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Friday, January 10, 2014
Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original
TRQ closed -4.42% to US$3.24 on Thursday
Turquoise Hill Fills 100% of Rights Offering and Raises US$2.4 Billion
January 8 (CEO.ca) Turquoise Hill (TRQ:TSX) announced this morning that they have completed their US$2.4 billion rights offering which expired yesterday. The company was able to get 100% of shareholders to participate in the offering which represents over 1 billion shares. Large shareholders Rio Tinto and Robert Friedland fully participated in the offering. According to the latest SEDI filings (Friedland ceased being an insider in mid-April 2013), Friedland owned approximately 85 million shares in TRQ so his rights offering purchase would represent US$204 million (US$2.40 per right). Given he is no longer an insider and filings haven't been updated since this previous summer; we do not know his exact position. However, given how bullish Friedland is on the project he helped discover, I wouldn't expect many shares to have been sold (speculation). If he did fully participate he would now, potentially, hold in excess of 170 million shares worth over $620 million by todays CAD$3.67 per share price.
Turquoise Hill plans to use the proceeds to repay US$1.8 billion in debt and US$600 million in a bridge facility from Rio Tinto.
Dr. David Klingner, chairman of Turquoise Hill, said, "The Turquoise Hill board extends its sincere gratitude and appreciation to all shareholders who participated in the offering and contributed to its success."
Turquoise Hill expects that the rights offering will close on Jan. 13, 2014.
Haranga Resources awarded pre-mining contract for Selenge iron project, Mongolia
January 10 (Proactive Investors) Haranga Resources (ASX: HAR) has been awarded a pre-mining agreement with the Mineral Resource Authority of Mongolia for its 80% owned Selenge Iron Ore Project.
The project is located in Mongolia's premier iron ore development region of Darkhan - Selenge with access to the main trans-Mongolian Rail line & nearby spurs.
The key terms of the agreement are for Haranga to complete and submit a feasibility study, mine design, and finally construction of a Mine.
Selenge hosts a JORC Resource of 254 million tonnes at 17.2% iron, making it the largest JORC iron ore resource in Mongolia.
Notably, 99.8% of this is in the Measured and Indicated categories, and initial Davis Tube Recovery results indicate that a high quality 66% iron concentrate is attainable from the project.
Drilling also discovered iron mineralisation at the nearby Huiten Gol Prospect, and an additional exploration target of 50 to 100 million tonnes is estimated.
Selenge is made up of the Bayantsogt, Dund Bulag and Undur Ukhaa deposits which lie within 3 kilometres of each other and are associated with large magnetite skarn hills with wide mineralised lodes from surface.
Haranga believes Selenge will support a wet magnetic concentrator with a standalone infrastructure solution to deliver around 4 million tonnes per annum of magnetite concentrate onto the nearby rail spurs for domestic and export consumption.
Guildford Coal receives US$65M from OCP Asia to progress Mongolian coking coal project
January 10 (Proactive Investors) Guildford Coal (ASX: GUF) has received US$65 million in funds from OCP Asia to repay existing debt and for working capital purposes related to its Mongolian assets.
OCP Asia is an Asia-focused alternative investment fund manager with offices in Singapore and Hong Kong.
This will help ensure that the company's Baruun Noyon Uul coking coal mine's first sale of coal into China will be delivered during the first quarter of 2014.
The funds consist of US10 million in exchange for the issue of convertible notes and US$55 million in exchange for the issuance of Amortising Notes as well as Detachable Warrants equal to 18.5% of the Amortising.
Guildford had in December completed a key 98 kilometre current haul road connecting the Baruun Noyon Uul mine with the coal distribution hub at Ceke, at the China border.
Development activities at The Mine have continued including mine advancement, additional key mining equipment delivered and facilities construction. The mine is currently being assessed by the Mongolian authorities for the purpose of commissioning.
MATD closed -5.66% to 6.25p on Thursday
Petro Matad's Unaware Of Reason For Share Price Increase
LONDON, January 9 (Alliance News) - Petro Matad Ltd (LON:MATD) Thursday said it is unaware of any reason for the recent sharp increase in its share price.
The stock has risen 86% from an opening price of 3.5 pence on Monday to 6.50 pence on Thursday.
The oil exploration company, with operations in Central Mongolia, said that discussions with a small number of parties regarding a possible farm-in to its operations in Mongolia are continuing.
Petro Matad also said that interpretation of its recently acquired seismic data from Blocks IV and V in Mongolia are ongoing and are expected to be largely complete by mid-February.
The company said the results of the interpretation will enable the company to design a drilling programme for 2014 and any further news will be announced once there are changes to these events.
Petro Matad shares actually fell 1.9% Thursday to 6.50 pence.
UTM closed -25% to C$0.105 on low volume
Undur Tolgoi Announces New COO and Director
ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA--(Marketwired - Jan. 9, 2014) - Undur Tolgoi Minerals Inc. ("UTM" or the "Company") (CNSX:UTM) is pleased to announce that Mr. Anthony Milewski will join UTM's board of directors effective January 1, 2014. In addition, the Company will also appoint Mr. Erdembileg Jugdernamjil to the position of Chief Operating Officer ("COO"), effective January 1, 2014, replacing Mr. Jimmie Wilde who has resigned as COO of the Company.
Mr. Milewski brings the Company a valuable combination of academic qualifications and advisory experience focused on early and growth stage companies in emerging markets. He has worked with Skadden Arps and Renaissance Capital in Moscow and Firebird Management in New York. He has lived and worked in Russia and Africa and spent extensive amounts of time in Central Asia and Mongolia. He has served as both a director and an executive with a number of private and public companies. Anthony has been a frequent speaker at international industry conferences and this broad experience has given him a keen insight into the unique challenges and opportunities of operating early stage companies in emerging markets.
Mr. Milewski's academic qualifications include a B.A. in Russian history from Brigham Young University, a M.A. in Russian studies and a J.D. from the University of Washington. Anthony spent a year in Russia as a Fulbright scholar. He holds an LLM from the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Don Padgett, UTM President and CEO, commented; "We are delighted to have someone with Anthony's unique skill set to assist the Company with the implementation of its new strategic direction in the Mongolian infrastructure sector."
Mr. Erdembileg is the CEO of CBM LLC, a Mongolian-registered business consulting, administration and geology service provider and the CEO of Big Mogul Coal & Energy LLC, a producing coal mining company. Erdembileg also served as an officer at the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, a project manager at Energy Resources LLC and an officer at the State Property Committee. He earned a bachelor's degree from the Economic school of University of Mongolia and a MBA from the Academy of Management.
Don Padgett, UTM's President and CEO stated; "We are delighted to have Erdembileg and his knowledge of local and regional government affairs on board as we quickly build our newly created road construction/infrastructure division as part of the Company's business".
UTM announces that effective on January 8, 2014, the Company has granted, under its Stock Option Plan, fully vested incentive stock options to certain directors, senior officers, and consultants to purchase up to an aggregate of 2,300,000 common shares in the capital of the Company exercisable for a period of five years ending on January 6, 2019, at an exercise price of $0.25 per share and are subject to the Company's vesting provisions.
