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Today in Russian Business – Feb 16, 2010

We have weak unions compared with Western Europe,‘ notes one economist, commenting on the total of unpaid Russian wages – currently at $136 million.  ‘Companies aren’t afraid to delay salary and utility payments when funding is tight.‘  Russia’s industrial output rose by 7.9% last month, year-on-year.  Mortgage rates have fallen 4% since crisis levels, but officials want them to keep dropping – Dmitry Medvedev wants levels to match the optimal global level of around 6-8% – Alexei Kudrin says that lowering inflation is the only way to make it happen.  A new law will allow producers to write their own declarations that food, alcohol, and cosmetic products meet the government’s healthy and safety standards.  ‘Those who tried to sell poor quality products could just buy certificates before,‘ noted the head of a lobbying group.  The Guardian is running a photo series of Russia’s richest oligarchs, and a profile piece on Vladimir Lisin, Russia’s richest man.  The Times comments on the new list, noting that oligarch wealth has surged.