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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Belarus ready to support Abkhazia, Eastern Partnership, TB , Nanotechnology, Foreign investors, Russia, Ukraine, Sport, Polish Scandal and a New Story

  • From the Top...
  • #397

    Belarus ready to support Abkhazia in dealing with economic problems

    From: BelTA
    Alexander Lukashenko Meeting With President Sergei Bagapsh of Abkhazia
    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko met with President of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh on March 23. The meeting focused on the development of trade, economic and cultural ties, the press service of the President of Belarus told BelTA.

    “I have already discussed the problems, which exist in this region from the economic point of view and concern Belarus, with the President of Russia. There are a lot of things to discuss and primarily economic ones. The number of things to deal with always increases after gaining independence. We will be glad if Belarus’ participation will resolve more problems, which exist in this region,” Alexander Lukashenko told Sergei Bagapsh.

    In turn, the head of Abkhazia thanked Alexander Lukashenko for the meeting. “We are ready to tightly cooperate with Belarus in economic areas,” said Sergei Bagapsh. He informed the Belarusian head of state about Abkhazia’s purchases of Belarusian mechanical engineering products last year. They were mainly tractors and loaders.

    This year Abkhazia is interested in buying a large batch of MAZ automobiles. “We are ready to spend one billion Russian rubles on them. We can afford it today. We will work with Belarus. It is convenient for us and those are quality machines,” said the President of Abkhazia.

    Alexander Lukashenko and Sergei Bagapsh shared their views on the development of tourism and recreation for children as well as the establishment of cooperation in the area of higher education.

    Environmental facilities in Belarus exempt from real estate tax

    In a related story, a list of buildings and constructions designed for environmental protection and improvement of ecological situation that are exempt from real estate tax has been adopted in Belarus. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko signed relevant Decree No. 144 on March 20, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.

    The decree brings presidential decrees and ordinances regarding real estate taxes in compliance with the amendments to the law on real estate taxes that were introduced on January 1, 2009.

    In line with this law, beginning January 1, 2009, real estate tax is levied on buildings and constructions (earlier all fixed assets used to be taxed). This decree introduces a list of buildings and constructions designed for environmental protection and improvement of ecological situation that are exempt from real estate tax. Presidential Decree No.142 of March 7, 2006, is declared void.

  • Other Belarusian News...

    Belarus’ participation in Eastern Partnership to promote European economic integration

    From: BelTA
    Taking part in the Eastern Partnership initiative Belarus will make a significant contribution to the strengthening of regional security and development of European economic integration, BelTA learnt from Nina Mazai, Chairperson of the International Affairs and National Security Commission of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus.

    It is important that not only Belarus, but also our European partners will gain from this project, Nina Mazai said. “European states, including Belarus, have very much in common, and we are ready to play our part and take some responsibility for the security, prosperity and well-being of Europe,” she said.

    Nina Mazai added that Minsk often formulated its vision of Belarus’ participation in this initiative highlighting most promising cooperation avenues: trade and finances, high-tech, transport, power engineering, environmental protection and some others. “Apart from that, we cannot separate economic cooperation from political collaboration. This is why it is obvious that Eastern Partnership initiative will become a good ground for political dialogue.”

    The senator believes that free movement of people, goods and services is the necessary condition for the Eastern Partnership project to be successful. ‘The settlement of visa issues is one of the aspects of this problem,” she noted.

    Nina Mazai underlined, “Belarus’ position remains clear: the conditions should be absolutely equal for all the participants of the project.”

    Belarus expects concrete economic results from Eastern Partnership

    Belarus expects cooperation within the framework of the Eastern Partnership programme to produce concrete economic results, Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Andrei Yevdochenko told the press on March 24.

    “Undoubtedly, first of all, we expect the Eastern Partnership to produce concrete, tangible results in the economic area,” said the Deputy Foreign Minister.

    So far there is an entire range of discriminatory measures used by the European Union in trade with Belarus. “These measures were introduced at different times under various pretences,” said Andrei Yevdochenko. “But today when the modality of our relations with the European Union changes, above all things we insist on the removal of these discriminatory barriers and hindrances from the mutual trade”.

    BelTA reported earlier, the European Union included Belarus into the Eastern Partnership programme. The decision was made at a session of the Council of Europe in Brussels. The new EU programme includes six post-Soviet countries, namely Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. The Eastern partnership envisages economic integration and political rapprochement of the European Union with these countries. The initiative is supposed to facilitate negotiations aimed at setting up free trade zones for services and agricultural products, creating partnering relations and simplifying visa regulations.

    TB rate in Belarus declining

    From: BelTA
    In 2008, Belarus had over 4,500 new TB cases, down 300 cases in 2007, BelTA learnt from the Health Ministry of Belarus.