All options and any shares issued on the exercise of options will be subject to a four month hold period and are subject to Exchange approval.
The CNSX has in no way passed upon the merits of the proposed transaction and has neither approved or disapproved the contents of this press release.
MSE News for January 9: Top 20 +0.35%, Turnover ₮68.1 Million
Ulaanbaatar, January 9 /MONTSAME/ At the Stock Exchange trades held Thursday, a total of 20 thousand and 323 shares of 27 JSCs were traded costing MNT 68 million 090 thousand and 459.00.
"APU" /6,300 units/, "Khokh gan" /5,066 units/, "Hermes center" /3,500 units/, "Remikon" /1,658 units/ and "Teever darkhan" /1,100 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value--"Teever darkhan" (MNT 27 million and 500 thousand), "APU" (MNT 25 million and 830 thousand), "Gutal" (MNT four million and 700 thousand), "Sharyn gol " (MNT two million 355 thousand and 400) and "Talkh chikher" (MNT 980 thousand).
The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 630 billion 366 million 998 thousand and 313. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 16,095.52, increasing by MNT 56.56 or 0.35% against the previous day.
Financial Regulatory Commission to Cooperate with Japan's Financial Services Agency
Ulaanbaatar, January 9 /MONTSAME/ The Financial Regulatory Committee (FRC) (Mogi: Commission) of Mongolia inked a cooperation pact with the Japanese Financial Service Agency on Thursday.
The memorandum of understanding was signed by D.Bayarsaikhan, a chairman of the FRC, and by Ryutaro Hatanaka, a Commissioner of the Financial Services Agency of Japan.
In view of the growing globalization of the world's financial markets and the increase in cross-border operations and activities of regulated entities, the development of sound financial regulatory mechanisms and financial markets in each jurisdiction will be of mutual benefit.
In this regard, the sides intend to work together to identify and address, subject to the availability of experience and expertise exchanging needs to facilitate, through personnel exchanges and trainee programs as appropriate, the development of a legal and regulatory framework and financial markets in each jurisdiction.
BoM MNT Rates: January 9 Close
Mogi: $53.5 million and still ₮14 drop?
BoM holds FX auction
January 9 (Bank of Mongolia) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on January 9th, 2013 the BOM has received from local commercial banks bid offer of USD and CNY. BOM has sold 53.5 million USD as closing rate of MNT 1737.0 and 141.5 million CNY as closing rate of MNT 284.70.
On January 9th, 2013, The BOM has received USD Swap agreement bid offer of 41.5 million USD and accepted the offer.
Fiscal Stability Report of Mongolia, October 2013
January 9 (Bank of Mongolia) --
Link to report (in Mongolian)
Yo.Manlaibayar: Mongolia will have three huge transit railroad corridors
January 9 (UB Post) In an interview with Yo. Manlaibayar, the chairman of the Coordinating Department of Railway and Maritime Policy of the Ministry of Roads and Transportation, we learn more about proposals for the renovation of Ulaanbaatar Railway.
-A trilateral Russian-Mongolian-Chinese meeting about railroad issues was held last December. What was the main issue covered during the meeting?
-A trilateral Russian-Mongolian-Chinese meeting was held on December 18. The main subject of the meeting was the "North Corridor", the nearest path connecting Russia and China to Europe through Mongolia. Both [Russia and China] clarified their interests in the path several times. Due to the lack of idle capacity, Mongolia has yet to use it efficiently; therefore, Mongolia invited representatives of both countries to construct a strategy for the enhancement of efficacy, since the corridor doesn't pass through only Mongolia.
No matter how much we improve one side, overall, it would not make significant changes. Thus, it is urgent for the railroad's capacity to be enhanced in Russia from Naushki to the Trans-Siberian railroad, and in China from Erenhot to Jining.
Through this meeting we were able to understand how our two neighboring countries perceived the issue.
-What conclusion were the three countries able to agree on and by what means will they cooperate with our country?
-The representative from China reported that they have been working on blueprints for reconstructing the railroads with double railroads and electrical power. As for Russia, they are currently able to use up to 25 percent of their railway from Naushki to the Trans-Siberian railroad, and if Ulaanbaatar is able to enhance its capacity, Russia is ready to enhance capacity together with Mongolia's. This was one of the main negotiations in the meeting.
Secondly, Russia shared that they were also ready to assist with the renovation of Ulaanbaatar Railway including blueprints, investments and technology issues.
-A special operation for the renovation of Ulaanbaatar Railway is being constructed. How much capacity will be increased with the renovation?
-A general congress of the Ulaanbaatar Railway was held in November 2013. The first -project for renovation, discussed for over ten years, was validated. The renovation of Ulaanbaatar Railway had been discussed since 1990 and projects actually began in the latter half of 2013.
We discussed detailed projects requiring completion by 2015, and have confirmed 257 million USD in required expenses, which includes construction work for replacing mechanical linkages, the widening of stations and the lengthening of railroad junctions. By doing so, the capacity of Ulaanbaatar will increase from its current capacity of 20 million tons to 34 million tons by the end of 2015. In 2013, 20.5 million tons was transported, which, by itself, is the highest achievement made capacity within the limits of current technology. This is why reconstruction of the railroads and the lengthening of stations are crucial for the company.
-Even if we do get enhanced railway capacity, will we have enough cargo?
-As the years pass, the amount of exports and imports in Mongolia is increasing, though the profit for the country is deficient. We discussed increasing the number of transit railways because it is the most profitable solution. We have said that we will enhance our capacity and insisted that Russia and China give us their cargo, which they agreed on, making it one of the negotiation policies.
-So does that mean that Russia will transport cargo to China and vice-versa? Were the previous transports one-way?
-Until 2006, Mongolia transported up to six million tons of petroleum a year to China through transit rail, but current records show that 1.4 million tons is being transported through transit rails. Not to mention, it used to be one-way transportation from Russia to China. After cargo had been transported the train would return with an empty wagon. However, it has been decided that both sides will exchange cargo.
Russia agreed upon transporting mainly mining products to China and China will be transporting containers to Russia. We will make trilateral plans by the end of January.
-The main target zone for the two-way transportation is said to be our country. There must have been detailed calculations about the nation's profits, right? Overall, how profitable is the transit railway?
-Yes, in general, transit railway is the most profitable means of transportation. Ulaanbaatar Railway has achieved its greatest profit in 2013. As the operations increase, the profit should correspondingly increase. However, our profits did not increase because the transportation goods are mainly internal coal. Coal, by itself, is a non-profitable cargo. The price of electricity rises whenever we try to raise transportation fees. This is connected to the fact that it is namely coal used for electric power stations. The internal capital loss for the transporting coal in the country was 14 million USD, looking at just 2013's statistics. With passenger transportation following behind. In contrast to auto-transport, railway is 15 times cheaper. This too is unprofitable. Even with increased ticket fees, the loss would increase, since society's burden is tied into it. The way to avoid loss is to increase profitable work by maximizing the transportation of profitable goods. The most profitable work is transit. If we can increase transit, we can overcome society's burden and will be able to work efficiently, with profit.
