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How One Organization Is Training Formerly Incarcerated Leaders To Fight Mass Incarceration




Editor’s note: At 00:56, host Mansa Musa misspeaks when quoting a report and says that 55 million people are in the system of mass incarceration; the correct number is 5.5 million.

Over 1.9 million people are incarcerated in the US today, and even greater 5.5 million people are subjected to the wide-ranging system of mass punishment from parole, probation, and beyond. One organization, JustLeadershipUSA, seeks to tackle the prison system by building leaders among formerly incarcerated people, and fighting for change from the local level up. JustLeadershipUSA President and CEO DeAnna Hoskins joins Rattling the Bars to explain the work of her organization and how it seeks to bring about to change.

DeAnna Hoskins has been at the helm of JLUSA as the President and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA) since 2018. A nationally recognized leader and dynamic public speaker, Ms. Hoskins has been committed to the movement for racial and social justice, working alongside those most impacted by marginalization for over two decades.

Studio Production: David Hebden
Post-Production: Cameron Granadino


Mansa Musa:  Welcome to this edition of Rattling the Bars. I’m your host, Mansa Musa. In an essay called Toward the United Front, George Jackson saw that the sheer size of the prison population made it ripe for mobilizing prisons into a non-sectarian united front, with the goal of abolishing the prison-industrial complex, among other things. Since that essay, the prison-industrial complex has grown. Today, over 1.9 million people are behind bars in the US. In a recent report by the Prison Policy Initiative entitled Punishment Beyond Prisons 2023: Incarceration and Supervision by State, [because of] the overuse of probation and parole, along with mass incarceration, over 5.5 million people are in the system of mass punishment and under their control in some shape, form, or fashion. Joining me today to talk about how JustLeadershipUSA sees these numbers – And what they are doing with them – Is DeAnna Hoskins, president and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA. Welcome, DeAnna.

DeAnna Hoskins:  Thank you. Thank you.

Mansa Musa:  Tell our Rattling the Bars [viewers] a little bit about yourself please.

DeAnna Hoskins:  I’m DeAnna Hoskins, president and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA. I’ve been at the helm of the organization since 2018. I actually was a leader who went through the training program in 2016. I’m an individual who’s been impacted by the criminal justice system – Formerly incarcerated – That has been able to break through some of those glass ceilings or places they told us we couldn’t go. Places and spaces. Prior to coming to JustLeadershipUSA, I served under the Obama administration as a senior policy advisor, and I managed all of the federal government’s investment in corrections and reentry, which included the Second Chance Portfolio, the National Reentry Resource Center, Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions, and Children of Incarcerated Parents.

I’ve been in this field for about 25 years. I worked in my hometown county government as director of re-entry, establishing re-entry perspectives around that area and also within the state of Indiana. As most people will say, who goes back? Who’s incarcerated and goes back and works in the correctional system? I actually worked as a unit manager at the state of Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility. So I’ve not only been on the inside, I’ve actually come out and worked in the administrative and service side of this as well.

Mansa Musa:  Very well-put. And you heard me set this up, George Jackson made this observation. And when he made this observation, he made the observation about the need to build, to utilize the prison population to create a non-sectarian organization for the purpose of abolishing prison and organizing around social change. Now, JustLeadershipUSA has a four-year plan for building local power and dismantling oppressive systems. Tell our viewers and listeners how this came about. How did this four-year plan come about?

DeAnna Hoskins:  So one of the things, – Again, having worked in all levels of government, the inside of government from the state, local, and federal government – one of the biggest things that I realized was, anything that is moved from local up to federal almost forces the federal hand to change. Anything that comes from the federal government and rolls down always gets attacked and addressed by the new administration. 

And I’ll give you some examples: Same-sex marriage came from the states up to the federal government. Forced their hands. We’re looking at the same with legalized marijuana. It’s rolling from the states, forcing the government’s hand. But things that come out of the government, such as what they titled Obamacare, every time a new administration comes in, they attack anything that comes out that benefits oppressed and marginalized communities. So one of the things we realized was that the oppressive policies that are hindering us are hindering us at the ground level. We don’t need the federal government to try to fix things for us around policies, because – I’m going to be honest with you and one of the things about me, I’m very authentic – Policy and legislation will never free Black people.

