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Three Years Later, George Floyd's Family Members Are Still Fighting For Justice




The name George Floyd has become a symbol across not only the US, but also the wider world. While George Floyd became known to most of us in death, he also lived a life that was deeply cherished by those closest to him. George’s brother, Philonise Floyd, and his sister-in-law, Keeta Floyd, join The Real News for an exclusive interview looking back on George’s life three years since his death at the hands of convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Philonise and Keeta, who have since established the Philonise and Keeta Floyd Institute for Social Change, continue to struggle for police accountability and racial justice.

Production: Nelly Cardoso, Michael Ma
Post-Production: Michael Ma


The following is a rushed transcript and may contain errors. A proofread version will be made available as soon as possible.

Philonise Floyd: Hi. I’m Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd.

Keeta Floyd: I’m Keeta Floyd, the VP of Philonise and Keeta Floyd Institute for Social Change and the wife of Philonise Floyd.

Maximillian Alvarez: Well, Philonise, Keeta, thank you both so much for sitting down with me here at the Real News Network. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

I frankly don’t know how to say how sorry I am to you and your family for everything that you’ve been through. But we at the Real News, and our audience I know, are sending you nothing but love and solidarity from now into eternity.

The world and the rest of the country really came to know George or Perry because of what happened to him on the worst day and ultimately the last day of his life.

I wanted to ask if we could change time and reality, and somehow the people of the world knew George because of what happened to him on the best day of his life, what do you think folks would know about him? What would you want folks to know about George in his happier days?

Philonise Floyd: Oh man, it’s so much. He was an amazing person when it come to speaking with others, encouraging others to do things. He taught people so much in church.

Basketball was one of his passions. So, he taught a lot of people basketball. He taught them different moves in football. He even cut kids’ hair who was underprivileged, meaning that they mom was just going to put the… they call it the chili bowl.

Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah, yeah. The bowl.

Philonise Floyd: The bowl. And they were going to cut it like that. He couldn’t let them go to school like that. I remember him when he bought the clippers and he said, “I can do a better job.” But it turned out he did a better job than a whole bunch of the barbers. And people was lining up, “I want my hair cut. I want my hair cut.”

George, he did a lot of things in the community. He took a lot of kids to the YMCA. Even when the YMCA had closed down in the neighborhood, he was taking people to the Boys & Girls Club because he knew a lot of people, from playing sports. When you go to church and stuff, you get to meet a lot of people. So by being in church, we get to greet other people. They just paved the way.

George, he was just an astonishing person to us because we prayed together, we slept together. We did so much. We ate banana mayonnaise sandwiches and stuff.

Maximillian Alvarez: I’ve heard about these sandwiches.

Philonise Floyd: Yeah. It’s a lot of stuff. We had salmon croquette for breakfast. If my mom couldn’t afford salmon croquette, we had mackerel. We ate grits and eggs with it.

It was just always a day of love in the household. So, the memories that we cherished, me and my sister, we were just talking about him today, how much we miss him.

We wish that he didn’t have to go through what he went through because all the money that they gave us, they can have it all back. I just want my brother.

Maximillian Alvarez: Okay. Keeta, what about you? What do you remember?

Keeta Floyd: For me, I don’t have the perfect love story, what childhood was like with George. I met George as an adult, at our wedding actually. He was just so supportive.

He was extremely proud of the fact that Philonise had just gotten married. He had just started trucking school so he had started a business. George was eager and excited about all those new endeavors that we were coming up on. He was just excited that day.

One of the things that’s always stood out with him, for me, is that he always had something positive to say to the children. It’s like, “Hey, stay in school. Make sure you’re doing this. Make sure you’re doing that.”

And I thought that was amazing advice because here it is, he’s like seven feet tall and all the kids looked up to him. He just always had a pleasant word of advice to give to them. So that’s my love story about George. He was just so sweet and humble. A humble guy, a gentle giant.

Philonise Floyd: You know what’s funny about it? Because I took our son over there to see George, and he was talking to [inaudible 00:04:11] because he played football too. He was like, “I’m this good. You’re not better than me.”

And George was just sitting down the entire time. So George said, “Let me see what you got.” He stood up and he’s like, “Man, I never thought he was going to stop standing up.”

