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Monday, September 14, 2015
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Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. July 2015 Monthly Letter to Shareholders
Toronto, Ontario, September 8 (FSCwire) - Mongolia Growth Group Ltd. (YAK – TSXV and MNGGF – USA), ("MGG") or ("the Company") a commercial real estate investment and development company participating in the dynamic growth of the Mongolian economy announces the release of its July 2015 Shareholder Letter.
July 2015 Shareholder Letter
To the Shareholders of Mongolia Growth Group Ltd.,
In July 2015, MGG's core commercial property portfolio* experienced a same-store rental decline of 7.6% relative to July 2014 on properties owned 12 months or longer, as measured in Mongolian Togrog (MNT). Total billed revenue for June 2015 was 231.5 million MNT, as compared to 222.7 million MNT in June of 2014 or a 3.9% increase.** The occupancy rate for the core portfolio in June of 2015 was 86.0% including an occupancy rate of 82.8% for core retail properties and an occupancy rate of 90.4% for core office properties***.
July Revenue & Annual Property Reports
During July, we experienced a lower than normal rate of revenue. This is the result of the continued deterioration of the Mongolian economy, leading to lower market rents along with elevated vacancy and bad debt expense. We have since had some progress at re-leasing this vacant space, leading to an increase in occupancy by early August, but rental rates continue to lag prior rates due to the very weak economy.
As you will note, our revenues have declined sequentially every month since starting the year at 289.9 million MNT. We believe that we are at something of a nadir as the summer months tend to have higher vacancy, but given the accelerating decline in the economy, it is hard to make accurate predictions. The bright spot is that we have seen an increase in property owners who are seeking out MGG to help them market their properties for lease or sale.
At MGG, we are focused on keeping properties leased despite the accelerating vacancy in the market, particularly as we believe that the recent decline in commodity prices will have a knock-on effect on future market rates and occupancy in the coming months. Therefore, it is preferable to lock in prices at currently reduced rates.
Annual Property Reports
In order to increase visibility into the Mongolian property market, we have produced our second set of annual reports detailing the current state of the retail and office markets. If you would like to read these reports, please go to the following link http://mongoliagrowthgroup.com/about-mongolia/monthly-economic-update/mgg-property-reports/
Mongolian Economic Update
Since the most recent letter:
· The Headline Sales Managers' Index for Mongolia remained well below the no-change mark of 50.0 in August, posting 40.8, down from 42.6 in July. This signaled a sharper deterioration in business conditions across the country. The index has now been in negative territory for the past eighteen months. An index above 50 indicates growth, while an index below 50 indicates contraction. The downward movement in the headline figure reflected all five of its components
· Business expectations remained negative during August, with the Business Confidence Index registering 47.1, down from 48.2 on the previous month. A reading above 50 indicates a general positive business outlook while an index below 50 indicates a general negative business outlook. Sales managers commented on weak demand, high interest rates and uncertainty over commodity prices.
· The Market Growth Index fell to 37.5 in August from 40.8 in July, signaling the sharpest drop since December and worsening market conditions across the economy. That said, the latest reading was the lowest since May. Likewise, the Product Sales Index fell to 40.8 from 44.1 in July, indicating the strongest decline in nine months and that reduced domestic demand for goods and services continued to affect overall levels of monthly sales. (World Economics)
· Mongolia's trade balance swings to a US $604 million surplus in Jan-July, as imports tumble 29% y/y outpacing a 4.3% drop in exports (Bloomberg)
· UB Mayor extends alcohol permits of bars, restaurants to 4am (news.mn)
· Reuters officially switches the spelling of Mongolia's capital from "Ulan Bator" to "Ulaanbaatar" (Cover Mongolia)
We look forward to updating you again on our progress and new developments in the Mongolian economy next month.
Mogi: Minister Enkhsaikhan is not the lead negotiator on TT anymore, Erdenes Mongol, i.e. Byambasaikhan, is now.
Mongolia's Mega Coal Mine Deal Likely to Stall, Again
Lead negotiator on the $4 billion Tavan Tolgoi deal says the chance of parliamentary approval is less than 10 percent.
September 11 (The Diplomat) The Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in southern Mongolia is one of the world's largest undeveloped coal deposits–estimated to contain reserves in excess of 6 billion tonnes of high-quality coking coal used for steelmaking. In a 2012 article remarking on Mongolia's high economic aspirations The Economist quipped, "To pay for these dreams, Mongolia is being dug up and sold to China." But in the case of Tavan Tolgoi, the digging has stalled, again.
In early September, Reuters reported that Mendsaikhan Enkhsaikhan, one of Mongolia's lead negotiators on the $4 billion deal with a consortium to develop the mine, said that the likelihood of Mongolia's parliament approving the deal had fallen dramatically.
"When we submitted the proposed agreement for the Tavan Tolgoi coal mine project, I said there was a 50-50 chance for approval," said Enkhsaikhan, the minister in charge of Mongolia's so-called "mega projects".
"At this moment, it's less than 10 percent that it will be approved by parliament and will be implemented," he said.