Mansa Musa:  Come on.

DeAnna Hoskins:  A lot of times we’ve got to talk about how we even got here to incarceration and mass incarceration. It’s the legacy of slavery. At the abolishment of slavery, it still was the way to utilize free labor with debtor’s prison and different things of that nature. So when you look at the misdemeanor system, it was created as a way to still incarcerate the bodies to provide free labor. So for me, it’s about understanding my history of how we got here, if I’m going to try to dismantle it. And the only way you can dismantle anything, nothing changes until those most oppressed rise up into power to change it. Every discipline in this country – Whether it’s mental health, substance abuse, veterans, women’s services – Uses people who are directly impacted by the issue they’re addressing.

Mansa Musa:  That’s right.

DeAnna Hoskins:  The criminal justice system has been the only system that is reluctant to utilize the voices and power of the people that have been incarcerated to help change and address the system. And we’re basically here saying, we ain’t asking for permission anymore, we’ll apologize later.

Mansa Musa:  Right there, let’s unpack that. Because I did 48 years in prison, and the entire time I was in prison – Both of us can agree to this – It stands to reason that those on the other side would be more than eager to rattle the bars, more than eager to raise their voices. And in this regard, JustLeadershipUSA is saying that y’all are hanging y’all hats on those that are impacted: those that are locked up, those that are locked out, those that are on parole and probation. That y’all are hanging y’all hats on them and this class of underserved people to be the voice and the face of JustLeadershipUSA.

DeAnna Hoskins:  Yes.

Mansa Musa:  How do you get them to respond? Because, you’ve got a myriad of things that are going on with people coming out: I ain’t got no place to stay, I ain’t got no job. Baby mama drama. Trying to get back with my kids, trying to link back up with my family. So it’s a myriad of problems going on. What makes you feel so emboldened by this approach?

DeAnna Hoskins:  One of the things is, we work with organizations typically led by individuals who’ve been directly impacted across the country to help with those immediate needs. What we don’t do is actually exploit people and say, we’re going to put you on the frontline. We want you to use your voice. No, we’re not going to do that. If you interact with us when you first come home, how do we connect you locally so you can be together? Because you have to be together if you’re going to stand for the people you left behind.

So we don’t even accept a person into our leadership training unless they’ve had three years post-incarceration. But that doesn’t mean we don’t interact and engage with you and try to connect you to what you need with the people and the leaders we have. So one of the things that I want to talk about – Something you said about the myriad of things going on – That’s one of the reasons we’re empowering them, is because the system is focusing on, they say, recidivism reduction. We want to make sure you get out and stay out, but you won’t be focusing on it from the system being successful, not the individual.

Mansa Musa:  That’s right.

DeAnna Hoskins:  I can be homeless and not go back to prison. I can use drugs and not go back to prison. Does that mean the person is successful, or is the system successful because I didn’t go back to prison? So how do we even hold the system accountable with discriminatory practices that they have? Which is why this JustUS Coordinating Council is important: because it doesn’t take legislation. It actually takes rulemaking to take the word “discretion” out of the housing: a definition of who’s homeless and who has access to housing.

How can you deny us a basic human need that every human on this earth needs? Whether you have a criminal background or not. You have stated that housing is a basic human need. That we got 600,000 people coming out every year that can be blocked from a basic human need and you say, go be successful? Hell, you ain’t even supplied me with the foundation. But any individual needs to be successful, and you allow the discrimination in your policies around giving discretion to local housing authorities to say who can come in and who can’t.

Mansa Musa:  I noticed that one of the things I found enlightening in regard to this organization is the policy impact. I work for a group called Voice for a Second Chance, and the supervisor always says, if you’re sitting around the table and it’s not impacting policy, like Malcolm said, don’t call me a diner because I’m sitting there with a plate. I’m sitting around a table.

But let’s talk about policy. Going back to your point, we can be in this space, and you can have me sitting at the table with an empty plate, and I really think I’m a diner. Not so much because I have an empty plate, but because you told me I’m getting ready to eat and I ain’t got nothing on my plate yet. Because you gave me this false narrative. So we know we are confronted with that. How do y’all educate people to understand policy impact and policy versus getting a feel-good response?