He said that they was moving, you know how when you’re wrestling? My brother was just pushing him, pushing him out the way. My son was still trying to go.

But the fact that he said, “He’s going to be a great athlete because he’s not scared.” He said, “Most people look at me, they get intimidated.” But he said, “He kept on going. It shows that he’s a competitor.” And he said, “I like that.” That’s what he told me. I still remember that.

Maximillian Alvarez: I mean, it sounds like you guys also just… like that was part of your life growing up. I mean, we’re sitting here at the University of Houston, 20-minute walk from Cuney Homes.

I was wondering if you could just say a little more about what it was like for you guys growing up, what you guys got up to.

Philonise Floyd: Oh man, it’s crazy. Oh, well, we would come up every day. We had cereal. Whatever we wanted to eat for breakfast, we could eat it in the house.

So the thing about it is, as I got older I used to see these marks on the wall. I said, “Mom, why are all these marks on the wall?” She said, “Because your brother always want to measure his height, because he wants to get taller all the time.”

So I’m looking up like, man, I wonder, will I ever reach that level? But now as I got older, I’m probably at a certain level now that I never knew.

It was the old Cuney Homes. It was before they fixed it up. It’s before Texas Southern had gates. It’s before University of Houston had all of these buildings and stuff built. Because I think they still had a Hot… No, they call it the Fatita now.

It’s not the Hot Fives no more. I remember watching him play there from Jack Hay’s High School, we going to different games at the Barnett Stadium. I remember him being in the neighborhood playing them pickup games. And when I was old enough, well I wasn’t really old enough to play, but they let me play.

And they was teaching me how to be physical and how to play the game. And I remember his friend, he told his friends, “Play against him just like he playing against grown men.” So he put a move on me and I just fell on the ground.

Maximillian Alvarez: He crossed you up?

Philonise Floyd: No, he clipped me, but nobody knew that he clipped me. And I was ashamed because I’m like, he didn’t cross me over because he didn’t have the ball, but he did a move on me where it made me fall. And then they gave him the ball and then he shot.

But that’s the same guy who went overseas to play basketball. He was already a star, but I was trying to guard him and all he did was just shoot right over me.

The point I’m trying to make is he said, “The only way you’re going to progress, you got to play against people that’s better than you.” He said you can’t get comfortable playing with people that’s on the same level as you.

Keeta Floyd: It was just always positive advice coming from him. And he loved God.

Philonise Floyd: Yes.

Keeta Floyd: It was like everything was just so humble about him.

Philonise Floyd: Everything. On that same court, I remember when the pastor, he used to come out there and set the chairs up and stuff on the basketball court. Nobody would come out. And George came and sat down and all of a sudden when he sat down, everybody came out and wanted to have church.

So he started a movement right then and there with people in the community who wanted to attend church. Because he always said, “You have to put the guns down.” That’s the number one thing. He always said it’s too many people who’s struggling that can’t, and they trying to survive, but they’re going to shoot at each other for what?

He said, “You going to give these people your whole entire life and you’ll never see daylight again because you murdered somebody.” And that’s the same thing with the police officers that did the thing they did.

If they could change everything, I know they would. I know they would want to. But the fact that once you go down the wrong path and you do something that vicious to somebody, it’s over with.

Keeta Floyd: There’s no turning back. Society doesn’t look at you the same.

Philonise Floyd: Yeah. One of those officers, he was black, but nobody didn’t know. And his whole family, they just said, “Cast him away. We wasn’t raised like that.”

Keeta Floyd: Wasn’t raised like that.

Philonise Floyd: Yeah.

Keeta Floyd: They reached out to us and they apologized. On his behalf.

Maximillian Alvarez: Well, I wanted to ask about that with the few minutes I got left with you guys. And I don’t know, I feel just like everyone else in the country and have just been reliving the horrors of that moment, the injustice that George and your family and so many others endure in this country.

It’s just really good for my soul to hear these stories, and I’m really honored that we get to share them with our audience. And I wanted to build on that positivity and ask about the work that you all are doing and what it’s been like for you to step into that role.

I imagine it’s a whirlwind, but now as your shirts say, y’all founded the Philonise and Keeta Institute for Social Change.