In addition, China's economic tumult throws the mine's near-future into question. Coal accounts for over 35 percent of Mongolia's exports and China is the destination of 89 percent of all Mongolian exports. Trouble in Beijing's economy ripples in Ulaanbaatar.
In April, Mongolia's parliament stepped into the final stages of a $4 billion deal between the government and a consortium of companies–the Mongolian Mining Corp, China's Shenhua Energy and Japan's Sumitomo Corp. Reuters reported that the speaker of parliament, Zandaakhuu Enkhbold, said the deal might violate Mongolian laws. Shortly after, the government agreed that the deal would need to be approved by the legislature.
In July, the Mongolian Prime Minister, Saikhanbileg Chimed, was bullish about the mine. The Financial Times quoted him as saying that it "will be unlocked in the very near future." But his optimism was ill-placed, it seems.
Saikhanbileg assumed the office of prime minister in November 2014, with a mandate to "put Mongolia's economic house in order," as FT put it. The slide in foreign investment in the country is stark; in 2012 foreign direct investment stood at $4.4 billion but by 2014 it had fallen to $850 million. In addition, revenues from coal have fallen. AKIpress reports that in the first half of 2015, Mongolia earned $353.9 million from coal exports, a 30 percent decrease from the same period in 2014. The volume of coal exported also fell 22 percent. AKIpress notes that the reasons for the decline were the Chinese economy as well as new regulations in Mongolia making it "compulsory to carry coal by heavy transport road."
This is not the first time Tavan Tolgoi has faced significant hurdles. In 2011, two months after the government awarded the rights to develop the site to US giant Peabody Energy, China's Shenhua and a Russian-Mongolian consortium, Mongolia's National Security Council rejected the deal. At the time, the Wall Street Journal pointed to the impending parliamentary elections (June 2012) as contributing to "increasing resource nationalism" which the government would need to handle, in addition to "the need to satisfy neighboring Russia and China's demands and pressure from countries and companies that were excluded in early rounds of bidding" in settling a final deal on Tavan Tolgoi.
Next summer, Mongolia will hold parliamentary elections again and resource extraction has continued to be a critical topic for the country. While foreign investment and significant infrastructure development is needed for the Mongolian state to take advantage of the country's resource wealth, such massive mining operations come with significant environmental and political risks.
"Getting deals such as the Tavan Tolgoi deal – the country's largest – will be harder in the lead-up to the July 2016 election," bne IntelliNews writes. "Mining deals with investors are often unpopular with voters, who believe mineral deposits are a form of public wealth which should be shared among citizens."
XAM last traded A$0.075 Thursday
Xanadu Mines Interim Report, 30 June 2015
September 11, Xanadu Mines Ltd. (ASX:XAM) --
HAR last traded A$0.009 on 26 August
Haranga Resources Half-Year Financial Report
September 11, Haranga Resources Ltd. (ASX:HAR) --
TPO last traded A$0.20 on 12 August
Tian Poh Resources Half-Year Report
September 10, Tian Poh Resources Ltd. (ASX:TPO) --
NUR 2015 Interim Report
September 9, National United Resources Holdings Limited (HKEx:254) --
276 closed 2% Friday to HK$0.255, -53% in last 3 months
MEC: Grant of Share Options to Directors, Associate
September 9 -- This announcement is made pursuant to Rule 17.06A of the Rules Governing the Listing of Securities on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited.
The board of directors (the "Board") of Mongolia Energy Corporation Limited (the "Company") announces that after trading hours on 9 September 2015, the Company offered to grant share options to eligible participants, subject to their respective acceptance, to subscribe for a total of 84,500,000 ordinary shares of HK$0.02 each in the capital of the Company, under the share option scheme adopted by the Company on 30 August 2012, the details of which are set out below:
Date of grant:
9 September 2015
Exercise price of share options:
Number of share options granted:
Closing price of the shares of the Company on the date of grant:
Five years commencing from 9 September 2015 to 8 September 2020
Among the share options granted, 37,000,000 share options were granted to the directors of the Company and their associates, details of which are as follows:
Name of Grantees
Number of Share Options Granted
Mr. LO Lin Shing, Simon (Chairman)
Ms. Yvette ONG
Mr. TO Hin Tsun, Gerald
Independent Non-executive Directors
Mr. Peter PUN OBE, JP
Mr. TSUI Hing Chuen, William JP
Mr. LAU Wai Piu
Ms. Lo Yick Sze, Lois (daughter of the Chairman)
Prophecy Reports Up to 64.39% Silver Recovery From Pulacayo Tailings Piles - Prophecy Development Corp., September 10
Prophecy: Pero Surface Samples Assayed up to Ag 181 g/t, Pb 4.32% and Sb 0.65% - Prophecy Development Corp., September 9
Entree Gold Updates Preliminary Economic Assessment for the Ann Mason Project - Entrée Gold Inc., September 9
MSE Weekly Trading Report: MSE ALL -1.09%, Market Cap -1.41%, Stocks ₮224.8 Million, T-Bills ₮10 Billion
September 11 (MSE) On 11 September 2015, On the "II" and "III" classifications, total 25,101 shares of 28 companies were traded and transaction of MNT79,932,715.00 has been made.
