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Monday, March 23, 2015

[SGS appeal date set; MMC expects impairment; Ard close to MSE listing; APP looks to delist; and MNT rout eases]

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Monday, March 23, 2015

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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

Overseas Market

SGQ closed flat Friday at C$1.06. TRQ +1.36% to US$2.99, flat at C$3.78

SouthGobi's Appeal in Tax Case Will Be Heard by Mongolia's Court of Appeal on March 25, 2015

Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. to Announce Select Financial Information in Respect of SouthGobi Prior to March 30, 2015

HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - March 22, 2015) - SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX:SGQ)(HK:1878) ("SouthGobi" or the "Company") announced on February 1, 2015, that on January 30, 2015, three former employees of SouthGobi Sands LLC ("SGS"), the Company's Mongolian subsidiary, were found guilty of tax evasion by the panel of appointed judges from the Second District Criminal Court of Justice. Sentences for the former employees ranged 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$17.7 million at March 20, 2015).

The Company is resolute in defending itself and firmly rejects the Court's verdict. Therefore, it filed an appeal against the Court's verdict on February 18, 2015. The Company has been notified by the 10th Appeal Court for Criminal Case of Mongolia that the hearing for the appeal has been set for March 25, 2015, subject to any postponement that can be granted by the appointed judge. The Company's decision to appeal the Court's verdict is consistent with its view that there have been gross violations of the Mongolian law throughout the investigations and Court's process.

The Company, including SGS, has prepared its financial statements in compliance with International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS"), and lodged all its tax returns as required under Mongolian tax law. During the investigative period, the Company requested that one of the largest and most reputable international auditing firms conduct an independent assessment of the allegations raised through the investigations. The auditing firm concluded that the experts' reports had no basis and were the result of incomplete reviews and the erroneous interpretation of a mining company's financial statements prepared in accordance with Mongolian accounting and reporting standards and Mongolian tax laws. The auditing firm also concluded the experts had failed to consider all relevant information and documents provided by the Company during the investigations.

The General Tax Law of Mongolia outlines the process and authorities who should be responsible for the resolution of tax disputes, none of which have been followed in this case. The Company has enquired and not received any explanation as to why the case is being treated as a criminal case. Consequently, the Company disputes both the process as well as the conclusions of the investigations that led to the accusations and verdict against SGS. No new evidence was presented during the latest Court hearing and the Company firmly considers these allegations were never proven.

The Company reiterates that it has not committed tax evasion and will continue to vigorously defend itself through the appeal process.

OTHER INFORMATION

The Company expects to announce its fourth quarter and full year 2014 financial results on March 30, 2015. Refer to press release "SouthGobi Resources to announce fourth quarter and full year 2014 financial results on March 30, 2015" issued by the Company on March 18, 2015 and available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.

As a consequence, the information presented by Turquoise Hill may be materially different compared to the Company's full year audited results expected to be released on March 30, 2015. Turquoise Hill's financial statements should therefore not be relied upon by SouthGobi investors as representative of the Company's actual 2014 year-end financial results.

Full details in respect of Turquoise Hill's fourth quarter and full year 2014 financial results will be made available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.

For the reasons mentioned above, shareholders of the Company and potential investors are advised to exercise caution in using information expected to be released by Turquoise Hill pertaining to SouthGobi.

Link to release

 

 

MMC Expects Impairment of Approximately USD190 Million

March 22 -- This announcement is made by Mongolian Mining Corporation (HK:975, the "Company", together with its subsidiaries, the "Group") pursuant to Rule 13.09(2)(a) of the Rules Governing the Listing of Securities on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (the "Listing Rules") and the Inside Information Provisions (as defined in the Listing Rules) under Part XIVA of the Securities and Futures Ordinance (Chapter 571, Laws of Hong Kong).

The board of directors (the "Board") wishes to inform the shareholders and potential investors of the Company that based on the preliminary discussion with the auditors of the Company, it is expected that the Company will make a provision for impairment losses on non-financial assets for the financial year ended 31 December 2014 (the "Impairment").

In accordance with IAS 36 Impairment of Assets, entity shall assess at the end of each reporting period whether its assets are carried at value no more than their recoverable amount. Thus, the Company has undertaken a review of the carrying amount of the Group's property, plant and equipment, construction in progress and intangible assets to determine the recoverable amount of the assets by engaging with an independent valuation firm commencing in the beginning of January 2015. Impairment valuation to determine the recoverable amount involves assessment of cash flows to be generated over the life of mine period, which requires substantial work scope to be performed and involves consideration of significant judgment on assumptions. Hence, until the preliminary valuation results became available in mid-March 2015, which were subject to further extensive review by the auditors, the outcome of the valuation was not certain and could not be quantified with any certainty until 19 March 2015.

The Board and the audit committee of the Company (the "Audit Committee") were informed and have been updated on the progress of the valuation from the commencement of work, and subsequently upon auditors' review and provision of their preliminary opinion on the valuation results, the Board and the Audit Committee were immediately involved in the discussions with the auditors to consider the impairment indication.

Based on careful consideration of the Board and the Audit Committee and communication with the auditors, the Impairment will be approximately USD190 million, recognized in relation to the acquired mining rights under the intangible assets based on the preliminary assessment of the Board and its discussions with the auditors of the Company regarding the consolidated accounts of the Group for the financial year ended 31 December 2014 and other information currently available.

The Board wishes to emphasize that the Impairment is an accounting related adjustment and a non-cash item and it will therefore not have any impact on the cash flow of the Group.

The Company's final results for the financial year ended 31 December 2014 are under review and subject to finalization and confirmation by its auditor as well as approvals of the Audit Committee of the Company and the Board at the respective meetings to be held on 23 March 2015, and the final results announcement of the Company for the financial year ended 31 December 2014 will be published subsequently.

Shareholders and potential investors of the Company are advised to exercise caution when dealing in the shares of the Company.

Link to release

 

AKM closed +21.74% Friday to A$0.028 on the announcement

Aspire Mining gets busy at Nuurstei Coking Coal Project

March 20 (Proactive Investors) Aspire Mining (ASX:AKM) and Noble Group (SGX:N21) are lifting the momentum of work with core drilling and coal quality testwork as part of their 2015 exploration program at the Nuurstei Coking Coal Project in Mongolia.

The program will focus on confirming coal seam continuity and coal quality across the tenement and enable a JORC Resource Statement to be compiled.

The 50% owned Ekhgoviin Chuluu Joint Venture with the Noble Group (SGX: N21) has received an independent geology report for its Nuurstei Coking Coal Project. The ECJV owns a 60% interest in Nuurstei (with the ability to increase to 90% with the remaining 10% held by the Mongolian vendor).

An exploration target of between 15 million and 25 million tonnes has been established for Nuurstei licence 13580X.

A potential Scoping Study will be completed pending positive exploration results.

The independent report provided geological data on the coal seams located at Nuurstei and was prepared by McElroy Bryan Geological Services ("MBGS") who supervised the execution of the exploration program conducted at Nuurstei during 2014.

Aspire has recently secured a one year option to acquire the remaining 50% of the ECJV from the Noble Group.

Future Development Scenario

Previous Work

Nuurstei Coal Quality

Analysis

Aspire Mining and Noble Group are lifting the pace of work at the Nuurstei Coking Coal Project as it could become a potential early production opportunity with drilling and testwork planned for this year.

This offers a pipeline of good news flow as the joint venture completes exploration, defines a JORC Resource and completes a potential Scoping Study.

Additional work will confirm the coal quality across the entire deposit, which will be included as part of the 2015 exploration plan. Previous work and results showed extremely positive results as high quality coking coals.

This coal is in demand by Chinese end-users as a blend primarily due to the low ratio of these coals in China's own reserves. There is a growing requirement for higher quality coking coals in the coke industry.

High quality coking coals are in demand faster than low quality coal as China trends towards the use of larger blast furnaces to achieve higher productivity to balance environmental concerns.

Link to article

Link to AKM release

 

KRI closed flat Friday at C$0.55

Khan Announces 1.78 Million Stock Option Grant to Employees

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - March 20, 2015) - Khan Resources Inc. ("Khan" or the "Company") (CSE:KRI) announces that a total of 1,775,000 stock options to purchase common shares of Khan were granted to employees, officers and directors on March 19, 2015 at an exercise price of $0.57 per share, expiring on March 19, 2018. Stock options have historically been issued immediately following the Company's Annual General Meeting, this year held on February 26, 2015. In light of an impending award under international arbitration (announced March 2, 2015), the Board of Directors deferred the grant of options until after the announcement of such award.

Under Khan's stock option plan (the "Stock Option Plan"), an amount equal to 8.86% of the issued and outstanding common shares or 6,925,000 common shares have now been reserved for issuance, including the above grant, and the Company may grant an additional 894,148 options under the Stock Option Plan representing 1.14% of the issued and outstanding common shares.

Link to release

 

Centerra Gold Files Updated Kumtor Technical Report and New Life-of-Mine Plan

TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - March 20, 2015) - Centerra Gold Inc. (TSX: CG) announced today that it has filed on SEDAR an updated technical report for the Kumtor Mine, which is located in the Kyrgyz Republic. The updated technical report describes in detail Kumtor's new life-of-mine plan (LOM), which is based on Kumtor's mineral reserve estimates as at December 31, 2014, as disclosed in Centerra's February 9, 2015 news release. The LOM plan is based only on open-pit mineral reserves as at December 31, 2014, and there are no material differences in the mineral reserves and resources contained in the updated technical report from those disclosed in the Company's February 9, 2015 news release. The new optimized LOM reflects an updated production profile, and updated operating and capital costs from those that were disclosed in the NI 43-101 technical report for Kumtor dated December 20, 2012.

The updated technical report is available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and on the Company's website at www.centerragold.com.

Link to release

 

Centerra Gold and Premier Gold File Updated Technical Report on the Trans-Canada Property

TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - March 20, 2015) - Centerra Gold Inc. ("Centerra") (TSX: CG) and Premier Gold Mines Limited ("Premier") (TSX: PG) are pleased to announce today that they have filed on SEDAR an updated technical report for the Trans-Canada Property located in the Geraldton-Beardmore Greenstone belt in Ontario, Canada. The updated technical report reflects the new 50/50 joint venture partnership structure and has no changes to the mineral resource estimates contained in the Technical Report and Mineral Resource Estimate Update for the Hardrock Deposit issued by Premier on August 22, 2014 with an effective date of July 4, 2014.

Link to release

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Local Market

MSE Weekly Trading Report: MSE ALL -2.13%, Turnover 103.9 Million, T-Bills 532.4 Million

March 20 (MSE) Mongolian Stock Exchange organized 5 securities trading sessions and made transaction of MNT603,635,599.92 between 16 March 2015 and 20 March 2015. 

Share trading: 

81,895 shares of 42 joint stock companies worth of MNT 103,936,545.00 were traded.  

MOST ACTIVILY TRADED SECURITIES

 №

 

Securities Name

Value /MNT/

1

JIV

JINST-UVS

43,914,907

2

GOV

GOVI

10,328,770

3

APU

APU

9,709,540

4

MIE

MATERIAL IMPEX

6,306,700

5

NEH

DARKHAN NEKHII

5,865,320

MOST ACTIVE BROKERAGE COMPANIES

 №

 

Company Name

Value /MNT/

1

BDSC

BDSec

46,537,353

2

GLMT

Golomt

45,698,671

3

MNET

Monnet

43,914,907

4

STIN

Standard Investment

8,888,058

5

APS

EuroAsia Capital Mongolia

7,454,800

 

Government retail bonds trading: 

5,323 Government retail bonds worth of MNT532,300,000.00 traded through one trading session. 

MOST ACTIVE BROKERAGE COMPANIES IN GOVERNMENT SECURITIES TRADING

 №

 

 Company Name

Value /MNT/

1

TDB

Tenger Capital

351,000,000

2

GLMT

Daewoo Securities

32,399,094

3

ZRGD

Zerged

18,627,010

4

BDSC

BDSecZerged

16,450,000

5

STIN

Standard Investment

5,791,430

As of 20 March 2015, market capitalization was MNT 1,328,300,855,237.12 which indicated decrease of 2.13%, and MSE ALL index reached 966.24 units which indicated decrease 2.13% from previous week.  

Link to release

 

MSE Primary Offer: 82.8 Billion 12-Week T-Bills at 3.43% Discount, Yield 15.435%

March 18 (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: MNT 96,570.00

7.    Total amounts issued: 828,072 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-12-295

 828,072

 82.8

12

Discounted 

15.435% 

 2015.03.18

2015.03.24 

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

 

532.3 Million 28-Week T-Bills Issued on MSE

March 17 (MSE) On 17 March 2015, 28 weeks Government retail bonds worth MNT532,300,000.00 with 16.00% annual interest rate traded successfully on primary market at Mongolian Stock Exchange. 

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

Name of Brokerage Companies

Volume

1

Tenger Capital

3,510

2

Daewoo Securities Mongolia

1,240

3

Zerged

369

4

BDSec

195

5

Standard Investment

9

 

Total

5,323

Link to release

 

Ard Financial Group Acquires Jinst Uvs JSC, Within Striking Distance of Public Listing

Ulaanbaatar, 20 March, 2015 (Ard Holdings) Ard Financial Group LLC (Ard Holdings) officially filed a request to acquire 84.6 percent or 45,028 shares of Jinst Uvs JSC, publicly traded under JIV, at the price of MNT 975.28 per share to the Mongolian Stock Exchange (MSE) on 12th of March, 2015, with the corresponding block trade carried out on 16th of March, 2015. This move brings Ard Holdings within a striking distance to public listing.

Ard Holdings is invested in leading financial sector companies, and successfully manages its portfolio. The objective of listing on the MSE is to increase the liquidity of its stock, while providing investors with a unique opportunity to invest in the nascent financial services industry of the Nation and benefit from a diversified investment portfolio with high yielding potential. Currently, 333 individuals and businesses own shares in Ard Holdings.

The CEO of Ard Holdings, Mr. Ganhuyag Ch. Hutagt, noted that today's event paves the way for ordinary Mongolians to invest in leading banking and financial sector companies, and will, potentially, have a dramatic positive impact on the development of stock markets in Mongolia.

Ard Financial Group (Ard Holdings) is a financial holding company with the objective of maximizing the value and return on investment for its shareholders, while offering a unique opportunity to take part in the Mongolian financial services industry and stock markets. The investment portfolio of Ard Holdings includes the country's leading companies such as Ard Insurance, Ard Credit, Ard Securities, Ard Assets, Ard Capital Management, Equity Investment Trust (EIT), TenGer Financial Group and XacBank. Ard Holdings is also invested in Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), TenGer Systems, Nomyn Hishig, and Wild Digital Agency via its investment fund. Ard Holdings actively participates in the management of its portfolio companies and creates synergies across the Group.

Link to release

 

Khungun Beton JSC Major Shareholders Launch Bid for Remaining 56.99%

March 19 (MSE) According to the decree No.: 127 of Financial Regulatory Committee dated on 11 March 2015, a tender offer made by joint interest shareholders Erdembayar.N and Erdembileg.N, who owns 43.01 percent of the total shares of "Khungun beton" JSC, to purchase remaining 102,225 shares or 56.99 percent of "Khungun Beton" JSC with not less than MNT200.00 has been approved. 

The tender offering will be effective for 60 business days from 11 March 2015.

Link to release

 

Asia Pacific Properties Shareholders to Vote on Delisting, 27 April

March 17 (MSE) Shareholders meeting of "Asia Pacific Properties" JSC announced to held on 27 April 2015 at 11:00. Following issues will be discussed in shareholders meeting:

1.    To discuss the resolutions of Board of Directors about annual operational and financial report of 2014.

2.    To introduce the resolution of Board of Directors about dividend and Board's decision for financial situation in accordance with the Article No.:61.1.3.

3.    To nominate Board members, to discuss and approve board members' compensation expense and budget

4.    To discuss and approve to change company status to Limited Liability Company from Joint Stock Company

5.    To approve rights of new shareholders  

6.    Regarding to change company's status to LLC, to approve new company's charter

7.    To nominate members of new Board of Directors

Link to release

 

Summary: Annual Report of MSE Brokers

March 19 (MSE) According to the article No.:2.4.9 of the "Membership regulation" of MSE, the member securities company obligated to submit semi-annual and annual financial report prepared in accordance with accounting standards prescribed by the "Accounting Law" of Mongolia. The annual financial report along with the audit report should be submitted before 15 February of following year and the semi-annual financial report should be submitted before 25 July, and there were 54 member securities companies that the obligation is fulfilled.