So tell me about what it’s been like, I guess, stepping into this role out of so much pain? Trying to make change and trying to use this horrific thing that happened to George, to make sure that it doesn’t happen again?

Philonise Floyd: It’s going to always be emotional. Because the fact that every time I step out, I always tell myself I’m doing it for my brother, but the fact that it’s bigger than my brother. Because there’s so many other individuals around the world who are going through the same thing.

As you can see, Ralph [inaudible], you can see the problem that he had. He was shot right outside of a door in the head and then in his arm, and still nobody wanted to give him any assistance. He went to like two or three houses and then nobody wanted to help him until he finally got some help.

But my thing is, that to me is, there’s no way I could have turned somebody back knowing that somebody was bleeding like that. So I look at that. I look at what happened to Dante Wright when we were down there.

Keeta Floyd: On trial.

Philonise Floyd: On trial. And we had to come out and speak. And I think about his mama and his dad, that was an interracial couple. And the fact that it doesn’t matter, they lost their son. And she’d say it all the time.

Keeta Floyd: Behind the air freshener.

Philonise Floyd: Hanging out.

Keeta Floyd: And a trained police officer thought that she pulled her Taser versus her gun. And she’d trained individuals on how to be safe with a Taser versus a gun. And so what we do with our institution is we go in. And on a community side, we advocate with those families, we give them resources, we answer any questions that they may have.

But for some reason, every time Philonise walks in the room, it’s just giving them a breath of fresh air that gives them hope. And they’re like, “We can get through this because you guys went through so much.” And it’s like, “But you’re going through it right now.” And so our hearts just go out to them.

One of the biggest things that we do is we do a lot of policy changes. We review on the policies and procedures with different government agencies. And so we let them know reasons as to why these policies should change. And not just a conversation of us being angry or us being bitter, because that’s not what the case is all about.

You can’t argue numbers. So we bring all the statistics to them and we let them know this is what’s going on in this area. And unfortunately, it’s a lot of people of color that’s experiencing this. You don’t see that in other neighborhoods.

I remember one of our speaking engagements, because we go throughout the country and we have these conversations with different entities. One of our speaking engagements, we were in the City of Vermont and we were speaking to a crowd at a business. And the lady was the CEO of the company.

And when we began to explain the difference in how we teach our children, for something as simple as when you’re stopped by the police officer, here are the safety things you should follow. Put your windows down, put hands on the wheel, it blew her away. She started crying. She became very emotional.

She was like, “I didn’t know that you guys had to teach your children that because I just don’t do that.” Caucasian lady versus African American upbringing.

Philonise Floyd: And she didn’t know.

Keeta Floyd: Yeah, she didn’t know. And so it touched her employees because they’ve never seen that side of her. She’s always very structured and poised and militant. And so it blew them away to see that she did have a soft side and she did want to be about change.

And for me, the most valuable piece is voting, making sure that we vote the right people into office and make sure we hold them accountable. I always like to say, casually I like to say, that we vote them in and we pay them with our tax dollars. And so why don’t we hold them accountable? Because if we start a business, we hire staff, we’re going to hold them accountable.

So let’s hold them to the fire. If they say they’re going to do these things, let’s set attainable goals and objectives to where we can tap in and see if they’re actually fulfilling those duties. And so those are the things that Philonise and I stay on top of.

Philonise Floyd: The Philonise and Keeta Floyd Institute for Social Change, Turning Our Pain into Purpose.

Keeta Floyd: That’s right.

Philonise Floyd: We preach about everything from systemic racism, police reform, it’s a lot of different things.

Keeta Floyd: We do criminal justice reform, mental health awareness, youth enrichment programs.

Philonise Floyd: Mental health is huge.

Keeta Floyd: It’s huge. Because what happens is here in our own city, University… In Houston.

Philonise Floyd: You said University of Houston.

Keeta Floyd: Yes. I used to work here. So here in our own city of Houston, just not too long ago, we had to go and stand with Benjamin Crump for all of the casualties that they were having inside of the jail system.

And they’re unexplained. No one can explain what happened to these people. You have cameras, you have trained professionals, and they’re supposed to be doing, watching a 24-hour surveillance and check in. So how could you not notice that someone is laying dead in a corner for hours and then you have no outcome or solution as to what happened to them?