-Currently, 1.4 million tons of transit is being conducted. So how much trade passing through the corridors to our neighboring countries increase?
-Obviously, we aim for it to increase by up to 10 to 20 million. During the trilateral meeting our neighbors said they will multiply reciprocity in trade by 2.5, which means the current reciprocity in trade (80 billion) will become 200 billion. Thus, the corridor for this trade is crucial. In order to pass this cargo through our country, increased capacity of Ulaanbaatar Railway is needed. This work is in progress.
Ulaanbaatar Railway can have two-way railroads. A pre-feasibility study is being conducted. If we can achieve this, the capacity will grow by up to 100 million. On the other hand, if we cannot handle 100 million tons of cargo, it will have been a deficient investment. Along these lines, the pivotal issue we need to concentrate on is to have one side invest while the other increases their trade reciprocity.
-Assuming we finish the 1,800 km long railway, how many transit corridors can be built?
-According to our statistics, Ulaanbaatar Railway is 1,800 kilometers long. We are planning to add an additional 5,600 kilometers to the length. In other words, it will increase to four times its length. As the years go by, the transportation of mining products is increasing. Estimates show that by 2020, 100 million tons of cargo is to be exported. It is absolutely necessary for us to have the capacity for this transportation, but with only Ulaanbaatar Railway, it is impossible. Hence, we need three to four other sources.
On the other hand, with the new 1,800 kilometer long railroad route, it makes it possible to build two more transit corridors: one transit corridor connecting Russia and China, and the other enabling internal cargo to transport to our neighbors. Stated simply, Mongolia will have three transit corridors. Currently, we have only one passing through Ulaanbaatar Railway.
50 Thousand Jobs Created in 2013 With Government Funding
Ulaanbaatar, January 9 /MONTSAME/ Last year, a total of 49,331 vacancies were created under relevant funding of the Government, said the Labor Minister Ya.Sanjmyatav Tuesday.
He said it during a meeting with a chairman of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Policies, Education, Culture and Sciences D.Battsogt, D.Arvin and Z.Bayanselenge MPs, while answering their questions about the Ministry's policies." They are aimed at reduced unemployment, improved legal environment and increased jobs." he added.
These jobs were created under the Government funding such as the Small and Middle Enterprises Development Fund, Soum Development Fund, Employment Support Fund, and Reconstruction investments. Moreover, a flow of work force to foreign world reduced significantly, a program on preparing professional workers together with OyuTolgoi company was fruitful, he said.
January 8 (MIBG) The past year has been an unforgettably tough ride for the Mongolian economy. In the first 11 months FDI fell 50% and foreign trade activities were down 5.7%. The Tugrik is still hovering around 1700 to the dollar, from 1400 this time last year and year-on-year CPI is sitting at 12%. Needless to say, the Mongolian economy has taken a beating – and the punches are still coming.
If it were not for the successful raising of the Chinggis Bond, increased Government spending and soft monetary policy by the Central Bank, Mongolia would have likely experienced a mild contraction in 2013. This last-ditch effort by the GoM has likely delivered yet another year of double digit growth for the country. While official figures have yet to be released by the National Statistics Office we expect Mongolia to come out near the top of the global performers for 2013 – hopefully an indication of where we'll end up at the end of this year.
Looking ahead, we have high hopes for Mongolia – as our recent announcement proves. We also think that 2014 is going to host a number of developments, good and bad. To this end we've put together our TOP 4 To Watch in 2014, a list of key developments to watch out for in the year ahead – some are pretty obvious while others may surprise you:
Continued depreciation of the MNT in the near term:
There is just not enough demand for Mongolian goods, equities, or debt – driving down demand for the MNT while the Mongolian public continues to import over 90% of their consumption and the Government subsidy programs continue to support import extensive sectors such as construction. However, foreign investors trading on the MSE should be on the lookout for some bargain deals as equities become cheaper due to the continued fall of the MNT against foreign currencies.
Real Estate and Banking will pose the biggest challenges:
Real Estate prices will likely be driven down in 2014. This will be the result of continued Government efforts to keep housing affordable and a further decrease in private sector activity. Occupancy of commercial properties has already suffered significantly during the second half of 2013 and many offices are scaling back their activities and moving to less expensive accommodations. Similarly, the banking sector will likely experience decreased profitability due to increasing non-performing loans. In the first 11 months of 2013 overdue loans grew by nearly 10% and non-performing loans grew by 100%. This impact will continue to have a dominos effect on the financial sector unless we see a ramp up in private sector activity.
Mongolia's mining services sector will see the bottom:
With exploration and development activities dropping sharply in 2013, the mining services sector was hit the hardest. Companies from this sector include drillers, contract miners, camp management, catering and logistics. Looking at Oyu Tolgoi, MMC, and ETT the first line of employees to be downsized were the service personnel. This resulted in unemployment claims and insurance payouts by the Social Insurance Agency of Mongolia in 2013 doubled those figures from 2012 and 2011. However, this decline may have opened up a host of opportunities – with both companies and assets across the sector looking cheap this could be a great time to get into a lucrative business ahead of the turn.
Juniors to the rescue… again:
Yes, we strongly believe that Oyu Tolgoi will be resolved and will move forward with their feasibility study and will be financed – recent actions from both the GoM and Rio point in this direction. This will be the serious catalyst for upside potential that equity investors have been holding out for. On the other hand, coal will not be as hot as in 2011. Lingering infrastructure (Railroad), tougher coal import regulations introduced by Chinese authorities and Chinese tax cuts for domestic coal miners will all contribute.
With coal lacking luster one clear choice in Mongolian equities remains – metals miners. In addition to understanding that Oyu Tolgoi needs to be resolved the GoM also understands the importance of junior explorers. Juniors have fueled Mongolian investment cycles in the past and will do so again. They are also positioned to see the greatest benefit from the GoM's legislative reforms. Over the past year they have dropped so far in valuations that many of them are trading at historical lows – with the top seven juniors' combined market capitalization at approximately 80 million USD. However, as the exploration license moratorium gets lifted and the GoM continues to solidify stability in the legal environment the upside of junior explorers will outweigh those companies that are already well into the development stage.
President to attend Davos Forum
January 9 /news.mn/ President Ts.Elbegdorj is to make his first visit in the New Year to Switzerland. The Annual World Economic Forum where political and business leaders, heads of governments, intellectuals and other leaders of civil organizations are present will be held on January 22nd and 25th in Davos, Switzerland.
The globally focused World Economic Forum Annual Meeting provides an unparalleled platform for leaders to map the complexity and interconnectivity of our changing world at the beginning of the year. President Ts.Elbegdorj is expected to visit France after attending the Davos World Economic Forum. The Foreign Minister of the French Republic, Laurent Fabius, invited President Ts.Elbegdorj to France when he visited Mongolia last year.
President to Visit Switzerland – Montsame, January 9
Aimag Governors Convening in Ulaanbaatar to Discuss 2014 Strategy
Ulaanbaatar, January 9 /MONTSAME/ Citizens' Representatives Khural chairmen and governors of all 21 provinces and of the capital city are convening at the State Residence Thursday.
