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Jul Jul Jul Jul Jul Jan Jan Jan Jan Jan Jan Apr Okt Apr Okt Apr Okt Apr Okt Apr Okt The world prices of copper continue increasing because the demand for metal exceeds the volume of its production. In December 2004, the average monthly price of copper on the London Metal Exchange was USD 3145 per ton, in January 2005, the average price rose to USD 3170 per ton.

In 2004, the annual average price of copper on the London Metal Exchange came to USD 2789 per ton. Meanwhile, the metal exchange reserves on the warehouses of LME reduced to 46 thou. tons, on New-York exchange COMEX to 45 thou. tons, and on Shanghai exchange - to 29 thou. tons. Today the current volume of copper exchange reserves satisfies only the two-day demand of world economy for this metal, which is a very low indicator. Its natural that such situation prompts further growth of prices.

Last year, nickel considerably got up on the London Metal Exchange, having reached in its peak value a price ceiling for 19 years. An average nickel price for 2004 made up USD 13839, this is by 44% greater than in 2003. The monthly average price of nickel, available on the London Metal Exchange in December 2004, amounted to USD 13775 per ton, in January 2005 USD 14505 per ton. At the same time, nickel reserves on the warehouses of London Metal Exchange reduced over the last month from 20 to 15 thou. tons. In recent months, falls in prices for nickel succeeded their boosts, but average price remained at a very high level. In this connection, ways became clear to substitute the primary nickel obtained from ore, for secondary obtained from scrap. And yet, nickel consumption is growing, just as its price. Presently, the demand for nickel is again on the rise.

Table 1.

Monthly Average World Prices in January of Corresponding Year 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 Oil (Brent), USD/ barrel 17.3 23.4 15.3 11.3 25.5 26.0 19.4 28.1 31.34 45.Natural gas, USD/1 mln BTU - 2.486 2.097 1.426 2.431 5.214 2.146 5.048 6.156 6.Gasoline, USD/gallon 1.0.539 0.685 0.507 0.494 0.739 0.865 0.573 0.852 0.Copper, USD/t 2553 2400 1682 1528.2 1887.9 1849.6 1557.8 1571.3 2441.9 3170.Aluminum, USD/t 1554 1598 1480 1301.4 1695.5 1641.5 1377.9 1291.1 1608.2 1832.Nickel, 7956 7485 5496 4550.8 8338.1 7091.3 6094.6 7643.9 14855.0 14505.USD/t Source: calculated according to the data of London Metal Exchange (Great Britain, London), International Petroleum Exchange (London) As before, Russia continues to export actively: fuel, metals, timber, paper, the products of chemical industry. According to FCS (Federal Customs Service), in January 2005, as compared to January 2004, the volumes of export of raw timber had increased by 14,1%, paper by 17,1%, semi-finished products from carbon steel by 40,7%, primary nickel by 28,9%. The export of crude oil made up 15,9 mln tons, that is less similar indicator of 2004 by 7,6%. At the same time, the volumes of export of oil products had grown significantly. The exportation of automobile fuel had increased by 66,5%, diesel fuel by 40,3%, fuel oil by 40,4%.

As compared to the same month of previous year, in January 2005, the value volumes of oil exports increased by 20,8%, generally fuel and energy sources by 32,4%. The cost of metal exports increased (in comparison of the same periods) by 38,3%, but practically at the cost of ferrous metals (75,2%), while the value volumes of non-ferrous metals exports approximately remained the same.

The value volume of machinery and equipment exports decreased by 20,6%.

In January 2005, imports in Russia amounted to USD 6.7 bn, which by 21,8% is higher than in January 2004, and by 35% less than in December 2004. It is to be noted that from non-CIS countries it had been imported goods for a total of USD 5.4 bn, which is by 23,8% greater than in January 2004, and in the CIS USD 1.3 bn (growth by 14,4%).

In January, ruble strengthened (in real terms) to dollar by 3,5%, but at the same time devaluated to euro by 1,4%, and, to the basket of currencies (in which soft currencies of CIS states carry considerable weight) of trading partners, in whole, - by 1,2%, which restrained the growth of imports.

In January 2005, Russias foreign trade surplus made up USD 8.5 bn, which by 41,7% exceeds the same indicator of previous year.

Among the regional partners of Russias foreign trade, the EU, holds, as largest economic partner, a unique position. In January 2005, it accounted for 54,2% of Russian goods turnover (in January 2004, before the number of member countries increased to 25, the EU share was 35,8%). In January 2005, CIS states accounted for 15,0% of the Russian goods turnover (In January 2004 17,9%), EurAsEC countries - 8,0% (10,0%), APEC countries 15,4% (16,1%).

In March 2005, the Interstate Council of EuroAsian Economic Community was held in Astana. The official government delegations of five EurAsEC member states took part in its work.

It will be recalled that meetings at the highest level of EurAsEC member states are held two times a year. The previous session of Interstate Council was conducted in Moscow on October 28 of last year.

The Agreement on establishing an interstate economic organization EurAsEC was signed in Astana on October 10, 2000, by the presidents of Byelorussia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Russia, and Tadjikistan. On May 31, 2001, in Minsk, a package of fundamental documents had been accepted on the first meeting of the Interstate Council of EurAsEC, allowing new Community to start its functioning. The objective of EurAsEC foundation is to form the Customs union and Common economic space. But it is rare that valid deeds were solved easily.

