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Thursday, February 26, 2015

[TT talks enter final round; no need to rush on PF says Otgo; MNT hits 11th low in a row; MIAT stops SG flights; and Amnesty Int'l slams Mongolia]

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

Overseas Market

Video: Rio's Turquoise Hill Sells SouthGobi Stake

Feb. 25 (Bloomberg TV) -- Turquoise Hill Resources agreed to sell its 22 percent stake in SouthGobi Resources, a Canadian coal miner with investments in Mongolia, to Novel Sunrise Investments for about C$17 million ($13.5 million). Bloomberg's Stephen Engle reports on "First Up."

Link to video

 

TRQ closed +0.66% to US$3.05, SGQ -1.79% to C$0.55, 1878 +0.51% to HK$3.92 Wednesday

Rio's Turquoise Hill Sells Stake in Mongolian Coal Miner (2)

(Updates with analyst's comment in sixth paragraph)

By Christopher Donville and Michael Kohn

February 25 (Bloomberg) -- Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. agreed to sell its 22 percent stake in SouthGobi Resources Ltd., the Canadian coal miner embroiled in a tax evasion case in Mongolia where its operations are located.

Turquoise Hill, a unit of Rio Tinto Group, agreed the sale to China-based Novel Sunrise Investments Ltd. for about C$17 million ($13.5 million) in cash, the Vancouver-based company said yesterday in a statement. That's a 31 percent discount to SouthGobi's closing price Monday.

SouthGobi, operator of the Ovoot Tolgoi coal mine, has drawn scrutiny after three former employees were convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to between five and six years in prison. SouthGobi was ordered to pay a fine of 35 billion tugrik ($18 million) and is appealing the ruling which it has said represents "a gross miscarriage of justice."

As recently as 2010, SouthGobi, whose main market is China, was valued at almost $3 billion. Amid a slump in the price of coal and a souring of the investment climate in Mongolia, the company is now worth just over $100 million and has warned that it risks insolvency if the tax verdict stands.

In July, Turquoise Hill sold almost 30 percent of the company to a Hong Kong-based buyer for 45.5 Canadian cents a share (Mogi: the deal is not closed yet, could still fall through, in which case SGQ will issue more shares to Novel). Its deal with Novel Sunrise is priced at 35 cents.

Working Capital

In a separate statement, 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.

The deal "shows the Chinese are not overly concerned with the negative investment environment," Nick Cousyn, chief operating officer for BDSec, Mongolia's largest brokerage, said by phone today. "The Chinese remain very interested in Mongolian coal and this investment will likely allow SouthGobi production to come back on line."

Novel Sunrise declined to comment on the purchase.

Turquoise Hill rose 1.1 percent to close at C$3.79 in Toronto, while SouthGobi climbed 9.8 percent to 56 Canadian cents. In Hong Kong, SouthGobi had added 0.5 percent as of 2:01 p.m. local time to trade at HK$3.92. The closing of the deal, pending Canadian and Hong Kong
regulatory approval, is expected by March 31.

Link to article

 

Ch.Otgochuluu: OT Phase II Development Awaiting Favorable Credit Terms, No Need to Rush

February 25 (gogo.mn) Oyu Tolgoi issues were of most interest among the journalists at the monthly briefing held by the Ministry of Mining.

Addressing the issue Head of Strategic Policy and Planning department of Ministry of Mining Ch.Otgochuluu replied with following.

"Oyu Tolgoi concentrator is working at full capacity and the operations are at normal pace. Some mistakenly say as if the construction of the second stage of the mine is underhalt. If it is to be compared with construction of a 15 storey building the current process is at construction of the first 2-3 storeys.

The project is waiting for a more suitable loan rates in order to finance high costs. Differences are at the loan conditions. Whereas the construction of the second phase will proceed anyway. We are negotiating on the loan conditions at the moment. There is no need for rush decisions."

Link to article

 

Final stage of TT negotiations starting Thursday

February 25 (news.mn) The working group on Tavan Tolgoi issues has announced that the 2nd stage of agreement on negotiations has been successfully carried out, and the agreement will be concluded with Tavan Tolgoi's strategic investor next month. 

The Minister of Mongolia, M.Enkhsaikhan has been appointed as a head of the working group and S.Javkhlanbaatar, Director General of the Foreign Investment Regulation and Registration Department, has been appointed as a head of the secondary meeting.

The National Security Council has obliged the government to continue the negotiations on Tavan Togloi without any barriers, as the agreement has been temporarily delayed.   

The Lunar New Year was celebrated while negotiations were underway, and representatives of the China's Shenhua Energy Co., Ltd. had to return to China for the holiday and temporarily stop negotiations. The negotiations will resume next Thursday, February 26.

Link to article

 

Prophecy Development Reports Progress on Private Placement

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Feb. 25, 2015) - Prophecy Development Corp. ("Prophecy" or the "Company") (TSX:PCY)(OTCQX:PRPCF)(FRANKFURT:1P2) announces that it continues to make progress towards the completion of the $3,596,000 non-brokered private placement previously announced on December 8, 2014 (the "Placement").

On February 14, 2015, the Toronto Stock Exchange ("TSX") approved the Placement subscriber as an insider of the Company.

The Company will issue a further announcement when the Placement closes.

Closing of the Placement is subject to the approval of the TSX.

Link to release

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Local Market

MSE News for February 25: Top 20 -0.14% to 13,801.48, Turnover 14.6 Million

Ulaanbaatar, February 25 (MONTSAME) At the Stock Exchange trades on Wednesday, a total of 22 thousand and 316 units of 16 JSCs were traded costing MNT 14 million 614 thousand and 100.00.

"Remikon" /8,321 units/, "Binse HK" /7,850 units/, "Olloo" /3,370 units/, "APU" /1,093 units/ and "Hermes center" /1,025 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value were "Binse HK" (MNT six million 240 thousand and 750), "APU" (MNT three million 885 thousand and 300), "Darkhan nekhii" (MNT 850 thousand), "Arig gal" (MNT796 thousand and 650) and "Remikon" (MNT735 thousand and 890).

The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 358 billion 786 million 525 thousand and 800. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 13,801.48, decreasing 0.14% and the all index of MSE was 984.57, decreasing 0.08% against the previous day.

Link to article

 

Major Shareholders Offer to Buy Out Remaining 84.6% Jins Uvs JSC Stake

February 25 (MSE) In accordance with the Articles No 22.1.1, 22.4 of "Securities Law of Mongolia", the issuer who wants to buy controlling packet of shares, could organize a block trading on MSE after he or she declares it to FRC and public, and send notification to the MSE.   

Therefore, MSE is informing that Tugsbayar Davaatseren, Tsengelmaa Buyan-Ulzii and Sojil Davaa who wants to buy 45,028 shares or 84.6 percent of "Jinst Uvs" JSC, made an offer to other shareholders with not lower than MNT100.00 per share. 

Link to release

 

MSE Primary Offer, 2/25-3/3: 2.2 Billion 52-Week T-Bills with 16.625% Yield

February 25 (MSE) --

1.    The issuer's name: Mongolian Ministry of Finance

2.    The purpose of the issuance of bond: Fund management of State treasure 

3.    Offering scope of securities: Offering to the public

4.    Type of securities: Government securities

5.    Face value: MNT 100,000 

6.    Discounted price:                                   

7.    Total amounts issued: 21,942.0 Units 

8.    Securities performance:

 Government Securities name 

 Amount /units/

Value /billion MNT/ 

 Maturity /week/

Form of Interest payment* 

Interest rate (percent) 

 Starting date of the order

Closing date of the trading 

 ЗГЭБ-Б-12-291

 21,942.0

2.2

52 

Monthly 

 16.625

 2015.02.25

2015.03.03 

9.    Rate of interest: interest rate of the Government Securities, which will be issued weekly, will be based on auction results of Central Bank basis State Government Securities weighted average interest rate. If the Central Bank's weekly trading cancelled, the interest rate will be set based on the previous trading of Government Securities weighted average interest rate.

10.  Order deadline: The Mongolian Stock Exchange will take orders 6 days and the trading will close on the 6th day at 14.00 PM and information on total orders will be delivered to the securities issuer. 

11.  Trading period: Total registered orders distribution of MSE trading system will be determined based on the Ministry of Finance votes.

Link to release

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Economy

Early morning bank rates: TDB (Buy 1,965 Sell 1,977), Khan (Buy 1,970 Sell 1,977), Golomt (Buy 1,972 Sell 1,985), XacBank (Buy 1,972 Sell 1,982), State Bank (Buy 1,960 Sell 1,986)  

BoM MNT Rates: Wednesday, February 25 Close

 

 

2/25

2/24

2/23

2/18

2/17

2/16

2/13

2/12

2/11

2/10

USD

1,982.89

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

EUR

2,255.34

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

CNY

316.78

315.89

315.69

315.51

314.73

314.47

314.30

314.08

313.61

313.39

GBP

3,074.07

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

RUB

31.68

31.21

31.24

31.57

31.32

31.47

30.14

29.61

29.50

29.86

MNT vs USD, CNY in last 1 year:

Link to rates

Back to top

Politics & Legal

Mongolian president to pardon jailed foreign miners: reports

Ulan Bator, February 25 (AFP) Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj will pardon three foreign mining executives including an American jailed on tax evasion charges, media reports and aides said today, as he seeks to encourage overseas investment in the vital sector. 

