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Monday, April 21, 2014
Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original
Wolf Directors Exchange 2 Million Listed Options Off-Market
April 20 (Cover Mongolia) Notices disclosed on April 14 reveal Wolf Petroleum Ltd. (ASX:WOF) directors Matthew Wood (Executive Chairman) sold and Brian McMaster (Non-Executive Director) acquired 2 million listed options exercisable at A$0.05 on or before 31 July 2018 for A$40,000 or 2 cents each on 8 April 2014.
Wolf Issues 3.4 Million Unlisted Options Exercisable at A$0.10 Before 31 March 2016 to Consultants
April 17, Wolf Petroleum Ltd. (ASX:WOF) --
MSE News for April 18: Top 20 -0.09%, Turnover ₮26.4 Million
Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) At the Stock Exchange trades held Friday, a total of 14 thousand and 860 shares of 19 JSCs were traded costing MNT 26 million 443 thousand and 855.00.
"Makh impex" /3,792 units/, "Nako tulsh" /2,600 units/, "Ulaansan" /2,100 units/, "Moninjbar" /1,200 units/ and "Remikon" /1,050 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value--"Makh impex" (MNT 12 million 131 thousand and 390), "Tavantolgoi" (MNT three million 872 thousand and 790), "Ulaansan" (MNT two million and 220 thousand), "Gobi" (MNT one million 927 thousand and 500) and "Baganuur" (MNT one million 456 thousand and 690).
The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 586 billion 645 million 005 thousand and 526. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 15,747.46, decreasing by MNT 13.58 or 0.09% against the previous day.
MSE Weekly Review, April 14-18: Top 20 -0.39%, Turnover ₮186.9 Million
Ulaanbaatar, April 20 (MONTSAME) Five stock trades were held at Mongolia's Stock Exchange on April 14-18, 2014.
In overall, 198 thousand and 462 shares were sold of 48 joint-stock companies totaling MNT 186 million 856 thousand and 845.60.
"Hermes center" /80 thousand units/, "Remikon" /37 thousand and 776 units/, "Genco tour bureau" /29 thousand and 616 units/, "Ulaansan" /7,700 units/ and "Makh impex" /7,487 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value--"Tavantolgoi" (MNT 34 million 907 thousand and 485), "Sharyn gol" (MNT 26 million 440 thousand and 230), "Makh impex" /MNT 23 million 440 thousand and 580/, "APU" /MNT 19 million 987 thousand and 650.00/ and "Hermes center" (MNT 12 million).
FMG Mongolia Fund, Q1 Manager Comments: Well positioned for any improved in sentiment towards Mongolian assets
April 16 (FMG) It was another tough quarter for the Fund as the Mongolian currency lost almost 7% to the USD. Our equity holdings contributed positively with some of our small and mid-cap MSE listed companies registering solid performance. During the quarter we have been deploying some of Fund´s cash and have been adding to core holdings on share price dips, created by a fairly volatile market.
A lot of news and earnings results have been announced. APU JSC - one of the Fund's core holdings announced the arrival of the Mongolian vodka brand Soyombo to the U.S. market, as well as an online spirits retail site in Canada. Gobi Cashmere JSC reported strong FY13 results with revenue growth of 20% and earnings growth of 35%. Gobi is one of Mongolia's most recognized brands and 50% of its products are sold abroad. The stock looks very attractive at 6x trailing earnings given the quality of the company and growth profile. Worse numbers were seen from the mining sector with Mongolian Mining Corporation (MMC) announcing an annual net loss of US$ 58 million for 2013. The nation's largest miner of coking coal expects prices to remain weak this year due to oversupply. MMC's average selling price of its hard coking coal fell 15% last year.
We are still waiting for news regarding the expansion phase of the Oyu Tolgoi mine - Mongolia's largest mining project. A positive outcome will benefit all stake holders and will set the tone for the Mongolian market for months to come. The Fund is positioned to leverage on any improvement in the sentiment towards Mongolian assets.
MNT historic low v. USD: 1,787.59, February 27, 2014
BoM MNT Rates: April 18 Close
April MNT Chart:
BoM issues ₮377.9 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding -5.7% to ₮1.27 trillion
April 18 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 377.9 billion at a weighted interest rate of 10.5 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/
MONGOLIA'S FOREIGN TRADE REVIEW, Q1 2014: Trade Deficit $9 Million, -97.7% YoY
April 18 (Bank of Mongolia) --
BoM Monthly Statistical Bulletin, March 2014
April 18 (Bank of Mongolia) --
Government Security Auction Schedule for Q2, 2014: ₮650 Billion Worth GoM Bills
April 11 (Ministry of Finance) --
Date of Notice of Sale
Date of Auction
Date of Settlement
March 28, 2014
April 2, 2014
April 7, 2014
30.0 billion Tugriks
April 4, 2014
April 9, 2014
April 14, 2014
20.0 billion Tugriks
(reopening of Feb 26, 2014 issuance)
April 4, 2014
April 9, 2014
April 14, 2014
10.0 billion Tugriks
April 11, 2014
April 16, 2014
April 21, 2014
40.0 billion Tugriks
April 18, 2014
April 23, 2014
April 28, 2014
20.0 billion Tugriks
April 18, 2014
April 23, 2014
April 28, 2014
20.0 billion Tugriks
Sub-total of April 2014
140.0 billion Tugriks
April 25, 2014
April 30, 2014
May 5, 2014
60.0 billion Tugriks
May 2, 2014
May 7, 2014
May 12, 2014
30.0 billion Tugriks
May 2, 2014
May 7, 2014
May 12, 2014
30.0 billion Tugriks
May 9, 2014
May 14, 2014
May 19, 2014
80.0 billion Tugriks
May 16, 2014
May 21, 2014
May 26, 2014
10.0 billion Tugriks
May 16, 2014
May 21, 2014
May 26, 2014
10.0 billion Tugriks
Sub-total of May 2014
220.0 billion Tugriks
May 23, 2014
May 28, 2014
June 2, 2014
60.0 billion Tugriks
May 30, 2014
June 4, 2014
June 9, 2014
20.0 billion Tugriks
(reopening of April 23, 2014 issuance)
May 30, 2014
June 4, 2014
June 9, 2014
50.0 billion Tugriks
June 6, 2014
June 11, 2014
June 16, 2014
70.0 billion Tugriks
June 13, 2014
June 18, 2014
June 23, 2014
30.0 billion Tugriks
(reopening of May 7, 2014 issuance)
June 13, 2014
June 18, 2014
June 23, 2014
20.0 billion Tugriks
June 20, 2014
June 25, 2014
June 30, 2014
40.0 billion Tugriks
Sub-total of June 2014
290.0 billion Tugriks
TOTAL OF Q2 2014
650.0 billion Tugriks
GoM Debt Review 2013
April 10 (Ministry of Finance) --
Link to report (only in Mongolian)
MIBG: Mongolia Economic Outlook 2014
This document is one in a series of Mongolian Economic Outlook research reports. We aim to analyze various economic and political forces that are taking place in Mongolia, hence providing opportunities for our clients to identify key economic sectors and businesses that may outperform the overall investment horizon in 2014.
The report provides an overview of the legislative, regulatory, and business environment while highlighting the important changes that have taken place over the past 6 months. The current report mainly concentrates on those activities that MIBG foresees taking place in the first half of the year.
Development via regional integration – Mongolia's chance for a prosperous future
By Sebastian Paust, senior adviser to the managing board of Deutsche Gessellschaft fur International Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). He is a member of the ADBI advisory council. He has also served as a member of the GIZ managing board, and as a member of the Asian Development Bank executive board.
April 18 (ADB Institute blog) Regional integration offers Mongolia the opportunity for a more prosperous future. But the country has lagged in this effort, which is surprising given its geographical location where bold integration initiatives have been launched, such as the People's Republic of China's (PRC) "Silk Road Initiative," and where economic alliances have been strengthened under Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) and Shanghai Organisation for Cooperation (SCO).
Mongolia faces great economic challenges. It is dependent on the PRC and Russia because of its close economic ties and geographical "sandwich location" between its two giant neighbors. Additionally, Mongolia has experienced volatile growth due to falling global commodity prices and controversies with foreign investors. The Mongolian economy has therefore not developed as well as expected—a trend that can be redirected to a positive direction via sound regional integration.
The EU, as the global frontrunner for regional integration, and the highly successful ASEAN demonstrate that regional integration promotes growth, wealth, and development—it increases mutual market access, supports industry and energy production, and opens new finance and investment sources.
Mongolia has great integration potential. Its landlocked "sandwich location" should not be seen as a disadvantage, but as an opportunity. Mongolia needs export markets for its mineral resources. While there is interest in these mineral resources among EU and US companies, far more promising markets are just around the corner with ASEAN, the PRC, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (henceforth, Korea)—all belonging to an East Asia region that boasts a greater dynamic growth outlook than the EU or the US.
Furthermore, Mongolia has the option to diversify an economy heavily dependent on mineral exports by developing its agricultural sector, especially livestock and dairy farming. The PRC, Japan, and Korea offer vast markets for these agricultural products provided that Mongolia's farmers upgrade to an international level their veterinarian and sanitary standards as well as logistics and infrastructure.
Mega markets in East Asia
But whatever the industry, Mongolia's producers face the limits of a small domestic market of only three million potential consumers. Opportunities for market expansion will only partially be found in faraway EU and US markets, so Mongolia must look to the much closer mega markets in East Asia.
Even though tariffs on several commodities in the trade between Mongolia and other East Asian countries are relatively low, deeper regional integration via free trade agreements (FTAs) could lead to further tariff cuts and a lifting of non-tariff trade barriers. But Mongolia is the only WTO member country without a single FTA—an astonishing phenomenon, particularly in East Asia with its thickening "noodle bowl" of FTAs.
Another key aspect for regional integration is Mongolia's geographical position in the heart of Northeast Asia separating the Russian providers of energy and mineral resources from the PRC's industrial and private consumer market (the PRC is Russia's most important trade partner). Mongolia's huge landmass also divides the PRC's industrialized provinces in the northeast from the less developed regions in the northwest. Most Russian–PRC trade transits Mongolia, at least to the limits set by the poor Mongolian railway and road infrastructure. But taking visions such as the Silk Road Initiative into consideration, there is great potential for Mongolia's economy if it can upgrade its infrastructure into a central East Asian traffic and pipeline junction for trade and transport from north to south and from east to west. Mongolia lacks the financial resources for such a comprehensive modernization and expansion of its infrastructure. But in view of the immense investment powers next door, especially in the PRC, Japan, Korea, and Russia, a regional integration initiative on transport and energy infrastructure could attract investors and financial resources.
This leads to the conclusion that regional integration could provide Mongolia with the opportunity for a prosperous future. But the answer to the question of how to realize that regional integration is a complex one.
Here are the options:
First, Mongolia has the opportunity to build a network of FTAs among its key trade partners. But this is not advisable because Mongolia's small economy would put it at a disadvantage when negotiating a trade deal with more powerful economies, such as the PRC, Japan, or Korea.