There were 8 member securities companies that did not submit annual financial report of 2014 were fined by the decree No.:48 of CEO of MSE, dated on 17 February 2015. 

During the reporting period, 11 member securities companies were reported net profit of MNT1.7 billion, leading such as "TDB Capital" LLC (1.19 billion), "United securities" LLC (257.9 million), "Golomt securities" LLC (90.4 million), "Frontier" LLC (83.7 million) and "Tenger capital" LLC (69.3 million), 2 members were reported equal profit or loss and 46 members were reported net loss of MNT1.6 billion in 2014.  

As of 19 March 2015, we are presenting integrated financial reports of 56 out of 62 member securities companies of MSE. 

Click here to view summarized reports.

Link to release

 

MSE Reinstates Frontier LLC's Brokerage License

March 19 (MSE) According to the decree No.:42 of CEO of Mongolian Stock Exchange dated on 10 February 2015, there were some member companies temporary halted from trading due to failed to follow duties that stated on the agreement. 

Accordance with the decree No.:83 of CEO of MSE dated on 13 March 2015, the trading license of "Frontier" LLC has been reinstated due to executed duties.

Link to release

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Economy

Early morning bank rates: TDB (Buy 1,982 Sell 1,992), Khan (Buy 1,980 Sell 1,992), Golomt (Buy 1,984 Sell 1,992), XacBank (Buy 1,982 Sell 1,992), State Bank (Buy 1,982 Sell 1,992)  

BoM MNT Rates: Friday, March 20 Close

 

 

3/20

3/19

3/18

3/17

3/16

3/13

3/12

3/11

3/10

3/9

USD

1,989.71

1,989.92

1,989.18

1,988.42

1,985.10

1,987.43

1,988.19

1,988.54

1,987.98

1,986.45

EUR

2,123.02

2,129.61

2,111.32

2,110.01

2,092.39

2,109.26

2,115.43

2,124.95

2,147.91

2,157.48

CNY

321.05

321.15

319.13

318.03

317.01

317.53

317.51

317.57

317.51

317.11

GBP

2,932.04

2,951.45

2,935.04

2,948.53

2,932.89

2,956.90

2,984.07

2,999.91

2,999.46

2,992.88

RUB

33.11

33.08

32.39

32.24

32.00

32.48

32.58

31.69

32.81

32.89

MNT vs USD, CNY in last 1 year:

Link to rates

 

BoM issues 126 billion 1-week bills at 13%, +15.4% to ₮202.4 billion

March 20 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 126 billion at a weighted interest rate of 13.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release

 

The Sales Managers' Index: Mongolia

Business conditions continue to worsen in Mongolia, despite a slight improvement in the Headline SMI

·         Business Confidence improves after low in February

·         Market Growth further deteriorates in spite of a positive gain

·         Product sales and payrolls numbers still declining

March 19 (World Economics) The Headline Sales Managers' Index for Mongolia rose from 32.9 in February to 33.9 in March, indicating the first month-on-month gain in the history of the survey. However, the index has been in negative territory for thirteen successive months, reflecting a continuing deterioration in overall business conditions. An index above 50 indicates growth, while an index below 50 indicates contraction. That said, business confidence and market growth both had positive contributions over the month while product sales, prices charged and employment levels continued to decline. 

The Business Confidence Index registered 32.2, up from 28.4 in February, the first time that the index improved since September 2014. Nevertheless, the latest reading remained well below the 50 no-change mark, with the majority of surveyed companies mentioning again the fall in foreign direct investment as a major factor driving these very low levels of business confidence. 

The Market Growth Index stood at 28.5 in March, up from 26.4 in February, signalling a gain from the previous month but that growth in the marketplace remained decelerating rapidly. Nonetheless, the current figure marked the first month-on-month gain since November 2014. 

The Product Sales Index continued to fall in March to reach a record low value of 25.6, This was down from 26.4 in February, indicating that surveyed businesses continued to experience very low levels of sales demand – less than in the previous month. Panellists explained that stagnant wages are contributing to reduced sales over the month. 

The Prices Charged Index fell to 44.8, from 45.1 in February, indicating that sales managers continued to lower prices in order to try and accelerate domestic demand. The slowdown in prices, can also be attributed to the continuous fall in global commodity prices, in particular, those of copper and coal, Mongolia's main exports. 

The Staffing Index stood at 38.3, down from 38.8 in February, indicating only a marginal decline but an ongoing weakness in labour market conditions across the country. The majority of surveyed companies reported job cuts due to low domestic demand. 

Summary

World Economics Chief Executive Ed Jones commented:

"Despite a slight improvement in the Headline SMI, March figures showed that business conditions continued to worsen in Mongolia. Positive gains in business confidence and market growth were offset by further declines in product sales, prices charged and staffing levels. 

Surveyed respondents cited again declining foreign direct investment and global commodity prices as the key reasons affecting economic activity across the country." 

Link to release

 

Finance Minister Reports on State of the Economy

March 20 (news.mn) The Minister of Economy, J.Erdenebat, participated in the "Minister's Time" meeting and exchanged views regarding the financial and economic situation of Mongolia, the state budget, and measures to be taken for the improvement of debt management issues and overcoming economic difficulties, as well as future projects to be implemented this year.

During the last few years, economic growth and the growth of GDP has consistently decreased. 

Economic growth, which was 17.5 percent in 2011, fell to 7.8 percent by 2014. 

One of the main reasons for the creation of economic difficulties has been the decrease of prices for mining products and a decrease in foreign direct investment.  

In peak years, investments totaling 4.7 billion USD were made in Mongolia, and last year investments only reached 507 million USD.  

Comparing this figure to those of previous years, investment has fallen by 4.5 times. In comparison with peak years, it has decreased 9.3 times.

Foreign direct investment has an influence on the increase of foreign currency, thus, it directly influences losses to the balance of debt payments and the strength of the MNT.

As mentioned by the Minister of Finance, another reason for economic difficulty is losses of income and increased expenses in the state budget.

The Minister mentioned the economic state of the country in brief:

If the flow of foreign currency is not be increased, the balance of payments will face losses of 1.4 billion USD.

Last year the foreign trade balance was profitable. This is because of an increase in export revenue and a decrease in imports. However, the decrease of imports in comparison to the previous year, 1.1 billion MNT, created conditions for a profitable foreign trade balance.

In 2015, the construction of 37 kindergartens, 21 hospitals, 15 cultural centers, 7 sport complexes, 10 hotels, and 13 schools will be complete and facilities will be available for use.

Loans for the program to stabilize prices will be shifted to the government.

Taxes will not be increased or decreased.

Link to article

Link to GoM release

 

MEF Organizing Committee Member Ts.Erdenebat: Mongolia should improve its credibility

March 20 (UB Post) The Deputy Chairman of Mongolia's Young Presidents' Organization and member of the organizing group of the Mongolian Economic Forum, Ts.Erdenebat, gave an interview regarding the Mongolian Economic Forum 2015, and economic issues facing Mongolian business owners. The Mongolian Economic Forum 2015 will take place from April 2 to 3.

The main topic of this year's forum is "Building Credibility". Why was this topic chosen?

Building credibility has become a very important topic because the economic difficulty is likely to last much longer than people's expectations and become even more dire. The outcome doesn't seem good at this point. After analyzing the cause of the economic crisis, it turns out that the business credibility within and outside of Mongolia, trust between the government and private sector, and trust between political parties and the government are lower than appropriate levels.

The Mongolian Economic Forum isn't an organization that resolves issues. Representatives from the government, private sector, politicians, experts, the public, and the media all participate and discuss the main and fundamental issues of the respective year. This year will be more focused on building credibility and trust. Some people use the forum to lash out at the government, but this year, we're focusing more on resolving issues together.

The economic measure for defining credibility is the sovereign credit rating. Mongolia gets credit ratings from three foreign agencies: Standard & Poor's (S&P), Moody's, and Fitch Group. If Mongolia strives towards an AAA credit rating and improves its credit rating, currency inflow to Mongolia can be decided in a much simpler way, and not only will the amount increase but so will lower interest rates. Most importantly, bringing money to Mongolia will become easier and less costly for the private sector too. Currently, Mongolia's credit rating is relatively low. We haven't been giving enough significance or attention on this.

For these reasons and many more, building credibility has become a crucial topic. The credit rating of the private sector is dependent on the nation's credit rating and deeply influences the currency inflow, its cost, and other factors.

What's the main cause for Mongolia's current poor credibility?

One index that shows why Mongolia's credibility is poor is the fact that stock prices of joint stock companies that receive foreign investment have been falling nonstop in recent years. If we take SouthGobi Sands LLC, which has become a popular topic, as an example, people are discussing the sale of a certain share of their nearly one billion USD share. Now, this has become an issue of some 50 million USD. Basically, any investor who bought SouthGobi Sands LLC's stock for a million USD is now suffering a loss of up to 50,000 USD. People who suffered so much will need a considerable amount of trust and faith to invest again in a company associated with Mongolia.

Domestically, Mongolia is talking a lot about credibility issues. Particularly, the discussions are about state and corporate governance, and the unstable operations of the government. Political ordination and projects of political parties and coalitions haven't been very consistent for many years, and now it's showing in the sins of systematic crisis. People who were actively chasing after major projects several years ago have let them become stagnant due to political and economic instability. Yet again, the cause of this is connected to credibility.

Some people, especially businessmen, seem to consider Mongolia's poor credibility as the biggest cause of the economic difficulty. Depending on many foreign and domestic factors, credibility in Mongolia isn't very good or bad.

Can you tell us about the guests for Mongolian Economic Forum 2015? Who are the highlights? On average, how many people attend this forum?

Mongolians discuss important topics of the year at the forum. Obviously, foreign donor organizations, representatives of other organizations, and ambassadors participate every year. In some cases, internationally renowned scientists, researchers, and politicians are invited, depending on the topic of the year. This year, people knowledgeable about green development will attend. Currently, attendees are still being confirmed, so I don't know who or how many people will attend in forum.

Compared to forums of previous years, what will be special about this year's forum?

Last year, we spoke a lot about human development. Main discussions were about whether to continue with the economic policy aimed towards expanding GDP or work towards personnel development, and about the public accessibility of economic statistics.

Elections will begin next year. This year, we can observe cautions about instability in the economy and see if parties and coalition groups interested in participating in the elections take steps that could harm the economy for their own benefit. In relation to this, attendees have asked to discuss Mongolia's integrated mission and vision. We've attempted to do this many times before. Unfortunately, we didn't get to reach a common understanding or have it publicly approved.

It would be great to discuss what our development philosophy is and define our big goals while looking further into the future.

Until recently, we didn't imagine the economy would become this difficult. We can never be too sure about things. Mongolia had a specific route in mind for developing, but due to the price spike for mining products – Mongolia's key sector for economic development – and various other factors, many problems are arising. It's necessary to see these risks from a broader perspective and discuss visions consistent with potential risks. Raising the issue doesn't mean it'll be resolved. However, I do have expectations for it to be helpful for furthering consensus on the topics.

Almost everyone has recognized that Mongolia is facing an economic crisis. Some say the escape route from this economic difficulty is foreign investment. Will the forum help make a positive impact?

Theoretically, it's difficult to identify the current economic situation as a crisis.  In reality, businesses can feel how difficult things are. People are calling it a crisis because we can't see a future solution. Unless the whole nation advances with mutual trust and overcomes difficulties, it's likely for this situation to worsen. Therefore, the forum will discuss present conditions in the macro economy and talk about things to focus on for the short and long-term under the topic "Building Credibility".

Mongolia has developed a habit of amending the Foreign Investment Law frequently. Foreign investors want a sustainable legal environment that calculates long-term risks, even if it's strict. Before the 2012 parliamentary elections, the Strategic Investment Law was passed, restricting the three key sectors. This had quite a big influence on the economy. Decisions made before the law and small issues discussed in the streets are impacting economic difficulty. The forum is open to constructive criticism, but not for criticizing a particular organization or group. I hope people can look further than that.

Sources of foreign currency are very important for overcoming and moving away from economic difficulty. Even now, Mongolia receives currency inflow and attracts foreign investment from mining. Mongolia's currency revenue consists of foreign investment, gold, and products exported to foreign countries. Mongolia is bringing in more foreign currency from coal, copper and cashmere. Sustainability, credibility, and the credit rating of Mongolia must be good under all conditions to bring in foreign currency. If these factors improve, investment will increase and the path to overcoming economic difficulty will become clearer.

The economy will not magically recover immediately after the forum. However, if we don't discuss major economic issues at the forum, then where else should we discuss these topics?

The Mongolian Economic Forum is organized annually. What are the outcomes of these forums?

The most important topic out of many issues in the year is picked as the central topic. This itself is very significant. People connected to the central topic attend the forum, meet each other, and hold discussions. This is also significant.

Once again, the forum isn't a place to resolve issues. In the respective year, people from each sector negotiate on the topic that is to be discussed in that year, and invite people associated with the topic. Others can pay and participate in their own interests. The forum is significant because people openly discuss issues in front of others and media, and decision makers can use the information they acquire from the forum in their own work and projects.

Let's all improve and build Mongolia's problematic credibility together. I don't think Mongolia's credibility has hit rock bottom. However, I do think that unless it's improved, bad consequences will arise for Mongolia.

Decision makers and everyone else will probably consider something after discussing things together.

Source: http://www.ikon.mn/n/f8v

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Politics & Legal

100 Days of Saikhanbileg: The Good and The Bad

By U. Badamtsetseg

March 20 (gogo.mn) Today is the 100th day of Ch.Saikhanbileg's cabinet.

We are delivering the main solutions the Government has brought during its first 100 days.

First, let's have a look at what solutions have been brought by the cabinet about the worsening economic situation.

PM Ch.Saikhanbileg conducted public voting on the future steps to overcome the economic downturn.

Residents have voted to proceed with the mega projects like Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi and to stabilize the soaring inflation.

Unfortunately, Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi projects are still at the negotiations stage.

D.Ganbold, Board Member at Oyu Tolgoi: "Additional investments are needed to kick start the second phase of Oyu Tolgoi operations. We hope that financing of the underground mine is to be resolved soon, as the operations of it is planned to commence in 2016. Without underground operations Oyu Tolgoi economic value is not as high."

J.Erdenebat, Minister of Finance: "As of Tavan Tolgoi working group has been established and if the conditions are favourable to Mongolian side the project will start immediately. If negotiations to fail to be beneficial for our side, it is inevitable that this project will fail as well." 

Everyone is awaiting for the good news on both projects.

PM's first official visit abroad

First official visit of PM Ch.Saikhanbileg targeted Japan and the resulted in signing of the EPA with Japanese side, which is the first of its kind for Mongolia and 15th for Japan. 

Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg: "It is a great opportunity for Mongolian manufacturers to export its products into Japanese market with discounted rates and tax exemptions. We need to utilize this opportunity 100 percent. February 10th is the historical date for Mongolia and Japan. We managed to advance our relations with Japan into economic partnership."

Bad news from Minister of Finance

Few days before the cabinet reached its 100th day milestone Minister of Finance J.Erdenebat made a statement with bad news: "Mega projects are still stalled, if the situation continues with limited foreign credit, money supply is to decrease in 2015 therefore having drastic impacts on loans and economy will shrink."

"We have to pay attention to payment balance, which accrued losses of USD 1.4 billion on top of the budget deficit of MNT 1.2 trillion. As of current, Government have issued bonds worth of MNT 3 trillion, which equals to 25 percent of the total loan sources of commercial banks. It is hard to expand the economy while the government itself has gathered 25 percent of the means."

As a solution he suggested: "In order to decrease the budget deficit it is better to get long term soft loan from foreign financial institutions. We are issuing domestic bonds with annual interest of 15-16 percent, while there is possibility to get long term loans with annual loan interest at most 2 percent. This way we can reduce the budget deficit and debt costs as well."

Moreover, Minister of Finance added that according to Program to overcome the economic downturn approved by the government Bank of Mongolia. Financial Regulatory Commission and Government of Mongolia have developed detailed plan and started its implementation.