US citizen Justin Kapla and Filipinos Hilarion Cajucom and Cristobal David were each sentenced to more than five years late last month and have since been in a maximum-security prison. 

Sprawling and sparsely-populated Mongolia enjoyed world-leading economic growth in recent years -- peaking at 17.5 percent in 2011 -- on the back of a minerals boom exemplified by the giant copper and gold Oyu Tolgoi mine, operated by Anglo-Australian resources giant Rio Tinto. 

But that expansion has slumped to troubling levels, as rising resource nationalism, a global resources bust and an increasingly stringent investment environment led many foreign firms to abandon the country, and the three foreigners' jailing sent a chill through potential investors. 

Foreign direct investment into Mongolia dropped 74 per cent last year. 

The trio's pardon letters are to be finalised by Sunday, reputable online news site 24tsag.Mn reported Wednesday, citing sources in the president's office

"According to Mongolian law, the president has the right to pardon whomever he so choses," human rights and legal policy advisor to the president Chadraabal Unurbayar said in a statement released to the media. 

"In this case, these people are just first-time offenders, and the case is just tax-evasion, so they have the full right to request a pardon from the president," Unurbayar said. 

The president today pardoned three Mongolian citizens serving time for tax evasion, according to his website, in a move seen as seeking to avoid accusations of bias toward foreigners

The charges stem from a 2011 tax dispute with their former employer, coal miner SouthGobi Sands, that dragged on for years before the three were indicted in 2014. 

SouthGobi Sands' parent company, Toronto- and Hong Kong-listed SouthGobi Resources, filed an appeal against the verdict on February 18

Days earlier, the three jailed foreigners penned hand-written letters to the president asking for pardons and to be allowed to leave the country. 

Before entering prison, Kapla, Cajucom and David had been banned from leaving Mongolia for nearly three years.

Link to article

 

Mogi: this didn't get published on the website, Bloomberg editors I guess were buuzing hard as we were.

Seems a bit hypocritical for the pres. to be saying this. He appoints all those who investigates, prosecutes and judges, and also has the power to pardon.

Mongolia's President Cites Flaws in Jailing of Three Foreigners

By Michael Kohn

February 18 (Bloomberg) -- Mongolian judicial procedures that led to the jailing of three foreign businessmen on Jan. 30 for tax evasion have been criticized by the country's president in an interview on national television.

Decisions made by the prosecution in the case seemed "arbitrary" and some of the procedures were "unacceptable," President Elbegdorj Tsakhia said yesterday.

He joins a growing group of local and overseas business groups and government officials who have raised questions about the case and the sentencing, which resulted in jail terms of between five and six years.

The groups, including Mongolia's CEO Club, have questioned why the case was a criminal prosecution instead of civil and warned it could further damage foreign investment, which has collapsed 85 percent in two years as major mining projects in the country stalled due to contract disputes.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Mongolia earlier this month called for a suspension in negotiations between Mongolia and the U.S. over economic aid.

The three men -- U.S. citizen Justin Kapla and Philippine nationals Hilarion Cajucom and Cristobal David -- had worked for coal miner SouthGobi Sands LLC. when an investigation into the company for alleged tax evasion in Mongolia began two years ago.

SouthGobi was ordered to pay a fine of 35 billion tugrik ($18 million). The company, controlled by Rio Tinto Group unit Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd., has denied the charges.

Fine to Jail

Kapla, Cajucom and David have requested a pardon from President Elbegdorj and are currently awaiting a response, according to their lawyer Tsogt Natsagdorj, who declined to comment on the likelihood of that happening.

Prosecutor G. Gereltuya first recommended a fine for the three former SouthGobi employees then changed the recommendation overnight to a jail sentence.

"People are saying that the decision to change the recommendation from a fine to jailing happened over a few hours," said Elbegdorj.

"If there has been influence on the prosecutor, this person should say so and the person who influenced the prosecutor should be held accountable. If the prosecutor did this on their own belief and conviction, the prosecutor should be held accountable," he said.

SouthGobi Response

When contacted by Bloomberg News this week, Gereltuya said she is unable to comment on the case for legal reasons.

A presidential pardon would still leave the trio with a guilty verdict and SouthGobi still liable for the fine, according to the lawyer Tsogt.

While allowing the pardon process to play out, SouthGobi maintains that it did not commit tax evasion, and "will continue to vigorously defend itself through the appeal process", according to a press statement released today.

"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," according to the statement.

'Chronic Irritant'

"Longtime friends of Mongolia find it difficult to explain the facts, law or rationale of the trial and verdict," said Steve Saunders, president of the North America-Mongolia Business Council, in an e-mailed statement. "To avoid the SouthGobi verdict festering as a chronic irritant, instead of another good example of Mongolia doing the right thing, it needs to be walked back and soon."

The American Chamber of Commerce in Mongolia has called for a suspension of talks between the U.S. and Mongolia over economic aid. The matter will be addressed when congress returns from recess next week, according to Saunders.

Independent Mongolian Metals & Mining Research, an Ulaanbaatar-based advisory firm, today issued a statement calling for the president to pardon the SouthGobi trio tomorrow, the first day of the lunar New Year, on humanitarian grounds.

The pardon would "demonstrate Mongolia's absence of ill thoughts, coming together and reconciliation with the world," according to the statement.

(BFW)

 

Day 828: Mongolia's Endless Legal Flexibility

By Jon Springer

February 25 (Forbes) The government of Mongolia has made various statements recently about its rule of law. Various members of the government, including the Prime Minister, admit that there were some irregularities in a recent case that sent three former SouthGobi executives to prison for more than five years. The government has claimed it cannot do anything to fix these irregularities retroactively and can only amend the laws for future cases. Based on Mongolia's history of circumventing and ignoring its own laws, this is not true. For the desires of Mongolia's business and political elite, the law is something that seems malleable at their whim.

Down with the environmental rule of law, part one

For years, Canadian miner Centerra Gold has not been able to develop its Gatsuurt gold mine due to proximity to the Gatsuurt River and forested areas. The mine fell afoul of the environmental law Mongolians themselves refer to as The Law With The Long Name (The LLN's full name is The Law On Prohibiting Mineral Exploration And Extraction Near Water Sources, Protected Areas And Forests).

In January of this year, while still battling Rio Tinto over details of how to develop Mongolia's Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine, the government declared Gatsuurt a Strategic Mine (aka Deposit of Strategic Importance). Under Mongolia's law, the government has the right of up to a 34% stake in Strategic Mines, much like its 34% stake in Oyu Tolgoi that has led to so many problems between government and mining company that the Oyu Tolgoi mining project is now years behind schedule. However, in the case of Gatsuurt, the important part of declaring it a Strategic Mine is that as a Strategic Mine, it is of a national security interest to develop the mine and the mine is no longer beholden to environmental protection laws such as those in The LLN.

The government is still debating what stake it will take in the Gatsuurt Mine with a proposal for the stake to be 20% falling flat on Mongolia's parliamentary floor earlier this week.

Link to full article

 

Mogi: this is how Mongolia "investigates" crime

Amnesty International Report 2014/15: Mongolia

Head of state: Tsakhia Elbegdorj

Head of government: Chimediin Saikhanbileg

Torture and other ill-treatment in police custody remained widespread. Forced evictions occurred in urban areas. Discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and disability went largely unchallenged. Asylum-seekers were deported in violation of the non-refoulement principle by being forcibly returned to a country where they risked serious human rights violations.

BACKGROUND

The International Convention against enforced disappearance was ratified in October by Mongolia. However, the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, which had been ratified in 2012, had not led to changes in national legislation.

TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT

The use of torture and other ill-treatment, particularly to obtain "confessions", remained a serious human rights concern. Police officers and prison guards suspected of torture and other ill-treatment of people held at police stations and detention centres were not effectively investigated, leading to lack of accountability.

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) in the State General Prosecutor's Office was disbanded in January. The SIU was responsible for investigating complaints against prosecutors, judges and police officers who allegedly coerced statements during interrogation. Mongolia therefore lacked an independent mechanism to effectively investigate allegations of torture and other ill-treatment as the police themselves were in charge of reviewing such claims.

In February, three former detainees who had been held in the pre-trial detention centre of Arkhangai province lodged a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia claiming that they had been subjected to beatings and electric shocks to extract "confessions" while held there. One of them claimed that he had been deprived of food for six days to coerce him into pleading guilty. Because the SIU had been disbanded, the police department of Arkhangai province was in charge of investigating their own colleagues. The allegations of torture and other ill-treatment were subsequently dismissed.

Housing rights – forced evictions

Residents of ger (traditional wool felt dwellings) districts in Ulaanbaatar suffered from lack of access to adequate housing and essential services including water and sanitation. Promised adequate alternative housing still had to be provided to some of the residents of the 7th micro-district of Ulaanbaatar who had been forcibly evicted from their homes in 2007 without genuine consultation or other appropriate legal or procedural safeguards or protection.

Discrimination

Discrimination persisted on the basis of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. Gender discrimination in particular affected women from marginalized groups such as those living in rural areas and ethnic minority women. Hostility, discrimination and violence especially against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals continued. The legal definition of rape did not include men and boys so male victims of rape had particular difficulty in seeking adequate treatment, justice, redress and compensation.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In May, two Chinese asylum-seekers from the Inner-Mongolia Autonomous Region were deported back to the People's Republic of China. This occurred even though at least one of them was in the process of having his claim for refugee status determined by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, violating the non-refoulement principle by carrying out deportations before the process of status determination was completed, and sending individuals to a country where they were at risk of serious human rights violations.

