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Friday, April 18, 2014
Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original
TRQ closed up a further 4.1% Thursday to US$3.81, on top of +4.9% on Wednesday
Turquoise Hill Gains as Mongolian PM Gives Mine Funding Support
By Michael Kohn
April 17 (Bloomberg News) Turquoise Hill Resources (TRQ) Ltd. rose to a one-month high after Mongolia's Prime Minister Altankhuyag Norov said his government fully supports project financing to restart construction on the second phase of the Oyu Tolgoi mine.
Banks overlook delays to boost Rio Tinto expansion in Gobi
April 16 (Sydney Morning Herald) Banks supporting Rio Tinto's $US6 billion expansion of the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia look set to forgive ongoing delays to the project, with at least two major banks agreeing to extend their funding commitments.
Australia's Export Finance and Insurance Corporation and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have both agreed to extend their funding commitments towards the end of the year, with Rio now hoping to resolve issues with the Mongolian government before September 30.
Funding commitments for the second stage of Oyu Tolgoi from about 15 international banks expired on March 31, and Rio said on Tuesday that it had asked its funders to extend their commitment to September 30.
The EBRD confirmed on Tuesday that it had granted an extension until September 30, while EFIC is understood to have gone further and given Rio until December 31 on the proviso that the nature of the expansion does not significantly change between now and then.
Mongolia wants Rio to reduce the cost of building the second stage, and much of the negotiations over the next few months will be around ways to reduce the cost of the underground expansion.
The commitments from EFIC and the EBRD are understood to be in the hundreds of millions.
Deutsche analyst Paul Young said the market was patient with regard to Oyu Tolgoi, which is Mongolia's first major development and is located in the harsh expanse of the South Gobi Desert.
''Ultimately the underground was only expected to produce material amounts of ore by about 2018 or thereabouts so it's a good five to seven-year ramp-up on that operation,'' he said.
The continuing support from lenders is a boost to Rio's executive team, who fronted London shareholders on Tuesday night at the miner's annual meeting.
Rio boss Sam Walsh told the meeting that his first year in charge had been devoted to rediscovering ''the old Rio'', a reference to improving investment decisions and the strategy of the company.
''On reflection, I have termed our journey as taking Rio 'back to the future','' he told shareholders.
Rio chairman Jan du Plessis reiterated that 2014 would be a year of paying down debt and strengthening the balance sheet in a bid to ensure net debt was lower by the end of the year.
Despite BHP Billiton reportedly being poised to launch a spin-out of its non-core assets, most analysts believe Rio will have a less dramatic 2014 before launching big increases in shareholder returns and corporate transactions in 2015.
Rio's dominant iron ore division is still on track to export 295 million tonnes in the year to December 31, despite a March quarter that was affected by cyclones and bad weather in the Pilbara.
Rio produced 66.4 million tonnes of iron ore from its global operations, falling just short of the 70.5 million tonnes that Deutsche Bank had forecast. But Mr Young said the most important thing was that full-year guidance for iron ore had been maintained.
Equipment failures at Oyu Tolgoi helped drag copper production lower to 156,500 tonnes, while the ramp-up of Rio's bauxite mines at Weipa helped deliver the company's highest producing quarter ever.
High rainfall in Queensland also saw Rio's production of hard coking coal slide by 20 per cent compared with the December quarter. But production of thermal coal - which Rio largely mines in NSW - was 6 per cent higher across the group.
Rio shares closed 9¢ higher at $63.35.
YAK closed -0.36% Thursday to C$2.76, MNGGF closed flat at US$2.52
Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. to Present at NYSSA Mongolia Conference
THUNDER BAY, CANADA, April 17 -- Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. ("MGG," TSX-V:YAK, OTC:MNGGF) or ("the Company") a real estate investment and development company participating in the dynamic growth of the Mongolian economy via ownership of institutional-quality commercial property assets in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, is pleased to announce that it has been invited to present at the "2nd Annual Investing in Mongolia" conference hosted by The New York Society of Security Analysts ("NYSSA") on April 24, 2014.
Executive Chairman Harris Kupperman will be speaking on behalf of MGG at the event.
The mission of the New York Society of Security Analysts is to serve the needs of all members and investment professionals and to educate the investing public.
For more information on the conference, please visit http://www.nyssa.org/programs/conferencesseminars/ctl/viewdetail/mid/754/itemid/1987/d/20140424.aspx
Foreign Executives Trapped in Mongolia
By Michael Kohn and Yuriy Humber
April 17 (Bloomberg Businessweek) Mongolia is known for its desert vastness and its ample mineral wealth. But 50 or so foreigners know Mongolia as something else: the world's largest jail. In a backlash against outside investors, the country has clashed with at least three multinationals. Police have questioned Western and Chinese business executives and banned them from leaving until the complaints against their employers are resolved. Although the employees have not been formally charged with a crime or imprisoned, at least three have been stranded for almost two years.
Mongolia was the world's fastest-growing economy in 2011, expanding 17.5 percent as its coal, copper, and gold fueled China's boom. Foreign mining companies and their employees flocked to Ulaanbaatar, the capital, to make money and experience an exotic culture. Then China's growth slowed, commodity prices fell, and the appeal of Mongolia to foreign investors started to fade. A serious rift developed between the government and Mongolia's biggest investor, Australia's Rio Tinto (RIO), over the cost of developing the giant Oyu Tolgoi mine. South Africa's Standard Bank (SBK:SJ) got enmeshed in drawn-out negotiations with the government. (The bank is seeking $130 million from the government for what it says were mishandled debt repayments by state-controlled and private companies.)
The Mongolian government came up with a novel way to settle differences with foreign companies in its favor. "The travel bans add to the uncertainty and the already negative mood," says Michael Preiss, co-founder of Mongolia Asset Management in Ulaanbaatar. "For some it's the nail in the coffin that this place is just not worth it." (Preiss hasn't been barred from travel.) The bans have affected New Zealanders, Australians, Filipinos, Americans, Chinese, and South Africans. The authorities have imposed bans on mining executives, bankers, and even an orphanage worker.
One company whose employees have suffered especially is SouthGobi Resources, a mining venture that operates largely in Mongolia and is controlled by Rio Tinto. The Canadian miner attracted Mongolian scrutiny in 2012 over a planned share sale that would have given control of SouthGobi to China's Aluminum Corp. of China (ACH). After it found out about the planned offering, the government passed a law banning such sales to state-owned enterprises such as Chinalco. Then Mongolian authorities started to probe SouthGobi's books. The Independent Authority Against Corruption found what it said was proof that SouthGobi committed tax fraud valued at $4 billion, an allegation the miner disputes.
SouthGobi's operations were crippled by the investigation, and many employees were idled. At least four were barred from leaving, though they were not accused of any wrongdoing. "I'm in limbo, my career has been destroyed, and I don't know when I will be able to leave," says Filipino Hilarion Cajucom, who was an accountant at SouthGobi until he was laid off. SouthGobi still pays for his apartment as well as a stipend. He can only watch family life back home via Skype. "Deep inside there is a struggle of why, why, why?" he says.
Minnesota native Justin Kapla has lived under a travel ban for the last two years. He was president of the Mongolian division of SouthGobi for six months of the four-year period that Mongolian police are investigating. Kapla has been in Mongolia for 11 years, is married to a Mongolian, and has two children. He has enlisted the help of U.S. congressmen and the U.S. Embassy.