    According to the preliminary estimates, in 2008 the TB rate dropped 3.2% as against 2007 (from 46.8 to 45.3 cases per 100,000 people). The death of TB patients decreased 6.5% to 8.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

    Over the past four years, TB rate in the country declined 14.4%, the number of recurrences 19%, deaths 29%. Belarus has the lowest tuberculosis rate in children among the countries of Eastern Europe and the former USSR. Over the past four years, the number of children contracting tuberculosis halved to the rate of 4.4 per 100,000 children. Over 97% of children are vaccinated against tuberculosis.

    The project “Support of the National Programme “Tuberculosis” in the Republic of Belarus” is being successfully implemented in the country. The project is financed by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the UNDP.

    Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by mycobacteria which spreads through the air. When infectious people cough, sneeze, talk or spit, they propel TB germs into the air. Left untreated, each person with active TB disease will infect on average between 10 and 15 people every year. But people infected with TB bacilli will not necessarily become sick with the disease. Only 5-10% of people who are infected with TB bacilli become sick or infectious at some time during their life. When someone's immune system is weakened, the chances of becoming sick are greater. Age, diet, labour conditions and untreated diseases play a certain part in the development of TB. Stress and depression can aggravate the disease. Smoking and alcohol abuse reduce the resistance to TB infection.

    Union State scientists to use nanotechnologies in aviation

    From: BelTA
    Scientists of Belarus and Russia have developed a new Union State programme ‘Nano-technologies in space and aviation equipment’, First Deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus Piotr Vityaz told a press conference on March 24, BelTA has learnt.

    Piotr Vityaz noted that the document had already been coordinated and will be approved in the near future. In line with the programme, new nanotechnologies and nanomaterials will be developed to improve space equipment, including lightweight structures with high strength properties.

    ‘Present day goals of the innovation development of the country require a more active transition from fundamental research to development of new nanomaterials and their practical application in industry,’ Piotr Vityaz said.

    At present, new nanotechnological developments are used in material science, powder metallurgy and electronics. ‘We are also considering the application of nanomaterials in construction, including the production of concrete, cement, reinforced concrete and coating. They are used in many areas of the construction industry. For example, using nanomaterials we can produce pavement that can be laid in various weather conditions,” the First Deputy Chairman said.

    Kazakh military to study at Belarus’ universities in 2009

    Kazakh servicemen will study in the military faculties of the Belarusian universities in 2009, Deputy Head of the military education and training department of the Armed Forces of Belarus Colonel Ilya Ryzhankov told BelTA online conference.

    “This year Kazakh military students are going to study at five military faculties of Belarusian universities for the first time,” he said.

    On the whole Belarus is expected to welcome fifty students – ten for each specialty that include “international relations” and “psychology in military sphere” at the military faculty of Belarusian State University. The Kazakh students will study at Belarusian National Technical University and Belarusian University of Information Science and Radioelectronics, and at the military transport faculty of Belarusian State Transport University.

  • Economics...

    Foreign investors to implement 114 projects in Belarus worth $19 billion

    From: BelTA
    Foreign investors intend to implement 114 investment projects in Belarus, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Belarusian Economy Ministry.

    The Belarusian head of government affirmed a schedule to consider investment proposals. The approved proposals will be implemented which will result in the inflow of more than $19 billion of foreign investment in the country. The ministry officials did not specify which projects will be implemented and within what time framework. They pointed out that the investment proposals the Belarusian side received cover almost all economic fields: industry, power engineering, construction, and transport.

    A list of investment projects which implementation is scheduled for 2009 has already been adopted. It encompasses 128 investment projects worth $2.1 billion. The most ambitious projects include the reconstruction of three cement plants ($148 million worth of foreign investments are to be raised for that purpose in 2009), establishment of float-glass production at Gomelsteklo ($65.1 million), reconstruction of Minsk CHP plant No. 2 equipped with advanced steam-gas power unit ($28.1 million), reconstruction of Minsk CHP plant No. 5 ($141.7 million).

    Apart from that, with a view to raising foreign investments Decree No. 2031 was adopted by the Council of Ministers at the end of 2008. This decree approves a list of 115 investment projects that are to be implemented, including those that involve foreign investment.

    The Economy Ministry reminded that according to Decree No. 458 of August 29, 2008, the capital investment is to grow 23-25% in 2009. The government set an objective to raise Br49.5 trillion worth of capital investment in the Belarusian economy in 2009. The amount of foreign investment to be attracted is $3.3 billion, including $1.5 billion of direct investment. The loans that will be provided by Belarusian banks for the productive sector are to amount to Br9.1 trillion.

    The list of the most important investment projects which are to be carried out in 2009 includes 81 projects worth Br3.1 trillion. Experts have established the performance indicators of the investments in the fixed assets.