Second, Mongolia could make more use of existing regional integration arrangements like CAREC or SCO, but its cautious stance on these two integration approaches is influenced by its concerns over the democracy deficits among CAREC and SCO member states, as well as by the dominance of "big neighbor" PRC in these alliances. Also, the CAREC and SCO integration results and the cooperation drive have been rather limited and disappointing in terms of economic integration.
Third, Mongolian officials are optimistic on their country's perspective concerning the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) or Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). But when analyzing their expectations soberly one has to recognize that, apart from TPP, which is in an open-ended negotiation process with many imponderabilities, even the equally ambitious APEC alliance has not been able to create tangible integration results among its member countries. Furthermore, from Mongolia's perspective, the TPP excludes Mongolia's key trade partners, the PRC, Korea, and Russia—and that Mongolia's membership would not be an "automatism" because it lacks the criterion of access to the Pacific Ocean and has a rather low development level compared with other APEC and TPP countries.
Fourth, creating a Northeast Asia Free Trade Association (NEAFTA) is high on political agendas—although the NEAFTA seems to be interpreted in different variations: the NEAFTA model of Japan, Korea, US versus the NEAFTA model of Japan, Korea, PRC versus a comprehensive NEAFTA model proposed by the PRC with the PRC, Japan, both Koreas, Mongolia, and Russia. The first two NEAFTA models have in common that they contain only powerful and heavily industrialized economies where relatively low developed Mongolia, with its narrowly focused economy of minimal industry and a small market, would not fit in. Apart from that, the first model excludes the PRC, Mongolia's biggest trade partner whereas the second model is burdened with multidimensional controversial interests and with complex historical and territorial disputes, which form challenging obstacles for a speedy and successful realization.
Fifth, ASEAN is the most successful regional integration effort in Asia and among developing countries. ASEAN is planning to install a common market with the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 for the free exchange of goods, services, investments, capital, and to a certain extent, labor. ASEAN has created an advanced financial integration scheme in form of a common surveillance mechanism and a comprehensive currency swap arrangement including a capacious reserves pool, the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization, to function as a shield against liquidity shortage risks. All this has happened with the close participation of the PRC, Japan, and Korea under the ASEAN+3 scheme connecting the 10 ASEAN members in different economic, financial, and infrastructure dimensions to Asia's "big three." ASEAN+3 is on the way to building the biggest free trade area in the world. This powerful trade association could become the regional key organization for economic integration in East Asia and beyond.
ASEAN+3 has not only gained merits as an effective catalyst for regional economic integration, it could also be further developed to contribute to regional dispute settlements in an East Asia region beset with unsolved territorial claims. For Mongolia this may become relevant as it considers itself usually at a disadvantage in disputes with its two big neighbors, especially the PRC. One does not have to be over-optimistic to expect ASEAN+3 to develop a dispute settlement mechanism not too far in the future that would provide less powerful countries like Mongolia with an effective instrument to defend their territorial or other interests against larger neighbors. Preliminary signals have emerged of a growing solidarity among ASEAN members on the issue of territorial disputes, for instance in support of the Philippines versus the PRC. The ASEAN Charter adopted in 2007 is explicit on this issue and gives a catalog of rules for regional dispute settlement and even announces the establishment of appropriate dispute settlement mechanisms where they are not yet provided. A proper use of these rules within ASEAN could build a promising bridge for expanding them to an effective ASEAN+3 dispute settlement mechanism.
All these points offer convincing arguments that ASEAN+3 could be the optimal "docking station" for Mongolia's regional integration. However, Mongolia is not part of Southeast Asia, which is a requirement under the ASEAN Charter. One option would be to link Mongolia as a fourth East Asian country so that ASEAN+3 would become ASEAN+4.
Despite many development obstacles, Mongolia has a chance for economic success. Apart from working on its domestic development deficits, Mongolia will only be able to realize this opportunity via a goal-oriented, regional economic integration with East Asia where the ASEAN+4 model is the only promising option. Otherwise Mongolia runs the risk of falling behind as an underdeveloped and isolated "white spot" on East Asia's dynamically advancing economic integration map.
GoM to Introduce Bills on Annulling Ban on Exploration Licenses, Amending Minerals Law
April 20 (Cover Mongolia) Regular cabinet meeting on Saturday, April 19, resolved to submit to parliament bills on amending the Minerals Law, Law on Guidelines in Implementing the Minerals Law, Law on Specially Protected Lands, and also Law on Considering Ban on Issuing Explorations Licenses Annulled.
Ашигт малтмалын тухай хуульд нэмэлт, өөрчлөлт оруулах тухай хуулийн төслийг хэлэлцэн дэмжээд УИХ-д өргөн мэдүүлэхээр боллоо
Ашигт малтмалын тухай хуульд нэмэлт, өөрчлөлт оруулах тухай хуулийн төслийг дагалдуулан Ашигт малтмалын тухай хуульд нэмэлт, өөрчлөлт оруулах тухай хуулийг дагаж мөрдөх журмын тухай, Ашигт малтмалын хайгуулын тусгай зөвшөөрөл шинээр олгохыг хориглох тухай хуулийг хүчингүй болсонд тооцох тухай, Тусгай хамгаалалттай газар нутгийн тухай хуульд нэмэлт оруулах тухай хуулийн төслүүдийг хэлэлцээд Засгийн газрын гишүүдийн саналыг тусган УИХ-д өргөн мэдүүлэхээр тогтлоо.
Хөрөнгө оруулалтын орчныг таатай болгох чиглэлээр шинэ хууль, дүрэм, журмууд батлагдаж байгаа боловч, эрдэс баялгийн салбарын түүчээ болсон геологи хайгуулын салбарт гадаад, дотоодын шинэ хөрөнгө оруулалт орж ирэх боломжгүй байна. "Гол, мөрний урсац бүрэлдэх эх, усны сан бүхий хамгаалалтын бүс, ойн сан бүхий газарт ашигт малтмал хайх, ашиглахыг хориглох тухай" хууль, Хайгуулын тусгай зөвшөөрлийг шинээр олгохыг хориглох тухай" хууль, Засгийн газрын 191 дүгээр тогтоол зэрэг хүчин төгөлдөр мөрдөгдөж буй хууль, тогтоомжуудын улмаас хайгуулын тусгай зөвшөөрлийг олгохгүй болж хайгуулын ажилд дорвитой шинэ хөрөнгө оруулалтыг татаж чадахгүй байна. Түүнчлэн хайгуулын ажилд оролцдог өрмийн геофизикийн зэрэг мэргэжлийн компаниудын үйл ажиллагаа зогсонги байдалд оржээ.
Иймд хайгуулын тусгай зөвшөөрлийг шинээр олгох ажлыг эхлүүлэхээс гадна уул уурхайн салбарт дотоод, гадаадын хөрөнгө оруулалтыг сэргээх, тус салбарын урт хугацааны хөгжлийн үндсийг бэхжүүлэх зорилгоор Ашигт малтмалын тухай хуульд нэмэлт, өөрчлөлт оруулах хуулийн төслийг Уул уурхайн яамнаас боловсруулжээ.
Ашигт малтмалын тухай хуульд нэмэлт, өөрчлөлт оруулахдаа 2006 оны суурь хуулийн үндсэн зарчим болон хөрөнгө оруулагчдын хууль ёсны эрхийг хөндөхгүй байх гэсэн зарчмуудыг баримталжээ.
Link to cabinet meeting release (in Mongolian)
GoM Submits Economic Stimulus Bill to Parliament
April 20 (Cover Mongolia) --
Эдийн засгийг эрчимжүүлэх зарим арга хэмжээний тухай Монгол Улсын Их Хурлын тогтоолын төслийг нэн яаралтай хэлэлцүүлэхээр өргөн барив
Улсын Их Хурлын дарга З.Энхболдод өнөөдөр /2014.04.18/ Улсын Их Хурлын гишүүн, Монгол Улсын сайд, Засгийн газрын Хэрэг эрхлэх газрын дарга Ч.Сайханбилэг Эдийн засгийг эрчимжүүлэх зарим арга хэмжээний тухай Монгол Улсын Их Хурлын тогтоолын төслийг Улсын Их Хурлын хаврын чуулганы нэгдсэн хуралдааны хугацаанд нэн яаралтай хэлэлцүүлэхээр өргөн барилаа.
2014 он гарсаар валютын ханш буурахгүй байгаа нь иргэдийн худалдан авах чадварт нөлөөлж байгаа тул валютын ханшийг тогтворжуулж, инфляцийн түвшинг бууруулан эдийн засгийн тогтвортой өндөр өсөлтийг хадгалах шаардлагатай болж буй. Тогтоолын төслийг боловсруулахдаа Монгол Улсын Их Хурлын тухай хуулийг үндэслэсэн бөгөөд төсөлд Монгол Улсын эдийн засгийг эрчимжүүлэх, санхүүгийн тогтвортой байдлыг хангах зорилго бүхий 23 арга хэмжээг Улсын Их Хурлын 2014 оны хаврын чуулганы хугацаанд батлуулан хэрэгжүүлэхээр тусгасан байна.Энэ хүрээнд эрх зүйн бодлогын шаардлагатай арга хэмжээг цаг алдалгүй авч хэрэгжүүлэх нь чухал байна. Тогтоолын төслийг баталж, эдийн засгийг эрчимжүүлэх, санхүүгийн тогтвортой байдлыг хангах холбогдох хууль, шийдвэрийн төслийг боловсруулан Улсын Их Хуралд өргөн мэдүүлэн батлуулж, хэрэгжүүлснээр валютын ханшийг тогтворжуулж, инфляцийн түвшинг бууруулан улмаар эдийн засгийн тогтвортой өндөр өсөлтийг хадгалах нөхцөл бүрдэх юм гэж төсөл санаачлагч онцоллоо хэмээн Улсын Их Хурлын Тамгын газрын Хэвлэл мэдээлэл, олон нийттэй харилцах хэлтэс мэдээлэв.
Government Will Not Be Dissolved Affirms Prime Minister of Mongolia
April 18 (infomongolia.com) The "30 Minutes with Prime Minister" regular meeting, which was postponed and cancelled (April 10 and 12) last week, was held at the Government House on Thursday, April 17, where Premier N.Altankhuyag gave details on current socioeconomic and political issues.
In his statement, Prime Minister underlined, "In 2013, the Government worked on reducing consumer prices. However current inflation performance is high, but compare to 2012 index is low. Compare to same period of 2013, inflation rate is at 12.4% as of end of March 2014 and this caused mainly on a rise of foreign currencies since Q3 2013 that impacted on imported inflation.
According to International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank's forecast, Mongolia's economic growth would reach 11.5% in 2014 and last year the performance was at 11.7%, which is higher compare to our two neighboring countries".
Following the brief information delivered on world's economy tendency and country's priority issues such as investment, inflation, state budget and foreign trade, Premier answered on questions forwarded by journalists.