The Chairman of the State Great Khural (parliament) Z.Enkhbold is also attending the meeting. The gathered are sharing views on further development matters of the nation, are discussing the 2014's main economic and social directions, defining their duties imposed on them this year, and are expected to conclude cooperation pacts with the Government members.
Ministry of Mining to Host Public Discussion on Mineral Sector Policy Until 2025
January 9 /infomongolia.com/ On January 15, 2014, the Ministry of Mining is organizing a public debate themed "The Sector of Mineral Resources 2025" that aims to provide with comprehensive information of the sector, to introduce its further development tendency, productivity and competitiveness, moreover policy to adhere until 2025.
The event will take place in Tuushin Hotel, Ulaanbaatar, (Mogi: Best Western) where opening remarks will be delivered by Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag, and Mining Minister D.Gankhuyag will present a speech under topics "The legal environment of mineral resources and development strategy", also sub-meetings will be organized on several themes such as the influence of mineral resources sector to socio-economic development of Mongolia, human rights and environment, public participation, rural development, human resources development, its capacity and competitiveness.
Initiations proposed by representatives of relevant Ministry, Confederations, NGOs and civilians will be revised during the meeting.
Mogi: Common Minerals would be the right term?
Law on widespread minerals approved
Ulaanbaatar, January 9 /MONTSAME/ A parliamentary session on Thursday approved the Law on Widespread Minerals and accompanying it draft laws.
This law is to regulate relations associated with license conferment on widespread mineral exploration and production, and responsibilities of the license owners, as well as protection and rehabilitation in mine fields.
Dispraising transferring of widespread minerals license grant rights to local authorities under the the Law on Widespread Minerals, Ya.Sodbaatar MP suggested further regulation of license conferment as stated to the Law on Minerals, instead.
As no other member wanted words on the matter, voting was conducted, and the Law on Widespread Minerals, together with drafts accompanying, were approved by a majority of members present.
Apart from this law, the Law on Minerals is under development at the Government. The Speaker of parliament Z.Enkhbold assigned the three parliamentary factions' leaders to pass on their position on the Law on Minerals in further sessions.
MNDP Appoints Vice Minister Tsogtgerel New Secretary-General
Ulaanbaatar, January 9 /MONTSAME/ Members of the Mongolian National Democracy Party Thursday decided to appoint Industry and Agriculture Deputy Minister B.Tsogtgerel as the party's secretary-general.
MrTsogtgerel has been recommended by the party's Managing Board.
B.Tsogtgerel has been holding the position of the deputy chairman at the party.
After his graduation from universities of Russia, UK, USA and Germany, he wrote many works on social-economic subjects, which contributed to the development of securities market here.
The Mongol List: Issues that Matter in 2014
by Brian White
January 5 (The Mongolist) Looking back on 2013 it is not likely to go down in history as a good year for the Government of Mongolia. The year began with a heady sense of invincibility. Prime Minister Altankhuyag was presiding over a Democratic Party (DP) led coalition government after many years of being the junior member in Mongolian People's Party (MPP)1 dominated coalition governments. His "Reform" cabinet declared themselves "a new government for changes [sic]."2 The government made notable improvements, particularly in terms of regularly engaging the public and projecting a sense of accountability in the civil service, but as 2013 progressed the sense of invincibility was washed away by a steady stream of political missteps and deteriorating economic conditions. These manifested themselves in decreasing foreign direct investment (FDI), declining coal exports, suspension of the Oyu Tolgoi underground mine development, and steep depreciation of the tugrik. Members of the cabinet have made efforts in recent months to explain the deteriorating economic conditions as the result of events beyond the control of the "Reform" government's policies, but whoever or whatever is ultimately to blame, the public mood and economy at the end of 2013 was a whole lot worse than it was at the beginning. Looking ahead to 2014, there is a lot that needs to happen to put the public mood and the economy back on track. The following is a list of issues that will matter in making this year better than the last.
1. The "Reform" Cabinet and Factional Politics
Prime Minister Altankhuyag and his cabinet remain in control of the government in spite of growing calls for change. The opposition MPP has led recent failed attempts to have Minister of Economic Development Batbayar and Minister of Finance Ulaan sacked,3 and the cabinet faced the uncomfortable spectacle of DP Member of Parliament R. Amarjargal submitting his resignation because, as he explained, "Someone from the DP must take responsibility [for the policy failures of the last year]...I am ready to take the responsibility [if the PM, cabinet, or parliament won't]."4 Parliament ultimately rejected his resignation letter, but the issues raised by the MPP and Amarjargal have not been put to rest. The cabinet is operating on borrowed time and in desperate need of an economic turnaround in the first quarter of 2014. It is hard to imagine how this cabinet can last much longer without at least one minister losing his job, and yet, as I argued , factional politics within the DP and the coalition government favor the status quo. If the cabinet can hold out long enough for a string of good economic news, then it may just hold on through 2014.
2. "Do-nothing" Parliament
But, holding out for a string of good news may just be wishful thinking. The factional composition of the government has insulated the cabinet from losing their jobs so far, but it has also led to an increasing inability to govern. Members of Parliament are regularly not attending sessions in sufficient numbers to form quorums and proceed with official business. This lack of action is producing a growing sense among the public that this has become a "do-nothing" Parliament.5 This poses a significant problem in the coming year if the trend cannot be reversed. Parliament will have some big issues to address to not only fix the economy in the short run but also to put it back on a path of long term, sustainable growth. It will be extremely difficult to do that without a governing consensus of the majority. The DP are highly averse to forming a coalition government with the opposition MPP, but events may make that choice unavoidable in the coming months.
3. The Enkhbayar Strikes Back
A potential X factor is the rumored return of former president N. Enkhbayar to party politics. Since his pardon in August, he has been receiving medical treatment outside Mongolia. His actual influence in politics, I think, is sometimes overstated, but it is true that he is viewed with a suspicious eye by leaders in both the DP and MPP. The most recent rumors indicate that he is back to good health and ready to return to Mongolia.6 Whether he plans to re-engage in politics is an open question, but just the possibility may be enough to upset the status quo as the political establishment makes efforts to blunt his influence.
4. FDI and OT
FDI took a hammering in 2013 dropping 50 percent from 2012.7 It is likely to continue to take a hammering in 2014 if the recent calm and constructive dialogue surrounding Oyu Tolgoi does not credibly take hold. There are some that argue, mainly in the government, that Mongolia has been unfairly treated and its policy positions misrepresented in the international media. Whether that argument is valid or not, Mongolia's reputation was definitely damaged in the international investor community by the election cycle politics that prevailed for much of 2012 and 2013. In the coming year a lot will ride on whether the political environment has changed enough to reverse that damage.