    According to the Belarusian National Statistics Committee, in 2008 Belarus received $6.526 billion of foreign investments. Some 59.1% of them are foreign investments from legal persons without departmental affiliation ($3.853 billion). In 2008, the direct foreign investments made up $2.279 billion (34.9% of the total foreign investments), up 74% as against 2007. Other foreign investments exceeded $4.244 billion, up 3.4% as against 2007. The indirect foreign investments made up $1.7 million.

    In 2008, the Belarusian National Statistics Committee registered the dynamics of investment inflow from Russia ($2.167 billion, or up 19% as against 2007), Switzerland ($1.225 billion or up 100%), Austria ($945.6 million or up 59%), Cyprus ($555.7 million or up 47%). At the same time, the British investments dropped by 17% ($713.8 million), the German investments – by 62% ($116.8 million).

  • From the Foriegn Press...


    From: Eurasian Net
    Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has pledged an unspecified amount of financial aid to the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

    "After gaining independence, there is more work to do. Belarus would be glad to help solve more problems that exist in the region," Lukashenko was quoted by his official website as telling de facto Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh at a March 23 meeting.

    Belarus, heavily dependent on economic ties with Russia, has been under Kremlin pressure recently to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and the twin breakaway region of South Ossetia. The Kremlin has offered Minsk a $500 million credit on condition that Belarus recognizes the two regions as countries independent from Georgia, Russian media reported.

    The European Union has warned Belarus against such a move. Lukashenko is expected to broach the issue with the Belarussian legislature in April, when parliament reconvenes, the Russian daily Kommersant reported.

    Kudrin Eyes Belarus Currency Swap

    From: Moscow Times
    Medvedev and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko sharing a ski lift on slopes near Sochi on Saturday.
    Russia may agree on a currency swap with Belarus to boost trade and investment during the economic crisis after turning down a request for a 100 billion ruble ($3 billion) loan, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Friday.

    China and Belarus on March 11 agreed on a currency swap worth $3 billion. The three-year accord is worth 20 billion yuan, or 8 trillion Belarussian rubles.

    "I wish Belarus good luck with its currency swap agreement with China," Kudrin told reporters in Minsk. "As for Russia, we still need to study this mechanism, but it's not out of the question."

    Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko failed to win approval for the $3 billion loan from President Dmitry Medvedev during talks outside Moscow on Thursday, Kommersant reported. The two presidents went skiing near Sochi on Saturday.

    Russia received a request for the loan in December after agreeing to provide a $2 billion loan a month earlier. Deputy Finance Minister Dmitry Pankin said in January that Russia was "not even considering" the new request.

    Kudrin said Russia would provide the final $500 million of the $2 billion loan soon, probably after the Russian budget is approved by the State Duma.

    Kudrin said Russia and Belarus have been talking about "using our national currencies for settling accounts," and that an April deadline had been set for proposals on this issue.

    Asked about long-standing plans for a common currency in Russia and Belarus, Kudrin said this is a "very delicate matter."

    Democracy Trickles Down -- Or Not

    From: RFE/RL
    Belarus has been all the rage in Brussels in recent weeks. First the 27 EU ambassadors, then 27 foreign ministers, and last Friday, 27 prime ministers and presidents busied themselves with the question "Can a country run by a dictator, with no functional opposition, very little free media, and a penchant for locking up dissenters -- be in the EU's Eastern Partnership?"

    For now, the answer is yes. The EU summit on March 19-20 put Belarus on the list of invitees, although with conditions attached.

    Which prompts the question (at least outside the halls of power in Brussels): what was so special about Belarus?

    Because at least three of a total of six invitees are not exactly a world away from Minsk. Azerbaijan, for example, could pass for Minsk-on-the-Caspian-Sea with three journalists in jail, its more than two dozen political prisoners, the absence of free and fair elections, and a president without a fixed term limit.

    Or take Armenia. Diplomats in Brussels say its nearly 80 political prisoners were employed as an argument by some of those backing a more lenient take on Minsk.

    Or take Moldova, where democratic reforms are anywhere but in the ascendant.

    Yet Azerbaijan's place in the Eastern Partnership has never been really controversial. Last Monday, I got the chance to ask the EU's external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner why that is so.

    After a regulation account of the EU's good work on the ground, what the commissioner offered was that it was the "style" of President Ilham Aliyev's diplomacy that makes the difference.

    This sums up a paradigm change within the EU, which became apparent last fall, when first Uzbek sanctions were largely dropped and then Belarus was suddenly brought in from the cold.

    The shortest way to securing values is now held to be from the top down. What Brussels is betting on is that as long as eastern leaders keep talking something will trickle down.

  • From the Opposition...

    Lukashenka in fact recognized independence of Abkhazia

    From: Charter 97
    The statements by the Belarusian dictator he made in Sochi during a meeting with Sergei Bagapsh demonstrate that the Belarus authorities have de facto recognized independence of Abkhazia.