Link to Mongolia page

 

Parliament working group to audit DBM on Chinggis, Samurai bond spending

By E. Orgil

February 25 (gogo.mn) Economy Standing Committee at State Great Khural called on press conference to report on its activities during the Fall Session. During the fall session economy standing committee had submitted over 20 draft bills,17 resolution drafts, discussed five international agreement drafts related to economy and market and submitted assessments to National Safety and Foreign policy standing committees. Economy Standing Committee met total of 23 times and the related working groups conducted 83 meetings during the fall session.

The following draft bills and draft resolutions have been submitted and approved:

·         Renewed law on Free Trade Zone and 18 related law drafts

·         Action plan on implementing the Policy on Railroad Transportation

·         2015 Monetary Policy Directions

·         Approval of the Program on Overcoming the Economic Downturn and its amendments

·         2015 State Treasury fund income and expenditure budget.

The implementation of the program on overcoming the economic downturn will be ensured by the Government of Mongolia, Bank of Mongolia and Financial Regulatory Commission and these are to develop action plan on implementation. The program provisions easing the investment environment, creating favorable environment for Mega projects and ensure the implementation of the Gold program.

Audit working group has been established in cooperation with the budget standing committee for Development Bank of Mongolia. The working group is led by MP L.Enkh-Amgalan and is comprised of nine members. The main focus of the audit working group will be auditing of the Chinggis and Samurai bond expenditure monitoring and assessment. The initial outcomes of the audit should be ready by the end of the February according to J.Batsuuri.

Link to article

 

Government to build 72 schools, kindergartens for $142.7 million over two years

By G. Orkhon

February 25 (Mongolian Economy) The government has agreed to build 72 schools and kindergartens over the next two years, under the terms of the education sector's first Consortium Agreement between the government and multiple private sector actors, signed Tuesday. Thirty new schools are planned for construction this year, with the remaining 42 to be built in 2016. As per the agreement, the constructed schools will be fully furnished and surrounded by greenery by the time of completion.

The Minister of Industry D.Erdenebat favors this project, as it is the result of an agreement between the government and the private sector, a practical union that relieves part of the government burden on spending, and allows it to rely on a group of businesses rather than one. The involvement of private sector groups will increase the quantity and quality of future health and education sector projects, with investment issues to be decided by subsequent consortium agreements between the government and private sector actors.

An investment of USD 142.7 is needed to implement Tuesday's agreement to build 72 schools and kindergartens. The minister said that the Asian Development Bank proposed an ADB loan to the Mongolian government. He supports such loans, in addition to concession agreements, where the government accepts investment by selling operation without permanently turning over ownership. Minister D.Erdenebat stated: "Possibly more concession agreements are waiting for us after this consortium agreement. A significant total of USD 1 billion may be invested by the first round of concession investments this year."

A planned USD 468.1 million for road construction and USD 738.7 million for the Baganuur Power Plant, Power Plant No.5, and other projects are to be invested this year by foreign and local investors looking to buy up government concessions.

Link to article

 

Cabinet approves 94.6 billion pension raise from March

By E. Orgil

February 25 (gogo.mn) Pension raise approved by the Government resolution No 52 to be issued starting February 1st of 2015 is to be in effect starting March this year.

According to the pension increase resolution 345 thousand citizens will receive the raise in accordance with Social Welfare Funded Pensions Law, Allowance for Industrial Injuries and Diseases Law and Military Service Allowance law. The raise is evaluated to be MNT 22,000 for pensions up to MNT 500,000 and MNT 20,000 for pensions over MNT 500,000.

MNT 94.6 billion is to be used from the Social Welfare Funds to finance the pension raise and the average pension is estimated to be increased by MNT 26,000 and reach MNT 283,000.

Link to article

 

Have Your Say Via SMS: Mongolia's Mobile Users Choose Industry Over Austerity

By Dorjdari Namkhaijantsan, NRGI Mongolia manager

February 24 (National Resource Governance Institute) In early February, the government of Mongolia went to the nation's mobile phone subscribers with a seemingly simple opinion poll. To stabilize the value of its declining currency, should Mongolia (1) advance the Oyu Tolgoi mine and other large-scale development projects, or (2) reduce expenditures and consumption, and instill economic discipline? As their economy faltered, citizens essentially faced a choice between foreign investment or austerity measures. "Let's decide together," the survey entreated potential respondents.

A country of just 3 million people, Mongolia has 3.3 million mobile phone subscribers—many have more than one carrier to tap different networks throughout the country. Some 11 percent of users, roughly 365,000 people, took part in the poll. Of those, a majority, 56.1 percent, favored resolving stalemates with key foreign investors. The other 43.9 percent voted to support austerity measures.

The survey's architect, Prime Minister Saikhanbileg Chimed, was appointed just three months ago. In his inauguration speech, he signaled that his government's top priority was the economy.

As the framing of the poll indicated, Mongolia's currency, the tugrug, is in steep decline. In 2014 alone, it depreciated 17.2 percent. In the past two years, it has fallen 39.7 percent against the US dollar. This decline, coupled with optimistic expansionary policies and Mongolia's dependence on Chinese imports, has led to double-digit inflation for the past three years running and consequent hardships for many. Gone are the days of economic growth at a breathtaking 17.5 percent (Mogi: readjusted to 17.3%), as the country saw in 2011. The 7.4 percent growth rate it expects for 2014—a good result for any country under normal circumstances—is perceived by many (especially politicians and the business community) as despairingly low, given the country's potential. Indeed, the poverty rate remains high at about 30 percent, and many businesses closed their doors in 2014 as the key sector, mining, suffered from low commodity prices and uncertainty around major projects. How could Mongolia's prospects sour in only four years' time?

A search for answers

A few answers lie in the policies that Mongolia implemented at the peak of its economic boom. The most notable was a cash handout program that supported children and newlyweds after the 2004 elections and continued as a universal cash handout after the 2008 elections. The concept won votes but became hard to finance, forcing the government to pledge future mining revenue to fund it. Another was a series of ambitious public investment programs that, after years of underinvestment, focused on social infrastructure with no immediate return. These were marred by political wrangling that sought to enrich electorate districts, not support projects that would benefit the entire economy.

Initially, funding for these projects came from Rio Tinto, the British-Australian company behind the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in southern Mongolia. The company agreed to pre-pay its tax upon signing the investment agreement in 2009, and early development of the mine brought a substantial influx of foreign currency and commerce. Additional funding came from pre-payments for the sale of coal to China from another massive project, Tavan Tolgoi. Furthermore, the government was busy selling bonds to foreign buyers. Its state coffers bulged as the elections of 2012 approached.

But then, things went suddenly awry. Government spending increased inflationary pressures. Initial construction at Oyu Tolgoi ended, and Mongolia found itself at odds with its largest investor, Rio Tinto, over the ballooning costs of the next phase of development. Pressed for a $5 billion injection, the government accused its corporate partner of tax avoidance, an allegation that the company denied. As a legal dispute ensued and development stalled, commodity prices fell, most notably coal. Other investors waited to see how Mongolia's dispute with Rio Tinto would unfold. Soon, the in-flow of foreign currency dried up, and the central bank's foreign reserves ran out.

A struggle to move projects

The reason, then, for the new prime minister's focus on the economy is clear. Saikhanbileg Chimed's advisors and lobby groups have pushed for a quick solution, but one hasn't surfaced. As foreign investment and investor confidence dwindles, and political and public pressure for better terms for the state mounts, there seem to be only two options—to move large projects but give big concessions to investors, risking political fallout; or fight for better deals with investors, risking insolvency and macroeconomic stability. It was at this difficult juncture that the government decided to poll the people to determine what next steps it should take.

With its prime location next to the behemoth Chinese commodity market, Mongolia seems perfectly poised to prosper from its mineral wealth. But the fledgling democracy is still relatively new to massive mining developments. Only in the late 1990s did it begin to issue exploration and mining licenses on a large scale—and it has been learning through trial and error ever since.

The 2009 investment agreement with Rio Tinto was seen as a landmark deal that would certainly lead to other large-scale investments. But cost overruns and dissatisfaction with perceived benefits, as discussed earlier, have only increased. Negative media coverage further worried foreign investors. A second ongoing deal, this one with a consortium led by China's Shenhua Group to expand the Tavan Tolgoi coal-mining project, could potentially stick Mongolia with costs to build transportation and other infrastructure to export coal to China. If negotiations drag on and coal prices remain low, Mongolia could lose its bargaining position.

Small-scale projects have brought challenges too, such as environmental and cultural protests at the Gatsuurt mine, run by Canada's Centerra Gold. At South Gobi Sands, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto-owned Turquoise Hill Resources (the same company that owns 66 percent of Oyu Tolgoi), three executives—an American and two Filipinos—were convicted of evading taxes and jailed, a further blow to investor confidence in Mongolia.

A way forward

Now that the poll is over, and the results are out, questions remain about their legitimacy. For example, critics argue that only 10 percent of eligible respondents voiced their opinion. They say that mobile users include teenagers and foreigners living in the country who would normally be ineligible to participate in a formal referendum. They also ask whether two options, which in fact could be complementary, were enough.

