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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

[TRQ sells remaining SGQ; XAM restarts Oyut Ulaan; Gatsuurt hits a bump; SGK passes economic recovery, long name, debt bills; and The Voice comes to UB]

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Happy Year of the Sheep

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

Overseas Market

Mogi: well this SouthGobi vendetta was a colossal waste of Mongolia's good name, if only to stop one Chinese firm from buying it over other Chinese firms, granted one is state-owned and the others "private." But would we have reacted any different if TRQ tried to sell it to a private Chinese firm in 2012?

TRQ closed +2.02% to US$3.03 on this announcement, went as high as +6%

Rio Tinto's Turquoise Hill to Sell SouthGobi Stake

By Christopher Donville

February 25 (Bloomberg) -- Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. agreed to sell its 22 percent stake in SouthGobi Resources Ltd., a Canadian coal miner with investments in Mongolia, to Novel Sunrise Investments Ltd. for about C$17 million ($13.5 million).

Turquoise Hill, a unit of Rio Tinto Group, agreed to sell its 48.7 million shares of SouthGobi to China-based Novel for 35 Canadian cents each in cash, Vancouver-based Turquoise Hill said Tuesday in a statement. That's a 31 percent discount to SouthGobi's closing price Monday. Closing of the deal, pending Canadian and Hong Kong regulatory approval, is expected by March 31.

SouthGobi, operator of the Ovoot Tolgoi coal mine in Mongolia, has drawn attention since three former employees of its SouthGobi Sands LLC unit were convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to between five and six years in prison.

Earlier this month, SouthGobi said it would appeal "what it considers to be a gross miscarriage of justice."

Turquoise Hill rose 1.1 percent to close at C$3.79 in Toronto, while SouthGobi climbed 9.8 percent to 56 Canadian cents. Turquoise Hill has gained 5.6 percent this year; SouthGobi has added 12 percent in the same period.

In a separate statement Tuesday, SouthGobi said it would raise as much as $7.5 million from Novel Sunrise for working capital. The proceeds will allow SouthGobi to continue to operate as a going concern to the end of April, the company said.

SouthGobi "is entering into the transaction with Novel Sunrise as a new significant shareholder and strategic partner intending to bring its operational and marketing expertise to the Company," the company said in the statement.

Link to article

Link to TRQ release

Link to SGQ placement announcement

Similar:

Turquoise Hill to sell remaining stake in Mongolia's SouthGobiReuters, February 24

Turquoise Hill signs deal to sell remaining stake in SouthGobi Resources - The Canadian Press, February 24

 

SGQ closed +9.8% to C$0.56 on just 800 shares traded. 1878 trading +0.5% in early trading

SouthGobi Files an Appeal Against the Verdict From the Second District Criminal Court of Justice in Mongolia

HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - Feb. 18, 2015) - SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX:SGQ)(HK:1878) ("SouthGobi" or the "Company") announced on February 1, 2015, that on January 30, 2015, the panel of appointed judges from the Second District Criminal Court of Justice found the three former employees of SouthGobi Sands LLC ("SGS"), the Company's Mongolian subsidiary, guilty of tax evasion and delivered sentences ranging from 5 years and 6 months to 5 years and 10 months of imprisonment in the correctional facilities of strict regimen in Mongolia and fines of MNT1,000,000 (approximately US$510) or the equivalent amount in assets for each defendant. In addition, SGS has been found to be financially liable as a "civil defendant" for a penalty of MNT35.3 billion (approximately US$17.9 million at February 17, 2015).

The Company and its three former employees received the written verdict from the Court of Justice on February 10, 2015.

The Company has been informed that following the receipt of the written verdict, Messrs. Justin Kapla, Hilarion Cajucom Jr. and Cristobal David have requested pardons from the President of Mongolia which, if granted, would allow them to be released from prison and leave the country. The Company understands that, as a condition of the potential pardon and whilst in a detention center in Mongolia, the three individuals were asked by the relevant authorities to elect in writing not to exercise their right to appeal. The Company supports its three former employees who are facing extraordinary and unjust hardships and understands their rationale for requesting a pardon. However, the Company continues to believe they have demonstrated their innocence throughout the investigation and court process.

The Company reiterates that it has not committed tax evasion, firmly rejects the Court's verdict and what have been gross violations of Mongolian law throughout the investigations and the Court process. Therefore the Company filed an appeal against the Court's verdict on February 18, 2015. The Company will continue to vigorously defend itself through the appeal process.

Link to release

 

Turquoise Hill Announces Annual Meeting of Shareholders on May 8

February 23 (CST Trust Company) Pursuant to a request from the above-mentioned reporting issuer, we wish to advise you of the following information in connection with its Annual Meeting of Shareholders:

Date of meeting:

May 8, 2015

Record date for notice:

March 25, 2015

Record date for voting:

March 25, 2015

Beneficial ownership determination date:

March 25, 2015

Securities entitled to notice:

Common Shares

Securities entitled to vote:

Common Shares

Issuer mailing directly to non objecting beneficial owners:

Yes

Issuer will pay for objecting beneficial owner material distribution:

No

Issuer using notice-and-access for registered investors:

No

Issuer using notice-and-access for non-registered investors:

No

Notice-and-access stratification criteria:

No

Link to release

 

Oyu Tolgoi reaches one million tonne shipment milestone

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, February 18 (OT) - Oyu Tolgoi today announced that it had shipped its one millionth tonne of copper concentrate.

Oyu Tolgoi has reached the million tonne milestone after the first shipment of concentrate was delivered in July 2013.

Speaking on this achievement, Andrew Woodley - President and CEO, Oyu Tolgoi LLC, said: "This is a major milestone for the company. To reach a million tonnes in such a short time has required extraordinary teamwork from each member of the Oyu Tolgoi family, along with the strong support of our stakeholders.

"It is particularly fitting that we have reached this milestone on the eve of Tsagaan Sar, a time to traditionally celebrate what we have achieved in the year past - and raising our sights for the year ahead.

"I sincerely thank each and every Oyu Tolgoi employee - and contractor - for helping us reach this important achievement. I know there will be many more milestones as we improve production and efficiency and create real value, knowledge and skill."

The one millionth tonne is the latest in a series of milestones as Oyu Tolgoi completes its journey to steady-state operations. After the completion of construction in 2013, last year saw the first full year of operations, with production and shipments steadily ramped up. Oyu Tolgoi paid approximately US$250 million in taxes, fees and other payments and spent over US$300 million for national procurement in 2014. The business will continue to focus on maintaining safety as its first priority, improving competitiveness, and continuing to position itself as the supplier of choice for customers.

Link to release

 

Turquoise Hill CEO Presentation at BMO 2015 Global Metals and Mining Conference

February 24 --

Link to preso

 

Xanadu Mines starts exploration at Oyut Ulaan copper-gold project in Mongolia

February 19 (Proactive Investors) Xanadu Mines (ASX:XAM) has started exploration activities at its Oyut Ulaan copper-gold project in Mongolia that will contribute to defining a shallow resource estimate.

This has been designed to test potential extensions to high-grade porphyry mineralisation along strike from the Diorite Hill and Stockwork Hill prospects as well as testing the outcropping variably mineralised breccia dyke complex.

The program includes approximately 2,000 metres of surface trenching plus the acquisition of high-resolution ground magnetics and induced polarisation data.

Previous exploration in 2013 found outcropping high grade gold and copper.

Oyut Ulaan is located within the Dornogovi Province of southern Mongolia. It is also within the South Gobi Copper Belt that hosts the world class Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project.

The project consists of multiple co-genetic porphyry copper–gold centres, mineralised tourmaline breccia pipes and copper-gold / base metal magnetite skarns, which occur within the central part of Mining Licence 17129A.

Link to article

Link to XAM release

 

Guildford Coal to Raise A$6.6 Million Following Partially Underwritten Entitlement Offer

February 24 -- Entitlement Offer results and shortfall Guildford Coal Limited (ASX: GUF) (Guildford) advises that the partially underwritten, renounceable pro rata entitlement offer (Entitlement Offer) announced on 27 January 2015 has concluded.

Guildford received valid applications for 16,153,680 shares from shareholders under the Entitlement Offer. Of the shortfall of 173,043,792 shares, Maiora Asset Management Pte Ltd and Auspicious Future Ventures Limited (the Underwriters), will collectively subscribe for 162,162,162 shortfall shares.

As a result of applications and the underwriting, Guildford will raise approximately $6.6 million under the Entitlement Offer (before costs).

Link to release

 

YAK closed -1.28% to C$0.77, MNGGF -1.68% to US$0.614 Monday

Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. January 2015 Monthly Letter to Shareholders

Toronto, Ontario, February 23 (FSCwire) - Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. (YAK – TSXV and MNGGF –  USA), ("MGG") or ("the Company") a commercial real estate investment and development company participating in the dynamic growth of the Mongolian economy announces the release of its January 2015 Shareholder Letter. 

January 2015 Shareholder Letter 

To the Shareholders of Mongolia Growth Group Ltd., 

I have always valued transparency in all of my communication with you. With the resumption of my monthly shareholder letters, MGG will once again be reporting monthly performance data. 

In January 2015, MGG's core commercial property portfolio* experienced a same-store rental increase of 20.9% relative to January 2014 on properties owned 12 months or longer, as measured in local currency (Mongolian Togrog). Total billed revenue for January 2015 was 289.9 million Mongolian Togrog, as compared to 247.2 million Mongolian Togrog in January of 2014 or a 17.3% increase.** The occupancy rate for the core portfolio in January of 2015 was 96.1% including an occupancy rate of 95.7% for core retail properties and an occupancy rate of 96.6% for core office properties***. 

Economic Update, Proactive Strategies Being Undertaken and Tuguldur Update 

Current Economic Update 

Over the past few years, MGG has benefited from the dynamic growth of the Mongolian economy. Unfortunately, since mid-summer 2014, it has become increasingly obvious that the economy is no longer growing at a rapid rate and the pace of this weakness is accelerating. 

Thus far, at MGG, our revenues in Togrog terms have remained largely immune to the effects of this slow-down for two reasons. To start with, many of our rents were previously at rates that were below market. Hence, re-setting rates to market rates has given us increased revenue in Togrog terms. Additionally, our properties have remained in high demand due to their locations and our focus on offering premium levels of tenant service. However, given the accelerating slowdown in the economy, it is likely that we will also become affected—particularly given the large numbers of firms that are going out of business or shrinking considerably. 

Proactive Strategies Being Undertaken 

Strategically, our goal is to keep our revenues stable while reducing our expenses as we await a resumption of economic growth in Mongolia. 

On the revenue side, we are being proactive in order to retain tenants with a goal of keeping our vacancy to below current market levels. This has meant that we have received reduced annual inflation adjustments and have been more aggressive on pricing for renewals on certain properties. We have also redoubled our efforts on the marketing and leasing side. Thus far, we continue to have vacancy levels that are substantially below market rates, showing the success of this strategy, despite increased tenant turnover. 

On the cost side, our focus remains on reducing all non-essential costs. We recently announced our first round of accomplishment in this endeavor. We believe that there is additional unnecessary spending to cut and we will focus on that. 

Tuguldur Update 

On the back of successfully renovating Tuguldur Center Stage 1, we have now begun the initial concept design drawings in preparation of a more detail construction cost estimate for stage 2 of Tuguldur. Despite weakness in the overall economy, Tuguldur continues to attract shoppers with well over 1,000 shoppers entering the building on an average day. We believe that this speaks to the uniqueness of the location and the likelihood of success in attracting a larger shopper base when Stage 2 is completed. 

Mongolian Economic Update 

Since the beginning of 2015: 

·         Mongolia has requested a "stand-by program" from the International Monetary Fund (Bloomberg)

·         The trade surplus in January was US$225.4 million vs. a deficit of US$16.1 in 2014 (National Statistics Office)

·         Exports in January grew to US$472.7 million compared to US$321 million in 2014 (National Statistics Office)

·         Japan and Mongolia signed a bilateral economic partnership agreement that will expand trade by removing tariffs on about 96 percent of the combined value of trade between the two countries (Japan Times)

·         Japan pledged ¥36.85 billion  (US$310 million) in loans to help the ongoing construction of the new international airport in Ulaanbaatar. 

We look forward to updating you again on our progress and new developments in the Mongolian economy next month.

Link to release

 

Mongolia parliament rejects bill on setting govt stake in Gatsuurt

February 18 (news.mn) A draft law to determine the percentage of state ownership of the Gatsuurt deposit was discussed in the general session of Parliament, but it was returned for reconsideration by the Cabinet, as MPs failed to reach a consensus on the issue. 

The draft called for state ownership of up to 20 percent of the mine.   

Non-governmental organizations and members of the public are continuing to protest against mining at Gatsuurt and have announced hunger strikes.  

Link to article

Related:

Discussion rejected of Gatsuurt state ownership resolutionMontsame, February 18

 

Centerra Gold reports Q4 net loss on Kyrgyz impairment charge

TORONTO, February 20 (miningweekly.com) – TSX-listed Centerra Golds wung to a fourth-quarter loss, mainly impacted by a significant impairment charge on its Kyrgyz cash generating unit, fewer ounces produced and sold and lower realised gold prices.

The Toronto-based miner, which currently operated its flagship Kumtor mine, in Kyrgyzstan, and the Boroo mine, in Mongolia, late on Thursday reported a net loss of $11.3-million, or $0.05 a share, for the three months ended December 31, compared with net earnings of $106.6-million, or $0.45 a share, for the same period in 2013.

Centerra booked a $111-million, or $0.47 a share, goodwill impairment charge on the Kumtor mine, as a result of decreasing the reserves and resources at the mine following negative production reconciliation in 2014, developing a new resource model for the Kumtor central pit and design changes to the central pit, resulting from a new resource model and flattening certain of the pit slopes.

Centerra had been in talks with the Kyrgyz government for more than a year on a deal that would involve the State swapping its 32.7% stake in Centerra for half of a joint venture that would control the gold deposit.

"We are in the process of negotiating the definitive agreements to implement the restructuring as described in the heads of agreement signed on January 18, 2014, and are continuing discussions with the Kyrgyz government in this regard," president and CEO Ian Atkinson advised.

For the full year, the company recorded a net loss of $44.1-million, or $0.19 a share, compared with net earnings of $157.7-million, or $0.67 a share, in 2013.

During the fourth quarter, Centerra's cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments increased by $157.6-million to $562-million from $404.4-million at the end of September. As at December 31, Centerra had drawn $76-million on its $150-million revolving credit facility with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, leaving a balance of $74-million undrawn.

Gold output for the fourth quarter declined 17% to 301 236 oz poured. The decrease was the result of processing lower grades from ore mined from cutback 16 in 2014 compared with the ore from cutback 15, which was processed in the fourth quarter of 2013. During the quarter, Kumtor's head grade was 7.4 g/t, with a recovery of 82.2%, compared with 8.88 g/t and a recovery of 84.1% for the same quarter in 2013.

At Boroo, Centerra recorded lower output in the three-month period, as it processed lower feed grades through the mill until it ultimately exhausted its stockpiled ore in early December. Fewer ounces were also recovered from the heap leach operation as it transitioned from primary to secondary leaching midway through 2014.

For 2015, Centerra forecast consolidated gold output in the range of 480 000 oz to 535 000 oz, excluding any potential output from its Gatsuurt project, also in Mongolia.

The company achieved exploration success at the Oksüt project, in Turkey, where it lifted the compliant measured and indicated resources to about 1.4-million ounces of gold contained in 40-million tonnes at 1.1 g/t gold.

Work on the environmental- and social-impact assessment was progressing as planned and the company reported that it had held its first public meeting regarding the project in August last year. Work on the full feasibility study was also continuing, which Centerra planned to complete by mid-year.

Meanwhile, Centerra's Gatsuurt project, 35 km from its operating Boroo mine, had been designated as a 'mineral deposit of strategic importance' by the Mongolian Parliament. This paved the way for Centerra to move forward within the country's Water and Forest Law, which was why Gatsuurt remained under care and maintenance. The law prohibited mining and exploration activities inwater basin and forest areas.

Centerra also earlier this month announced that it was forming a 50/50 partnership with explorer Premier Gold Mines to jointly own and develop Premier's Trans-Canada property, including the 4.87-million-ounce Hardrockgold project, in the Geraldton-Beardmore greenstone belt of Ontario.

Link to article

Link to CG release

Related:

Centerra Gold Announces Quarterly Dividend of Cdn$0.04 per ShareCenterra Gold, February 19

TD Securities Cuts Centerra Gold to "Reduce," Price Target to C$5.50 (CG)The Carlyle Group, February 23

 

National Security Council issues recommendations on Tavan Tolgoi

February 18 (news.mn) The National Security Council of Mongolia held a meeting on the issues of Tavan Tolgoi, on February 15, and discussed the results of negotiations on Tavan Tolgoi.

More than 350 issues concerning Tavan Tolgoi were discussed and decisions were reached. Minister of Mongolia M. Enkhsaikhan noted that it is necessary to conclude several contracts with the investors, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi Co., Ltd, and state-owned Mongolian Railway.   

For the resolution of Tavan Tolgoi negotiations, meetings have been organized 26 times with the investing consortium. 

The National Security Council of Mongolia has given recommendations to the Government of Mongolia.   

Their recommendations include improving adherence to government resolutions and decisions, to implement immediate projects, conclude investment contracts, to put Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi Co. Ltd securities into economic circulation, and to present the outcomes of the discussion to Parliament and the public.     

Link to article

 

IE has PSC on Block XVI (Nyalga) in Mongolia

Ivanhoe Energy receives delisting notice from Nasdaq following intention to file for bankruptcy

VANCOUVER, Feb. 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Ivanhoe Energy Inc. (TSX: IE; NASDAQ: IVAN) (TSX: IE.DB) announced today that the company received a letter, dated February 20, 2015, from the Listing Qualifications Department of The Nasdaq Stock Market informing the company that, after reviewing the company's news release dated February 20, 2015 regarding its determination to file a Notice of Intention to Make a Proposal pursuant to the provisions of Part III of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and such other information as is publicly available, and in accordance with Nasdaq listing rules, the company's securities will be delisted from The Nasdaq Stock Market.

Accordingly, unless the company requests an appeal of this determination, trading of the company's common stock will be suspended at the opening of business on March 3, 2015, and a Form 25-NSE will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which will remove the company's securities from listing and registration on The Nasdaq Stock Market. The company does not intend to appeal the determination.

Ivanhoe Energy is an independent international heavy-oil exploration and development company focused on pursuing long-term growth using advanced technologies, including its proprietary heavy-oil upgrading process (HTL®). For more information about Ivanhoe Energy Inc., please visit www.ivanhoeenergy.com.

Link to release

Related:

Ivanhoe Energy to file a notice of intention to make a proposal under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (Canada) - Ivanhoe Energy, February 20

 

FMG Mongolia Fund, January 2015: -6.07%

Year

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

2015

-6.07%

-6.07%

2014

-3.70%

2.12%

-5.27%

0.00%

-5.96%

-1.27%

2.36%

1.46%

6.19%

-8.16%

-4.44%

-5.31%

-20.74%

2013

-1.33%

-5.38%

-8.27%

-7.46%

-3.96%

-3.17%

-4.42%

-6.68%

-3.12%

3.22%

-4.40%

3.65%

-34.86%

2012

0.00%

-0.20%

-0.30%

-3.23%

-2.40%

-2.77%

2.63%

-8.13%

-2.56%

-4.66%

-3.26%

7.38%

-17.10%

Link to fund page

 

Pioneer's EMD chief names Mongolia as the offbeat bet to back, doubles exposure

February 24 (citywireglobal.com) Mongolia could overcome commodity-driven headwinds to surprise many emerging market investors to the upside, Pioneer's head of emerging market bonds has said.

Speaking to Citywire GlobalYerlan Syzdykov said he has doubled exposure to the country over the last quarter.

Syzdykov, who now has 1% of his Pioneer Funds Emerging Markets Bond strategy invested in Mongolian sovereigns, said the country has fared well given macro-driven challenges.

'Mongolia has faced some big headwinds given the commodity prices fall. We have seen some adjustments in the local economy, such as a strong currency depreciation, which led to a correction of imbalances,' he said.

Syzdykov said Mongolia has so far had four consecutive months of current account surpluses and the overall economic picture is now on a more positive footing.

'The collapse of imports following the currency depreciation has been strong. On the other side, investors feel more sanguine on the country following the recent discussion with the IMF for a possible aid program,' he said.

Syzdykov previously had one single position in the country, which was commodity-focused Mongolia Mining Corporation. 'It was one of our distressed play and we're still holding that paper.'

From a political perspective, he said the unorthodox text message referendum the government held to resolve the dispute with mining giant Rio Tinto  - which concerned the development one of the world's largest copper and gold mines in Mongolia - has given more legitimacy to the coalition's stance on the matter.

Bulking up on Asia

The Mongolian play is part of part of Syzdykov's constructive view on the Asian region. 'Asia is reaping the benefits from oil commodity prices and will perform well in 2015,' he said.

Syzdykov said Asia makes up one-third of his fund at present, which is up from around 25% at the end of the last quarter.

'We are adding into China, mostly on the corporate side. Valuations are attractive, and, fundamentally speaking, the country will manage to engineer a soft landing with growth around 6.8-6.9% this year,' he said.

Overall, Syzdykov is overweight China and is currently neutral on India. 'We like India from a fundamentals point of view. But it's now a crowded trade, and finding value has become increasingly difficult.'

Oil price storm

Elsewhere in the fund, Syzdykov's overweights in Russia, Nigeria and Brazil have been hit by the oil price fall. 'We were surprised by the sudden drop. Our whole judgement on Russia was based on a stable oil price.'

Syzdykov is still long Russia but will become neutral this year following a series of repayments. In Ukraine, where he had a slight overweight position, he has drifted a bit lower and sold his position in the mining company Metinvest.

In Nigeria, he retained his overweight position, which is rooted in the country's financial sector. He said this is the same for Brazil, where his allocation to infrastructure companies was hit by the Petrobras scandal.

'We think the oil price will stabilise around $60 per barrel, which still justifies our strong underweight allocation in countries such as Venezuela,' he said.

Over the three years to the end of January 2015, the Pioneer Emerging Markets Bond fund returned 35.53%, while its Citywire-assigned benchmark, the MSCI EM index, rose 19.30%.

Link to article

 

In Mongolian gold mine lies a vein of hostility

By JULIE MAKINEN

·         Mongolia's cooling economy prompts a personal poll: cut or spend?

·         In Mongolia's young democracy, many are wary of foreigners bearing investment funds

February 22 (LA Times) Odgerel Tsagaan, a clerk at a cashmere shop here in Mongolia's frigid, bustling capital, received a text message on her cellphone in late January from the recently installed prime minister, asking her advice on the country's economic woes.

It wasn't a prank: After notching the world's fastest GDP growth in 2011 — 17.5% (Mogi: readjusted to 17.3% following change in methodology) — the economy in this resource-rich but sparsely populated nation has slowed sharply, expanding 6.9% last year (Mogi: 7.8%). With slumping global commodity prices, a weakened currency and plunging foreign investment — down 70% from 2013 to 2014 (Mogi: -74%) — the government has been at a loss to reverse the slide.

So Prime Minister Saikhanbileg Chimed took a page from TV talent shows and offered Odgerel and the nation's 3.3 million other cellphone subscribers two options: Push ahead with more foreign investment in the mining sector, or pursue an austerity program, slashing public spending.

"The question was so general, I didn't know how to respond," said Odgerel, 28. "Both seemed like bad choices. I don't think either will help ordinary people much, and prices just keep going up."

Odgerel wasn't the only one flummoxed; only about 10% of those polled answered the unscientific, nonbinding, four-day poll.

According to the government, 56% of respondents said they favored additional foreign investment. That was enough for the prime minister to claim a mandate and propose an amendment to the country's minerals law to try to jump-start stalled projects.

Chief among them is part two of the giant Oyu Tolgoi gold and copper mine in the Gobi desert, which is being developed with the Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto.

The amendment would let the state swap its ownership stakes in strategic deposits like the one at Oyu Tolgoi in return for royalty payments down the road from mine developers. Otherwise, as part owner, Mongolia would have to pony up a substantial portion of the $5-billion construction cost for phase two at Oyu Tolgoi. Mongolia and Rio Tinto have been at loggerheads over how to pay for the expansion.

The stakes are high: Oyu Tolgoi's open-pit mining phase is already operating, but the underground second part is where an estimated 80% of the deposit's total estimated value lies. The International Monetary Fund has calculated that Oyu Tolgoi could account for as much as one-third of Mongolia's gross domestic product in 2021 if it reaches full production by then.

But as a small nation sandwiched between China and Russia — one that threw off communism for democracy in 1990 — Mongolia has many citizens who remain wary of ceding ownership stakes to foreign players.

Adding to the anxiety is nagging environmental concern about Oyu Tolgoi and other projects, and complaints that nomadic herders and others affected by the mines haven't been adequately compensated.