    The first words the Belarusian dictator said at the meeting with Bagapsh show his recognizing of Abkhazia. “The number of things to deal with always increases after gaining independence. We will be glad if Belarus’ participation will resolve more problems in this region,” Lukashenka said.

    Sergei Bagapsh, in turn, said about his readiness to “closely cooperate with Belarus in economic areas” and even expressed an intention to spend a billion Russian rubles on MAZ automobiles purchasing. The sides also shared their view on the development of tourism and recreation for children as well as the establishment of cooperation in the area of higher education.

    Statement by Lukashenka, quoted by his press service, de facto recognizes independence of Abkhazia. The fact of meeting and statements about cooperation in a number of sectors demonstrate that official Minsk is ready to conduct business with Sukhumi.

    Moreover, the report about the meeting between Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the leader of the unrecognized republic shown on ONT channel says that “it has been the fifth top-level meeting for the last time”. The Belarusian ruler has already met with presidents of Serbia, Armenia, Russia, and the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. So, the official TV ranged Sergei Bagapsh among Javier Solana, Dmitry Medvedev, Serzh Sargsyan, and Boris Tadic.

    Even German politologist Alexander Rahr, loyal to the Belarusian authorities, said about the yesterday’s meeting of Lukashenka and Bagapsh:

    “I think it is a beginning of a prudent and slow recognition on Abkhazia’s independence by Belarus. Russia wants that at least the CIS countries recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia within the nearest years. I think Medvedev had a hard talk with Lukashenka in Sochi and asked him to move in this direction. That’s why Lukashenka has faced serious problems with the European Union, because the EU is beginning to nail him down now. If Belarus recognizes these republics, it may forget about the rapprochement with the EU,” the politologist believes.

    Amnesty International presents report on death penalty in Minsk

    From: Viasna
    On 24 March the international human rights organization Amnesty International presented its annual report on the use of the death penalty. The report underlines that Belarus is the only European country which still uses the capital punishment.

    Nicola Duckworth, Director of the AI Program for Europe and Central Asia, stresses that the death penalty is the most inhuman, cruel and degrading form of punishment: ‘There is no room for hanging, beheading, electrocution, lethal injection or lapidating in the 21th century.’

    According to Mrs.Duckworth, Amnesty International thinks that the death penalty violates the fundamental right to life and therefore it advocates against the death penalty in any cases without exception, notwithstanding the nature of the crime, the personality of the criminal or the manner in which the state murders the convict. The human rights activist thinks that the death penalty is a deliberate and cold-blooded murder of a human being, executed by the state for the sake of justice. According to Mrs.Duckworth, crime victims do deserve a triumph of justice, but the truth is that the death penalty does not reduce crime rates more efficiently than any other measures, but can only divert from efficient precaution measures and thorough investigation, by substituting it for simplified solutions to complicated human problems.

    Nicola Duckworth stressed that the convict’s families are neither informed about the date of the execution, nor the place of his burial, which is a source of extra suffering. In 2008 Belarus has carried out at least 4 executions and is the only country in Europe and Central Asia which still uses the punishment, after Uzbekistan abolished the death penalty in January 2008.

    Amnesty International estimates that as many as 400 people may have been executed since Belarus gained its independence in 1991.

    Heather McGill, Amnesty International's researcher on Belarus, also said that the issue is extremely secret in Belarus, the authorities being reluctant to share information on the issue. The Belarusian authorities have repeatedly ignored Amnesty International’s proposals for cooperation and assistance during the preparation of the report.

    Amnesty International called upon the Belarusian authorities immediately to declare a moratorium on the death penalty. ‘It is high time this human rights violation were put an end to. By publishing the report we are starting an international campaign for the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus’, said Mrs.McGill.

  • Around the Region...

    Ukraine says partnership no alternative to EU entry

    From: Forbes
    Ukraine does not consider a European Union initiative to increase cooperation with former Soviet states as an alternative to membership, President Viktor Yushchenko said on Tuesday.

    The EU is aiming to boost relations with six ex-Soviet states including Ukraine through the Eastern Partnership, a programme promoted by the Czech EU presidency and similar to the French-led Mediterranean Union.

    'We do not see eastern partnership as an alternative to our membership in the European Union,' Viktor Yushchenko told reporters in Prague.

    Yushchenko said he welcomed the European Commission's initiative to improve cooperation with Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and Belarus on issues including border monitoring and energy supplies.

    Many EU states are unwilling to offer membership to Ukraine because of waning public support for EU expansion and a desire to avoid straining ties with Moscow, which resents any challenge to its influence over former Soviet states.

    Eastern Europe's Economic Crash

    From: Business Week
    Ryszard Delewski is a businessman on the verge of bankruptcy. After spending anxious months worrying about the future of his company, it seems to be all over.