DeAnna Hoskins:  Right there. I am so happy you asked, because that was one of the biggest challenges when we said we were going to do this. We walked in knowing not only do we have to impact and empower people to build this table, we have to educate them. What I found out, a lot of people, when you say “advocate” or “advocacy,” they think of a t-shirt and a bullhorn. And I’m like, no, this is an inside-out game. One of the things I like to tell people, if you serve time, that means you committed a crime. What I need you to know is, all your skills that were in that lifestyle were not liabilities. I need you to understand some of them are transferable skills out on the road, and you have to utilize that. Part of that is – I use drugs and I tell people all the time that I didn’t wake up one day and know how to use drugs or how to cook up the product that I was using – Somebody taught me.

Mansa Musa:  That’s right.

DeAnna Hoskins:  If you’re going to work in this lane, you have to be willing to be taught the same way you were willing to be taught in the streets: find somebody. You have to have a mentor, you have to be educated. Because the big thing is, people power equals change, and the best thing that they do to break us apart is if you’re not knowledgeable of what you’re sitting at the table for. The respect comes when you sit at the table with the elected officials, or other people who are making a policy, and you shut them down better on their policies than they can.

Mansa Musa:  Let me ask you this. How do you get around the poverty pimps? The poverty pimps are the ones that are in the space we’re dealing with that are grant-chasing. You’re educating me and I acquired these leadership skills and I’m going over here and I’m in an environment where they don’t have A, B, C, D, E, F, G. JustLeadershipUSA, help me get A, B, C, D, E, F, G so I can keep the mission going. Then when I get the return, I keep the money, and the people that’s supposed to get what they are supposed to get don’t get what they get. Get what they always got: nothing.

DeAnna Hoskins:  Oh my god. That has always been the thirst of it. JustLeadershipUSA is the training part. We do our training, we raise our funds. We train you to be able to communicate, to go after your own funding for your own organization. Our coordinating council is open to the 70 million of us who have been impacted, to be educated on how – Even from federal money that rose to your state – To go push at your state where that money is and how it ain’t coming to our communities when it’s supposed to be designed.

Mansa Musa:  Yeah, that’s right.

DeAnna Hoskins:  But, you’re right. How do we stop people from having their own agenda? People are always going to have their own agenda. Our hope is that the JCC stands within itself, because if you start talking about policy, I’m not chasing the grants. So here’s how I break this down, having worked in government. I break it down into games: chess is legislation, that’s the long game; checkers are grassroots that should grab and get funding and all that.

And what I share with them, one of the things I’m going to share with you all, you all are doing criminal justice reform work. Poverty pimping on that level, you’re only in the department of justice and DOL’s pocket. That’s like going to an amusement park and only enjoying a water slide. You ain’t even figured out all of the money in the federal that you can get. So you don’t even know how to play this game for real. That’s why it is so scarce, because they’ve pigeonholed us to one department around funding.

Do you know how much money the Department of Transportation puts out across this country every year to fix roadways and bridges? If they simply adopted a Section 3 process like HUD that says, any federal dollars that roll into your state or your city, 35% of the workforce has to come from the most impoverished zip codes in your area. Do you know the game changer that would be in certain cities? My city is getting ready to overhaul a bridge that is going to cost $20 million.

Mansa Musa:  Everywhere you see it’s a brick. One of the presidents used the term “mortar and shovel” as an indication of how the money is going to flow. But let’s talk about that, because that’s a good observation. And I know from experience, all of us had life sentences, so all of us that got out with the exception of maybe two or three out of hundreds were recidivated. Everybody else, they hit the ground running and they have been doing remarkable work in their regard. So how do we coalesce with all of these elements throughout the country that’s like that? In Kansas, in California, in the South, in Virginia, in Maryland. How do y’all go about coalescing with them?

DeAnna Hoskins:  So that’s our goal to start building, taking our leaders we have now and saying, oh you’re in Maryland, you’re in Michigan, you’re in Chicago, you’re in Illinois. Now we want to come in and help you build a coalition in your state. Then all of us come together twice a year in DC and show up, because people power equals people. But if you’re working on something in DC and you say, DeAnna, I’m working on this, this needs to be changed in DC. If there’s 70 million of us with a record and we got 10% of that to participate with us – And we all support your issue by sending in letters, signing onto your legislation, whatever you’re doing – That shows you’ve got power behind you, and no matter what state you’re in, that this is an issue. And that’s what we’ve never shown: formerly incarcerated people have been exploited for everybody else’s –

Mansa Musa:  That’s right.