Sukhgerel Durgenson (Mogi: Dugersuren) of the environmental group Oyu Tolgoi Watch called the prime minister's text-message tactic "totally unethical and undemocratic," and charged that his moves to cut spending in December frightened the public into voting against austerity.

"I wanted to give a third opinion, but there was no option for that," she said. "I want to know, how do you want to move forward with mining? How are you going to resolve the outstanding issues?"

On top of efforts to push Oyu Tolgoi's expansion, Sukhgerel said she was concerned about the government's recent announcement that it plans to resume granting mining exploration licenses for tens of thousands of square miles, after canceling 106 such permits in 2013 amid concern about corruption. "We don't know what chaos that will create; there is no capacity to monitor it."

Suggesting, a bit ominously, that the battle could escalate beyond the parliament, she said, "There are groups that believe instead of just showing arms, they should have used them.... Where do you draw the line between terrorism and the right to protect my land? This is not terrorism. This is my right to protect my home and my land.

"I'm not the type that likes to support the groups that like to use force, but if they decide to push ahead with [the amendment], I wouldn't mind joining them. And I wouldn't mind bringing the local communities to join them."

Julian Dierkes, a sociologist at the University of British Columbia who follows Mongolian politics and mining closely, said there is not a particularly strong, coherent movement for "resource nationalism" in Mongolia, though some of the government's sharp and sudden changes to mining regulations over the last decade have come in response to concern about state-owned Chinese companies entering the country.

Overall, he said, Mongolia simply lacks experience with mega-projects and suffers from an information gap vis-a-vis multinational mining companies, leading to policy swings. "Some of this is just trial and error" on the part of Mongolian policymakers, he said.

Even if Saikhanbileg's amendment is approved by the parliament, it's unclear whether Rio Tinto will jump to get Oyu Tolgoi moving forward again immediately, Dierkes said. "I don't see indications that Rio wants to sign anytime soon. Copper prices are down at the moment; I don't think they want to spend $5 billion right away." (Mogi: the amendment has already been passed)

But with elections coming up in 2016, Saikhanbileg has only a year and a half to show results. So the clock is ticking on getting some big project underway, whether it's at Oyu Tolgoi or the giant Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit or another mine. This month, with government finances looking precarious, Saikhanbileg sent out feelers to the International Monetary Fund about possible aid.

Jackson Cox, head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Mongolia, said the recent moves to resume granting exploration licenses, as well as the prime minister's text-message mandate, are positive steps toward enticing foreign investment back to the country.

But those steps have been seriously undercut, Cox said, by a Mongolian court's decision in late January to send three former mining executives — an American, Justin Kapla, and two Filipinos — to prison for five years on charges of tax evasion at their former employer, SouthGobi Resources. SouthGobi, whose largest shareholder is a Rio Tinto subsidiary, was fined $18 million.

The U.S. Embassy has expressed concern about language interpretation issues at the trial and other perceived irregularities. Kapla and his codefendants were barred from leaving Mongolia for years while prosecutors attempted multiple times to bring the case to trial. When the case was ultimately heard, Cox said, the prosecutor changed the sentencing recommendation at the last minute, switching from a fine to prison time.

"Bring it all together and it raises deep concerns on the part of international investors for investing here and putting foreign executives on the ground," Cox said.

Other corporate leaders in the mining business said privately that they believed the sentences would be overturned on appeal.

In the meantime, though, Cox said, he's advocating for the U.S. government to suspend talks on granting Mongolia a second round of development funding under a program called the Millennium Challenge Corp., which works with poor countries "that show they are committed to good governance, economic freedom and investing in their citizens."

The program has funded projects in Mongolia to reduce noncommunicable diseases, build all-weather roads, cut air pollution and bolster vocational education.

"To have a second round of talks now is inappropriate," Cox said. "There's a dark cloud hanging over this country as long as this [tax case] is not resolved."

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Local Market

MSE Trading Report, February 23: Top 20 +0.34%, Turnover ₮59.9 Million

February 23 (MSE)

Link to report

 

MSE News for February 24: Top 20 -0.4% to 13,820.88, Turnover 8.99 Million, T-Bills 22.6 Billion

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) At the Stock Exchange trades on Tuesday, a total of 245 thousand and 967 units of eight JSCs were traded costing MNT 22 billion 616 million 176 thousand and 944.00.

"Hermes center" /10 thousand and 410 units/, "Khokh gan" /755 units/, "APU" /350 units/, "Gobi" /310 units/ and "Baganuur" /136 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value were "Gobi" (MNT two million and 294 thousand), "Suu" (MNT one million and 880 thousand), "Darkhan nekhii" (MNT one million and 700 thousand), "Hermes center" (MNT one million 458 thousand and 170) and "APU" (MNT one million and 262 thousand).

The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 361 billion 817 million 887 thousand and 926. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 13,820.88, decreasing 0.40% and the all index of MSE was 985.40, decreasing 0.24% against the previous day.

Link to article

Link to MSE trading report

 

MSE Primary: 23.4 Billion 12-Week T-Bills With 15.019% Yield Sold

February 24 (MSE) On 24 February 2015, 12 weeks Government retail bonds worth MNT23,388,600,000.00 with 15.019% annual interest rate traded successfully on primary market at Mongolian Stock Exchange.

Bellow member brokerage companies participated in the bond trading as follows:

Link to release

 

MSE Primary: 898 Billion 28-Week T-Bills with 15.745% Yield Sold

February 17 (MSE) On 17 February 2015, 28 weeks Government retail bonds worth MNT898,700,000.00 with 15.745% annual interest rate traded successfully on primary market at Mongolian Stock Exchange. 

Bellow member brokerage companies participated in the bond trading as follows: 

Link to release

 

Hermes Centre JSC Announces 320 Million Dividend (95% of 2014 Profit, 4.07/Share)

February 24 (MSE) "Hermes Centre" JSC's Board of Directors meeting held on 12 February 2015, and made a decision to distribute sum of MNT 320.0 million or 95% of total net profit to their shareholders as a dividend with MNT4.07 per share.

In addition, they decided to set 2015 shareholder meeting, which will be held on 15 April 2015.

Link to release

 

104 MSE Firms File 2014 Results So Far

Company name

Symbol

Description

Publish date

Download

1

B D Sec

BDS

2014 Year end

2015-02-24

2

Dulaan sharyn gol

DSH

2014 Year end

2015-02-24

3

Altai

ALA

2014 Year end

2015-02-24

4

Mongolyn Gegee

GGE

2014 Year end

2015-02-23

5

Bulgan Undarga

BUN

2014 Year end

2015-02-17

6

Darkhan Khuns

DHU

2014 Year end

2015-02-17

7

Talkh-Chikher

TCK

2014 Year end

2015-02-17

8

Suu

SUU

2014 Year end

2015-02-17

9

Sharyn Gol

SHG

2014 Year end

2015-02-17

10

Ulaanbaatar dulaany suljee

UDS

2014 Year end

2015-02-17

11

Dalanzadgad DTsS

DZS

2014 Year end

2015-02-17

12

Buudain Tsatsal

CCA

2014 Year end

2015-02-17

13

Sonsgolon Barmat

SSG

2014 Year end

2015-02-16

14

Mongoliin khugjil undesnii negdel

HAM

2014 Year end

2015-02-16

15

Makhimpex

MMX

2014 Year end

2015-02-16

16

APU

APU

2014 Year end

2015-02-16

17

Eurofeu Asia

SOI

2014 Year end

2015-02-16

18

Mon It Buligar

MBG

2014 Year end

2015-02-13

19

Mongeo

MOG

2014 Year end

2015-02-13

20

Erdenet Autozam

EAZ

2014 Year end

2015-02-13

21

Juulchin Gobi

JGV

2014 Year end

2015-02-13

22

Dornod autozam

DAZ

2014 Year end

2015-02-13

23

Darkhan Hotel

DZG

2014 Year end

2015-02-13

24

Bayanbogd

BBD

2014 Year end

2015-02-13

25

Telecom Mongolia

MCH

2014 Year end

2015-02-13

26

Merex JSC

MRX

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

27

Olloo

OLL

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

28

Mongol makh expo

DLG

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

29

KHAABZ

HBZ

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

30

Khorin Khoyordugaar Baaz

AHH

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

31

Azyk

ALD

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

32

Ingettolgoi

INT

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

33

Uvs Chatsargana

CHR

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

34

Gan khiits

GHC

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

35

Khasu Mandal

HSR

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

36

Tsuutaij

HJL

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

37

Arig gal

EER

2014 Year end

2015-02-12

38

Bayalag Nalaikh

BNB

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

39

Technicimport

TEX

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

40

Darkhan Metallurgical Plant

DTU

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

41

Khungun beton

HBT

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

42

Dornod Impex

DIM

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

43

Bukhug

BHG

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

44

Bluesky Securities

BSKY

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

45

Ulaanbaatar tsakhilgaan tugeekh suljee

UTS

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

46

Durvun-Uul

DRU

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

47

Baganuur

BAN

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

48

Nalaikhyn dulaany stants

NDS

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

49

Baganuur, zuun umnut busiin tsakhilgaan tugeekh suljee

BZO

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

50

Ulzii-Dundgobi

ULZ

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

51

Gan Kherlen

HZB

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

52

Ulsyn ikh delguur

UID

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

53

Bayan Aldar

VIK

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

54

Berkh Uul

BEU

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

55

HBOil

HBO

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

56

Khusug Trade

HSG

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

57

Khot development

SDT

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

58

Naco tulsh

NKT

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

59

UB-BUK

BUK

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

60

Ariljaa Impex

ALI

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

61

Ulaanbaatar khivs

UBH

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

62

Mongolia development resources

MDR

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

63

Gutal

GTL

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

64

Khargia

HAG

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

65

Mongol shevro

MVO

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

66

Khukh gan

HGN

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

67

Khorgo Khairkhan

CHE

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

68

Nekheesgui Edlel

NXE

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

69

Tsagaantolgoi

TSA

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

70

Zoos goyol

ZOO

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

71

Moninjbar

MIB

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

72

Sor

SOR

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

73

Gobi Financial Group

GFG

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

74

Binse

BHR

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

75

Euroasia Capital Holding JSC

SUN

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

76

Digital catalist

BAZ

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

77

Erchim Bayan-Ulgii

BOE

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

78

E Trans logistics

ETR

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

79

Gobi

GOV

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

80

Atar-Urguu

ATR

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

81

Altain zam

AZH

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

82

Bishrelt Industrial

HHC

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

83

Goviin Undur

JGL

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

84

Dulaany tsakhilgaan stants IV

DSD

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

85

Gazar Suljmel

SUL

2014 Year end

2015-02-11

86

Genco tour bureau

JTB

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

87

Kharkhorin

HHN

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

88

Talyn Gal

TAL

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

89

Materialimpex

MIE

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

90

Mongol Shir

MSR

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

91

Selenge Ar кhuvch

ARH

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

92

Shinest

NRS

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

93

Erdenetiin dulaany tsakhilgaan stants

EDS

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

94

Darkhan dulaany tsakhilgaan stants

DAS

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

95

Asia Pacific Properties

APP

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

96

Machine mechanism

MMH

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

97

Mongol savkhi

UYN

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

98

Takhi Ko

TAH

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

99

Tulpar

TLP

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

100

Tavilga

TVL

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

101

Mon Nab

MNB

2014 Year end

2015-02-10

102

Hermes centre

HRM

2014 Year end

2015-02-09

103

Dulaany tsakhilgaan stants III

DGS

2014 Year end

2015-02-09

104

Dulaany tsakhilgaan stants II

DKS

2014 Year end

2015-02-09

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Economy

Early morning bank rates: TDB (Buy 1,970 Sell 1,985), Khan (Buy 1,973 Sell 1,985), Golomt (Buy 1,972 Sell 1,985), XacBank (Buy 1,973 Sell 1,985), State Bank (Buy 1,973 Sell 1,986)  

BoM MNT Rates: Tuesday, February 24 Close

 

 

2/24

2/23

2/18

2/17

2/16

2/13

2/12

2/11

2/10

2/9

USD

1,975.95

1,974.69

1,973.57

1,968.61

1,965.08

1,961.42

1,961.25

1,957.58

1,956.17

1,951.09

EUR

2,238.65

2,242.85

2,250.36

2,234.37

2,245.50

2,241.51

2,221.51

2,215.88

2,217.32

2,213.41

CNY

315.89

315.69

315.51

314.73

314.47

314.30

314.08

313.61

313.39

312.24

GBP

3,053.83

3,038.26

3,030.42

3,023.88

3,033.79

3,016.66

2,988.06

2,986.39

2,981.79

2,977.66

RUB

31.21

31.24

31.57

31.32

31.47

30.14

29.61

29.50

29.86

29.71

MNT vs USD, CNY in last 1 year:

Link to rates

 

BoM FX auction: Declines US$28.2m, CNY30m bids, accepts $37.8m MNT swap offers

February 24 (Bank of Mongolia) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on February 24th, 2015 the BOM has received bid offers of USD 28.2 million and CNY 30.0 million from local commercial banks and BOM has not accepted the offer.

On February 24th, 2015, The BOM has received MNT Swap agreement bid offer in equivalent to USD 37.8 from local commercial banks and accepted the offer.

See also:

·         FX Auction Statistics

Link to release

 

BoM FX auction: US$10m, CNY36m sold, accepts $10.5m MNT, $20m USD swap offers

February 18 (Bank of Mongolia) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on February 18th, 2015 the BOM has received bid offers of USD 46.0 million and CNY 64.0 million from local commercial banks. BOM has sold USD 10.0 million and CNY 36.0 million.

On February 18th, 2015, The BOM has received MNT Swap agreement bid offer in equivalent to USD 10.5 and USD Swap agreement bid offer of USD 20.0 million from local commercial banks and accepted the offer.

See also:

·         FX Auction Statistics

Link to release

 

BoM FX auction: US$47.8m, CNY92m bids declined, accepts $16m MNT, $20m USD swap bids

February 17 (Bank of Mongolia) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on February 17th, 2015 the BOM has received bid offers of USD 47.8 million and CNY 92.0 million from local commercial banks and BOM has not accepted the offer.

On February 17th, 2015, The BOM has received MNT Swap agreement bid offer in equivalent to USD 16.0 million and USD Swap agreement bid offer of USD 20.0 million from local commercial banks and accepted the offer.

See also:

·         FX Auction Statistics

Link to release

 

BoM issues 33.5 billion 4-week bills at 13.5%, total outstanding 33.5 billion

February 16 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 4 week bills worth MNT 33.5 billion at a weighted interest rate of 13.50 percent per annum. /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release

 

BoM issues 82 billion 1-week bills at 13%, total outstanding +45.6% to ₮347.4 billion

February 23 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 82 billion at a weighted interest rate of 13.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release

 

GoM Treasury Auction: 50 Billion 12-Weeks Bills Sold at Discount

February 18 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 12 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 60.0 billion MNT. Face value of 50.0 billion MNT /out of 50.0 billion MNT bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 15.019%.

Please find expanded information from Table.


Announced amount /by MNT/

60,000,000,000

Received bid amount /by MNT

50,000,000,000

Sold amount /by MNT/

50,000,000,000

Weighted average yield

15.019%

Maximum yield of fulfilled bids

15.900%

Minimum yield of fulfilled bids

14.880%

Link to release

 

Consolidated Balance Sheet of Banks, January 2015: Assets Fall 8.7% MoM, Up 3% YoY

February 17 (Bank of Mongolia)

 Assets

1/31/2014

3/31/2014

6/30/2014

9/30/2014

12/31/2014

1/31/2015

Bank reservers

2,342,226.4

2,577,682.2

2,311,039.5

2,290,323.4

3,012,085.1

2,477,190.8

Central bank bills

1,213,478.1

1,102,311.1

853,934.4

602,223.7

852,983.5

382,390.4

Foreign assets

802,999.7

1,019,760.1

910,633.4

1,154,110.5

675,079.7

855,210.3

Government securities

1,801,185.2

2,058,340.2

2,210,502.0

2,081,986.6

2,088,072.2

2,095,960.7

Other securities

468,636.3

232,454.2

230,912.5

256,431.4

343,384.6

833,919.5

Loans

10,961,226.9

11,332,387.3

12,241,976.4

12,551,158.7

12,440,925.9

12,027,220.7

  In domestic currency

7,838,376.5

8,199,695.7

9,044,057.5

9,575,990.2

9,564,409.0

9,133,124.0

  In foreign currency

3,122,850.4

3,132,691.6

3,197,918.9

2,975,168.5

2,876,516.9

2,894,096.7

  Non-performing loans

580,243.9

592,915.4

565,318.2

588,623.7

623,937.9

655,653.4

Total Assets

20,023,630.7

20,708,468.5

21,419,492.4

20,937,808.3

22,582,376.8

20,623,003.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liabilities

1/31/2014

3/31/2014

6/30/2014

9/30/2014

12/31/2014

1/31/2015

Current Accounts

2,530,840.5

2,216,978.9

2,396,081.6

2,563,942.9

2,756,515.1

2,285,537.2

  In domestic currency

1,343,838.8

1,187,501.5

1,290,979.1

1,300,201.8

1,317,460.1

1,110,259.2

  In foreign currency

1,187,001.8

1,029,477.5

1,105,102.5

1,263,741.0

1,439,055.1

1,175,278.1

Deposits

6,839,240.0

7,150,158.4

7,095,349.9

6,929,733.7

7,335,168.3

7,515,470.5

  In domestic currency

4,939,028.0

5,157,205.3

5,653,895.8

5,170,615.6

5,014,664.3

5,014,665.3

  In foreign currency

1,900,212.0

1,992,953.2

1,441,454.0

1,755,426.1

1,691,068.7

1,691,069.7

Foreign liabilities

1,886,418.3

2,034,147.1

2,048,487.8

2,216,381.9

2,491,301.7

2,488,373.9

Government deposits

1,196,369.8

1,535,041.1

1,680,166.3

1,844,565.8

1,564,985.2

1,566,685.0

Total Liabilities

18,607,200.3

19,171,958.2

19,625,597.7

19,030,610.0

20,448,108.6

18,471,164.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capital

1,416,430.4

1,536,510.2

1,793,894.7

1,907,198.4

2,134,268.2

2,151,839.0

  Profit/loss of current year

23,771.9

63,125.1

283,827.0

358,895.3

325,892.1

27,062.4

Link to full table

 

BoM Monthly Statistical Bulletin, January 2015

February 18 (Bank of Mongolia) --

Link to report

 

Mongolia's Foreign Trade Review, January 2015

February 23 (Bank of Mongolia) --

Total trade turnover: $720.0 millions

As of Jan 2015 the total cumulative trade turnover increased by 9.4% (USD 61.7 millions) from that of the previous year and reached USD 720.0 millions. The increase in the trade turnover was due to the increase in exports by USD 151.5 millions.

The structure of the trade flows with the neighboring trade partners is as following: (i) trade with PRC: 65.6% or USD 472.7 millions and (ii) trade with Russia: 12.3% or USD 88.3 millions. The trade vol-ume between Mongolia and China increased by 13.0% and the trade volume between Mongolia while Russia decreased by 2.2%.

Trade balance: $225.4 million

As of Jan 2015, the cumulative trade balance improved by USD 241.3 millions from that of the previous year and reached USD 225.4 millions. During the reporting period the total exports in-creased by 47.2% from that of the previous year, imports de-creased by 26.6% from that of the previous year, thus the trade balance improved by USD 241.3 millions.

The value of the three-month moving average of the difference of annual growth rates of exports and imports has been decreasing recent years (Picture 1 shows that the annual growth rates of ex-ports and imports have been declining since October 2011).

Trade balance of paid trade flows: $223.7 million  

The state of the trade balance of paid trade flows is one of the main variables that determines the pressure on the domestic foreign exchange market.

As of Jan 2015, the trade balance of paid trade flows reached USD 223.7 millions. During the reporting period, paid imports decreased by 29.0%, and paid exports increased by 41.9% from that of previous year.

Terms of trade: 1.770 (test estimation)

As of Jan 2015, terms of trade index (2012 base year) increased by 21.4% from that of the previous year and reached 1.770.

This increase in the terms of trade is mainly attributed to the de-crease in import prices of fuels and machinery and increase in ex-port price of copper concentrate.

EXPORT

Composition: 89% + 11%

The share of mineral exports in total exports increased by 1.7 points from that of the previous year and reached 89%.

Exports of coal, copper concentrate, iron ore and concentrate and crude oil have a weight of nearly 76% of total exports and 86% of mining exports.

In addition, these 4 products' share in the mining exports increased by 4.3 points from that of the previous year, share in the total exports increased by 2.4 points.

Growth: +47.2%

Mongolian export increased by 47.2% from that of the previous year, which was mainly affected by increase in mineral exports. Exports of copper concentrate increased by 179%, which accounted for 59% in growth of mining export. On the other hand, coking coal, iron ore and crude oil export decreased by nearly 37%, 34% and 33% respectively, which accounted for 17% decrease in the growth of mining export.

Changes

As of Jan 2015, Mongolian export increased by 151.5 million USD from that of the previous year. It is affected by the increase of export commodities' quantities (USD 132.3 millions) and increase in export commodities' prices (USD 19.2 millions) .

Because of the increase in crude oil quantity and copper concentrate export, mining export increased by 189 millions USD. On the other hand, because of decrease in prices of coal, iron ore and crude oil, mining export declined by 62 million USD.

Cashmere, cashmere products' export decreased by 3 million USD, while other exports increased by 26 million USD.

World market prices for primary commodities

As of Jan 30 2015, gold price reached 1,283.8 USD, decreased by 3.2% from that of the previous year and by 8.4% from that of the last month.

As of Jan 30 2015, copper and iron ore prices reached 5.541.0 USD and 64.0 USD, decreased by 13.0%, 7.2% from that of the previous month respectively.

IMPORT

Composition: 34% + 31% + 25%

As of Jan 2015, 34% of total imports were consumer goods, 31% were capital goods and 25% were fuels.

Share of the capital goods in total imports decreased by 6% from that of the previous year, while the share of fuels increased by 6%.

Growth: -26.6%

Mongolian imports decreased by 26.6% from that of the previous year. Main contributors of this decrease were capital goods de-crease, which equals to 14% of the total decrease, and consumer goods imports which equals to 8% of the total decrease.

Capital goods and consumer goods imports decreased by 38% (47 millions USD) and 23% (26 millions USD) respectively. Thus total import decreased from that of the previous year.

Breakdown

Main contributors of decrease in consumer goods import were both in durables and non-durables. Passenger cars import de-creased by 29% (8 millions USD) and foods import decreased by 22% (10 millions USD).

Capital goods import decreased by 38% (47 millions USD) which was mainly contributed by 38% decrease in machinery, equipment and supplies (30 million USD). In addition, import of construction materials decreased by 44% (13 million USD) from that of previ-ous year.

Intermediate goods and industrial materials import decreased by 35% (14 millions USD).

Fuels import decreased by 6% (4 millions USD). The border price of oil has been decreasing since the end of 2013 (Figure 8). In parallel with global oil market price, it declined sharply in last 4 months, reaching the lowest level since 2010.

Import of the consumer goods

The growth of consumer goods import, calculated by 3 month moving average method, is constantly declining. /Figure 7/.

Even though the import growth of non-durable consumer goods was relatively stable, that of durable consumer goods was declining by the bigger phase.

Link to report

 

Mongolia Records Negative Sales Managers' Index for 12 Consecutive Months

SMI signals continuing deterioration in domestic demand in February

·         Future Business Confidence deteriorates further

·         Market Growth and Product Sales continue to decrease

·         Staffing Levels point to weak labour market conditions

February 20 (World Economics) The World Economics Sales Managers' Index (SMI) for Mongolia is by far the most up-to-date monthly assessment of business conditions in the country. 

Overview

The Headline Index (calculated from an average of the Business Confidence, Market Growth, Sales, Prices and Staffing Indexes) registered 32.9, down from 34.6 in January, reflecting an on-going weakness in business activity in the country. The Index has been in negative territory for the past 12 consecutive months. An index above 50 indicates growth, while an index below 50 indicates contraction. 

That said, official figures showed that Mongolia's GDP growth has slowed to 7.8% in 2014, down from 11.6% in 2013. According to the Mongolian Statistical Office, the recent decline in GDP growth has been caused by an overall decline in FDI (72% year-on-year) and weak global commodity prices. 

Business Confidence

The Business Confidence Index, which measures how Sales Managers' expect the economy to perform over the coming months, fell to 28.4 in February from 28.9 in January. This marks the fifth month of successive declines. Surveyed managers cited the continuing decline in foreign direct investment (FDI) and the notable decline in government spending as the main factors driving confidence levels down. 

Market Growth 

The Market Growth Index came in at 26.4 in February, down from 29.3 in January, the third month that the Index has declined. The latest index value of 26.4 signalled that growth in the marketplace continues to contract at a rapid pace. This is in line with the declining trend in the Business Confidence and Product Sales Indexes. 