Australian Sarah Armstrong, a lawyer for SouthGobi, was waiting at the airport for a flight to Hong Kong in October 2012 when a familiar face emerged from the crowd. A plain-clothes police officer who had questioned employees in her company's offices weeks earlier was heading for her. The airline staff, not realizing he was a policeman, tried to stop him from entering the area, but he pushed them aside. Armstrong was taken in a police car to headquarters, where she was named as a witness in the SouthGobi probe. Although she was then allowed to leave the station, she was brought back for questioning sometimes three times a week for nine-hour stretches. She says she mostly explained how a Western company works. "They didn't know what a board of directors was," she says. After two months, she got to leave.
Some people who still cannot exit the country asked not to have their names printed for fear of reprisals from the authorities. They speak of anticorruption police picking them up at any time and bringing them into brightly lit, windowless cells for day-long interrogations.
The anticorruption authority and district prosecutors declined to comment about the travel bans and police investigations. The chief of staff of the president's office, Tsagaan Puntsag, says, "I am not aware of this issue. If it's a human rights issue, there are institutions that are in charge of this." The U.S. Embassy knows about the detainees, says spokeswoman Allyson Algeo: "We are concerned by reports that the Mongolian exit visa system is being misused to pressure foreign investors to settle investment disputes. Such concerns could have a chilling effect."
MSE News for April 16: Top 20 +0.49%, Turnover ₮20 Million
Ulaanbaatar, April 16 (MONTSAME) At the Stock Exchange trades held Wednesday, a total of 7,780 shares of 19 JSCs were traded costing MNT 20 million 028 thousand and 120.00.
"State Department Store" /2,147 units/, "Makh impex" /2,075 units/, "Remikon" /1,719 units/, "Tavantolgoi" /922 units/ and "Ulaanbaatar khivs" /244 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value--"Makh impex" (MNT six million 211 thousand and 570), "Tavantolgoi" (MNT four million 657 thousand and 090), "Ulaanbaatar khivs" (MNT three million and 416 thousand), "Darkhan khovon" (MNT two million 164 thousand and 050) and "State Department Store" (MNT one million 166 thousand and 660).
The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 585 billion 788 million 439 thousand and 832. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 15,643.73, increasing by MNT 76.76 or 0.49% against the previous day.
MSE News for April 17: Top 20 +0.75%, Turnover ₮63.1 Million
Ulaanbaatar, April 17 (MONTSAME) At the Stock Exchange trades held Thursday, a total of 52 thousand and 592 shares of 18 JSCs were traded costing MNT 63 million 086 thousand and 804.00.
"Remikon" /30 thousand and 996 units/, "Genco tour bureau" /9,662 units/, "Sharyn gol" /2,631 units/, "Tavantolgoi" /2,741 units/ and "Khyalganat" /1,744 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value--"Sharyn gol" (MNT 21 million 572 thousand and 030), "Tavantolgoi" (MNT 12 million 714 thousand and 435), "Khyalganat" (MNT nine million 853 thousand and 600), "Makh impex" (MNT five million 097 thousand and 620) and "Remikon" (MNT four million 588 thousand and 974).
The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 592 billion 987 million 307 thousand and 805. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 15,761.04, increasing by MNT 117.31 or 0.75% against the previous day.
MNT historic low v. USD: 1,787.59, February 27, 2014
BoM MNT Rates: April 17 Close
April MNT Chart:
BoM FX auction: US$10 million sold at ₮1,779.01, CNY18 million at ₮285.75, US$82.3 million MNT swaps accepted
April 17 (Bank of Mongolia) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on April 17th, 2014 the BOM has received from local commercial banks bid offer of USD and CNY. The BOM has sold 10.0 million USD as closing rate of MNT 1779.01 and 18 million CNY as closing rate of 285.75.
On April 17th, 2014, The BOM has received MNT Swap agreement offer in equivalent to 82.3 million USD from local commercial banks and accepted the offer.
Highest amount outstanding since Jan. 6, 2014
BoM issues ₮459.6 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +8.6% to ₮1.34 trillion
April 16 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 459.6 billion at a weighted interest rate of 10.5 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/
GoM Treasury Auction: Announced ₮40 Billion 12-Week Bills Sold with ₮94 Billion Bids at Discount with Average 9.84% Yield
April 17 (Bank of Mongolia) Regular auction for 12 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 40.0 billion MNT and each unit was worth 1 million MNT. Face value of 40.0 billion /out of 94.0 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold to the banks at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 9.84%.
8% Mortgage Program Update: ₮507.7 Billion Refinanced, ₮999.7 Billion Newly Issued
April 16 (Cover Mongolia) As of April 15, ₮507.7 billion (₮500.3 billion as of April 6) existing mortgages of 17,786 citizens (17,632 as of April 6) were refinanced at 8% out of ₮845.8 billion (₮845.7 billion as of A April 6) worth requests.
Also, ₮999.7 billion (₮947.6 billion as of April 6) new mortgages of 17,867 citizens (17,019 citizens as of April 6) were issued at new rates out of ₮1 trillion (₮1 trillion as of April 6) worth requests.
Link to release (in Mongolian)
Mogi: Minister Battulga also voted for the bill to start July. Gunning for the PM position?
Bill Advances in Parliament to Strip Most Minister Positions of Dual Roles Effective July this Year
April 17 (Independent Mongolian Metals and Mining Research) --
· Mongolian Parliament stated that today during united session MP-s have voted on issues on principal difference on bill on Government and transferred for final reading to State Organization Standing Committee.
· Major Mongolian medias reports that by vote of 35:34 (by 1 vote) MP-s have approved effectiveness of the bill to start from July 1,2014
· If the bill will become the law, it would mean that starting from July 1,2014 only Prime Minister, Foreign Relations Minister, Defense Minister , Justice Minister and Minister of Environment and Green Development could "wear double deel" or double function of Ministers and MP-s
· Media reports that Prime Minister said that today's decision is "not final " and there will be complicated process related to Constitution of Mongolia
Independent Mongolian Metals & Mining Research shall ask for clarification from Mongolian authorities.
Is the Altankhuyag Government Teetering?
By Dr. Julian Dierkes [This post drew on discussions with UBC graduate students G Damdinnyam & J Mendee]
April 15 (Mongolia Focus) Prime Minister Altankhuyag has been leading the government for almost two years. To an outside observer like me, he has remained a puzzle in how he has been able to keep a coalition and a divided party united first for the presidential election, and then under his leadership as prime minister.
Throughout the past 1 1/2 years rumours about the imminent end to the Altankhuyag government have come and gone frequently. With the MPP in a period of redefining the party, its platform and leadership, most of the speculation has focused on factions within the DP.
At the moment, the rumours of a likely change in government seem to be picking up again. Some pressure might be linked to the on-going economic challenges, lack of foreign investment, and lack of transparency in spending of funds from foreign bonds.
Why Now? Proposal to Redefine Cabinet Membership
President Elbegdorj has initiated a law that would restrict membership in cabinet to non-MPs contrary to the current practice where almost all ministers are MPs. A draft of this law was proposed earlier this year. The original proposal suggested that the law would take effect after the 2016 parliamentary election. However, the MPP, as well as the DP's coalition-partner MPRP and some individuals including Ganbaatar and even some DP members (such as Amarjargal, Batchimeg), have rejected the notion of delaying the implementation of this law until the next parliament.