DeAnna Hoskins:  …People write a bill. Oh, we need the formerly incarcerated to be deleted. They give them a $10,000 check, and they show up. And who am I to tell you not to keep –

Mansa Musa:  That’s right. Come on money, come on, come on.

DeAnna Hoskins:  …You can make some good money. Therefore you’re still being exploited, but when they get to Congress and they start redlining it, we don’t have a say to say, we got carved out of there. I’ll give you an example. The First Step Act was great for whoever didn’t understand legislation. It was retroactive in the crack cocaine disparity, it was saying you couldn’t over-incarcerate certain people. But here’s what y’all didn’t catch that we came out and said: it legislated a risk assessment tool that had already been racially determined, racially biased.

Mansa Musa:  I know that, I know that. Come on.

DeAnna Hoskins:  Black people will never score low on a risk assessment, because our communities are over-policed and our schools have more police than counselors.Then y’all didn’t even pay attention when I said, how are you going to say the only people eligible for the crack cocaine retroactive have to be the people who did not have a weapon involved? Well in the hood, drugs and guns started going together like peanut butter and jelly.

Mansa Musa:  Yeah, come on.

DeAnna Hoskins:  You’re not a drug dealer without a weapon. Whether you used it or not. Whether you brandished it, whether the clip was in it. Y’all allowed them to exclude us because why? Because y’all didn’t have no power. And then y’all didn’t understand how this plays out in our communities. Let’s be honest, the ‘94 Crime Bill was a good policy on paper. Nobody knew how it was going to play out in communities.

Mansa Musa:  That’s right.

DeAnna Hoskins:  What we’re saying is, you don’t get to push legislation without our voices. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to ask for permission to join your bill. We’re going to build our own table to have enough power that when they push your bill back they say, formerly incarcerated can’t participate in the legalization of marijuana because they’ve got a felony. How are you going to create a policy that white men are gonna get rich off for what we’ve been going to jail for for years, and we can’t even partake in it? We’ll shut this bill down, and if not, we’ve got enough people power to vote you out of office.

Mansa Musa:  All right, so as we wrap up, talk about where you are at right now in terms of – Because I know we all just came out of Washington – What’s the next step for JustLeadershipUSA?

DeAnna Hoskins:  We just launched in DC to make sure people knew who we were. We were able to empower, directly impact the people. We’re going to hold general call-ins for people to keep joining, we’re going to give them updates. But right now I’m headed to DC to do a sit-down with DOJ leadership around some of our issues that are in our demands. I’m meeting with the department of labor to say this funding that we’re asking for to help us –This is when I talked about the game, chess and checkers. 

There’s a middle game called Backgammon. That’s the strategy. We’re Backgammon, strategizing. Nobody flies at that. And that’s the administrative level. That’s the senior leadership who is going to be there no matter who’s in the White House. The NAACP keeps showing up no matter who’s in the White House. because Black people’s issues have not gone away.

Mansa Musa:  That’s right.

DeAnna Hoskins:  From the incarcerated need, we’re going to keep showing up, because our issues haven’t gone away. So we’ve got to learn to fly at the backgammon level, in the gray zone. It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House, our issues are important. We’re not going to wait for other agencies to say, this is legislation we need to push. This is a policy we need to change. We’re going to understand ourselves and show up and speak for ourselves because typically, the policy and the legislation others push for us continue to entrench harm in our communities. And we always say, if you don’t have a seat at the table, you are on the menu.

Mansa Musa:  There you have it. The Real News. Rallying the boss. We’re not playing chess anymore.

DeAnna Hoskins:  We ain’t playing.

Mansa Musa:  We’re not playing checkers, we’re at backgammon. We’re at the strategy level. And being at the strategy level, we ask that you evaluate this information as it came out today. If you are formerly incarcerated, if you’ve got a number behind your name, if they put handcuffs on you, if they gave you a record, then you are a valuable asset in this coalition called JustLeadershipUSA. Now, you have the last word. What do you want to tell our audience?