Product Sales 

The Product Sales Index fell for the fourth month running in January to register a value of 28.9, down from 31.1 in December. Panel members commented that the ongoing increase in the price for imported goods (in particular, basic foodstuffs and construction materials) due to the sustained decline of the Tugrik against the USD continued to drive monthly sales down. 

Prices Charged 

The Prices Charged Index fell to 45.1 in February, down from 46.1 in January, suggesting that Sales Managers continue to lower prices in order to boost demand in the marketplace. However, the decline in prices charged, can be mainly attributed to the constant fall in global commodity prices. 

Staffing Levels 

The Staffing Index stood at 38.8 in February, down from 39.7 in January. This indicates an ongoing weakness in labour market conditions and that that sales managers continued to decrease payrolls rapidly. The trend has also been reflected in the public sector with recent layoffs in an attempt by the government to reduce costs. 

Summary

World Economics Chief Executive Ed Jones commented:

"February's data signalled a continuing deterioration in business activity in the Mongolian economy. All indexes continued to contract at an accelerating pace, with the product Sales and the Market Growth Indexes registering the sharpest falls. 

Surveyed companies reported that the on-going decline in foreign direct investment partly due to the un-ending dispute between the government and Rio Tinto over the copper and mining project continue to undermine business confidence. They also reported that the slowdown in commodity prices is also affecting domestic demand." 

Link to report

 

Mongolia Has a Business Plan: It's Called Singapore

By Michael Kohn

February 25 (Bloomberg) -- One of the men tasked with making Mongolia attractive to investors again reckons he'll need about six years to do the job and is looking at Singapore as a model.

Byambasaikhan Bayanjargal said he has a "mountain to climb" in cleaning house at Erdenes Mongol LLC, the umbrella company he now heads that holds the government's stakes in businesses that control Mongolia's deposits of copper, coal, gold and other minerals.

In an interview in the capital Ulaanbaatar on Feb. 17, Byambasaikhan said he'll restructure Erdenes management and finances, get audits from the big four accounting firms, raise overseas capital and sell shares in some of its assets to the public.

A "Mongolian Temasek," he said in explaining his vision for the company, a reference to Temasek Holdings Pte in Singapore that manages about S$223 billion ($164 billion) in investments on behalf of the government.

"My job is find out what the issues are and then appoint proper people to restructure these companies," said Byambasaikhan, 37, a graduate of George Washington's Elliott School of International Affairs. "My view is that it's a six year job."

Byambasaikhan was handed the task by Mongolia's Prime Minister Saikhanbileg Chimed who came into power last November after his predecessor was ousted in a no-confidence vote.

Ending Slump

Saikhanbileg formed a coalition government and made clear his priority was the economy and sorting out a smorgasboard of conflicts with foreign investors.

In 2011, Mongolia's economy grew at a world-beating 17.3 percent as the resource-rich country attracted billions of dollars in investment by some of the biggest mining companies, Rio Tinto Group among them.

Economic growth slowed to 7.8 percent in 2014, a healthy clip for most countries, but the first year of single digit expansion in Mongolia since 2010. The currency, the tugrik, has slumped 42 percent over the past 24 months in tandem with a more than 80 percent plunge in foreign direct investment.

Much of what's turned investors off Mongolia is reflected in Rio Tinto's operations in a copper and gold mine it controls known as Oyu Tolgoi.

Legal Conflicts

Development of the mine -- the country's single biggest investment with $6.6 billion spent and another $5.4 billion planned -- has stalled over disputes on profit sharing, taxes and management. Similar conflicts have held up development of the $4 billion Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in the Gobi Desert.

Dozens of local and foreign mining companies have halted operations after more than 100 exploration licenses were revoked when the official in charge of distributing them was convicted on corruption charges and jailed.

Mongolia's image wasn't helped last month when a court in Ulaanbaatar jailed three foreign businessmen for as long as six years for tax evasion. Foreign and Mongolian business groups said the case was flawed as did Mongolia's President Elbegdorj Tsakhia, who said some of the judicial procedures were unacceptable.

Byambasaikhan enters this messy picture saying he'll bring in qualified professionals to manage Erdenes Mongol, which holds the government's portion of the Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi mines.

It also has stakes in three other mines, Shivee Ovoo JSC coal mine, Baganuur JSC coal mine and Erdenet Mining Corporation LLC.

Byambasaikhan's "appointment represents a drastic change in direction for Erdenes Mongol, reflective of Prime Minister Saikhanbileg's determination to reignite the economy before next year's elections," Chris MacDougall, Managing Director of Mongolian Investment Banking Group LLC, said by e-mail.

'Beyond Strained'

"At a time when relations with foreign stakeholders are beyond strained, Mr. Byambasaikhan's true value will be demonstrated in being the nation's most trusted intermediary," MacDougall said.

Byambasaikhan's career includes a six-year stint in project finance at the Asian Development Bank, which sent him to Central Asia to develop energy projects. In 2010, he moved back to Mongolia to manage the $120 million Salkhit wind farm project as the CEO of Newcom Group.

"It's good to have someone who understands the business and who has a clear vision of what needs to be done, in particular on transparency," said Matthieu D. Le Blan, the resident representative for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

"By appointing strong senior management those assets can show their true value. Also, it will serves as a bit of a test of transparency for a wealth fund," Le Blan said.

Byambasaikhan said investment decisions on Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi mines are the two most important priorities for his country this year, adding that they "will open doors for others to do their business."

Meantime, he's urging investors to plant a flag in Mongolia before the next boom cycle.

"Once things take off you are better positioned than the next guy, because you know the country, you know the business and you know the people who are running the companies," he said. "So building these relationships now make sense."

Link to article

 

Feeling (Politically) Pessimistic for Coming Year

By Julian Dierkes

February 18 (Mongolia Focus) It is Tsagaan Sar, so happy new year to all of Mongolia and to Mongolians! Сар шинэдээ сайхан шинэлээрэй

What will the year of the sheep bring? The sheep Gestalt (зурхай) seems to expect a windy Spring and windy early parts to seasons, good pasture this summer, and lots of snow in winter (but no dzud). This year's cowboy is an older person suggesting a peaceful year for the elderly, wives and cattle, but tough times for younger Mongolians, especially infants, and poor people. The Khaan will be issuing strict decrees.

While I have been perpetually optimistic about Mongolia's development and future (and still remain optimistic on the long-term prospects), I'm feeling more and more depressed about the current situation, and some worries about democracy and the 2016 parliamentary election are beginning to creep into my thoughts.

Current Crisis

After a brief moment of hopefulness ("maybe Saikhanbileg will be able to rally this super-coalition around real change", "maybe Saikhanbileg will turn out to be a different kind of leader"), things currently look pretty dismal.

The proposal to swap strategic deposit equity for a special royalty rate looked like an initially hopeful sign, at last a step that is a departure from previous policy, but has some constructive/positive potential. Now, that hope is fading.

Why?

·         On Oyu Tolgoi, it doesn't look like Rio Tinto is likely to be interested in this offer. They appear to be in a wait-and-see mode on Phase II especially given the high up-front investment required for the underground development and current commodity prices.

·         Is there someone else who would want to take over the government's 34% stake? Quite possibly since the resource is obviously still very attractive, but one would imagine that any bidder would require a significant risk discount. Ch(in)alco would seem like an obvious candidate. Would Friedland be tempted to stage a "comeback"?

·         Even if there was a buyer for the government stake, what would this "special royalty" be? It seems like this would lead to yet another round of interminable negotiations with the government working at a very significant information/experience deficit so the setting of this rate would be very difficult.

·         Tavan Tologi has an even greater potential to produce some cash flow for the government quickly, but its governance has been so mired in government interference, competition between private and government businesses, foreign interests, etc. that it remains hard to think that a solution is imminent, esp. when Saikhanbileg's honeymoon has come to a quick end, and the DP continues its current self-destructive tendencies.

·         Even Boroo's Gatsuurt project (of obvious interest from a Canadian perspective) continues its roller coaster ride through regulation.

In the meantime, the fiscal crisis and looming debt repayments will make it difficult to continue to replace private investment with state programs like the mortgage subsidy, etc., but demands for such spending might increase from the population as growth from private investment will be limited. This seems like a situation rife to be exploited by populism, esp. as the 2016 parliamentary election draws nearer. That temptation in turn raises the spectre of a vicious inflation-debt-spending spiral that is likely to only be broken by significant private investment, most likely Phase II at OT.

Party Politics

It sure seems like the DP has made a real mess of its opportunity in government. Not all this is the government's fault of course, commodity prices, for example, are out of its control. The government also continues to operate with a significant information deficit vis-a-vis mining and global capacity markets. Capacity has declined, if anything, due to the DP's massive personnel shifts towards its own people in virtually all positions.

At the same time, the DP has clearly been hamstrung by its factionalism which has prevented real action even in areas that may seem ripe or attractive for action. There's not much optimism in me in terms of hoping that Saikhanbileg or any of the other crew of DP leaders would be very likely to be able to combat this factionalism in any effective manner.

The MPP also offers no particular policy proposals or direction that would make any difference, so its participation in the super-coalition seems to be more out of a sense of obligation to the country (obviously a very attractive trait in politicians) and some willingness to address some concrete challenges. However, the MPP will obviously leave the coalition before the beginning of the election campaign (the DP left a grand coalition six months before the election in 2012 so the same seems likely a year from now), if the current coalition even lasts that long. If the MPP emerges as the winner of the parliamentary election in 2016 (though perhaps falling short of a majority), at least its party discipline allows more decisive action than the DP's factionalism.

Democracy

The current situation then raises some worries about democracy. I have been a great admirer of the achievements of Mongolian democracy, in part on the basis of my experience as an election monitor in the last four elections.

The strength of Mongolian democracy has been rooted in two factors (not exclusively, but I do think these are very important) and it will be good to remember these when the 25th anniversary of the resignation of the MPRP Politburo comes next month:

1.    The 1990 revolution was home-made. Yes, some of the revolutionaries at the time (including people like Pres Elbegdorj, Ulaanbaatar mayor and likely next president Bat-Uul) clearly brought some reformist ideas back with them from studying abroad, but ultimately and with the Soviet Union/Russia's hands-off stance at the time, the change was orchestrated by Mongolians for Mongolians. There was some interest in these changes in Europe and N America, of course, but very little involvement in the design of the constitution and democratic institutions throughout the 1990s.

2.    The institutionalization of democracy preceded the mining boom. Of course, Erdenet and other projects had been operating for decades, but the sense that natural resources might be an avenue to real development and prosperity did not arrive until the Oyu Tolgoi discovery, I would argue.

And now? No one would be surprised to hear of voters' frustration with political parties in Mongolia. Lots of promises, but mostly chaos for the past 10 years. Some real improvements (economic growth, etc.), of course, but not nearly to the level promised or to Mongolia's potential.

For now, there are no real arguments for a "strong hand", i.e. some kind of benevolent authoritarian figure, nor a suitable candidate, but it seems like the conditions for such an argument are developing.

My main concern and worry at the moment is thus for the 2016 parliamentary election. There are a variety of proposals floating around for the "reform" of the electoral system. Ditching electronic counting, moving away from the mixed PR-first-past-the-post system, etc.

If the experience of previous elections is anything to go by, any reform proposals will be considered more seriously "at the last minute", i.e. at the end of 2015. Changes will thus be administratively very difficult to implement and produce a certain amount of chaos.

Another concern is that the DP might well be fairly desperate. If nothing really changes in the next year, it will look likely that the DP will be trounced in the election. Will they resist temptation to try to prevent such a thumping through fiddling with the election?

The Electoral Commission is no more independent now than it had been in the past. The DP has clearly "taken over" the security apparatus with various agencies and has been accused of using agencies like the Anti-Corruption Agency (АТГ) as a political tool.

All in all then, I think there's enough reason to be concerned about the current situation that I certainly hope that international election observers will be involved again, ideally in a well-organized efforts like the OSCE's, but that that observation might focus a bit less on polling stations, and instead more on the general regulatory framework to the parliamentary election.

Solutions

There are no easy solutions and I wouldn't pretend that I could change things overnight if given the opportunity either (this just to dampen speculation that I'll be running in the 2016 election).

However, I am fairly convinced that education of all kinds is the solution.

Education to build capacity in parliament, in the government, among policy-analysts. Education has to be a tool to overcome the information deficit vis-a-vis global capitalism.

Education of the people also seems like an important antidote to populism. Until today, there still hasn't been any concerted attempt through the education system or other channels to raise the general level of awareness of the choices that mineral resources offer. How does the mining industry operate? How does a country benefit from development of the extractive sector? What are the possible revenue streams? What are the environmental and other risks? How can investment make revenue streams sustainable?

These are all questions that Mongolians have been asking themselves and others, but the level of basic understanding of industry and policy dynamics makes it easy for critics and populists to pretend like there are easy solutions and doesn't allow the debate to reach a level of quality where agreement on the options that present themselves (much less on solutions) is possible.

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Politics & Legal

Mongolia parliament passes economic recovery, long name law, debt management bills on last day of autumn session

Ulaanbaatar, February 21 (MONTSAME) The autumn session of the State Great Khural (parliament) adjourned Wednesday.

That day, the session adopted a draft resolution of parliament on measures for overcoming current economic difficulties; draft amendments to the laws on the rule for maintaining the law on prohibiting mineral exploration and extraction near water sources, protected areas and forests, and on mineral resources. Then it ran final discussions of a bill on debt management, other laws, and adopted them.

The MPs also discussed a matter on appointing a head of the General Election Commission (GEC) and State Secretaries of some Ministries. In accordance with votes of majority of the MPs, Ch.Sodnomtseren was re-elected the GEC head, Ts.Boldsaikhan was appointed the GEC's secretary.

A draft resolution of parliament on altering compositions of some Standing committees was adopted as well. After adoption of the documents, the Speaker Z.Enkhbold made remarks to close the parliamentary autumn session of 2014. The spring session is expected to open this April.

Link to article

 

Police forcefully hospitalizes Gatsuurt hunger strikers overnight

By E. Orgil

February 24 (gogo.mn) Save the Noyon Mountain movement strikers were forcefully taken to the hospital last night. After announcement of the dry hunger strike by the movement the officials have moved the police forces to end the strike and forcefully move the protesters to hospital for treatment. This caused havoc among the protesters and police.

Noyon Mountain is located across Batsumber soum, Selenge soum of Tuv aimag and Mandal soum of Selenge aimag. Government decision to allow the mining activities on the site has caused protests from the nationalistic movements.

Noyon Mountain gold deposits estimated at 50 tons are causing threat to the Hunnu era graves and artifacts and the Save the Noyon Mountain movements started hunger strike 12 days ago. On the other hand, archaeologists and scientists of Science Academy of Mongolia have confirmed that the grave sites are located 50 km away from the mining site and that mining activities are no threat to the historical findings.

Although the hunger strike continued for 12 days with no visible results the movement members announced to go on dry hunger strike starting from yesterday. Forces have discontinued the hunger strike last night and forcefully admitted the hunger strikers for treatment in hospital.

There was no one except the sanitation worker cleaning up the hunger site and one police car from Chingeltei Police Department today morning around 8.30AM.

When asked who ordered to take the hunger strikers to hospitals, the police officer on duty at Chingeltei Police Department replied: 'I don't know. I came to my duty at 7.50AM and the site was already clean."

Sanitation worker O.Turuu answer was: "I came here at 6AM today morning and the site was empty. Hunger strikers had one Ger, but today morning they have moved and there was no sign of chaos."

Police General Authority will make official announcement on the forceful disruption of the hunger strike and taking the protestors for treatment at 10.30AM today.

Link to article

Related:

"Police had not forced Noyon Mountain movement strikers"GoGo Mongolia, February 24

 

Mongolian parliament backs bid to end Rio copper mine dispute

By Terrence Edwards

Feb 19 (Reuters) - Mongolia's parliament has backed its new prime minister's plan to resolve a long-running dispute with global miner Rio Tinto this year over plans to expand the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper mine.

The proposal approved by parliament on Wednesday just before the Mongolian Lunar New Year says the government will move to "resolve underground investment issues" and "boost development work" by the second half of 2015, mining ministry spokesman Galsan Bodibilguun said.

Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg is trying to revive foreign investment in large mining projects to bolster the economy, which has suffered from a slump in coal prices and exports and uncertainty over mining policies.

Rio Tinto put on hold plans to dig a $5.4 billion underground mine at Oyu Tolgoi in 2013 due to disputes with the government over cost overruns on the existing open pit mine that will delay revenue the government will get from its 34 percent stake.

The remaining two-thirds is owned by Rio Tinto's Turquoise Hill Resources unit.

Chief Executive Sam Walsh said last week that Rio Tinto had put in a "best and final offer" to resolve the problem last November, which was being considered by the government.

The government is looking to sell down its stake in Oyu Tolgoi in return for royalties, Bodibilguun said. It will need to find a third party to buy it as Rio Tinto said last week it was not interested in increasing its stake.

Link to article

 

Forest law amendment submitted to fight illegal logging

Ulaanbaatar, February 17 (MONTSAME) The Minister of Environment, Green Development and Tourism D.Oyunkhorol MP Tuesday submitted to the Speaker Z.Enkhbold this draft.

It focuses on improving a control over realization of this law and on increasing a civil participation in ceasing illegal logging.

Many countries are paying great attention to saving forests and to rehabilitating forest areas in the present time of global climate changes. According to a 2002 survey by the World Bank, the economic loss caused by illegal logging reached USD 10 billion per year. The crime of illegal logging already has become the second biggest one among ecological crimes. In 2009-2011, some four thous. criminal cases of illegal logging were recorded, and it accounted for 70% of all anti-environment crimes.

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Jackson Cox: "I hope that this will be a year of solving problems"

By B. Narantsogt

February 24 (Mongolian Economy) We talked with Jackson Cox, Founder and Chairman of American Chamber of Commerce in Mongolia or AmCham Mongolia, on what he thinks about the current and future outlook of investment.

What was the process of founding AmCham Mongolia?

AmCham Mongolia was officially established in 2011. I registered the organization and then reached out to a few key American companies that are in Mongolia such as Peabody, GE, and Wagner Asia, and also to Mongolian companies that work closely with American companies, such as Magnai Trade. We have grown quickly since we started. AmCham currently has about 40 corporate members. Most significantly AmCham is working hard–each and every day–to be a meaningful partner for its members and to promote greater commerce between the United States and Mongolia. 

How do you see the business climate of Mongolia unfolding in 2015?

To appreciate the business climate in 2015, you have to first appreciate 2014 and 2013, which were very tough years for the Mongolian economy. What we are seeing right now is the result of what's left of the business community after two years of decline and capital flight. To appreciate the challenges of the current business climate, I think it's important to understand that we are at this point of crisis today due to decisions that were made by policy makers. I don't like to dwell on the past and I'm generally an optimistic person, so I hope that this will be a year of solving problems, and the result of the solutions will allow for a more stable investment environment, a more predictable policy and regulatory environment – one that brings confidence back to the economy. Hopefully, those decisions will be made, and we'll start seeing the positive results from that. I think it's important when we talk like this to be realistic about expectations.

One of AmCham's most successful contributions was advocating for the U.S.-Mongolia Transparency Agreement that was recently ratified by Parliament. What's the importance of the Agreement, and how can it help the economy of Mongolia?

Well, to be fair, AmCham joined the cause very late in the game. Most of the critical work was done by the governments of Mongolia and the United States over many years, and they are to be congratulated for this important milestone. This is a great agreement and I'll tell you why–because everyone benefits. Everyone benefits from a parliament that does not take impulsive decisions affecting commerce and trade. What the Transparency Agreement says, among other things, is that any law dealing with trade and commerce and investment, needs to be first published in Mongolian and English, and announced publically, and have a 60 day period for comment by the private sector, by citizens, to voice opinions about the draft legislation. Also, if you look at what's happening in the Asia region right now, it's amazing how much is happening. Australia just signed free trade agreements with Japan and Korea. Korea, Japan and China are negotiating between themselves; China is negotiating with ASEAN; the United States is negotiating with 12 Asia-Pacific economies on the largest free trade agreement in history called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. What these agreements have in common is that not only do they allow the free trade of goods and services between these economies, but these agreements also set forth very high standard policy agreements—high standards for the protection of intellectual property, environmental protection, labor, and transparency. So the Transparency Agreement between Mongolia and the United States sends a message, loud and clear to the region, that Mongolia is ready to play by the same high standards that all these other countries do. 

How does AmCham promote Mongolia to US companies?

AmCham does a trade mission every June to the United States—we'll be doing one this June. Most of the participants in the trade mission are Mongolian companies who are looking to partner with American companies. We also do it in the region. You don't have to go all the way to the United States to access American companies, because they are working all over the region. AmCham Mongolia is part of an organization called APCAC, the Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce. That's the collection of all the AmChams in the Asia-Pacific region. That group meets regularly, and we'll be going in March to the APCAC annual business summit in Singapore, and we'll be taking people from Mongolia there, too. 

How would you advise Mongolian entrepreneurs who have an idea to develop a service or technology and want to connect successfully with an American or foreign company through an organisation like AmCham?

I would encourage them to do their homework, and find ideas that are marketable. And then really prepare. I think homework and preparation is the advice that I would give. What is an idea that can be successful on the ground in Mongolia, for this economy, for this market? And after that, what would be the best American partner? What American partners have this technology, or have that infrastructure or engineering. I would encourage them to look around the region, and see what is already being done, and being done well and being done successfully. And give us a call. We want to help you.

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Mongolia parliament may vote this week on casino bill to boost economy

BY TERRENCE EDWARDS

Feb 17 (Reuters) - Mongolia's parliament may vote as early as this week on draft legislation to develop multi-billion dollar casinos to lure gamblers away from hubs like Macau, seeking to stimulate a slumping economy and diversify away from the mining industry.

At a meeting on Feb. 12, the country's Cabinet Secretariat approved a draft of a bill that would target private partnerships to build two casinos targeting China's high-roller gamblers, according to an email to Reuters from the Ministry of Justice.

The move comes as countries across Asia from Vietnam to South Korea are building large-scale casino resorts to lure the region's wealthy gamblers, particularly from China, to boost consumer spending, leisure industries and economic growth.

Companies including U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts and Genting Bhd have been keen to expand their footprint in Asia.

Parliament has an opportunity to vote on the bill this week, the ministry told Reuters in the email. However, a vote may not take place before the parliament breaks for recess for Mongolia's lunar new year on Feb. 18.

"Russia, China and Japan are some of the biggest gamblers in the world. Japan and Russia already don't need visas for Mongolia, and Chinese with official passports don't either," said a member of the working party that drafted the bill, who asked not to be named.

The working party member said the bill comes with restrictions that would bar Mongolians from playing at the casinos, similar to countries like Vietnam, South Korea and Cambodia, where locals are not allowed to gamble in the casinos.

China in February announced it will crack down on attempts by foreign casinos to lure its citizens abroad to gamble.

The proposed bill has not specified potential casino locations, but the working party member said one option would be Khushigt International Airport, currently under construction with Japanese partners Mitsubishi Corp and Chiyoda Corp taking lead roles.

The casino would likely be fully owned and operated by private investors as part of a larger effort to create centres for tourism to boost the industry.

"Xi Jinping has plans for restrictions on Macau and business is shrinking now, so hopefully we can get tourists that might have travelled to Macau," said the working party member been involved with putting the bill together.

Mongolia annulled legislation permitting casinos in 2010 because of concerns over corruption and social issues.

The working party, which operates directly under the prime minister, has said it looked at casino legislation in France, the United States, Singapore and Korea before drafting the bill. 

Link to article

Similar:

Mongolia Ready to Battle Macau for Asian Gambling Market – Casino.org, February 22

 

Stanford professor gives lecture on consultative democracy

By B. Khuder

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) A professor at the Department of Communication at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Consultative Democracy Center James S. Fishkin gave a lecture at open discussion themed "Consultative Democracy" on Tuesday in Ulaanbaatar.

Mr Fishkin underlined that a main value of the consultative democracy is a seeking of the most proper solution for any policy by reflecting public opinion in it. The consultative democracy also has a value of providing the public with right information and news, he said.

In order to use this beneficial method, several countries organize consultative polls among people. Such a method has to involve more randomly-selected people, and the public must be provided with balanced information on a specific issue before running the poll. After this, the public polls are collected through paper to conclude the poll. The results are analyzed and informed through the media. This method has been used successfully in Chinese Macau, Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul State, Lazio Region of Italy, and Japan, he said.

The Mayor of Ulaanbaatar city E.Bat-Uul said he will implement this method.

Organized by the Civil Hall at the Presidential Office, the discussion brought together authorities of the capital city and its districts, officials of the government and international organizations. After the lecture they shared views with the guest on ways of ensuring a civil participation in the city.