Resolutions by the Government

Trade and Development Bank and State Bank have been granted the approval for issuing bonds (Mogi: not an approval, a private bank wouldn't need one, just a letter of support). State Bank is now able to trade long term securities worth USD 300 million on international markets with low interest. Resolutions for extracting 12 tons of gold with the deposits worth USD 200 million in order to increase the gold mining.

Next is the resolution to implement saving of the state budget. It was ordered to state entities to stop using high capacity vehicles within the city.

In order to decrease dependency of MIAT on only one fuel supplier it was ordered to have two fuel suppliers.

Government has set the excise duty on strategic products such as fuel and diesel fuel. Credit lines were approved for imports of fuel from Russian Federation in order to stabilize the foreign currency flow. Credit line is available for 36 months and up to USD 300 million will help to stabilize and decrease the fuel prices, increase the fuel reserves and acts the stable financing for the importers. Agreement with Rosnefti secured the stable reserves of fuel for 100 days.

Some of the notable resolutions

Prime Minister banned the state employees to be included in the Board of Directors of State Owned Entities. State Property Committee is now in charge of appointing skilled professionals at those posts. Government decided to increase the pension funds by 10 percent, thus resulting the pensions to increase to MNT 126,500 and nursing subsidies to be MNT 58,000. Exploration license applications are now being received online, resulting in reduced bureaucracy and hassle, on top of resolving 106 license issues.

Draft bills submitted by Government:

  • Amendments to the regulations of Long Name Law.
  • Draft law on Civil Service.
  • Draft of order on Pension Reforms State Policy.
  • Laws on Economic Transparency, Economic Pardoning, renewed Criminal Code and Violations.
  • Main Directions on Privatization of the State Properties and Entities.
  • Laws on Casino and Hippodrome.

Development projects submitted by the Government:

  • 72 elementary schools and kindergartens to be constructed with the concession agreement, 21 school buildings to be built with Chinese aid.
  • 6 aimag centers will be connected with the paved roads with Ulaanbaatar city through concession agreements, therefore having all the 21 aimags to be connected with capital city.
  • Start the negotiations with Chinese investors to finance with soft loans the Egiin River Hydropower station.
  • Commencement of the road to Khushigt Valley Airport in the second quarter of 2016 as the Ulaanbaatar city will host 11th ASEM meeting in 2016. The road construction is to be financed with loans from China.
  • Erdenebureg Hydropower plant to be constructed in Khovd aimag.
  • Construction of 700 MW power plant in Baganuur.
  • Resolved financing and construction of the Buuruljuut power plant.
  • Resolved to sell the Government Building number 10 through the auction and use the proceeds of the sales to finance the construction of the maternity hospital in Yarmag area.
  • Concession agreement to develop the Dornod power plant.
  • Resolved the financing of the gas manufacture in the scope of program to reduce the Ulaanbaatar city smoke pollution.

Link to article

 

How much have MPs spent on print media?

By M. Jargal

March 20 (gogo.mn) With the help of Glass Account public can access to spending of the state entities as well as MPs. Glass Account has information of spending over MNT 5 million and can be accessed at http://shilendans.gov.mn.

According to the website of Glass Account it is evident that MPs spend millions on just print media. The following tables show activities of February and March of 2015 and only depict the amounts that are over MNT 5 million.

February 2015

Transaction description

Enpenditure

Recipient

Kh. Bolorchuluun Report Printing from the electorial district budget

20,000,000.0

Khukhmongol Printing LLC

L.Enkh-Amgalan Report Printing on Khuvgul Messenger newspaper from the electorial district budget

70,000,000.0

Interpress LLC

Ts.Davaasuren Report Printing from the electorial district budget

18,000,000.0

Bit Press LLC

L.Erdenechimeg Report Printing from the electorial district budget

17,100,000.0

Songinokhairkhan Newspaper LLC

DP Group Autumn Session Introduction Book

8,850,000.0

Selengepress LLC

D.Ganbat Magazine Printing from the electorial district budget

90,000,000.0

Sumber Suld LLC

D.Khayankhyarvaa Magazine Printing from the electorial district budget

90,000,000.0

Interpress LLC2077965

D.Bat-Erdene Report Printing from the electorial district budget

9,300,000.0

Ezen Suld LLC 5611911

D.Bat-Erdene Report Printing from the electorial district budget

5,665,000.0

Khukhmongol Printing LLC

S.Ganbaatar Report Printing from the electorial district budget

25,000,000.0

Bit Press LLC

Total expenses on print media

353,915,000.00

March 2015

Transaction description

Expenditure

Recipient

Kh. Bolorchuluun Report Printing from the electorial district budget

65,000,000.0

Mongolchuud Magazine

M.Zorigt Report Printing from the electorial district budget

90,000,000.0

Sumber Suld LLC

N.Nomtoibayar Report Printing from the electorial district budget

6,500,000.0

Zaluu Marketer NGO

S.Ganbaatar Report Printing from the electorial district budget

17,300,000.0

Bit Press LLC

J.Batsuuri Report Printing from the electorial district budget

6,370,000.0

Tod Bichig LLC

D.Sumiyabazar Report Printing from the electorial district budget

7,150,000.0

Zaluu Marketer NGO

D.Terbishdagva Zaluu Marketer NGO

50,000,000.0

EMBLE LLC

Total expenses on print media

242,320,000.00

Link to article

 

Wedding Palace on privatization list despite profitable operations

By R. Adiyasuren

March 20 (gogo.mn) During the economic downfall government is discussing the privatization of the state entities with losses. The list includes Wedding Palace, which meets protests from the public and other organizations, for instance, Mongolian Youth Association and MPP Group at the City Council.

Although the privatization agreement calls for the use of the privatized property and entity per their purpose it has never been the case.

There are instances with privatization of the properties located in the city center, which are not being used as per their initial purpose, starting from the circus, therefore privatization of Wedding Palace is not welcomed by many.

Last Tuesday City Council meeting has discussed the list of the city property and entities to be privatized due to the losses occurred. The list is to be finalized and approved on March 23 after the second discussion.

Appearance of the Wedding Palace on the list was explained with losses it has accrued during the last year's activities, citing to the losses of MNT 46 million as of first half of 2014.

The number of the losses accrued in the first half of 2014 is explained by the weather conditions and traditions of Mongolians, who are more inclined to celebrate wedding ceremonies during  summer and autumn months, leaving the winter and spring months with rather down time. While the annual numbers look far more optimistic:

  • in 2013 it accrued profits of MNT 249 million
  • in 2014 it accrued profits of MNT 406 million.

Below is the operation report of the Wedding Palace for last year:

In 2014 it planned to hold 1500 wedding ceremonies, while the final performance shows impressive sales.

In the last 10 year time total of 13,021 couples have been served by Wedding Palace and the busiest year was 2011, year of Rabbit. This year total of 1,989 couples turned to Wedding Palace to celebrate their happy moments.

Employees at the Wedding Palace hope that it won't be privatized.

Wedding Palace was established with the initiative of first lady of Yu.Tsedenbal Ms.Filatova with the Russian aid. It was opened in June 14, 1976 and has registered over 40 thousand couples over the years since its establishment.

Link to article

 

Let's cultivate, not dig

March 20 (UB Post) Globally, for many years, Mongolia has been reported as a country with no other assets apart from its underground resources. Now that every resource that Mongolia digs up from mines has been evaluated and said to be nearly on the verge of exhaustion, many are curious to find the next source of wealth for Mongolia's pocket.

Truthfully, there aren't many countries that dig up its land from east to west and sells mining products for prices that don't match their value, like Mongolia does. Mongolia has the potential to profit from some of its hills and water sources to become a strong player in international markets, just like it did by overturning metal prices multiple times. In other words, Mongolia has the opportunity to cultivate its agricultural sector, exceed the industry's previous achievements, export crops, and push the economy to a new and higher level.

In the late 1950s, development of Mongolia's agricultural sector reached its peak and the nation was able to export agricultural products, bringing in a massive amount of foreign currency. Mongolia would be one step away from making big profits from agriculture and supplying the nation with healthy but affordable vegetables if the sector was supported nationwide and the government gave it a little nudge, yet the public has no choice but to buy expensive vegetables imported from China.

The cost of lost opportunity

The agricultural sector makes up 14 percent of Mongolia's GDP. This is a big figure for a country with a small economy and low economic diversity. Even so, we shouldn't be satisfied with this, because Mongolia has the potential to flourish in agriculture and increase this number.

The state and government has attempted to boost the sector several times. For instance, the government executed the national Third Crop Rehabilitation Campaign in 2008, and Mongol Bank and the Ministry of Industry and Agriculture implemented a price stabilization program from 2013 to 2014.

Through the price stabilization program, Mongolia got a loan of 220 billion MNT from the Chinggis Bond, Samurai Bond, and government securities. However, the program didn't reach adequate levels.
Documents state that the agricultural sector makes up 14 percent of the economy, but investment is urgently needed, like water and air, to turn this figure into actual benefits.

Caution and financing

Last year's livestock census determined that the population of livestock in Mongolia has reached almost 50 million. Behind this number, 16 times greater than the human population of Mongolia, lies a quality issue. Meat from this livestock doesn't meet international export standards. Despite having so many livestock, the production of milk and dairy products is insufficient, and infrastructure for transporting products from herders is poor.

This year, the government is aiming towards developing financing infrastructure for the livestock sector, and increasing the assortment of financing products. Involvement from financing agencies and commercial banks is very important. The most crucial and essential factor for carrying out the objectives of the government is activism and the initiative of people in the agricultural sector.

The government discussed industry policy, financial opportunities for commercial banks, and methods for developing the sector on March 19, at the Agricultural Project Investment Conference.

At the conference the government discussed issues facing the agricultural sector, possible solutions, financial opportunities, and international practices. They also exchanged views on attracting investment, how to enforce beneficial programs, and producing internationally competitive products. One of Mongolia's major banks, Golomt, will gave advice on urgent issues for people in the agricultural sector, based on its experience issuing financing from the Chinggis Bond to five departments in the sector. Golomt Bank provided advice on documenting and developing projects, proper methods for conducting and analyzing surveys, focus points for selecting technologies, and methods for training a workforce.

Agricultural businesses with stable operations and investment also exchanged their experiences with other conference attendees. Various representatives from the agricultural sector, government, financing and legal organizations, as well as international banks and development agencies were in attendance.

Many believe that this conference will be significant for agricultural businesses looking for ways to help the sector flourish, a sector which provides food for the whole nation. It seems that Mongolia should consider growing rather than digging, and find ways to earning wealth by tending to deposits that will continually grow resources.

Source: Zuunii Medee

Link to article

 

Mongolia's Dubious Merchant Navy

The country risks serious damage to its reputation with its questionable maritime activities.

By Graham Alexander

March 20 (The Diplomat) With more than 250 days of sun a year, Mongolia's moniker – Land of the Blue Sky – is well deserved; its association with the deep blue sea, though, is less obvious. The nation's capital, Ulaanbaatar, is located more than 1,300 kilometres from the ocean, and Mongolia is the largest landlocked country in the world. Nevertheless, over the last decade Mongolia has developed a maritime tradition that it rarely speaks of, offering flags of convenience to shipowners since 2003. Although little attention has been given to Mongolia's merchant fleet, the lack of transparency and scrutiny associated with it risk facilitating illicit activities and causing serious reputational damage to the country.  The material benefit that the Mongolian State derives from its merchant navy is far from clear, making it reasonable to question whether Mongolia's maritime tradition is worth preserving, or if it would be best abandoned.

With 90 percent of international trade being carried by sea, shipping is one of the most vital industries in the world economy. Its inter- and trans-national nature, however, makes it challenging to regulate and, although the UN attempts to do so under the aegis of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), there is considerable leeway to exploit loopholes and ambiguities in the international regulatory regime. One such practice is that of flying flags of convenience – registering a merchant ship in a sovereign state other than that of the ship's owner. A country that allows foreign-owned ships to fly its flag is said to have an open registry, and three such registries (Liberia, the Marshall Islands, and Panama) currently account for 40 percent of the entire merchant fleet by tonnage. Indeed the practice is so widespread that some three quarters of the global merchant fleet is registered under a flag of convenience.

Ship owners employ this practice for a number of reasons: It allows them to avoid burdensome regulation, it reduces operating costs and tax bills, it allows shippers to employ cheaper labor and, in some cases, it can offer anonymity to the beneficial owner of a vessel. The more pernicious effects of use of this practice include avoiding safety and environmental standards. The moral ambiguity of flags of convenience has made them a target of ire for international labor unions, but even more concerning than the degradation of labor standards is the potential for the practice to be used to conceal or facilitate illegal activities, such as trafficking of illegal goods, evasion of international sanctions, or providing support to terrorism. Cambodia, for example, used to be notorious for the lax standards of its registry and in 2002 the MV Winner, a Cambodian flagged vessel, was found to be carrying two tons of cocaine off the Canary Islands. This incident highlighted the flagrant abuse of Cambodia's registry and the government subsequently announced a wholesale reorganization.

Mongolia, for its part, established its own registry under Prime Minister Nambaryn Enkhbayar in February 2003. The Mongolian Ship Registry's stated mission was to "provide excellence in registry and marine services." Over the course of ten years the Mongolian merchant fleet grew rapidly and, according to the UN, reached a total dry weight tonnage capacity of 643,000 tons in 2013. While this total tonnage is low relative to other countries, it is not insubstantial. For example, Mongolian-flagged vessels have a greater capacity than their Iraqi or Sri Lankan counterparts (110 and 239 tons respectively). The Mongolian fleet now comprises 168 vessels and, in terms of dry weight tonnage, is the largest merchant fleet of any landlocked country except Switzerland (1,144 tons) and Luxembourg (1,601 tons) – both highly developed economies with long traditions of nominal ownership.

All the Wrong Reasons

In spite of its self-professed commitment to excellence, though, it seems that the registry has proved popular for all the wrong reasons – in effect serving as the maritime equivalent of an offshore financial center, allowing beneficial ownership to be hidden, operating costs and taxes to be minimized, reducing transparency, and, in some cases, facilitating illegal activities. These concerns are exacerbated by the fact that Mongolia's registry isn't even based in the country. It is run out of Singapore and managed by Sovereign Ventures, a conglomerate owned by Chong Koy Sen. Chong is a Singaporean citizen who serves as the honorary consulate of Tuvalu (another state renowned for its flag of convenience) in Singapore as well as managing director of its Ship Registry. It is in Tuvalu that a number of Iranian Government ships (owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company) implicated in sanctions busting are registered. According to a leaked American diplomatic cable from 2007, Sovereign Ventures has long-standing ties to North Korea and used to manage the Cambodian Shipping registry until its 2002 reorganization. Indeed, it was Sovereign Ventures that had flagged the Winner in Cambodia.

While there is no direct link between Sovereign Ventures and these incidents, it is clear that the comparative advantage of the registries it runs lies in their relatively lax regulatory requirements. When it comes to the Mongolian Ship Registry, for example, an international service provider for shipowners and shipbrokers lists the advantages of registering under a Mongolian flag as including: competitive fees and taxes; no tax on profits or capital gains; recognition of all IMO standards and certificates for crew; quick service and issuance of certificates within the hour; and the fact that ships are not subject to requisition as national resources. In addition, there are no restrictions on the ownership of any ship registered in the Mongolia Ship Registry. With the registration process being outsourced, and with reduced standards being the main appeal of the registry, it should come as no surprise that Mongolia's merchant fleet ranks poorly when assessed according to international metrics.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and International Shipping Federation (ISF) release an annual shipping industry flag state performance table that assesses flag states in terms of performance. These metrics include port state control (whether they have been blacklisted by the world's principal port state control authorities); ratification of major international maritime treaties; use of recognized organizations compliant with IMO resolution A.379 (which requires states to establish controls over organizations carrying out safety inspections and surveys of ships); age of fleet; reporting requirements (submission of compliance and practice reports as required by the International Labour Organization); and attendance at IMO meetings (suggesting increased likelihood of complying with IMO rules). In all but one of these categories (fleet age), Mongolia performs poorly.

Given that many of these metrics are technical in nature, it is sufficient to highlight Mongolia's performance relating to port state control to give an idea of the issues that blight the Mongolian merchant fleet. Port state control refers to the inspection of foreign ships in ports and is governed globally by three main regional regimes: the Paris Memorandum of Understanding, the Tokyo Memorandum of Understanding, and the United States' Coast Guard regime.