DeAnna Hoskins:  I want to tell everyone that we have been oppressed and marginalized for too long. If everyone believes in a system of rehabilitation and corrections, they will not have the continued barriers and policies in place that allows us, once we re-enter, to still be blocked out of being productive members of society. One of the things you have to know is that you are valuable, you are a leader, and you have the right to have your voice heard. And that is what JustLeadershipUSA is about: giving you a platform, providing you with the education, and empowering you to elevate your voice so that we can disrupt and change the system that has been oppressing us for too long.

Mansa Musa:  There you have it. And speaking of our platform, we ask that you continue to support this platform known as Rattling the Bars and The Real News. It’s only on Rattling the Bars and The Real News that you’re gonna get someone like DeAnna Hoskins to come and educate you on the strategy of getting self-determination. The strategy of being empowered and not sitting at the table with an empty plate and somebody coming and telling you, wait a minute; you’ll be served in one minute. And what’s been like 20 years later, you’re still waiting for something to eat. We ask that you continue to support this organization, this network, and we ask that you continue to rattle the bars. Thank you, DeAnna.

DeAnna Hoskins:  Thank you. Thank you for having me.

World News

Australian National Review – Putin’s Response To WSJ’s Ann Simmons When Asked If He Wants To Rule The World





Putin’s Response to WSJ’s Ann Simmons When Asked If He Wants to Rule the World

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Click Here To Play the Video


Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference


The President’s news conference was broadcast live by Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24, Channel One and NTV, as well as Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations.

Television channel Public Television of Russia (OTR) and its site ( provided live sign language interpretation of the news conference.

The host broadcaster of the event is the National State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK).

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues, friends.

Let us begin our traditional end-of-year meeting that we call a news conference.

As always, I will spend just a few brief seconds to sum up the results of the outgoing year. A lot has been said already, but I have the latest data reflecting the most recent results, some just a couple of days old.

Before the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference.

In the first nine months of 2018, GDP increased by 1.7 percent, while the Economic Development Ministry expects the annual increase to total 1.8 percent. Industrial output was growing at a faster pace, totalling 2.9 percent in the first ten months of 2018, with the annual results expected at 3 percent, up from a 2.1 percent growth in 2017. In addition, processing industries have been growing at a somewhat faster pace of 3.2 percent.

In the first three quarters fixed capital investment increased by 4.1 percent. Cargo shipments and retail trade are on the rise, having increased by 2.6 percent. Consumer demand growth has been apparent. This is a positive factor. After a lengthy interval, the population’s real income has shown some, albeit very moderate, growth. According to the latest statistics, real incomes will increase by 0.5 percent. I hope that this momentum will be maintained, since real pay levels are on the rise, having grown by 7.4 percent in the first nine months, which is expected to give us 6.9 or 7 percent by the end of the year.

Inflation remains at an acceptable level, although it has increased a little in the past week, by 0.5 percent, I think. Therefore, we will be able to reach the Central Bank’s reference rate of 4 percent and will have an inflation rate of 4.1 percent to 4.2 percent – somewhere just over 4 percent.

The unemployment rate is going down, which is good news. If last year it hit a historical low of 5.2 percent, this year it will be even lower – 4.8 percent.

The trade balance surplus is growing. In 2017, if you remember, it was around $115 billion. Over the three quarters of this year we already achieved $157 million. As of the end of the year, we expect it to reach $190 billion.

Our finances are growing stronger. Our gold and foreign currency reserves have grown by over 7 percent. In the early 2018, they amounted to $432 billion while now they stand at almost $464 billion.

For the first time since 2011, we will have a budget surplus. We are about to reach the federal budget surplus of 2.1 percent of the GDP. The National Welfare Fund has grown by around 22 percent.

The average annual insurance component of the retirement pension stood at 13,677 rubles in 2017. By the end of this year, it will be 14,163 rubles.

Life expectancy has also increased slightly compared to 2017, from 72.7 to 72.9 years.

These are the general results that I wanted to mention in the beginning. Let’s not waste our time and proceed to your questions and my attempts to answer them.

Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov: Let us begin by giving some priority to the Kremlin pool. Its members worked with us throughout the year, following the President both in Russia and abroad.

ITAR-TASS, the state news agency.

Veronika Romanenkova: Thank you.

The year 2018 arguably went by under the sign of new national projects that you launched with the May Executive Order. They are expected to cost an enormous amount of money. However, some experts, members of the State Council, as was mentioned in Yalta only recently, have questioned the feasibility of these national projects and whether they are needed. How well thought out are the performance assessment criteria for the national projects? For example, the Accounts Chamber Chairman said that there is no way to assess their effectiveness. What can you say to counter this?

Before the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference.

Vladimir Putin: I will have to begin by saying a few words on whether these projects are needed, since you said that some question this.

I have said it on numerous occasions, and I will repeat it today. We need a breakthrough. We need to transition to a new technological paradigm. Without it, the country has no future. This is a matter of principle, and we have to be clear on this.

How can this be done? We need to focus the available resources, find and channel them to the essential development initiatives. How can these efforts be organised? By simply distributing money, and that’s it?

First, we had to find this money. It took us the entire year 2017 to articulate the objectives and find the resources. Both the Government and the Presidential Executive Office contributed to this effort. By the way, when some call for more changes within the Cabinet, we have to understand that it was the Government’s financial and economic block that developed the national development programme to 2024. For this reason, they are the ones who must take responsibility for the plans they made. There is no way around it.

So how should this effort be organised? By simply distributing money? After all, as much as 20.8 trillion rubles are expected to go into the national projects alone, and another 6.5 trillion will be invested in a separate infrastructure development plan. Of course, the allocation of these resources has to be set forth in documents of some kind on achieving breakthroughs. You can refer to these development plans any way you wish. We call them national projects. After all, it makes it clear that there are goals that have to be achieved. If there are no objectives, you will never achieve the final outcome, no matter how you manage these investments. It is for this reason that the 12 national projects were developed alongside an infrastructure development plan. Let me remind you of the main vectors.

Healthcare, education, research and human capital come first, since without them there is no way a breakthrough can be achieved. The second vector deals with manufacturing and the economy. Of course, everything is related to the economy, including the first part. But the second part is directly linked to the economy, since it deals with the digital economy, robotics, etc. I have already mentioned infrastructure.

Why did we have this meeting in Yalta, Crimea, to discuss with our colleagues from the Government and the regions how we will proceed in these efforts? Because there are questions on how to assess performance under these projects. We need effective controls, while making sure that all efforts by the federal centre to monitor what is happening in the regions are effective. It is true that there are challenges in this regard, but we are working on them. So what is the tricky part? The tricky part is that funding mostly comes from the federal centre, and this applies to all programmes, while most of the efforts are undertaken in the regions. The regions must be ready to work constructively. Instead of simply hiking up prices in response to an increase in the available funds, they must focus on achieving concrete results that will be clearly visible. This is the first point I wanted to make.

Second, we need to understand whether they will be able to succeed. This is a real question. Some argue that this would be impossible. But this is what we hear from those who must deliver. Instead of having these thoughts they need to work on delivering on these objectives, and if they feel that they are unable to do so, they have to clear the way for those who are positive about their ability to deliver and are ready to work. To tell you the truth, I have not seen anyone who did not want to do it or said that it was impossible. These messages come from outside observers.

Without ambitious goals we will never achieve anything. For this reason, I do hope that the federal centre and the regions will be able to work together in a consolidated and positive manner. Yes, some indicators have to be adjusted. Our colleagues from the regions have submitted their proposals to this effect, and I have high hopes that the Government will take them into consideration and adjust specific indicators so that we can move forward effectively…

Before the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference.

Pavel Zarubin: Rossiya TV channel.

I would like to expand on a topic that has already been raised. Many economics experts, including Alexei Kudrin, assert that in reality, the Russian economy has been growing just by one percent on average over the past ten years, and if so, this is essentially marking time, or stagnation. You set the goal of making a breakthrough, a leap, but for this, even if we take the lowest estimate, the growth rate should be at least four to five times higher. The Government promises to achieve the goal, but that same Government acknowledges that in the next few years, GDP growth rates will not exceed even 2 percent. In this regard, here are my questions: what does the Government rely on in its forecasts, in the planning of its work? Is a breakthrough possible at all, in this context, or will the economy continue operating like this: we make some money on oil surplus, put it aside, then spend it when there is a need for it? In general, are you satisfied with the Medvedev team?