During the first discussion on amendments to the Law on Government held at the today's plenary session of the Parliament (April 17, 2014), the bill initiated by President* on "double coat" was ratified to be effective from July 01, 2014. Does this mean the ruling Democratic Party failed to retain current Government composition?
This voting does not mean to dissolve the Government, because many discussions and processes are awaited further.
Probably, following the ratification of this amendment, it looks like and is understood the Government would be suspended at any time for those who in a hurry to do. But this will not happen. Nonetheless, this amendment to the bill would consider the some Constitutional issues, therefore, the parliamentary vote here is not an ultimate result.
Minister of Industry and Agriculture, Kh.Battulga stated that the Government is responsible for current economic problems caused, what is your explanation?
Everybody sees from different angles. I have just introduced you economic reality.
Recent days it has been argued that a China invested bank is about to open its branches in Mongolia. How well the Government did researches?
Parliament shall make a final decision. But, authorities should evaluate considerably the situation before to agree. For example, what problems to expect and potentialities of our banks to compete. Though, decision will be made after complete analyzes.
* President Ts.Elbegdorj initiated the bill to make amendments to the Law on Government on removing "double coat", initially effective from 2016, but Parliament adopted earlier.
De Facto: Call for Temuujin's resignation another blow to democracy and freedom
By Jargalsaikhan Dambadarjaa
April 20 (UB Post) Parliament has recently been discussing the call for the resignation of Kh.Temuujin, the Minister of Justice. This however is not a chance incident. Rather, it is a reflection of a plot devised by a political-business group that intends to use legal means to remove from a position of power and influence the person who initiated and started implementing an absolutely vital reform in our legal system. This reform is essential to the very foundation of Mongolia's democracy and market economy.
Our economy has developed rapidly over the last 20 years and has seen a principal change in private property relations. However, the reform that should have been made in the legal sector is still not complete, and it has been impeding our progress in development. Minister Temuujin reignited this waning reform that has now reached a stage where there is a requirement to replace those who are currently in the senior most positions in our legal system. Minister Temuujin is now facing strong resistance from all levels of government.
It is not a Mongolia-specific case, as many Eastern European countries in transition to democracy have faced the same obstacles and challenges in undertaking a reform in their legal enforcement agencies.
A higher level of social and economic development is observed in the countries that have managed to implement such a reform and that have transformed their legal enforcement agencies into institutions that are able to uphold democracy and human rights, which serve the people, fight corruption, and keep operations transparent.
THE NEED TO REFORM LAW ENFORCEMENT
Legal enforcement agencies in Mongolia have become organizations that use force against civilians while favoring and protecting only those who are powerful and wealthy. Mongolians have not forgotten the fact that an era of repression and subjugation could take place if the legal enforcement agencies start protecting the interests and ideology of a political party or a small group of people under the name of 'protecting public security'.
Minister Temuujin said that the governments we have had never wanted to change anything because the legal system favored only the senior positions in law enforcement and worked solely for their associates in political and economic spheres. At the same time, our workforce employed in the legal system has moved further away from social progress and values. He stressed that such conditions created a sense of despair among citizens who are supposed to be receiving legal services.
That is the reason why the Minister of Justice has started this complete reform in the legal system with the purpose of having a legal system that upholds justice in laws, provides equal services to all people, and helps the country to develop.
It is time to transform our legal system, especially the law enforcement agencies, into an institution that serves the people rather than the government. It is time to establish their responsibilities, make necessary changes to their structure, and accordingly change the laws that are currently in place.
However, a part of the current government refuses to accept such reforms, is opposed to structural change, and is even plotting to force Minister Temuujin to resign. It helps us, the citizens, understand why our legal enforcement agencies have not yet changed.
Establishing the rule of law means that everyone will be equal and not discriminated against under the law. Mongolians want a legal system where the law applies the same to everyone regardless of reputation, wealth, power, and connections.
AFTER THE REFORM
The legislature has to be an organization that serves rather than enforces. People always have the need to receive services regarding law and security. Therefore, it should be an organization that serves the people. After the reform, their organization and way of doing things will be changed so that citizens will no longer be terrified, embarrassed, controlled, and threatened by law enforcement agencies. Until it is decided by court, no one should be treated as a criminal. There should be no way to restrict people rights as a suspect.
Law enforcement agencies need to have transparent operations that are reported on to taxpayers. We do not currently have that, which is why, after all these years, we still have not found the murderers of one of the leaders of our democratic revolution and the five people who were shot dead for taking part in a political protest. After the reform, we will have measurements that should prove whether the law enforcement officers are working within the boundaries of the law.
The reform in the legal system will mean that the Independent Authority against Corruption, which has started raising concerns among citizens, will have a clearer status and distinction of who they are responsible to. Furthermore, the relationship between different law enforcement agencies will be more collaborative and there will be improved services aimed at security. In order to make it happen, law enforcement officers will need to be provided with extensive training.
A new culture will be formed in law enforcement agencies as a result of the reform. People will be able to live without fear, respect law enforcement organizations, and cooperate with them. Only then can Mongolians have full confidence in the future.
Continuing and completing the legal reform initiated by Minister Temuujin is a deciding moment in the fate of our democracy and freedom, which are the most precious values we share.
However, it is likely that this reform could be suspended. It demonstrates that Mongolia's democracy is still vulnerable. Crime groups shielded by political parties and political power are currently attempting to stop the reform. Minister Temuujin explained his stance when he tweeted: "The reforms in the legal system have turned into a struggle between political groups that have spread to political parties, white-collar crimes, law enforcement officers that have plotted with criminals, and corruption that is protected by legal organizations. If they are thinking of privatizing public property, political parties, and ministries of government, I shall say NO to them. I shall not resign like you want me to.
Come what may, regardless of what false accusations or insults that you come up with, I shall stand firmly against them. If you want, reveal yourselves and click on your voting buttons."
We need to continue and complete the reform in our legal system and law enforcement as soon as possible. It has become the most important and urgent task before Mongolia's society today. Mongolian citizens are saying NO to those political groups as well.
Translated by B.AMAR
Joint Pension Scheme Bill Goes to Parliament for Discussion
April 18 (news.mn) During the discussion around the Pension Sharing Legislation in Parliament, the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) caucus took a break. Due to the break by the caucus, the majority of parliament members voted to discuss the legislation in Parliament.
The Pension Sharing Legislation allows a person who is the legal spouse or common-law partner of a deceased contributor of social insurance to be paid the pension after their spouses' death, in the case that both halves of the couple should have paid social insurance for at least 20 years uninterruptedly and have been married for at least 10 years. The bill initiators also proposed several versions where the pension sharing could be at 50, 70 or 100 percent.
Parliament to Discuss Draft Law on Joint Pension – Montsame, April 18
The Asia Foundation and the General Department of Taxation Partner to Implement Anti-Corruption Action Plan
E-filing Tax System; Efficient, Accountable and Transparent
Ulaanbaatar, April 16, 2014 (The Asia Foundation) The General Department of Taxation and The Asia Foundation are partnering in support of select activities from the Department's Anti-Corruption Action Plan. The Foundation through the USAID-funded Strengthening Transparency and Governance in Mongolia (STAGE) project is collaborating with various governmental agencies in their bid to reduce corruption and promote transparency. The partnership will advance the capacity within the taxation authority to provide more efficient and timely tax services and reduce bureaucracy.
The General Department of Taxation introduced the e-tax filing system in early 2014 and, as a result, all Mongolian tax payers are now able to submit tax reports, access tax history, and pay taxes online. This new e-tax system has the potential to increase efficiency and transparency within the taxation department, by reducing face-to-face interactions and bureaucratic red tape. Capacity-building is central to the success of this new system and focusing on the tax department staff will enhance effectiveness and increase the user base of this new system. The Department of Taxation and the Foundation will train 700 tax officials across the country to familiarize them with the new system and enable them to encourage citizens to start using the system. The partnership will also include organizing interaction sessions with the public to demonstrate and explain the new e-tax system to taxpayers.
Ambassador S.Khurelbaatar: President returning to Mongolia with health service ideas
April 20 (UB Post) The President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj is returning in good health to Mongolia after undergoing surgery in Japan. He is also initiating certain works to bring Japanese remedies and treatments to Mongolia. In particular, the President is returning to Mongolia with a hospital team, who will perform good-quality health services.
The following is a phone interview with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Japan S.Khurelbaatar, released by Mass Media News Agency.
Good evening. You are in contact with the President of Mongolia, who is undergoing treatment in Japan. How is his health condition?
President Ts.Elbegdorj had spine surgery in the hospital at Tokyo University. The President's surgery, considered to be one of the most difficult operations, went successfully, and he is recovering quickly. Doctors said he can return home after a few days.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, had a meeting with the President. Is the President having other meeting besides undergoing treatment?
Yes he is. The President held several official meetings after leaving the hospital. Firstly, the Prime Minister of Japan Mr. Shinzo Abe invited the President to his office and they had brunch together, where the two sides shared views on certain issues. Many officials and authorities of Japan also visited President Ts.Elbegdorj. A senior policy maker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of the Japan Yasuhisa Shiozaki and the secretary of the party's "Japan-Mongolia friendship group Hayashi", the delegation of economists, as well as other officials visited the President and held meetings.
What issues were touched upon and discussed during the meeting between Shinzo Abe and Ts.Elbegdorj?
During the meeting, Shinzo Abe and President Ts.Elbegdorj commented that the relations between Mongolia and Japan are at their most pleasant time and are speedily developing at a high level in a friendly atmosphere. Both sides also pointed out that the friendly individual relations of leaders are having a good influence on the two country's relations. The parties also noted that the mid-term program to develop strategic relations, established in result of Shinzo Abe's visit to Mongolia and President Ts.Elbegdorj's visit to Japan last year, was being successfully implemented. Also they emphasized that the events and measures, stated in the program, should be developed further.
Did they discuss the results of "Ulaanbaatar talks and agreement", made during Shinzo Abe's visit to Mongolia?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe highly valued the significance of the "Ulaanbaatar talks and agreement" initiative and Mongolia's contribution in providing regional security and sustainability. Shinzo Abe said that due to this initiative, talks and negotiations between Japan and North Korea are advancing with the support of Mongolia, and he thanked President Ts.Elbegdorj for paying attention to it himself. Also Mr. Shinzo Abe commented that he has interest to cooperate with Mongolia in providing sustainable security in North-East Asia, and to expand cooperation in the Asia and Pacific region, as well as to promote and support Mongolia in joining regional integration and mechanisms of cooperation.
What other issues, beneficial to Mongolia, are going to be resolved?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised several things to President Ts.Elbegdorj. Japan promised to assist and support Mongolia to implement a large project that will help sustainably develop Mongolia's economy. He promised to assist in preparing relevant human resources, who will be able to implement the project. During last year's visit to Mongolia, Shinzo Abe decided to grant a soft loan of 7.5 billion JPY, dedicated to train a thousand Mongolian youth in engineering and technical professions as promised. Also he said that Japan has finalized the decision to build a hospital with 200 beds and the latest modern diagnosis and treatment equipment for the Mongolian people, with grant aid from the Government of Japan. The Japanese side also expressed satisfaction in the successful construction procedure of the new international airport in Mongolia and promised to conduct studies for Mongolia to build a freight and transportation center, which connects Europe and Asia.