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'Buudai' Burmaa

By D. Jargalsaikhan

February 22 (UB Post) Twelve years ago the parliament issued the 23rd resolution to approve the government's policy on food and agriculture. The goal of this policy was to bring about intensive development in agriculture and it was aimed at creating a favorable economic and business environment; improving industry efficiency and capacity; ensuring sustainable development in animal husbandry, food, and agriculture; producing ecologically friendly, healthy products, and improving their quality and availability.

The objectives of the policy included increasing the production of major food and agricultural products, ensuring that domestic production meet the domestic need for meat, milk, wheat flour, potatoes, and other vegetables, and reducing imports while increasing exports. The implementation of this policy, which had two phases and has gone through six different governments, is being completed this year. The only question is, what outcomes has this policy delivered?

TODAY

On February 5, there was a big demonstration involving dozens of combine harvesters, tractors, and jeeps in the central square of the capital. At the demonstration, a representative from the Mongolian Crop Farmers Association gave a speech, read their letter addressing the government out loud, holding a microphone, and dumped wheat on the ground at the end of the speech. Crop farmers have demanded that the government free prices, allow exports, and stop importing wheat from abroad, while pointing out that the government spent two years without providing funds for promoting the development of the sector. They say that the crop farming sector, which employs 300,000 people, is owed 70 billion MNT by the government. They criticized the government for buying 40,000 tons of wheat from abroad while claiming that they lack money.

"Wheat refused by the government is offered to all," was what they said when they poured the wheat in the central square. It was a feast for pigeons. Unlike pigeons, people have to wait for the wheat to be processed into flour before consuming it for food. The factories that produce flour from wheat buy wheat of better quality from abroad and mix it with domestic wheat to make their products, because the quality of Mongolia's wheat is subpar and its gluten content does not reach 24 percent.

R.Burmaa, a newly appointed minister of the newly established government, spoke about the wheat issue from a strong point of view. She said that, in order to provide consumers with healthy, safe, and reliable products, import of at least 40,000 tons of the 110,000 tons of wheat to meet market demands will be allowed. She added, "Promotions will only be granted after the quality, rather than the quantity, is verified and the supply to flour factories is confirmed. Wheat will be traded on the agricultural stock exchange. In order to keep the price of wheat stable, there will be a reserve fund in the future."

Minister Burmaa went on to say, "The government has provided support of 460 billion MNT, 126 million of which was in cash, to crop farmers in the last few years. A total of 62 billion MNT in VAT was waived. Also, 50 percent of income tax has been waived. Customs taxes are not imposed on fertilizers and agricultural equipment. Crop farmers are also granted interest-free loans from the fund to support growing crops. About 20 to 30 percent advance payment is given on wheat seeds and the rest is paid for in wheat. Fifty percent advancement is granted on fuels and the rest is paid by wheat in the autumn. Crop farmers and other players in the sector owe 44.2 billion USD, six billion of which was waived, to the fund to support growing crops. Flour factories also owe the government. In total, the total debt has reached about 80 billion MNT." (Source: Daily News, Feb 9, 2015) She named certain companies who benefitted the most from these regulations but are demanding more money.

In 2014, Mongolia harvested a total of 490,000 tons of wheat, which was the highest number in our history. Althought the harvested crop meets the amount we need, it falls short in quality. Why is the crop farming sector demanding 70 billion MNT while owing 80 billion MNT? It is time for us to have a careful look at the cost of the flour we are consuming. It must not be forgotten that these billions of tugrugs waived from taxes could have been spent on building schools and hospitals. We praise our "golden crops", but wheat has actually become more expensive than gold.

PRICES SET BY THE MARKET, NOT BY THE GOVERNMENT

Excessive government regulations, promotions, and price restrictions that put free competition out of play might seem efficient at first. However, it eventually produces enormous costs and breeds corruption. This is being proven by Mongolia's policy and its outcomes.

It is good that Minister Burmaa is going to look at wheat policy and its implementation through an objective lens and tidy up the "bear service" provided by the government in agriculture and animal husbandry. She has the trust of the people because she is a woman in politics, and is one the first ministers who does not own a private business in the sector she is responsible for.

No country has achieved success after their government set prices in short, mid, and long term programs. This approach has only ever helped politicians who preached for increased government control to be re-elected. Almost every sector the government has set prices for has faced bankruptcy.

Voluntary, free trade can only take place in a market where prices are set by the law of supply and demand. Such prices reflect the most accurate and refined information about the market. This kind of accurate information helps consumers and suppliers make their own choices about what products to purchase. When the government gets involved and starts setting prices, this information becomes inaccurate and sends out false signals to everyone in the market. It disrupts the invisible regulation of the market and brings about excessive production, brings down quality standards, and brings about a forced supply of products and services. Eventually, the development of the sector slows down while the companies lose their competitiveness.

The soft loans and promotion from the government cannot be shared by everyone. Therefore, companies start competing to acquire such support from the government and stop competing in their quality and costs. As resources becomes depleted, the government runs out of money. When this happens, the companies that are so used to the soft loans and subsidies keep demanding that the government sustain their businesses and start protesting. This leads to bankruptcies, whereas some businesses choose another sector to operate in. As a consequence, the development of the sector goes back to square one.

It can all be understood from the classic example of Mongolia's 12-year government policy on the crop sector and price regulations. The price of flour being sold today is a lot lower than its actual cost. Market prices do not include the money collected from taxpayers and given to crop farmers. In a market economy, government involvement in setting prices does not benefit everyone and bears negative consequences on the wider economy, but it does provide advantages to certain groups.

Mongolians are expecting Minister "Buudai" (wheat) Burmaa to determine the actual costs and benefits of government policy not only on wheat but also other agricultural products, shape its future trends, and make the operations of the ministry transparent to the public.

Trans. by B.AMAR

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Justice Minister D.Dorligjav: We will continue our daughter's legacy

February 17 (gogo.mn) Minister of Justice D.Dorligjav made statement regarding the tragedy faced by his family. In his statement he expressed his gratitude to all the support and condolences on their loss of their beloved daughter in an accident on February 11th, 2015.

Although his family is in deep mourning they are proud of humane act of their late daughter to save a friend in danger.

He also expressed that he will continue his daughter legacy and fulfill her dreams and aspirations in memory of such a brave heart of hers.

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Day 820: Mongolia Thanks China That Currency Descends Slowly Instead Of Plummeting

By Jon Springer

February 17 (Forbes) Mongolia's government has recently imprisoned American Justin Kapla and Filipinos Cristobal David and Hilarion Cajucom Jr. as part of the government's ongoing battles with foreign owned mining companies SouthGobi Resources, Turquoise Hill Resources and Rio Tinto. The men are in their 820th day of being detained in Mongolia. During this time, Mongolia's battles with foreign mining companies have caused a decline in foreign investment that has wreaked havoc on Mongolia's economy and caused a decline in its Tugrik currency near 50%. Yet the currency would likely be in free fall if not for the geopolitical motivations of China.

As Mongolia tried to learn how to manage the discovery that Mongolia had vast mining wealth for a country populated by about 3 million people, the country legislated a Windfall Profit Tax of 68% in 2006. The recalcitrance of foreigners to continue to put money to work in Mongolia under this structure eventually (with help from the global financial crisis of 2008) led to the currency crisis of 2008-2009 on the below chart of Mongolia's currency.

Once Mongolia passed the Oyu Tolgoi Agreement (for its world class top five copper-gold mine) and cancelled the Windfall Profit Tax law in 2009, the currency stabilized and then strengthened into 2011. The long-term investment thesis of foreign mining companies and investors from 2010 (that has withered and died since 2012) was that Mongolia had learned from the failure and crisis of the Windfall Profit Tax and would not do anything so stifling to foreign business and investment again.

However, beginning with members of the government – including the Minister of Mining – questioning the Oyu Tolgoi agreement in August of 2011, one can see Mongolia's Tugrik begins to decline sharply on the below chart. In early 2012, there was some hope about Mongolia's economy and outlook toward foreign investment stabilizing with (1) the release of former SouthGobi employee Sarah Armstrong from a visa exit ban (before the world was well aware of the same visa exit bans still in effect upon Messrs. Kapla, Cajucom and David that ultimately led to their imprisonment) and (2) optimism about stability being restored after Mongolia's June 2012 summer elections. Both of these points of optimism slowly came to be understood to be false dawns and the Tugrik began its slip down in value vs. the U.S. dollar (blue line) and Chinese Renminbi (red line).

Bank of Mongolia chart of the historical exchange rate of Mongolia's Tugrik currency vs. the U.S. Dollar (blue line, numbers on left) and Chinese Renminbi (red line, numbers on right).

Link to full article

 

Day 821: America Needs To Step Up Protection Of Its Own In Mongolia's Prison

By Jon Springer

February 18 (Forbes) Minnesotan Justin Kapla and Filipino Hilarion Cajucom Jr. – who has multiple American citizen family members in California – were sentenced to the harsh conditions of Mongolia's prison system on January 30th of this year. In Mongolia's own media, there has been a public outcry about the injustices of the case in which there were five clear violations of Mongolia's own laws.

The case had been dismissed as having insufficient evidence twice during the approximately 2 ½ years Mr. Kapla, Mr. Cajucom and their colleague Cristobal David were detained in Mongolia for investigations. Since the men were sent to prison only two journalists based in the United States have covered the story and public statements by U.S. government officials against the legally flawed case have been largely absent in American-based media.

Revered local Mongolian journalist Baabar has written that the "Mongolian court did not follow procedure and this fact alone" is a blemish upon Mongolia (original text in Mongolian). In the same article, Baabar poses four different theses on what is behind this case that sheds light on the simple fact that even after the men were investigated for 2 1/2 years and sent to prison, it is unclear why this really happened. Baabar has noted that the original tax evasion claims against the company – reportedly $170 million, but lowered to $18 million by time of conviction – seem preposterously large for a company of SouthGobi's size. As for the situation of the company where the three imprisoned men worked, Baabar says:

[It] seems like the [tax] inspectors got involved in this because of the decreasing value of our currency. [The Mongolian Tugrik] decreased by [more than 50%] against USD from 1200, which seems to have 'proved' their crime since the company makes all transactions in USD. If that is the case, shouldn't the Mongol Bank be responsible for this?

Link to full article

 

Day 822: Alleged Tax Evasion That Sent Three To Prison Suggests More Guilty In Mongolia

By Jon Springer

February 19 (Forbes) Two of three men imprisoned five plus years by Mongolia for alleged tax evasion by SouthGobi resources only began work in the positions where they allegedly evaded these taxes in June 2011. Yet, SouthGobi, a relatively mid-sized mining company by Mongolia's super-mine standards was the seventh largest tax-payer in the nation in 2011. If SouthGobi after reporting more than doubled revenues in 2011 evaded taxes, than many other larger mining companies in the country must have evaded taxes as well that year.

Indeed, it must be asked how much Mongolia has lost in tax revenues from SouthGobi's stalled operations and other corporations in its pursuit of this case for two and a half years. For the last two and a half years, Mongolia has put a strait jacket on its seventh biggest corporate tax payer from 2011, a taxpayer that was planning to expand operations and engage in capital investment to improve long-term profitability.

As indicated by legal rulings, Mongolia's imprisonment of American Justin Kapla is based on his work as President of SouthGobi "from June 3, 2011, through February 1, 2013" and Mongolia's imprisonment of Hilarion Cajucom Jr. is based on his work as Financial Manager of SouthGobi "from June 6, 2011, through July 20, 2012." A report on the highlights of the top 100 corporate taxpayers in Mongolia from 2011 by Mongolian brokerage Frontier Securities states: "SouthGobi Sands which [is] 100% owned by SouthGobi Resources (TSX:SGQ, HKG:1878) is No.7 [on the list] on the more than doubled revenues."

Link to full article

 

Day 823: Porsche Fanfare, A Promise, Wrongful Imprisonments, Mongolia Celebrates New Year

By Jon Springer

February 20 (Forbes) The trending social media stories about Mongolia this past week have been typically diverse. There were a host of stories such as Porsche opening its first car dealership in Mongolia, a Mongolian fashion designer at New York's Fashion Week and the unverified discovery of a mummified Buddhist monk. During the day Wednesday, Mongolia's government pledged to resolve its problems with Rio Tinto and its majority-owned Turquoise Hills Resources over the world class Oyu Tolgoi copper gold mine (34% owned by Mongolia, 66% by Turquoise Hill). Wednesday night, Mongolia welcomed the Year of the Sheep as its Lunar New Year celebrations began.

Many of these diverse stories have tie-ins with the daily story of three former executives of SouthGobi Resources currently imprisoned. Any story could. With one reporter asking a question at New York's Fashion Week to Mongolian fashion designer Bayarmaa Bayarkhuu, her story of burgeoning success could be pulled into this story too (i.e. "Ms. Bayarmaa, what do you think of your government breaking its own laws to put an American in prison?"). The longer these men stay in prison despite five violations of Mongolia's own laws in their conviction, the more Mongolia should expect any story about Mongolia to have a note about Justin Kapla, Hilarion Cajcucom Jr. and Cristobal David as well.

Link to full article

 

Day 824: Requesting IMF Aid Because GDP Grew "Only 7.8%" Reveals Mongolia's Expectations

By Jon Springer

February 21 (Forbes) For most astute people that keep up on world events, the notion that a country with GDP growth for 2014 of 7.8% starting crisis dialogues with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) must sound bizarre. The IMF typically steps in to help economies in deep crises or failing. Mongolia's currency is in crisis with a drop in excess of 50% in the past 4 years. Amazingly, GDP growth that has declined to 7.8% in 2014 from 11.6% in 2013 is an economic slowdown crisis for Mongolia as planned spending was predicated on faster GDP growth, faster expansion of Mongolia's mining industry and higher natural resource prices.

In 2011 and into early 2012, government spending ramped up predicated on numbers that would drop off. The ruling party also engaged in some extra spending on handouts to citizens of Mongolia in the hopes of winning hearts and votes for June 2012's parliamentary elections. As noted by the Mongolia based brokerage arm of Eurasia Capital in its January 2011 annual Mongolia Outlook report:

The government's 2011 budget saw a swift return to pre-crisis deficit spending habits and a departure from the fiscal disciplinary measures agreed to in commitments with the IMF following the 2009 bailout. The 2011 budget included more cash handouts and a 30% increase in government employee salaries, which the World Bank estimates will result in up to 20-25% inflation in 2011. Such fiscal policy runs the risk of a wage inflation spiral or the Dutch Disease in Mongolia. With 2012 being an election year, fiscal discipline and declines in spending are unlikely in the 2012 budget…

One can see on the chart below from a report by the IMF in March 2011 a typical notion of how GDP would grow going forward from 2011 through 2016, an average of 13.5% per year for the coming six years including an anticipated 15.7% in 2014. In fairness, one of the shortfalls has been the decline in the price of copper, currently trading around $5,700 per U.S. ton whereas the nadir in copper's price on the below chart is $6,500.

Link to full article

 

Day 825: Pausing To Reflect On Mongolia's Economic Retreat

By Jon Springer

February 22 (Forbes) This is the eleventh article in eleven days on Mongolia penned by me. The focus has been on parallel stories that have unfolded in Mongolia since 2011. Three men's freedom has been put in ever greater jeopardy while Mongolia's economy, particularly its currency and foreign direct investment, have faltered. The legal case against former SouthGobi executives Justin Kapla, Hilarion Cajucom Jr., and Cristobal David – all detained 825 days or more – has shown flaws in Mongolia's legal system: that even breaches by its own prosecutors and judiciary of its own sovereign laws of due process can result in imprisonment. Almost equally shocking is reviewing investment analyst reports from 2011 and early 2012 about the Mongolian economy that could have been. Mongolia has not only fallen short of its potential but it succeeded in ticking the boxes of nearly every potential economic, political and social risk buried in the short "although this sounds great this is how things  could go wrong" sections of glowing investment reports on the country.

There was once big international institutions that believed Mongolia was set to be a world beater. A February 2011 report by CitiGroup stated: "Over the next five years, we expect Mongolia and Iraq to grow at double-digit rates, both driven by resource extraction and the latter by post-war reconstruction and recovery." Expected average GDP growth between 2010 and 2015 was 14.2% according to the report. Mongolia was supposed to average 9.7% growth from 2010 to 2030 and be the number one growth economy in that time frame.

CitiGroup's report on Global Growth Generators (3G) added that it found Mongolia to have a "high 3G index score… among the highest." The report also warned:

Mongolia's economy is overwhelmingly based on resource extraction. It is therefore a prime candidate for the natural resource curse. Unlike most of the other Central Asian countries, however, Mongolia has thus far avoided the lure of personalized autocracy or strong-man rule and the bureaucracy, although weak, is some distance from the kleptocratic end of the 'kleptocratic-technocratic continuum'. The skill set that has permitted this small country to survive as an independent nation state despite being wedged firmly between two mega-states may also serve it well in the global economy.

Link to full article

 

Day 826: Mongolia Resolves To Resolve Problems With Rio Tinto By Year End

By Jon Springer

February 23 (Forbes) The government of Mongolia has had various disputes with Rio Tinto and related subsidiaries about the Oyu Tolgoi agreement to develop Mongolia's world class copper-gold mine since August 2011. Last week on Wednesday before the government went on leave to celebrate Tsagaan Sar – Mongolia's Lunar New Year – the parliament of Mongolia approved a proposal promising to resolve its long-term disputes with Rio Tinto during the second half of this year. Resolution of these problems would clear the way for U.S. $5.4 billion of capital investment to develop underground portions of the Oyu Tolgoi mega-mine.

Contentiousness between the government of Mongolia and Rio Tinto emanates from the government having a 34% stake in Oyu Tolgoi while Rio Tinto majority owned subsidiary Turquoise Hill has a 66% stake in the mine. Thus, they must come to terms on things on a regular basis – or honor past agreements – for the mine to proceed.

For foreign-based investment analysts this statement of intent by the government of Mongolia to resolve its issues with Rio Tinto could be taken as a positive. For those of us who have covered this story for a long time and for local senior executives, the statement is a sign of no change in the ongoing disputes the government has with Rio Tinto that have held up development plans, foreign direct investment, future mining revenues and future tax revenue for Mongolia.

The self-spiting self-denial of Mongolia in denying itself potential mining tax revenues is also the story with three former executives of indirect Rio Tinto subsidiary SouthGobi Resources. Justin Kapla, Hilarion Cajucom Jr. and Cristobal David today enter day 826 of being detained in Mongolia and their fourth week in prison. Their company was once the seventh largest corporate tax contributor in Mongolia before investigations into the company began on the heels of a quashed Chinese takeover bid for the company.

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EU: Statement by the Spokesperson on the ratification by Mongolia of two key human rights instruments

February 20 (EU) "Mongolia's recent ratification of both the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is an important step in promoting and respecting human rights at the international, regional and domestic level. The EU stands ready to assist Mongolia in the full implementation of these key human rights instruments.

The EU encourages all countries worldwide which have not yet done so to ratify the Optional Protocol and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and to respect their provisions."

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Business

Erdenes Mongol reduces coal transport tariffs on TT-GS road

February 24 (news.mn) Tariffs on coal transportation on the Tavantolgoi-Gashuunsukhait route have been reduced to 1.25 USD per ton.

The Ministry of Mining believes that revenue from coal transportation will be increased with the new cost in place.

To maintain coal exportation policy and in order to implement Resolution No. 299 of the Government of Mongolia, the Tavantolgoi-Gashuunsukhait road has been purchased by Erdenes Mongol LLC, and the tariff for the transportation of coal was reduced by 60 percent.

Before the Lunar New Year, the tariff for the transportation of coal was lowered to 1.25 USD. The reduction of the transportation tariff will support coal exportation companies and 34.5 MNT will be saved with the transport of each car.

Link to article

Related:

Tavan Tolgoi-Gashuun Sukhait transport tariff reducedMontsame, February 24

 

Mongolia switches exploration license fees from USD to MNT

February 24 (news.mn) Upon the approval of amendments to the Mining Law, the following changes have been made to the annual fee payment for exploration licenses. Below are the fees for exploration license holders.

Fees per hectare to be paid by exploration license holders:

1st year

145 MNT

2nd year

290 MNT

3rd year

435 MNT

4-6th years  

1,450 MNT

7-9th years

2,175 MNT

10-12th years

7,250 MNT

Mining license holders:

 

Previously 15 USD per hectare

 Now 21,750 MNT

Previously 5 USD per hectare

 Now 7,250 MNT

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Government allocates 70 billion to SME Support Fund

Ulaanbaatar, February 17 (MONTSAME) The cabinet on its meeting on 16 resolved to allocate 70 billion Togrog financing for the Fund for Promoting Small and Medium Enterprises.

The Government issued credits of MNT 50 billion for the implementation of medium-term target program "New Development", and of MNT 150 billion for implementing the Government action plan for 2012-2016, through the Fund.

Easy-term loans have been allocated of 100 billion Togrog for funding of 653 projects out of the proposed 1,027, where each of the projects requested loans not exceeding two billion Togrog, and of 49 billion Togrog loans for 151 projects' implementations out of the proposed 2,906 projects that are targeted to the realization of the "New Development" program.

Extended credits estimated to be equivalent to MNT 761.7 billion are expected by 3,129 projects. The government observes that it is needed to take actions towards increasing the financial sources for the projects, as the businessmen of small and medium enterprises are in need of long-term and low-interest loans. Therefore, the cabinet permitted the Board of the Development Bank (DB) of Mongolia to resolve and to allocate a funding of MNT 70 billion for the fund, in order to increase exports and to promote the production of import-substituting products, and to create jobs, in frames of the objectives to promote industrialization.

The Minister of Industry was obligated to take charge of the monitoring over the process of designating the interest of such easy-term loans at nine percent, and to resolve the actions in accordance with the regulation on Allocating Easy-Term Loans for Promoting Small and Medium Enterprises, and of accumulating the repayment of the loans to the DB.

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Mongolia cabinet backs joining convention on mine safety

Ulaanbaatar, February 17 (MONTSAME) The Cabinet of Ministers decided to consult related Standing committees of parliament about adopting a draft law on ratifying the Convention concerning Safety and Health in Mines.

The Convention No.176, the international standard for Occupational Health Safety (OHS) in Mining, is an extension to the above Convention by the International Labor Organization. The draft law on ratifying the Convention No.176 will be discussed by the Standing committees after the suggestions of the cabinet are reflected in it.

The Convention concerns the matters related to all open and underground mining activities except for extractions of oil and natural gas, and serves as the basic document to set the standards for OHS in mining sector and of legal environment for health. It also provides the basis of establishing the national database for reporting, studying and identifying the cause of occupational accidents, designates the appropriate level of OHS in mining, and outlines the responsibilities of the employers and employees. The Convention No.176 went into force in 1998, was joined by 26 countries including the USA, Germany, South Africa, Austria and Brazil, by 2013.

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Mongolia seeks feasibility studies for 300-MW Shuren hydro project

February 18 (HydroWorld) The government of Mongolia invites expressions of interest from consultants to develop a detailed set of feasibility studies of the 300-MW Shuren hydroelectric project. Responses are due February 27.

Mongolia's Mining Infrastructure Investment Support Project (MINIS) recruited consultants in 2013 to prepare specifications for a feasibility study of Shuren. Mongolia received funding from the World Bank's International Development Association for technical assistance to MINIS, which includes the proposed study of the Shuren project on Mongolia's Selenge River. Under the same program, the government recruited consultants to prepare specifications for a feasibility study of dam construction on Mongolia's Orkhon River including hydropower.

MINIS now seeks consultants to develop a detailed set of feasibility studies for Shuren including a detailed budget estimation, accurate phase of the project preparation plan, and clarified timing, sequencing and coordination of studies. Work is to require 19 months beginning in April.

Terms of reference may be obtained from the MINIS Internet site, www.minis.mn. Expressions of interest are due by 3 p.m. February 27 by delivery, mail, fax, or e-mail to the address below.

For information, contact Project Implementation Unit, Mining Infrastructure Investment Support Project (MINIS), Attn.: B. Odonchimeg, Procurement Specialist, Arig Center Building, Suite 401, Jamyan Gun Street-10, Khoroo 1, Sukhbaatar District, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Tel/Fax: (976) 70112689; E-mail: odonchimegb@minis.mn, baigali@minis.mn; Internet: www.minis.mn.

Link to article

Link to MINIS press release

 

Mogi: again, the real threat here is Mongolia becoming less energy-dependent on Russia. Doesn't Russia itself have worse dams and hydropower plants right on Baikal? These World Bank-backed projects has stated that it is not a threat to Baikal and that it'll trap river flow well below what the international agreements allow for.

New threat to Baikal with plans for new hydroelectric plants in Mongolia

By Anna Liesowska

Environmentalists call for World Bank to halt funding for projects that could alter flow of rivers leading into lake with water nearing critical low.

February 17 (The Siberian Times) Lake Baikal is facing another environmental threat, this time from across the border with plans in Mongolia for a series of new hydroelectric power plants.