    Delewski was meeting with a customer in Minsk, Belarus when the telephone rang and the crisis hit home. His bank was calling to inform him that his company, Delkar, was in the red to the tune of 4 million zloty, or about €850,000 ($1.1 million). The amount had accumulated because Delewski had used foreign exchange options to hedge against an appreciation of the zloty. But now the Polish currency had lost almost a quarter of its value against the euro. And no one had explained to Delewski that, if this happened, he would owe compensation payments.

    Each month the 150 employees at Delewski's plant, near the central Polish city of Kielce, stamp 250 tons of sheet metal and aluminum into gutters, lightning rods and other building elements. About half of the finished products are exported to France, Portugal, Germany and other European Union countries, while the remainder is sold in Poland. "Exports have declined sharply in the past few months. But that alone would not have finished us off," says Delewski.

    Given the magnitude of the current crisis, he can understand that demand for his products in the West is down. But why the zloty is falling and why he suddenly owes money is a mystery to him. "We Poles work hard," he says. "Our products are as good as those in the West, and we service our loans." Delewski feels taken in by his lender, Millennium Bank.

    It took Eastern Europe 20 years to overcome the old, inefficient structures of the state-run planned economy. The big, unprofitable combines were privatized, and, as Eastern European companies moved into new markets, the region became integrated into the globalized economy.

    After joining the EU, the Baltic countries in particular made enormous progress in catching up with their Western neighbors, sometimes growing at double-digit rates. Romania, a latecomer to the EU, recorded the largest number of new registrations of Porsche Cayennes worldwide in 2008. In downtown Warsaw, the Stalin-era Palace of Culture and Science, once the city's only skyscraper, disappeared behind new steel-and-glass office towers within the space of a few years. The Czech Republic still enjoyed almost full employment in 2008.

    Now the once-booming Eastern European economy has ground to an abrupt halt. The worldwide economic crisis, which began with the bursting of the real estate bubble in the United States, is now making itself felt in the former communist countries. And it is hitting them with more force and more quickly than the newcomers to capitalism, spoiled by success, had expected.

    The Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, who for years could enjoy growth rates of between 7 and 10 percent, must resign themselves to the fact that their economies are shrinking. Hungary has already tapped the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the EU for €20 billion ($27 billion), and Romania will need just as much. In the fourth quarter of last year alone, the Poles produced 5 percent less than in the same period in 2007. In the Czech Republic, unemployment has risen to 12 percent.

    Is it now up to the Western European countries, which already have their hands full dealing with the worst economic crisis since World War II, to pay Eastern Europe's bills? On the other hand, what happens if no one helps? Could the crisis in the EU's new member states jeopardize the cohesion of the union as a whole? One thing is clear: Western Europe cannot simply abandon the new member states to their fate.

    Aid for the East was one of the key topics of discussion at the EU summit in Brussels late last week. At the suggestion of the European Commission, an emergency loan fund for distressed members that have not yet joined the euro zone was increased to €50 billion ($68 billion). Commission President José Manual Barroso called the decision a "signal of strong support."

  • From the Polish Scandal Files...

    Polish judicial system slammed as ‘corrupt’ and ‘ineffective’

    From: Polskie radio
    Starting with a devastating report in RZECZPOSPOLITA on what Poles think about courts and prosecutors. The daily writes that research commissioned by the Ministry of Justice on the threshold of a planned reform of the justice system has shown that 44 percent of the population believe that the justice system is a failure. One in three Poles does not trust courts, judges and prosecutors. One in every two Poles says that the worst problem is corruption, followed by complicated procedures and bureaucracy. More than 70 percent of respondents say that sentences are unjust, courts are inefficient, biased and plagued by delays. However, Poles still trust legal advisers and the police, writes RZECZPOSPOLITA.

    Another chilling report in DZIENNIK which writes that Poles top the list in the EU (and are third in the world) in the use of painkillers. Seventy percent of the population take over-the-counter analgesics because only 20 percent say that their pain problems were solved by a doctor. Several thousand land in hospital every year because of overdosing painkillers. DZIENNIK cites the case of a 46-year-old woman who bled to death because she had been taking five different kinds of remedies at once against her rheumatism. “People believe advertisements” writes the daily “and think that ‘intelligent’ headache pills only help headaches, so they take this for migraine, that for a cold and add something else for backache. They go to different doctors and don’t tell one about medicines prescribed by another; then they buy over-the-counter painkillers as well”.

    The Polish system of EU fund distribution is corrupt

    From: Gazeta
    The Polish system of EU fund distribution is corrupt. Funding applications can be reviewed by the same persons who submit them. 'If I catch anyone doing this, I'll cancel the whole procedure', warns the minister of regional development.

    'I think the whole case of how EU subsidies are distributed should be investigated by the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau', Marek Goliszewski, president of Business Centre Club, an industry lobby group, said at a press briefing yesterday.