Because the division of power between the president, the prime minister, and parliament has been left somewhat unclear by the Mongolian constitution, this proposal is another round in the battle to divide power. Even though MPs would lose the opportunity to serve in the cabinet, they would gain power over ministers by having to approve their appointment.
It's unclear what might motivate Pres. Elbegdorj to push for this change, but Prime Minister Altankhuyag and the DP have delayed discussions of this proposal.
Another development threatening PM Altankhuyag is that his daughter, A Saranzaya, has been implicated in the Anti-Corruption Agency's investigation of the Clean Air Program that has led to the recent sentencing of Khurelsukh, a former advisor to the Prime Minister and director of the Clean Air Program. Because the Anti-Corruption Agency is seen to be guided by the President in some cases, Saranzaya's investigation suggests that there has been a split or at least some tension between Elbegdorj and Altankhuyag.
What Might Happen?
In principle there are three ways for a government to fall:
1. resignation of the PM
2. a majority of cabinet members withdraw their support for the PM
3. parliament has a vote of non-confidence (potentially initiated by the president)
It does not appear likely that PM Altankhuyag would resign. However, if he feels threatened by the current situation he might respond with a cabinet shuffle. In such a reshuffle he would likely try to sideline four of the most powerful and querulous ministers: Batbayar (Econ Development), Ganhuyag (Mining), Gansukh (Transport) all from the DP, and Ulaan (Finance) from the MPRP.
However, discussion of cabinet membership would precede a decision about the Prime Minister. And the question of whether the law – if passed, or if a compromise like the previous maximum of one third MPs as cabinet members is adopted – would apply now or in 2016 would obviously determine the nature of any cabinet moves.
The proposal to end dual responsibility (ie MPs serving in cabinet) is generally seen as an attempt to clarify the relationship between parliament and the government. Elbegdorj's decision in late 2000 to appoint one third MPs to cabinet is now seen as problematic for giving cabinet greater power over parliament.
While the DP is enjoying strong approval ratings, PM Altankhuyag's reputation is suffering quickly.
The public has been very supportive of Pres Elbegdorj's initiative to restrict dual responsibilities.
In order of likelihood these seem to be the looming scenarios:
1. Altankhuyag stays as PM with the support of DP, MPRP and CWGP as before, but with a cabinet of non-MPs
2. The coalition falls apart and a grand coalition of the DP and MPP forms, probably under the leadership of Altankhuyag
3. A new prime minister is supported by the DP, MPRP and CWGP coalition
4. No change in PM, coalition, and cabinet.
Standing Committee Back President's Bill on "Glass Account"
April 16 (news.mn) The Standing Committee on the Budget approved the Bill on the Glass Account submitted by President Ts.Elbegdorj on Wednesday as it was backed by the majority of Committee members.
The Bill was formulated with the intent to make the State transparent and open to the public, to guarantee their civil rights by providing information, and to make the state finance healthy and stable and disciplined providing a transparent budget.
The Bill on the Glass Account is focused on making information associated with budget income, expenditure, cash flow, and statements as well as debt, loans, bail, property and real estate transparent to public. It is also designed to release definite and immediate information to the public, and regulate relations, auditing, and responsibilities among organizations and officers.
The law initiators say that transparent resolutions and functions related to government and local budget, expenditure, cash flow, statement and debt, loan bail, property and real state will begin to establish public monitoring system, and a smart management system of taxpayers' payments.
MP O.Baasankhuu (MPRP) submits bill to ease smoking restrictions
Ulaanbaatar, April 16 (MONTSAME) On Wednesday, O.Baasankhuu MP submitted to the Speaker Z.Enkhbold a draft amendment to the law on tobacco control.
The law on tobacco control came into force on March 1 of 2013, but some clauses of this law are not fully realized and the law reduces places for smoking, O.Baasankhuu said. "Cutting places for smoking actually caused an illicit trade of tobacco, importing and trading of non-standard and counterfeit products," he said.
The draft amendment adds a new clause about special chambers for smoking, and such places must be equipped with air conditions, and it prohibits smoking around all places except chambers in bars, restaurants and job places of enterprisers.
Khanbogd Soum brings UHG-GS railway project to a halt
April 16 (news.mn) A temporary halt has been put on the "New Railway" project to construct a 217.9 km rail line connecting Ukhaa-Khudag in Tsogttsetsii sum to Gashuun-Sukhait border port in Khanbogd sum in Umnugovi province. The execute operator of the project is "Mongolian Railway", a Mongolian state owned shareholding company.
Currently "Samsung C&T" and another 13 national construction companies were working on the project for the "New railway".
The current progress of earthwork preparations done for the railway line is at 70 percent.
A local website has reported that the Local administration has forced "Samsung C&T" to halt construction and have sealed the earth moving equipment. The Deputy Local Governor of Khanbogd sum, D.Munkh-Erdene, spoke on the phone and said that "Samsung C&T" has a debt of one billion MNT for the use of gravel from the sum according to the Common Mineral law Mongolia.
"The local economy is in difficulty as the budget is too low. Since last year the debt of one billion MNT has been created. A joint task force from the Local Governor`s Office and environment specialists decided to halt the construction by sealing the company`s equipments last week."
The "Mongolian Railway" Mongolian state-owned shareholding company has not commented on the report.
Mongolia keen on garment sector cooperation with Vietnam
April 17 (Fibre2Fashion) Mongolia is keen on cooperation in the garment and textile sector with Vietnam, especially with the Ho Chi Minh City, Regzenda Sandag, Vice Director of Department of Light Industry Policy Implementation and Coordination, under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry, Government of Mongolia, has said.
Speaking at a seminar on trade exchange between Vietnamese and Mongolian businesses in HCM City, the Mongolian official said Mongolia is keen on exchange of specialists in the garment and textile sector, to find ways to boost development and export in the field.
The official said that Mongolian Government is undertaking several programmes for economic development and integration of the Mongolian economy with the global economy.
Several products from Mongolia enjoy preferential tariffs in the European market and the Mongolia-Japan free trade agreement (FTA) is currently in the final stages of negotiation. Hence, investors in Mongolia, particularly in the industrial parks, would benefit from incentives like financial assistance and tax exemption, the official said.
Nguyen Binh An, deputy head at southern office of the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex), said Vietnam's garment and textile industry is growing at an average annual rate of 15-20 percent and manufactures about 3 billion products per year, employing around 2.5 million people.
Vietnam is currently in the process of setting up the entire textile and garment value chain, including spinning, weaving and dyeing, for which partnerships with several countries, including Mongolia, becomes important.
Tran Xuan Dien, deputy director of HCM City's Department of Industry and Trade, said there are good prospects for cooperation in the garment and textile industry between HCM City and Mongolia, as the city has advantages like availability of human resources and production capacity, while Mongolia has advantages in raw materials and incentives to attract investors. However, language barriers and geographical distance pose a challenge for the two sides.
In 2013, trade between HCM City and Mongolia was around US$ 3 million.