5. Coal is King [Lear?]
In addition to declining FDI, Mongolia's coal sector took a beating in 2013. Revenues from coal exports were more than 40 percent lower than government projections.8 A significant cause was Tavan Tolgoi being unable to produce coal that was cost-competitive under the tough market conditions that emerged in 2013. As was demonstrated with the troubled Chalco off-take agreement, it cost Tavan Tolgoi more to produce a tonne of coal than it could sell a tonne.9 In 2014 the coal market may rebound, but 2013 should be a lesson to the government to invest in the infrastructure necessary to make Tavan Tolgoi internationally competitive. It is a massive deposit which requires serious investment in order to truly tap its full value.
6. MNT Promises
The exchange rate is the best real-time barometer for the health of the economy. In the last year the turgik lost approximately 20 percent of its value, and it is currently trading at levels worse than in 2009 prior to a currency crisis that required an IMF bailout.10 Some parliament members have tried to explain the depreciation as a consequence of the central bank not retaining enough gold in reserve,11 but that is only a symptom of a more serious problem. The macro-economy has been using much more hard currency, gold or otherwise, than it has been able to generate in an environment of declining FDI and coal exports. Something will have to give at some point. Either the economy will need to generate an influx of hard currency through, let's say, increased exports or to impose a severe decrease on imported goods like food, furniture, construction materials, and cars. The former is unlikely in the near term and the latter is politically unpalatable.
7. Bonds, Bonds, Bonds
Hey, how about just borrowing the money? If you understand the financial predicament the macro-economy is in, then it is also understandable why the government is so keen to receive funds from the much ballyhooed "Samurai Bonds," which are Japanese securities issued on behalf of non-Japanese recipients such as foreign governments or companies. The problem with the Samurai Bonds, in Mongolia's case, is that 1) there is a lot of legal uncertainty about whether the Ministry of Finance isn't breaking the Fiscal Stability Law by receiving the proceeds12 and 2) there is a lot of general ambiguity about whether the government will ultimately have any control over how the proceeds are spent.13 For now, even the idea that the bonds may be issued seems to be having a calming effect on the domestic market. In the coming months, we'll see if the bonds have a substantive effect on the economy.
8. Khan Resources, Standard Bank, and 106 Licenses
Unfortunately for the government, it has the specter of more hits to the country's reputation and several hundred million dollars in punitive damages hanging over it in 2014. In the spring a final judgment is expected in the Khan Resources arbitration case in which the company seeks approximately USD 300 million in damages for the government allegedly expropriating its mining license in 2009.14 The government is also potentially on the hook for repaying a USD 131 million loan provided by a South African bank called "Standard Bank" to a local holding company called "Just Group" that went into default in 2013.15 And, finally there is the issue of 106 mining licenses that were summarily revoked without due process for the license holders after the government official who issued the licenses was convicted of corruption in 2013.16 All three issues pose significant reputational and financial challenges in the coming year.
9. Power and Rail
Let's round this list out with some blatant editorializing. Instead of borrowing money to pay off old debts and cover up bad policy, the government needs to be borrowing money to build power plants and rail lines. This is the one area in which the geopolitical interests of both the government and large international investors align. If the country can source its own power cheaply and reliably and transport goods at international standards, it will go a long way towards building a stronger more secure future for the country. It will also make it easier for investors to generate a return from their investments in the country. The question for 2014 is whether the government will finally get serious about solving the country's power and transport problems. Maybe this is how the Samurai bonds will be spent?
10. Air Pollution
And, one last bit of editorializing. Ultimately the goal of a democratically elected government should be to improve the livelihoods of its citizens rather than being a rapacious competitor in the market. The problems facing the country are pretty obvious to anyone who spends more than a fleeting moment in the country. Poverty is a major problem, but so too is the fact that nearly 50 per cent of the population lives in a highly toxic and polluted city. Air pollution in Ulaanbaatar is not new. It has been a topic of conversation for the last decade and half, at least, and yet each year passes without serious and sustained attempts to fix the problem. If 2013 taught anything, it is that the government should spend a little less time trying to be a player in business and a little more time in trying to make the country a better place to live. In the end, all the money in the world is not worth living in a toxic city. To his credit, Mayor Bat-Uul has demonstrated that city planning and administration can work, and let's hope there is more of it in 2014.
TDBM gears up for Mongolian dim sum debut
January 9 (Euroweek) Trade & Development Bank of Mongolia (TDBM) is on track to become the first Mongolian name in the dim sum market. The bank has arranged a series of fixed income investor meetings beginning on Thursday in Hong Kong and finishing on Friday in Singapore for its proposed Reg S senior notes offering.
The investor meetings have been fully booked and the deal could be launched next week, according to a banker on the transaction. CLSA and Deutsche Bank are joint global co-ordinators and bookrunners, while ING is also a bookrunner. TDB Capital is a lead manager.
If the deal does emerge, it may have to overcome a few negative views. Rather than welcome the credit diversification , some dealers are raising concerns about the borrower's low rating and worsening outlook. Market participants have expressed their concerns about the borrower's comparatively low rating and the lack of knowledge investors have about the country.
TDBM and the proposed new issue are both rated B1 by Moody's, which on Wednesday downgraded the borrower's outlook to negative from stable - although it also did the same to others.
"The rating is just too low, even lower than the Chinese property companies," said one offshore bond sales officer. "Although it is true that high-yield bond buyers care about yield, they still look at the name. No one favours unfamiliar names carrying big unknown risks."
Unsurprisingly, bankers closer to the issuer have more faith in TDBM's story. "TDBM is the only bank from Mongolia that has ever tapped the international market successfully, so the bank's credit has been acknowledged by the market," said the banker on the deal. "And it is the whole Mongolia banking system that got downgraded, not just TDBM, which is actually the best rated one in the country,".
TDBM issued a $300m three year bond in September 2012, but traders said this week that the deal was now yielding about 10%, having priced at 8.5%.
Moody's notes that the Mongolian government is likely to support to TDBM considering its systemically important position as the largest bank in the country by assets. However, the bank's immediate parent is Global Investment and Development SCA, which owns 65.83% and is incorporated in Luxembourg. As of January 2012, Goldman Sachs owned 4.8% of TDBM.
"I'm not sure I would consider TDBM as even a quasi-sovereign name," said one DCM banker based in Singapore, adding that although the bank had a leading position in FX and trade finance, with sound profit and margins, the test would be how well it would be able to withstand market volatility.
Moody's recent report said the downward change in the rating outlook of all rated Mongolia banks reflected the banks' vulnerability to intensifying adverse developments in their operating environment.
The first quarter of the year is expected to be busy in dim sum, but TDBM could offer attractive terms.
"Among the names in the dim sum pipeline, TDBM is the only one apart from the Chinese real estate companies that is able to offer a decent high-yield coupon, and private banks have already showed strong interest," said the banker. "But I don't think the coupon will be more than 11 % - the issuer won't go for that."
According to Dealogic, fund managers took 60% of TDBM's 2012 issue, while private banks took 25%.
China is one of Mongolia's biggest trading counterparties, and the banker on the deal said it would highly possible that the borrower would keep the proceeds in renminbi. Some market participants reckon the borrower might have decided to tap the dim sum market in search of a better reception than it got in the dollar market.