Campaigners including Greenpeace have made a plea to the World Bank to block funding for the major projects, which will see the plants built on tributary rivers leading to Baikal.

Among the proposals is one to dam a river and divert water to the Gobi desert.

Levels at the world's oldest and deepest freshwater lake are 40cm lower than in 2013, with water shortages in many communities already and fishermen reporting a lack of fish.

The crisis is being blamed by many on 'excessive drainage' for an existing hydroelectric station in Irkutsk, with fears water could run out in some areas by spring. Now the plans in Mongolia to build several more plants are likely to add further strain to the water levels and the unique eco-system of the Baikal region.

In its appeal to the World Bank, Greenpeace stated: 'Projects criticised by environmentalists should be stopped while there is no discussion in Mongolia and Russia about the cumulative impacts of planned dams on the ecosystem.'

Mongolia plans to build several hydroelectric plants on rivers leading into Baikal, including the Selenga, with a dam to be built on the River Orkhon. Further dams would be constructed on the Egyin-Gol, Tola, and Delgermuren rivers. 

The massive facilities are able to dramatically alter the flow of water in the region, with authorities looking to send much of it to the Gobi desert.

Residents in Baikal and in Mongolia, backed by environmental organisations and campaign groups, have called on the Inspection Panel of the World Bank to defer funding what they see as these 'hazardous' projects.

Activists believe the plans could pose a problem not just for the Selenga but for Lake Baikal itself, since the river is its largest tributary. They claim the fauna will suffer and say the hydroelectric plants could alter the eco-system of the entire region.

In their appeal to the World Bank, they insist financiers have ignored and underestimated such environmental consequences.

Of additional note is the fact that the World Heritage Committee has twice warned Mongolian officials that they must follow international laws and regulations governing the protection of important UNESCO sites, of which Baikal is one.

The Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage requires that countries should not take actions that could affect World Heritage Sites in other nations.

Sergey Donskoy, Head of the Ministry of Natural Resources in Russia, recently said: 'Russia is concerned about plans for the construction of hydropower plants on the River Selenga, which may affect the ecosystem of Lake Baikal. Russia draws attention that Mongolia needs to involve competent Russian organizations to assess the impact of the project.'

Meanwhile, water levels in Baikal are continuing to drop and, when measured on February 16, were just one centimetres above the critical point of 457 metres.

A state of emergency has already been declared in parts of Siberia after water levels in Lake Baikal fell to their lowest point in 60 years. Russia's Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoy asked the government to intervene with fears over disruption to heat and water supplies in Buryatia and Irkutsk.

Earlier this year environmentalists said the impact on wildlife living in the area could cost one billion roubles (£9.1million).

Thought to be 25 million years old, Lake Baikal stretches for 400 miles through south-eastern Siberia, north of the Mongolian border. It contains 20 per cent of the world's unfrozen freshwater reserves and in places is said to be about 1,700 metres deep. 

Link to article

Similar:

World Bank Project Threatens Russia's Lake BaikalTeleSur, February 17

Russia's Lake Baikal Threatened by Mongolian Hydropower PlantsOOSKAnews, February 18

 

8.7 billion ADB grant to finance Mongolia's Western Regional Road Corridor Project

February 24 (news.mn) The Western Regional Road Corridor Development Project being financed by the grant aid of Asian Development Bank is the one of the biggest investments being made in Khovd aimag.

The total cost of the project is 8 billion 700 million MNT.

The impact of the project will be the promotion of regional transport of freight and passengers via the Western Road Corridor and increased economic development and regional trade.

The outcome of the project will be an efficient and safe regional transport route developed in the Western Region of Mongolia to link Xinjiang Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China and Siberia Province of the Russian Federation through Hovd and Bayan-Olgiy aimags of Western Mongolia.

As part of Asian Highway 4, the road will help link Mongolia to the rest of Asia.

Link to article

 

The Voice Mongolia to launch in 2015

February 19 (Talpa Global) After successfully airing in 180 territories, Mongolia will now join the long list of Voice countries. The high profile vocal talent competition, will mark the first major international hit show to go into production by NTN, the channel wholly owned by the National Times News Media group. In addition to reaching an audience of 1.5 million in Ulaanbaatar and another 1.5 million in the rest of the country, the channel is planning an intensive social media campaign to reach its viewers.

Says Bulgan Bayasgalant, CEO of The National Times News Media group: "It was high time we brought world class content to Mongolia. We strongly believe that The Voice will satisfy the needs of the Mongolian viewers. Music has always been part of our nomadic lifestyle. As one of the longest existing nations, Mongolians have inherited rich and distinctive music tradition from their ancestors. Young Mongolians today closely follow the global trends in music, adding yet another dimension to our nation's new identity."

Adds Talpa Global managing director Maarten Meijs: "As The National Times News Media group is the strong newcomer emerging in the Mongolian broadcasting market, we're extremely proud of their tremendous enthusiasm and confidence in The Voice. We will supply them with all our assistance to ensure the show is as big a hit in Mongolia as it is elsewhere."

The record-breaking show is currently being watched on every continent with close to 60 local productions worldwide. It's attracting more than 500 million viewers worldwide, has more than 55 million Facebook fans and more than 10 million Twitter followers. It has garnered many of the world's most prestigious TV awards, including a high profile Emmy Award win in the US.

Link to release

 

The next best frontier market? Is Mongolia the new investor hunting ground?

February 19 (FSE Global Markets) Their economies are slumping, nonetheless according to a new report by Commerzbank, Central Asia and Mongolia are becoming increasingly important, not only as a vital supplier of natural resources, but also on account of their geographical location as a crossroads between Europe and Asia. Commerzbank forecasts that future economic growth in the Central Asian republics will be higher than the global average. Is it worth a look?

The significance of the Central Asian republics and Mongolia can only rise over the long term, even if the boom of the last few years is probably over for the time being, according to a new study by Commerzbank.

"As a result of the proximity to China and Russia, the vast amount of catching-up vis-à-vis the industrialised nations, high foreign investment, and the long period of excellent global economic development, Central Asia and Mongolia have been able to rapidly industrialise and post high growth figures since the start of the new millen­nium," explains Rainer Schäfer, head of country risk analysis at Commerzbank. "In the majority of these countries, raw materials continue to dominate foreign trade and foreign exchange inflow. The reserves of natural gas, gold, and copper, as well as the production of cotton, are of global significance; yet develop­ment in this area is not over by far, despite significant infrastructure investment taking place. Greater diversification with a simultaneous reduction in the high degree of government regulation is necessary so as to secure long-term prosperity in the Central Asian region."

The differences between the countries in the region are substantial, however. The most important trading partner for Germany is currently Kazakhstan, which has profited from the energy boom of the past decade thanks to its extensive oil reserves. The rapid rise of China and the associated increase in demand for raw materials saw an increase in prices, driving rapid growth in the country – which also has other resources in abundance. Measured in terms of the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) Kazakhstan has, as a result, virtually caught up with Russia, and is thus the richest nation in the region by far. Kazakhstan is also clearly ahead of China, where GDP per capita is $7,000, placing the country on about the same level as Turkmenistan, which has major natural gas reserves and is expanding its process­ing capacities.  Neighbouring Uzbekistan has a position among the top ten gold exporting nations and cotton producers. It has rich uranium deposits and energy reserves, as well as major development opportunities in the "silk road tourism" sector and a diversified manufacturing industry.  

Economic activity in the Caucasus and Central Asia (CCA) region is weakening, mainly because of the near-term slowdown and rising regional tensions affecting Russia, a key trading partner and sources of remittance and investment inflows, as well as weaker domestic demand in a number of CCA countries. Near-term risks are to the downside and tied to the fortunes of large trading partners. Policies need to focus on bolstering economic stability and, where needed, short-term support to ailing economic growth. In addition, a new model for high, sustained, diversified, and inclusive growth is needed to set the direction for economic policies for the next decade. 

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have major water resources, says the report, which are also of significance to their neighbouring countries. "Both countries are heavily dependent on remittances from immigrant workers employed in Russia. To date, Mongolia has only been able to utilise a small portion of the development potential of the country's massive raw material deposits". Mongolia too is looking to exploit its river systems. Among the most recent initiatives is a plan to develop the 300-MW Shuren hydroelectric project.  Mongolia has received funding from the World Bank's International Development Association for technical assistance to MINIS, which includes the proposed study of the Shuren project on Mongolia's Selenge River. Under the same program, the government recruited consultants to prepare specifications for a feasibility study of dam construction on Mongolia's Orkhon River including hydropower.

Despite the dynamic growth rates seen in past years, the potential cooperation between Germany – a major exporter and high-tech leader – and Central Asia/Mongolia has not yet been tapped in full.

"We assume that in the future economic growth in the region will be considerably higher than the global average, and that, as a result, business relations with Germany will be further intensified," says Axel Bommersheim, regional head at Commerzbank - Financial Institutions. Commerzbank already accounts for a substantial portion of the processing and financing of foreign trade dealings with Central Asia and Mongolia. The Bank has been present in the region for many years with its own representative offices in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, which also serve the neighbouring countries of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Mongolia. It has a network of 5,000 correspondent banks worldwide and maintains close relationships with a number of international financial institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD), the World Bank subsidiary International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

For its part, Mongolia looks to be trying to establish a multi-focused development strategy.  It's parliament may vote as early as this week on draft legislation to develop multi-billion dollar casinos which the country's politicians hope will stimulate a slumping economy and diversify away from the mining industry. At a meeting on February 12th, the country's Cabinet Secretariat approved a draft of a bill that would target private partnerships to build two casinos targeting China's high-roller gamblers. The move comes as countries across Asia from Vietnam to South Korea are building large-scale casino resorts to lure the region's wealthy gamblers, particularly from China, to boost consumer spending, leisure industries and economic growth. Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts and Genting Bhd have all signalled their desire to expand their footprint in Asia. If a bill is passed later this week, it is expected to be quite onerous and possibly exclude Mongolians from gambling in them. It would also be something of a turnaround as  Mongolia annulled legislation permitting casinos in 2010 because of concerns over corruption and social issues.

Link to article

Link to Commerzbank Report: "Insights: Central Asia and Mongolia"

Related:

Mongolia As An Investment - Peter Kohli, DSM Funds for Nasdaq.com, February 23

German Bank Report Paints Rosy Picture of Central Asian EconomiesEurasianet.org, February 23

 

MonCham Annual Dinner with MP R. Amarjargal

March 23 @ 5:30 pm - 11:55 pm | HKD800

We are pleased to announce that The Hon. Amarjargal Rinchinnyam, Member of the Parliament and former Prime Minister of Mongolia has confirmed his attendance to give a keynote speech to the current and prospective members of the Mongolian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (MonCham) on Monday, March 23, 2015 at the prestigious Hong Kong Club.

Besides Oyu Tolgoi delays, there have been many rollercoaster events in political, economical and financial aspects that shook us – e.g.: FDI dropped by 85%; resignation of the Prime Minister (PM) and election of Mr. Saikhanbileg Chimed as the new PM; President Elbegdorj's visit to WEF in Davos; the Court of Justice of Mongolia declaring SouthGobi Sands and three of its former employees guilty of tax evasion; and most recently the joint economic partnership with Japan.

With this gathering, we would like to send a clear message to the Mongolian Government and investors that there are still many people who believe in Mongolia and the potential it holds – US$1.3 trillion worth untapped mineral resources.

Link to release

 

Mongolia and Russia Commemorate Defender of the Fatherland Day

February 24 (infomongolia.com) On February 23, 2015, representatives of Mongolian and Russian Military Forces jointly commemorated the Defender of the Fatherland Day in Ulaanbaatar, formerly known as the Day of Soviet Army and Navy in 1946-1993.

Marking the Day, Mongolian side headed by Minister of Defense Ts.Tsolmon, Deputy Minister A.Battur, State Secretary Major General Z.Boldbaatar, and Chief of the General Staff of Mongolian Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Ts.Byambajav, where Russian side represented by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Mongolia Iskander Azizov and Russian citizens residing in Ulaanbaatar have paid tribute to the Monument of Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov, four-time Hero of the Soviet Union (1922-1991) and Hero of the Mongolian People's Republic (1924-1992) by laying wreaths and flowers.

In his remarks, Defense Minister Ts.Tsolmon said, "We paying tribute to the people of Russia that has being long-lasting fraternal relations with Mongolia and greeting the generations of soldiers and Armed Forces, who faithfully served for the fatherland".

Ambassador I.K.Azizov noted, "I will convey your address to the nation of Russia and thank you for co-hosting the ceremonial measures, which I am very satisfied and I believe the friendly cooperation between our two countries would be strengthening from generation to generation".

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Ulaanbaatar

UB officials to study Vienna's public transport system

February 24 (news.mn) Administrators of the Public Transportation Department of the capital are going to visit Austria in order to study experiences of public transportation in Vienna.

The representatives are going to attend a training session to study experiences of the activity of the administration of the public transportation department of Vienna, management of public transportation, and organization.

They are also going to visit a bus manufacturing factory in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The following officials are going to participate in visit: Chief of the Ulaanbaatar City Transportation Authority Ch.Enkhbat, Chairman of the Financial Department B.Bilegt, Specialist of the Department of Project Implementation and Cooperation R.Erdene, and other officials.

The visit will continue until March 4.

Link to article

Related:

Public transport sector to study experience of Vienna and BratislavaMontsame, February 24

 

SO2 in UB air seven times the acceptable rate, PM2.5 5.6 times

February 24 (gogo.mn) Air Quality Authority of the Capital city has four automated stations at Amgalan, Nisekh, Tolgoit and Television area and we are delivering the information gathered from those stations as of February 17-23.

4 major air pollutants

Highest content

Times more that the tolerable metrics

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

0.069 mg/m3

1,7 times

Sulfure dioxide(SO2)

0.14 mg/m3

7 times

Big particle dust (PM10)

455.22 mkg/m3

4,5 times

Small particle dust (PM2.5)

281.76 mkg/m3

5,6 times

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The 'burbs come to Mongolia

By Terrence Edwards

February 16 (bne) There is no hint when standing in the desolate Yarmag district of Ulaanbaatar that you are near the centre of one of the world's fastest growing economies. But what today is just a mostly empty valley, for developers will be the next magnet for Mongolia's rising middle class – unless a property crash happens.

The growth of Mongolia's capital city has been fuelled by the floods of money from the export of the country's vast mineral resources to China and elsewhere. But troubles in Mongolia's mining sector and slowing growth in its southern neighbour have put the brakes on its own economic expansion.

Ulaanbaatar, which translates as "Red Hero", was built by the Soviet government in the 1950s in the Tuul river valley. The central business district is where companies such as the global mining conglomerate Rio Tinto are locally headquartered, within walking distance of the country's parliament and some ministries.

Companies such as Asia Pacific Investment Partners (APIP) are continuing to build in Ulaanbaatar despite the economic slowdown since 2011 (though growth should still have been around 7% last year), even in such far-flung areas as Yarmag. Although this suburban area is decades away from catching up with the more developed city centre, the difference is less stark when compared to the city centre of 13 years ago. That was when APIP CEO Lee Cashell first began renting out apartments to project workers in the early noughties. "The city was a big village," he says. "You would still see horses down streets. It was a good time to get to know the area and explore the city created by the Soviets."

Cashell's company has since grown from a small rentals operation utilising three Soviet-style apartments purchased at $10,000 each, into a large-scale property developer for luxury homes, with subsidiaries for property management and producing construction materials.

Head for the hills

The wide open spaces in Yarmag strongly contrast with the city centre, where developments are practically piling up on top of one another.

APIP's Village @Nukht was built in Yarmag with eight penthouse units as well as shopping and office space, with the expectation that the area would develop into a new urban centre. Other more affordable options are appearing too, along with schools and shopping centres. It's also where Ulaanbaatar's city administration has long-term plans to relocate its offices. "We've been watching Yarmag for a number of years, and the real estate agency has done transactions at Nukht Valley where the wealthy are living and currently building," says Cashell.

Yarmag also provides escape from Ulaanbaatar's choking air pollution. The World Bank considers the Mongolian capital one of the most polluted cities in the world. During winter, when temperatures can dip below -30°Celsius at night, the Red Hero transforms into the Smoky Hero, or Utaabaatar.

Residents living in the traditional white-felt tents known as gers burn low-grade coal and sometimes even harmful substances such as plastics from their trash to stay warm. The smoke emitted from neighbourhoods where these homes are clustered are causing birth defects and lung disease, health experts say.

Although Ulaanbaatar has partnered with local groups and the World Bank to try to combat the "airpocalypse", there's been little progress. The government's long-term strategy is to get those living in gers into apartments and houses hooked up to the city's central heating grid – an admirable strategy but one that will take years.

Not built to last

In the rush to meet the growing demand for housing in Ulaanbaatar, many of the new apartment buildings and houses were thrown up and are notorious for their poor quality.

Many new homeowners are unhappy with what they've bought. Some complain they were cheated, as the shoddily built homes quickly need expensive repairs or renovation. Many construction workers also lack the skills in modern building techniques to provide decent standards of construction. "I think there's a big lack of trust in construction," says Gabriel Francesch, director of business development for Ulaanbaatar-based construction and design firm Global Ideas. "People distrust anyone in construction because there's so much bad work being done, and its not very professional still."

Francesch, who is also a managing partner, says his firm has fared well in the last few years, despite the economic slowdown, by relying on skilled foreign architects to deal with the unique challenges found in the world's coldest capital city. For instance, while some spaces can get relentlessly hot from the radiators connected to the city's central grid, other new buildings need to produce their own heat and manage sewage for themselves. "We look for expertise in detail and technical solutions," says Francesch. "Not for the foundations, but more for insulation, heating ventilation, detailed drawings and other complicated things people in Mongolia can't do at the same level."

Whether or not prices can be sustained at the current levels is also becoming a concern. The fear is that rampant speculation and oversupply will lead to a property market crash.

Mongolia no longer has the mining boom that was attracting foreign investors in droves up to 2011, when the economy grew an astonishing 17.5%. Although the government hasn't released last year's growth figures, most analysts don't expect anything much above 7%. Mongolia's unresolved disagreements with foreign mining companies caused foreign investment to slump 74% last year.

Cashell says his properties locally range between $2,300 and $2,900 per square metre. But as many of the high-end homes remain empty in another growing district called Zaisan, fears are growing that prices are set to fall. Cashell, though, says he isn't worried, since prices are still well below those of other growing cities in Southeast Asia as well as Almaty, the capital of neighbouring Kazakhstan. The oil-based economy in 2008 suffered a real estate crisis as the global credit crunch took hold, sending property values down 40%. "I think Ulaanbaatar will grow faster than Kazakhstan, and luxury in Kazakhstan is still double the price what's in Ulaanbaatar," says Cashell.

Despite these concerns, developers do not appear to have slowed the pace of building, banking on the idea that economic growth will soon pick up again. Mongolia's new prime minister has made getting the country's largest mining projects going again a priority. Meanwhile, a new international airport near to Ulaanbaatar is bringing in fresh investment, and many are hoping that work will finally begin on long-awaited power plants.

But while companies like Global Ideas are specializing in creating modern designs by foreign architects, Cashell has grown nostalgic for the now-fading Soviet character. "I think renovating old Soviet buildings will be similar to how right now in London renovations of old historic buildings is a hot topic. Architects fight over these projects," he says. "I look forward to the day I can get my hands on one of these projects here."

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Diplomacy

Mongolia Speaker Z.Enkhbold on official visit to Japan

February 24 (news.mn) By invitation of the Chairman of the Chamber of the House of Representatives of Japan Nobutaka Machimura, the Speaker of Parliament of Mongolia, Z.Enkhbold, is paying an official visit to Japan from February 23-27, 2015. Speaker Z.Enkhbold arrives in Japan today.

The Speaker of Parliament will begin his visit by holding an official meeting with Chairman Nobutaka Machimura. He will also meet with the Chairman of the House of Councilors Masaaki Yamazaki.

Head of the Japan-Mongolia Friendship Parliamentarians' Union Satsuki Eda will meet with Speaker Z.Enkhbold during his visit.

Today the Speaker will meet with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. On February 25, the Speaker will pay a visit to the Emperor and Empress of Japan and will continue other official meetings.

Link to article

Related:

Z.Enkhbold meets M.Yamazaki, Head of the Parliament Councelors Chambergogo.mn, February 24

Speaker of Parliament of Mongolia Meets Speaker of House of Representative of Japaninfomongolia.com, February 24

SGK Chairman receives head of Mongolia-Japan friendship groupMontsame, February 24

 

Mongolia, N.Korea foreign ministers hold official talks

Ulaanbaatar, February 24 (MONTSAME) Mongolia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr L.Purevsuren and visiting these days FM of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Mr Ri Su-yong Monday have held official talks in Ulaanbaatar.

Mr Purevsuren thanked his counterpart for paying the official visit to Mongolia and underlined that it will have great importance in keeping a frequency of high level mutual visits.

In response, Mr Ri Su-yong noted that our countries' diplomatic relations were established in difficult times and expressed a willingness to boost the bilateral economic cooperation based on the political friendly relations, to support each other in frames of the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and to expand the cooperation between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Purevsuren emphasized that Mongolia is ready to widen the collaboration with the DPRK in all spheres and thanked the N.Korean side for backing the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on the security in Northeast Asia, which has been initiated by the President Ts.Elbegdorj, and for sending its delegation to the Dialogue's meetings. He also underlined that Mongolia wants to support an issue of tackling the North Korean Peninsula in a peaceful way, at all levels.

Link to article

Related:

MoU signed between DPRK and Mongolianews.mn, February 24

North Korean foreign minister to attend UN Human Rights Council following Mongolia stopNKNews, February 23

 

Kazakhstan joins Think Tank on Landlocked Developing Countries

Ulaanbaatar, February 17 (MONTSAME) A partner of Mongolia in broad range of spheres, the Republic of Kazakhstan has presented to the UN the Confirmation Letter of Credence on Ratification of the Treaty on Establishing International Think Tank for Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC).

Mongolia was the first to initiate the establishment of such a Think Tank in Ulaanbaatar by acting with aspiration towards the matters of the LLDCs. The Treaty has been ratified by Afghanistan, Armenia, Laos, Mongolia, Niger, Paraguay and Ethiopia, out of the 32 countries that are listed as LLDC.

As many more countries ratify the Treaty, the status of the International Think Tank, being established in our capital city, will be consolidated. Moreover, a fact that the cooperation with the international Think-Tank for LLDC has been reflected in the Vienna Action Plan for LLDCs in 2014-2024 has become a progressive step towards advertising and protecting the interests and positions of the LLDCs on the international level, backed-up by careful studies and researches.  

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Bill submitted to Mongolia parliament on ratifying Minamata Convention

Ulaanbaatar, February 17 (MONTSAME) The Minister of Environment, Green Development and Tourism D.Oyunkhorol MP Tuesday submitted to the Speaker Z.Enkhbold a draft law on ratifying the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

This is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. This Convention was a result of three years of meeting and negotiating, after which its text was ratified by delegates from 140 countries on January 19 of 2013.

The Convention is named after the Japanese city, Minimata. This naming is of symbolic importance as the city went through devastating incident of mercury poisoning. It is expected that over the next few decades, this international agreement will enhance a reduction of mercury pollution from the targeted activities responsible for the major release of mercury to the immediate environment.

Mongolia signed Convention on October 10 of 2013. 

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Mongolia parliament approves EPA with Japan

February 18 (news.mn) During the general session of the Parliament, the draft law to ratify the agreement on economic partnership between Mongolia and Japan was discussed and approved with a 92.5 percent majority vote.

During his official visit to Japan, Prime Minister Ch.Saikahnbileg concluded discussions on economic partnership between Mongolia and Japan with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe 

Upon ratification of the agreement by Parliament, the agreement will become fully valid.   

As explained by the Head of Invest Mongolia Agency, upon establishment of the agreement between the two countries, investment from Japan is expected to increase and reach 400 million USD. 

Another important issue discussed during the talks between the prime ministers was visa-free travel to Japan for Mongolian passport holders.

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Mongolia Signs Economic Deal With Japan to Offset Chinese and Russian Trade Domination

By: Alicia J. Campi

February 20 (Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 32, The Jamestown Foundation) The new Prime Minister of Mongolia, Chimediin Saikhanbileg, whose 'Reconciliation Government' has been in power less than three months, visited Japan on February 9–11 to sign a Mongolian-Japanese Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe. This economic partnership agreement, effective immediately, was the first for Mongolia and the 15th for Japan. Prime Minister Abe noted that the EPA took three years to negotiate and now "will become an important foundation for simultaneously forwarding two objectives to consolidate our relations and boost Mongolia's economic development" (The Mongol Messenger, February 13). The Japanese also gave the Mongolians an additional soft loan worth 36.8 billion yen ($310 million), which will be used to complete the construction of Ulaanbaatar's new international airport scheduled to open in 2016. In the February 10 joint press conference, Saikhanbileg responded by emphasizing, "The EPA is very significant to increase the flows of bilateral trade, investment and services and intercitizen exchange, as well as to connect Mongolia to global markets and regional economic integration" (The Mongol Messenger, February 13). He noted that Mongolia wanted to learn about Japanese techniques to commercialize value-added products sold into foreign markets so as to link the Mongolian market with regional industrial networks.