Korea, China, Russia, Mongolia discuss copyright cooperation
April 18 (The Inside Korea) Korea, China, Russia and Mongolia held four-way talks on copyright law and intellectual property (IP), strengthening their cooperation on patents, trade secrets and trademarks. The workshop held in Seoul on April 14 and 15 saw policymakers and academics from the four nations discuss progress on copyright protection in each country and ways to improve bilateral and multilateral cooperation. The workshop was jointly organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Korea Copyrights Commission. Since 2006 and in cooperation with the WIPO, the ministry has been working every year to improve the copyright protection system in neighboring nations and sought international cooperation through the workshop.
Participants in the WIPO Sub-regional Workshop included the National Copyright Administration (NCAC), the Intellectual Property Office of Mongolia (IPOM), the Federal Service for Intellectual Property (Rospatent), and the Russian State Academy on Intellectual Property (RSAIP). Gao Hang, director of the copyright development division, also participated as a representative of the WIPO, a co-organizer of the workshop.
On April 14, Park Young-guk, copyright general director at the ministry, and Gao Hang discussed the joint trust fund project, which will mark its 10-year anniversary in 2015. They also talked about further cooperation on improving the copyright protection environment across the world, diversifying the program and about expanding the number of participating countries in this sub-regional meeting.
At the workshop, policymakers from the four nations gave presentations on copyright laws in their countries and suggested ways to expand international cooperation. Academics discussed recent issues related to copyright law and ways to find a balance between the use and the protection of intellectual property. They also talked about cooperation between governments and academia, and ways to improve the copyright protection environment.
Chinese representatives discussed the implementation of copyright laws and regulations and amendments regarding various issues, including the protection of intellectual property rights for computer software as well as the introduction of a copyright registration system. Russia talked about copyright regulations and amendments related to copyright protection, as well as laws that would prohibit illegal copies of information on the Internet. Russia also explained the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Community between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and progress made on multilateral cooperation, as well as bilateral copyright agreements with its trade partners.
Mongolia discussed recent copyright issues, such as database rights, the transfer of exclusive rights and derivative works. Korea explained the recent decline in the illegal copy market and the rise in public awareness of intellectual property rights, both as a result of the amendments of related laws. It also noted that millions of copyrighted government works have recently become available for public use.
Finally, the participants agreed to continue holding copyright workshops in the years to come and to keep the format where policymakers and academics share their ideas. They also decided to add specific issues including the infringement of digital copyrighted works and to hold the next workshop in either Russia or Mongolia.
Mongolia government invites investors for road sector development
March 2014 (Worldfolio) Mongolia's underdeveloped road sector has great potential to be an engine for the country's socio-economic growth. The National Development looks to help achieve this potential, while the government is also eagerly inviting foreign companies to invest in road network projects
Mongolia's National Development Strategy (NDS) has assigned ambitious goals for the road sector; in particular, the sector is tasked with developing a modern backbone trunk highway network of about 10,000 kilometers (km) within the next 10 years. So far, the road sector has served the country well, but it has remained small in scale, and progress in raising performance has been uneven. A large expansion in the network of quality roads is necessary in order to transport Mongolia's mining resources to foreign markets and to connect the country in a way that fosters broad-based economic growth.
Mongolia's road network is underdeveloped but still amounts to a sizable asset for the country. As of 2010, Mongolia had only 6,738 km of engineered roads, of which 2,830 km are paved and 2,116 km are gravel. There are only two paved road links to the Russian Federation, and none to the People's Republic of China (PRC); as a result, most international trade is carried by railways. However, because Mongolia's population is highly concentrated in the capital city, this paved network still reaches about 60% of the people and 70% of the GDP. Thus, although the network is small relative to the country's area, it is large relative to the country's economic size. The network's asset value at replacement cost is estimated at $800 million, though it is not formally recognized as a state asset.
Mongolia's plan to quadruple the paved road network would imply a major expansion in the quantity of civil works delivered annually by the sector. Mongolia's National Development strategy considers road infrastructure to be a key instrument in fostering regional development. It targets the paving of the entire national paved road network (11,250 km) by 2021. Together with Ulaanbaatar's urban development plans, this would require building about 1,000 km of new roads each year, against an average of 100 km per year during the past decade. Periodic maintenance needs for paved roads could rise to 2,000 km per year; none has been performed during the past years. Larger road programs also will require more advanced technologies, human skills, and management processes.
Network development is financed by the state budget, the development fund, donor loans, and to a small extent, private sector loans. The Road Fund has been the primary financier of road maintenance. Through these channels, Mongolia has spent 1.5%–2% of its GDP for the road sector, a level in line with international benchmarks. However, road maintenance expenditures, only $7.4 million in 2009, or less than 0.2% of GDP, appear much below other countries' levels—typically 0.4%–1% of GDP. This reflects a large funding gap. Only 21.5% of the national and local road maintenance needs are currently covered—an exceptional situation by international standards. As a result of insufficient maintenance, Mongolia has lost sizable road assets. The expansion of the network will double total maintenance needs by the end of the decade.
So, in order to deliver on the government's strategy, the existing small-scale, low-capacity road sector will require a thorough transformation. The government's investment plans imply a 400% increase in the length of the national paved road network in 10 years and an equivalent acceleration in road construction and maintenance works. This $1 billion investment program would correspond to an annual investment of about 5% of GDP, well above past levels.
Indeed while the investment program is one part of the funding process, the Mongolian government has also sought help from foreign sources. Mongolia's collaboration with the US MCC's North-South Road Project—funded by the U.S. Government and implemented by Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia (MCA-Mongolia) — has constructed 174 kilometers of road to reach key national and regional markets. Two link roads have also been built to connect thousands of Mongolians to the main corridor, and the project has provided road maintenance equipment to the Ministry of Roads and Transportation for the sustainable upkeep of the newly built road.
And while this collaboration between the two governments has been greatly successful, going forward, Mongolia will be looking particularly to attract foreign companies for the necessary investment needed to help carry out further road network development. This will look to be achieved through the Ministry of Economic Development's public-private partnership program, in which the government is inviting domestic as well as foreign investors to participate in and cooperate with projects that are reflected in the following list.
Building responsibly: Interview with Front Gate's Tsengelmaa
March 2014 (Worldfolio) Mongolia is going through a very exciting time of constant growth. With more buildings, more roads and more infrastructure, the country is changing fast. Front Gate is a prime example of a company at the heart of that change. Director of Front Gate, Ms. Tsengelmaa, tells United World how the company has developed since it established just 6 years ago, and how the construction industry is responsible for assuring that Mongolia's rapid growth is conducted in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way
We were just wondering about your position in real estate sector in the last five years…
It is changing very rapidly. A new government was formed when the country became a democratic country. During socialist times, I was a child. And when the country transferred into a democratic country, business at that time and business now are totally different. The country has prepared itself for development and in the last 5 years, the government, private and public sector have had lots of growth.
In terms of your sector, how is it changing? What was the reason of you deciding to establish this company?
I went to the first paid-school when the country transitioned into a market economy. I majored in architecture in Mongolia and secondly, when I worked for the MSC Group, which defines the development of the country, I worked in the real estate sector and did lots of construction projects. I joined the MCS group when I was 25 years old. I'm very grateful to the management of the MCS group as at that time, I was granted to work on the Coca Cola project in Mongolia.
Looking at Front Gate, what is your vision? I have seen the company develop so many projects. Where do you want to take this company next? How has the company, since you opened it 6 years ago, evolved?