With most Mongolian-flagged ships operating in the Asia-Pacific region, it is the Tokyo MoU which is most relevant to Mongolia. This agreements binds together 18 Asia-Pacific states and aims to establish an effective regional port state control regime through cooperation and harmonization of activities – the aims of this being to eliminate sub-standard shipping, promote maritime safety, protect the environment, and safeguard working and living conditions on ships. In 2013, the signatories of the Tokyo MoU conducted 142 inspections of Mongolian-flagged vessels. In 131 of these inspections, deficiencies were found (a total of 1,217 separate deficiencies) and 38 of the inspected ships (26.76 percent of the total) had to be detained. This was the second highest of any country and far above the regional average of 4.5 percent. As a result, Mongolia currently finds itself on the blacklist of the Tokyo MoU, with Mongolian-flagged ships subject to increased inspection as a result.

Incidents

Moving from the big picture to individual cases, Mongolian-flagged ships have been (and continue to be) involved in a number of incidents that reflect negatively on the state. These can be broken down into four categories: safety; illicit activity; sanctions busting; and lack of control and oversight. These examples highlight the reputational damage that the practice of maintaining an open registry can cause to Mongolia and the need to carefully consider its continuation.

When it comes to safety, Mongolian ships have been involved in a number of life-threatening and fatal accidents. In November 2003, for example, 13 Russian sailors were rescued from the Fest, a Mongolian-flagged vessel loaded with logs that was sinking in the Sea of Japan after the ship's engine failed. Since this incident, Mongolia promised to stop registering vessels over 30 years old, but accidents continue to occur. Just last year, two North Korean sailors died aboard a Mongolian-flagged vessel after their cargo ship sunk off the coast of South Korea.

In addition to safety concerns, Mongolian registered ships have also been involved or implicated in illicit activities. In 2003 the MV Unique was searched by Irish police and customs officials as they suspected that it was being used by an international crime gang to carry illegal immigrants. In December 2012 another Mongolian-flagged ship was detained by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency on suspicion of smuggling diesel and selling it in nearby countries. Some 200,000 liters of diesel (which is subsidized in Malaysia) worth $1.2 million was found on board.

More worrying than diesel smuggling is the potential use of Mongolian flags to help states avoid international sanctions. Although no direct evidence has emerged of Mongolian ships being used to this end, Mongolia was forced to cancel the flags of five Iranian owned cargo ships in 2012 following international pressure. North Korea, another state subject to international sanctions, has long used foreign registries to hide its shipping activities with foreign-flagged ships having been used for drugs and arms smuggling amongst other things.  Cambodia was long the registry of preference, until the international pressure that ensued following the MV Winner incident put an end to this practice in 2002, and the apparent replacement for North Korea was none other than Mongolia. The willingness to provide flags to Pyongyang has attracted stern criticism, with the director of the Institute for International Affairs at James Madison University calling on the State Department to "investigate Mongolia's maritime activities and aims," before asking that its coordinator for counterterrorism should "certify whether they represent a threat to Americans at home and abroad."

The final example of abuse of Mongolian flags of convenience is perhaps the most surprising, and relates to control and oversight. In the context of the international effort to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, a number of floating arsenals have sprung up in international waters. These vessels act as storage locations for weapons and personnel, so that ships can quickly and efficiently pick up and deposit security teams as they pass through the Gulf of Aden. With these vessels based out of international waters, regulation of the weapons and material on board falls to the flag state. All weapons aboard U.K. flagged ships, for example, are registered and licensed with the British authorities. If the flag state has limited controls over the storing and transfer of military equipment, then these ships may operate with no oversight. A number of service providers seem to be using Mongolian-flagged ships to this end, and a December 2014 research report by the Remote Control Project (a body that examines developments in warfare) found at least 32 ships that act as such floating armories in and around the area. Of these, eight were found to use Mongolian flags of convenience, while a further two are thought to do so. Given Mongolia's presence on several blacklists, this means that these weapons are as good as unregistered and these ships are acting without any effective oversight or regulation.

Revenues

It is no surprise, then, that the International Chamber of Shipping included Mongolia on a list of countries that it classified as "conspicuous examples of sub-standard ship registers" in February of this year. Taken together, these metrics and incidents highlight that the Mongolian Ship Registry is open to abuse. But what does the registry bring to Mongolia? Finding precise information about the division of revenues between the Singapore-based company that operates the registry and the Mongolian Marine Administration, which is nominally responsible for it, is almost impossible. Attempts to contact both parties received no reply. However, according to budgetary information from the Mongolian Ministry of Roads and Transportation, the Mongolian Marine Administration was expected to contribute 274.4 million Tugrugs ($140,000) of revenues in 2014. This is a pitifully small amount. It is likely that the registry generates more money than this. The fact that Enkhtuya Nambayar, the sister of the prime minister who founded the registry (who was later jailed for corruption) was working there before herself being investigated for corruption (on charges that were later dropped) would suggest that all is not as it seems, but no public information on where, and to whom, the earnings go is available.

Mongolia's naval tradition is barely ten years old, but its registry has rapidly developed into an example of the risks and failings of poorly controlled open registries and flags of convenience. To date, Mongolia's willingness to flag foreign vessels has gone relatively unobserved, and there has been little debate within the country about the merits and demerits of this policy. Clearly this needs to change. Mongolian-flagged vessels have been involved in fatal accidents, illegal smuggling, implicated in helping rogue states avoid sanctions regimes, and are currently used to host floating arsenals with no oversight. What is surprising is that these activities have not yet caused significant reputational damage to the country. The longer the government maintains its open registry with little or no oversight, the less likely it is to continue avoiding the spotlight. At a time when Mongolia is already under scrutiny for its rule of law and the behavior of its government, this is reputational damage that it can scarcely afford to sustain. With the registry officially bringing in only $140,000 dollars to the public purse, a cost-benefit analysis of providing flags of convenience makes clear the need to terminate or severely modify the practice. Mongolia is a country replete in tradition, and its ability to retain and protect these traditions is one of its most admirable features. The country's maritime tradition, however, has a much shorter and more ignominious history, and is one that deserves to be consigned to the deep.

Graham Alexander is a freelance writer currently based in Mongolia.  

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Business

Erdenes TT Exports 5.7Mts in 2014, 1.1Mts in First 3 Months of 2015

March 20 (news.mn) The General Taxation Authority has announced the top 100 enterprises leading in taxation payments for the last five years. 

This list is topped by Erdenet Factory, and Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi Company was in 7th place.  Although the price of coal in the global market has decreased, the company has improved its internal management and activities are continuing normally.

As of first three months of this year, the company has traded 1.1 million tons of coal.

Last year the company exported 5.7 million tons of coal, and revenue of 200 million USD was generated for Mongolia. In 2013 the company earned income of 156.6 billion MNT, with a net profit of 17.5 billion MNT from its primary operations.

This year the company is planning to trade 8 to10 million tons of coal.  In 2012, the company exported 2,386,000 tons of coal, in 2013 1,614,000 tons of coal, and in 2014 5.7 million tons of coal was sold to more than 10 customers.

The company's management has stressed that by taking all measures for profitable work, the amount of coal export has increased and conditions for profitable work have been created. 

Link to article

 

When will the coal sector recover?

March 20 (news.mn) The coal sector, which brings in one third of funds for the state budget and 40 percent of the nation's exports, is still in decline. 

As of first two months of 2015, exports of the coal sector decreased by 17.4 percent. Mongolia has exported 1.7 million tons of coal since the start of the new year.

Specialists in the coal sector have stressed that there are no indications that suggest an increase in the export of coal. According to industry forecasts, the price of coal in the Chinese coal market is expected to decrease in the future. China is the main market for Mongolia's mineral resources.  In regards to coal, it can be said that it is the nation's sole market.  

In November of last year, China has made the decision to increase taxes on imported coal, after which, the price of Mongolian coal fell. As of today, the price of coking coal per ton is 50,000 MNT (25 USD).   

Specialists in the coal sector have noted that transportation costs have influenced the falling price of coal.  For example if the price of coal per ton is 25 USD, 17 USD is spent on transportation costs.

After the start of the new year, coal companies decreased the amount of exports.

Executive Director of the Mongolian Coal Association T.Naran has stressed that in order to protect the market, coal companies are continuing to export coal in small amounts despite the sector facing losses

The Mineral Resources Authority has reported that in the first two months 2015, coal export plans reached only 25 percent of their projected goals.

There is some hope for the coal sector with the launch of the Tavan Tolgoi project. According to specialists in the sector, if the Tavan Tolgoi project begins, there are some expectations that the coal sector will move forward.

However, if this project falls flat, the coal sector may not recover for a long time.

Australia is still the main player in the Chinese market as their main supplier of coal. However, last year it exported only 1.64 million tons of coking coal, a 61.5 percent decline in comparison with the previous year.

Competition in the Chinese coal market is increasing dramatically. The amount of Canadian and Russian coal export to China has increased. Mongolia is now in 2nd place, but last year Mongolia was in 5th place.

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Mongolia secures higher prices for fluorspar in 2015

March 19 (Industrial Minerals) Despite a difficult year owing to limited demand for fluorspar, some Mongolian suppliers have managed to trade shipments at marginally higher levels in Q1 2015, boosting some optimism amongst producers in the market.

Mongolia, which exports the majority of its fluorspar to Russia and China, has managed to sell shipments at price levels higher than current Chinese prices, after some companies managed to secure annual contracts for 2015 earlier this year. 

Sources told  IM Data that a supply contract for acid grade fluorspar (acidspar, 95% CaF2) has been...

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Mongolia Holds Annual Mineral Exploration Roundup

March 20 (news.mn) Mongolian Geology and Exploration 2015 conference was carried out today at the Trade Union Palace.

The opening speech was given by Mining Minister R.Jigjid.  He highlighted the work carried out over the last two years by the Mining Ministry in order to steadily develop the mining sector for the long term and to provide economic growth. He also spoke about the activities carried out for the sophistication of the mining sector:    

·         State policy to be adhered to in the mining sector

·         Mining Law

·         A new version of the Law on Petroleum 

·         New amendments to the Mining Law

·         Amendments to the Nuclear Energy Law

To continually increase mineral resource funds and to develop the geological and exploration sector and policy to be adhered at the state level, Parliament has approved the spending of 11.3 billion MNT for geological research from state funds.

This amount has been increased by 1.3 billion MNT in comparison with funding for 2014.

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2015 Expo Mongolia International Mining and Multi Sector Trade Fair, Ulaanbaatar, March 23-25

March 20 (infomongolia.com) On March 23-25, 2015, the "Expo Mongolia" International Mining and Multi Sector Trade Fair will be taking place at the Buyant-Ukhaa Sport Palace in Ulaanbaatar.

The event will be hosted for its third consecutive year and has been organized under German "Invest Mongolia 21" Group's investment and management supported by "JV Consult Mongolia" LLC as well as the Ministry of Environment and Green Development, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Mining, Ministry of Energy, Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Ulaanbaatar Governing Office.

Expo Mongolia is the platform for all industry players, who want to expand their target market on the Asian continent, where at the three-day event, pavilions for Made in Poland - Cooperation Opportunities for Mongolian Companies will be launched with representatives of the Ministry of Economy of Republic of Poland and representatives of leading Polish companies of promoted sectors.

Also, the Czech Pavilion organized by the Czech Trade Promotion Agency will be participating for the very first time with four companies of Agromont Vimperk Ltd., MERKOCZ JSC., Gebr. Ostendorf - Osma Ltd., and INCO Engineering Ltd. represented by their respective owners or senior export managers.

Moreover, German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy confirmed an official joint stand for Expo Mongolia 2015 with its "Made in Germany" Pavilion.

During the Conference, discussions and presentations will be covering topics on "Mining Industry in Mongolia", "Investment Environment and Opportunities in Mongolia", "Anglo American in Mongolia", "Current situation of the Road and Transportation industry and partnerships opportunities", "Power Sector of Mongolia, Policy and Challenges" and "Current situation of Mongolian Geologyand Mining sectors and their future".

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Vietnam Interested in Importing Frozen Meat from Mongolia

March 20 (infomongolia.com) On March 19, 2015, Minister of Food and Agriculture Mrs. R.Burmaa received in her office the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to Mongolia Mr. Fang Dang Duong.

At the beginning of meeting, Ambassador Fang Dang Duong underlined that in order to elevate the agricultural cooperation, the sides should entry into newer level of partnership. In particular, during the 16th intergovernmental meeting to be hosted in Ulaanbaatar next month, the main object to discuss is potentialities of exporting meat and meat products to Vietnam and thus, it will be focused to accelerating relevant works.

Also, Vietnam is ready to supply with rice, fresh fruits, drugs and bio products, and interested to import frozen meat, meat products as well as raw materials such as hide from Mongolia, but the animal and plant quarantine agreement has not been yet established, stresses the Ambassador.

In turn, Minister R.Burmaa noted, "A working group chaired by Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture will be working in China next month to negotiate and resolve the animal and plant quarantine issue and if goes well, the transit shipment issue will be also answered".

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Related:

Vietnam expresses interest in importing Mongolian meatnews.mn, March 20

Vietnam expressed its interest on importing meatgogo.mn, March 20

Minister of Agriculture Meets Ambassador of VietnamMontsame, March 20

 

De Facto Interview: Domenico Daffan, Raffles International Institute Mongolia

March 19 --

Link to interview

 

How Mongolia gave Dorset a new food tradition in Black Cow vodka

In a drinks market drowning in brands and choices, originality is a sure way to stand out from the crowd. And Dorset's fantastic Black Cow Vodka has it in spades, writes Martin Hesp

March 21 (Western Daily Press) There ought to be some kind of national listing for the best and most original ideas farmers have ever had when it comes to diversification – if there was then the West Dorset duo who've come up with a product that sees high quality vodka being made from cows' milk would be up there in a category of their own…

It goes without saying that they earn 10-out-of-10 for originality and novelty, but what also has to be underlined is the fact that their product, Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka, is a Rolls Royce drink which is also in a league of its own.

I say that as a tippler of booze who never normally touches spirits. But after being persuaded to try a sip of Black Cow with a lump of the very cheese which could be described as its sister product, I was hugely impressed by its smoothness and rounded flavour.

Who are these guys who came up with such an unusual business plan – and what made them think of attempting the iron-into-gold alchemy of converting milk in to vodka?

I meet Jason Barber and Paul Archard for a sit-down chat before visiting the former's dairy farm, from where the milk is taken.

Paul tells me: "Jason invented the idea of pure milk vodka and together we've developed it in to a product and a brand. We both pretty much worked in close partnership from the beginning – and we had a very entertaining and hilarious time working out how to produce it, which took us on interesting travels to see people who had PhDs in filters and stainless steel fittings and all sorts of crazy things like that."

All well and good, but this doesn't explain the crux of the matter: who dreamed up the idea of making vodka from milk – and why?

Well, it turns out it may have been Genghis Khan… "He conquered half the world on alcohol made from milk," grins Jason. "When I tried a drink like that it was not at all what I expected. Araka is a spirit made from mare's milk which has been fermented into alcoholic beer. We had tried something similar to this because, on hearing about our vodka, a wonderful Mongolian farmer and his wife came over to the UK to visit us. It was 14° proof and the taste was very unusual to a Western palette.

Paul explains: "His daughter was at university in Birmingham and he is dairy farmer in Mongolia where they make the traditional liquor from their cow's milk which is served in a communal silver dish. We tasted it and thought it was very much like something that had been in a milk bottle for a couple of months. Helen, my wife, absolutely loved it. Me and Jason weren't quite so sure."

All of which was very interesting, but still didn't explain why they'd come up with the idea in the first place.

"I had to cut down on my shopping bill, and as it happens I have a deep personal interest in vodka because I am a dairy farmer and I have to get up very early to milk the cows," shrugs Jason. "Good vodka doesn't give you a hangover, so that's the sort of drink you need.

"I sell my milk to the oldest cheesemakers in the UK so my milk has to have a very high fat content – it's too good just to drink. What we have here is grass-grazed milk – produced on some of the best grazing in the country.

"The milk is split in to curds and whey – the curds goes off to make the cheddar cheese – and the whey is really almost a by-product, usually fed to pigs or used in food processing.

