Thursday, April 14, 2016

VLADIMIR PUTIN -- Answers to journalists’ questions following the Direct Line

Answers to journalists’ questions following the Direct Line

Vladimir Putin met with journalists and answered their questions following the Direct Line.

April 14, 2016

Answers to journalists’ questions following the Direct Line.

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Answers to journalists’ questions following the Direct Line.

Question: Was it not daunting to face so many serious problems and pressing questions?

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: No.

Question: Why do you say that?

Vladimir Putin: This is my work, what my colleagues and I are expected to do. You can’t hide from serious questions, because if you try to put a gloss on reality, how will you understand what is really going on? And it is extremely important to understand where we are, how we are working, and how people view our work.

Question: Mr President, when you were asked about [Alexei] Kudrin, you started talking about the future, about some plans for 2018. Does this mean that you have already made the decision to run for president in 2018?

Vladimir Putin:No, it doesn’t mean that I have made such a decision. It means that we need to adjust our medium and long-term plans. No country can survive without making such adjustments, and Russia is no exception. We had development plans in place through to 2020, and now it is already 2016. We have come to the point where we need to reflect on the medium-term prospects.

This was Mr Kudrin’s own initiative too, really. He and some other colleagues said that we should be working on this regardless of who will be in the Government and who will be the President. The country has to know which road it is taking, at what pace, and what is needed to reach the goals it has set.

Question: Do you regret Obama’s imminent departure?

Answers to journalists’ questions following the Direct Line.

Vladimir Putin: We will all go one day – there is no point in having regrets, we have to work. I must say that the President of the United States – assessments can vary of course, but in any case his work should be assessed by the citizens of the US – but he is working, and very actively. He and I keep in touch, I maintain contact with his Administration, and I am confident that this will continue until the end of his tenure. He is a very responsible man. But once America elects a new President, we’ll start working with the new one.

Question: New government in Canada and new Prime Minister. How do you see the relations with Canada going forward?

Vladimir Putin: We are positive about them. We have known each other personally since we met in Antalya, by the way, at the G20 meeting. He has expressed his views about how he is going to build relations with Russia. We are quite satisfied.

As I understand it, the new Prime Minister of Canada wants to build relations with Russia on a positive basis, as we did in previous years. We are fine with that. We are neighbours across the Arctic Circle, across the North Pole. We have a lot of mutual interests, oddly enough, even being as far apart geographically as we are. We look forward to working together.

Question: How do you see the role of the Kurds against ISIS?

Answers to journalists’ questions following the Direct Line.

Vladimir Putin: The role of the Kurds? What can I say? I will just say it as it is. How do I see it? The Kurds are very courageous people, if not heroic. I know what I am saying. The Kurds fight selflessly, without sparing themselves, and very effectively. They are a very serious force in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East, particularly in Syria.

As you know, the United States is working with them actively, but our troops are also in contact with armed Kurdish units, including in Aleppo, where the terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS are now trying to oust them from their present positions. We are following the events and we will support them.

Question: You have mentioned the economy. What do you see as a way out of this grave economic crisis: implementing Kudrin’s programme or, for example, agreeing with Saudi Arabia to freeze oil output?

I also have a question on privatization. Why did you agree to the privatization of important stakes in companies like Rosneft while the market is so low? How can you guarantee that it would not become a replica of the loans-for-shares auctions and selling off state assets at a low bargain price?

Answers to journalists’ questions following the Direct Line.

Vladimir Putin: Regarding ways out of the current situation, I do not intend to use either what Alexei Kudrin is proposing, or any agreements with Saudi Arabia as a foundation. In this respect, we should be guided by the anti-crisis plan of the Russian Government and make sure that it is implemented.

When it comes to dealing with the situation in which Russia has found itself, which is by the way also true for many other countries, especially the developing economies, two or three areas should always be prioritised.

What are these areas? Attracting investment, raising the purchasing power, which means increasing demand, and enhancing economic and governance efficiency.