Generally, my husband gave me the idea to establish my current company. Taking this advice, I established this company. When I established the company, the first idea was to execute quality projects in this sector as every project MCS Group works on was in accordance with international standards. In the future, we will continue executing luxury-level projects and expand our operations into large-scale construction sectors.
The construction sector raw materials are not very well known in the market of Mongolia, thus our third plan is to have our raw materials known to the market. In terms of construction projects, we are focusing on doing the management of construction projects, including human resources and engineering, strengthening the project management side of the company and at the same time the company's main operations – interior design, which covers IT, security, internal design etc – which creates the luxury level projects. Thus our purpose would be to work on large-scale projects as a project manager.
"Inclusive Insurance 2014" int'l forum held in Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar, April 17 (MONTSAME) An international forum on "Inclusive Insurance-2014" took place on April 16-17 in Ulaanbaatar.
Co-organized by the Financial Regulatory Commission (FRC) of Mongolia and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the forum brought together some 200 delegates of 17 Mongolian and foreign organizations and companies, and experts from India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan.
Banking sector accounts for 96% of the financial sector in Mongolia, and capital and insurance fields account for the rest of the amount. The insurance sector accounts for less than one per cent of the financial market in the country, experts have said. They concluded that the insurance sector has not stood its position yet at the country's market although all statistical indicators of this have been increasing from last decade.
The UNDP has suggested that the poverty rate in Mongolia can be reduced by increasing adequacy of the insurance services and augmenting kinds of insurance services and products which are focused on people with low incomes.
Experts said Mongolia is lack of a system for protect risks of the insured people though the state supports insurance companies. "Banking sector bears insurance system for account owners, but it is not clear how to protect interests of the insured when an insurance company is bankrupted," they said.
The Ministry of Finance intends to draw up and approve a long-term developmental strategy for the financial sector, and this policy document is expected to make clear a state policy on backing the insurance field. Moreover, an important objective of this forum is to encourage sharing the knowledge and experiences on inclusive insurance from international and local speakers. The forum organizers see the forum as an ideal platform to launch the next stage of development of the insurance industry in Mongolia.
Taking Steppes: Mongolian Civil Society Leads the Way on EITI
By Tserenjav Demberel and Dorjdari Namkhaijantsan, April 15 (Revenue Watch Institute) --
Since the massive Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper mine opened in the Gobi Desert in 2010, billions of Mongolian tugrugs have poured into the government's coffers in Ulaanbaatar. Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian majority owner of the mine, provides grants and donations to communities in the surrounding Khanbogd district, as well as year-round assistance to local camel and goat herders. Similarly the Mongolian company Energy Resources, which owns 34 percent of the mine (Mogi: oops), has funded new construction in the nearby Tsogttsetsii district, a development that has drawn praise throughout the country. New jobs, a new power station, and many other grants and donations have brought prosperity and growth to the Omnogovi province, which is home to both districts.
But some citizens have criticized these companies rather than praised them. A team of Mongolian civil society representatives who participated in last year's global conference of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Sydney expressed concerns that such contributions from mining companies, though recognized and appreciated, are not enough.
At a September discussion organized by Mongolia's Publish What You Pay coalition (PWYP), in partnership with the Revenue Watch Institute, participants agreed that compliance with the new EITI Standard is even more important. And for the districts at the heart of Mongolia's transformative mining boom, that begins with community-level engagement.
For their part, local stakeholders are ready. In recent years, Khanbogd and Tsogttsetsii have established official sub-councils chaired by deputy governors and comprised of representatives of local governments, mining companies and civil society. In 2010, the two districts piloted local EITI reports, a tailored version of national reports gathered in Ulaanbaatar—and the initiative is spreading. At the recent PWYP meeting, citizens from the neighboring Dornogovi province, which does not have mines but which has been affected by coal transport routes, arrived on their own initiative from a distance of 200 kilometers to join the conversation.
Compared to just a few years ago, rural citizens now demand very specific information about the mining operations within their borders. For example, herders want to know the names of license-holding companies, their ID numbers and owners, so as to hold them accountable from day one. More importantly, they want to know which mountains and hills are affected and how close their homes and winter houses sit to the licensed acreage. One herder even petitioned for the use of local names for the territories under license instead of unfamiliar nomenclature from the capital.
In this way, national discussions about transparency are shifting to the regions most affected. Mongolian laws require that local citizens and elected assemblies formally consent to the issuance of mining licenses, but residents and especially herders are too often left out of the process, while contracts signed with the mining companies are often far from public scrutiny. When good governance is missing at the local level, the EITI Standard is difficult to implement. Local authorities can help monitor and inspect progress, now and in the future, through district resources and financing. Information gathered locally can be distributed to households via newspapers, TV and radio. It can also be shared through central information centers, community meetings, or so called "citizens halls," a popular platform for public dialogue.
The work to implement the new EITI Standard in rural Mongolia is just beginning. PWYP member organizations understand that simply adding new requirements is not sufficient. They agree that the country needs a general model for improving transparency at the local level and a proven methodology based on years of experience and partnership. Local efforts in Khanbogd and Tsogttsetsii are a start, and they offer hope to other districts that seek to benefit from Mongolia's wealth of natural resources.
Tserenjav Demberel is the executive director of Transparency Foundation, PWYP Mongolia member. Dorjdari Namkhaijantsan is the Mongolia country coordinator for Revenue Watch.
Abe meets Mongolian president possibly over N. Korea abductions
April 16 (Kyodo) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj on Wednesday, in an unscheduled meeting that suggests Japan has been asking for help from Mongolia to address the past abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea.
Mongolia has diplomatic ties with North Korea, while the abductions by the country's agents in the 1970s and 1980s have prevented Japan and the North from normalizing bilateral relations.
"We discussed various issues," Abe told reporters after having lunch with Elbegdorj at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, declining to comment in detail.
It is thought he may have asked for Mongolia's support as Japan has recently resumed intergovernmental talks with North Korea that are also aimed at addressing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development programs.
Abe expressed his appreciation to Elbegdorj for Mongolia's cooperation in enabling a meeting in Ulan Bator in March between the parents of one of abductees, Megumi Yokota, and her daughter who lives in North Korea, a Japanese government source said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the two leaders "exchanged views on regional situations" during the 75-minute talks.
As for why the meeting had not been included in the day's official schedule of the prime minister, the top government spokesman said Elbegdorj wanted a meeting in a quiet environment with only a few people present.
The summit talks followed a similar event in September, when the premier invited the president to his private residence, leading to the secret meeting between Yokota's parents and their granddaughter.
President Elbegdorj Tweets He is Good Now After Back Surgery in Japan, Has Lunch with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
April 16 (infomongolia.com) Previously, it was reported that President of Mongolia Tsakhia ELBEGDORJ underwent a back surgery in Japan last March, but it was not clear to date when the President to return to his home county.
So, Japanese "Mainichi Shimbun" reported that the President Ts.Elbegdorj had a lunch with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe on April 16, 2014.
According to press, "The lunch with Mongolia's President was not included in the Prime Minister's working schedule. Two leaders probably talked about issues on Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. In September 2013, Premier Shinzo Abe invited President Ts.Elbegdorj to have a lunch in his residence. Probably as a result of then meeting, a daughter of Japanese abducted national, who currently resides in North Korea, met her grandparents in Ulaanbaatar in March 2014. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Abe appreciated the Mongolia's President for organizing such meeting."