"But whey is very high in lactose and sugars – so it is something that readily converts to alcohol. We found a yeast that will convert with lactose – most other alcoholic drink is made out of fructose. We add this yeast to the whey to make milky beer – that is warm fermented – then we put it through a still and it comes out at a glorious 96 per cent – which is then we do our secret blending process."

The vodka is triple filtered before being hand bottled. And Black Cow, just so that you'll know, is made from the same milk that is used to make Barber's 1833 cheddar.

"What we love about it is there is no waste," said Paul. "One of the most unattractive things about the modern world is waste. Now we reckon we have made the best vodka in the world out of what would almost have been a waste product.

"One of our supporters is the chef Mark Hix and he said do not go down the artisanal route. Get everything finished properly before you go to market, which was one of best bits of advice we've had. We ended up with the name Black Cow because black denotes a luxury addition and cow relates to our origins.

"The second paradigm is provenance," Paul goes on. "People like to know where a thing comes from – and this comes from West Dorset. It is the Spirit of the West. That's why we have the name Dorset on the front of the bottle. There are 50 new vodkas put on the market a year – we have the only one which is completely different.

"We won a silver award at the San Francisco World Spirits competition which is regarded as the biggest thing of its kind in the world. Black Cow is also a best-selling vodka in Fortnum and Masons and Berry Brothers and Rudd's.

"It's been a blast – we've had really good fun with it," Paul smiles. "And that is key – you get businesses which are pushing and businesses which are pulling. This one is pulling us along."

Across Scandinavia, the Baltic and beyond, people drink vodka with something salty such as herrings or caviar. Try Black Cow with a strong salty West Country cheddar and you'll get the same mildly explosive, but well-rounded, hit.

A hit that has converted one lifelong beer and wine drinker into occasionally tippling something a bit stronger.

To find out more about Black Cow and where to buy a bottle visit blackcow.co.uk.

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Ulaanbaatar

Vinyl record store opens in Ulaanbaatar

By B. Tungalag

March 20 (UB Post) Dund Gol vinyl record store, which has over 1,000 vinyl records by world famous artists, bands, and composers, opened at the Children's Book Palace of Mongolia on March 18.

Owner of the store, B.Batbold, has been collecting vinyl record since 2007. Over 2,000 records are in his collection currently.

Below is a brief interview with B.Batbold.

Why did you decide to open a vinyl record store? Why did you start collecting vinyl records?

I am an artist. I released a hip-hop music vinyl record with a Japanese artist in 2007. Since then, I started collecting vinyl records.

What is the reason for creating access to your collection?

I do not display rare, unique, or the most expensive records at the store. I like jazz music. I also keep my jazz vinyl records for myself. People are becoming more interested in vinyl records, like in the past. Western artists are releasing vinyl records instead of CDs. I don't want to keep all my vinyl records. I want to spread vinyl records to people who collect vinyl records. That's why I opened the store.

Collecting 2,000 vinyl records that are rare in modern days must have required a good amount of investment, passion and hard work. How do you expand your collection?

I got some from my friends, relatives, and some strangers who have vinyl records but didn't have record players.

What is the most expensive vinyl record in your store?

The average prize is 50,000 MNT. Unique records are a bit more expensive. Old and used records are cheap. The most expensive record is by the Mongolian modern music band Soyol-Erdene and a record by Bayanmongol, which was recorded by a Russian company named "Melody" in 1970. Vinyl record collectors around the world are interested in these two records because they are very rare.

Will you expand your store?

Yes, for sure. I will sell more new vinyl records, record players, and related tools in the future. The oldest records in my store are from the 1930 and 1940s, and the newest was recorded in 2007.

Link to interview

 

City to regulate towing companies, charge additional taxes

March 20 (UB Post) To reduce traffic congestion, the capital city decided to tow vehicles that park in the first lanes of roads. Recently, related officials have started talking about making changes to the regulation. The following is an interview with the Director of the Traffic Management Department of Ulaanbaatar, Colonel B.Batbold, about these issues.

Taxing of tow truck companies is under discussion. At what stage are the changes?

The Traffic Management Center and Capital City Governor's Office are discussing the new regulation on vehicle towing operations. According to the new regulation, private companies must pay a certain amount of tax to the state. Moreover, we are considering managing  vehicle parking enforcement differently, instead of just towing illegally parked cars.

Have residents voted on the issue? A lot of complaints about private tow companies have been made.

We receive a lot of complaints. During the discussion of the new regulation, we introduced votes and suggestions from the public. Citizens think that private companies that tow vehicles conduct their activity outside of the control of the police. In fact, the situation isn't as random or messy as people think. All information and data on the number of vehicles that are towed, the location where the offense occurrs, the number of people to whom the message has been sent, are all registered in our digital database.

The police determine the locations that restricted for parking. If drivers break parking regulations their vehicles will be towed by private or state organizations. Every department and organization works in correspondence with each other.

How are the private tow companies approved?

In order to free the first lanes of roads, the license plate restriction was put in place in 2012. There were 12 companies with official approval from the Traffic Control Center at the time. Those 12 companies weren't able to reach six districts. That's why an agreement was made with private tow companies. The Police Department approves agreements with private companies.

How many vehicles a day break parking regulations  and how many vehicles are towed? How much do private companies make a day?

The public blames private tow companies a lot. They charge 60,000 MNT per vehicle. The towing process requires three to four workers. Sometimes the money they make isn't enough for their salary, fuel, and food expenses.

There is a lack of parking lots in the city and it's not fair to tow vehicles in this circumstance. People complain about this issue a lot, right?

We included the parking lot issue properly in the new regulation. Large centers and organizations where a lot of people visit must have a sufficient parking lot. If not, certain dues must be charged. However, there are drivers who still block other vehicles by parking improperly, or at the entrances of buildings.

We receive lots of complaints from hospital employees. People park their cars in front of hospital entrances and cause trouble for ambulances.

Once a vehicle is towed, it takes a lot of time for drivers to realize that their vehicle has been towed away. Most people don't know where to get their cars. Could you please give us clear information about this?

If a driver's phone number is posted on the windshield of a car, a text message is sent instantly to the driver. If phone numbers aren't available, it becomes difficult. Drivers can call 18001200 to inquire about the situation, the reason why the vehicle was towed, and where they can get their cars.

Please give us some information about tire locks?

In June 2014, the City Council approved the regulation to use tire locks to reduce problems for drivers. According to the regulation, any car that breaks regulations by parking in prohibited areas, such as green areas, sidewalks, and public walkways, will be tire locked. Tow companies and regulation departments of the Traffic Control Center conduct this activity. According to the regulations of the City Council, the tire lock fee is 20,000 MNT per car. A certain amount of the fee goes to the state account while the rest goes to private companies.

Source: Unuudur Daily

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Travelling to Bogd Khan Mountain Banned until June 15

March 20 (gogo.mn) According to the forest fire at Bogd Khan Mountain on February 4th, traveling and hiking to Bogd Khan Mountain area was banned until June 15th.

In scope of law on forest, traveling to Bogd Khan Mountain area is banned annually during the dry climatic conditions from March 20 to June 10.

This year, annual ban has started from February due to forest fire on February 4th.

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Working group formed for better pasture management around Ulaanbaatar

March 20 (UB Post) The Ulaanbaatar Mayor formed an administrative committee and working group to enhance management of pastures around Ulaanbaatar and improve agricultural progress in the area.

The program has set objectives to form a favorable environment where livestock husbandry is feasible around Ulaanbaatar, plant hay and fodder that can grow near the city, and revise pasture managements with help of herders and farmers from 2015 to 2020.

Two locations will be focus areas of the program, namely Mukhriin Am in Nariinii Khundii, located 70 kilometers northwest of Ulaanbaatar, and Bayangoliin Am in Uliastain Am, 45 kilometers from the city.

Deputy Mayor T.Bat-Erdene will oversee the program's progress, reported the Ulaanbaatar Mayor's Office.

The City Council has also announced to conduct several initiatives in relation to the agricultural sector. Advanced technologies will be introduced to the hay production industry, committees of crop farmers and herders will be formed for more consistent cooperation, and vocational centers for agricultural professions will be opened as part of the council's plan.

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New lives for Mongolia's nomads

As Genghis Khan once said, 'Conquering the world on horseback is easy. It is dismounting and governing that is hard'

March 2015 (Geographical Magazine) For the last four years, Mongolia has had one of the fastest growing economies in the world, as a mining boom saw growth hit double figures.

Rapid urbanisation has followed. In 1989, just 26.8 per cent of Mongolia's population lived in the country's capital Ulaanbaatar. Today more than half of the population of the entire country lives in the capital – around 1.2 million people.

'The migrants come primarily from the countryside and originate from nomadic families. For many, it's the first time they are living in a city. It's a big adjustment to transition from a free and independent nomadic lifestyle to a modern urban lifestyle where there are rules and restrictions and where one has to have regard for each other,' says Meloney Lindberg, country representative for the Asia Foundation. As a result of this rapid population growth, more than half the area of Ulaanbaatar today consists of unplanned settlements – called ger districts – which house more than half of the city's residents. The effects of this growth are obvious, especially in the capital where cranes dominate the skyline and luxury stores compete for space to attract customers.

But the economy is set to contract, as mining projects stall and foreign investment declines. Although poverty levels have decreased, Mongolians living in the ger districts still lack basic infrastructure. 'Poor management of solid waste in the ger areas contributes to a proliferation of illegal dumpsites in public spaces that include waste from households, as well as industrial and commercial waste,' adds Lindberg. Meanwhile, nearly 25 per cent of Mongolia's total population lacks access to basic services such as water, sanitation, heating, schools, and kindergartens.

Electricity supplies are also stretched. Temperatures fall to –40°C in mid-winter and blackouts are becoming more common as demand for heat and light increase. Water is also a problem. 'The Tuul river, which feeds the aquifer that supplies most of the water for Ulaanbaatar, is shrinking,' says Lindberg. According to an Asian Development Bank report, the city may face a water shortage this year.

With Mongolia's debt ceiling reached, loans for infrastructure development will not be forthcoming. Settled life looks less and less appealing to the world's most famous nomads.

This story was published in the March 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine

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Diplomacy

Speaker Z.Enkhbold Meets Marshal of Polish Senate

Ulaanbaatar, March 20 (MONTSAME) The Chairman of the State Great Khural (parliament) Z.Enkhbold Thursday held a meeting with Mr Bogdan Borusewicz, the President of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, in Warsaw.

Mr Borusewicz thanked the Mongolian Speaker for coming to Poland with the official visit, noting that the President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj visited Poland and Poland's leader Bronislaw Komorowski, a former President of Poland Lech Walesa, and a Deputy Marshal of the Sejm (lower house of Polish parliament) Jerzy Wenderlich visited Mongolia in 2013. He emphasized that the current visit has a great importance in developing the Mongolia-Poland relations and cooperation with wide contents of politics and economy.

The Polish side considers that a successful transmission of Mongolia to the democratic system has become a good example for other nations, "as the President of the Senate of Poland--one of the members of the EU--I say that the investors from the EU countries are interested in making investments in Mongolia, and I ask the Mongolian side to support them".

Organization of a Poland-Mongolia joint business forum has contributed to the development of the business ties between our countries, "I see that the Polish businessmen have a great opportunity to carry out their activities in Mongolia".

People of Poland have started to travel Mongolia without visa, he noted and hoped that this term will be kept this year because a number of the Polish travelling Mongolia has increased.

He is happy with the visit of the Speaker of Mongolia, "this is coincided with the 65th anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic relations," Mr Borusewicz said.

In response, Mr Enkhbold expressed a satisfaction with a present situation of the bilateral political ties, including the inter-parliamentary relations, and pointed out that the collaboration of the inter-parliamentary groups plays a main role in the cooperation between the legislative bodies. Mr Enkhbold said he is thankful to the Polish side for forwarding the cooperation between the parliamentary groups at Poland's Sejm and the State Great Khural.

The Speaker also underlined that an intergovernmental agreement on the cooperation in the defense sector, signed in Januaryof 2013, is an important step to boost the bilateral ties in this sphere.

The Speaker also said that an absence of the diplomatic mission of Poland in Mongolia causes some problems in getting Polish visas and in forwarding the bilateral economic and commercial relations, so he hopes that the Polish side will re-open its Embassy in Mongolia this year.

To this Mr Borusewicz said that Poland will restore its Embassy in Ulaanbaatar in 2015.

After this meeting, Mr Enkhbold was asked to put his signature in the Book of Honored Guests of Polish Senate.

Present at the were also L.Erdenechimeg MP, head of the Mongolia-Poland inter-parliamentary group; L.Bold, Ts.Nyamdorj, O.Enkhtuvshin, Z.Bayanselenge MPs; B.Boldbaatar, the secretary-general of the Parliamentary Office; S.Lambaa, chief advisor to the Speaker; A.Ganbaatar, the Ambassador of Mongolia to Poland; and other officials.

Link to article

Related:

Top Mongolia, Poland legislators hold joint press conference – Montsame, March 20

Z.Enkhbold receives FM of PolandMontsame, March 20

Speaker Meets Warsaw University Mongol Studies Students – Montsame, March 20

Speaker Meets Mongolians in Poland – Montsame, March 20

 

Speaker Z.Enkhbold concludes working visit to Germany

March 20 (UB Post) Mongolian parliamentarians led by Speaker of Parliament Z.Enkhbold have concluded an official visit to the Federal Republic of Germany and are now beginning an official visit to Poland.

On March 17, Speaker Z.Enkhbold was received by President of the Bundestag, Professor Norbert Lammert. Underlining that the visit would serve as impetus in the effort to boost bilateral partnership, Lammert noted the significance of Mongolia's participation as this year's partner country at ITB Berlin 2015. He said that his first visit to Mongolia was about 10 years ago, and stressed that the developing partnership is also the result of a growing number of inter-parliamentary visits.

Speaker Z.Enkhbold noted that Mongolia is hosting the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) in Ulaanbaatar in September 2015, as well as preparing for the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit in Mongolia, and mentioned that Mongolian military servicemen are participating in the second stage of the "Resolute Support" mission in Afghanistan.

He said, "Mongolia and Germany have inked an intergovernmental document on mineral resources, which is being undertaken and progressing today. Although the coal-liquefaction project negotiated has been halted, parties should focus on this project moving forward. Nevertheless, the joint project on establishing the German-Mongolian Institute for Resources and Technology has been successfully accomplished."

On the same day, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Hans-Joachim Fuchtel called on Speaker Z.Enkhbold.

The Speaker delivered a lecture titled, "The value of Mongolia's Democratic Revolution in 1990, its development experiences, lessons and future perspectives" at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, where opening remarks were presented by Deputy Secretary General of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Dr. Gerhard Wahlers and the Chairman of the Thuringian Committee of the CDU/CSU and German-Central Asian parliamentary groups in the Bundestag, Manfred Grund.

Concluding the official visit to Germany, the Mongolian delegates are now on an official visit to the Republic of Poland upon the invitation of the Marshal of the Senate, Bogdan Borusewicz, from March 18 to 21.

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Deputy PM Meets Japanese MPs in Tokyo

Ulaanbaatar, March 20 (MONTSAME) On his return from the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction of 2015, held March 14-18 in Sendai of Japan, the Deputy Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh met Thursday with the members of Japan's National Diet, the chairman of Japan-Mongolia Friendship group in the House of Representatives Mr Motoo Hayashi, the Secretary General of the group Mr Hirofumi Ryu, and the vice chairman of the group Mr Shin Takebe, in Tokyo.

Mr Khurelsukh noted that the Mongolia-Japan relations are deepening and a mutual trust has been established, and that the two nations are cooperating actively in bilateral, regional and international levels. He thanked the members of the Japan-Mongolia Friendship group for their enormous contribution to the above achievements.

Recently, the two PMs inked the Economic Partnership agreement, which is the first of its kind for Mongolia, he noted and expressed a gratitude for the institutions and individuals for their active involvement in the adoption of the Agreement.

The Deputy PM also said the assistance and support of Japan's Government has been playing a special role in the contemporary development of Mongolia, and mentioned that further assistance is still applicable in Mongolia, particularly in education and health care.

The chairman of the Japan-Mongolia Friendship group Mr Motoo Hayashi considered that the recent visits paid by the Mongolian PM and the Speaker and the expected participation of President of Mongolia in the "Asia Forum" in Japan this May manifest the ever-strengthening relations between the two countries.

