YEVGENY NAZDRATENKO ON QUOTAS AND THE ILLUSION OF TRANSPARENCY
Rossiyskaya Gazeta, March 12, 2001, p. 1
Yevgeny Nazdratenko, newly-appointed Chairman of the State Fishing Committee, has criticized auctions of fishing quotas. He called these auctions “a threat to the food supply.”
Nazdratenko said that “all revenues from sales of the quotas remain in Moscow, while the regions lose a great deal of tax revenue through this.” Nazdratenko said that although some of this money returns to the regions as subsidies, the regions have to wait a long time to see it.
He also said that these quotas only “create the illusion of transparency.” Most foreign fishing operations take several times more fish that their quotas permit.
Nazdratenko declared that instead of these auctions, it is necessary for the government to introduce stricter control over Russia’s marine resources.
MORE SANCTIONS AGAINST TALIBAN
Rossiyskaya Gazeta, March 12, 2001, p. 7
President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree stipulating a complex of strong measures against the Taliban, which controls most of Afghanistan. This decree corresponds to a UN decision.
A special item of the decree bans supplies of a chemical used in processing of opium to produce heroin. It is no secret that most of the Taliban’s revenue comes from the drug trade.
These measures are also aimed at freezing all financial assets and accounts of organizations connected with Osama bin Laden, e.g. the El-Kaida company set up by bin Laden in 1992 in Sudan.
Gulam Sakhi Gairat, senior secretary of the Afghanistan Embassy in the Russian Federation, says that El-Kaida is acting covertly by sending its agents to other countries. These agents pose as pilgrims, businessmen, and tourists. He says that Russian special services are informed about this organization’s methods of operation.
KURSK SALVAGE OPERATION IS SHORT OF MONEY
Izvestia, March 12, 2001, p. 2 EV
Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who heads the government commission on investigating the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster, announced yesterday that the start of the salvage operation has been postponed from July-August to late summer and early autumn. According to the Interfax news agency, the postponement is due to the delay in signing a contract between the Rubin Design Bureau and an international consortium including Dutch and Norwegian firms: Halliburton, Smith Tak, HMC, and Mamut. According to Klebanov, the reason for the postponement is that the international Kursk foundation, established to raise money for salvaging the submarine, is most unlikely to accumulate the required $80 million in time (of this sum, Russia is to provide $25 million). Klebanov also noted that “if the fund fails to raise the necessary sum of money, the missing part will be taken from the 2002 federal budget”.
PAVEL BORODIN DENIED BAIL
Izvestia, March 12, 2001, p. 2 EV
A federal court in Brooklyn decided on Friday to deny bail to Pavel Borodin, former presidential property manager and current State Secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union, who was arrested on January 17 at Kennedy International Airport, New York. Federal judge Victor Pohorelsky explained his decision by saying that Borodin might “hide at the Russian Embassy in New York, placing himself beyond the court’s reach”.
Several hours after the decision was announced, James Collins, the US Ambassador in Moscow, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, where Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov expressed Russia’s strong objection to the decision of the New York court. Pavel Borodin’s defense lawyers have already lodged an appeal, which is to be considered by a higher court on March 16.
GERMANY SUSPENDS PAYMENTS TO NAZI VICTIMS
Trud, March 12, 2001, EV
Germany has postponed payments to former forced laborers from Russia and other countries for an indefinite period. According to the Berlin branch of the Itar-Tass news agency, a source close to the Memory, Responsibility and the Future foundation, which is to make the payments, explained that the reason for the delay is a New York court decision to consider a collective lawsuit by Nazi victims against a number of German firms. According to the same source, there is currently a “vicious circle” in which companies are ready to pay compensation only on the condition that the US judiciary transfers the lawsuits to the government of Germany. The US is prepared to meet Germany’s demands only if the German Economy Foundation, which unites about 6,000 private enterprises, proves the sincerity of their intentions and transfers the money to Berlin.
In the near future, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder plans to meet with business representatives in order to solve the problem. He intends to convince the companies to transfer about DM 5 billion to the Memory, Responsibility and the Future foundation, so that individual payments to Nazi victims can be started immediately.