    'The system of expert selection and application review is pathological! Some applications receive preferential treatment, others are rejected without reason. Those who review the applications themselves write them after hours', pointed out Mr Goliszewski, clearly annoyed.

    Gazeta has for a couple of days now been investigating the matter itself and its findings are, sadly, consistent with Mr Goliszewski's diagnosis. The main pathology is that the funding applications are reviewed by expert teams whose members can receive up to 10 percent of the subsidy amount if the subsidy is granted. No one has been caught reviewing their own application yet - but the possibility of widespread abuse exists. Also because your application can be reviewed by your own colleagues.

    In the Dolnolskie province alone out of the eighty three experts in charge of reviewing the applications, as many as thirteen work for companies that draw up applications for money. Some of those companies actually boast about the fact on their websites.

    How did these experts find their way to the review committees? Central and local government institutions every now and then announce open competitions for the purpose. Virtually everyone can run in them.

    Pawel Maliszewski, co-owner of Co-Worker, a Wroclaw-based consulting firm, tried to assess the scale of the phenomenon by presenting himself as a client interested in securing a subsidy.

    'I had heard that among the members of the review committees were employees or even heads of companies that write applications for money. And it proved to be true', says Mr Maliszewski.

    Among the members of the review committee in Wroclaw are two experts from Centrum Wspierania Biznesu, a ?widnica-based consultancy. All five applications that CWB had drawn up for its clients were approved.

    'They won easily, ending up 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 8th and 28th, respectively', says Mr Maliszewski.

    Barbara Kanikowska, head of the Dolnolskie Intermediate Body (appointed by the local assembly to distribute EU subsidies for business), stresses there were no irregularities whatsoever. She says no CWB officer reviewed applications that CWB had helped prepare.

    'All experts sign a declaration of no conflict of interest under the pain of criminal liability, in which they agree not to review applications in which they may have an interest', says Ms Kanikowska.

    According to the evidence Gazeta has gathered, the situation in other provinces is similar. Dubious situations can even take place on the central level, where subsidies as large as PLN150 million are awarded.

    'I suppose that about one in five of the review committees members reviewing applications in the two parts of the Innovative Economy programme are employees lf consulting firms', Michal Gwizda, partner at Accreo Taxand, tells Gazeta.

    We have checked one of the lists of review committee members posted on the Ministry of Regional Development's website. Out of the more than sixty persons on the list, more than twenty had ties to consulting firms.

    'The scale of the problem is vast', warns Jerzy Kwieciski, former minister of regional development, expert for BCC and president of the foundation Europejskie Centrum Przedsibiorczoci.

    'If such conflicts of interest are tolerated, we will have a situation where not necessarily the best projects are approved. Even if theoretically everything will be done in accordance with the law.'

    'I am very sensitive to such irregularities. We'll intensify inspections', Minister of Regional Development Ewa Biekowska told Gazeta.

    Parties seek to clean up their members' ties with business

    From: WBJ
    Late last week in response to the recent accusations of nepotism and corruption concerning politicians in the ruling coalition, the Civic Platform (PO) party revealed a list of its deputies who participate in businesses or hold shares in companies.

    “One cannot finish off people just because there were once entrepreneurs and own shares,” announced Waldemar Pawlak, who is both the leader of the Polish Peasants Party (PSL) and Economy Minister and who was implicated in a corruption scandal.

    PSL representatives do not agree with PM Donald Tusk that members of parliament should dispose of their shares in companies. PO wants such regulations to be in force following the next Parliamentary elections. This stance is also supported by Law and Justice (PiS) and the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) which are to prepare their own lists of deputies who are also businessmen.

  • Sport...

    Belarus focus on tried and tested talent

    From: UEFA
    Belarus coach Yuri Kurnenin has elected not to draft in any new blood despite losing a raft of players ahead of Tuesday's friendly against Germany in Paderborn as his side continue preparations for their UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals debut.

    Ten absentees
    With Sergei Gigevich, Vladimir Yurchenko and Yegor Filipenko all recovering from injuries, Aleksei Kuchuk was ruled out of the trip to Germany for personal reasons. U21 regulars Anton Kovalevski, Igor Shitov, Maksim Bordachov, Dmitri Verkhovtsov, Leonid Kovel and Filip Rudik are also unavailable after being promoted to the senior team for next Wednesday's FIFA World Cup qualifying game in Kazakhstan, while
    FC Vitebsk goalkeeper Pavel Chesnovski is available for Tuesday after dropping down from the seniors.

    Belarus squad
    Goalkeepers: Artyom Gomelko (FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Pavel Chesnovski (FC Vitebsk).