And so that’s what Philonise and I do. We get legal teams together to do the research and pull it together to see what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Philonise Floyd: Shake some stuff up.

Maximillian Alvarez: Hell yeah. Well, and thank you for doing that. And I just wanted to ask in the last 30 seconds I’ve got with you, what can folks out there do to continue to stand in solidarity with you, with the rest of the Floyd family, and to fight the injustice that stole your brother away?

Philonise Floyd: So get out and vote. Get out and pray. Get out and help work with others to help change laws because we’re stronger in numbers.

Keeta Floyd: That’s right.

Philonise Floyd: That’s the number one thing. We’re stronger in numbers. The more people that we’re getting out here to vote and get things established in life, the more that we feel that we can succeed in life and get to change these laws.

Because it’s difficult as it is when you vote holding people in. But when you have other people who want to sit there and hold these people accountable, then I feel that we can get up to the level we need to get to.

Because as of now, to me, it’s like people are trying to do whatever they want to do. There’s much I could talk about. I can talk about Alec. I could talk about the stand-your-ground laws in Florida.

I could talk about how Texas, we have a open policy with open carry with guns. And people feel that they can murder you at any moment. It shouldn’t be like that. People shouldn’t think, “First let me shoot and ask questions later.”

Because at the end of the day, that’s somebody mama. That’s somebody brother. That’s somebody son. That’s somebody daughter that you murdering, and they will never see daylight again.

And then most of the time, if a police officer do it, they’re going to get a certain amount of time and they’re going to get right back out. That’s if they get time. And then most of them have the military outside protecting their houses. Because they feel like they murdered somebody and it wasn’t wrong.

I seen a 20-year-old Caucasian girl, they went into the wrong yard. They were turning around to leave, and she got shot right in the neck. How you think those parents are feeling right now?

Keeta Floyd:

That’s right. Regardless of color. It’s not about color always. It’s about a human life. The humanity of it all.

Philonise Floyd: The humanity.

Keeta Floyd: That’s somebody’s loved one, and they want them to come home just like we want you to go home. As you know, professionals, you signed up to protect and serve. And we want you to do just that. We want everybody to go home safely.

One of the things for me, or a few things for me is to bring about awareness and educate your communities. Go and become familiar with those legislators or those state representatives in your community. Have those tough conversations with them. When they coming out, campaigning, knocking on your door. Ask them. That’s your opportunity to ask them.

If you can’t get off to go into the town hall meetings, somehow, someway, stay aware of what’s going on. Because laws are being changed and it’s affecting our children. And tragedy should not hit your front door before you begin to say, “Oh, let me make this change now. Oh, I understand where you’re coming from now.” That’s all it’s about.

Philonise Floyd: Yeah. Trayvon Martin was one of the tragedies that struck at when, from my time being, because even though I heard about Rodney King, the fact that Trayvon Martin was murdered while he was walking home. And the operator had said, “Hey, sir, I don’t need you to follow him.”

And the guy kept following him, and he got off on a stand your ground law. How can you get off on a stand your ground law and you following somebody? Wouldn’t you think somebody trying to hurt you, if they’re following you? What you following me for?

Keeta Floyd: And that’s where the community can come together and rally against laws like that. You have a voice, use it to your advantage. Let them know that you don’t agree with this policy, and give them examples as to why. Force their hand like they force yours.

Philonise Floyd: Yeah. Coming up, we having an event. You want to do the honors? You can tell.

Keeta Floyd: Yes. We’re going to have the… Well on this year, it’s the remembrance of George Floyd, because it’s on the death of him. But Houston has actually named June 9th as George Floyd Day. So moving forward, we would like to celebrate his life versus his death.

And so one of the things we’re going to be doing is going out into the Cuney Homes community center, hosting a basketball game, because George loved sports.

Philonise Floyd: He loved sports.

Keeta Floyd: For the youth. And we’re going to bring down a lot of different individuals. And we’re going to have panel discussions open to the public with a lot of advocates that’s on board on panel. Like Al Sharpton, Ben Crump, different members of the organization that go out and they do activism with us. We stand alongside them.

Maximillian Alvarez: Hell, yeah. Well, Philonise, Keeta, thank you both so much for the work that you do. And thank you for sitting down with me here at The Real News. I really appreciate it.

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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