The previous deal is being used by some as a guide for the proposed issue.
"That deal is trading at 10.2%-10.5% today in the secondary market with an outstanding maturity of 21 months, and after the cross-currency swap the renminbi yield is around 11.5% - which could be a rough reference for the upcoming dim sum deal," said the Singapore-based banker.
Even a successful deal is unlikely to lead to other similar issues, however. "I don't think TDBM's new deal will lead a bunch of Mongolia issuers to the CNH market, as either you have genuine funding needs in renminbi or you are seeing a cost saving in dim sum over US dollars selling ," said Tommy Xie, chief economist of OCBC. "As far as I know, there will be very few Mongolian companies in the pipeline - it is very different from the previous Russian rush."
Four Russian banks - Gazprombank, Russian Standard Bank, Russian Agricultural Bank and VTB - tapped the dim sum market in the first quarter of 2013.
Mongolia's Eagle News TV Becomes Official Partner of World-Known CNN Television
January 9 /infomongolia.com/ From January of 2014, Mongolia's Eagle News TV owned by Mongol Mass Media Group is becoming an official partner of the world-known CNN (Cable News Network), an American basic cable and satellite television channel that is owned by the Turner Broadcasting System division of Time Warner.
The agreement of cooperation between the Turner Broadcasting System and Mongol Mass Media Group was established earlier and representatives from both parties have announced today during a press conference held in Ulaanbaatar, January 09, 2014.
"The partnership gives an opportunity to broadcast events happening in Mongolia through CNN that attract world attention. We aim to generate the CNN standard in Mongolian journalism and soon we will deliver the CNN programs to Mongolian viewers", says Mongol Mass Media LLC Executive Director A.Amundra. According to agreement, officials from CNN are conducting a two-days training for Eagle News TV staff in Ulaanbaatar, and the CNN team is represented by Ms. Pauline Chiou, an award-winning anchor and correspondent for CNN International based in Hong Kong, she co-hosts World Business Today, Mr. David Molko, Senior Producer at CNN International, and Ms. Armie Jarin-Bennett, Executive Director, CNN Broadcast Services & Affiliate Relations at Turner International.
₮350 Million Concrete Solution Plant Erected in Uvurkhangai Aimag
Ulaanbaatar, January 9 /MONTSAME/ A "Zulbuyanundrakh" company has erected a concrete solution industry in Ovorkhangai aimag.
The 350 million togrog worth facilities, supplied from Chinese "XSMJ" state industry, can produce 75 cubic meters an hour.
The company will employ local inhabitants registered in labor office of the aimag and will specialize them in China as operators and technologists.
Raw materials will be supplied by "OgoomorOrgoo" and "Altanyondoo" companies.
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NEW PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF MONGOLIA UN OFFICE AT GENEVA PRESENTS CREDENTIALS
December 30 (UN Office at Geneva) Vaanchig Purevdorj, the new Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, today presented his credentials to Michael Møller, the Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva.
Prior to his appointment to Geneva, Mr. Purevdorj had been working as a Human Rights Officer at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, from 2011 to 2013. He had been Project Manager and a Global Leadership Fellow at the Responsible Mineral Development Initiative of the World Economic Forum in Geneva from 2010 to 2011.
A career diplomat, Mr. Purevdorj had joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1999 as an Attaché at the Department of Political Affairs. Subsequently, he had served as the Third Secretary in the Department for Europe, Middle East and Africa before being posted as the Second Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Mongolia to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Other International Organizations, from 2006 to 2010.
Mr. Purevdorj has a Master's Degree in International Relations and Economics from the Budapest University of Economic Sciences (1999), and an Advanced Master's Degree in International Studies from the University in Queensland (2004). He has undertaken various other courses and seminars. He was born on 28 November 1974 and is married with two children.
Diplomatic Relations Proposals with Nine Countries Accepted
January 9 /news.mn/ The Standing Committee on Security and Foreign Policy during Wednesday`s meeting discussed a draft resolution on Parliament establishing diplomatic relations with foreign countries on January 8th, 2014.
Foreign Affairs Minister L.Bold stated that Mongolia, a member country of the UN, has showed its willingness to establish diplomatic relations to 45 countries that have yet to establish formal diplomatic relations from December 10th, 2012. Mongolia wishes to install a permanent representative office of Mongolia to the UN because it was given the suggestion to establish formal diplomatic relations with countries that have no current relations with Mongolia in the framework of the National security of Mongolia, foreign policy and Government targets in the 2012-2013 action plan.
So far Mongolia has established formal diplomatic relations with 15 out of those 45 countries. Mongolia and Jamaica signed a joint official news release on October 26th, 2012. The Cabinet meeting on March 2nd 2013 approved establishing diplomatic relations with 29 countries and the Standing Committee on Security and Foreign Policy also discussed the issue and it was approved. Therefore the establishment of diplomatic relations with these countries will continue as the Standing Committee recommended to the Government.
Currently nine countries have accepted Mongolia`s proposal to establish diplomatic relations, delivered through the permanent representative office to the UN in New York, by signing the official news release. The countries that signed the joint news release to establish diplomatic relations in Mongolia are Antigua and Barbuda, the Republic of Burundi, the Republic of Vanuatu, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of Suriname, the Republic of Sierra Leone, the Togolese Republic, the State of Eritrea and Jamaica.
Foreign Affairs Minister L.Bold said that Mongolia has released official news along with three more countries to establish diplomatic relations. He continued to say that he will make the effort to establish diplomatic relations with 178 countries this year.
Mongolians Can Now Apply for Poland Visas at Czech Embassy in Ulaanbaatar
January 9 /infomongolia.com/ At the request of Poland, Director of Consular Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, Shirchin SUKHBAATAR received at his office the Head of the Consular Section at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Beijing, China, First Counselor Krzysztof Pozniak on January 08, 2014.
During the meeting, First Counselor Krzysztof Pozniak announced that Mongolian citizens to travel to Poland can apply for a visa for up to 90 days at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Ulaanbaatar from January 10, 2014. He also added that the relevant agreement between the Governments of Poland and Czech was already established.
In order to apply for a visa to visit Poland, Mongolian citizens used to travel to Beijing and according to data, over 1,400 Mongolian nationals were issued a visa by Consular Section of Poland in Beijing last year. Thus, officials deem by issuing such decision, it would alleviate the visa procedures for Mongolian citizens and save time and expenses.
Visas to Poland to Be Issued Here – Montsame, January 9
MCC Resident Director Receives Medal of Friendship
January 8 (US Embassy) On December 31st, Burak Inanc, Acting Resident Country Director of Millennium Challenge Cooperation received the medal of Friendship from the office of the President of Mongolia in recognition of his work "promoting friendly relations and cooperation" between Mongolia and the United States of America and the successful implementation of a 5 year MCC compact in Mongolia.
MCA-Mongolia is the entity established by the Government of Mongolia to implement the $285 million grant program funded by Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). In October 2007 an agreement was signed between our two countries for a five-year U.S. Government grant for Mongolia to reduce poverty through economic growth.