For that, we need to support specific industries that are facing hardships. This goes for the automobile industry, processing, agriculture should be on this list anyway, which is due to sanctions and retaliatory measures, as well as a number of other industries. They are all mentioned in the Government plan.

There is no doubt whatsoever that we need to ensure and increase the demand. How? We need to assist people in difficult straits. We also need to boost industrial demand through targeted support measures that I have mentioned, including, by the way, the construction industry, despite the fact that 85 million square metres of real estate were built last year, as I have mentioned.

We need to continue to balance macroeconomic and budget policies, keeping the budget deficit within 3 percent and giving more political and economic freedoms to businesses, as well as improve the business climate.

These are the five key areas that we must and will work on. It is on these areas that we should base our efforts to foster economic development. We need to put the country back on the track of steady economic growth. We can and will do it based on the Government’s anti-crisis plan.

As for privatisation, there is nothing unusual in this respect. If you look at the articles I published in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, I wrote that privatisation could be supported, including in the oil and gas sector, which refers to major state-owned companies. So there is nothing unusual.

Why are we doing it on a falling market? First, we need money. Second and most importantly, we will be looking for a strategic partner who understands that skimping is not an option when it comes to buying a 19 percent stake in Rosneft. There is no need to pay attention to the current stock prices. We should be forward-looking. If we find a partner of this kind, and I think that it is possible, we will be ready to move ahead with privatisation despite a falling market, as you have said.

Thank you.

Question: You did talk about the economy, but could you tell us, do you place greater hopes for recovering from this serious economic crisis on Kudrin’s programme, for example, or on the agreement with Saudi Arabia on freezing oil production levels?
And on the privatisation issue, why have you decided to go ahead with the privatisation of large stakes in companies such as Rosneft when the market is at such a low point? In this situation, how can you guarantee that we will not see a repeat of the old loans for shares scheme or privatisation by agreement at low prices?

Vladimir Putin:Concerning how we will bring about recovery from this crisis, I am not going to base myself either on Mr Kudrin’s proposals, or on agreements with Saudi Arabia. Here, we need to follow the Government’s anti-crisis plan and make sure it is implemented.

Countries that find themselves in a situation like that we face right now, and this is the case of many countries, especially developing markets, always put the emphasis on two or three main areas.

These areas are attracting investment, raising consumers’ purchasing power, increasing demand, in other words, and making our economy and overall government more effective.

To do this, we need to help particular economic sectors that have fallen on hard times right now. They include the automotive industry, processing sectors, and agriculture. I am referring to the difficulties brought about by the sanctions, counter-sanctions and so forth. All of these support measures are set out in the Government’s anti-crisis plan.

We absolutely must increase and guarantee demand. How will we do this? We will provide assistance to the population groups facing difficulties, and we will ensure production demand through targeted support programmes. I spoke about these programmes, including the ones for housing construction, despite the fact that 85 million square metres of new housing were built last year.

We must continue to follow a balanced macroeconomic and budget policy, keep to a budget deficit of no more than 3 percent, and continue to expand political and economic freedom for business and generally improve the business climate.

These are the five main areas in which we will continue to work. It is this that will form the base for our hopes for successful economic development. We must set the country back on a stable growth track, and we can and will do this on the basis of the Government’s anti-crisis plan.

As for the privatization situation, there is nothing unusual here. If you look back at my election campaign articles from 2012, you will see that I said back then that I think it possible to support privatisation, including in the oil and gas sector and with regard to large companies with a state stake. So there is nothing new here.

As for why we are doing it when the market is down, first of all, we need money, and second, this is not the biggest consideration. More important is that we will look for a strategic partner who understands that there is no point in being stingy if you are buying, say, 19 percent of the shares in Rosneft. We want someone who realises that they should be looking not at today’s prices, but at what the future holds. If we find such a partner, and I think this is possible, despite the falling market, we would be willing to go ahead with privatization.

Thank you.
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