would look out for its own interests and would not yield to the pressure of other oil exporting countries.

The pressure the prime minister mentioned continued after the forum. Energy ministers of Venezuela (currently chairing OPEC) and Iran (a largest oil exporter) came to Moscow. Iraq also tried to influence exporters, for the crisis on oil markets had brought Iraq its own problems. Iraq’s oil exports have lately fallen by 18.6%.

Russia had to take all these difficulties into account. Therefore, the decision was made to maintain the restrictions. This will not bring Russia particular economic problems, experts believe. On the contrary, Russia may have gained definite political benefits, for it has come to play an active role and is being asked to help. This role provides hope for concessions in other international issues.

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