Mongolia is seeking to greatly strengthen its economic relationship with Japan, which it considers an important 'third neighbor' that can be a major factor in balancing the Chinese ($423 million in grants and loans) and Russian (in railway modernization) investment projects negotiated by the Mongolian in 2014. In 2012, the Mongolian Ministry of Finance reported that 66.4 percent of total Japanese exports ($336 million) to Mongolia were vehicles and parts, followed by much smaller amounts of machinery and chemical engineering products. Meanwhile, 53 percent of Mongolia's $16 million in exports to Japan consisted of coal, 25 percent of mineral products, and 15.4 percent of clothing such as cashmere (Japantimes.co.jp, February 10). The government-affiliated Japan External Trade Organization (JICA), in 2012, reported a different bilateral trade volume, claiming that Japan exported $501 million worth of products to Mongolia and imported $5.60 million worth of goods from Mongolia (Joc.com, February 10). Regardless, Mongolia for Japan is but a minor trade partner, while Japan is only the fifth-largest source of Mongolian imports.

Mongolian FDI fell more than 85 percent in the past two years and its currency, the tugrik, slid by almost a third against the US dollar. This has cooled Mongolia's 2011 world-leading growth rate of 17.5 percent to just 5.3 percent in the first half of 2014. This trade deal over the next decade will remove tariffs on about 96 percent of the traded goods (Japantimes.co.jp, February 10) and, more significantly, should bring more Japanese investment into the country's rare-earth metals, copper, and coking coal sectors, which have not attracted new FDI because of on-going legal disputes. Furthermore, the EPA should assist Mongolia's efforts to assume a greater role in Northeast Asian regional security affairs, particularly on North/South Korean issues in which the landlocked country has facilitated North Korean–Japanese discussions on abductees.

The Japanese foreign ministry stated that: "It is expected that this agreement will promote the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment between the two countries and will further vitalize both economies by strengthening reciprocal economic ties in wide-ranging fields." The EPA cites the "warm" relationship between the two countries, which was a response to globalization and closer worldwide economic integration, and complementarities that could be utilized to promote bilateral trade and investment in order to build up the Japan-Mongolia "Strategic Partnership." It emphasizes securing a framework to enhance competitiveness and "ensure [a] predictable commercial environment for further expansion of trade and investment" for the private sector (Mofa.go.jp, February 10). Among its highlights are a most-favored nation trade clause and a commitment to transparency by making all trade administration documents available to the public in electronic form. The 11 sub-committees established by the bilateral agreement are to focus on rules of origin, customs procedures and trade facilitation, visas, trade in digital products, investment, intellectual property, government procurement, and improvement of the business environment. As a way to more smoothly resolve trade disputes, the EPA will create arbitral tribunals.

The Mongolian prime minister's delegation to Tokyo included Minister of Education Luvsannyam Gantumur, head of the Mongolian Japanese Friendship Group and former minister of mining Davaajav Gankhuyag, Mining Minister Rentsendoo Jigjid, Minister of Construction and Urban Development Damdin Tsogtbaatar, and several deputy ministers and members of parliament. They had meetings with the head of the Cabinet of Japanese Parliamentary Advisors Masaaki Yamazaki (Montsame, February 11) as well as the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) Deputy Director Koichi Yajima. Saikhanbileg recalled that in the past, Mongolian-Japanese economic relations were based on loans and grant aid, but now, at this new stage of bilateral private sector cooperation, the JBIC's participation is particularly important. In June 2013, Mongolia set up a credit line of 8 billion yen ($6.7 billion) for Mongolian importers to finance the purchase of Japanese products in the mining, infrastructure, and production sectors. The Prime Minister discussed with JBIC implementation of this first phase and the creation of an additional credit line of $300 million (News.mn, February 10). Prime Minister Saikhanbileg also participated in a business meeting jointly organized by the Mongolian government and the Japanese trade organization JETRO, as well as a ceremony naming sumo wrestling grand champion Yokozuna Hakuho Munkhbat Davaajargal a Cultural Messenger of Mongolia (News.mn, February 10).

The fact that this was Saikhanbileg's first foreign visit as head of government clearly illustrated the importance of the Japanese economic partnership to Mongolia. The Mongolians are seeking a mid-term bilateral program to build power stations, railways, steel and copper processing plants, highways, and a capital metro system. One of the most important projects already announced is Sumitomo Corporation's participation, after beating out an offer by the US-based Peabody Energy Corporation, in a Sino-Mongolian consortium that will exploit Mongolia's Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit. Financial media and blogs buzzed with comments on how the new EPA would give Japan access to Mongolian rare earth elements (REE), which are crucial for Japan's automotive and electronics industries, in order to reduce its REE dependency on China (Mongoliaeconomy.com, February 13; blogs.blouinnews.com, February 11). Thus, both governments hope this new phase of economic cooperation will have the additional benefit of blunting rising Sino-Russian regional influence.

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Mongolia: The Future of Eurasia?

By Neil Thompson

February 23 (Geopolitical Monitor) The country of just 2.8 million is encased between her two giant neighbors, Russia to the north and China to the south. For most of the twentieth century Mongolia was, like many Eastern European states, part of the Soviet empire. Then in 1990 the withdrawal of the Soviet military and of Russia's economic support ended decades of communist government, and with it control by Moscow. It also plunged the country into food shortages and economic collapse.

Today Mongolia presents a curious picture. In a region of autocracies it is still a democracy two decades on from the 1990 communist collapse. Despite sitting on vast quantities of untapped mineral wealth it has not succumbed to the 'resource curse' yet. Mongolia was also one of the world's fastest growing economies until recent times, with high growth rates reported in 2012 and 2013. Driven by a number of massive mining projects, foreign direct investment has been transforming its post-communist economy.

Yet, still suspicious of China and on a whole fiercely nationalistic, relations between Mongolia's government and Western and Chinese firms there have often been rowdy; it refuses to play the part of an anti-Russian satellite in any other state's 'zone.' This makes the striking absence of Russia from Mongolia's contemporary economic development even more conspicuous, and it reflects Russia's diminishing ability to influence events in its former sphere – President Putin's ongoing violent reaction to Kiev's westwards drift notwithstanding.

The Russian leader has laid down several markers that there are geographical limits to Western and Chinese influence, from backing old Soviet ally Syria (where Russia has a strategic naval base) to inviting the new North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to travel to Moscow for his first trip overseas as leader. North Korea's previously cozy ties with China have come under strain by Kim Jong-un's erratic leadership style, including the execution of his moderately pro-Chinese uncle last year which disturbed Beijing. Mr. Putin has built his recent foreign policy around the paternalistic notion that Russia has special ties and interests in the former Soviet bloc that preclude the presence of other security or trading choices. It was the possibility that Ukraine would join the EU's Eastern Partnership (EaP) that first sparked Moscow's intervention there, not that Ukraine was drawing closer to NATO.

The instrument Putin wants to use as a political barrier against the creeping rise of Chinese economic influence, or the dreaded Western soft power, is the Eurasian Economic Union (EEC). The stated goal of that new union was that a single economic area would be created for the free flow of capital, services, and labor in the post-Soviet space (but with a single financial market scheduled for 2025). Yet when the EEC came into force in January 2015, it had only three official members – Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. The post-revolutionary Ukrainian government refused to join, which led straight to Russian backing for separatists in the eastern Donbas region.

The gap between the EEC's smaller states' economic focus, and the Kremlin view that the EEC is useful as a political tool of influence was highlighted last autumn. Moscow introduced import sanctions against Western goods in retaliation for Western sanctions placed on Russia over its behavior in Ukraine. Before the EEC even officially started functioning, rows between the three member states had begun about the re-exporting of banned products to Russia, and the limitation of goods destined for Kazakhstan routed across Russian territory. At roughly the same time a symbolic shift passed almost unnoticed in Mongolia when the Mongolian parliament voted in October 2014 to adopt a rail gauge compatible with China's for the first time, to create a special 240-kilometer track from the Tavan Tolgoi coal basin to the Chinese border.

In the last century, when Mongolia's leaders looked westwards for political and economic support, the Soviet Union helped build Mongolia's network and a twist of history means that Russia's railway gauges are different from the global standard used by China.  China's rise as the world's largest energy consumer however has helped consign Russia's Mongolian legacy to history. Coal is Mongolia's second biggest export, and China is its largest customer. The new gauge will reduce the cost of transporting coal to China by a third, from $6 a ton to $4 a ton, once the line is completed in late 2016.

Mongolia is not rushing blindly into economic dependency upon Beijing. Suspicion of China's state-owned mining companies is strong, and even the proposal to approve the new track took years to pass. Ulaanbaatar has long cultivated friendly ties with Western governments as a counter-balance to China's embrace. Vast deposits of gold and copper at the new Oyu Tolgoi mines, which could amount to up to a third of national GDP when fully operational, are jointly owned by a British-Australian mining group and the Mongolian government. They also account for almost all of Mongolia's foreign direct investment to date.

By contrast Russian influence has drastically declined in Mongolia's economic calculations in the space of a generation. The problem for Putin is that while he can still act as a spoiler to other countries' ambitions, he has been unable to articulate beyond bullying what vision Russia offers Eurasian states instead. There is now talk of Sino-Russian gas pipelines and railways crossing Mongolia, but they will be on Chinese terms. China's leader Xin Jinpeng has made the development of a 'Silk Road' economic belt crossing Central Asia a national priority. He has recently announced a $40 billion budget for the new Silk Road Fund and promises further massive financial investments from the Chinese-dominated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

This begs the question: as Chinese and Western companies and institutions increasingly seek to sign post-Soviet states up as partners and members, is Mongolia, not Ukraine, the future of Eurasia?

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10th Mongolia-EU parliamentary consultative meeting held in Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar, February 18 (MONTSAME) The 10th consultative meeting between the State Great Khural and the European Parliament ran here on February 17.

The opening remarks were made by the head of the Standing committee on budget and head of the inter-parliamentary group of the State Great Khural--European Parliament B.Bolor MP and by the deputy head of the European Parliament (EUROPA) group for communication with Central Asia and Mongolia Gabrielius Landsbergis.

Mongolia joined the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in 2008, and sent its delegates headed by the President of Mongolia to the ASEM Summits in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014. Our parliament and the EUROPA hold consultative meeting every two years.

Mongolia is striving to intensify relations and cooperation with Europe in every sphere, as it had declared the European Union as the "Third neighbor" and was appointed the host of the ASEM Summit in 2016.

At this consultative meeting, the sides discussed a development of the relations and works planned, matters on organizing the ASEM Summit in 2016, and Autumn session of the OSCE to be held in Ulaanbaatar in September.

Present at the meeting were also head of the parliamentary group in charge of communication with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly M.Batchimeg MP, the head of the inter-parliamentary group of Mongolia-Lithuania S.Demberel MP, the head of Mongolia-Poland and Mongolia-Bulgaria inter-parliamentary groups L.Erdenechimeg MP, and the vice Minister of Foreign Affairs N.Oyundari.

Link to article

Related:

Democratic Values of Mongolia: Speech by MP L.Bold at Mongolia-EU Inter-Parliamentary Group Meeting – news.mn, February 17

 

Mongolia Chairs UN Disarmament Commission Plenary Session

Ulaanbaatar, February 18 (MONTSAME) The Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the UN Office at Geneva and other international organizations the Ambassador Mr V.Purevdorj chaired a plenary meeting of the UN Disarmament Commission's (UNDC) on Tuesday in Geneva of Switzerland.

Mr Purevdorj made opening remarks, expressing a principal position of Mongolia towards the international peace, security and disarmament affairs. He underlined that contributing to the international efforts for nuclear weapons disarmament is one of the priorities of Mongolia's foreign policy.

Within its chairmanship for the UNDC Conference, Mongolia intends to run official debates on prohibiting and reducing nuclear weapons, banning a production of materials for nuclear weapons, preventing arms race in space, and on issuing of a guarantee for not threatening of using nuclear weapons, Mr Purevdorj said. Mongolia plans to consult and undertake concrete steps together with member-states to forward activities of the UNDC, he added.

During the meeting, delegates of the Great Britain, Russia, France, Australia, Algeria, Cuba, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, Spain and India congratulated Mongolia on chairing the UNDC Conference and expressed their willingness to back the efforts of the Conference's actions.

UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) is the only mechanism of the UN with a function of running multilateral negotiations on disarmament.

Mongolia joined the UNODA in 1969, and headed the UNDC in 2004.

Link to article

 

US to expand air quality monitoring to embassies in India, Vietnam, Mongolia and others

Washington, February 19 (Press Trust of India) After a successful pilot project in China, the US plans to expand air quality monitoring to some of its missions in countries like India, Vietnam and Mongolia in the coming months to help raise awareness about the dangers of pollution.

The initiative announced on Wednesday by the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency builds on the monitoring service that began five years ago at the US Embassy in Beijing.

"15 years ago, the EPA created a web-based platform called AirNow to give our citizens information in real time about the quality of the air that they're breathing, and they can make an informed decision about whether it is a good day to go for a run or whether they want to go outdoors at all or send their kids to a park to play," Secretary of State John Kerry said.

"It wasn't easy to launch the programme for overseas missions. Our hosts didn't like it particularly, but we did it. And because of the success of that programme, we are today formalising a shared EPA-Department of State effort to expand EPA's AirNow system to diplomatic posts around the world," he said at an event to mark the announcement of installing of AirNow at overseas diplomatic posts by EPA.

Kerry said in the coming months, AirNow will begin to operate in India and shortly after that, it will expand to Vietnam, to Mongolia, and other countries. "Five years ago we launched AirNow-International in Shanghai, and we made further studies in other cities around the world, and a few weeks ago we announced that AirNow- International is going to be in India," Kerry said at the event where he signed a pact in this regard with the EPA.

"We came out of the President's recent trip (to India) knowing that this was an issue of importance to the President, but also to India as well, and our experts will be taking off in a few weeks to get this programme started," he said. Kerry highlighted that this effort is going to provide

Foreign Service officers, military men and women and US citizens living or just visiting abroad with better information about the air that they are breathing. "This is an enormously helpful tool. It is an empowering tool for parents, for individuals. And of course, it is particularly powerful if you live in the United States. But we have tens of thousands of US Government workers who are employed in some 150 posts around the world. And in many of the cities where those posts are located, believe me, it can get hard to have regular access to reliable PM 2.5 data," Kerry said.

It is aimed at helping people to live healthier lives in countries around the world, he said. "It is aimed at saving millions, certainly, if not billions of dollars in healthcare costs down the road. And it is aimed at improving coordination between the United States and international partners on environmental challenges -- coordination that is absolutely going to be essential if we're going to meet the challenge of the threats that we face today," Kerry said.

Link to article

Link to State Dept. announcement

 

Mongolian Leaders Visit United States to Advance New Disability Rights Legislation

Washington, D.C., February 20 (U.S. State Department) Seven Mongolian leaders, including the Minister of Population Development and Social Protection, members of Parliament, and leaders of disability rights organizations, will spend two weeks in the United States exploring the legal and regulatory framework that supports the rights of persons with disabilities. This two-way Professional Fellows On-Demand exchange program will allow the delegation to draw on the experiences, challenges, and lessons learned from the disability rights movement and government agencies in the United States as the Government of Mongolia seeks to develop a comprehensive disability rights law.

While in Washington, D.C., February 22-27, the delegation will deepen their understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) through discussions with distinguished disability rights advocates, including Judith Heumann, U.S. Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, and John Wodatch, former Chief of the Disability Rights Section at the U.S. Department of Justice and key contributor to the ADA. The delegation will experience first-hand how the ADA was developed, is enforced and incorporated into all levels of society from equal employment opportunities, to accessible transportation and inclusive education in public schools.

The delegation will travel to San Francisco, March 1-7, to explore implementation efforts in the Bay Area with leading representatives of non-governmental organizations, universities, and local government. Site visits will include the Ed Roberts Campus, the San Francisco Mayor's Office on Disability, the Centers for Independent Living in S.F. and Berkeley, and the Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund.

This is the second phase of the exchange program which began in November 2014 when John Wodatch traveled to Mongolia to assist in the initial planning and drafting of a disability rights law. Earlier in September, Special Advisor Heumann visited Ulaanbaatar to host a series of dialogues with government and civil society on increasing disability rights in Mongolia. This series of exchanges comes during the lead-up to the 25th anniversary of the ADA, and reaffirms the U.S. commitment to the inclusion of persons with disabilities both at home and abroad.

Follow and join conversation of this and other Professional Fellows Exchange Programs using @ProFellows and #ProFellows. For press inquiries, please contact ECA-Press@state.gov.

Link to release

 

PAS red-faced over failed teleconference with Malaysian fugitive in Mongolian murder case

February 23 (The Straits Times) A teleconference by a fugitive police commando, who claims he was a scapegoat for the 2006 murder of the Mongolian girlfriend of a then-confidante of the Malaysian prime minister, failed to materialise on Monday morning as his purported phone number was unreachable at the agreed time.

Opposition Parti Islam seMalaysia (PAS) information chief Mahfuz Omar had arranged for Sirul Azhar Umarto, now being held in Sydney, to speak to the media in Malaysia at 11.30am on Monday about his conviction for the murder of Mongolian model and interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu. But calls to Sirul were directed to a voice mail and the teleconference had to be cancelled.

Questioned by the media, Mahfuz said he had sent a SMS message to Sirul minutes before the teleconference and had received a reply "Ok datuk".

The media was visibly disappointed and constantly questioned Mahfuz over the veracity of the phone number.

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Social, Environmental & Other

InfoMongolia.Com Presents Top Nine Highlights of 2014 Year of the Horse

February 23 (infomongolia.com) 1. New Government for Changes is succeeded by the Solution Government of Mongolia

2. World leaders visit Mongolia

3. World-ranked wrestlers

4. Tough monetary policy

5. Investor to develop Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit is picked up

6. Battle at the Khalkh River

7. Top harvest collected in 20 years

8. Mongolia and Japan sign the Economic Partnership Agreement discussed since July 2012

9. Mongolia declares its population of three million people

Link to article

 

Tsagaan Sar: Traditions Spanning Two Millennia

By M. Zoljargal

February 24 (UB Post) History of Tsagaan Sar

Tsagaan Sar, Mongolia's traditional new year celebration, has roots dating back 2,000 years, to the Xiongnu Empire (formed in 209 BC), whose residents are believed to be ancestors of modern Mongolians.

Tsagaan Sar, which translates to White Month, is now a public holiday that is mostly celebrated as an annual family reunion in the spring. But originally, the holiday was celebrated to welcome the new year and all Mongolians viewed that they have become a year older after the holiday, without referring to their own birthdays.

The holiday is not only a three-day event, but follows a month of preparation on average.

It is now commonly seen by younger generations as a mere get-together of families where people visit each other, eat buuz and receive presents. However, the meaning of the holiday, setting of the due date, traditions of preparing and celebrating Tsagaan Sar were intricate and were done in a very careful and detailed way so as to wish for and bring only the best in the upcoming year.

Origin of name and meaning of Tsagaan Sar

Mongolian original customs and traditions are all related to livestock husbandry as it has been the main source of everyday life for Mongolians for centuries.

The origin of the name Tsagaan Sar is linked to the period it started when dairy products were abundant, while the name is also heavily influenced by the color white. White is a color that long represented peace in the history of Mongolia. Mongolian Khaans carried the Nine White Banners in their travels when they meant no war.

The color is commonly called "Suun Tsagaan" (white as milk), which represents nothing but purity and well-intentions, just like a mother's breast milk and pure love of motherhood. This is why the holiday is named Tsagaan Sar to celebrate the fruitfulness of the passing year and the hope that the upcoming year will be peaceful and healthy without war, as well as have mild weather. Mongolians took the chance to stay in touch with their relatives and get back on good terms with ones they have been unable to come to an understanding.

The color black represented war and the Four Black Banners were carried by Mongolian armies when they were on war quests. But the color also represented harsh times for nomads. Khar (Black) Dzud is a severe winter condition where livestock die in large numbers as grazing is made impossible due to extremely cold temperatures.

Original date of Tsagaan Sar

Until the rule of Chinggis Khaan, the celebration was marked in the fall, when livestock were well-fed and bred after a summer, and nomads also had a bounty of dairy foods in the color of white, according to both myths and historical documents.

Tsagaan Sar's date is set at present time according to the lunisolar calendar where both the moon phase and the time of the solar year is considered, unlike the lunar calendar, used for the Lunar New Year celebrations in various Asian countries. Tsagaan Sar's first day is always Khavriin Terguun Sariin Shiniin Negen, the first day of spring, which is the start of the upcoming year in the lunisolar calendar.
Mongolians commonly believe that Tsagaan Sar was celebrated in the fall in ancient times only because of abundant food and well-fed livestock. It is little known that the fall time was specifically chosen to celebrate the New Year according to original Mongolian calendar, which is different from either lunisolar and lunar calendars that originated in Tibet and China.

It's been years since several Mongolian historians have started debating about the date of Tsagaan Sar. While some believe lunisolar calendar is the traditional Mongolian calendar, N.Nagaanbuu, a Mongolist historian, researcher and writer, publicly posed conflicts between the calendars and original scheduling tradition of Tsagaan Sar, following years of his research in ancient treatises and documents that sited chronicles of important events in the history of ancient Mongolia.

"The current Lunisolar calendar, which Doctor of science L.Terbish uses for his calendar book used by the vast majority of Mongolians to mark the holiday, is based on Tibetan calendar. The Mongolian calendar's new year started in fall, but the modern calendar researchers are not fully educated about the history of calendar that ancient Mongolians used, and this confuses the public by mixing Gregorian, lunisolar and lunar calendars," N.Nagaanbuu noted.

Chinggis Khaan allegedly announced that Tsagaan Sar should be celebrated in spring when the Ikh Mongol Empire was formed when he was crowned emperor in the spring of 1206. The spring was chosen as everything starts anew, as young livestock are born and fresh grass starts to grow.

"An assumption that Chinggis Khaan ordered that Tsagaan Sar should be celebrated in the spring is historically wrong, even though it is stated that way in Injinash's Khukh Sudar (Blue Chronicle historical novel). Tsagaan Sar has been marked in spring since the 17th Century through the influence of Buddhism in Mongolia," N.Nagaanbuu asserted.

Member of the Union of Mongolian Shamans, D.Darichuluun, talked about why Tsagaan Sar celebration started taking place in spring, "Our ancestors have passed down the talk that until the end of Chinggis Khaan's reign, Tsagaan Sar was celebrated in the fall, when food and livestock were all well prepared for the winter. But I heard that Mongolians started celebrating the holiday in spring since the Manchu ruled Mongolia in Qing Dynasty. There is no reason why Mongolians would celebrate their national holiday in spring. To prove that, I'll have to talk about the weather and climate of China. In late January and early February, flowers bloom and spring begins in China, while these specific periods are the coldest of the year in Mongolia when livestock are exhausted due to lack of grazing, which makes it hard for nomads to leave their herds and visit their relatives. That means that we have been celebrating Tsagaan Sar according to Manchu calendar ,which was influenced by Tibetan calendar until now."

Original Meaning of Tsagaan Sar

Regardless of the debates on date of the holiday, Tsagaan Sar has long been an event where Mongolians specifically prohibited saying things that might call bad omens, displayed the best of the foods on the feast table, wore newly tailored national garments, and greeted each other with their palms spread to convey the idea that they come unarmed and intentions pure at heart.

Travelogue by Rustichello da Pisa from stories told by Marco Polo, who is said to have spent some time in Mongolia during the time of Kublai Khaan, mentioned that all Mongolians preferred to ride white horses, wear costumes in white, greet each other with white khadag (religious scarf) and eat dairy products in white color to convey the idea they want to live in harmony and in peace with pure hearts like the color white.

The act of giving presents was never a way of families to show their wealth traditionally, but a way to farewell the guests in good spirit, which becomes a virtue for the givers in return.

"Nowadays, it is common for Mongolians to give vodka, or cigarette as Tsagaan Sar presents. But Tsagaan Sar is a holiday filled with pure intentions. It will be seen as if the host family means to wish the guests to die soon if they give things that pollute people's minds or harm their health," said S.Dambii, researcher of Mongolian calendar.

The Korean greeting "bam-meo-geo-sseo (-yo)?", which literally means "Have you eaten?" is a way where South Koreans commonly ask if you're well. Historians link the greeting to early times of South Korea where people suffered from farmine. Likewise, Mongolists say that the Mongolian greeting expression, "Amar baina uu?" which literally means "Are you at peace?" derives from Mongolians' history which has seen many wars.