    Defenders: Oleg Veretilo (FC Dinamo Minsk), Aleksei Yanushkevich (FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk), Nikolai Osipovich (FC MTZ-RIPO Minsk), Aleksandr Martynovich (FC Dinamo Minsk), Aleksandr Sachivko (FC Minsk), Igor Maltsev (FC MTZ-RIPO Minsk).

    Midfielders: Mikhail Afanasiev (FC Amkar Perm), Andrei Chukhlei (FC Dinamo Minsk), Sergei Balanovich (FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk), Sergei Kryvets (FC BATE Borisov), Sergei Kislyak (FC Dinamo Minsk), Aleksandr Degterev (FC Naftan Novopolotsk), Anton Putilo (Hamburger SV), Mikhail Sivakov (Cagliari Calcio), Aleksandr Volodko (FC BATE Borisov).

    Forwards: Dmitri Platonov (FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk), Aleksandr Gavryushko (FC Dinamo Minsk), Dmitri Komarovski (FC Naftan Novopolotsk).

    France 3 - 0

    Three second-half goals gave France the ideal start to their UEFA European Under-17 Championship Elite round campaign as the hosts' pressure finally told on ten-man Belarus in Tarnos.

    Resistance broken
    After resisting the French advances in the first half, Belarus were reduced to ten men 12 minutes after the restart and then fell behind straight away as the resultant free-kick was inadvertently deflected in for an own goal. Eight minutes from time France doubled their lead when Darnel Situ headed in and Yeni Ngbakoto's successful penalty rounded off the victory late on, although the 3-0 scoreline was only good enough for second place in Group 4 after Denmark's 4-0 win over Norway. Last season's runners-up France meet Norway next in Dax on Friday when Denmark take on Belarus in Soustons.

  • Endnote...

    A little teaching...

    From: The Story
    I had a bit of a victory today. I don't get many of these, or so it seems. But today I won a couple of battles and this feels good, as such a thing should. But of course it is tainted by the weight of the audacious ugliness that surrounds me. I know that this last was a bit dramatic and believe me, I am the last one to be in search of any extra drama. But it has been a difficult road and the war which seems to want to exist around me, though fought without a single shred of reason or wisdom or logic or moral right, does seem to be in want of an opponent and I, in all of my glory and ineptitude, seem to have been chosen here to represent all of the dreaded US of A in the minds of our post communist, Pinsk proletariat. And again, pardon the drama but this is about what I get here at the moment and in any case, I thought I would write a bit about today's victory as a means of leaving a reminder that there at least was supposed to be something nice and real and interesting going on here.

    The victory was simply the momentary success of a pair of students. I teach English here and though I do like to claim a reasonable ability at the craft, actually having students advance and learn and grow and perhaps more specifically, have an exceptional day, is of course what it is supposed to be about. For any teacher, I would think that a victory for our students is our victory as well and so this is the game. But today, or actually yesterday as I didn't finish this last night, I proved a point to a pair of students, one a grown man and the other a girl of 10, that they could understand and actually use the language of Shakespeare, Steinbeck, London and Hemingway and that having this ability might help forge perhaps a brighter future. Or, in the case of the girl, to simply understand that great things are possible if one only is willing to try a bit.

    But why it is even necessary to write about something like two students having a plateau is another part of this. This business of mine, and I am speaking about my private teaching here in Pinsk, is in the doldrums at the moment. I am not really willing to place the blame on the economic crisis though obviously, this is a part of it. But a much bigger reason has been both my decision to only try and work with more advanced students and the political pressure which has always been placed on me by the Ministry of Education and the local Bolshevics from the middle schools and universities.

    That first limitation was set up as a reasonable response to the second. If the educational authorities were against me, their official reasoning was that they only wished to use their own locally trained teachers (This is not the real reason, Poland and corruption were, but anyway...) and they didn't wish to take jobs away from their own underpaid products of post soviet language education: nepotism before talent as Losha would say. But in any case, this seemed to be enough to justify their continued suppression. My decision then was, if I couldn't be recomended as effective and helpful, which I am, then I would agree that I didn't even want the common denominator, the student who sat passively staring at their cell phone and wondering where their next block of sexual stimulation would be coming from. Of course I wanted to be helpful (and to have more students), but if they were going to sit there throwing eggs at me, it did seem to add insult to injury to take responsibility for those students who weren't even willing to put pen to paper or allow for some reasonable study time to try and figure out that having a verb in every sentence might actually mean something. And of course there was the moral issue of actually taking money from people who only have $200-300 a month to work with. Yes, it is noble for a parent to try and help their children but if the children themselves won't even put up a fight to try and honor that 10-20% investment every month, I just couldn't agree to take their potato and bread money.