Moreover, in his Twitter social networking, President Ts.Elbegdorj twitted, "Hello Twitters, thanks for your blessing I am good now. I have just had a lunch with Prime Minister Abe. Will soon arrive".
President Has Banquet with Shinzo Abe – Montsame, April 16
Mogi: hmmm, Minister Bat-Erdene might get in trouble for toeing outside the official line of no comments
Japan, Mongolia oppose China, Russia attempts to change status quo by force
April 17 (Kyodo News) Japanese and Mongolian defense ministers agreed Thursday to oppose any attempt to change the status quo by force, in light of China's claim to the Japan-administered islands and Russia's annexation of Crimea, southern Ukraine, Japan's Defense Ministry said.
Meeting in Tokyo, Itsunori Onodera said Japan is calling for diplomatic solutions to those issues, while his Mongolian counterpart Bat-Erdene Dashdemberel said changing the status quo by force is unacceptable in any situation.
China has repeatedly sent ships into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea to assert its claim to the islands it calls the Diaoyu.
As for North Korea, Onodera expressed hope that Mongolia will play a role in Japan's bid to resolve bilateral issues with the reclusive country as Ulan Bator has diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, the ministry said.
"Japan will be able to establish friendly relations (with North Korea) if we can solve the nuclear, missile and abduction issues in a comprehensive manner," Onodera was quoted as saying. Japan has no diplomatic relations with North Korea.
Bat-Erdene replied that Mongolia will continue to send senior officials to North Korea.
Foreign Minister of Mongolia to Conduct Official Visit to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in April 2014
April 16 (infomongolia.com) On April 14, 2014, a non-resident Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sodnom ENKHBAT handed over a copy of paper of the credentials to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
During the meeting, Ambassador conveyed greetings of Mongolian President to the King of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and greetings of the Foreign Minister of Mongolia, L.Bold to the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Also, parties exchanged views on Mongolia-Saudi Arabia bilateral issues of cooperation and discussed on upcoming visit of Mongolian Foreign Minister to Saudi Arabia scheduled in April 2014.
Newly accredited envoy S.Enkhbat is the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia with residency in the State of Kuwait since April 2013, he also represents Mongolia as Ambassador to the State of Qatar.
Mongolia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have established the diplomatic relations on February 12, 2007.
Cooperation Agreement Signed to Support Mongolian Alumni of Australian Universities
Ulaanbaatar, April 16 (MONTSAME) A contract on supporting activities of Mongolian alumni of Australian universities and institutes has been established.
It was signed Wednesday by N.Enkhbold MP, chairman of the Mongolia Australian Scholarships Programme (MASP) and Yu.Tsetsegee, director of the Australian Scholarships in Mongolia Programme.
By the contract, the MASP, which is financed by the Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, will help state servants and officials at the private sector to study in Australian universities and institutes for master degrees and to have the alumni be employed at relevant organizations.
It is considered the Programme will contribute to promote leadership and skills of the alumni and give them a big opportunity to join professional organizations and unions.
U.S. and Russian Ambassadors Take to Media for Support over Ukraine
April 16 (infomongolia.com) On April 10, 2014, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Mongolia Ms. Piper Anne Wind Campbell addressed Mongolian nationals by posting her remarks on "Daily Post" (Udriin Sonin) newspaper titled "Stand together, united for Ukraine".
Following the releases, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Mongolia Mr. Iskander Kubarovich Azizov commented on U.S. Ambassador's remarks today on April 16, 2014.
The both remarks and comment is attached below sourced from the two Embassies' official press releases in full.
Stand together, united for Ukraine
Since last November, the people of Ukraine have been striving to define their own future. In the process, they have become a symbol of courage and peaceful change for the whole world. The international community remains united for Ukraine, respecting Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and giving its citizens the space and the support to help them determine how their country will be run and what their choices will be.
Last November in Kyiv, a small group gathered to tell their President that they wanted their voices heard. He had made a political decision not to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. They disagreed, and they told him so publicly.
That public protest swelled to the tens of thousands. Their voices rose up to protest more than a political decision. Through the cold winter, citizens from the entire country stood together on the Maidan to urge an end to corruption in their country, more economic participation by hard-working citizens instead of shadowy secret business dealings, and true constitutional protections.
This is not just about Ukraine. It is about basic principles that govern relations among nations in the 21st century. As President Obama stated in Belgium on March 26, this is a "moment of testing for Europe and the United States, and for the international order that we have worked for generations to build." This order is based on a set of core principles that include respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Just because Russia has a deep history with Ukraine does not mean it should be able to dictate Ukraine's future. On March 27, one hundred countries aligned in the U.N. General Assembly in support of the fundamental principles of the U.N. Charter, in support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and against Russia's illegal actions.
Another important point: Political activism in Ukraine today, as on the Maidan through the winter, includes all nationalities and all religions that make up multi-ethnic Ukraine. The people of Ukraine-Ukrainian, Russian, and Tatar speakers alike-have the right to determine their future as a sovereign and democratic nation.
Social media gives us access to understand these opinions firsthand. We need only to watch their videos, view their photographs or read their blogs, circulating the globe via a vibrant and open social media. A free and unfettered Internet has given these Ukrainian voices a global reach, so that even here in Mongolia we can see and hear and read for ourselves what the citizens of Ukraine have been striving to achieve.
The President, against whom the first small protest was organized, disappeared for seven days and eventually left his country.
The democratically-elected representatives of the people of Ukraine responded to fill the leadership vacuum created by Yanukovich's cowardice, organizing a temporary, technocratic interim government and early, responsibly-organized elections.
In April that interim government will propose economic and political reforms that ensure a voice to each citizen of Ukraine. In May, the population of Ukraine will elect a new president with a mandate to build the future Ukraine that all of its people want.
Meanwhile, in Crimea, Russia has torn down and discarded the international legal order and thrown away the very notion of the rule of law. A forced, rushed, and illegal "referendum," against the backdrop of a foreign military intervention, was used to justify a blatant land grab by a neighboring country. That precedent cannot stand. Crimea is Ukraine. The border recognized in the Ukrainian constitution is the border of sovereign Ukraine. The world has not been fooled into belief that a referendum engineered by Russia somehow justifies what is simply a land grab by force. We do so not to keep Russia down, but because the principles that have meant so much to Europe and the world must be lifted up. The United States, Mongolia, and the world, have an interest in a strong and responsible Russia, not a weak one.
In the coming weeks and months, from Kyiv to Washington to Ulaanbaatar, the world must continue to stand up for the rights of brave people everywhere who stand up to a corrupt and authoritarian leader. The citizens of Ukraine have asked for our support as they come together to define their reforms and run their elections. For the sake of a Europe whole, free and at peace, we all need to stand together, united for Ukraine.
Op-ed by U.S. Ambassador Piper Campbell
April 10, 2014
Comment by the Ambassador of Russia to Mongolia Iskander K. Azizov on remarks by the Ambassador of the USA to Mongolia Piper Campbell
I've just come across Ambassador Piper Campbell's remarks in the Mongolian press. It is my assumption that President Putin is going to give the best reply in his Q and A session with viewers and listeners across Russia on April 17th to the allegations by my distinguished US colleague and other like-minded Western representatives.