That is great news. Can you please give more detailed information on the building of a new hospital?
During the meeting President Ts.Elbegdorj expressed thanks for the great service and treatment provided by the hospital as well as thanking the Japanese side for receiving his request to build a modern hospital, in order to deliver the good-quality services of Japanese hospitals to ordinary Mongolian citizens. It is our pleasure to announce that the President's health is now in a good condition, and that he is initiating some work to bring Japanese treatments and health services to the Mongolian people. In particular, the President is returning to Mongolia with a hospital team that will perform good-quality health services. Also, he had several talks with officials and public organizations to implement several health services. The team of Japanese cardio surgeons and doctors promised to visit Mongolia for short and long periods to do surgery for Mongolian children with health issues.
An Analysis of Election Fairness
Written by Brian White
April 20 (The Mongolist) The last parliamentary election in 2012 introduced a proportional system of allocating 28 of 76 seats in parliament. These seats were filled based on the proportion of votes each party received nationally using a ranked list of candidates selected by each party. The threshold for selecting from a list was a party receiving at least 5 percent of the vote. The remaining 48 seats where allocated through popular elections in 26 districts. The primary justification for introducing the hybrid proportional-popular election system was to make elections fairer by reducing the representative imbalance between Ulaanbaatar and rural districts. Ulaanbaatar districts were under-represented and rural districts were over-represented in the allocation of seats in previous parliaments. Moreover, the Democratic Party (DP) was seen as being more popular in Ulaanbaatar districts and therefore at a disadvantage to the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) which was seen as more popular in rural districts. There was some truth in these perceptions, but did the hybrid system increase fairness in the elections?
In one respect, I would argue no. The law created a special class of 28 parliament members who are effectively unaccountable to the electorate. This is because where a candidate appears on the ranked list is determined by the party. Thus politicians who lead parties that can garner at least 5 percent of the vote can guarantee their own re-election over and over. It creates a potentially perverse incentive to make decisions based on what keeps a politician at the top of the party list rather than on what is broadly supported by the public or constituents in a district. Of course, I would like to think what is supported by the party and public are not mutually exclusive policy domains, but the ranked list system removes the risk of direct electoral defeat for party leaders leading their parties in unpopular or unproductive directions. Of course, this can be accomplished another way by having a leader stand for election in a district "safe" for the party, but there is still a risk that even a "safe" seat can be lost if a leader does not effectively balance the party's desires against public expectations. For the two major parties DP and MPP, which can usually garner at least 30 percent of the vote, the ranked party list removes all risk of party leadership having to face voters directly.
But, that is only one half of why I would argue the law did not increase fairness in the elections. The standard I am imposing here is that each voter's vote has equal or near equal value to all other voters' votes. In other words, my vote provides me the same right to select representation as everyone else. The Ulaanbaatar and rural district imbalance referred to above is an example of an average voter in a rural district having the ability to select more representation than an average voter in an Ulaanbaatar district. If districts were distributed evenly based on voter population, then roughly one vote in Ulaanbaatar would be worth one vote in a rural district in terms of potential representation in parliament.
Using voter registration data for each district in the 2008 and 2012 elections, I made a comparison on this basis to see if the new election law corrected the imbalance, if even marginally.1 The chart below shows the relative power of a vote in each district with the difference column showing whether the district became more equitable (+) or less equitable (-) for a single voter between the two elections. The baseline comparison assumes a system in which each seat in parliament represents an equal portion of the national voter population. In 2008 that was 76 seats distributed over 1,542,617 voters, or 20,297 voters per seat. In 2012 it was 48 seats distributed over 1,836,548 voters, or 38,261 voters per seat. The least equitable districts in both directions are highlighted in red.
In 2012 voters in Zavkhan (District 9) enjoyed the most voting power in the country. A vote in that district had a relative power of 1.71 votes compared to the baseline. Voters in Bayanzurkh in Ulaanbaatar (District 22) had the least voting power. A vote in that district was worth 0.55 votes in terms of its potential power to select representation. Another way to look at it is people in Zavkhan were able to select more than three times the representation in parliament than people in Bayanzurkh. Half the districts had increases and half had decreases in voter equity on this basis, but it's not clear from the chart if that resulted in an overall improvement in 2012. The graph below shows voting power in ascending order between the two elections. If there was an improvement, we would expect to see a shallower line closer to the horizontal line spanning the value 1 on the "relative vote value" axis for 2012 than in 2008. In the graph, it seems overall the imbalance got worse, especially in districts that were already over-represented. This is not surprising, I suppose, given that the number of seats allocated for direct elections dropped from 76 to 48 in 2012 potentially accentuating the imbalance between Ulaanbaatar and rural districts.
After going through all the trouble of creating a new district map, I decided to have some fun and dabble in a counter-factual analysis of how the 2012 election would have turned out with 76 direct elections in these 12 districts rather than the proportional-popular system actually used. Again, using the voting data from the election, I allocated seats by the proportion of votes each party received in each district. I set a threshold of a party needing to receive at least 50 percent of the votes a single seat in parliament represented, and assigned seats using the same basic whole-number-then-decimal ranking system used to assign the 28 party list seats under the current election law. For example, a rank of 2.6789 and a rank of 3.8999 competing for 6 seats would lead to a distribution of 2 and 4 seats, respectively. The first would get 2 seats and the second would get 3 seats based on their rank whole numbers. After comparing the decimal numbers, the latter would get one additional seat because 8999 is larger than 6789. The chart below shows the difference between the actual election and the counter-factual "idealized" election using the 12 districts.
The result leads to a slight redistribution of seats from the DP to the "Justice Coalition" comprising the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) and Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP).2 It's not a hugely different outcome given that the DP and MPRP-MNDP, along with the Civil Will-Green Party (CWGP), make up the current coalition government. As such, this outcome may not have resulted in a different Prime Minister or cabinet. However, it could have potentially shifted the balance of power enough to produce an MPP and MPRP-MNDP coalition or an DP-MPP grand coalition government. But, that's the problem with counter-factual analyses, you can't know what would have really happened under the different conditions.
Whether the counter-factual analysis produces better or worse results in terms of distribution of representation among the parties, I have no opinion. But, this allocation of seats is arguably more equitable in terms of a "one man, one vote" principle than the current system produced. More than one third of members of parliament were not directly elected, and the remaining members were elected under inequitable balances between districts. The 2012 election law is likely to be challenged and modified again leading up to the 2016 elections as parties jockey for advantage. Hopefully there will be an effort to make the system more equitable to voters rather than what is helpful to the parties and their leaders, but examples of democracy in other countries would suggest that kind of pursuit of fairness would make Mongolia an exception to the rule.
1. All data comes from the General Election Committee website at: http://www.gec.gov.mn/parliamentary_election/310/41.
2. The DP has two seats from Uvurkhangai that were won by having the victories of two MPP candidates voided on the basis of violations of the election law. The distribution in 2012 based on raw votes would have had 32 seats to DP and 28 seats to the MPP.
Gradon Architecture designs Mongolian housing
Sustainable design planned for polluted capital
April 16 (bdonline.co.uk) Gradon Architecture has submitted design proposals for 50 energy-efficient homes in Mongolia.
The scheme, which incorporates sustainable features such as photovoltaic panels and solar water heating, is for three- and four-storey town houses in the Nukht Valley district of the capital, Ulan Bator.
The city is considered the second most polluted on the planet, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It also faces temperatures of -30C.
Gateshead-based Gradon, working with a local developer, hopes the designs could form a blueprint for replacing aging homes across the city.
Chris Allan, associate architect at Gradon, said: "Many buildings in Ulan Batar date back to the Soviet era. This means that many people are living in poor-quality accommodation which lacks even basic polystyrene insulation as well as double glazing. In one of the coldest and most heavily polluted cities in the world, this is having a real impact - especially on public health."
To support the needs of an increasingly suburban area in the Nukht Valley, the practice has also put forward plans for a new community leisure facility containing a shopping mall, business hub, bowling alley, gym, pool and sports club.
If approved construction will begin this summer.
Gradon is also working in Australia, China and Kazakhstan.
A reliable advisor in risk management: Interview with Practical Insure CEO
April 2014 (Worldfolio) Mongolia's GDP per capita is expected to rise from $2,300 in 2011 to $8,000 by 2016. As Mongolians become more affluent, there is naturally an increasing demand for insurance, particularly health, car, home and life insurance. Ms. Davaajav Chinbaatar, CEO of Practical Insurance, speaks about the growth of the insurance industry in Mongolia, her company's position at the forefront and what sets it apart from other insurance companies
First of all we would like to know more about the person behind the success of this company. Can you tell us about your professional background and how you became CEO of Practical Insurance?
I was born and grew up in Ulaanbaatar city. I got my bachelor degree in law after graduating from high school. After that, I worked as a translator for United Apparel of the Crystal Group, a foreign invested company, as I had learnt Chinese in high school. While working there, I was also responsible for human resources and the salary accounting and gave legal advice to the company.
Later, one of my teachers asked me to teach in her private school and got my master's degree in Public Administration from the Academy of Management. While studying for my master's degree, I used to give lectures to law students. Then, after my graduation, I worked for a local government entity in the Bayanzurkh District being responsible for local governors.
Then, in 2005, I entered into the insurance sector and in June of that year I was employed as a specialist at Tenger Insurance, which was previously Prime Insurance. Then our Deputy Director moved into this company as the Director and offered me to work with him.
In 2008, our company group decided to establish a non-banking institution: Ochyr Undraa OMZ. In order to establish it, I was asked to work as the Director for the institution. During this time, one of the main operations of the insurance business was to invest in assets. In 2009, the contract of the director who came to this company with me expired and it was decided by the investors not to extend the contract and I was offered to work back at Practical Insurance as the Director.
What makes Practical Insurance different from other insurance companies in Mongolia?
There are a number of things. First of all, we give the highest priority to our customers by implementing ISO standards with the motto: "Love the People". We are also working to introduce online insurance that both insurance service and damage recovery can be done through the Internet. In 2006, we initiated our website for online insurance but at that time, the website capacity was not high enough and insurance practice was barely in existence among citizens.
Second, we are focusing on strengthening our human resources with foreign practices. The developed insurance market has already gone through this and probably holds the next 10 years of experience for us. We also try to provide a policy for employees to come to work with a smile.
Thirdly, we have modern management practices and a strong financial foundation. When I was in Holland studying and working, I learned that mostly 95% of the customers of the bank and insurance get their service through the Internet.
Insurance – what is missing?
By E. Zorigt, April 18 (Mongolian Economy) Mongolia hosted the "Inclusive Insurance" international forum for the first time from April 16-17. The forum focused on topics such as inclusive insurance, micro insurance, and opportunities for the sector.