DEREGULATION IN RUSSIA
Vek, No. 10, March 7, 2001, p. 2
The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade predicts that once a package of economic deregulation bills is passed, cutting red tape, the state’s losses will be reduced by 167 billion rubles; goods and services will become cheaper, since prices will no longer incorporate the so-called representation costs that numerous ministerial controllers currently feed on.
Duma deputy Svetlana Gvozdeva believes that although this package will be enthusiastically received by the Duma, “there will be great difficulties with passing it… Many deputies place the blame for economic hardships primarily on poor state regulation of industry. In the past 80 years we have grown used to relying too much on state control, and it will be hard to give up this habit.” That is why, according to Gvozdeva, legislators are likely to take a negative stand when it comes to considering the bills.
MIDDLE CLASS EXPANDS
Argumenty i Fakty, No. 10, March, 2001, p. 7
The National Standard of Living Center has released income figures for 2000. For the first time since the 1998 crisis, the figures are favorable. Average incomes rose slightly, even after inflation. Thus, over the past year the consumer basket of goods became 178 rubles (18.4%) more expensive, whereas the average per capita income increased by 533 rubles (32.5%).
It is worth noting that incomes rose at all levels of society. Therefore, 5% of the poor managed to get above the poverty line in 2000 and enter the low income category (which now accounts for 29% of the population). The ranks of the middle class likewise grew, by 3%.
However, in the 11 poorest Russian regions, the average income even of working citizens is still lower than the minimal wage. For 69% the average income is higher than one but lower than two minimal wages; only in 9 regions it is higher than two minimal wages.
INCOME FORECASTS FOR RUSSIA
Profil, No. 8, March 5, 2001, p. 20
According to expert forecasts from the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, in the first quarter of 2001 real incomes (with regard for inflation) will be 7.2% higher than in the same period of 2000.
In January 2001, industrial output was 5.3% higher than the January 2000 level, totalling 436.4 billion rubles. Business revenues increased, which allowed them to increase wages.
At the same time, wage backlogs in the state sector continue to fall. In January 2000 they totaled 10.2 billion rubles, whereas in January 2001 they were 4.9 billion rubles, and in February 4.5 billion rubles.
Argumenty i Fakty (Moscow), No. 10, March, 2001, p. 1
According to the Moscow Federation of Labor Unions, the total volume of overdue wages in Moscow has reached 518 million rubles. Over 80,000 Muscovites working in 105 organizations (private and state sector) are not receiving regular wages. The greatest problems are in industry, where 22 enterprises owe their employees 218.5 million rubles; 95% of the backlogs are among machine-building enterprises, including those partly owned by the Moscow city government.
On the other hand, the situation outside industry is also poor. Total wage backlogs in Moscow-based research organizations are nearly 100 million rubles, those in the cultural sphere 2.7 million rubles, those in education 3 million rubles; and wages in these fields are low anyway. Thus, according to Moscow labor unions, the average salary of a Moscow schoolteacher is 2,000 rubles a month, while the average minimum wage in Moscow has already exceeded 3,000 rubles per month. In addition, according to Mikhail Nagaitsev, Chairman of Moscow Federation of Labor Unions, the 10% wage rises in Moscow industry in 2000 only compensated for the losses of 1998-99.
KURSK DISASTER INVESTIGATION STALLED
Novosti Razvedki i Kontrrazvedki, No. 3-4, March, 2001
Deputy Valery Dorogin, a Duma delegate to the state commission on investigation of the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster, doubts that the real cause of the tragedy in the Barents Sea will ever be established. Dorogin does not think the cause of the sinking will be determined even after the vessel is raised from the seabed.
Among the leading theories for the Kursk disaster Dorogin named a collision with a foreign submarine. He said there was evidence that a foreign submarine left the naval exercise area in the Barents Sea “at a very slow speed” soon after the Kursk disaster. In addition, according to Dorogin, “a British submarine was suddenly decommissioned” shortly after the Kursk sinking, despite the fact that this submarine had been twelfth in line for decommissioning.