Dmitry Peskov: Friends, I would ask you please to respect each other – ask only one question each.

Vladimir Putin: Look, economic growth has been one percent per year for a certain period of time. But, first of all, it was while Mr Kudrin was Deputy Prime Minister, so you must not blame the mirror for showing a crooked face, as they say. This is the first point.

The second is, one should not just count mechanically. I have great respect for Mr Kudrin, he is my friend and a good professional, and as a rule, I listen to his recommendations. He is a reliable specialist, a good one. But look, from 2008 to 2018, the economy grew by about 7.4 percent. In simple maths – yes, it equals one percent, a little more. However, let us not forget how the economy developed. There were higher growth rates, alternating with recessions associated with the global crisis. In 2009, after the crisis in the global economy, not in ours – Russia was not the cause of the global financial crisis of 2008–2009, it came to us from the outside – the decline was about 7.8 percent. Then little by little, we were crawling out of it for many years.

Then, in 2014–2015, another meltdown occurred – a collapse in the oil prices, our main exports. That is why I am saying we should not simply count mechanically.

However, of course, the country’s GDP, the GDP growth rate is one of the main indicators. But we will not be able to achieve the GDP growth rates necessary for this breakthrough unless the structure of the economy is changed. This is what the national projects are aimed at, and why such enormous funds will be invested, which I have already said – to change the structure and build an innovation-based economy. The Government is counting on this, because if this happens, and we should all work towards this, then the growth rates will increase and there will be other opportunities for development.

By the way, you mentioned the projected 2 percent growth for the next two years. Yes, in the next years, 2019–2020, two percent each, but from 2021, the Government is already planning 3 percent, and then more. Therefore, I strongly hope that we will manage to do all this. Some fluctuations are probably possible, but, I repeat, the most important thing is that we need… Do you see what we need to do? We need to join another league of economies, and not only in terms of volumes. I think that taking the fifth place in terms of volume is quite possible. We used to rank fifth in terms of the economy, in purchasing power parity, and we will do it again, I think. However, we need to ascend to another league in terms of the quality of the economy. This is what our national projects are aimed at.

Pavel Zarubin: Are you satisfied with the Medvedev team?

Vladimir Putin: Overall, yes.

Question: Good afternoon.

Mr President, in my city of Volgograd we had a wonderful year. We celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad. You made it a federal holiday and we really appreciate it. You also paid us a visit.

Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference.

We successfully hosted the World Cup and our region indeed began to breathe and develop.

There is a lot that still needs to be done. I think the economy will be extensively discussed. But Volgograd residents have a big wish and a great favour to ask. In 1998, the Kacha Higher Military Aviation School of Pilots, which had a very long history, was shut down.

It was established at the Tsar’s decree in 1910 and we were truly proud of it and want to be proud of it further. We want the military traditions to live on. Please consider re-opening it.

Vladimir Putin: In which year was it shut down?

Remark: In 1998, unfortunately. It had the Order of the Red Banner and a long history.

Vladimir Putin: You see, it is already 2018. It happened 20 years ago and I do not quite know what is left of this legendary school.

You are right, it was indeed a legendary school. But the Russian Defence Ministry plans personnel training resources based on whether there is a demand for specific types of personnel in the Armed Forces.

Therefore, we need to look at what can be done not only to remember it but perhaps to preserve the remaining traditions. I will make sure to look into this and consult with the Defence Ministry.

Maria Balyuk: Mr President, good afternoon. My name is Maria Balyuk, I represent the Prime news agency.

Mr President, the budget in the current year and the next year will have a surplus. However, starting January 1, a number of decisions are coming into effect that may cause a significant increase in prices of a wide range of goods and services.

For example, the VAT will increase to 20 percent, which has already triggered a two-stage increase in the housing and utilities rates next year. There is also the new tax for self-employed persons in pilot regions. Please tell us how these measures agree with the state’s economic policy.