Indian Council for Cultural Relations to Give 40 University Scholarships for 2014-2015
Ulaanbaatar, January 9 /MONTSAME/ The Indian Council for Cultural Relations Wednesday announced their decision to provide scholarships for 40 Mongolian nationals in the 2014-2015 academic year.
Receiving the scholarship under the educational cooperation scheme of the two countries, 40 Mongolians will study in various universities in India. They will study under graduate, post graduate and doctoral programs as well as in professional courses such as engineering and technologies.
Under its scholarships schemes, this Council pays stipend, hostel or house rent allowance, non-refundable compulsory institutional fees, contingent allowance thesis, dissertations charges and medical benefits.
Motorcycle Rally to Support Lake Hovsgol
January 8 (MotorcycleUSA) The Blue Waves Motorcycle Rally is definitely not your typical two-wheeled event. It's a 1500-mile ride across the Mongolian backcountry to deliver new motorcycles and gear to the park rangers of Lake Hovsgol National Park. It's also part of a larger effort by the Blue Waves Campaign, the Lake Hosvsgol Conservancy and the Mongol Ecology Center to improve the infrastructure and capacity of the park and its management team.
Estimated to be over two million years old, Lake Hovsgol is one of 17 ancient lakes in the world. Its shoreline stretches 257 miles and it's ranked the 16th largest lake in the world by volume, holding 70% of Mongolia's fresh water reserves. Known by Mongolians as "Mother Sea," Lake Hovsgol is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species and is held sacred by many in the country.
In 1992 the Mongolian government established the Lake Hovsgol National Park which covers 2.5 million acres (bigger than Yellowstone National Park), and it's the job of 15 permanent rangers to patrol and protect the area day and night. That amounts to over 160,000 acres per ranger... a difficult job even if well outfitted, and the rangers are presently strapped for resources.
Rangers often make use of motorcycles to cover their respective areas, but those rides are out-of-date and ineffectual considering the demands of the landscape. Lake Hovsgol Conservancy co-founder, Robert McIntosh, witnessed the effect of such dilapidated equipment when he saw the chief ranger's bike break down while in pursuit of a law-breaker. Immediately after McIntosh began planning ways to get new bikes and gear into the hands of rangers. Since then a handful of other rangers have been injured on the job as a result of the inadequate gear as well.
Wesley Thornberry, a photographer that splits his time between San Francisco and Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, is one of the organizers of the Blue Waves Motorcycle Rally. He explained that the project is only about six months old and that negotiations are ongoing with OEMs, so there's no word yet on the make of motorcycle the rangers can expect. They will be small 250cc mounts, however, and will be carbureted to ensure reliable operation in the Mongolian weather.
The Mongolian government has agreed to pay for all parts and maintenance once the bikes arrive and the Mongol Ecology Center is covering all overhead costs for the rally. This means that any donation to the effort is entirely committed to the rangers' equipment costs.
Once the bikes and gear are secured, a group of riders that includes native Mongolian motorcyclists as well as life-long riders from the United States, including landspeed racers Andy Sils and Erin Hunter , will embark on the 1500-mile delivery expedition. The plan is to cover close to 150 miles a day, and they will face all manner of terrain along the way. A documentary crew will follow along to record the journey and will later produce a film highlighting the adventure and broadening awareness of the region and those that care for it.
Rangers will receive two days of training with their new machines once delivered. There will also be a media event at the lake with Mongolian pop-star Naran, who will journey with the documentary crew as well, before the volunteers make the trip back home.
In addition to outfitting rangers with better equipment, the Mongol Ecology Center is working with the United States National Parks Service, the European Union, USAID, Global Parks, Rutgers University and others to develop infrastructure solutions such as entrance stations, sign systems, exhibits and access roads among other capacity enhancing efforts. Work is also underway to hire more rangers for the park as well.
To learn more about the Blue Waves Campaign or to make a donation to the effort go to www.bluewavesmongolia.org.
The video below profiles one ranger that has been tasked with patrolling the same area of Lake Hovsgol for 20 years, and he further outlines the challenges that he and other rangers face.
Indiegogo campaign aims to send prototype sensors to Mongolia to begin "crowdsourcing a freshwater map"
January 8 (The Nonprofit Quarterly) As a powerful symbol of our increasingly interconnected world, a current Indiegogo campaign indicates that for $1,000 (the "philanthropist" level) three prototype sensors will be sent to Mongolia to begin "crowdsourcing a freshwater map" and one sensor will be sent to the donor him or herself "with the invitation to be one of the first citizen censors here at home."
According to the site, Distributed Health Labs, the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, aims with OASIS to train nomadic people to use cellular phones to share information about water pollution hotspots that have a connection to human health problems. This is undeniably an edgy and important scientific concept, which makes the Union Tribune's observation that "UCSD is faring poorly at crowdfunding" worth exploring.
A LIFE REDEFINED: INTERVIEW WITH "MONGOL" AUTHOR UUGANAA RAMSAY
By MICHELLE BOROK
January 9 (UB Post) Uuganaa Ramsay went to the UK on a teaching scholarship in 2000, and more than a decade later – now a mother and author in Scotland – she continues to educate. Her newly published memoir, "Mongol" was released in e-book format on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2013, and will be available in paperback on January 16.
The book explores the junction of her life growing up in rural Mongolia, adapting as an immigrant in Britain, facing the challenge of being a mother of a child with Down's Syndrome, and living with loss. The label of "Mongol" impacts her deeply in the memoir, as it shifts from a symbol of pride in Ramsay's heritage to a word used to alienate, dehumanize and insult. The loss of her son Billy inspired her to share his story, tightly woven into her own.
As Mongolia responds to continued worldwide efforts to improve awareness for the rights and dignity of the differently-abled, Ramsay is on a parallel crusade to educate people about what it truly means to be "Mongol" and what that label is and is not. In an interview with the author, we learn more about her journey and her newfound life's work.
-Congratulations on the launch of "Mongol". It's a book that will probably cover new territory for many readers. How did it come to be?
-Thank you. When our baby Billy was born in Scotland in 2009, I had been living there about ten years. By that point I had studied in a postgraduate course at the University of the West of Scotland and had been working as a Careers Adviser and Personal Development Adviser in Scottish schools and colleges.
Billy was diagnosed with Down's syndrome shortly after his birth but my Mongol ethnicity caused some confusion in his diagnosis because of the historical term "mongol" describing people with Down's.
Billy passed away when he was three months old. After he died, I promised him that I would make him live on in people's minds. I started writing a blog and then realized that a book in memory of him would be more tangible. A copy of every published book in Britain is kept in the British Library and that's what I wanted. Another reason was I noticed that there were many books in English about Mongolia written by people from different countries and cultures. I wanted to tell my story as a Mongolian through Mongolian eyes. The Mongolian lifestyle, family and cultural values, and the true picture had not been written about by a Mongolian.
Additionally, there are many confusing meanings of the word "mongol" outside Mongolia. I wanted to show who today's Mongol is through a human story. I would like the word Mongol to sound like other ethnicities, not be used as an insult or as the historical name for Down's syndrome.