The two sides stated that commitments to the consolidation of established ties should be made not only at Governmental but also at other levels and fields.

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Secretary-General of Parliamentary Office visits Czech Republic

By B. Khuder

Ulaanbaatar, March 20 (MONTSAME) At invitation of the chairman of the Office of Chamber of Deputies (lower house) of the Czech parliament, the head of the Parliamentary Office of Mongolia B.Boldbaatar visited the Czech Republic March 14-18.

Boldbaatar has met with Mr Petr Kynstetr, the head of the Office of the Chamber of Deputies, and Jiri Uklein, the head of the Office of Senate (upper house of Czech parliament) to discuss issues of expanding Mongolia-Czech relations and cooperation, forwarding the traditional friendly cooperation, exchanging staffers of the Offices, providing each other with information and researches on upgrading the legal environment.

Mr Boldbaatar has also been received by Mr John Hamacek, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, and by Mr Vojtech Filip, a Deputy Speaker of the lower house. Boldbaatar conveyed to them greetings of the Chairman of the State Great Khural and exchanged views on the inter-parliamentary cooperation.

Mr Hamacek underlined an importance of the state visit of the Mongolian President to the Czech Republic in January this year, which coincided with the 65th anniversary of the diplomatic relations. He emphasized that the inter-parliamentary ties including the relations between the Parliamentary Offices will play a vital role in realizing some works concurred between the countries.

Mr Hamacek also said he will pay attention to boosting of the bilateral traditional relations and cooperation in the economic sector.

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Northeast Asian officials gather for international energy meeting

By Ch. Khaliun

March 20 (UB Post) On March 17, energy sector officials gathered for the international meeting "Ties of the Energy Sector", organized by the Institute of Energy Economics and Institute for Strategic Studies, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Representatives of energy research and analysis institutions from Russia, China, South Korea, and Japan, representatives of Mongolia's state and private enterprises working in energy, and 24 scientists from 16 international and private organizations took part in the meeting.

The attendees discussed possibilities to produce energy efficiently, ways to improve energy's economic benefits, the introduction of high-efficiency technology, increasing energy reserves in the region, the interests of countries that import a significant amount of energy, the sector's ties, and interesting projects developing in the sector.

The specialists and officials believe that by implementing solutions, initiatives, and ideas from the meeting, techniques being used now can be upgraded, and energy efficiency will gradually increase.

News.mn spoke with the Vice-Minister of Energy regarding the two-day meeting.

What kind of Northeast Asian experiences could we implement in Mongolia?

 Last year we talked about implementing the Asian super grid project with countries in the region, rather than implementing their experience. The main goal of the project is creating renewable energy sources in the Gobi regions, and to export energy in the scope of this project.

The meeting is taking place in the presence of representatives from North Korea, South Korea, China, and Russia, where the energy sector is well developed. The lifetime of power plants in Mongolia is from 40 to 50 years. It is true that our technology has been left far behind global technology, but in the stations that have been built recently, or are being built, advanced technology has been introduced.

Global technology is focusing on technology's influence on the environment, and on the efficiency of plants.

The energy sector in Mongolia has been working at a financial loss for many years. How long will it take to recover losses, fully ensure domestic energy consumption, and export our energy?

We submitted a state policy document on the energy sector to the Parliament and Government. We believe that Mongolia will be able to talk about exporting energy in 2020. Ahead of this issue, we will establish a general agreement with China. We already established a memorandum, and the Speaker of the Parliament touched upon the issue of establishing a general agreement during his visit to China. After establishing the agreement, we will discuss policy issues like suitable sources for the export of energy, and what stations to build.

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Mongolian lifestyle images on display at Seoul exhibition

March 22 (The Korea Times) The Embassy of Mongolia in Seoul hosted a photo exhibition featuring the country's pristine nature, nomadic lifestyle and traditional and modern cultures in 70 quality images at the Korea Foundation (KF) Gallery in Seoul.

Ambassador Bassanjav Ganbold said that his embassy in collaboration with the KF had prepared the Mongolian lifestyle showcase to raise Koreans' awareness of the country on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with South Korea.

During the opening remarks on March 18 at the gallery, the envoy called Korea a third neighbor.

"We proudly note that our third neighbor Korea has become one of our major trading and economic partners in the region," he said.

With the terminology of third neighbor, Ambassador Ganbold seemed to refer to Korea as his country's third most important country, following Russia and China.

In recent decades, Mongolia has sought to diversify its diplomatic and trade relations with other near countries, such as South Korea and Japan.

Mongolia established diplomatic relations with North Korea before its diplomatic relations with the South were set up in March 1990.

"Because of Mongolia's recent rapid economic growth, the number of Korean and other nationals visiting our country and doing business continues to increase as does the demand from them for information about it," he said.

The Mongolian economy had achieved double-digit growth in the 2000s. Recently its growth rate experienced a slowdown but is still high compared with other nations.

The Mongolian envoy said the photo exhibition, titled "Wind from the Steppes," was prepared for the duel celebration of the diplomatic anniversary as well as the 25th anniversary of Mongolia's democratic transition.

"The exhibition displays some pictures from the 1990s when Mongolia was experiencing a dramatic reform (as part of transition from a communist state to democracy)," Ganbold said.

"I'm convinced that the photo exhibition will enhance knowledge and information about Mongolia among the Korean public and it will also make an important contribution to the strengthening of friendship and mutual understanding of the people of the two countries."

Foreign diplomats, including five ambassadors, Korean government officials and business executives of energy companies attended the opening ceremony. The exhibition will continue until March 28.

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Similar:

'Wind From the Steppes' exhibition opens in Seoul UB Post, March 20

 

Senior Diplomat Wins Inaugural Biligt Guush Award for Translation

Ulaanbaatar, March 20 (MONTSAME) Senior diplomat Ts.Gombosuren received Friday a "Biligt Guush" (Guush–a high title for translator) award in the name of Gendendaram Jamsran, a distinguished translator and metaphrast. This was handed at the Ceremonial Hall of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The ceremony was attended by the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs N.Oyundari, the Vice Minister of Education, Culture and Sciences B.Tulga along with distinguished figures of Mongolian intellectual culture. Some 40 translation works by 21 translators have been submitted for the selection of the best translation suited for the "Biligt Guush" award, given for the first time this year.

The award-winner Ts. Gombosuren had translated "The Idiot", a famous roman by F.Dostoyevsky, and Orhan Pamuk's "The Black Book" into Mongolian language. The Vice Minister said that her father N.Navaan-Yunden had been one of the first 35 Mongolian students to study in Germany, a metaphrast and linguist who had taken part in the creation of Russian-Mongolian dictionary. She promised her support for dissemination of the world literature masterpieces and their translations.

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Social, Environmental & Other

Celebrating 40 years of Mongolia's role in space exploration

March 20 (UB Post) This year marks the 34th anniversary of Mongolia's first participation in space flight, the 50th anniversary of the first open space mission, and the 40th anniversary of the historic joint U.S.-Soviet space flight the "Soyuz-Apollo", which marked the end of the "space race" between the two superpowers.

For the celebration of the anniversaries the Astronomy and Geophysics Institute of the Scientific Academy will organize a "Mongolians Reaching for Space" event. It will showcase the events leading up to the historic March 22, 1981, Soyuz 39 space flight with a Mongolian cosmonaut onboard, and focus on the contributions of individuals who made the launch possible. Also, an art exhibition of postage stamps, photos, and collectible envelopes depicting the flight will be displayed from March 20 to 22. The exhibitions hope to show how a Mongolian man flew to space through the contributions of many people.

A range of activities for children – future astronauts, have been planned. The best primary school class will be chosen to visit the Space and Astronomy Palace, while classroom 7B of the 21st school in Bayanzurkh District will be named after Mongolian Hero and Soviet Hero, the astronaut J.Gurragchaa. Annual song, drawing, and poetry competitions will take place accordingly.

The Dudu Education Foundation has big plans for the anniversary. The director of the foundation, D.Munkhtulga stated, "A national program to increase children's knowledge about space is being implemented in two stages. First, we are developing a complete educational program, in which students can experiment on toy rockets. Next, we plan to create the first Mongolian space camp for children."

When asked about how we can prepare future astronauts, J.Gurragchaa replied, "The relevance of space flight is in research, which must contribute significantly to the development of the country, its people, and technological advancement. Preparing astronauts has little to do with it. Mongolia is in need of an organization to define the state's space policy. We must have a national space studies advisory board to support state policy. Even though such an organization exists, their activities are unclear."

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Minister signs cooperation agreement with Civil Environment Council

Ulaanbaatar, March 20 (MONTSAME) An Agreement on Cooperation was signed March 20 by the Minister of Environment, Green, Development and Tourism D.Oyunkhorol and by the head of the Civil Council for Environment (CCE) Mr S.Damdinsuren.

The sides aims to make achievements in eliminating the obstacles in implementations of policies and actions regarding the environment, green development and tourism, and in planning the development activities with no harm to the environment, to promote a participation, initiatives and activities of the civil society, to provide it with guidelines and improve its responsibility.

The Minister thanked Damdinsuren and the Council for restarting the efficient cooperation agreement. It is certain that coalition and understanding will bring development, she said and expressed a belief that the government-civil society partnership will result in yield, and a satisfaction with the activities of the CCE, a union of nongovernmental organizations for the environment.

Mr Damdinsuren thanked the Minister for continuing the cooperation in resolving problems in the environmental sphere, and promised his support for the accurate actions and policies of the Government.

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President Receives Visiting Students from Alma Mater Harvard

March 20 (President.mn) Today President of Mongolia Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj received the representatives and students of the Harvard University. President Elbegdorj, as alumni of John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, accepted the students' proposal to meet. 

Harvard University students asked the President about the democracy and its future, the development of economy, mining and other sectors in Mongolia. 

President Elbegdorj noted: "The freedom and democracy never grows up, just like parents change the diapers of their babies every morning. In 1990s, the state had its control over the National State Television and the Radio Station. But now Mongolia has the independent media and there are numerous free television channels, websites, and newspapers. After the democratic revolution, Mongolians have had access to the internet since 1995, to Facebook since 2004 and to Twitter since 2006. Four years ago, it was hard to imagine that Mongolia will host the Asia-Europe Meeting / ASEM /. But it is a great pleasure to inform you that the 11th ASEM will be held in Ulaanbaatar in 2016. 

The democracy in Mongolia is enhancing and now we have started to share our experiences with the world countries. For instance, during these days, the representatives of the Presidential Advisory Board of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, are visiting Mongolia to learn our experiences". 

After the meeting, students of the Harvard University posed for photo with the President and visited the State Ceremonial Ger Palace at the State Palace. 

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Related:

Vice Speaker Meets Harvard StudentsMontsame, March 20

 

"Mongolian Secret History in 365 Days" Creator P.Bayarmagnai

March 20 (UB Post) Mongolians have started reading the "Secret History" every day on a daily basis, as readers can't get enough of the recently released "Mongolian Secret History in 365 Days" episodic book, published by the Mongolian Secret History Foundation.

Congratulations are due to the creators of this book, which has truly become the go to book for Mongolian history.

The following is an interview with the head of the Mongolian Secret History Foundation and initiator of "Mongolian Secret History in 365 Days" book, P.Bayarmagnai, about the book.

Please tell us more about the creators of "Mongolian Secret History in 365 Days" book.

The Mongolian Secret History Foundation NGO was founded last year. Our goal is to preserve the history for our future generations. "Mongolian Secret History in 365 Days" is our very first project. Youth have stopped reading the "Mongolian Secret History" (MSH). Even if they read it, they either don't understand it, or stop reading halfway through. We believed that the great and honored MSH is being misinterpreted and neglected.

Thus we published the MSH in a comprehensive style. Many historians, scientists, and translators, such as State Prize Winner, State Honored Teacher, doctor of science and professor Sh.Choimaa, State Honored Artist, PhD and professor G.Akim, head of the Mongolian Language and Language Studies Department at the National University of Mongolia Dr. M.Bayarsaikhan, and doctor of history A.Puntsag, to name a few, have contributed to the creation of the book.

Whose version of the MSH did you use? You mentioned that you defined around 2,000 ancient words and gave context?

We created our book based on the interpretation by State Honored Teacher Sh.Choimaa, which is considered to be a superb version by scientists. Sh.Choimaa has also published more than a thousand ancient terminologies and their definitions, which were almost forgotten, on to which our team added about a thousand.

We have tailored our book to fit the needs and busy schedules of the modern lifestyle so that when the text for the MSH is divided into 365, only a small paragraph a day is allotted to be read. The definitions for the terminology used in the small text are included on the bottom of the page. Basically, five to 10 minutes will be spent each day reading the MSH.

In a sense, we can say that the special feature of the book is its design. If it's not a secret, how are sales?

People have been calling us and saying, "Our whole family has started reading the book and are enjoying it. We start off by reading the main text, followed by the explanation." It is very rewarding to hear this. The book is designed so that you finish exactly one year after you start reading it. You don't have to start specifically on January 1st.

The book is selling very well. In just one week, our book ranked sixth on the bestseller list at Internom bookstore. Requests from other bookstores are pouring in. The creators of the book strongly influenced book sales, as well as the video clip with actor B.Amarsaikhan, which went viral online.

Scientist from many fields participated in the creation of the book. Could you elaborate on their participation?

Scientists from the Mongolian Secret History Foundation created the book. We didn't let the scientists simply participate. We had them work hard in terms of historical, linguistic, and cultural aspects.

Scientist M.Bayarsaikhan gave some examples from the 2,000 words and their definitions. For example "uld" (stay) meant "ild" (sword). Can you give us such examples?

I will give an example of how the word "ach" (favor, gratitude) is explained in the book. The MSH meaning of the word is "hariu" (answer, reply, or response). A response for a deed, which in most cases has a positive meaning, is not necessarily a good thing, and could possibly mean revenge. The book is filled with interesting and comprehensive examples.

I understand that you will translate the book as well as turn it into a smart phone application. Please give us details on your future plans for the book's distribution.

The mobile application process is underway. This easy to use application is planned to be launched by around Naadam. Then we will release it in traditional Mongolian script, followed by French, Japanese, and English versions. It might take some time, since the definitions for the words will be different in each language. We have yet to start them.

Our next project will focus on publishing a MSH picture glossary, including terminology, geography, and culture. We don't know how thick it will be, but we are determined on publishing it.

We are working with Mongol HD TV by having a part of the book read each day on TV. After 365 days, we will have an audiobook ready to be sent to Mongolians living abroad, since modern Mongolians and Mongolians who were born abroad can't speak Mongolian and don't know their heritage well.

We seem to count only those with visas as Mongolian expats and immigrants, but fail to take into account Mongolians who are born abroad. But thousands of them are born each year. We cannot turn ourselves away from those "foreigners" with Mongolian blood and face, and alienate them.

How are you planning on making the picture glossary, since pictures from those times are practically nonexistent?

We will simply rely on our scientists. They have spent their whole lives researching this book and have a vast amount of information and material at hand. It means that those materials will be transformed from scientific research into a book for the public.

After learning about all these great deeds, we cannot help but want to know more about the Mongolian Secret History Foundation. Why was this foundation established?

Instead of bragging about the history of Mongolia, we should take measures to learn more about it and let others know and appreciate this vast history. We have many issues we feel strongly about, so we felt we should do something about them.

If Hollywood is really interested in us, an all-Mongolian creation, complete with a Mongolian script, Mongolian directors, and Mongolian composers should be made. Chinese government funded China Film Group corporation has undertaken a multi-billion Yuan project to create a national superhero, intended to span from novels to movies, animations, applications and merchandise. They have chosen Chinggis Khaan to be this superhero.

They are making another movie series about Chinggis Khaan. They got funding from Hollywood to make "Treasures of Chinggis Khaan" 3D movie in association with Marvel's producer Avi Arad, the man behind the creation of Spiderman, Hulk and X-Men. Chinggis Khaan is going to be China's hero and sold as merchandise. And this is just an example.

We shouldn't compete – we should take initiative. Competing is difficult. They are funded by the billions and can do anything. What we can do is take initiative.