Vladimir Putin: Housing and utilities rates in two stages, and what else?

Maria Balyuk: And, for example, a tax on self-employed people in pilot regions.

Isn’t this amount of new measures too much of a burden on Russians and the economy?

Vladimir Putin: You said about the surplus.

Yes, this is indeed a good indicator of the Government’s economic block performance. As I said in my opening remarks, for the first time since 2011 we will have a budget surplus of 2.1 percent. And this is good.

Let us not forget that as an oil producing country and a country that derives much of its revenue from selling oil and gas, we also have what is called a non-oil-and-gas deficit. This is what the country earns from selling products and services other than oil and gas.

Let me remind you that this non-oil-and-gas deficit was 13 percent in 2009, which is a lot. In the early 2000s, it was at about 3 percent, but the global economic crisis forced us to use our oil revenues to meet our social commitments and finance the Armed Forces, so we had to tap into the oil revenues.

Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference before the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference.

In this situation, the non-oil-and-gas deficit surged into the double digits almost reaching13 percent, I believe. This was a very serious challenge for the Russian economy. We have now reduced it to 6.6 percent, and next year it is expected to decline to 6 percent and remain at this level for the next few years.

This is a very important indicator of economic resilience for the Russian Federation. Therefore, the increase in the VAT rate, among other things, is due to the need to maintain the non-oil-and-gas deficit at a certain level.

Second, in many countries VAT is 20 percent or even higher. It used to be higher in Russia as well, but we reduced it at a certain point. Now we have returned to a 20-percent tax rate.

However, the effective VAT rate for the overall economy will be below 20 percent since almost all benefits remain in place: for pharmaceuticals, children’s goods, and so on, including for IT companies. Many benefits have been preserved. With this in mind, the effective rate will be actually lower.

Finally, I do hope that the rate hike will be only a one-off measure with a possible slight increase in prices and inflation in the beginning of the year, after which the inflation will go down.

The Central Bank also seeks to prevent inflation from picking up. Only recently, the interest rate was increased by 0.25 percentage points.

While there are definitely both benefits and disadvantages to this decision, all this is done in order to prevent inflation and prices from growing. For this reason, I believe that the overall decision was correct and balanced, creating additional budget revenue and the possibility to deliver on our development plans as part of the national projects.

As for increases in housing and utilities tariffs, over the past years they grew by about 4 percent per year. It is true that next year there will be two hikes: the first one will be at about 1.7 percent, and the second one I think will be about 2.4 percent, but in total this still makes up 4.1 percent.

Why will the increase be spread out in two stages? The reason is that with a higher VAT, prices of some goods and services are expected to increase, and we need to make sure that the utilities sector does not come under stress.

For this reason, in order to shield companies in this sector from these developments and ultimately in the interests of the people, we decided to proceed in two stages. That said, the overall increase should not exceed 4.1 percent.

In some regions, where the utilities infrastructure requires major upgrades and bigger hikes are required, this can be done as an exception, and subject to federal Government approval.

Yekaterina Gagarina: Good afternoon, Mr President. My name is Yekaterina Gagarina. I represent the Rossiya TV channel in Novosibirsk.

The importance of the Akademgorodok 2.0 [Academic Town] project that you supported during your visit to Novosibirsk is obvious not only to Siberian scientists. This project is unique for the entire country.

But behind the technological component of this project there are a number of tasks of a similarly large scale. They include building housing, roads, kindergartens and schools. My question is what if our scientific ambitions crash at daily living problems? Will the scientists have somewhere to live?

Vladimir Putin: I would not want them to crash.

I understand that it is a very important part of the entire process. Of course, we will be working on this with the regional officials. When I visited Novosibirsk, I also spoke about this with my colleagues.

The first objective of the federal government is to honour its obligations related to the facilities which trigger the development of Akademgorodok – which, by the way, is the opportunity to earn money on these high technologies. The social component will definitely be carried out after this.

But if any additional action is required to resolve the scientists’ social issues, of course, we will try to do it. By the way, the mortgage sector has been growing lately. We will support it as well. It is growing very fast for everybody. The growth of the mortgage sector stands at over 20 per cent.

Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference before the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference.

Full transcript 


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