    So over the course of this school year, when I did have a number of students who thought to do something other than read their books and work on their sentence structure, I made some cuts. Now, I try to run a kind table and I always have coffee, tea, cookies and crackers available. I don't ask for any extra money for materials and have pens and paper and a copier available. I also allow for extra time, e-mail communications, unlimited questions via telephone and even hand out my own books and movies when it is helpful, all at no extra charge. But in my mind all of this pleasantness is simply there to create a comfortable atmosphere for learning. But if the students aren't learning, or aren't even willing to try and learn, then you have a situation where you have children who only come for the free food and access to friends and to me, this means that someone is stealing the money. And so after some reasonable time for them to get the point, they are asked not to come back.

    I believe by doing this that am being fair to their parent's pocketbooks. And it is not like I am such a hard ass; if the parents would agree that they don't care if there aren't any results and that their money is basically being spent on their children pleasuring themselves, and if the children would agree not to be a disruption to other students who might actually want to learn a little English, then hey, what the hell: As long as we understand each other, right? But this isn't how it goes because straight away the lazy ones go about slandering me as being a crap teacher. Of course it is my fault that the information didn't go across the table and it all had nothing to do with how much time was spend drawing, passing notes and waiting for messages from their friends on their cell phones.

    This is where the problem has been. I get bad press from crap students trying to save face for having wasted their parent's investment and from the teaching authority who are defending the perpetual use of wrote teaching techniques from the time when keeping students well behind the iron curtain was of more important than allowing for the opportunity to speak to a larger section of the general population. And because I am George Bush. In any case, this has limited the amount of students who come to me and this is bad for business.

    But that this is the situation makes victories like yesterday all the more sweet. That 10 year-old girl never studied English in her life. She has been taking German in school, so the letters and sounds were not a problem, but other than this she had never experienced a word before coming to me exactly 3 months ago. Now I explained to her parents when she did come what was required of her. I told them that though I did not ask for more than say, 30-45 minutes a day of study, I did require that time and that the student be prepared for every class. I also recommended one book to help with practicing grammar and started her off straight away translating Dr. Seuss into Russian using a dictionary. Both her parents were in the beginning a pain both to me and the girl, doing her homework for her, trying to explain grammar points and asking me why I wasn't doing this or that- but I held my ground and advised that she was the one who was learning here and she was the one who needed to be doing the work. After some little time, they stepped back a little and the girl started to learn.

    My promise to them was that she would have something like reasonable competence in about six months to a year and that it would take her about 3 months to master the basic grammar. Yesterday, all the girl did was successfully, and without practice or preparation, do a grammar exercise that several adult students never mastered. To do the exercise, four decisions need to be made in each sentence concerning the wording of the verb in two separate forms. I did work with her on this, and explained it several times, and she even missed a class, her mother calling me saying that what I was doing was too intense for her. But she showed up yesterday on time and in a good mood and a bit ahead of schedule, I simply asked her to try the fabled student killing #174 and she got it right the first time. After this, I asked her to try simply reading her book, rather than worrying about the words she didn't know, this time reading a bit more quickly and adding emphasis on the story telling. And where until this moment, she had managed only six chapters over perhaps three weeks, yesterday in about 45 minutes we managed three whole chapters, the action so intense that even Anya was enthralled at the story telling. I guess the information had made its way across the table and needless to say the girl went home with something good to say to her parents.

    The story was basically the same for the adult student. He is a businessman who wished to find a way to have a better relationship with foreign partners. His initial few months were often stormy. He put in his time in studying, more than I had asked for, but he never felt he could get a hold of the basic grammar and several times literally pounded my computer demanding that I show him why there were not several possible meanings to the sentences he was reading. "Why am I studying so much but actually getting worse?" he raged. The answer of course was to focus on the English and not the translation into Russian, an absolute imperative of western language teaching but completely antagonistic to the Russian style which basically treats learning a second language the same as studying mathematics or biology; everything stays on the page in front of you and is analyzed, dissected and discussed in Russian. And of course yesterday, after agreeing to progress without using Russian (at least out loud) the words finally started to come in and go out at something more resembling a conversational pace. Now, he still never gets my jokes, but he's getting there and also left the table feeling a bit more talented had he had before coming.

    So that's the story. I'm heading into the last two months of this year extremely proud of the students who are with me. I have no failures this year and all are already conversational and able to read and write and speak and understand. The middle school students who have been with me have mastered their school English classes, several have had changes of heart regarding professions and all have chosen to allow themselves to think a bit more upward and to be a bit higher in their aspirations. The adults all have chances to be better connected to the world and even the children are aware of what they are doing and have become better students over all. I would have liked to have done more but I worked with who I had to work with and I think that my record speaks for itself.

    But in the end, I chose to come to this town and I chose to try and be an English teacher here. There is nobody to complain to about any politics or under-the-table games which seem to be such a part of the fabric of the world I live in. It is of course all just part of the show. But yesterday… yea, yesterday was a very, very cool day. Yesterday, I very good teached English Language.