There is not an easier thing than proving to foreign viewers that Chinggis Khaan is Mongolian. Either way, the Mongolian way of life, Mongolian land, traditions, music, and culture will be clearly shown, so I'm not worried. But we should strive to show that without delay. In order to do this, the government should work together with the people to # our rich history and culture to the world.  

Source: Ikon.mn

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Sinophobia: Anxiety, Violence, and the Making of Mongolian Identity

Historian Franck Billé explores the swell of anti-Chinese feeling that has accompanied Mongolia's post-Soviet independence

Review by Joshua Bird

March 14 (The Asian Review of Books) From the time that Genghis Khan succeeded in uniting the disparate nomadic tribes of the Mongolian steppes into one of history's most devastating conquering forces, the histories of China and Mongolia have been inextricably linked. His forces' invasions of the Chinese Western Xia and Jin dynasties represented one of the first mass confrontations between the mobile, horse-backed Mongols and the more sedentary Chinese empires taking root along the Yellow River. In the following century, Mongolian troops led by Genghis Khan's grandson Kublai Khan conquered China and established the Yuan Dynasty which would rule the country until being superseded by the Ming Dynasty in the late 14th century. This period marked the last time that Mongolia was in ascendancy over China. By the time of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty in the 17th Century, Mongolia had been completely absorbed into the Chinese Empire.

Two hundred years later – emboldened by the crumbling of the Qing Dynasty – Mongolia proclaimed its independence, eventually driving out the Chinese with the support of ethnic Russian forces in the early 1920s. Mongolian alignment with the Soviets eventually forced the new Chinese Communist State to formally recognize Mongolian independence in 1949. De facto independence would not be attained until the collapse of the Soviet Empire, and with it came a very public fear of China and the Chinese.

In Sinophobia: Anxiety, Violence, and the Making of Mongolian Identity, author Franck Billé explores the swell of anti-Chinese feeling that has accompanied Mongolia's post-Soviet independence. Despite having just emerged from over 70 years of Russian domination, it is China – rather than Russia – which has become the focus of Mongolian anxiety and fear. In fact, Russia has actually assumed the role of savior in Mongolia's national narrative, with many believing "Without them, Mongolia would now be part of China." With the Soviet-Russians now having left Mongolia, the fear of re-annexation by China continues to loom large in the Mongolian public imagination.

Sinophobia in Mongolia takes on many forms, some of which are reflections of the familiar anti-Asian xenophobic tropes of the west. Mongolia is seen as being "swamped" by Chinese who dilute the "purity" of the Mongolian nation through procreating with local women and exploiting its natural resources. Billé illustrates that for many Mongolians the Chinese have become a shadowy specter, responsible for the poisoning of Mongolian food, the corrupting of Mongolian politics and the defilement of Mongolian women. As a result, nationalist narratives in Mongolia are framed almost exclusively in opposition to China, which is posited as the anti-Mongolia – gluttonous, untrustworthy and feminine to Mongolia's controlled, honest and masculine culture. Billé paints a detailed picture of the contemporary anti-Chinese discourse in Mongolia, drawing upon a wide variety of sources, from traditional media such as newspapers and film to more unexpected material such as hip-hop music and graffiti. This helps engage the reader's interest, and prevents the book from becoming too dry or academic.

One of Billé's primary objectives is to challenge the idea of Mongolian antipathy to the Chinese as something primordial or essential to the Mongolian national character, as is often argued by Mongolians themselves. Instead, he traces the roots of Mongolian sinophobia to the country's complex relationship with Russia and the Soviet Union. Billé's central argument is that Mongolian sinophobia is, intimately connected to Mongol's desire to distance themselves from China and Asia as a whole, and that this ambition is problematic because Mongols appear, physically and "racially," to be Asian.

In particular, Billé argues that popular associations between Asia, dirt and disease – commonly found in Mongolian anti-Chinese narratives – have been inherited from the colonial values imported from Russia during the 20th-century Sovietisation of the country. With little actual contact between Mongolians and Chinese even now that the two countries' shared border has become more porous, these pre-existing stereotypes have been allowed to continue unfettered.

Billé's main argument is that Mongolian sinophobia as currently constituted actually represents a form of self-hatred. Using a psychoanalytical model, he argues that in Mongolia, "China" and "the Chinese" are actually ciphers for reviled "Asian" aspects of the Mongolians' own culture and national personality. Mongolia's desire to rid itself of "the Chinese" actually represents a desire to disentangle itself from the "backwardness" of Asia in favor of the modern society represented by Mongolia's European influences. In effect, Mongolians are not afraid of becoming Chinese, but rather fear that part of themselves which already is.

Indeed, the targets of much of the verbal and physical violence related to Mongolian anti-Chinese feelings are Mongolians themselves – particularly Mongolian women. Local women that fraternize with Chinese men, whether as spouses or as sex workers, have been routinely targeted by nationalist gangs who see such acts as a form of treason. Billé cites a terrifying example of local gangs forcibly shaving the head of one Mongol woman deemed to have betrayed her country by sleeping with Chinese men, filming and publishing the attack as a warning to others.

The idea of women as the repository of national identity – and the battleground upon which international conflicts are fought – is not a new one. However, Billé's in-depth interviews with a diverse number of subjects uniquely considers this concept from the individual perspective. He goes beyond the theoretical to actually give voice to Mongolian women who fraternize with Chinese men, recent Chinese immigrants to Mongolia and long-standing members of Mongolia's Chinese community. He also includes detailed discussions with Mongolian men from different strata of society – moderates and extremists, Mongolian citizens and Chinese citizens, gay and straight. This gives the book a strong sense of providing a holistic appraisal of the issue.

Billé's argument is a convincing one – that in contemporary Mongolia the Chinese conquest now feared is no longer a military one but rather a conquest of the mind and bodies of the Mongolians themselves. In going beyond the merely theoretical or rhetorical to consider this issue on the psychological level, Billé has produced an engaging analysis of Chinese-Mongolian relations that will be of value to anyone with an interest in the connections between nationalism, identity and xenophobia. Its relevance will only grow as China's expanding wealth and influence finds the presence of its citizens more deeply felt in neighboring countries such as Mongolia.

Joshua Bird is a Researcher and PhD Candidate at the China Studies Centre at University of Sydney.

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UNICEF Mongolia: Water is key for the future

March 22 (UNICEF Mongolia Blog) Today is World Water Day. This is the 22nd time we have celebrated World Water Day after the United Nations General Assembly declared it so in 1993. The theme of this year's World Water Day is water and sustainable development, which is a key issue in Mongolia.

Water is a big issue in Mongolia. Some parts of the country have extensive water resources such as in the north, while others have very little. In total Mongolia has 12,635 meters cubed of renewable fresh water per capita, six times as much as China. However, climate change has caused hundreds of lakes and rivers to dry up, while environmental degradation and over extraction have also diminished water supplies.

Water is vital to all forms of life. Poor quality water can result in disease and death. While nearly 70 per cent of Mongolia's population have access to improved drinking sources, this figure drops to 58 per cent in rural areas (SISS/MICS, 2013).

Even more important is access to enough water. Water is needed for good hygiene practices, such as hand washing. Without adequate water people cannot use good hygiene practices and are vulnerable to hygiene related illnesses and deaths, such a diarrhea.

Urbanization in Ulaanbaatar has strained existing water resources, with up to three-quarters of a million people living in the city's 'ger' districts lacking direct access to water and sanitation (Mongolia's total population is three million). In these areas people use up to 10 liters of water a day, well below the World Health Organization's recommended 50 to 100 liters.

While Mongolia has made great progress reducing under-five mortality from diarrhea decreasing by 65 per cent between 2000 and 2013, the number of households with access to improved water supplies has stagnated.

Improving access to water for children is a key part of UNICEF's effort in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector. Our focus is on improving access to clean water in schools and kindergartens in Khuvsgul (northern Mongolia) and Nalaikh (a peri-urban part of Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar).

And already these efforts are having an impact, with over 10,000 children in the two areas mentioned above benefitting from access to improved water and sanitation facilities through the construction of ground water wells and indoor and outdoor sanitation facilities.

Moreover, UNICEF is partnering with the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and local communities to improve water safety. UNICEF supported the local provincial government to develop and implement water safety plans in 12 rural districts (soums) in Khuvsgul, benefitting over 60,000 people. These plans engage the local community in treating water so that it is safe to drink and maintaining the treatment system. They also learn how to monitor the water quality and what to do if an issue arises.

Following the success of the program in these 12 districts, the provincial government has agreed to expand the project to all of the 24 districts and has allocated funding for this work.

While these efforts are a start, much more needs to be done. Addressing the water challenges facing the country is an issue for everyone in Mongolia. As water resources decrease so too does the country's ability to support life. Finding a sustainable solution to this problem will require innovation and resources. However failure is not an option.

Authors

Batnasan Nyamsuren, Water and Environmental Sanitation Officer and Robin Ward, WASH Consultant, UNICEF Mongolia

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Fascinating Photos of Reindeer People Living in Mongolia

March 20 (My Modern Metropolis) After living in Nepal and exploring Tibet and the Himalayas for more than a decade, photographer Hamid Sardar-Afkhami decided he would travel to outer Mongolia to document the nomadic tribes and their unique way of life. A scholar of Tibetan and Mongol languages who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Sanskrit and Tibetan Studies, Sardar was just the right person to capture the Dukha people, Mongolia's last nomadic reindeer herders. The Dukha are an ancient group of people of Turk descent who are dependent on reindeer for their way of life. In addition to milk and cheese, the reindeer provide transportation for hunting. They're ridden to hunt wild elk and boar.

The Dukha tribe is quickly disappearing. Only about 44 Dukha families remain, or between 200 to 400 people. In the 1970s, it's estimated that there was a population of about 2,000 reindeer but that number has since dwindled to about 600.

Sardar has not only captured fascinating photos of this lost culture, he shot a film called The Reindeer People which followed a family on its seasonal migrations.

Here's the synopsis: "In Northern Mongolia, there exists a sacred alliance between people, ancestor spirits and reindeer. This film is an intimate portrait of a family of Dukha reindeer nomads following their migration through the forests of Mongolia's Hovsgol province. They move with a herd of about a hundred reindeer through a sacred forest inhabited by the spirits of their ancestors, who communicate to the living through songs. The oldest Dukha, is a divine seer, a 96-year old shaman, called Tsuyan. She is the link between the healing songs of the forest ancestors, her people and their reindeer. She is the centerpiece of an extraordinary adventure that unites people and animals in one of the wildest regions of Mongolia – where people still live and hunt in a forest dominated by supernatural beings. To live in harmony with them, people had to learn to respect nature and animals and to pass down their beliefs, from generation to generation, by invoking the song-lines of their deceased ancestors."

The film earned a jury prize for Best Film on Mountain Culture at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

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Stay with the Kazakh eagle hunters of Mongolia

By Mike Carter

On a pioneering trip to a remote corner of Mongolia, Mike Carter stays with a nomadic family who hunt with birds of prey

March 20 (Financial Times) "There," whispered Alpamas. I followed his finger but saw nothing. He launched a series of rocks. Twenty metres in front of us, something bolted: a manul, also known as Pallas's cat, a rare and beautiful animal, stocky and flat-faced. The cat looked terrified but the rocks were the least of its problems. Suddenly, two giant, dark shapes appeared above, sweeping across the snow — golden eagles, with wingspans of two-metres or more, working together tracking the cat's desperate zigzagging, inches off the ground. The eagles thrust forward their talons, each the size of a child's finger, and the prey disappeared under a canopy of feathers. There was a shrill mewling protest, then silence.

I was with the Kazakh eagle hunters in the extreme west of Mongolia, one of the remotest places on earth, the far fringe of a country bigger than France, Germany and Spain combined. The Kazakhs are a nomadic people spread throughout not just Kazakhstan but a swathe of Central Asia. For more than 2,000 years they have lived a subsistence life based around their tavan hoshuu mal — or five-animal herds consisting of yak, goats, sheep, Bactrian camels and horses — and have trained, and hunted with, golden eagles. Until very recently, eagle-hunting apart, this traditional life was typical for the majority of people right across the Mongolian steppe. But things in Mongolia are changing, and fast.

My journey to visit the eagle hunters was almost over before it began. Just 200m above the ground at the airport in the capital, Ulan Bator, my pilot abandoned his landing. Smoke, he explained as we went around, had obscured the runway. "The smoke here is very, very bad," said Buyandelger, my guide for the week, once we were safely down. As we drove into the city — officially the world's coldest capital, with a record low of minus 49C — a pall of acrid smoke hung around us.

Buyandelger — Mongolians only tend to use one name — explained that, since the break up of the Soviet Union, Ulan Bator (or UB as it's known to locals) had trebled in size, becoming home to at least 1.3m people, more than half the country's population. We drove past sacred shaman ovoo poles by the roadside, draped in blue silk khadag scarves, and past coal-fired power stations pumping out columns of sulphurous smoke into the cold air. Then past sparkling Louis Vuitton and Swarovski shops (catering to the new coal and copper-mining economy) and old Buddhist temples under siege from towering five-star hotels and swish apartment blocks going up alongside.

"And this is a ger district," said Buyandelger (or Buya for short). On an escarpment, as far as the eye could see, were thousands of gers, the classic circular yurts of the Mongolian nomads. We took a walk, as if through a bonfire, each ger pouring out smoke from its coal fire. "Over 60 per cent of the city's population lives in a ger," Buya explained. The nomads have arrived in UB over the past 15 years, driven here by a changing climate, with summer droughts and catastrophic winters called zuds (white death) that have wiped out entire herds. "Their animals were everything: meat and milk, clothing and transport. They have no animals now, so they have no choice," said Buya.

The next day Buya and I left behind the smoke and took a flight into the cloudless munkh khukh tengri (eternal blue sky), as Mongolians call it. Below were the ghostly outlines of huge former collective Soviet fields and the infinite steppe dotted with white gers, sparkling like little mirrors in the sunshine.

We flew for four hours to the small town of Ölgii, close to the Russian and Chinese borders. The few foreigners who have seen eagle hunters in action have tended to do so here, at an annual festival held on the outskirts of town in October. There are hotels in Ölgii, and the festival makes a convenient way of seeing the spectacle, but our plan was to leave the town behind, to go out into the wilderness to stay in the nomads' own homes, experience family life and watch them hunt for real. This was a recce, run by the tour operator Steppes Travel, to trial the logistics (its first trips for paying guests depart later this year).

From Ölgii, we drove — off-road — for five hours, careering across snow and ice with larks flocking around the 4X4, passing nothing but the odd horseman tending his tavan hoshuu mal. Finally we arrived at my eagle-hunting family's winter home, a single-storey mud-brick building in the lee of a mountain, with a summer ger stored in pieces on the roof, ready to be moved by camel to the summer pastures in spring. My hosts were Kalehkhan and his wife Gakku, both 45, and their four boys, Jarken, two, Jambel, three, Jakhlag, 12, and Jargal, 14.

As we sat on low stools around a table, Gakku brought in the first course, a big plate of yak dairy products arranged in tiers like a wedding cake: sweet clotted cheese, dried curds and cubes of yoghurt so hard they could only be sucked, all served with salty tea into which we melted yak butter. In summer, Kalehkhan explained, while the animals are grazing and the human need for fat and protein is diminished, nomad families subsist largely on "white" food. In the corner, Gakku fed yak dung into the fire.

Then came the main course, a huge platter of meat that looked as if a sheep had exploded: the centrepiece was the head, surrounded by the stomach, spine, colon and neck. A prayer was said, giving thanks to the animal, then Kalehkhan ripped off a piece of cheek and handed it to me, explaining through Buya that, as the guest (and only the second foreigner they had seen in two years), Kazakh hospitality insisted that I eat first. After that, there was a frenzy of flesh-tearing and raucous slurping, hands dripping in juices. "We Mongolians love meat," said Kalehkhan, tearing at the liver. "Grass is for goats, meat is for men."

The next morning we walked across the snow to Kalehkhan's corral, where our horses were being fitted with winter shoes. These squat, tough little animals, no bigger than 14 hands, are fast and can travel 100km a day. In the 13th century, they were Genghis Khan's secret weapon as he forged the biggest land empire in history.

My horse was hobbled then, bucking and snorting furiously, thrown on to its back and restrained with a knee to the neck as the nails were hammered in. "Mongolian horses are half wild, half trained," said Buya, and I couldn't help but think that a knee in the neck would do little to elevate this one's mood. "You need to show them who's boss or they will have a big laugh with you. Have you ridden much?"