If you are not able to tune into the transmission, my Embassy will be happy to provide a transcript, to give you a chance for appreciating the difference between Russia's real concern over the developments in Ukraine and some Governments' grand standing on principles, that are lofty but as of late very often neglected by the West itself.
With the best of compliments,
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Mongolia
Iskander K. Azizov
April 16, 2014
JICA President Praises Mongolia's Potential
Ulaanbaatar, April 17 (MONTSAME) President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Mr Akihiko Tanaka informed Wednesday on his visit here and projects of JICA taking place in Mongolia.
Opening his press conference, Mr Tanaka praised development potentials and undiscovered opportunities of Mongolia that he has found out during his visit here. Visiting the country, the president of JICA met with the Prime Minister and other dignitaries, and delivered a lecture in the National University of Mongolia to emphasize roles and impacts of education to development of the nation. He also got introduced outcomes of major projects of JICA being carried out in Mongolia.
Amid his meeting with the Prime Minister of Mongolia, Mr Tanaka discussed with Mr Altankhuyag realization of projects to support engineering high education and to reduce air pollution in Ulaanbaatar and expressed a hope in further strengthened cooperation between the two countries. These two projects have been implemented under mid-term program of Mongolia-Japan strategic partnership.
Projects of JICA in Mongolia have been focused of three main areas of 'sustainable development in mineral resource sector and stronger governance', 'support toward inclusive growth' and 'strengthened urban functionality in Ulaanbaatar', highlighted Mr Tanaka at the meeting.
Before assuming the present post, Mr Akihiko Tanaka was Professor of International Politics at the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies and at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, the University of Tokyo. Most recently he was Vice President of the University of Tokyo (2011-2012), Executive Vice President of the University of Tokyo (2009-2011), and Director of the Division of International Affairs of the University of Tokyo (2008-2010). He received the medal of honor with Purple Ribbon for his academic achievements in 2012.
US State Department Narcotics Bureau Delegation Visits Mongolia
Ulaanbaatar, April 17 (MONTSAME) Chief of Legal Assistance and Foreign Relations Department of the Prosecutor General's Office of Mongolia G.Ganzorig received Tuesday representatives of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.
The delegation included Asia Team Leader Kathllen Szpila and Senior Advisors Shibani Malhotra and David W. Purdy.
At the meeting, the sides shared views on actions aimed at combating narcotics and drug related crimes taken place in Mongolia. The parts also noted a need of relevant trainings for prosecutors, judges and criminal investigators of Mongolia to achieve effective operations in combating drug-related crimes, to share experiences, as well as to build competency for relevant officers here.
During their visit here, the U.S. delegation are getting introduced activities of Mongolia's legal and law enforcement organizations responsible for combating these kinds of crimes.
Vietnam President receives Prosecutor General of Mongolia
April 16 (VNS) Vietnam always treasures ties with traditional friends and stands ready to expand all-round cooperation with Mongolia, including in the field of justice, President Truong Tan Sang has said.
The State leader made the remarks during his April 16 meeting with Prosecutor General of Mongolia Dorligjav Dambii, who is on a working visit to Vietnam.
He highly valued outcomes of the meeting between the Mongolian Prosecutors' Office and the Vietnam Supreme People's Procuracy, which aims to realise a high-level agreement reached by the two sides during Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdori's visit to Vietnam in 2013.
President Sang said the two countries will mark the 60th anniversary of their diplomatic ties this year, noting that Vietnam always keeps in mind Mongolian people's support to Vietnam during the country's struggle for independence.
Expressing his delight at the achievements Mongolia has reaped recent years, the leader noted his hope that the country will achieve more successes in time ahead.
In reply, Dambii spoke highly of Vietnam's development in various fields, especially in judicial reform.
He called on Vietnamese leaders to create favourable conditions for the two procuracies to increase the exchange of delegations and enhance their cooperation in personnel training while putting forth mechanisms for the implementation of outstanding agreements.
Mongolian Prosecutor General Visits in Vietnam – Montsame, April 17
Mongolian Peacekeepers Rescue 10 from Russian Oil Company After Rebels Seize Bentiu, South Sudan
JUBA, South Sudan, April 15 (AP) — Rebel fighters in South Sudan claimed Tuesday that they captured the capital of an oil-rich state, and they issued an ultimatum to oil companies to shut down production and evacuate workers. U.N. peacekeepers rescued 10 oil workers from the violence, but not before five were wounded.
U.N. peacekeepers from Mongolia rescued 10 staff members from the Russian oil company Safinat just north of the city of Bentiu, said Joe Contreras, a U.N. spokesman. He said two of the five wounded were in critical condition.
A rebel commander, speaking by phone from Unity state, said rebel forces recaptured Bentiu from government troops.
"Our forces have completed mopping and cleaning up operations in and around Bentiu Tuesday morning while other combat units are in hot pursuit of government generals running toward," the northern border, said Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, a spokesman for rebel troops. "The recapturing of Bentiu marks the first phase of liberation of oil fields from anti-democratic and genocidal forces of" President Salva Kiir, he said.
South Sudan saw massive violence sweep the country in December, when fighting broke out between troops loyal to the former vice president and those loyal to Kiir. Thousands of people are believed to have been killed, and more than 1 million have fled their homes.
Koang urged oil companies operating in government controlled areas to immediately begin closing down oil production and evacuate staff within a week. He said a failure to comply would risk the forced shutdown of oil facilities and threaten the safety of staff there.
Despite Koang's claims, the spokesman for South Sudan's military, Col. Philip Aguer, said that the fighting is still ongoing and the picture from Bentiu is not yet clear.
As the fighting continued, Toby Lanzer, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, expressed outrage and frustration with the political and military leaders of South Sudan. He said the renewed outbreak of warfare will further hamper efforts to avoid oncoming hunger.
"What we've been pleading was give the people of your country some breathing space, give the people of South Sudan the space to tend to their cattle, allow them the safety to get to their fields and plant and cultivate," he said.
More than 9,000 civilians are now seeking refuge in the U.N's Bentiu base, he said. Peacekeepers have been deployed to protect civilians hiding in a hospital to prevent a repeat of past hospital massacres, he said.
"There are hundreds of women and children, trying to stay safe in a hospital," Lanzer said, adding later: "I really feel a sense of outrage."
International aid officials have increasingly invoked the word "famine" to describe what South Sudan could face in coming months. The country is extremely poor and most residents survive only on the crops they plant and harvest. Because of the fighting, many residents are not able to plant crops ahead of the coming rainy season.
Last weekend top U.S. and European Union aid officials called for increased global support to combat the oncoming crisis. They noted that 800,000 South Sudanese are internally displaced and 280,000 have fled to neighboring countries. International aid actors say South Sudan faces a funding gap of nearly $800 million.
"This declaration is a wake-up call to prevent a deeper catastrophe from unfolding in South Sudan," said Rajiv Shah, the head of the U.S. government aid arm USAID. "Today, indicators tell us that South Sudan is on the brink of famine, and it's clear that the world must now do more to address this crisis."
Can World's Rarest Bear Be Saved?
Fewer than three dozen Gobi bears survive in one of the harshest places on Earth.
April 17 (National Geographic) The Gobi is Earth's fifth largest desert, sprawling across half a million square miles of southern Mongolia and northern China. It sees temperatures of minus 40°F in winter and 120 in summer, and gets just two to eight inches of annual rainfall. Some years parts of the region receive no rain at all. Windstorms sweep through day and night, with gusts strong enough to send a tent sailing away over the horizon. When winds are calm, the Gobi's immense silence can feel as overwhelming as the heat.