The government went to the people directly, and this could be a useful mechanism to solve important issues. It's the kind of democracy that many politicians and civil society groups have actively promoted. But this particular poll may not make the government's decision easier. The results may even diminish the country's bargaining power in dealing with foreign investors, who see Mongolia in a corner and desperate to move large mining projects as soon as is feasible. And the reasons for this, ironically, are the same as those that led them to organize a poll—low commodity prices and political pressure that will not abate but only increase before the parliamentary elections in June 2016.

Link to post

 

Research Note: Digital Politics in Mongolia

Lauren Bonilla, Rebekah Plueckhahn, Rebecca Empson, Department of Anthropology, University College London

February 23 (Material World) This post is written by researchers on an ERC-funded project entitled 'Emerging Subjects of the New Economy: Tracing Economic Growth in Mongolia' based at the Department of Anthropology, University College London.

Our project focuses on the mineral-rich country of Mongolia, once heralded as the world's fastest growing economy but now experiencing sharp economic slowdown. We trace the kinds of subjects and activities that are emerging out of this economy of flux – when promises of economic growth are continually referenced but never seem to materialize; when people are forced to live with the rhetoric of hope and potential which everyday reality never approximates – leading to alternative experiences and imaginaries.

Through ethnographic studies of the mining industry, ownership and property regimes, the bank and credit market, free trade zones, and environmental and nationalist movements, we examine how different subjectivities, temporal perspectives, politics, and environments are produced through engagements with different economic visions and promises.

This post examines the reception and implementation of a poll that circulated through mobile phones in Mongolia seeking to gauge the opinion of the population at a critical economic juncture. We pay particular attention to the language used in the poll and the way it presented choices for economic futures as well as masking potential decisions.

What happens when a dispersed population in a country the size of Western Europe suddenly receives a text message on their mobile phones from the government asking them to vote on the future of the country's economy? This is exactly what happened on Friday, January 30th, 2015, when Mongolians opened a text message on their phones asking them to vote on furthering large mining projects (like Oyu Tolgoi) or 'disciplining the economy' and resorting to austerity measures, neither being particularly inviting solutions.

The economy in Mongolia, as elsewhere, is something that is at the forefront of people's minds. Last February, Mongolia's President, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, welcomed the year of the 'Blue Wooden Horse', calling it a 'victorious' year. According to the Buddhist Lunar calendar, horse years mark times of monumental change and Mongolia was to 'gallop forward' to a prosperous future fuelled by the discovery of its vast mineral reserves.

The year of the Blue Wooden Horse has, however, been far from victorious. The country had the world's fastest growing economy in 2011 due to foreign investments in mining. But it is now experiencing a sharp economic slowdown. Over the last 3-4 years, global commodity prices in coal and copper have fallen and foreign investments have stalled or declined. As public and private debt mountinflation rises, and jobs disappear, Mongolians are increasingly questioning the motives of foreign investors and politicians who once heralded their country's mineral wealth as key to their national development.

Now as the new Lunar Year is here, the government under Prime Minister Chimediin Saikhanbileg is attempting what appears to be last-ditch efforts to end the Year of the Horse on a fortuitous footing. Instead of the government imposing a decision on the populace, Saikhanbileg has turned to the Mongolian public. Posing a question to Mongolians on national television, he invited them by text message to vote for one of two key directions for Mongolia's Development Path for 2015-2016.

The text from the Mongolian government read:

'Together let's choose our pathway of development for Mongolia 2015-2016.'
Mongol ulsiin 2015-2016 onii högjiliin zamaa hamtdaa songoyie.

The message asked people to reply by text on two economic policy options:

Set the price [meaning to reverse the depreciation of the Mongolian currency and rising inflation] by deciding on Oyu Tolgoi [a copper and gold mine] and other big construction projects.
Oyutolgoi bolon buteen baiguulaltiin tom töslüüdiig shiideh zamaar hanshaa togtooh.

Set the price by reducing our spending and consumption, and discipline the economy.
Zardal heregleegee buuruulj, ediin zasgaa sahilga batjuulah zamaar hanshaa togtooh.

The message asked people to reply by text at no cost between 10:00am on January 30th (a Friday) and 10:00pm on February 3rd (a Tuesday).

In a country where mobile phone use is ubiquitous across rural and urban areas, and where using a mobile phone to participate in competitions like 'Mongolian Idol' is familiar among many, the Mongolian government's decision to harness mobile technology to reach citizens should not be read as particularly surprising.

Indeed, there have been a number of moves to promote 'direct democracy' in Mongolia via mobile technology. For example, as Julian Dierkes notes, the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar, E. Bat-Uul, has gone to residents on three occasions to seek their input via SMS. The former Prime Minister, Noroviin Altankhuyag, who parliament expelled from government last November for ineffectively reviving the economy, began direct communications with citizens starting in 2012. He created a free telephone line, '11-11', that allowed citizens to call to provide their thoughts and opinions on a wide array of issues from everyday life to government policies.

What is intriguing and important about this SMS poll is: 1) the type of politics it created as people engaged with the text message, as well as 2) the implications of the text message for future political and economic development interventions.

Engaging the Text

A Gesture of Democratic Politics

Overall, we get the impression that this poll was understood as a 'show', hinting at a larger distrust in government, as can be seen in the following cartoon that circulated on social media:

Cartoon of SMS poll

This cartoon circulated by Darkhan Mongol Nogoon Negdel (Sacred Mongol Green Association) presents the two options in the SMS poll as two corridors leading to only one place: 'slaughter'. Below, the caption reads, 'Ch. Saikhanbileg's Mongolian people confronting a "crossroads"'. Such a bleak picture speaks of a much wider public pessimism and scepticism over whether Mongolia will be able to create a better economic future, no matter what direction they take. 

So what will the new Sheep year bring? On the eve of the new Lunar Year on February 19th, the Mongolian public waits to see what decisions and directions the government might take. Whatever the potential ineffectiveness of the SMS poll, it has garnered speculation, engagement and criticism from a wide range of people, as they see the government making quite a number of dramatic steps in a short period.

The poll also reveals particular Mongolian perspectives on economic futures, especially relating to what constitutes growth and austerity. In a nation of mobile pastoralism, maintaining a form of equilibrium is an essential part of herd management. This last image arguably presents a tongue-in-cheek (or not so) take on what austerity could mean. Like the previous cartoon, these are representations of the options provided in the text message. The first one, implying the adding of something new and taking a risk (such as pursuing mining projects with foreign investors) increases the herd the following year, but only by five sheep. The 'austere' alternative, however, presents not so bad a picture. The herd maintains itself without much intervention. Things remain the same. In this vision, holding the line and not acting may just seem like the best possible option when committing to change would mean relinquishing more than one gains.

Link to post

 

Casino bill on Mongolia parliament's spring agenda

February 24 (business-mongolia.com) The Mongolian Parliament would approve draft law on Casino by the Spring Session of the State Great Khural. The new draft law was proposed for the State Great Khural from the Government of Mongolia, after discussing several times by the Cabinet Ministers Meeting.

The first draft stated that only foreign nationals and stateless body over 21 years old can enter to the casinos in Mongolia. The exact locations of planned casinos are not settled yet, but highly considered location is Zamyn Uud, a border town to China, because the another law on Zayn Uud economic free zone stated that casino can operate in the Zamyn Uud free zone.

There are only two legal entities will receive casino licenses and license fee is 35 billion MNT. The lawmakers informed that according to the revenue projection based on the given parameters, the casino is expected to bring 138 billion MNT for the first year and 74 billion MNT in the succeeding years on average. If two casinos are in operation this revenue would double.

Also, Government agency "Casino Regulatory Committee" would be formed in order to provide adopting regulations, issuing and extending the license and monitoring the industry.

Casino can attract approximately US$500 million as investment. The casino is projected to have 80 tables, 1500 slot machines, making US$124 million revenue and providing 800 workplaces with salary of MNT 2 million on average.

The State Great Khural will discuss the draft law during its spring session.

Late 1990s, the Mongolian Parliament and its MPs experienced big scandal over the casino law approval, jailing numerous decision makers over the bribery accusation.

Link to article

 

Civil servants will be required to master Mongol Script in 10 years

By E. Enkhmaa

February 25 (gogo.mn) Mongolian Language law has been adopted just before the closure of the fall session of State Great Khural for the very first time. The law will be effective starting July 1st of 2015. What are the main provisions that everyone needs to know?

1.    Mongolian language and literature classes should be taught starting from the first grade and special focus is given to private schools with foreign language curriculum to adhere to this provision.

Private schools with foreign language curriculum are inclined to lessen the Mongolian language and literature classes starting from the fifth grade and increase the load of the foreign language classes, which is seen as potential threat to mother language immunity.

Moreover, lesser Mongolian language classes lead to potential risk for the future citizens to not be able to work in civil service or corporations with strict bars.

2.    Mongolian language test scores to be mandatory at the higher education admissions. As the law will be in effect starting July 1st of this year, this provision is to be adhered starting in 2016.

3.    Address and banners on the streets to be wrtitten in Mongolian language.

4.    Civil servants have to pass Mongolian language test and one fourth of the test will be on Mongolian script.

5.    State Language Council changes into National council of Language Policy, which is to monitor the media language use and councel on Mongolian language use.

6.    ID, birth certificate, marriage certificate and education certificates are to be both in Mongolian cyrillic and Mongolian script.

7.    Mongolia will have unified Mongolian language rules and every citizen and entity should adhere to it.

8.    Language Policy Council is to be set under President and will have 9 members appointed by President for the 6 year term.