The insurance sector contributes only 1 percent to the financial sector, which makes up five percent of the economy. Its development is slowed by its small range of products, an excess of insurance companies relative to its market, government intervention and a lack of market knowledge.
"The financial sector, including insurance, accounts for only five percent of the economy, while other service sectors contribute 44 percent. The financial sector is dominated by the banking sector with more than 96 percent, while insurance only shares one percent of this sector" says, Nyambaa.B, Head of Debt management department, Ministry of Finance. These figures are telling of the small insurance sector in Mongolia.
Insurance Department head of Financial Regulatory Committee (FRC), Ganbold.S told participants that the insurance sector cannot move forward when there is nobody to insure.
In Mongolia, insurance companies developed institute insurance products. But, the new products companies bring out do not really speak to the middle and low-income residents – majority of the country's population.
Inclusive insurance refers to personal insurance available to middle and low-income residents. Forum participants agreed that the inclusive insurance concept is a way to further develop the sector.
Too many players in a small market
There are 13 banks in the banking sector of Mongolia. But the insurance sector – equal to only one percent of GDP – has more than 17 insurance companies. "Too many players in a small market are dragging development downward. They share this small capital," says, CEO of TenGer Financial Group Bold.M.
The banking sector of Mongolia went through 90 years of development and is equivalent to 119 percent of the Country's GDP, while the insurance sector, with an 80-year history, accounts for just one percent of GDP.
He also said, "Meanwhile, the government has brought in the new player itself named National Insurance Corporation, which has not made its role and involvement of the market clear. If It is started working commercially, it may cause the insurance sector to fall."
A realistic database is needed
According to the FRC, the profit for 17 insurance companies was MNT 2-3 billion in 2013. Meanwhile, reimbursements to people and entities were approximately MNT 6 billion. Bearing in mind that only 10 percent of the population has insurance. "To increase this figure, information will play major role," says a relevant expert.
"It is hard to tell how many Mongolians are covered by insurance due to a lack of statistics and research. For further development, we need an insurance institute analysing statistics and supplying information," says Ganbold, FRC.
"For inclusive insurance, life insurance product needs to be promoted and developed," said Mongolhuu.G, CEO of National Life insurance company.
More than one year of life insurance is usually taken. The long term insurance products allow insurance companies to invest in mid- and long-term projects and programs as well as mortgage packages and government bonds.
As well as Government intervention, Bold.M mentioned income tax as the one of the barriers to developing the sector.
Like all industires, insurance companies need fair competition and business environment encouraging of trade. As the economy improves here and individual wealth is created, there will be more demand for insurance products. The sector needs to have in place the right products and policy to cater to this expected demand.
Tour Operators Offer 400 Jobs at Fair
Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) A tourism job fair was held at 'Ulaanbaatar Business Development Center' on Friday.
Organizers of the event were Municipal Tourism Authority, Labor Authority, Tourism Sustainable Development Center and Association of Tourism Teachers and Researchers.
This year, nearly a thousand students are expected to graduate from tourism-related faculties of national universities. 'Tourism and Employment' fair offered them almost 400 jobs at nearly thirty tour operators and other tour agencies, with almost 80% of jobs offered being seasonal, and the remaining 20% - permanent.
The Municipal Tourist Authority is striving efforts to develop winter tourism in the nation in order to provide tour workers with permanent jobs. Authority chair E.Battulga explained to visitors their trainings for tour guides and operators.
Crane falls on road due to soil subsidence
April 20 (UB Post) A construction crane situated next to S-Outlets fell across Sun Road at around 6 p.m. on Friday night. The accident caused no casualties.
The crane is owned by S-Outlets shop and it was being using for constructing the S-Outlet annex.
The crane operator explained that he had not overloaded the crane but that a sudden soil slump was responsible for the accident. However an inspector of the State Specialized Inspection Agency (SSIA) P.Dashdavaa said, "We will find out whether the crane was overloaded when the weight of the fallen crane part becomes clear. Any crane must be positioned on a certain spot only after it is proved that the soil in that location will not subside, according to regulations."
He added, "A safety specialized expert must work at any construction site while any cranes are being used for transporting construction materials. Yet, only the crane operator and the shop manager were working on the crane. According to the preliminary assessment, the main cause of the accident was soil subsidence. No soil research was done before placing the crane."
When the crane fell onto the road, no cars or civilians were passing by.
The official assessment from the police and SSIA will be released shortly.
Ulaanbaatar Announces Stricter Control On Heavy Duty Trucks Over Road Damage Concerns
April 18 (infomongolia.com) Today on April 18, 2014, the Governor of the Capital City and Mayor of Ulaanbaatar, Mr. Erdene BAT-UUL issued a Decree No. A/293 that temporary prohibits exploiting common minerals such as coal, stones and cement, its transportation and strengthening control over the transport of heavy duty vehicles on the city roads.
The Decree cites all entities utilizing or operating above minerals shall construct hard paved roads and establish logistics center on its own expenses, otherwise the ban is effective, where the Capital City Auto Road Authority is responsible to assist with professional and technical advices.
Moreover, affiliated organs will evaluate the damages on city roads and obliged to organize road rehabilitation works by license owners for up to 75% of damaged roads, if not carried out on time, operating special licenses will be suspended.
Also, cement manufacturing factories and construction companies operating in the territory of city should provide extra two spaces in their yards for cleaning tires of concrete mixer trucks.
Municipality Office Bans Minerals Exploration and Transportation – Montsame, April 18
Mayor Visits Kindergarten Build with Canadian Technology, Considers Expanding Method
Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) City Mayor E.Bat-Uul Thursday visited a kindergarten in the city, the first on equipped with a Canadian technology.
This Canada-tech building was constructed with a financial support of the World Bank, four year ago. The director of the kindergarten says that the kindergarten building has many advantages for usage including low cost and earthquake resistant design. City Mayor E.Bat-Uul underlined a possibility to expand this kindergarten building to upgrade into a complex of a kindergarten and an elementary school.
A total of 16 kindergartens and eight school complexes are planned to be constructed in the city within this year.
Japan, Mongolia Exchange Views on Regional Issues
Japan may be seeking Mongolia's help in approaching North Korea.
By Ankit Panda, April 19, 2014 (The Diplomat) Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe held an unscheduled meeting with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj on Wednesday, according to the Global Post (Mogi: a Kyodo article Global Post reposted). The meeting suggests that Abe may be seeking Mongolian assistance on the issue of the past abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea — a high priority item on Tokyo's diplomatic agenda. While North Korea and Japan have no formal diplomatic relations, Japanese diplomats and negotiators have unofficially approached North Korea about the abduction issue several times. All Abe had to say about the meeting was that he and Elbegdorj discussed "various issues." Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga noted that they "exchanged views on regional situations" during their 75-minute lunch meeting.
Furthermore, the defense ministers of Japan and Mongolia met on Thursday and agreed to oppose any efforts to change the status quo with the use of force. The announcement comes as tensions persist over China's claim to the Japanese-administered Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and, more pressingly, as Russia continues to remain embroiled in a crisis with the West over Crimea and Ukraine. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera met his Mongolian counterpart Bat-Erdene Dashdemberel in Tokyo, and the two affirmed their common position on the use of force in settling international disputes.
The two defense ministers also discussed North Korea, where Japan has several key issues of interest, including the North's nuclear program and the issue of Japanese abductees. Mongolia maintains a particularly developed diplomatic relationship with North Korea; its president, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, visited North Korea last year. Mongolia purports to present itself as a model of economic development for North Korea. Both countries have significant mineral and natural resource wealth, and Mongolia leveraged its resources for significant economic growth. "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 told reporters.
Mongolia's outreach to Japan is part of its activist foreign policy under the leadership of President Taskhiagiin Elbegdorj. Long overlooked as a security player in Northeast Asia, Mongolia is eager to involve itself in regional affairs, even serving as a sort of mediator if need be. Further, Mongolia is seeking admission into the Six Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear program.
This recent affirmation between Mongolia and Japan, however, is drawing little attention from both local and international media, suggesting that Mongolia's role as a security player in the region continues to be underdeveloped. The meeting between the two defense ministers comes on the heels of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's visit to Mongolia earlier this month, where he discussed deeper defense ties between Mongolia and the United States.
Japan and Mongolia have not had close diplomatic ties historically. Following the Second World War, the two countries did not begin interacting diplomatically until 1972, following which they remained distant until Mongolia's Democratic Revolution in the early 1990s. In recent years, Japan and Mongolia have made some progress, mostly on the economic front. In 2008, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation offered Mongolia $385 million in financing for a new international airport. In 2005, Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar visited Tokyo after Japan successfully convinced Mongolia to bow out of the race for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, allowing Tokyo to fill the role instead. Since then, relations have steadily been improving.
Mogi: no mention of that agreement on opposing changes in status quo
Defense Minister of Mongolia Conducts Official Visit to Japan
April 18 (infomongolia.com) Mongolian Defense sector delegates led by Minister Dashdemberel BAT-ERDENE are conducting an official visit to Japan upon the invitation of Defense Minister Itsunori ONODERA on April 15-19, 2014.
On Thursday, April 17, Mongolian Defense delegation visited the National Defense Academy of Japan, where Minister D.Bat-Erdene was received by Academy President Ryosei Kokubun, who introduced the facility activities. After which, Minister got acquainted with studies of Mongolian officers and cadets studying at the Academy.
On the same day afternoon, Minister D.Bat-Erdene arrived at the Ministry of Defense of Japan, where Minister I.Onodera welcomed his counterpart with an official ceremony inspecting a guard of honor.
After the ceremony, two Defense Ministers held an official meeting discussing some global and regional security problems facing today, and exchanged views on defense policies of the two countries, its relationship and partnership issues.
Also, parties expressed their satisfaction on current accelerating ties between the two Ministries focused on bilateral common interests in particular to deepen friendly relations of the two peoples, to strengthen military trusts in the region and world, peace in the region and preserve stability in the form of new content based on the principles of enriched expansion.
Since 1995, the defense relations between the Mongolia and Japan have been growing such as reciprocal visits at all-level, conducting meetings concerning regional security issues, exchanging information, organizing consultative meetings and training of military personnel, moreover two parties are closely cooperating in the forms of military engineers and military hospitals in recent years.
Defense Minister visits Japan – news.mn, April 18
Defense Minister Visiting Japan – Montsame, April 18
Annual Korea unification forum to be held in Mongolia
By Kang Hyun-kyung, April 20 (Korea Times) Experts, scholars and government officials are to gather in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in June to exchange their ideas on unification and the so-called neo-Cold War surrounding the Korean Peninsula, according to a Seoul-based nonprofit group.
The Korea Global Foundation (KGF) led by Rhee Tshang-chu, professor of St. Petersburg State University, said that the 15th World Korean Forum, an annual forum hosted by the organization, will be held June 23-24 in the Mongolian capital.