-At what point did you know that you wanted to carve out a life outside of Mongolia?
-In December 2000 I moved to London to live with my Scottish boyfriend who became my husband a couple of years later. We had met earlier, while I was doing my teacher training course in London. He used to work at that school then and we were introduced by my tutor. I think it was a tough but brave decision to leave Mongolia and start a new life somewhere completely different from my rural Mongolian background. In addition, Mongolian girls going out with foreigners was frowned upon then, so it was a controversial decision which I didn't tell many people about at the time. When I look back now, we were crazy. I turned up at Heathrow airport hoping that he would meet me. It was tough settling in Britain at first and things got easier after we moved to Scotland a year later.
-Your book takes on some sensitive issues in Mongolian culture and Western culture. Did the politics of "Mongol" drive your writing or did it arise from the process of storytelling?
-Both. Through writing my story while grieving after our son, I figured out and filtered many things including the misuse of the term "mongol" and human rights issues such as disability acceptance. The politics of "Mongol" are complicated on different levels and I believe through a human story people can understand and see this word from a different angle. Of course, Mongolians refer to themselves as Mongols in Mongolia and are very proud of the culture and history. It's a different matter outside Mongolia. I observed that there are three meanings of the word "Mongol" outside Mongolia.
People who have traveled or are educated know the 13th Century Mongol history and that's what they think of when they hear the word. Some of them might think that "Mongol" is a word which only refers to the Chinggis Khaan era without the knowledge that even today the word "Mongol" is widely used describing the country, ethnicity and culture.
There are people who were told to use the term "mongol" instead of "someone with Down's syndrome". The term comes from the 1860s, when British scientist John Langdon Down observed people with Down's, and in his opinion, they looked like the Mongoloid race. In that era, descriptions like Negroid, Caucasian and Mongoloid were normal. A hundred years later, in the 1960s, the World Health Organization officially dropped the term for use in medical and scientific papers. However, this old habit is still out there in many countries. For instance, in Lebanon they have been campaigning to stop using the word "Mongol" to describe people with Down's syndrome.
The third meaning is as an insult word and an aspect of hate speech. Some people use this derogatory term amongst peers to mean "stupid" and "idiot" and sometimes in describing people with disabilities and learning difficulties. Depending on the language and culture the word has changed format. For example, "mogolico" in Spanish and "mongool" in Dutch, and different short versions like "mong" and "mongo" in English. The Argentinian Down's Syndrome organization made a video campaigning to stop using certain insult words including "mogolico".
-Many Mongolians I've encountered are unaware of the negative connotations of "mongol" in other cultures. Did your friends and family understand what you were encountering with the birth of your son Billy?
-When Billy was born we were too busy to worry about the term as he was very ill. So the short answer is, I don't know because we didn't talk about it. But now they do because I'm talking about it publicly and campaigning to raise awareness. We were all shocked with the diagnosis and it took us a while to accept the situation. It was a very difficult time, so many things happened in a short spell.
-Loss of loved ones is dealt with very differently in Mongolia than it is in other parts of the world. Can you share a bit about how you faced – and continue to face – that process?
-You are right. In Mongolia, you are not supposed to mention the name of the deceased. Also they say you should not visit the grave again for three years. I think it's to do with the traditional way of laying the body of the person on the open ground instead of burying them under the soil. Just before our son passed away we had a Christian chaplain and a Buddhist nun bless him. The hospital arranged this when we requested it. I felt that having the Buddhist nun's prayers there before and after my son's death helped me. That was the way I knew my parents and relatives said goodbye when someone close to us died. She had her full Buddhist robe and her praying beads, making it complete for me. I would have felt it differently otherwise. Perhaps, something important was missing. I don't practice any religion in general, but times like that brings out different sides to us all. I'm grateful to the hospital for arranging it and the nun who was very accepting and kind.
After about six weeks after our son's death, I started writing a blog in English to him. As I mentioned before, bringing up someone's name after they passed away was thought to be not right and would bring bad karma in Mongolian culture. Also I didn't want my parents to read my pain. I still write the blog and our children can talk about their late brother and visit the cemetery with us. They sign their birthday and Christmas cards including their late brother's name. I kept the Mongolian tradition of putting some food for the gods, so we put a piece of cake for our son in front of his photo and light candles every day. I think everybody is different and deals with grief in their own way.
-Memoir can be a challenging genre for writers. Were there any particular challenges for you in writing about your journey as a young woman and as a mother?
-Yes, there were challenges to do with privacy and expanding some uncomfortable topics. I wrote about Down's syndrome to raise awareness and acceptance in society and to be a voice for many mothers who are unable to speak out. Me and another mother set up an online support group for Mongolian people with disabilities and parents with children who have disabilities or learning difficulties. We used Facebook, as it was easy to connect with Mongolians around the world. The group is a private group where people can interact with each other without being judged and seek help from one another. I needed that kind of support when we had our son.
Down's Syndrome Scotland and the Down's Heart Group UK were very supportive. Even in so-called "developed" countries, some people can be not that open-minded. My husband is a supportive person who accepts me the way I am and that respect gave me the freedom to write and talk about all these sensitive issues. I felt it was important to give a voice to those women who are carrying the guilt of having disabled children and becoming victims of domestic abuse not only from their husbands, but also their-in-laws and society.
Also I realize that it's important to raise awareness about Down's syndrome in Mongolia. After my initial contact with TEDx Talk organizers in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian Down's Syndrome Association Chair, Ariun, delivered a very informative TED talk a couple of years ago. I hope to do more work with them in the future.
-Mongolia is very slowly incorporating policy and practice designed to improve the lives of marginalized individuals living with disabilities. What advice can you offer people who are working towards those goals or struggling with what can often be an unwelcoming world outside of the home?
-I think it is getting better, however there's still a lot that needs to be done. I recently saw a photo on the internet of a wheelchair ramp outside a supermarket in Mongolia. At the end of the ramp there was a bin, with no room for the wheelchair to get past the bin. Also the ramp looked quite steep. I think that picture represents how the policies and practices are at the moment. I'm not sure if there are any legal requirements in place yet to standardize those kinds of practical improvements.
Another area that worries me is nurseries for disabled children. I know in our online group, there are a couple of parents who run these types of nurseries because they had to. They needed a safe environment to bring their children to, and most importantly, develop their social skills. To deal with vulnerable children, nurseries need properly trained and vetted staff. For that, these nurseries need extra help and support from the government. I think it is a very urgent and important matter.
-You've served as a Mongolian ambassador of sorts in your community. What have been some of the strangest or most surprising questions or comments that you've encountered?
-It depends on people's background like many things. Here are some common ones I've heard when I tell people where I'm from:
*Mongolia, Europe? Mongolia, Africa?
*My friend's son is married to a girl from the Philippines.
*Oh really?! I thought it was a made up country!
-Are you still planning to publish a Mongolian language version of "Mongol"?
-Yes – it's still in the drafting process.
"Mongol" can be purchased in e-book format for the Kindle on amazon.co.uk, where the paperback version is currently available for pre-order.
Munkhdul Badral Bontoi
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