9.    Mongolian Language Linguistic Institute will be formed under Mongolian Academy of Science. The institute will be responsible for studies of Mongolian language, evaluate changes in the vocabulary and conduct studies in lexicology. Moreover, will be in charge of translation of foreign terminology into Mongolian.

10.  Language Policy Council will be in charge of compilation of geographical names dictionary, its registration in world geographic dictionary, to avoid unlawful change of geographical names.

11.  Mongolian script will be introduced in stages and state and local government is to conduct their correspondence in both cyrillic and Mongolian script. This provision is to be effective starting January 1st of 2025.

Some of the misinterpretations of the Mongolian Language law has been clarified by MP M.Batchimeg in brief.

MONGOLIAN LANGUAGE LAW AND SOME MISINTERPRETATIONS

Misinterpretation 1: Use of cyrillic is to be terminated and only Mongolian script to be used.

There is no provision in the law that states the termination of use of cyrillic. It clearly states that Mongolian script is to be added to the current use of cyrillic.  Mongolian script will be introduced in stages and state and local government is to conduct their correspondence in both cyrillic and Mongolian script. This provision is to be effective starting January 1st of 2025. ID, birth certificate, marriage certificate and education certificates are to be both in Mongolian cyrillic and Mongolian script and currently Mongolian script is being used in official letters of President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament.

UNESCO has warned us to protect Mongolian script as it is in danger of disapperaing. State Great Khural has adopted this law in order to protect the national heritage.

Misinterpretation 2: Mongolian script classes introduced at elementary school will cause similar phenomenon of 1990s. 

The law provisions introduction of Mongolian script starting from the 6th grade, after the children are good at cyrillic. Moreover, the higher education admissions will have mandatory Mongolian language examinaiton, of which one fourth will be on Mongolian script. As of today every secondary school has Mongolian script classes.

Misinterpretation 3: This law discriminates other foreign languages.

This law intends to protet the national language and script and does not discriminate any other languages. There are two provisions in the law that regulated anything related with foreign language.

First, private schools with foreign language curriculum are to include Mongolian language and literature classes starting from first grade until the graduation in accordance with approved curriculum. 

Second, public schools are to introduce foreign language classes starting from the fifth grade. There are many countries with the same practice of introducing foreign language at the age of 10-11.

Mongolia adhered to this policy since 1990. Currently children enter school at the age of 6 and starting from fifth grade or age of 10-11 are being introduced to foreign language classes in public schools. 

Misinterpretation 4: The law provisions high fines if not adhered. 

Mongolian language law has only one provision on fine to be imposed on legal entities equal to 10-15 times of minimal wage (1,920,000 - 2,880,000). The law itself is not hard to adhere to and does not require any monetary funds.

There is no provision that states to fine a citizen. It only states that every citizen is to adhere to the law.

Misinterpretation 5: Law will change the Mongolian language rules and translations of foreign words.

Rules and translations are not be regulated by the law. This will be under responsibility of Linguistics Institute under Mongolian Academy of Science, which further will be approved by the National Councel of Language Policy.

Misinterpretation 6: Mongolian language issue is not crucial during the times of economic downturn.

Protection of the national language is crucial for any nationality and a major issue related to naitonal safety.

Law initiators have agreed that the lack of unified policy on Mongolian language for the past 20 years have caused number of issues and needs to be addressed. The draft of the law has been under discussion with professionals for over two years.

The approval of this law won't have any negative impacts on state economic policy, activities and won't have any drawbacks on the economy and people's lives.

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Business

Mongolia to send coal through N. Korean port in trial export

News comes one day after the two countries sign a memorandum of understanding to increase cooperation

February 25 (NK News) Mongolia will ship 25,000 tons of coal to North Korea's Rajin port this year as part of a trial export project, the chairman of the Mongolian Railroad Authority said.

Mongolia has a thriving coal industry, but its lack of coastline and undeveloped rail infrastructure limit its export options. North Korea's Rajin port in the country's far northeast was recently upgraded to handle larger volumes of coal exports, as part of a Russian-backed infrastructure project.

North Korea has already shown interest in having Rajin as a hub for non-DPRK exports, last year partaking in a trilateral project that saw Russian coal shipped to South Korea via the North.

"There are no technical problems with delivering coal to North Korea, and we are seeking ways to deliver coals through trans-Siberian railway to Rajin," the Mongolian Railway Authority's chairman said in comments carried by the Korean Broadcasting System.

According to the report, Mongolia is also investigating how to deliver other metals such as copper and gold, and will consider the profitability of doing so.

This announcement comes just as North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong is wrapping up an official visit to Mongolia. During the trip the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and finalized agreements on numerous forms of cooperation.

During the trip Ri met with Mongolia President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Chimediin Saikhanbileg, former U.S. State Department Foreign Service officer Alicia Campi told NK News.

"In addition to his meeting with the Mongolian Foreign Minister Purevsuren, his meeting with Mrs. Burmaa, minister of food and agriculture, is key because of food cooperation," Campi added.

Last year, Mongolia exported more than 22 million tons of coal, mostly to China. Mongolian coking coal is favored in the region as it is significantly discounted when compared to global prices.

North Korea itself also has relatively large coal exports, which are mostly bound for China or Russia. Coal shipments from North Korea jumped rapidly at the end of the last decade, and are currently the most significant DPRK export, generating approximately $1 billion a year.

Link to article

 

Bill seeks to consolidate Mongolia's scattered SME sector

February 25 (news.mn) A working group under the Ministry of Industry is now working on changes to the law on small and medium sized enterprises.

Within the policy of developing small and medium enterprises, a moderate amount of support is provided by the state. As a result, the number of small and medium enterprises has reached 40,000. However, the ministry believes that too many small factories are manufacturing the same types of products and competing with each other, which has become a barrier for development.  

The Ministry of Industry has decided to consolidate the activities of these factories and integrate their efforts in a decision to support policy driving competition in the market. 

As indicated in the newly amended law, it has been decided to categorize small and medium enterprises as micro, small, and medium enterprises.

Link to article

 

Over 4,000 enterprises owe debt to social insurance

February 25 (Mongolian Economy) The Social Insurance General Office (SIGO) has declared a 'Trust Campaign' in order to promote the return of businesses back into the government's fold. The campaign enables the reopening of closed accounts and the renewal of contracts for indebted enterprises.

General Director of the Social Insurance General Office Ts.Urtnasan stated: "There are 3,000 enterprises nationwide and 1,130 enterprises in the capital with closed accounts because of their social insurance debt." According to a report from SIGO, the campaign will allow certain enterprises the opportunity to rearrange their operation. While past debts won't be forgiven outright, companies will be given time to restructure and repay the debts at a later date. The Trust Campaign lasts from February 16 until April 13, 2015.

Link to article

 

Geospatial Firm BlackBridge Signs Mongolian Partner MonMap

--On Friday, February 13, BlackBridge signed its 111th partner, the Mongolian geospatial company MonMap Engineering Services Co., Ltd.

MonMap is a key player in the Mongolian geospatial industry. With this new partnership, BlackBridge and MonMap plan to service larger projects within the environmental, precision farming, mining, and forestry sectors. 

Effectively imaging and monitoring all 1.56 million square kilometers of Mongolia during its short snow-free seasons in the spring and summer requires the high collection capacity and frequent revisit capabilities that BlackBridge's RapidEye satellite constellation provides. Together, BlackBridge and MonMap will bring cost-effective, wide-scale monitoring solutions to Mongolia.

"We are very pleased to welcome MonMap as our new partner," states Philippe Campenon, vice president of sales for BlackBridge. "MonMap brings a solid expertise in remote sensing and application development and implementation. MonMap's experience in survey, GIS services, and other domains will extend the footprint of RapidEye imagery usage in Mongolia."

Dr. M. Saandar, director of MonMap adds, "MonMap is proud to diversify its remote sensing portfolio through close cooperation with BlackBridge. The characteristics of the RapidEye constellation are extremely suitable for a huge country like Mongolia. We hope that, with RapidEye imagery and derived products, we can contribute to the protection of our unique forest and steppe ecosystems, and furthermore foster the agriculture sector, which is extremely important for the country."

About BlackBridge

BlackBridge provides end-to-end solutions across the geospatial value chain. These include satellite operations, ground station services, and worldwide satellite imagery distribution through over 100 BlackBridge partners, combined with the creation of value-added products and geo-service solutions. For more information on BlackBridge, please visit www.blackbridge.com.

About MonMap

MonMap Engineering Services Co., Ltd., www.monmap.mn, was incorporated in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in 1992, as first Mongolian private company providing services in geodetic surveying, GIS and remote sensing. Over the years, MonMap has experienced a steady growth and continuously extended its services to new fields, with the goal to introduce state-of-the-art technologies to Mongolia's markets.

Link to release

 

10 startups to watch from Mongolia

By Paul Bischoff

February 25 (Tech in Asia) Mongolia is a market rarely covered by startup media, including Tech in Asia. When we embarked on our search for the best startups in this near-arctic country of just 3 million people (nearly half in the capital Ulan Bator), nearly everyone on Twitter pointed us to two people: Oko Davaasuren (@okod) and Ider-Od Bat-Erdene (@IderOdBatErdene).

Together, the two have hosted a series of radio show interviews with Mongolian entrepreneurs which are posted to YouTube. The pair have become the local gurus and bridge to the rest of the world for Mongolia's nascent startup scene. They were key players in building StartupMongolia, a non-profit company that aims to help grow the local startup ecosystem and community.