Signs of life come as a surprise in this sun-blasted, wind-scoured landscape. Peering through binoculars, I at first see just barren rock rising in ranks of mountains. The only things that move are dust devils and the shimmering heat.
Slowly, as I discover where to look, animal forms emerge: A lizard rests in the thin shade of a saxaul shrub. A saker falcon lifts off from a distant cliffside. Gerbils poke their heads from burrows.
But many days pass before I finally lay eyes on the animal I crossed half a world to see: a Gobi bear, among the rarest and least known large mammals on Earth. There are perhaps no more than two or three dozen left in the wild, and none live in captivity anywhere.
This male stops at an oasis to sip water, then rests nearby. Elated by our good luck and mesmerized by the sight, my companions and I watch the bear for two hours, from late afternoon to nightfall. Most bears become active toward day's end, but this one remains oddly still. When he finally attempts to walk, his gait seems pained and slow. He must have traveled a great distance to reach water, I tell myself, and the journey might have left him exhausted and temporarily lame.
In reality, the bear is dying. A week later a ranger finds his body near the same oasis. The old male had likely emerged from hibernation in poor condition at a time when food plants were just starting to grow.
For those working to bolster the Gobi bear's alarmingly low numbers, the death of even one individual underscores the urgency of their task. So too do the clear signs that boom times are at hand in Mongolia. Vast deposits of minerals, precious metals, and fossil fuels are being uncovered in the country, especially in its desert. Nearly a third of the nation's income may soon come from a massive new copper and gold mine in the Gobi. What may one day rank as the world's largest coal mine is under development in the desert as well. The suspected mineral wealth here is so great that industry players have taken to calling this land "Minegolia."
While storm clouds darken the Gobi bear's horizon, there are flickers of hope. The Mongolian government declared 2013 the "Year of Protecting the Gobi Bear," with a promise of more money for conserving the species. The Mongolian public has embraced the beleaguered bear as a national treasure, all the more precious for its rarity. Not long ago a gold-mining company sought access to protected land crucial to the bear's survival. The government turned down the request, at least for now.
The Gobi Bear or Mazaalai is independent sub-species, qualifying for endangered status
April 16 (infomongolia.com) On April 15, 2014, the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Green Development announced that Mazaalai or Gobi bear is an independent sub-species and does not exist anywhere around the world, an endangered animal survived only in Mongolia that counts today about 22 heads.
The announcement was provided by researcher from Genetic Laboratory of the Institute of Biology affiliated Mongolian Academy of Sciences Ms. Tumendemberel ODBAYAR, who has recently completed joint study works to clarify taxonomy of Gobi bear under six-month contract at the Genetic Laboratory of the University of Idaho, USA.
In her statement, T.Odbayar affirmed, "Following the study, it rejects a Russian scholar summary proclaimed in 1980 that Mazaalai is classified to Himalayan bear and recent researches proves that Mongolian Mazaalai's taxonomy is a new sub-type that does not exist anywhere else in Mongolia.
However, Mazaalai and Himalayan bears have one ancient origin and forebear, but they split 500-900 thousand years before the other species and according to study Mazaalai and Himalayan bears had become independent sub-species 5000 years ago. Before, the Mazaalai taxonomic group was uncertain and following the comprehensive studies Mazaalai's taxonomy is proven as different from Himalayan bear.
We tried to proof the Mazaalai as a very rare endangered species that needs special attention of protection, but world affiliated organs were idling because they believe Gobi bears exist many in Himalaya, therefore this issue did not reach positive results to date".
In addition, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Green Development of Mongolia J.Batbold said, "This study proves that there is no place other than Mongolia of Mazaalai existence. Thus, we have urgent need for a high level of protection. Research findings will be presented at the government-level and the promotional works at the world-level will be carried out hereafter".
Mazaalai and Mongolia
The Government of Mongolia announced the year of 2013 to designate as "Year of Protecting Mazaalai - Gobi Bear" and in the frameworks, Ministry of Environment and Green Development unveiled a series of protective measures, including the establishment of a nature reserve to restore a safe habitat for the rare wild species, open a zoo, launching mazaalai.mn website and set up of a working group immediately to explore ways of increasing their population.
Besides, Govi-Altai Aimag proclaimed the Mazaalai or Gobi Bear as the Aimag's Animal of Glory in 2013 to protect the worldwide endangered species in their Great Gobi "A" Strictly Protected Area, also named as one the nine wonders of Gobi-Altai.
Moreover, earlier in 2012, the Ministries of Environmental Protection of China and Mongolia agreed to cooperate in protecting Mongolia's Gobi bears.
The recent event to promote Mazaalai was conducted by German rapper and DJ Nana holding "Mazaalai Walking with Nana" event in Ulaanbaatar last February.
Taxonomy Proves Mazaalai to Be Independent Subspecies – Montsame, April 16
Genetics show Mazaalai originates from Mongolia – news.mn, April 16
First ever International Handball Federation Trophy in Mongolia
April 15 (IHF) The capital Ulaanbaatar is the hosting city of the first ever international handball event in Mongolia. From Tuesday (15 April) to Saturday (19 April) a total of ten national teams face in the men's and women's competition of the IHF Trophy in the East and South East Zone of the Asian Handball Federation AHF.
Mongolia, Vietnam, Macau, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei play in the Under-21 men's tournament, while Mongolia, Vietnam, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei compete in the women's event. The respective winners qualify for the Asian continental IHF Trophy.
Both competitions are played in the round-robin system – and a course for coaches and referees, held by an IHF Lecturer, is also part of the IHF Trophy.
For IHF President Dr Hassan Moustafa this form of international competition for younger age categories is the ideal way to improve for the future: "The IHF Trophies have become a great story of success. Financed and supported by the International Handball Federation this global series of tournaments enables and encourages emerging handball nations to learn, to grow and to improve their skills and performances. Six IHF and AHF Member Federations have sent their teams to Ulaanbaatar to compete with teams on their level, guided and supported by IHF officials, who will work at your side in terms of coaching and refereeing. Mongolia has been part of a series of development initiatives of the IHF – and now we are proud to award the Mongolian Handball Federation with the organization of this tournament."
Asian Muay Thai Boxing Championships coming to Mongolia in June
April 17 (news.mn) It has been decided that the Asian Muay Thai Boxing Championships will be held in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia this summer. A board meeting of the Asian Professional Muay Thai Boxing Federation reached the decision just recently.
As part of the Championships, Muay Thai Boxing fights for the 57 kg class will be held in Ulaanbaatar in June.
For the Asian Professional Champion`s belt in 57 kg, Mongolian leading fighter, sports master of kickboxing B.Gantogtokh, and Vietnamese leading fighter Tang, will compete in five stages according to the Muay Thai boxing rules.
The Mongolian fighter, 18 year-old B.Gantogtokh, is winner of silver from the 4th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Incheon, Korea and bronze medals from World Muay Thai Boxing Championships in 2013 and 2014. B.Gantogtokh has won 11 out of 14 professional fights. He outright defeated his competitors with heavy blow five times.
Vietnamese fighter, 19 year-old Tang, has won 14 times out of 20 professional fights.
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