Mongolia's struggle to keep Tsagaan Sar

Despite ongoing debates over the correct date of Tsagaan Sar for decades, Mongolians have been getting together for the holiday every year and passing down the traditions although many were changed in the course of time.

Even the prohibition of Tsagaan Sar, during the Socialism era in Mongolia, couldn't end the celebration, although its many original traits have either been forgotten, or misrepresented. Mongolists and historians have been working on reinstitute the culture of Mongolian nomadic lifestyle and the public has become increasingly interested in purchasing domestically made goods for presents, wearing national costumes, and following original traditions of Tsagaan Sar despite the norm set in recent years.

One of the changes I noticed specifically this year was related to the setting up of Tavgiin Idee where Ul Boov, traditional pastry used for major holidays and events, is placed in layers. Local media has been reporting about the use of Yeven (round pastry usually placed on top of Ul Boov). Yeven is a traditional pastry used in China and ancestors of the nation used the pastry as an instrument to exchange secret messages against Mongolia by hiding the messages inside Yeven, according to the National Encyclopedia and notable historians.

Following the coverage about the pastry, many families filled the top of Tavgiin Idee with curds and other dairy products to reinstate the original customs. Although such rapid changes might show nationalistic characters of Mongolians, it displays how modern Mongolians are trying to preserve the original ways of Tsagaan Sar and pass down correct traditions, say social commentators.

Link to article

Related:

Cost of Tsagaan SarUB Post, February 24

Tsagaan Sar journalUB Post, February 24

Tsagaan Sar around the worldUB Post, February 24

Modern Tsagaan SarUB Post, February 24

Interesting facts about Tsagaan SarUB Post, February 24

State heads host Lunar New Year greeting ceremonyUB Post, February 24

Blizzard blocks province roads during Tsagaan SarUB Post, February 24

State Zaan Ch.Sanjaadamba triumphs at Tsagaan Sar wrestling tournamentUB Post, February 24

Bituun (Tsagaan Sar Eve)GoGo Mongolia, February 18

How much do we eat during Tsagaan Sar?GoGo Mongolia, February 18

 

Laboratory established with Swiss assistance for pasture research

February 23 (news.mn) To teach new methodology and methods for master's degree students, pasture land issue supervisors, and agriculture specialists a laboratory for the research of pasture land has been established.   

The total cost of building the laboratory was 54 million MNT and it was established with support from the Green Gold project of the Development Agency of Switzerland, Agency of Land Affairs, Geodesy and Cartography, and the Mongolian State University of Agriculture.

The laboratory is connected to the central server of Agency of Land Affairs, Geodesy and Cartography, making it possible to save, edit, and transfer data and conduct analysis and  research with the shared and collected data.

Link to article

 

Two men and a woman from Mongolia arrested after immigration raid on Japanese takeaway in Manchester

The Osechi street food takeaway in Swinton and a house nearby were raided by Home Office investigators

February 17 (Manchester Evening News) Two men and a woman, all from Mongolia, were arrested in an immigration service raid on a Japanese street food takeaway in Salford.

Home Office investigators swooped on the Osechi street food takeaway on Bolton Road in Swinton after intelligence from the public.

Staff were questioned to check if they had the right to live and work in the country.

A 37-year-old Mongolian man was found to have no permission to work in the UK. He was arrested and is due to be deported.

A second man, aged 35, was found to have overstayed his visa. He was also arrested and has been granted temporary release while his case is progressed.

A 34-year-old woman was held at an address on Bolton Road on suspicion of overstaying her visa. She has also been granted temporary release.

Osechi was served with a notice warning that a financial penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker would be imposed unless evidence is provided that correct pre-employment checks were carried out.

The raids were carried out by the Greater Manchester Home Office Immigration Enforcement team on Friday night.

Link to article

 

Now Open for Applications: Australia Awards Mongolia Scholarships

The Australia Awards Mongolia, which commenced on July 1 2013, operates under a Subsidiary Arrangement between the Governments of Australia and Mongolia. It is managed by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Ulaanbaatar with oversight from the Australian Embassy in Seoul, South Korea.

Australia Awards Mongolia has the following goals:

·         improve human capacity in Mongolia in targeted sectors; and

·         contribute to the recognition of Australia as a valuable contributor to Mongolian development.

Applications for Australia Awards Scholarships 2016 Intake are now open and close on 30 April 2015.

Interested applicants are invited to attend an Information Session for their employment category on the following date:

Category 1 applicants

When: 9:00am, 7 March 2015
Where: Chinggis Khaan Hotel

Category 2 applicants

When: 2:00pm, 7 March 2015
Where: Chinggis Khaan Hotel

Link to release

 

Breaking down barriers: Making education accessible for all

Zetty Brake, Communications and External Relations Officer, UNICEF Mongolia

February 17 (UNICEF Mongolia) On a cold, Mongolian winter's day, Aduuch and Gantsetseg bring their two youngest children Ankhbayar, 8, and Sarangoo, 7, to school in Naliakh, 36 kilometers east of the country's capital city Ulaanbaatar. Ankhbayar is dropped off at the Non-Formal and Life-Long Education Center of Nalaikh District (non-formal education center), while his younger sister attends the primary school in the same grounds.

"I love going to school," Ankhbayar exclaims. "I like to write and learn things. All my classmates and my teacher like me". When he grows up Ankhbayar wants to become a music teacher.

Ankhbayar was born premature, weighing less than a kilogram at birth. He is a bright, outgoing boy, but because of his physical disability uses a wheelchair. The family walks 45 minutes to reach the non-formal education center, as they don't own a car and there is no public transport between their ger and the center.

There are closer schools to the family's ger, a traditional Mongolian home, but none of them would accept Ankhbayar, saying his disability is too severe. It was a similar story when they tried to enroll Ankhbayar in kindergarten. "When we approached some kindergartens they said that they couldn't accept him because he needed lots of care," his mother Gantsetseg says. "We even reached out to the kindergarten for children with disabilities, but they would not take him because he was in a wheelchair. They only wanted to take children with disabilities who could walk".

Until they learnt of the non-formal education center where Ankhbayar now attends, the family's only options were to send him to a boarding school for children with disabilities in Ulaanbaatar, where they would only see him on weekends, or to keep him at home.

Gantsetseg explains that they only learnt of the center in early September last year. "I didn't think there was a school here in Nalaikh that accepted children with disabilities, but when Narantuya (Ankhbayar's teacher who has been working at the center for five years) visited us at home, made us aware of the center and encouraged us to send Ankhbayar there".

The visit was part of the center's regular outreach work targeting vulnerable children, such as children from ethnic minority and poor families and children with disabilities, who are not attending school. During these visits, staff talk to parents and guardians about why the children are not going to school and look at education options, often through non-formal education centers, where there is greater support for each child, and less discrimination.

After the home visit, Aduuch, Gantsetseg and Ankhbayar visited the non-formal education center. Aduuch said the family was surprised at how accessible the center was. "I thought that I would have to carry him into the center because not many buildings are wheelchair friendly in Nalaikh," he explains. "But that wasn't the case, there was a ramp and the center has a bathroom facility for him".

Renovations and upgrades

Until recently the center would not have been able to accept Ankhbayar either. During the summer break in 2014, the center was renovated to upgrade the facilities and repair damage to the building. A new indoor bathroom, with a toilet for children with disabilities, and running hot and cold water was installed. In addition to the renovations, sporting equipment, desks and chairs for students and extra furniture was purchased. UNICEF Mongolia provided the funding for the upgrades.

Narantuya says the students are responding to the renovations well and they are able to increase the number of children with disabilities attending the center.

"Before around a quarter of students at the center were children with disabilities, but now that we have new facilities that cater for them, we have seen that number increase to nearly 40 per cent," Narantuya says.

And the center is not only helping children with disabilities, according to Narantuya. "The center is a home away from home for many children," she says. "Often it is the only place for them to socialize with other children. Some don't have heating at home, so it is cold, whereas the center is warm. Many children stay late after class, attending art, music and sports clubs, doing their homework and using the facilities, till we tell them they have to leave".

More needs to be done

UNICEF Education Specialist Bolorchimeg Bor says many of the children who are attending these centers have left the mainstream education system because they were not getting the attention or support they needed, or because of discrimination from other students. "Others have never attended school before, so they are much older than their classmates, making it hard for them to fit in and thrive within that learning environment," she says. "The non-formal education system is providing children who have dropped out or never started school, a second chance at education."

"While these centers are providing a vital service to some of Mongolia's most disadvantaged and in need children, they do not receive the same level of funding as mainstream schools and are often in need of learning materials, repair and upgrades," Bolorchimeg explains. "This can lead to barriers which stop children accessing education opportunities. Upgrades like the ones at the non-formal education center are a step forward because the improved accessibility makes it possible for children with disabilities to get an education. But much, much more is needed".

For Ankhbayar the center has provided an opportunity that he would not have otherwise had, to go to school and live at home with his family. His mother, Gantsetseg, is very appreciative of the center and the impact it has had on her son. "The center is a brilliant place, and please say thank you to whoever made this possible."

Link to post

 

Eat Like A Mongolian, Not Like An American

By Samantha Michaels

February 20 (Mother Jones) The world, as a whole, is getting less hungry. Over the past two decades, the levels of undernutrition in developing countries from Sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia have declined. Unfortunately, so has the quality of our diets.

That's the main takeaway of a study published by The Lancet Global Health on Wednesday that looked at the dietary patterns across 187 countries—comprising about 89 percent of the global population—in 1990 and 2010. Check out the maps below, which break down eating habits by country on a scale of green (the healthiest) to red (the unhealthiest). The first map shows which countries are eating the most healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and milk (see, for example, Chad, the Central African Republic, Mali, and Turkey). The second map shows which countries are eating the most unhealthy foods that are high in fat and salt, as well as sugary drinks, unprocessed red meats and processed meats (see the United States, Russia, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Brazil, among others).

The next three maps show changes in dietary patterns from 1990 to 2010, again on a color scale, with green countries making healthy changes and red countries making unhealthy changes. Russia, Mongolia, Laos, and Paraguay are outpacing many other countries with their increase in nutritious foods, as the top map shows, while the second map reveals that Uganda, Vietnam, and Armenia are quickly finding a taste for fatty or sugary treats. And when it comes to overall dietary changes since 2010, shown in the last map, it seems that China, Angola, and Congo aren't doing very well.

Link to full article

 

Greedy Cattle Are Killing Mongolian Rangelands 

By Jenna Iacurci

February 22 (Nature World News) Cattle are being heralded as the next invasive species, and this couldn't be more true than in Mongolia where these greedy grass-eaters are essentially killing vital rangelands, recent research says.

As the name implies, rangelands are swaths of land including short and tall grass prairies, woodlands, wetlands and deserts that are grazed by domestic livestock or wild animals. And even though by definition these areas belong to cattle and the like, there comes a point at which they can overstay their welcome.

According to rangeland ecologist Dr. Brandon Bestelmeyer, who led the research, a staggering amount of grasslands worldwide are impacted each year by too many livestock. This includes places from the western United States and Mexico to Kenya, Australia and even Iceland. In the United States, for example, 41 percent of all land is currently grazed by livestock.

As the economy in Asia continues to grow and pressures are put on the crucial agriculture industry, Mongolians in particular are struggling to save their rangelands.

"There's the possibility of continued decline in rangeland conditions - the term that's often used, and overused, is desertification. So if you have too many livestock and livestock numbers actually increase, and you couple that with periodic droughts, then you may run into some big trouble," Bestelmeyer, with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Jornada Experimental Range, told Nature World News.

One challenge is that in Mongolia it's often unclear what healthy versus unhealthy rangeland is. It would seem obvious that dying rangelands are characterized by barren ground and vegetation, however, the question is in determining what percentage of this loss is actually caused by greedy livestock.

"If we've learned anything from 100 years of research, it's that location matters. You can't understand a particular landscape and ecology and its health until you get particular measurements in that area," added researcher Kris Havstad, supervisory scientist at the ARS.

So Bestelmeyer and his colleagues have relied on a concept called geological sites, which involves taking a piece of land in Mongolia and determining what it should look like without overgrazing. Havstad compares their technique to going to the doctor's. There's no one number that determines whether you're in good or bad health, but rather it's dependent on a whole set of numbers from various tests and how you interpret them. The same goes for assessing rangeland health.

Bestelmeyer is quick to point out that grazing in itself is not a bad thing, but it's a slippery slope between what constitutes grazing and overgrazing. Naturally the solution would be to merely take away the problem and reduce the number of livestock on these lands, but that's easier said than done.

"The precondition to rangeland management is to not have too many livestock so that you don't really have any options about where to put them. One of the first steps is how you get (at a landscape scale) the livestock to a level where you can manage the rangeland effectively," he explained.

Some of the types of interventions discussed with the Mongolian government include the taxation of animals, or a grazing fee, and making it a rule that land be in good condition if the people want to continue to use public rangelands. The hope is that eventually laws will be established that will restrict overgrazing, rather than simply requiring a fee; however, Bestelmeyer notes that that idea is a long way off.

Another issue is the conversion of rangeland to cropland to abandoned land. This is a concern that's seen in Brazil's Amazon as well, where forests are cleared for agricultural purposes, only to have grazing cattle quite literally abandon these plots and move on to greener pastures.

And if rangelands go, what are the cattle going to graze on? It's a self-perpetuating cycle in which dying rangelands leave less grass for the cattle to graze on, and yet those same cattle that overgraze create these barren rangelands in the first place.

Not to mention disappearing rangeland can have rippling effects on Mongolia's economy, which is highly dependent on agriculture. According to Havstad, about 25 percent of the region's gross national product, or GNP, comes from agriculture. Loss of rangelands can cause certain plant species to die and increased amounts of both wind and water erosion, sometimes to the point that the land is beyond saving.

In addition, rangeland loss has implications when it comes to food security. The global human population is expected to increase to a whopping 11 billion people - levels so unsustainable that even a worldwide pandemic can't cure. And as the world gets bigger and our food consumption needs rise, fertile agricultural land worldwide will be more and more vital to our survival. The researchers plan to continue helping Mongolians monitor their rangelands so that they can lead to a prosperous future... for cows and humans alike.

Link to article

 

An artist's impression of desertification in Mongolia

February 19 (DW) A Mongolian government study suggest a quarter of the country has become desert over the past three decades. Paris-based artist Daesung Lee uses art to highlight a problem threatening the traditional nomadic way of life

Your Futuristic Archeology project looks at desertification in Mongolia. How did you come to that subject?

My projects follow the theme of globalization and its impact. Between 2008 and 2010, I worked on a project looking at the relationship between natural resource and the global economy, and its impact on Asian countries. I later started looking at climate change as a result of a global economic system that relies on fossil fuel. My first subject focused on rising sea levels, so in 2011, I photographed the Futuristic Archaeology is the second chapter of this project.

How is desertification affecting the lives of local populations?

Many nomads have given up their traditional life as a result of desertification, but 35 percent of the population still leads nomadic lives. Land in Mongolia is not fit for agriculture, and nomadic life is a way of adapting to an environment with limited resources. If desertification continues to spread, it will pose a huge threat to these people. To live as nomads, they don't need much money, but to give up that way of life, they have to become part of the contemporary economic system. Many nomads have been pushed to the capital of Ulanbator, but that situation is causing social problems. Many make a living collecting waste to be recycled.

What are you hoping to achieve through this project?

I would like to address the preservation of this culture and society as it exists rather than allow the impacts of climate change, which is a man-made problem, to turn it into a fossil in a museum. The impact of the global economic system is far greater than we imagine, and there is a butterfly effect. Mass production and consumerism occur on an unnecessarily grand scale, and because they go hand-in-hand with the exploitation of natural resources, pollution and CO2 emissions, they have a major impact on people all over the world. We are all responsible as long as we live in this economic system.

What are the main drivers behind desertification?

There are so many natural resources - oil, copper, coal - in Mongolia, and mining them pollutes the water and land where livestock feed. The cashmere industry is also partly to blame. There is global demand from the cashmere industry, but the goats eat the roots of grass, and that accelerates desertification.

Is anything being done to tackle the problem?

There are NGO's trying to tackle it, but it is a vast territory, and they can only operate locally. They plant trees around villages to stop the desert from spreading.

How do the nomadic populations you worked with see their future?

They know that desertification will change their lives, but they have not adapted well to urban life. Most of them only know about nomadic life, and do not have the skills needed for a job in the city. That is why nomads end up collecting recycled waste for a living. The people in the images are former nomads who gave up their lifestyle as a result of desertification. They are hired and paid by the Korean NGO 'Green Asia Network' to grow and plant trees. The same NGO helped me with my project.

Daesung Lee is a Paris-based photographer whose work deals with issues relating to globalization and the environment. See more of his work 

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Real-life dioramas of a traditional Mongolian culture at riskWashington Post, February 18

 

Former World Bank Country Manager Introduces "Portraits of Change" Documentary Book & Film

February 24 (gogo.mn) Former Resident Mission of World Bank Dr. Saha Dhevan Meyanathan is to introduce his book Portraits of Change today at 5.30PM at American Studies Center in Natsagdorj City Library.

Portraits of Change is a project that explores the transformation in Mongolia resulting from the collapse of socialism there, the transition period that followed, and the market economy that emerged. At the heart of the project is a portrayal of the sociological, economic, and environmental changes that swept the country during this time of historic change. It provides snapshots of the past, present, and future of Mongolia. A photo journal of a voyage across the steppes of Mongolia, Portraits of Change documents ten cases of entrepreneurial success. Filled with photographs that detail Mongolia's breathtaking landscape, the book systematically details the journey ten families have made, from birth to occupational success during socialism, to emptiness and despair during the transition to the market, and to the victory that eventually grew from hardship.

Dr. Saha Dhevan Meyanathan has lived in Mongolia for 14 years and the book documents changes in Mongolia for the past 25 years. During the event Dr. Saha Dhevan Meyanathan is to hold open discussion.

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OLYMPIC CHAMPION TUVSHINBAYAR N. APPOINTED AS MONGOLIAN CULTURAL ENVOY

February 17 (MFA) Mr. L.Purevsuren, Minister for Foreign Affairs appointed Mr. N.Tuvshinbayar, Olympic Champion and awardee of Hero of Labor and Merit Athlete, as the Mongolian Cultural Envoy and presented him the Certificate at the Ministry on 16th February. Mr. N. Tuvshinbayar will depart for Dusseldorf Judo Grand Prix tomorrow morning. His next schedule is to attend "ITB Berlin 2015" – International tourism exhibition, during which he will promote Mongolia in his quality as Cultural Envoy.

In compliance with the best practice of a cultural diplomacy, recognized as the best benchmark of a foreign policy, Cultural Envoy is entrusted with duties to promote Mongolia abroad with art, cultural and sport activities and to support international cooperation of academic research in history. Minister for Foreign Affairs has newly introduced this function of public diplomacy into the Ministry commencing from 2015 and adopted the Statute of Cultural Envoy by which reputable citizen of Mongolia allowed to be appointed for this position. The Minister stated that he will further encourage a core milestone of a soft power, the cultural diplomacy, within Mongolia's diplomatic service.

Mr. T.Boldbaatar, Deputy Minister for Health and Sport, and Mr. M.Bukhbat, General Secretary of Mongolian Judo Federation, and Mr. O.Baljinnyam, Head Coach of Judo National Team and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were present at the ceremony to present the Certificate with number 0002 to Mr. Tuvshinbayar.N. It is to refer that Prime Minister of Mongolia has presented the Certificate of Cultural Envoy with number 0001 to Hakuho M.Davaajargal, Yokozuna of Japanese Grand Sumo Wrestling, during the official visit to Japan.

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Mongolian sumo hulk fans flames of protocol row

Record-breaking Mongolian sumo wrestler Hakuho on Monday fanned the flames of a row over sumo etiquette as he denied breaching the ancient Japanese sport's strict protocol with an outburst against officials.

by Alastair Himmer

Tokyo, February 23 (AFP) Peeved at being ordered to repeat a bout which had been too close to call, the hulking "yokozuna" (grand champion) let rip at the decision after surpassing the legendary Japanese wrestler Taiho to capture a 33rd Emperor's Cup last month.

His victory prompted hand-wringing in sumo's corridors of power as Mongolia's stranglehold on the sport became official.

"We all have our own ideas and thoughts," Hakuho told reporters Monday, declining to apologise for comments which triggered accusations that he, like pantomime villain Asashoryu before him, lacked the dignity required to hold sumo's elite rank.

"All I was doing was giving my opinion, that's all."

Pressed to elaborate, he growled: "Sometimes in your heart there are things you can't say."

The press conference in Osaka was then brought to an abrupt halt when sumo officials whisked Hakuho away, fearful of further controversy.

"It's a small spat and it's going to be used by anti-Mongolian partisans to show that the Mongolians don't have the "hinkaku" (dignity) necessary," Japan-watcher Michael Cucek of Temple University Japan told AFP.

"The Mongolians are just better — they have taken the sport to a new level. They're bigger, they're stronger and their technique is better."

What ought to have been a storm in a teacup was blown out of proportion, Cucek said, because Hakuho had erased Taiho — widely regarded as the greatest yokozuna of the post-war era — from the record books.

"It's absolute dominance by the Mongolians of the yokozuna rank," he added. "There are no Japanese yokozuna and there's no outlook for one anytime soon. It's sour grapes, no question. The Japanese don't like foreigners breaking their records.

"Hakuho was just exasperated with not being given the benefit of the doubt and being forced to do a rematch. It's customary that the higher-ranking (wrestler) is automatically presumed to have won if there's a tie."

– Gentle giant –

Many observers feel the 29-year-old Hakuho, hitherto seen as a gentle giant, should have bitten his tongue.

"He should have been more careful," said long-time sumo commentator Doreen Simmons. "Obviously he shouldn't have said it out loud. When it got out, he should have immediately apologised."

Hakuho had earned praise from officials and local media for helping restore a sense of decorum to sumo following a series of scandals that tarnished the reputation of the roly-poly sport, which is said to date back some 2,000 years.

But the goodwill somewhat evaporated when he broke the mark Taiho had set between 1960 and 1971 — although Taiho himself was born to a Japanese mother and an ethnic Ukrainian father who had fled the Bolshevik revolution.

Japan has been without a native-born yokozuna since Takanohana retired in 2003.

"The ground is fertile for even the smallest thing to explode into a huge controversy," said Cucek. "Hakuho has a right to be frustrated. He has been otherwise absolutely admirable. He's been the anti-Asashoryu."

Firebrand Asashoryu won 25 Emperor's Cups before retiring in 2010 after being accused of breaking a man's nose in a drunken brawl outside a Tokyo nightclub.

He infamously provoked a bathtub brawl with a rival and was banned for forging a doctor's note for a back injury, only to be caught on camera playing football wearing a Wayne Rooney shirt.

Allegations of illegal betting and links with crime syndicates, drugs busts and the bullying death of a young wrestler have shaken the closeted world of sumo to its foundations in recent years.

Hakuho extinguished those fires almost single-handedly.

"I can see how Hakuho would hope that there would be some recognition of how much he has done," said Cucek. "Maybe after six years of being the guy, he just blurted out: 'People, do you know who I am?'"

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The adventurer and his life as a lonely snow leopard

Ash Dykes earned his nickname from the locals on his gruelling trek across Mongolia last year. He talked to Chris Bond about surviving everything that nature could throw at him.

February 19 (Yorkshire Post) HAVING decided to walk across one of the most challenging and remote places on earth, Ash Dykes felt there was only one place to prepare for his epic journey – his mum and dad's back garden.

Last year, the young adventurer walked into the record books after becoming the first person to complete a solo, 1,500-mile trek across Mongolia in aid of the British Red Cross. He battled raging sandstorms, heat exhaustion, severe dehydration and loneliness during a 78-day adventure that took him from the Altai Mountains, through the Gobi Desert, to the Mongolian Steppe, alone, on foot.

But the preparation for this gruelling test of endurance began in the more prosaic surroundings of his parents garden in Wales. "I trained using a tractor tyre, I spent hours and hours rolling it and pulling it around and beating it with a sledge hammer," he says. Odd as it might sound it was actually an effective way of building his core strength which he would need in the unforgiving wilds of Mongolia.

Ash, who will be talking about his experiences when he brings his lecture tour – Breaking Mongolia; The Lonely Snow Leopard – to Sheffield Student Union next month, came up with the idea while he was working as a scuba diving instructor in Thailand. He had already cycled through Cambodia and Vietnam and learnt how to survive in the jungle with a Burmese hill tribe, and wanted a new challenge. "Mongolia was the one place people didn't really talk about because it was seen as really remote, but I'd never been in a desert before and the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea."

Having decided to trek across Mongolia he set about training for a journey that would push his physical and mental powers to the limit. He spent 14 months planning the expedition on a tight budget and shortly before he left the UK he managed to get sponsorship from a London-based production company which provided him with camera equipment to record his journey.

He flew to Mongolia last May and set out from the western city of Olgii, dragging with him a 120kg (18 stone) home-made trailer which carried his food and water, camping equipment and a small medical kit.