The capital city now hosts Startup Weekend hackathons, Startup Grind keynotes, and a local state-run incubator, but most startups there are still in their infancy. Just over half the population use mobile phones (including non-smart phones). Only about one in six people have access to internet. Mining is the largest industry, sucking up 95 percent of foreign investment. That doesn't leave much for the scant number of VCs and angel investors, who tend to capitalize on the desperate startup market by taking ten times the equity they would receive in Silicon Valley – 30 to 60 percent of a company, according to Bat-Erdene.

It's a tough market for startups to say the least, but local entrepreneurs remain steadfast in their efforts to realize their dreams. With some assistance from Bat-Erdene and Davaasuren, here are 10 startups to watch from Mongolia in no particular order.

Kaizen Mongolia

Kaizen Mongolia makes a point-of-sales solution called Egulen. The startup has a presence in both Mongolia and Hong Kong, though its website is entirely in Mongolian. The cloud-based system allows a business to manage its money in an intuitive and cheap way. The hardware includes a receipt printer, touchscreen display, card reader, and cash drawer. Besides the flagship restaurant management software, called iRestaurant, it also offers iStore, iSalon, and iFitness. Because everything is stored on the cloud, store owners can access the system without having to be physically present at their shop.

Oluulaa

Oluulaa is the Kickstarter/Indiegogo of Mongolia. Right now, it contains only four early projects with very little money pledged. If startups are still in their infancy in Mongolia, it would seem crowdfunding hasn't even left the womb. Still, everything seems to be in place for Oluulaa to catch on once the model gains the necessary public awareness to get the ball rolling.

Infinite Solutions

Infinite Solutions is a B2B software and hardware developer for banks and financial institutions. It created Mongolia's "first complete ERP [enterprise resource planning] solution," which is designed for local insurance companies. It also builds mobile banking and payment apps, fingerprint scanners, and cash recycling machines for bank tellers.

CallPro

This is Bat-Erdene's own startup, which aims to be Mongolia's Salesforce/ZenDesk. It's also Twitter's ad sales partner for the country. CallPro's services include external communications with customers, internal communications with employees, and analytics for monitoring and recording company statistics. The customer service software company's clients include the local banks, airlines, and telcos, as well as the Mongolian Parliament.

Promotion Craft

Promotion Craft is an animation studio for businesses to create fun videos explaining their product or service. The idea is that these animated shorts are more effective than a boring text description of a company. You can check out some samples of the startup's work on its YouTube channel (all in Mongolian). Besides videos, Promotion Craft also does infographics, UX and UI work, and brand logos.

MMarket

MMarket aims to be the Amazon of Mongolia. The B2C marketplace was founded by Battulga Bayarsaikhan, a senior software engineer at Google. MMarket contains a wide variety of items from both domestic and foreign brands, and exhibits a level of maturity far greater than most of its startup counterparts on this list.

Unitel & U-Planet

While most don't think of telecom operators as startups, Unitel is relatively young, starting operations in 2006 and now the second-biggest telco in the country by number of subscribers. Unitel became a completely indigenous company in 2010 when it bought all equity owned by Korean shareholders. U-Planet is the app development arm of the mobile telco with a variety of apps for both iOS and Android.

Sons is a music streaming service with web, iOS, and Android apps. It mostly features local Mongolian artists, but has its fair share of foreign music as well. As with other music streaming apps, users can choose to listen to curated radio playlists or specific artists and songs, share playlists with friends, and filter by genre, decade, and more.

ShopON wants to be Mongolia's Groupon, with a range of group buying and daily deals offers up for grabs. Restaurants, cafes, spas, and dentists are among the vendors listed.

PicaTalk is a local chat app, similar to WeChat and Line.

Citimine

This iOS app shows you in simpler terms than a map where people and places nearest you are located. Citimine is layed out like a compass with concentric rings extending from the middle. Places of interest, denoted by icons, are arranged by direction and proximity, with nearer results closer to the center. It also sports Facebook and Twitter integration to share your location with friends and followers.

Suuder

Suuder is a website for amateur and professional photographers to share their portfolios and engage with their peers. Artists and designers are also welcome. The site started as a blog in 2007 and became the community portal that it is today in 2011. Suuder also runs regular raffle-style giveaways for members and those who have liked it on Facebook.

Alchemist Technologies

In addition to IT consulting, Alchemist Technologies also offers a series of B2B products and services for businesses looking to gain a technological edge. Those include an electronic point-of-sales system similar to the first startup on this list, business auditing software, a payroll system, warehousing and inventory monitoring systems, and supply chain analytics.

Link to article

 

MIAT to discontinue its Singapore flight

February 17 (G.A.S. Co. Ltd.) MIAT Mongolian Airlines (IATA code - OM), that launched twice-weekly scheduled flights from Ulaanbaatar to Singapore via Beijing on Wednesdays and Saturdays on September 24th, 2014, is conducting its last scheduled flight to Singapore on 4 March 2015, according to its GSA in Singapore, Aviation Services (S) Pte Ltd.

Due to operational requirements, MIAT flight OM232 operates its last Ulaanbaatar-bound scheduled flight to Ulaanbaatar via Beijing on 28 February 2015. On this day, it departs from Changi Airport Terminal 3 at 7.30 pm, transits in Beijing at 1.45 am for one hour and arrives in Ulaanbaatar at 5.15 am on 1 March 2015 (Thursday).

The return one-way flight OM231 leaves Ulaanbaatar at 8.15 am on 4 March 2015, transits in Beijing at 10.30 am before embarking on its onward journey to Singapore at 11.30 am and touches down in Singapore at 6 pm on 4 March (Wednesday).

MIAT Mongolian Airlines wishes to advise passengers from Singapore intending to travel to Mongolia to fly with the airline via Hong Kong on 4 March onwards until further notice. No other airline flies to Ulaanbaatar from Hong Kong except MIAT.

It's unknown at the moment whether Singapore flight will be resumed or not, however, summer flights to Frankfurt from Ulaanbaatar are planned to be resumed in June 2015.

Link to article

 

AmCham Mongolia 2014 Annual Report

February 4 (AmCham Mongolia)

Link to report

 

NYSSA: 3rd Annual Investing in Mongolia Conference

Thursday April 9, 2015 8:30 AM through 5:30 PM
NYSSA Conference Center (The New York Society of Security Analysts)
Available as: Live Session
Categories: Conference, Global Investing, Industry Conference

Due to its immense natural resources and location next to the biggest consumer in he World – China, Mongolia has experienced double digit GDP growth in the last several years, including the world-record 17.5% in 2011. Despite 2014 being a sluggish year for the mining industry, Mongolia's mining export has increased by $1.2B thanks to production of the largest untapped gold and copper mine in the world-Oyu Tolgoi. Mongolia's government has been taking effective measures to improve the young economy by implementing investor-friendly laws and opening up its resources to investors. Tavan Tolgoi – 7.4B ton coal project development has been granted to an international consortium and negotiations are underway. In addition to mining, there are vast opportunities in agriculture, food processing, infrastructure, energy, education and tourism to name a few.

NYSSA expects all attendees to comply with NYSSA's Code of Conduct while attending NYSSA events or meetings. NYSSA expressly reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to grant or deny access to any individual, or to expel any individual from any NYSSA event or meeting.

Agenda 

08:00 a.m.
Registration

08:30 a.m.
Morning refreshments and networking /Continental breakfast/

09:00 a.m.
Welcoming remarks
H.E. Mr. Och Od, Ambassador, permanent representative of Mongolia to the United Nations

09:10 a.m.
Golomt Bank - Macro-economic overview
Established in 1995, Golomt Bank LLC is one of the top banks in Mongolia. The bank offers a complete spectrum of commercial and investment banking services to both domestic and international clients.

MINING SECTOR

Spotlight Presentation 

9.40 a.m.
Erdenes MGL LLC
Erdenes MGL LLC engages in exploration and mining of mineral resources. It focuses on mega mining projects, including Tavan Tolgoi coal, Asgat silver- polymetallic, Dornod uranium, and Oyu Tolgoi (TRQ) gold and copper projects.

10:10 a.m.
SHARYN GOL JSC
Sharyn Gol JSC is currently a single asset company, owning 100% of the established Sharyn Gol Coal Mine. Originally a state-run enterprise developed to supply local utilities, the Company was privatized and listed on the Mongolian Stock Exchange in 2003.

10.40 a.m.
Coffee break

INFRASTRUCTURE AND REAL ESTATE

10:50 a.m.
SOD MONGOL GROUP
Sod Mongol Group is one of the leading petroleum importers in Mongolia. The group also invests in luxury real estate development and construction.

11:20 a.m. 
Mongolia Growth Group (TSX-V: YAK)
Mongolia Growth Group is the only institutional property management platform in Mongolia with a full suite of services including acquisitions, property management, leasing, renovations and development.

12:00 p.m.
Lunch

1:00 p.m. 
Khot Infrastructure Holdings LTD. (CSE: KOT)
Don Padgett, CEO
Khot specializes in road construction and related services to meet the urgent demands of the fast-growing Mongolian economy.

CONSUMER GOODS

1:30 p.m.
UFC LLC
CEO Tserenbat
UFC group is a food manufacturing and trading company that produces 100% natural and ecologically pure products including seabuckthorn oil, juices, bottled water and Chinggis vodka.