The participants will discuss ways to facilitate the stability and unification of the Korean Peninsula at the National University of Mongolia during the three sessions of the two-day forum.
Experts will discuss issues related to unification of the two Koreas, the Cold War-like relationships among the key powers — namely the United States, China and Japan — on the Korean Peninsula, and possible cooperation with countries in the Eurasian region.
Previous forums were held in Vancouver, Manila, Sydney and Brussels.
In a press release circulated last week, Chairman Rhee of the KGF noted that holding the forum in Mongolia is meaningful in that the two ethnic groups share a lot in common and have maintained close relationships over the past 1,000 years.
Unification has become a buzzword after President Park Geun-hye said in a speech early this year that unification of the two Koreas would be a bonanza.
Park said that South and North Korea would benefit if they are reunified. Recently, she proposed that South and North Korea work together to improve human rights condition of the North, to increase people-to-people exchanges, and to develop North Korea's natural resources.
North Korea rejected the offer.
Foreign Minister Bold, French Ambassador Talk Expanding Tourism, Educational Ties
Ulaanbaatar, April 20 (MONTSAME) The Minister of Foreign Affairs L.Bold Friday received Mr Yves Delaunay, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Mongolia.
At the meeting, the Ambassador handed to Mr Bold an original copy of a letter from the France's Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius in conjunction with expansion of the duties for Mr Fabius because of changing of the French cabinet.
In turn, the Minister expressed his satisfaction with opening of a new direct flight from Ulaanbaatar to Paris to start in June of this year thanks to an intensive development of the bilateral political and economic development.
The parties exchanged views on boosting of the Mongolia-France cooperation in tourism and educational sectors as well as increasing the student exchange.
US Embassy Trains Students in Khuvsgul on Scholarship Opportunities in US Schools
Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) Delegation of the US embassy in the UB city worked in Khovsgol province on April 16.
Training on ways of studying in the USA with scholarship and information about the US schools with scholarship program were given to local students.
After this, heads of local non-government organizations /NGO/ met with the US delegation team and the embassy side expressed readiness to cooperate with these NGOs in projects and programs.
Karpal's death received sadly in MONGOLIA: He helped during my worst time - ALTANTUYA'S DAD
April 19 (Malaysia Chronicle) The death of Malaysian icon Karpal Singh has reached the shores of Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, where a two-page tribute was dedicated to him in a local daily yesterday.
The Mongolian-language Zuunii Medee or Century News carried two pages of an interview with Altantuya's dad Setev Shaariibuu who poured out his personal feelings about Karpal in an article headlined 'Malaysian opposition DAP leader Karpal Singh dies in car accident'.
Shaariibuu said he knew this "great man" who helped him in the murder trial of two former police officers suspected of having killed Altantuya with plastic explosives in October 2006.
Karpal diligently kept a watching brief for Shaariibuu since the case commenced in 2007 and had been faithfully keeping him updated of the progress of the case in Malaysia.
Shaariibuu said he send his deepest condolences to Karpal's family as the late lawyer was with hem when he was 'in the worst situation of his life.
"When my daughter died eight years ago in Malaysia... I had no path to follow," he said in an email to Malaysiakini.
"At that moment, Karpal approached me himself. He felt that no one could help my daughter's case in Malaysia," he added.
"He was not only an advocate but a great human rights defender in Southeast Asia," he said.
Shaariibuu met Karpal for the last time in his Kuala Lumpur office on April 11, 2012, where he took photos with his lawyer and presented him with a Mongolian blanket to cover his knees.
"This blanket will be good for your knees. It will keep you warm," Shaariibuu told him while patting his knees.
His words were translated to Karpal by the Mongolian Foreign Ministry official who accompanied Shaariibuu on a three-day visit to Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysiakini was present during that visit.
Shaariibuu met Karpal then to speed up his RM100 million suit filed in 2007 against the government, political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda and the two former body guards of the Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak for the sufferings incurred by his family - including two of Altantuya's sons - as a result of her untimely death.
Shaariibuu expressed his concerns last year that his suit may no longer be valid as the two Special Action Unit members previously convicted of her murder by the Shah Alam High Court - Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar - were acquitted by the Court of Appeal in Aug 23 last year.
The Federal Court has fixed June 23 to 25 to hear the prosecution's appeal over the duo's acquittal, in which Karpal would have been present, keeping a watching brief for Shaariibuu.
His lawyer based in Ulanbataar, Munkhsaruul Mijiddorj, said Shariibuu requested her to send his condolences to Karpal's family.
"Many Mongolians are sad and grieve over his death," said Munkhsaruul, who had accompanied Shaariibuu on his trip to Kuala Lumpur to attend Altantuya's murder trial.
Mongolia: 'The Gobi desert is a horrible place to work'
Once a poor Soviet satellite famous for cashmere and Genghis Khan, Mongolia is now booming with the profits of coal mining. But what does it mean for the nation's nomadic heritage?
Tania Branigan, April 20 (The Guardian) The icy wind gusting across the Gobi slices through clothing, scours the rock and churns the coal piles, blowing dust into clouds 50 metres above us and fogging the horizon to a grey-beige blur beneath the perfect blue. Soot coats mouths and nostrils and blackens faces.
Wrapped in heavy workwear, his eyes shielded by dark goggles beneath his hard hat, Amarsanaa Batsuren strides across this remote and unlovely stretch of desert. He is on his way to inspect an ugly gash in the earth, 500m by 800m and growing fast. "Brilliant, innit?" he says, and flashes a grin.
A year ago, Amarsanaa was ensconced at home in London's Victoria. This opencast mine has lured him back to Mongolia after 20 years in the capital. "The Gobi's a horrible place to work. But this job – this all ends up as Mongolia's food," he says, his voice tinged with pride. We are standing on an estimated 6bn tonnes of coking and thermal coal. Tavan Tolgoi, believed to be the world's largest such deposit, is one of the mammoth mineral veins that could transform a country where a quarter of the population are still nomadic herders.
In the last few years, this vast but sparsely populated nation – four times the size of the UK, with fewer than 3 million inhabitants – has seen an astonishing boom. The impoverished former Soviet satellite, best known for cashmere and Genghis Khan, has enjoyed double-digit growth and even more spectacular hype. In 2010, the Mongolian stock exchange grew 121%; the following year, GDP shot up by over 17%. The IMF estimated that by 2021 the copper and gold produced at Oyu Tolgoi – a multibillion project jointly owned by Mongolia and Rio Tinto-controlled Turquoise Hill – could account for 30% of the country's economy. It earned the nickname Minegolia.
Not everyone celebrated. The advent of such huge schemes sparked soul-searching about their social and environmental cost. Some warned of "the resource curse", with a rush of foreign money creating a rising real exchange rate that hits other sectors. Others feared outsiders would reap all the profits.
Tough new laws restricting foreign investment in strategic assets and an attempt to renegotiate the Oyu Tolgoi deal – along with the slowing of the Chinese economy, which has powered the Mongolian surge – saw foreign direct investment plummet by 54% last year. The IMF had predicted almost 23% growth; the actual rate was half that.
To drive north through the Gobi and across this immense, largely untamed land, towards the capital's glassy new towers, is to trace a country in transition and uncertain of its trajectory. The highway to Ulan Bator has longish stretches of brand-new black asphalt and steamrollers at work on bulldozed sections in between; then we are back on the rutted track that swerves across the grasslands, past camel herds and beneath soaring eagles. A wide, shimmering rainbow hangs over a distant mountain.
We begin at Tavan Tolgoi, where Amarsanaa and his colleagues live in an encampment of gers, the white, round, felted tents of herders. The stars are still out as the men stamp off to relieve the night shift. They produce 350 to 450,000 tonnes a month, and even working round the clock they could be here for a century or more. Excavators carve out five tonnes in a single scoop. The wheels of 300-tonne coal trucks dwarf the burly men beside them. The new pit, already 27 metres deep, will soon descend to 10 times that.
Mongolians are tough, Amarsanaa says, proudly; suited to such a harsh environment. But only a few hundred work here. Modern mining creates few jobs; what matters is how Mongolia spends the wealth it creates. "Digging it out is difficult, but managing it is the hardest," Amarsanaa says.
From Tavan Tolgoi, the coal trucks rumble south to China, churning up dust and unsettling Uyanga Damchaa's animals. "Maybe the people who own those mines are getting benefit from it – I don't know. But what the people who live here see is the whole area being dug out; holes here, holes there," says the 22-year-old.
Everyone else has moved, she adds. Soon she will follow suit, with her little girl Duurenjargal and the rest of their family. "It's just impossible to live here," says her father, Batjargal. "It's not a nice thing when they destroy your pasture. I know this mountain, for instance, has spirits."
The compensation has been meagre. At the last parliamentary election, parties wooed voters with cash handouts – funded by pre-selling Tavan Tolgoi's coal. Since the costs of mining and transport then rose, "what they were promising in the elections – everything to every citizen – was all a loan from China and now we are paying the debt. In the long run probably nothing will be left for the future of Duurenjargal. It's kind of bleak," he says.
Such concerns have pushed a few to radical solutions. In January a Mongolian court jailed environmentalist Tsetsegee Munkhbayar and other "Fire Nation" activists for 21 and a half years each after they were accused of placing bombs near Government House and opening fire while delivering a petition on limiting mineral exploitation. (Others say the grenades were inactive and police initially confirmed that the only shot was fired accidentally.)
Yet Tavan Tolgoi's pits, vast as they are, are a speck on the Gobi. And officials argue they are managing development more carefully than ever. "Seven years ago, 42% of the country's territory was covered by exploration and mining licences – now it's down almost to 10%," says Oyun Sanjaasuren, minister for the environment and green development. "Rather than hundreds and hundreds of small mines, it is probably better to have a smaller number of larger, responsible projects," which the government can monitor more easily.
Batjargal concedes he might even move back if plans for a railway to transport the coal are carried through.
The infrastructure drive is already showing results; as we drive north, new power lines march across the desert beside us. From a distance, the landscape seems otherwise unchanged: vast, sweeping and dotted with occasional gers. In Dundgobi province, we swerve off the road and bounce over the tussocks to a cluster of horses in the distance. Erdentugs Altangerel is milking his herd, a long robe – known as a deel – over his jeans. He brings us into his ger to share a bowl of the fermented mare's milk known as airag. The tent's poles and chests are ornately painted in traditional patterns, but there is satellite TV powered by solar panels, and a car parked outside.
The 41-year-old is lyrical about herding life at its best ("If the weather's good, that's happiness") and realistic about its challenges. Despite his concern at the environmental cost, he believes mining will help families like his. "Mongolia will be a developed country and our lives will be better." When the road is finished the long journey to the capital will take just a few hours. Buying goods should become cheaper; and better access to markets may mean a higher price for their cashmere. His family rely on their animals for meat, milk and dung for their stoves, but are no longer subsistence herders like their ancestors.
In fact, says Ariell Ahearn-Ligham, who is researching herding at Oxford University, Mongolia "is a place of almost constant change".