During the meeting in Astana it had been adopted a Concept of agro-industrial policy of the states of community, agreements had been signed on pursuing the agreed policies for forming and developing EurAsEC transportation corridors, protocol on insertion changes and additions to the agreement on the customs and tax control over the production and turnover of ethyl alcohol, spirit-based and tobacco production on the territories of EurAsEC states, protocol to the agreement between the governments of the community states on mutual travels of citizens without visa. The sitters adopted the Draft budget message of EurAsEC Interstate Council "On Budgetary Policy for 2006", draft Concept of the community states cooperation in currency sphere, approval procedure for basic macroeconomic indicators of economies development, a sheet of top-priority technical regulations of EurAsEC, that are to be developed, had been approved.

The EurAsEC member states assign the task of forming, by the end of 2006, a full-fledged Customs union. Even now, the member states do not use duties in trading with one another. But in order that EurAsEC really be a common market, it is necessary that single customs tariffs be also operable on its external boundaries. Only Russia and Byelorussia are close to achieving this goal. Within the union of these two countries 98% of customs tariffs had been standardized. In relations with Kazakhstan such indicator for Russia is noticeably lower, - around 60%, while with remaining members of EurAsEC still less. The member states cannot approach the common tariffs because the majority of them are different stages of negotiations for accession to WTO, where just maximum permissible level of customs protection of their markets is agreed.

As a result, an agreement had been achieved within the frame of EurAsEC: first WTO accession, then final forming the Customs union. EurAsEC countries decided to join WTO severally, but basing on Russia terms. In recent months Russia had considerable progress in negotiating with the World Trade Organization and hopes to entirely finish them by the end of the year. If tariffs, agreed by Russia, are used also by other EurAsEC member states, accessing to WTO, then there will be no obstacles for establishing the Customs union. The only problem is Kirgizia, which, even in the 1990s joined WTO on very strict terms and zeroed many of duties, completely opening by that considerable part of their markets for importing. Neither Russia nor other EurAsEC member states are going to match Kirgizia. However, Bishkek can make use of the reservation it secured in WTO accession, - in the event it joins the Customs union established by CIS countries, Bishkek has the right to equalize its customs tariffs according to the level adopted within the frame of the Customs union.

N. Volovik Higher school: the trends towards the tightening of control of the quality of education According to the budget statements presented by the RF Ministry of Education and Science, the most important strategic objective of the Ministry is to ensure the accessibility of quality education for all strata of the population across Russias regions as the basis of well being of citizens, social mobility, and reduction of social and economic differentiation of the society. A significant obstacle hindering the achievement of this objective is the decline in the quality and scale of higher education in the Russian Federation.

Over the last years, the network of higher professional education establishments (HPE) has been intensively growing. As compared with the figures registered in 1995, the number of state higher education establishments increased by 15 per cent, while the number of private institutions increased almost two times. However, at especially high rates there developed the branch network of higher education institutions. At present, this network includes 1371 branches of state higher education establishments and 326 branches of private institutions. The growth in the number of HPE establishments was caused by the unprecedented increase in the number of students of the higher school, which grew 2.2 times in the period from the educational year 1995 / 1996 to the educational year 2003 / 2004. In the terms of relative number of students of higher education establishments, Russia takes one of the leading positions in the world. In 2003, the number of students per 10 thousand residents made 390 persons, of whom 219 students per 10 thousand residents were educated at the expense of budgetary funds taking into account that the normative value was set at 170 students per 10 thousand residents.

Unfortunately, the mass character of the higher education as a rule results in the devaluation of its quality. The quantitative growth of the number of students at state higher education establishments is accompanied by a reduction of accessibility of quality professional education. In this connection, it is necessary to introduce measures aimed at more tight control of the observance of license requirements with respect to the conditions of the education process, the substance, and results of education. Besides, it is necessary to carry out a thorough analysis of the structure of the existing network of higher professional training, including the respective branch network, with the purpose to evaluate the potential for the integration of the elements of the network and the resource capacities of higher education establishments, as well as the creation of recognized centers of quality higher education, which are able to set the requirements to the quality of education at the international level.

The RF Ministry of Education and Science has already pointed out in its strategic documents that it is necessary to optimize the network of higher education establishments, while simultaneously increasing the requirements to the quality of education. According to Andrei Fursenko, the Minister of Education and Science, it is impossible to permit the level of our education to decrease, since it results not only in the worsening of the countrys image, but also in significant economic losses. It should be noted that both the regional authorities and the local boards of the heads of higher education institutions express deep concern about the low quality of education at higher education establishments in the territories under their jurisdictions. In this connection, the Federal Service of Supervision in the Sphere of Education and Science (Rosobrnadzor) was charged to carry out a series of inspections of regional higher education institutions and the branches of Moscow based education institutions established in different regions. Inspections concerned the substance of education programs, the quality of education, the observance of standards and conditions of the education processes set forth in the licenses granted to higher education establishments. At the end of 2004, and in the first quarter of 2005, the results of these inspections carried out in regional higher education institutions and branches of Moscow based higher education establishments were publicly discussed by attestation boards of the Federal Service of Supervision in the Sphere of Education and Science.

The Stavropol krai became one of the first regions, where on the initiative of the Governor and representatives of the local board of the heads of higher education establishments the Federal Service of Supervision in the Sphere of Education and Science has carried out the inspection of regional higher education institutions and branches of Moscow based higher education establishments implementing education programs in the sphere of economics, management, and law (there were inspected 61 institutions). The inspection revealed that in 6 branches the licenses should be suspended, while about per cent of higher education institutions should take management decisions as concerns the accreditation and attestation in relation to the aforesaid programs. Out of the total number of 61 inspected establishments only 14 provided no grounds for criticism.

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