"No," I said.

"Oh dear," said Buya.

A wrangler with emerald eyes handed me the reins. The faces of the others — the sharp, weathered Slav features and the softer Tibetan ones with feather-shaped eyes — spoke of thousands of years of migrations across the steppe.

A distant sound of hooves and, there, thundering across the frozen steppe, were Tugelbaya and Dalaikhan, both 55, the latter in a fox-fur cloak and hat, his dark trousers embroidered with holy Tibetan script in vivid colours. Perched on their right arms, two golden eagles, wings splayed. It was the most spectacular thing I had ever seen.

We set off to hunt, climbing steadily, my confidence climbing too, with every sure-footed step of my horse. We rode along exposed narrow ridges, where the wind ripped at our faces, making the minus 28C feel much colder. Sheer drops fell away to the Sagsai valley far below, where herds of tavan hoshuu mal looked like specks of coal dust on a canvas of white. "There are more animals than men [in Mongolia]," wrote the poet Zahava Hanan, "so they still have the world as God made it."

Surrounding us, the profound silence and vastness of the Altai Mountains, a jumble of sweeping peaks like a frozen ocean. Riding alongside me was Alpamas, 27, Dalaikhan's son, who started singing softly. "That's a song about good horses," said Buya.

As we rode, Dalaikhan explained that hunting with eagles began 2,000 years ago but that now it is only the Kazakhs in Mongolia who maintain the tradition. "Fine horses and fierce eagles are the wings of the Kazakhs," goes an ancient proverb, he said. He told me how the hunter (known as a berkutchi — Kazakh for eagle is berkut), is lowered on a rope down a cliff to a nest. How he selects the chick with the strongest claws and eyes — only the females, as they are bigger — all the while being attacked by the parents. How the training takes six years. The birds live until 25 or so, he said, and when they are 12 they are repatriated to the wild, so they are able to breed and thus provide another generation of hunting birds. It was another example of how these nomads worked so closely with the natural world, an ancient, interwoven bond of sustainability.

...

A cry. A rabbit had bolted. The eagles were immediately unhooded and launched. From our position on a ridge at 2,600m, it was like being in the upper circle of a theatre: we watched as the two birds wheeled and swooped, a noiseless aerial ballet, the two supreme horsemen tumbling down the mountain in pursuit. The rabbit escaped. The birds returned, Dalaikhan's eagle misjudging its landing and skewering his arm, a crimson filigree decorating the snow.

That night, after dinner, vodka was produced and a Mongol three-toast ritual observed. Buya dipped his ring finger into the liquid and rubbed a little on his forehead, letting the rest run down his hand. This, he explained, dated back to the poisoning of Genghis Khan's father by an enemy. If the alcohol discolours the ring, it is lethal.

Alpamas took a dombra — a Kazakh two-stringed instrument, strummed like a lute — off the wall and started singing a mournful song about mountains, long-dead ancestors and, of course, beautiful horses. In turn, Buya began throat-singing, or khoomii, where changing the shape of the mouth creates overtones in the chest and abdomen to reproduce the sounds of storms and animal noises in elegiac, unearthly harmonics. In the corner of the room, the hooded eagle sat on a stool, quizzically turning its head back and forth. Outside this little mud-brick building in the middle of nowhere, the Mongolian winter blew hard.

On my final day with the hunters, we caught the Pallas's cat. Or, rather, we didn't. A few seconds after it disappeared beneath the wings, it emerged, miraculously, and sped away. For me it was the Disney ending. For the hunters, it was lost fur and meat. Disney endings have no place in this environment.

As we rode back, I asked Buya what he thought the future held for Mongolia. He told me how 30 per cent of Mongolians still lived a nomadic life but the number was falling; about the riots in UB in 2008; the 45,000 new cars in the city every year; the unemployment in the ger districts. "Every year, thousands more come from the countryside. Children living there are afraid of animals. Can you imagine?"

There was a cry of chuchu, and suddenly we were galloping, flying across the steppe; these sublime horsemen, eagles on their arms, laughing and hollering, and me, terrified, hanging on for grim death.

Details

Mike Carter was a guest of Steppes Travel (steppestravel.com). Its nine-day "Eagle Hunters of Mongolia" trip costs from £3,075 per person, or £3,695 including flights from London.

Photographs: Mike Carter

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SUMO/ Hakuho claims sixth straight championship and 34th Emperor's Cup

OSAKA, March 22 (The Asahi Shimbun)--Yokozuna Hakuho extended his Emperor's Cup record to 34 by defeating fellow yokozuna Harumafuji on the final day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Bodymaker Colosseum on March 22.

The final bout of the day was an extended affair as Hakuho found himself on the defensive for much of the bout before he got both hands on Harumafuji's belt to finally drive him out of the ring. Hakuho finished with a 14-1 record, while Harumafuji concluded at 10-5.

Terunofuji, the Mongolian sekiwake who went on a tear this tournament, ended up with a 13-2 record after defeating ozeki Goeido, who finished at 8-7.

After his bout, Terunofuji hoped for fellow stablemate Harumafuji to pull off a victory over Hakuho to force a playoff, but it was not to be.

With yokozuna Kakuryu sitting out the tournament and Harumafuji and the three ozeki off to poor starts, Hakuho found himself in the familiar position of leader of the pack by the eighth day.

His consistency was displayed by various facts for this tournament, including the 29th time he started off a tournament with 10 straight wins and the 49th straight tournament dating back to when he was still ozeki that he has finished with at least 10 wins.

Hakuho's only defeat this tournament was to Terunofuji on the 13th day. That put Terunofuji only a win behind Hakuho, but the yokozuna did not falter over the final two days in wrapping up his sixth consecutive Emperor's Cup.

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Hakuho captures 34th Emperor's Cup – Kyodo, March 22

 

Mongolian Ice Hockey Team Wins Third Consecutive Bronze at Asia Challenge Cup

March 20 (infomongolia.com) The 2015 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia, an annual international ice hockey tournament held by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) took place in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei on March 14-19, 2014.

This is the 8th IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia and this time five Teams of Chinese Taipei, United Arab Emirates, Mongolia, Thailand and Macau have competed in Round-Robin system, where the 2011 Gold and 2013 Silver medals winner the Team of Hong Kong did not participate in the 2015 edition.

Following the final day results, the host country Chinese Taipei Team stood at the first place with no single loss and grabs the fourth Challenge Cup, where the Team of United Arab Emirates wins Silver and the Team of Mongolia achieved Bronze medal.

Mongolian players have been participating since 2009 and for the third consecutive time wins Bronze medal in the 2015 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia. Mongolian Team played four matches and afterwards, Capitan N.Mishigsuren was awarded as the Best Player.

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Related:

Mongolian hockey players win bronze medalgogo.mn, March 20

 

Mongolia claim double gold on opening day of IJF Tbilisi Grand Prix

March 20 (Inside the Games) Mongolia began the second International Judo Federation (IJF) Grand Prix of the season in superb style as they claimed two gold medals on the opening day in Tbilisi.

On what proved to be a difficult day for the seeds in Georgia's capital, men's under 66 kilogram top seed Tumurkhuleg Davaadorj took gold with victory over Israel's Baruch Shmailov, ranked 198 in the world, in a closely-contested final.

The bronze medals went to Ukraine's Georgii Zantaria, who left it late before beating Russia's Yakub Shamilov, and Tarlan Karimov of Azerbaijan as he proved too strong for compatriot Nijat Shikhalizada.

Mongolia also reigned supreme in the women's under 57kg category as Sumiya Dorjsuren, a former World Judo Masters winner, sealed gold with a composed performance against Vlora Bedeti of Slovenia.

Laura Gomez maintained Spain's decent start to the event by inflicting a rare defeat on a Mongolian judoka as she outworked Tsolmon Adiyasambuu to claim the first bronze on offer, and Odette Giuffrida of Italy also earned a podium place despite amassing three penalties as she clinched victory against Israel's Gili Cohen with the only score of the contest.

The men's under 60kg category also threw up some excellent bouts and it was won by Uzbekistan's Sharafuddin Lutfillaev following his victory against surprise package Tobias Englmaier of Germany, while the bronze medals went to Lutfillaev's teammate Diyorbek Urozboev and Mongolia's Amartuvshin Dashdavaa.

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The Economist explains: Why the Japanese are no longer on top in sumo wrestling

March 17 (The Economist) OVER nearly three centuries, the sport of sumo was practised by Japanese wrestlers alone. A critical sumo match won by the god Take-mikazuchi forms part of Japan's national founding myth. Yet now Japanese fans of sumo are so accustomed to foreigners' dominance of the sport that when in January the reigning Mongolian champion, Hakuho, carried off his 33rd Emperor's Cup (beating not only his Japanese opponent in the ring but the formerly unbroken record of the legendary Taiho, from Hokkaido) only a few described the result as regrettable. Of the 26 most accomplished wrestlers in Japan, which is the only location of professional sumo contests, ten are non-Japanese, and seven of those are Mongolian. The last time a Japanese wrestler won one of six annual grand sumo tournaments in the country was in 2006. Why are the Japanese no longer on top in sumo wrestling?

There would be many more foreigners in sumo—and probably near the top—were it not for a strictly enforced regulation that each of 43 stables in Japan may accept only a single foreigner, or gaijin. Some stable masters initially tried to skirt the restriction by encouraging foreigners to seek Japanese citizenship; such tactics were later met by a decision in 2010 to apply the foreigner regulation to all those born outside Japan. Aficionados of the sport argue that the quality of wrestling is all that matters, and foreigners must steep themselves in Japanese language and culture. "When I am on the dohyo (wrestling ring) I have the spirit of Japan laced in my top-knot", declared Hakuho upon winning. Many observers point out that the great late Taiho himself had a Ukrainian father. Yet much soul-searching goes on nonetheless over what accounts for the foreigners' long winning streak and the absence of a native-born comeback.

The chief reason is that the number of Japanese boys entering training to become sumo wrestlers has been plummeting for years. A worsening labour shortage resulting from Japan's rapidly falling population is at its very height in sumo. The typical, and far more successful, recruit of earlier centuries was a poor and often hungry youngster from a large family from Japan's remote rural regions. Nowadays families are smaller and richer. Foreigners tend to hail from poor countries with hard-scrabble backgrounds and have proven that they have what it takes to prevail. They employ the same wrestling techniques as the Japanese (though the Mongolians use leg trips far more frequently) but have more drive to win. Yet even they find the harsh life of brutal training and rigid hierarchy hard to endure. When Oshima oyakata, a notable stable master, recruited six Mongolians to his stable in 1992, five of them soon attempted to flee—though in the end, the sixth wrestler talked two of them into staying.

Having refused properly to modernise its culture, the sport itself must also take much blame for its diminished appeal to Japanese youths. Their parents particularly don't want their sons going into sumo. Not long ago a 17-year old trainee died after being beaten by his stablemates with a beer bottle and a baseball bat. A series of gambling scandals in 2010, in which wrestlers were caught forming illegal betting rings with yakuza gangsters, further lowered the sport's standing, compounded by evidence of match-fixing the following year. The sport's deeply conservative governing body, the Japan Sumo Association, has until now resisted change. Last year, recognising a crisis in the sport, the government changed the association's legal status, brought in outside experts on sumo and increased its powers over individual stables. But it is yet unclear whether such changes are bold enough to bring Japanese champions back to the dohyo.

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Inspired by Zaya: B.Bat-Orgil, Host, Orgil Tsag

March 20 (gogo.mn) "Future of Mongolia is not just mining. Instead I believe our future is dependent on educated, intelligent and multifaceted youth". I want to proudly introduce those talented and educated young professionals to others.

Editor E.Ariunzaya

We are delivering the next episode of the Inspired by Zaya talk show hosted entirely in English language, encouraging and inspiring the future of Mongolia to commit to learning English language and enhance possibilities in life. This episode features B.Bat-Orgil journalist, translator, marketer, consultant and talk show host named "Orgil Tsag". Even, I aimed to take interview with him, I was advised on how to make good broadcast. That was honor to talk with B.Bat-Orgil who has been working for the biggest televisions in Mongolia including MNB, SBN and Mongol HD. For the full episode please click here.

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Reconstructing Marco Polo's Journey East

March 11 (New York Times) In 1269, Niccolò Polo returned home to Venice with his brother Maffeo, after an absence of 17 years trading with a confederation of Mongol tribes who had just become the new lords of Southern Russia and several lands beyond.

At the time the Mongols were all but unheard of in Europe. And the Polos had been sent back with a nearly impossible task: to convince the Pope that Kublai Khan, the leader of the most expansive contiguous land empire in the history of the world, was interested in spreading Christianity throughout his domain.

"They went home to fetch 100 Christian priests and some holy oil, which Kublai would use to resolve tensions in his faction-ridden empire," said John Man, the author of "Marco Polo: The Journey That Changed the World."

"Back in Venice, Niccolò found that his wife had died and that he had a 15-year-old son, Marco, who, two years later, became the third member of the family's mission back to Kublai's capital, Xanadu."

Below are edited excerpts from a correspondence with Mr. Man, whose book was used as a source for the recent Netflix drama series "Marco Polo," about Marco Polo's journey east.

Q. How expansive was Kublai Khan's empire at the time, compared with the modern boundaries?

A. At its height, Kublai's empire would take in 10 of today's nations and bits of 13 others. But it was precarious, torn by rival Mongol realms. On their second mission, the Polos could not take their former route, and it took four grim years to arrive in Xanadu. Niccolò, perhaps to offset his failure to bring priests back, placed Marco — charming, 21, with reasonable Mongolian — in Kublai's service.

Can the places Marco Polo described still be seen?

Almost all the places he mentions exist today. But his trip only comes into sharp focus when he met Kublai. For me, as for Marco, Xanadu is the place, or Shangdu (Upper Capital). On a fine summer's day, it is a glory — rolling grass, meadow flowers, distant hills, ruined walls encircling the foundations of the palace where Marco met Kublai. Pure magic. Check it out on Google Earth (42°21'30" N/ 116°10'45" E). It's a five-hour run from Beijing, but nearby Duolun has reasonable hotels.

Marco traveled extensively — five great journeys across China, covering 9,000 miles, relying on the official horse-stations that spanned the empire. He describes Yunnan, Tibet, the old south China capital of Hangzhou, and Beijing itself (Dadu, 'Great Capital,' as it was then), where Kublai governed. A shadow of Kublai's capital remains. His palace has been replaced by the Forbidden City, which faces south, as Mongolians' tents still do.

Some scholars, at the time and since, have debated whether Marco fabricated the journey. Where do you stand?

Marco Polo became famous for his stories, though no one knew how much to believe. After the Polos finally returned home in 1296, Venice fought a rival, Genoa. Marco was captured, and held in Genoa pending release. A fellow prisoner was a hack writer named Rustichello, who suggested ghosting Marco's memoirs. Marco wanted facts, while his ghost was keen for hype.

Later, the original text was lost, leaving 150 unreliable copies in a dozen languages. The result has been a happy hunting ground for scholars. But at heart Marco was truthful, recording names, Mongolian words and court details, which could only have come from experience. As history, it fits with other accounts in Chinese and Persian. Did he go to China? Of course he did.

How did Marco's accounts influence travel between East and West?

The "Description of the World," or "Travels" as it is usually known, was at first a curiosity. Until well after Marco's death in 1324, it had little effect. In China itself, none at all, for Kublai's heirs were kicked out by the Ming in 1368. In Europe, Kublai's China was cut off by the rise of Islam and became the stuff of fables. Then, at last, a shift: sailors began to explore ways to reach the East's fabulous wealth. Portugal seized the route round southern Africa. But there was another way, suggested by a world map that showed China, and many of the rich cities named by Marco. Now Marco's book, once only in script, was in print, and part of Europe's mental climate. It seemed as if the East was there for the taking. Why not avoid Africa, and get there by sailing due west, over the vast ocean that seemed to separate Europe from China? That was Columbus's big idea, which he sold to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. By chance, in 1492, America just happened to be in the way.

Correction: March 13, 2015 

An earlier version of this article misstated the year Niccolò Polo returned to Venice and the age his son, Marco, was at the time, using information provided by the subject of the article. Niccolò returned in 1269, not 1280; and Marco was 15, not 17.

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