Herding was once organised around monasteries. As the Soviet era dawned, the herds were collectivised. And when the USSR disintegrated decades later, the newly unemployed returned to the land. The number of herders almost doubled. So did the country's livestock, to 45 million. The size and makeup of communal herds had been strictly controlled, but now a soaring international appetite for cashmere caused a surge in the number of goats. The shift exacerbated overgrazing and desertification, because they damage grassland; around 70% is now considered degraded.
That is thought to be one contributor to the dzuds, or winter disasters – extreme cold and heavy snow, preceded by summer droughts – that have caused millions of animal deaths. Another is the inexperience of newer herders, and partial settlement as people invest in property and send their children to school in town. "Someone has to go with the kid, so the husband manages the herd alone, or pays a friend to manage it. And if the winter disaster comes, only a few guys are left to deal with it," says Ahearn-Ligham.
These days nomads have insurance for such catastrophes, as well as bank loans secured on their herds. An even bigger change is coming: local governments are formalising grazing rights. Families who lease pastureland move less, Ahearn-Ligham says, so it degrades faster.
Mining is only a part of the larger integration of Mongolia into a global economy. "Rationalisation and the impact of modernity is also happening in the countryside," says Julian Dierkes, an expert on the country at the University of British Columbia. "There's a whole romanticisation discourse in Mongolia and outside that reinforces the sense of the eternal and unchanged – but a lot is happening and it's happening very quickly."
Munkhdul Badral, known as Mogi, can testify to just how fast Mongolia's shifts have been. He still recalls the day another boy stole his gum. "I was actually chewing it," he says.
He was nine years old, it was 1992, and Mongolia was at a post-Soviet nadir. Factory closures had thrown many out of work. Shops had bare shelves. Even secondhand gum was desirable. Now we meet in an American-style bar in Ulan Bator's fanciest mall, gazing down on Sukhbaatar Square where families are gathering for a wedding in their jewel-coloured deels. There are Louis Vuitton and Armani boutiques downstairs, though few shoppers.
"People are still getting used to capitalism," says Mogi, who runs a market intelligence firm, Cover Mongolia. That applies to politicians, too. "They are making mistakes that to me seem just bizarre," he adds: the rapidly rescinded foreign investment law; the cash handouts; off-budget spending that circumvents the government's own fiscal stability rules.
The precipitous decline in foreign investment has halted, but was perhaps a symptom as much as a problem. Investors have not always endeared themselves to Mongolians; hearing a mining boss compare Oyu Tolgoi to a cash machine was bound to set alarm bells ringing. "There's an attitude problem, I guess, with both sides," Mogi says. "The one with money and experience is patronising and the Mongolian side would be put in a position where they have been persuaded to do something they regretted.
"But there are enough experiences of other countries going through this. I'm hoping Mongolia has enough textbook material to avoid [the problems]. You have Chile, Norway, Scandinavian countries where they handled their mining or oil revenue successfully and didn't flood the economy."
Oyun, the environment minister, says Mongolia has little choice but to embrace the minerals rush: "Until commodity prices went up we found it very, very difficult to create any growth. Our population is very small, so the local market is very small. It's a huge area with not enough infrastructure. If you want to manufacture and export anything it's almost impossible to compete against Chinese manufacturing. Whether we like it or not, at this stage, it looks like mining is one of the very few sectors that will drive the growth."
But dependence on mining would be risky, she agrees. "We should invest the revenues into human capital: health, education, diversifying the economy. There's potential with tourism; big potential in agriculture – it's becoming more competitive and there will be more of a market in China. We should use mining as a bridge."
To see where the success or failure will play out, you need only drive along the potholed roads and muddy tracks into the ger districts that sprawl across the hillsides: a patchwork of orange, red and blue tin roofs and more tents, their white covers greyed with soot, hemmed in by ragged wooden fences.
Over two decades, Ulan Bator has swelled to bursting point, absorbing more than a third of the country's population; many are former herders who fled here when dzuds wiped out their livestock. More than half of the capital's residents live in these districts, without proper roads or running water. Unemployment is 60% – triple the rate in other areas. Education rates are lower here; health considerably worse.
In the mornings, Dolgorsuren Dalkhaa can see the glistening new towers around Sukhbaatar Square from her home; by afternoon, smog from old-fashioned stoves clouds the skyline. She offers a snack of dried curds in her colourful living room, where photos of her family take pride of place. They arrived in the capital in 2002 and quickly settled in, finding work. But now, the 49-year-old says, "we can hardly make ends meet … Tea that used to be 1,000 tugriks is now 1,500. It's not just food, either. Even rubber gloves [she works as a cleaner] were 3,000 and are now 5,000."
Inflation stood at 10.5% last year; the previous year, at 14.5%. "The wealthy will be just fine, but it hurts our lives and I'm afraid it's going to be worse," she says. It's even tougher for newcomers, who face fiercer competition for jobs and land for their gers. "The gap between the rich people and the poor people is obvious. We can see on the television that the people at the top are corrupt and we wonder why the people at the bottom have to live like this."
They talk about urban redevelopment, she says, but "I guess it isn't going to be happening any time soon." There is plenty of reason for pessimism. The government and Rio Tinto have missed a key financing deadline for the expansion of Oyu Tolgoi, as discussions continue over the revenue split; Mongolia needs the money to fund spending pledges. The tugrik has tumbled against the dollar.
And if foreign investment picks up again, the old concerns will revive, too. For every Chile, building a prospering economy on its mineral wealth, there is an Angola. Mongolia remains a poor country with endemic corruption, serious social problems and inadequate long-term planning.
Yet the Asian Development Bank predicts a 9.5% growth rate this year. The proportion of the population living in poverty fell from 38.7% in 2010 to 27.4% just two years later. Mongolia has turned its potentially difficult position – sandwiched between two mighty neighbours – into an asset, cultivating ties with Russia, China and the US. It is rare, even unique, as a vibrant democracy in the region. Demographics are on its side: 45% of its population is under 24. That has an unexpected dividend, according to Sumati Luvsandendev, of the polling NGO Sant Maral; around 80% of Mongolians are optimistic. "It's partly because there are still opportunities in this country; but also because the population is very young," he says.
He has another striking statistic: over 80% believe the government should reduce or even eliminate income differences. You could trace that to Soviet education, but he thinks it goes deeper: "When you have a sedentary life you can accumulate huge wealth and distribute it to a hierarchy; in Mongolian [nomadic] society the hierarchy was very simple and limited. The idea that you should share riches with your neighbour is actually an ethic in Mongolian society – and your chances of being an important person if you didn't do that were rather small."
The excavators at Tavan Tolgoi tear ever deeper into the earth; the steamrollers iron out the long road up to Ulan Bator; the herders check livestock prices on their mobiles; the cranes in the capital dip and turn. But in the end, it seems, Mongolia's development may owe as much to its past as its hunger for progress.
The reinvention of Mongolia – in pictures
In recent years Mongolia has undergone rapid industrial and economic development. Now the nation's future is increasingly wrapped up in the profits of vast opencast mines such as Tavan Tolgoi, but its nomadic past still has an important part to play
Dan Chung, April 20 (The Guardian) --
Int'l conference on Mongol studies to be held in DC, May 2-4
Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) The 8th international conference on Mongol studies will run May 2-4 in Washington DC, USA.
Organized by the Mongolian Cultural Center at the Mongolia's Embassy in the USA, the forthcoming event is expected to attract 18 scholars and scientists of Mongolia, Great Britain, South Korea, Russia and USA to deliver relevant reports.
In accordance with a programme of the conference, the participants will visit the Library of Congress in Washington DC to see rare books on Mongolia, and will attend a reception to be hosted by Mr B.Altangerel, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the USA.
Opening remarks will be made by the Ambassador Mr Altangerel; and M.Saruul-Erdene, director of the Mongolian Cultural Center.
In addition to this, an exhibition of original copies of Mongolian laws of 1920s will be mounted.
Prague Zoo taking responsibility for survival of Mongolia's endangered Przewalski horse
April 17 (Radio Prague) Three years ago Prague Zoo launched its biggest conservation project to date – helping to save the Przewalski horse from extinction. The zoo successfully breeds these Mongolian wild horses here in the Czech Republic and then transports them to the Mongolian steppes to enrich the gene pool of a small protected herd that is to help the endangered breed survive. I met up with the zoo's spokeswoman Jana Ptáčinská Jirátová to find out how the project has been coming along.
"We have been realizing this project for three years now and have already transported 12 horses to Mongolia. We are very happy that they are well-accommodated, that they are fine and that their health is quite good. The horses we sent from Prague have grown used to living in the wild and have assimilated with those already there and also the mares have had their first young. That we consider to be the biggest success of this project. At this moment we are preparing the fourth transport of horses to Mongolia and preparing the next four horses which are going to be transported there."
You breed these horses here at the Prague Zoo and then transport them to the Mongolian steppes –how many do you have here, how many of them are there in the world today and what zoos do you cooperate with?
"Prague Zoo has two locations for these horses, one on the grounds of the zoo itself and then we have a special acclimatization station in Dolní Dobřejov –that is located in an area known as Czech Siberia where the weather conditions are closest to those in Mongolia. We have around twenty horses at this point and altogether in European zoos there are around 1,000. There were none left in the wild but thanks to joint effort to save the Przewalski horse there are now around 350 of them in Mongolia."
What does it entail to transport them there are give them a good start in the wild?
"The first thing is to choose the right horses because not all the horses are sturdy enough to survive the trip and acclimatize in their new environment. So we choose strong horses, horses that are in good health and particularly we focus on females because we want them to breed as much as possible. So the first thing is to find the right horse and then of course there is the administrative part of it – the red tape involved, which is quite complicated and difficult. We are in touch with Mongolian organizations and the Mongolian authorities, we have to fill out lots of documents relating to veterinary conditions that have to be met and so on. And, last but not least, we have to find the money to fund the transports. Because transporting horses from the Czech Republic to Mongolia is not cheap, it's actually quite expensive and you have to find a plane that can take them there and so we are very pleased to be able to cooperate with the Czech army which helps us to realize the transports in their own CASA planes. So thanks to this cooperation we do not pay excessive fees for these transports just cover the real costs of the plane journey."
Who are your sponsors in this project?
"We are very happy that the public supports us in this activity. People contribute via donation SMS messages, they send money to a special account in support of the project and we also raise money by selling souvenirs with the Przewalski horse and the motto "We help them survive". So that is part of the income used, but of course the main part comes from our sponsors and partners in the project."
So what zoos do you cooperate with on the project? Who else is in on this?
"In the 1990s there were international transports to Mongolia. Dutch, German and British organizations started transporting horses there to try to save the breed. In the past no zoos were involved in this effort –it was done exclusively by commercial organizations. But, unfortunately, after a few years the efforts ground to a halt even though the need to bring in new horses and keep the project alive was pressing. There was no more money and the transports stopped. And this was the reason why approximately four years ago we started thinking about renewing these activities and continuing in these efforts."