2:00 p.m.
TBA

2:30 p.m.
Coffee Break

FINANCE SECTOR

2:40 p.m.
Investing in the Mongolian Capital Market
Angar Davaasuren, CEO of the Mongolian Stock Exchange 

Spotlight Presentation

3:10 p.m.
Golomt Securities LLC
Wholly-owned subsidiary of Golomt Bank, Golomt Securities is an investment firm that provides brokerage, advisory and underwriting services to domestic and international clients. 

3:40p.m. 
Firebird Fund
James Passin, Principal and Fund Manager at Firebird
Firebird Mongolia Fund is a closed-end, limited life fund dedicated to local Mongolian equity securities.

4:10 p.m.
Conference Wrap-up Panel: Mongolia Investments - Challenges and Opportunities
H.E. Ambassador Och Od
Angar Davaasuren
James Passin
Golomt Bank
Shearman and Sterling LLP 
Erdenes MGL

4:40 p.m.
Closing Remarks and Adjournment

4:45 p.m.
Cocktail Reception Sponsored By Golomt Bank
We encourage you to stay for the reception and enjoy the singing from a trio band.

Link to conference page

 

President of Mongolia to Attend ITB Berlin as 2015 Partner Country

February 25 (infomongolia.com) The world's leading travel trade show, the ITB Berlin 2015 will be organized in Berlin, the Federal Republic of Germany on March 04-08, 2015.

This is the world's largest annual tourism trade fair, where each year a country is selected to participate as the partner country and the ITB Berlin-2015 is important for Mongolia as participating as the Official Partner Country, where exhibitors from over 180 countries from 5 continents as well as 6,000 media representatives will be covering the event.

In this essential event, President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj is to attend the ITB Berlin- 2015 to deliver his remarks and Mongolian artists will perform their gala concert at the opening ceremony in Berlin.

As the World's Leading Travel Trade Show, ITB Berlin is also a generator of inspiration for Corporate Social Responsibility. Ecological and social responsibility is an essential task for the future and a requirement for long-term success - not only in the commercial sense. Mongolia's mission in the ITB Berlin-2015 is to introduce nomadic culture, tradition and unique natural heritage of the country.

Famous figures in culture and sports will also represent the country to the ITB Berlin-2015, where recently accredited the second Cultural Envoy of Mongolia, Olympic Champion N.Tuvshinbayar along with writer Ch.Galsan, opera singer E.Amartuvshin, ballet dancer D.Altankhuyag with other leading performers will participate as honored guests of the President of Mongolia.

Link to article

Related:

President to address ITB Berlin 2015 ExhibitionMontsame, February 25

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Diplomacy

Mongolia Speaker Meets Prime Minister of Japan

February 25 (infomongolia.com) Mongolian parliamentarians headed by Speaker of the State Great Khural (Parliament) Mr. Zandaakhuu ENKHBOLD are conducting an official visit to Japan on February 23-27, 2015.

In the frameworks of the visit, Speaker Z.Enkhbold held a meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe on February 24, 2015.

At the beginning of meeting, Premier Sh.Abe noted, "I am pleased to welcome the Chairman of the State Great Khural on your visit that coincides on the day of the establishment of diplomatic relations back in 43 years ago. Your current visit gives an impetus to the development of bilateral political and economic partnership".

In his remarks, Speaker Z.Enkhbold noted, "The People and Government of Japan have been supporting and assisting Mongolia's democracy and reform from the early beginning that has been highly evaluated and appreciated by the People and Government of Mongolia. The "Dynamic" and "+Dynamic" initiations proposed by the Premier Abe are considered vital in terms implementation and its role. The State Great Khural has ratified the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and we believe the Japanese Parliament would accredit the Agreement soon".

In turn, Sh.Abe said, "Japanese investors are keen to invest into Mongolia and thus, we hope the Speaker of Mongolian Parliament would particularly pay attention on this issue to create a favorable investment climate. We appreciate the State Great Khural that approved the EPA shortly and our Parliament is also working to ratify near future".

Concluding the meeting, Speaker Z.Enkhbold requested the Prime Minister of Japan to advocate Japanese companies interested to participate in the project of constructing railway in eastern region of Mongolia, where Japanese "Nippon Steel" company has already offered to supply Mongolia with railway rails. Speaker also added, "Mongolia alone produces 40% of total raw cashmere on world market, but only 10% is being processed. Therefore, we are interested to supply world market with 40% of end-product collaborating with Japan by introducing your technology".

On the same day, Speaker Z.Enkhbold held a meeting with the Chairman of Mongolia-Japan friendship group at the House of Councilors of Japan, Mr. Satsuki Eda and during the meeting, the latter part said members of House of Councilors of Japan are satisfied with the established EPA.

Link to article

Related:

Z.Enkhbold: New era of relations between Mongolia and Japannews.mn, February 25

Z.Enkhbold met with PM Shinzo Abegogo.mn, February 25

Speaker Z.Enkhbold Meets Prime Minister of JapanMontsame, February 25

 

Speaker talks visa terms and economic partnership in Japan visit

By E. Oyundari

February 25 (UB Post) On Tuesday the head of the Japan-Mongolia friendship group at the House of Councillors, Satsuki Eda, called on Speaker of Mongolian Parliament Z.Enkhbold, who is paying an official visit to Japan.

Mentioning that the House of Councillors is making vital contributions to improving Mongolia-Japan cooperation in all sectors, Speaker Z.Enkhbold expressed his hope that Japan-Mongolia friendship group members in the House of Councillors will show their support for the approval of the recently signed economic partnership agreement in Japanese Parliament.

In his return, Satsuki Eda highlighted that the official visit of Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg to Japan from February 9 to 11, and the visit by the Speaker proves that relations between the parliaments of Japan and Mongolia are being taken to a higher level. He stressed that the House of Representatives and House of Councillors of Japan will make contributions to developing Mongolia-Japan relations.

On the same day, Z.Enkhbold met Masaaki Yamazaki, Head of the Parliament Councillors Chamber of Japan.

Yamazaki emphasized that the parliamentary groups of both countries have played a crucial role in strengthening the ties between the two countries, and expressed his gratitude for Mongolia for expansion of its third neighbor policy. He voiced his hopes for the further development of relations between Mongolia and Japan.

Speaker Z.Enkhbold expressed his hopes for strengthening economic partnership, investment and trading activities between the two countries. He expressed interest in support for value added products manufacturing with advanced technological and technical assistance from Japan in the industrial and mining sectors.

Z.Enkhbold also mentioned that Mongolia will work on ensuring Japanese involvement in major projects in Mongolia, and expressed the nation's interest in cooperating in agriculture and organic farming.

MPs N.Battsereg, Su.Batbold, D.Gankhuyag, and J.Batzandan, Ambassador to Japan S.Khurelbaatar, Advisor to Speaker A.Gansukh, and other officials were in attendance of the meeting with Yamazaki.
Z.Enkhbold also met with Nobutaka Machimura, the Speaker of the House of Representatives (lower house of parliament) of Japan.

Beginning the visit, Nobutaka Machimura said he was glad to meet with the Speaker on the 43rd anniversary of diplomatic relations, and underlined that the signing of the economic partnership agreement was an important forward for friendly bilateral relations.

Z.Enkhbold thanked the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the audience and noted that developing relations and cooperation with Japan is one of the priorities of Mongolia's foreign policy. He also emphasized that the Parliament of Mongolia attaches great importance to its ties and cooperation with Japan, one of Mongolia's "third neighbors".

Mentioning Mongolia's interest in deepening ties in the politics, economic, trade and investment spheres, in accordance with principles for strategic partnership, Speaker Z.Enkhbold expressed his hope that Japan will support Mongolia in exploiting the latest Japanese progressive and environmentally-friendly technologies in industry, infrastructure, mineral exploration and extraction. Noting that people-to-people ties play a main role in relations, Z.Enkhbold hoped that the Japanese side would take specific measures for facilitating easier terms for Mongolians visiting Japan, and for exempting Mongolians from visa requirements.

He said he was happy with undertaking the first steps for this issue during the talks between the two countries' PMs and a meeting between the Mongolian PM and members of the Japan-Mongolia group in the lower house. The Speaker said Mongolia wants to receive support from Japan in preparing professional cadres and in increasing the number of Mongolian students studying in Japanese universities on Japanese governmental scholarships.

Mongolia and Japan have developed ties in the international arena and they support each other, Z.Enkhbold noted, emphasizing that Mongolia always appreciates Japan's contribution to the United Nations and that it will back Japan in seeking a permanent membership in the U.N. Security Council.

According to the itinerary, Mongolian parliamentary delegates are to pay a visit to the Emperor and Empress of Japan today.

Link to article

 

Mongolia Speaker meets JBIC president on expanding cooperation

By B. Amarsaikhan

Ulaanbaatar, February 25 (MONTSAME) A president of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation H.Watanabe paid a courtesy call on the Speaker of Mongolian Parliament Mr Z.Enkhbold on February 25.

He expressed a satisfaction with the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement with Mongolia and appreciated the opportunity to meet with the head of the country's legislature.

The Speaker said Japan's support for Mongolia in times of the transition to democracy is appreciated and respected. He emphasized an importance of the JBIC's involvement and role in developing broad economic relations that ensure a participation of the private sector. He hoped that the Bank would actively cooperate in the implementation of frameworks reflected in the Medium-term program of the Strategic Partnership between Mongolia and Japan, for example in the construction of power plants based on the steel plants and on iron and copper smelting plants, and of the Industrial Park at Sainshand.