His longest day saw him complete 55km (34 miles) in the space of 14 hours. "It's a vast country and you can go days without seeing anyone, I went eight days without seeing a single soul and then you'd come across a nomad. We didn't speak the same language but we communicated through hand gestures and drawing in the sand. The people were really friendly and hospitable, they would invite me into their yurt for cup of cha (tea)," he says.

Many people would find the loneliness difficult to deal with but for the most part he says he enjoyed the solitude. "I'm probably never going to experience this kind of solitude again in my life so I told myself to enjoy it."

Sometimes, though, that was easier said than done. "There were times when I was fed up with the same old grotty tent and smelly sleeping bag, but if I found myself dwelling on the negatives or moaning about something I would tell myself to snap out of it, I never questioned what I was doing."

As well as the solitude there was the potential danger posed by wild animals, particularly wolves. "When I stopped at settlements the locals joked that I would get eaten alive by wolves but I didn't see any, although I did find a footprint and I almost stood on a pit viper, which could have been nasty."

However, it was the extreme weather that proved the biggest gauntlet. The worst moment and the closest he came to death was out in the Gobi Desert. "It was 40 degrees with no shade and I realised I was starting to suffer from heat exhaustion. I was running low on water and I was still three days from my next water source," he says.

"There was no helicopter to come and get me, the only back up would still have taken a couple of days by land. So that was scary because I knew that I had to keep going otherwise I would die." He found the resolve to continue but says at times it was agonising with such a heavy weight in tow. "I could only keep moving about 10 minutes at a time and then I would rest under the sledge.

"I found the Gobi Desert harder than the Altai Mountains because the tyres on the sledge would sink in the sand as I walked – it was like dragging a concrete block through hell."

He finally made it to civilisation but had to spend the next seven days recovering and building his strength back up.

The temperatures veered from 40 degree heat to lows of around minus 15 in the mountains. "I got caught in one blizzard but it was the end of winter so it was nothing major, but there were plenty of sandstorms," he says.

It was the unpredictability of the weather that made it so dangerous. "You could be walking in 30 degree heat and then it would drop to below zero in just half an hour and you'd get pelted with hailstones. One moment you were praying for rain and the next you were praying for the sun to come back out."

Then there was the lightning. "When I was walking in the Mongolian Steppe lightning would strike very close by which was worrying because there I was lugging this steel trailer behind me."

His story was followed back in the UK and it also piqued the interest of the Mongolians who even gave him his own nickname. "

My translator phoned me from the capital about a quarter of the way through and told me the locals were calling me the 'lonely snow leopard', because the snow leopard roams the land alone. I thought that was pretty cool and it gave me a bit of extra motivation to keep going."

Ash finally finished his journey in the eastern city of Choibalsan exhausted, but elated.

Most people wouldn't attempt what he did in a month of Sundays, but the affable Welshman says it was just about challenging himself. "As a kid I liked going out and exploring the land and finding out what I was capable of achieving and it's something that's just stayed with me, it's about confronting my own fears."

His record-breaking trek has established him as one of Britain's most prominent adventurers. Even the indefatigable Sir Ranulph Fiennes, not a man easily impressed, was moved to say that Ash's Mongolian feat showed "great determination."

He has his eyes on another major expedition later in the year, although he's keeping tight lipped about it for the time being.

But before then he plans to lead an expedition into north Mongolia. "It's a 120km trek and it's a chance to see snow leopards and grey wolves and walk across mountains and glaciers - nothing too physically demanding," he says, enthusiastically.

Ash Dykes is appearing at Sheffield University Student Union on March 11. For tickets go to www.tickets.sheffieldstudentsunion.co.uk

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Biggest Regional Horse Race Competition "Dunjingarav 2015" Postponed to February 28

February 24 (infomongolia.com) The first biggest regional spring horse race competition, the "Dunjingarav 2015" for Central Region Aimags (Darkhan-Uul, Selenge, Tuv, Govisumber, Dundgovi, Dornogovi and Umnugovi) was scheduled to take place at the Tsagaan Khutul valley in Tuv Aimag on February 22, but due to bad weather/road conditions, organizers decided to postpone the race in order to provide safety and moved to February 28, 2015.

According to schedules, the "Dunjingarav" race will be held as customary in four age categories including Crossbreed horses (stallions and horses over 5 years of age), Azarga or Stallion, Ikh Nas (horses over 5 years of age) and Soyolon (five-year old horses).

The races will be starting with Crossbreed horses at 09:00 am, and the official opening ceremony will be held at 10:00 am nearby the finishing line at "Urguu Ger" with art performances.

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Mongolian Ringling Circus Camels, One Hump or Two, Are Singular Attractions

PHILADELPHIA, February 18 (New York Times) — Cody, a coltish 4-year-old camel with a double hump, stood placidly during rehearsal in the center circus ring at Wells Fargo Center here. That is, until he turned toward the show's ringmaster and placidly began to munch on the shiny brim of his rhinestone-embellished top hat.

"He is eating my hat!" said David Shipman, the ringmaster. Mr. Shipman edged away. Cody followed. And kept munching.

Looking on, and collapsing in laughter, were the Desert Goddesses, who are all too familiar with camels' antic ways. The Mongolian troupe of camel stunt riders is a new attraction of the 145th edition of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which opens on Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

In the new edition, titled "Circus Xtreme," six camels wheel about in formation as the riders perform their own synchronized stunts. The six women, all skilled in Cossack-style riding, assume stately poses that echo the camels' haughty, chin-up demeanor. The Goddesses drape themselves across the trotting camels' necks, hang backward from their pommels and even grasp their saddles to twist upside down with legs in the air.

Their mounts are two-hump Bactrian camels — Camelus bactrianus — that have origins in the Asian steppes, including Mongolia. These camels are rarer than one-hump dromedaries; Bactrians are Seussian creatures that almost look like Rube Goldberg contraptions.

"Camels — invariably one-hump dromedaries — have been used to dress up spectacles in American circuses," said William B. Hall, an 81-year-old independent circus producer in Churchville, Pa., who has seen every year's Ringling show since his parents took him to his first, in 1934. "But Mongolian horsewomen riding Bactrian camels, and doing stunts — well, it's a first. I can't recall anything like this."

"The camels all have such different personalities," said Enkhgerel Otgonchimeg, 19, winner of a horseback archery award from the Mongolian government.

"And their two humps make for a more comfortable ride," said Tuul Gantumur, 22, who has been a Cossack horsewoman for a decade. She rides Chester, a 10-year-old, 8-foot-tall camel weighing 1,500 pounds.

The Goddesses, several of whom come from circus families, began riding in Mongolia's capital, Ulan Bator. They are part of the troupe of 24 Mongolian performers in the show, including acrobats, weight lifters and a throat singer. "It was an off-the-wall idea, to take six camels that hadn't been ridden before and match them with six horsewomen," said Nicole Feld, who with her sister Alana produces the Ringling show. "It took us a year to work it all out."

Robert Stipka, the troupe's 30-year-old animal trainer, said that "camels are a bit easier to train than horses, and they are very intelligent."

Though camels have a reputation for orneriness, "they are very friendly and not aggressive or mean, though sometimes they have a bad day," said Mr. Stipka, the seventh-generation scion of a Czech circus family. "Camels bite — but no more than horses do." However, he noted, camels tend to spit when agitated.

It took Mr. Stipka six months to school the camels. "We use only positive reinforcement, treats and rewards, and that's why it takes so much time," he said. "If you're mean to them, they get scared and they won't perform."

Mr. Stipka has trained the camels to move by voice command (in French, a cavalry tradition) as well as by his and the riders' body movements. They perform in columns of twos and threes, in interweaving cutbacks and, yes, waltzes. The camels perform with the show's 110 humans, 20 dogs, 18 tigers, five elephants, three horses, two snakes and a miniature donkey. Mr. Stipka said the Bactrians travel together in a custom-designed camel trailer.

The camel presentation is a work in progress, and the Goddesses are eager to refine their maneuvers. "We'd like to shoot arrows while riding," Ms. Otgonchimeg said, "or stand on the moving camels."

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus heads to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday and runs through March 1; ringling.com.

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University Hospital surgeons repair Mongolian baby's heart in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO, February 17 (KSAT) - A baby who traveled around the world to take advantage of the one thing he needed to survive, but could not get in his home country of Mongolia.

Tuvshintur was born with a hole in his heart, which forced him to fight against low oxygen levels and poor circulation. There is no medical care in his hometown so the nonprofit volunteer group, HeartGift, helped identify a solution: a partnership here in San Antonio.

Leslie Davis Met, the executive director of HeartGift said, "While Mongolia has made great strides to modernize, they don't offer pediatric cardiothoracic surgery."  It's a typical scenario in underdeveloped countries, and exactly why HeartGift exists.

Using partners at the University Health System, UT Kids, and the UT Health Science Center, Tuvshintur was matched with a surgeon, a hospital, a host family and a medical plan.  Dr. Adil Husain, the head of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery in the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center feels strongly about what these partners can do to save lives, but also prove the value of seeking  global understanding and cooperation. 

"HeartGift is an opportunity to transcend all those differences amongst us and bring us together," Husain said. "We want to serve the children and we want to serve this life while on this earth."

It's been five weeks since Tuvshintur's family came to San Antonio and in that time he's transformed from a lethargic baby, to an energetic handful. His mother, Battsetseg Ganbaatar said, "Now he is very active. He's crawling a lot and doing a lot of things. He's busy, you know."

Also watching the transformation was Gowa Borzigin, a handpicked host from Mongolia. She smoothed over the cultural and linguistic issues during the family's stay on behalf of HeartGift. "It is a most rewarding experience for me. I can see the baby recovering immediately after the surgery, becoming active, showing big smiles," Borzigin said.

The family returns to Mongolia on Thursday with a lot of goodwill, and a medical plan so that Tuvshintur's health can be monitored.  If you would like more information on HeartGift click here.

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Mongolian cinematographers participate in 29th Annual ASC Awards, LA

By B. Tungalag

February 24 (UB Post) The 29th Annual ASC Awards, organized by the American Society of Cinematographers, took place on February 15 in Los Angeles, USA.

Cultural Merit Cinematographer D.Angarag, E.Sant-Amar, D.Nomin, Ch.Shinebayar, Ch.Davaasuren, Kh.Jigjidsuren, E.Telmuun and L.Nyamjargal participate in the event from Mongolia.

D.Angarag previously worked on famous Mongolia movies such as "Minii Khursh Chutgur" (My Neighbor is a Devil), "Bodliin Khulgaich" (Thief of the Mind), "Dev" and "Anu Khatan" (Queen Anu).

He took part in the 86th Academy Awards (The Oscars 2014), which took place in Hollywood, Los Angeles. The cinematographer was also involved in a professional cinematographer's training by invitation of the American Society of Cinematographers in October 2013.

He is currently working to produce a movie called "Precious" with Hollywood artists.

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Marco Polo series creator John Fusco on Mongolia

The hit Marco Polo TV series might never have got off the ground if its writer hadn't been inspired by a horseback trip in Silk Road territory with his son

Interview by Will Coldwell

February 20 (The Guardian) –

I grew up with a fascination with Marco Polo. I had this unlikely interest in the east as a young man and you can't really read about Chinese history and philosophy without encountering him at every turn. So I'd always wanted to explore the Silk Road myself.

My son, Gio, wanted to do a horseback trip in Mongolia, but he didn't want to do an Abercrombie & Fitch-type tour, where they show you around while you sleep in B&Bs. I was in Beijing shooting the Forbidden Kingdom – just a one-hour flight from Ulaanbaatar – and I just felt it was now or never. I sought out a guide to take us on a father-and-son adventure.

I named a fictional character in Marco Polo after our guide, Byambaa. I was very impressed by him and we became really tight. Then, when we started shooting, we needed a Mongolian cultural adviser on set, so I tracked down Byambaa for the role.

I do like roughing it, but things started to get rugged from the start. We drove for 10 hours on rocky trails out into the central part of Mongolia in a Russian utility vehicle with no shock absorbers. Then we arrived at a remote area where we stayed in a yurt and waited to meet a horse wrangler who was scheduled to bring our rides. He never showed. It was our first day and Byambaa had to leave us alone at the camp to go looking for him.

I started thinking a lot about Marco Polo out there. I was with my son, this western kid and I thought about how Marco was just 17 when he travelled with his father on the Silk Road. In Ulaanbatar, there's a statue of him in the square.

"OK, I've got good news and bad news," Byambaa told us on his return. The bad news was that the horse wrangler had gone to his daughter's wedding, celebrated a bit too much and his horses had got away. I said: "So we wait for him to sober up and get the horses?" And he said: "No … this celebration will go on all summer." The good news was our guide had met a nomad out on the steppe, who agreed to bring some replacement horses the next day.

"Horse thunder" is what I call the sound of galloping hooves. When our horses finally arrived they were pretty wild, and we woke up to their thunder as they approached. We stayed up through the night riding the half-tamed horses in the desert to break them. I was thinking: "I've got a 13-year-old son. His mother's gonna kill me ..."

It felt very ceremonial when we set off. But my horse took three or four steps and then went rodeo. I'm no stranger to gentling wild horses, but Mongolian saddles are made of wood and have really short stirrups and it was my first time in one. I was completely thrown from the horse. I wouldn't know this until the end of the trip, but I actually broke a rib.

Lunch in Mongolia consists of urum, which is sweet cream and yak meat. And you drink airag, which is fermented mare's milk. In the evening, there's a tradition among the men to sit around at night and drink vodka together. They fill a little copper receptacle and pass it around. I would look forward to those vodka ceremonies because it was the only painkiller I had.

I was really proud of Gio. It was a coming-of-age adventure for him. I never imagined that we'd experience things like broken ribs and running out of water but the impact of that trip was wonderful. He and I relive it all the time.

The idea for the Marco Polo series was borne of that trip. We would camp at night in the gers and I'd ask about the history of Mongolia and they would say: "Well, as Marco Polo said …"

• Season one of Marco Polo is currently available on Netflix

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J.J. Annaud's Wolf Totem premiers in Mongolia on Feb 27

By B. Chimeg

February 24 (gogo.mn) "Wolf Totem" is a 2015 Chinese-language drama film based on the 2004 Chinese semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Lu Jiamin. Directed by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud. Jean-Jacques Annaud is best known for directing Seven Year in Tibet.

Actors Wiiliam Feng Shaofeng, Shawn Dou, Basen Zhabu and Mongolian actress R.Ankhnyam starred in the movie. 

Wolf Totem was released in France on Feb, 25 while released in China on Feb 29 and had earned USD 7.5 million.

In Mongolia, Wolf Totem will be in theatres starting 27th of Feb at 5PM at Tengis cinema, Urgoo cinema and Soyombo cinema. Mongolians are to watch this movie with Inner Mongolian dialect. 

Wolf Totem is highly expected to be nominated at the next Oscar, "Gegee Publication" and actress R.Ankhnyam established an agreement to release "Wolf Totem" officially in Mongolia with the holders of intellectual property rights. Wolf Totem release in Mongolia is being sponsored by Mongol Content LLC and sponsored by Ard Financial group. 

Actress R.Ankhnyam said at the press conference on movie opening in Mongolia:

Feeling cold and sleepless nights are not the problem for actors. I did not consider that as a difficulty. Such things happen to every actor. However, what was really challenging during the filming I was afraid of wrong acting, afraid of negative impression on the nation and afraid of Mongolians feel uncomfortable when they see the movie. Two Inner Mongolians helped by giving advice to directors on how to assemble ger or other Mongolian national customs and traditions. For my further movie, I am negotiating a contract with Chinese artists. 

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Mogi: wait, is this guy an ethnic Chinese or Mongolian? Article is confusing on that. In any case, he himself is distorting Mongolian culture. Mongol legends say we are descendants of wolfs.

Ethnic Chinese writer criticises 'fake culture forced on Mongolians' in hit film, 'Wolf Totem'

Guo Xuebo claims film, released at Lunar New Year showing folk traditions, rituals and lives of the ethnic Mongolian nomads and their bond with wolves, distorts the truth

February 24 (South China Morning Post) An ethnic Mongolian writer has criticised a hit new film, released in the mainland on the first day of the Lunar New Year, claiming that it distorts the truth and is based on a "fake culture forced on Mongolians [by the author]".

Wolf Totem, based on a 2004 semi-autobiographical Chinese novel of the same name by Zhang Rong – the pen name of Lu Jiamin – describes the experiences of a young Han student, played by Feng Shaofeng, who is sent to teach in the countryside of Inner Mongolia in 1967, during the Cultural Revolution.

During his days with local shepherds, the student starts to learn about the folk traditions, rituals and lives of the ethnic Mongolian nomads, as well as their bond with wolves, which is threatened by local officials.

The book also praises the teamwork and competitive spirit of ethnic Mongolians, as well as their freedom, independence and respect for nature.

However, Guo Xuebo, a member of China Writers' Association, said on his weibo microblog last Wednesday that wolves had never been a totem for Mongolians.

He said the new film depicted "a fake culture that has been forced on Mongolians [by the author]".

The film had already generated ticket sales of more than 300 million yuan (about HK$380 million) by yesterday lunchtime, news portal sohu.com reported.

Its director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, is no newcomer to controversy.

His 1997 film, Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt – about an Austrian mountaineer's experiences in Tibet from 1944 to '51, including teaching the young 14th Dalai Lama – was condemned by the Chinese government, and led to Pitt and the director being banned from entering China.

Annaud, who has since been welcomed back by the Chinese authorities, has also directed The Name of the Rose, starring Sean Connery, Enemy at the Gates, starring Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes, and The Lover, starring Tony Leung and Jane March.

"Wolves have never been the totem of Mongolians, and there's no record of any wolf totem in any Mongolian literature and history," Guo wrote in the microblog,

"Wolf is the natural enemy in Mongolian lives, and wolves have no team spirit and often fight with each other.

"Wolves are greedy, selfish, cold and cruel, and advocating the spirit of wolves is [a kind of] fascist thought that goes against humanity," Guo wrote. "We reserve the legal rights to safeguard the history of our ancestors and our ethnic culture."

Guo also said that a senior ethnic Mongolian writer had complained about the book when it was first published, but "our voices were so weak comparing with the interest group formed by the Wolf Totem".

The film, as well as the book – one of the mainland's best-selling novels – have both raised eyebrows on the mainland.

Lu, previously a low-profile writer from Beijing, was arrested during the Tiananmen bloody crackdown of 1989.

In an interview with Southern Weekly, Lu said his experiences – witnessing the destruction of the grasslands in Inner Mongolia by Han farmers – had aroused in him the need for self-examination into the weaknesses of the nation.

He said the Han people could learn valuable lessons from wolves about their "teamwork and friendship, their spirit to pursue independence and their indomitable will".

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Related:

Film version of Wolf Totem does justice to source novelGlobal Times, February 24

 

Mongolia's 'living gods': Mummy sheds light on Buddhist veneration of holy figures

ULAN, BATOR, February 22 (AFP-JIJI) – For more than a century, he sat in a meditative pose in remote western Mongolia before being thrust into the spotlight by an unscrupulous thief.

The discovery of the nearly perfectly preserved mummy of a Buddhist monk born almost 200 years ago may have baffled many but it is also shining a light on how the religion venerates relics of holy figures.

The corpse, still sitting in the lotus position, was recovered in the Central Asian country's capital of Ulan Bator after being stolen from its provincial resting place by a man who aimed to sell it, Mongolian media reported last month.

The remains are believed to those of a monk named Sanjjab who lived from 1822 to 1905, according to G. Purevbat, a noted Mongolian Buddhist artist and lama — spiritual teacher — involved in the investigation into the identity of the recovered mummy, as well as its long-term preservation.

Purevbat said that the deceased monk had been a disciple of the Geser Lama, a revered figure in Mongolian Buddhism who lived from 1811-1894.

"He is preserved so well, so beautifully," Purevbat said in an interview at the Ulzii Badruulagch Monastery, located in snowy mountains in Tov province about a 90-minute drive from Ulan Bator. Purevbat is head of the monastery.

"Once they finish the cleaning it will look like (the) real features," he said, adding that dust and earth had accumulated on the mummy's body and that it was now being carefully prepared for reinterment.

Mummified holy figures are a vital spiritual force for Mongolian Buddhists, with some believers maintaining that senior lamas whose bodies have been preserved are not really dead.

"We believe they are alive, therefore we believe they are living gods," Purevbat said.

Photos published shortly after the body's discovery show a bony, dusty-looking figure sitting with legs crossed, one palm slightly upturned with its head and upper body bent forward.

Requests to see the mummy, now in the hands of forensics officials in Ulan Bator, were rebuffed. Purevbat cited the need to conclude the investigation and properly clean the mummy before showing it to the public.

Jonathan Mair, an authority on Buddhism at the University of Manchester in Britain, said that the preservation of bodily relics in the faith goes all the way back to the Buddha himself.

"In Tibetan Buddhism (as practiced in Mongolia) intentional preservation of bodies of important religious teachers is commonplace," he said in an email.

"The body is placed in the lotus position, as in this case, before being packed in salt or other preservatives for a period of years" and eventually being exhumed and put in a stupa, or shrine, he said.

The exact circumstances of Sanjjab's mummification were not immediately clear and may come to light after the ongoing investigation is complete. Mair, however, cited the country's weather conditions as a possible factor.

"Mongolia is a very dry climate and it is possible that this contributed to the preservation of the body in this case," he said.

"There have also been cases of attempted — and sometimes successful — self-mummification, in which the body is prepared through an arduous process involving starvation and culminating in a meditation-unto-death," Mair added.

"This is well documented in Chinese, and especially in Japanese Buddhism, and it has been suggested that it has also been practiced by Tibetan Buddhists."

Buddhists in Mongolia were subject to intense persecution during much of the 20th century when the country was a communist satellite of the Soviet Union.

The oppression involved the destruction of numerous stupas, temples and monasteries and the killing of some 24,000 lamas in the 1930s, according to Purevbat.

He illustrated the nature of the violence by showing photos of bones and skulls of executed lamas — some with bullet holes — that he has worked to collect and inter.

Mongolia in 1990 threw off Soviet control in the aftermath of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and swiftly transformed itself into a vibrant democracy.

The Ninth Bogd Jebtsundamba, the Tibetan-born spiritual leader of Mongolia's Buddhists who had been forced to spend most of his life outside the country in India, died in 2012 and has been subject to mummification at Ulan Bator's Gandan monastery.

The original sites of Sanjjab and the Geser Lama's remains are two small separate stupas on Sodnomdarjaa Mountain in the country's west-central Arkhangai province.

Sanjjab's body will eventually be returned to its original resting place, although officials plan a more secure structure to avoid a repeat theft and will also build a small temple where faithful can pray, Purevbat said.

He added that while Sanjjab's mummy was looted, the remains of the Geser Lama were not taken because "his energy protects him."

"Just a simple man on the street can't reach him because he's very powerful," Purevbat said. "No one can reach him."

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Mongolia, where Catholic mission "demands empathy and patience"

In the country since 2003, Fr. Giorgio Marengo is a Consolata missionary in the steppes of Asia. He tells AsiaNews about the most important challenges for the local Church and the hopes of a community founded just over 20 years ago, that is growing "with prudence and confidence." Social work and engagement with the people helping to insert the Gospel within a shamanic and Buddhist tradition. The desire to "build a bridge" to a world quite different from the West.

Arvaikheer, February 17 (AsiaNews) - The most complicated challenge for a Catholic missionary in the steppes of Mongolia "is to empathize with the local population. The Mongols have a shamanic tradition, but also a strong adherence to Tibetan Buddhism. The most important thing,  and which we find most difficult, is the ability to empathize with this complex reality. The moment we evangelizers succeed in doing this, is the moment we really begin to understand them and then give answers, then we can begin to build a bridge to the their universe. And in this way the sharing of our faith may be more understandable to them". This is what Fr. Giorgio Marengo, a Consolata missionary who has lived in Arvaikheer  since 2003 tells AsiaNews: the area is 400 kilometers from the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and in fact is an outpost of the Catholic mission in the country.

Fr. George says that in order to really get in touch with the Mongols and be able to present the Gospel to them "it is essential to be aware of the complexity of their way of seeing life, both earthly and spiritual. And in this way be able to insert the proclamation of Salvation in Christ. This means for us the missionaries, understanding their reality, a dimension that sometimes eludes us. This is not always easy for us to do".

The Catholic Church in Mongolia was born just over 23 years ago, with the arrival (in 1992) of a small group of missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM, to read their story click here). Although still small in terms of numbers, according to Fr. Giorgio it "is doing well. It grows in small numbers and is always very careful not to give the impression of being a force that wants to destabilize the country. Here the Catholic reality - but also Christian - is a tiny minority, there are barely a thousand Catholics. The country has been isolated for a long time, and there is a law that protects religious freedom, but is also concerned about proselytizing. This is why we prfere to have a quiet, prudent presence"

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