Is it difficult to get the horses to breed once they are there and to live in the wild when they were used to being taken care of?
"The most difficult part is getting them acclimatized to the weather and ground conditions, to new food and new animals in their vicinity. They have to grow stronger so that they can survive the winter in their new conditions. Because in Mongolia there is a big difference in temperatures in the winter and summer –they range from minus forty to plus forty so it is a big extreme which the horses have to get used to."
How long did it take for the first foal to appear and how many do you have there now?
"We had to wait a whole year for the first foal, but now we have three of them and we know that five mares are pregnant."
And the Mongolian authorities are helpful? I understand two or three Mongolian officials traveled to Prague last week to thank you for your efforts. Do they give these horses protection in the space they are in?
"Yes, the Mongolian people are very helpful. For them the Przewalski horse is like a symbol, an animal that they admire, revere even. They really want to support the conservation project so it's a better situation than in other parts of the third world. Somewhere you launch conservation projects and the locals are not involved, but in Mongolia the people really want to save the horses. They are eager to help us, they join our activities and they want to reach the same goal. So it is a big advantage to have such support from the locals and the authorities do everything in their power to make sure there are new transports every year and help us protect the horses in the area where we settle them. So I think the horses are in good hands there."
So what happens now – how long does the project continue for? How many horses will it take for you to say, OK we are happy with that, we are satisfied, they are saved?
"As many as possible. The population of Przewalski horses seems quite stable now in Mongolia but the winters are dangerous and one winter could destroy the whole population. So we try to transport as many horses as we can."
M for Mongolia – the Tsaatan. Is it ethical to visit?
April 14 (Contented Traveler) The Tsaatan are the last reindeer herders who have survived for thousands of years inhabiting the remotest areas of Mongolia and moving between 5 and 10 times a year usually when the seasons change. They are the last of the truly semi-nomadic tribes.
There has always been an aura of mystery surrounding these very private, very hardy and mystical people. Not a lot is known about their ways. They have kept to themselves, supported and sustained themselves forever all based on the reindeer, hence them being known as the reindeer people.
They do not move so much any more as the number of the Tsaatan are dwindling dramatically. There are now just 400 of them in Mongolia. Why? The reindeer themselves, that the Tsaatan rely on, are dwindling in numbers.
The Tsaatan have always been totally reliant on the reindeer. The reindeers have always been the lifeblood of the Tsaatan. The Tsaatan need the reindeers. Their reindeers provide them with milk, cheese, and most importantly as their transport. They do not use the reindeer for meat. They sew their clothes with reindeer hair. They use the reindeer dung as fuel for their stoves. The antlers of the reindeer are used to make tools.
They have been totally self sufficient in everything, as long as they have their reindeer.
The Tsaatan have lived in the remotest but most amazingly beautiful mountain taigas of Mongolia. The Tsaatan nomads have a rich and sophisticated knowledge of their natural environment. They have always relied on a shaman to heal them, using the flora and fauna of their environment, which they know intimately. They have been a remote and difficult to understand tribe because they have kept to themselves.
They do not move so much anymore.
What has happened to ruin their livelihood that will probably see the very end of this very significant nomadic tribe? Hunting, mining and other industries have culled the reindeer population making the very existence of the Tsaaten unsustainable.
The reality for them now is that the only way to survive for a while longer is to turn themselves into a sideshow for tourists.
The Tsaatan Community and Visitors Center was established to assist their survival, because"
1. The lack of sustainable income sources compatible with the reindeer-herding lifestyle of the Tsaatan community, who rank among Mongolia's poorest inhabitants.
2. The increasing trend of irresponsible and exploitative tourism that negatively impacts the Tsaatan and their environment, and brings little or no benefit to the community.
3. The wider problems of marginalization and disenfranchisement that markedly affect the Tsaatan
It has been said that the Tsaatan won't exist in thirty years. The changes that they have been forced to adopt is killing them. From an insular mini society, to a world stage has to be the biggest cultural shock not to mention the enormity of the change to the very way that they have always lived.
Sustainable tourism or sideshow alley?
- they need money, we have it
- they need reindeers, we kill them
- the reindeers need the forests, we see them as an untapped resource
- those who can are leaving the only life they have ever known and are "attempting" to urbanise
They don't have a lot of choice.
Will we lose this valuable tribe with inherent knowledge of the environment and the ways of the reindeers, of a self contained and functioning community if we don't assist with sustainable tourism? Is this responsible tourism?
Have the Tsaatan gone the way of the Long Neck Karen, a hill tribe of northern Thailand who have turned to the tourist dollar to survive their oppressive past and to survive? Are the Tsaaaten similarly doing this though necessity as opposed to choice?
I do not have the answers at all. It is a very difficult and ethical issue. I just find it all terribly sad and a great loss to us all.
This is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, 2014
Dalai Lama: Japan Tour Ends with Audiences for Tibetans, Mongolians and Chinese
Tokyo, Japan, 18 April 2014 - Before leaving for the airport and his flight back to India this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama made time to meet separately with groups of Chinese, Mongolians and Tibetans.
Meeting a group of about 50 Mongolians His Holiness praised the friendship and cultural ties Tibetans and Mongolians have long shared. He said:
"In the 20th century you faced great tragedy and Buddhism in Mongolia went into decline. Tibetans are facing similar problems now. But relations between Tibetans and Mongolians go back hundreds of years to when we roamed the land as nomads. Now that you have regained your freedom, you must use the opportunity well. There are too many examples in Africa of what can go wrong when freedom and democracy are misused. With democracy comes responsibility. Today, Mongolians place great faith in the Dharma, but faith based on reason is even firmer and more stable, so study is important. In the past there were many great scholars who came from Mongolia. However, understanding of Buddhism needs to be combined with basic modern education. Tibet was backward in terms of modern education and technological development and we lost our country."
His Holiness advised Mongolians to emulate the determination exemplified by their people at the time of Genghis Khan. But today they need that kind of courage combined with intelligence. He said that he has also counselled Indians to focus development efforts in villages, not only in cities. Schools, hospitals and other facilities need to be provided to people in the rural areas where they live.
He recalled that there are now 300 Mongolian monks studying in the main Tibetan monasteries in South India who will be able to contribute to the flourishing of the Dharma in the future.
Live From UB: Pittsburgh Foundation Creative Development Grant
April 20 (Live from UB) I'm thrilled to announce that Live From UB has been awarded a very generous grant from The Pittsburgh Foundation. This funding will go far in supporting the last legs of post-production and distribution for Live From UB. It is an honor to be trusted with such fantastic funding and a real vote of confidence for this project.
Now, an update on the status of Live From UB.
I just finished the film's third edit. About a month ago, story editor Fernanda Rossi joined the long list of contributors to Live From UB. Over the course of two days, we worked on the film, tearing it apart and putting it back together. As a result, Live From UB is very near completion.
For those of you in the Pittsburgh area, I will be presenting clips from the film on at the Pittsburgh Filmmakers Doc Salon this Friday (April 25) at 7:00. Come at 6:30 for refreshments (477 Melwood Ave, Pittsburgh, PA).
Photo Report: Mongolian Wrestling
March 4 (Julien Fumard Photography) To say goodbye after such good times under the yurt is a difficult moment. I embrace them and wish the best to their family, and it is with a lump in my throat that I get on Honda's motorbike – no intentional pun here! – towards Khatgal. Tomorrow starts the Ice Festival during which I may have the chance to experience, among other celebrations, an event which the descendants of the Khan are fond of: a Mongolian wrestling tournament, the country's national sport.
Bad news: the authorities decided to cancel the festival. Most of the activities are supposed to happen on the lake but due to cool temperatures last week they fear the ice layer might be too thin to support the weight of the visitors. However, it is very likely that the tournament will take place anyway. It is about noon the following day when someone enters my yurt – in Mongolia we do not usually knock on the door. In a matter of five minutes, I can find myself in the school's gymnasium where the tournament is about to begin.
Little by little, the public fills the gymnasium, warming the atmosphere. The first wrestlers get dressed with the traditional suit: a brief, a kind of arm-covering shirt, and of course the wrestler's hat. More than just a traditional part of the outfit, the hat has also a descriptive role, like a resume of each competitor's wrestling past. A medallion with the shape of an animal, like an eagle or an elephant, is sewn on the front of it and shows the rank of the wrestler. Attached to the back are two kind of ties: one shows the number of victories, the other the number of times the owner finished in the top four. Any wrestler can then quickly see whom he has to deal with. Because this tournament is not a major one, some of them do not wear the whole traditional cloth, sometimes even not at all – "it's because they are lazy or cold" will later confess my host, an ex-wrestler himself.
There are no categories in Mongolian wrestling. Whether they are skinny or fat, small or tall, young or "old", … wrestlers fight each other on the same ground, a couple of fights at the same time. The ceremony begins with an eagle dance around the flag of Mongolia followed by stretching movements and a few slaps on the thighs. Before starting the fight a referee pulls out the hat of a wrestler as the latter performs another dance around him. A slap on the arse – sometimes quite a strong one, provoking laughs among the audience – and the fight begins. Rules are very simple: the first one whom back, bum or knee touches the ground loses. Hitting your opponent or strangling him is of course forbidden.
Weird catches, spinnings, liftings, … This spectacular succession sometimes end up in the public, to the discontent of the referee who then stops the fight in order to avoid any risk of injury. Usually not fond of any kind of sports, I am taken by the show. I already have my favorite, a guy with a wild and hard-nosed look, extremely aggressive, but who will not win this tournament. Yet I would have bet he would win only by seeing the way his opponents were dreading him. But Mongolian wrestling is not only about brutality. I also found in this sport a certain subtlety, especially around the end when the exhausted fighters need to spare their energy while finding a way to win. Opponents look at each other for a moment that can last forever… until the penny drops. Then, muscles tighten up, breath gets short and catches follow one another at lightning speed, inexorably leading one of them to the ground, stroke down. The crowd explodes. The winner helps his opponent to lift up, they salute each other, get their hat back and perform a last dance around the flag.
Hours fly by and tournament ends. Winners are announced, photos taken. I can recognize some familiar faces among the audience. We salute each other and try to exchange a few words. If only I spoke Mongolian, I would almost feel at home. This tournament was a little one, giving me a lot of photographic opportunities as I was practically allowed to go wherever I wanted. I am delighted I could experience this and convinced that the atmosphere of the major ones – which fees can be excessive – is totally different, thus I would have missed something grand.
Tomorrow I will be leaving for another adventure, further north in the tundra, where I will pay visit to a particular kind of herders… See you soon!
This post has been predated in order to fit best the time I've been experiencing these moments.
Mogi: Some amazing shots
Mongolia remains one of the last unspoilt travel destinations in Asia with around 25% of the population still truly nomadic, moving around 2-4 times a year depending on the area and weather. Around 25% are semi-nomadic, moving from villages at the end of winter to the vast open Steppe to find new pasture for their livestock. These nomad families are extremely friendly & welcoming, whose relentless sense of hospitality can at times be overwhelming.
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