Mongolia and Japan can cooperate in installing Japanese technologies in the cashmere producing factories of Mongolia that supplies 40 percent of the global cashmere demand. The investment and cooperation with Mongolia will not be limited by its minerals' sector and should be expanded into agricultural spheres, said the Speaker.

In response, Mr Watanabe agreed with the Speaker's words "our economic ties have been running one way, in a form of giving Mongolia loans and aid, so the two sides must upgrade this relationship and boost mutually beneficial relations in the business", and said his side will study all possibilities of cooperation the Speaker offered and will be glad to support by all means the cooperation between business institutions of the two countries.

Present at the meeting were adviser to the Chairman of the State Great Khural A.Gansukh, the Ambassador of Mongolia to Japan S.Khurelbaatar, and members of the Mongolia-Japan friendship group.

Link to article

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Social, Environmental & Other

Provincial roads reopened following days of blizzards

By M. Zoljargal

February 25 (UB Post) Several roads on route to provinces from Ulaanbaatar were temporarily closed on Saturday, following a blizzard that blew snow on roads at wind speeds of 18 to 20 meters per second.

Roads to Darkhan-Uul, Orkhon and Selenge Provinces were closed at 11:00 p.m. on Friday until 7:00 a.m. the following day, while roads to Dornod, Sukhbaatar, Khentii and Dornogovi Provinces were closed from 7:00 a.m. Saturday until 7:00 a.m. on Sunday to prevent accidents.

Deputy Minister and Chief of the State Special Commission, U.Khurelsukh, issued an order to close the roads, while emergency management agency's operated under full preparedness in case of further disaster and accidents.

The Traffic Police Department advised drivers travelling to and from provinces to drive cautiously as the roads are still slippery from the blizzard, although they opened shortly after being closed.

Link to article

 

Traveling Restricted in Bogdkhan Mountain Area Until June 15 Over Fire

February 25 (infomongolia.com) On February 23, 2015, the Administration for Bogd Khan (Bogdkhan) Mountain Strictly Protected Area issued an Ordinance to restrict traveling and camping in the area until June 15, 2015.

During this period, vehicles are prohibited to enter the restricted area and in necessary circumstances, must be issued paper permission by the Administration and equipped with fire safety equipment.

At the press conference, Head of the Administration Ts.Shirendev stated, "On February 04 of this year a forest fire broke covering 20 ha of the territory. It was extinguished completely on February 13 by the emergency team of Bayanzurkh District that involved over 70 persons.

Preliminarily, we believe it may have been started by the careless disposal of smoking material, because this winter is comparatively dry and warm with less precipitation fell and this is almost the first wildfire case registered in February. Previous years, there was not even covering such a large-scale fires. Therefore, the Administration issues such restriction".

Link to article

 

"EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH-INNOVATION DEVELOPMENT" INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE, May 1-2, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Host: Mongolian National University of Education

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Purpose of the Conference:

To share information on the current status of educational research-innovation development and prospects for the future, to enable participation, develop collaboration, to support and promote public research, and to compile the researchers' papers from these proceedings

Link to release

 

Talk with Me with Allyson Seaborn: Khongorzul Bat-Ireedui, Breakthrough Communications, Fulbright Scholar

February 8 (Star TV)

Link to interview

 

Talk with Me with Allyson Seaborn: Tselmuun Chinzorig, Singer

February 15 (Star TV)

Link to interview

 

Talk with Me with Allyson Seaborn: Sarantuya Batmunkh, Singer

February 22 (Star TV)

Link to interview

 

NatGeo Mongolia Photo Expedition, June 30-July 12, July 25-August 6

·         13-day journey with an acclaimed National Geographic photographer

·         Capture images of ger camps, the Gün-Galuut wilderness, and the Gobi Desert.

Dates

Jun 30 - Jul 12, 2015

Jul 25 - Aug 06, 201

Expedition Cost

$5,995

Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,200. 

International airfare to/from Ulaanbaatar and airfare within Mongolia are not included in the expedition cost. The group flight between Ulaanbaatar Dalanzadgad is $340 (subject to change).

What To Expect

Travel to Mongolia requires flexibility and a sense of adventure. Service is not always up to Western standards, and disruptions to the country's infrastructure can necessitate changes to our itinerary. The gers (felt-lined canvas tents) at Hövsgöl Nuur, Gün-Galuut, and Khongoryn Els are basic and comfortable, with traditional Mongolian beds (twin size) and toilet and shower facilities in a separate bathhouse. Deluxe gers at Three Camel Lodge include a private toilet and sink. A limited number of gers are available for singles. Road conditions can be very rough, and activities necessitate that travelers must be in good health and have no limitations on physical mobility.

Expedition Details

Home to sweeping landscapes and a nomadic culture that pre-dates the age of Genghis Khan, Mongolia offers a stunning array of photographic opportunities. Travel through the vast steppe to capture images of Mongolian horses, traditional ger camps, and camel-herding families. Catch the towering dunes of the Gobi at sunrise and the brilliant Flaming Cliffs at sunset, and spend a thrilling day documenting Naadam, Mongolia's most celebrated festival.

Trip Highlights

·         Snap portraits of Mongolian throat singers, camel herders, and traditional nomad families, and learn about their age-old culture.

·         Stay in an award-winning ger camp in the Gobi desert, and set off on photo hikes amid nearby gorges and dunes.

·         Fill your lens with the vibrant pageantry of Naadam, Mongolia's most celebrated festival, documenting wrestling, archery, and horse racing competitions.

·         Meet with monks on a visit to Gandan Monastery in Ulanbaataar, and go on a photo shoot in the eccentric Winter Palace of Bogd Khan.

Itinerary - 13 Days

Optional Extension

Lake Hövsgöl - Post-Trip Extension, 5 Days

National Geographic Expert: Ira Block

or more than 30 years, Ira Block has covered assignments around the world for National Geographic magazine. His photographic subjects are as varied as the destinations stamped in his passport—from dinosaurs in the Gobi desert to hidden treasures in China, Mongolia, and Tibet; from Incan mummies in Peru to the North Pole by dogsled; from Aboriginal people in Australia's Arnhem Land to the Native Americans of the southwestern United States. His enchantment with Asian culture led to "The Samurai Way," a story he shot in Japan, and "Restless Spirits," featuring the Terra Cotta soldiers of Xi'an, China. He recently led a photography workshop in Bangkok and has embarked on a personal journey into the study of an ancient Japanese martial art. Ira leads National Geographic photo workshops in New York City, and he has also taught in Abu Dhabi, Boston, Maine, and at the School of Visual Arts Digital Masters Program in New York. Ira's most recent National Geographic story, illustrating prehistoric global warming, appeared in the October 2011 issue.

Ira will join the following departure: Jun 30 - Jul 12, 2015

Link to page

 

On Sex and Stereotype in Netflix's 'Marco Polo'

by Stephanie Thornton

Editor's Note: Stephanie Thornton is the author of The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, which was called "Gripping stuff!" by Alex Rutherford, author of the Empire of the Moghul series. Stephanie also wrote Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, and The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora. She teaches high school history in Alaska. Here, she sheds some light on the unrealistic and sex-soaked depiction of women in Netflix's "Marco Polo."

February 24 (World & Film) Netflix's "Marco Polo" was renewed for a second season last month, and though the sensational miniseries is a visual feast with enough decapitated heads, political backstabbing, and harem orgies to make any fan of "Game of Thrones" or "The Tudors" downright giddy, sadly, the rollicking romp through Kublai Khan's Mongolian court doesn't do justice to the incredible women of ancient Mongolia. Instead, the show renders them as farfetched caricatures - naked, sword-wielding assassin-concubines or lovelorn princesses - rather than the political masterminds they often were in real life.

Whereas Benedict Wong nails Kublai as the gouty, discerning, and ruthless grandson of Genghis Khan, the women of the show can scarcely make it through an episode without dropping their robes for the nearest man or even climbing into bed with each other, a far cry from the real-life Mongolian women who went so far as to ride into battle with their men, all the while erecting their gers (homes made of animal skins), bearing children, and safeguarding Genghis's fractured empire.

There are glimmers of what might have been when Kublai and his brother Ariq reminisce about their fearsome mother, Sorkhokhtani. (Case in point: Sorkhokhtani wasn't afraid to execute her sons' enemies and seek brutal revenge for those who had wronged her family. Genghis himself would have been proud and maybe even a little terrified of his daughter-in-law.)

And while these real-life women likely wouldn't have been averse to using sex to get what they wanted, in Netflix's version that seems to be the only weapon in their arsenal. I cheered when the legendary girl-warrior Khutulun first wrestled her way onto the screen, only to groan as she threw herself at Marco a few scenes later. Empress Chabi has glimmers of toughness when she appears to wield influence over her husband, Kublai Khan, but even that quickly evaporates when she invites her husband's concubine into her bed.

All the sex and scandal makes for admittedly good TV, but sadly, it's only a portion of the real story. I'm hopeful that the second season will see these women scheme and plot while keeping their clothes on, at least every once in a while. It's a shame that the writers and producers of "Marco" Polo didn't feel it worth the time to write a Daenerys Targaryen or two into their cast list. Heaven knows that the history of Mongolia is chock full of women who might have made even a dragon - and certainly a khan - tremble in fear.

Link to article

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