Mongolian Stock Exchange organized 5 securities trading sessions and made transaction of MNT10,224,837,286.00 with daily average transaction of MNT2,044,967,457.00 between 07 September 2015 and 11 September 2015.
113,749.00 shares of 46 joint stock companies worth of MNT224,837,286.00 were traded.
Most actively traded securities
Bulgan guril tejeel
Most active brokerage companies
Ard capital group
Government retail bonds trading:
100,000 Government retail bonds worth of MNT10,000,000,000.00 /10 billion/ traded through one trading session.
Most active brokerage companies in government securities trading
Ti Di Bi Capital
Daewoo Securities Mongolia
As of September 2015, market capitalization was MNT1,278,475,915,009.00 which indicated decreased of 1.41%, and MSE ALL index reached 951.61 units which indicated decreased of 1.09% from the previous week.
₮10 Billion 52-Week 14.512% Discounted T-Bills on Offer at MSE
September 9 (MSE) --
1. The issuer's name: Mongolian Ministry of Finance
2. The purpose of the issuance of bond: State treasury cash management
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 87,357.00
7. Total amounts issued: 100,000 Units
8. Short-term securities performance:
Government Securities name
Value /billion MNT/
Form of Interest payment
Interest rate (percent)
Starting date of the order
Closing date of the trading
₮10B 28-Week 13.971% Discounted T-Bills Sold via MSE with ₮26.7B Bids
September 8 (MSE) On 8 September 2015, the bond orders of 28 weeks Government bonds with 13.971% annual interest, placed on order book, and Ministry of Finance supplied 100,000 or MNT10.0 billion out of total order 267,654 pieces or MNT26.7 billion.
Bellow member brokerage companies participated in the bond trading as follows:
Daewoo Securities Mongolia
Working Group Established for Privatization of State-Owned Enterprises
September 10 (MSE) According to the Resolution No.:70 of Mongolian Parliament, the Resolution No.:330 of Mongolian Government of 2015 and the Order of Minister of Finance, the working group of privatization for state-owned enterprises has been established. The working group consists of representatives from following organizations:
• Mongolian Stock Exchange /MSE/
• Mongolian Security Clearing House and Central Depository
• Mongolian Development Bank
• Financial Regulatory Commission
• State Property Committee
• Cabinet Secretariat of Government of Mongolia
Angar.D, CEO of MSE will be working in the working group.
BoM MNT Rates: Friday, September 11 Close
MNT vs USD (blue), CNY (red) in last 1 year:
BoM FX auction: US$10.6m sold at ₮1,996.01, CNY61m at ₮310.8, accepts $52m MNT, $15m USD swap offers
September 10 (BoM) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on September 10th, 2015 the BoM has received bid offers of USD 33.0 million in a rate between MNT 1991.01-1999.0 and CNY 121.0 million in a rate between MNT 310.01-312.0 from local commercial banks. The BoM sold USD 10.6 million in a closing rate of MNT 1996.01 and CNY 61.0 million in a closing rate of MNT 310.8 respectively.
On September 10th, 2015, The BoM has received MNT Swap agreement bid offer equivalent to USD 52.0 million and USD Swap agreement selling bid offer in equivalent to USD 15.0 million from local commercial banks and the BoM has accepted the offers.
BoM issues ₮10 billion 1-week bills at 13%, total outstanding -13.9% to ₮301.8 billion
September 11 (BoM) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 10 billion at a weighted interest rate of 13.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/
Mongolia Total Trade Falls 18.9% in Jan.-Aug.: Stats Office
By Michael Kohn
September 11 (Bloomberg) -- Total external trade turnover fell $1.35b to $5.8b in the first eight months of 2015 compared to same period in 2014, the National Statistical Office says Friday in statement.
* Exports fell $324.2m or 9.1% and imports plunged $1b or 28.8% compared to same period a year earlier
* Trade balance was +$704.8m in Jan.-Aug., compared to zero a year earlier
* Non-performing loans totaled 865.5b tugrik at end-Aug, a 5% increase m/m and 39.6% increase y/y
* Tax revenue decreased 165.2b tugrik or 5.1% y/y
* Industrial production index at end-Aug rose 21.1% m/m and 33.4% y/y
Mongolia Coal Exports Slump 21.5% in 2015 to 9.6m tons
By Michael Kohn
September 11 (Bloomberg) -- Mongolia's coal exports decreased to 9.6m tons in the first eight months of the year from 12.2m tons a year earlier, the National Statistical Office says in statement on website.
* Value of these exports declined to $402.1m from $585.5m
* Copper concentrate exports increase 10.2% to 930,000 tons from 844,300 tons; value increases to $1.57b from $1.45b
* Gold exports rose 37.3% y/y to 7 tons from 5.1t; value rose to $263.3m from $214.1m
* Crude oil exports rose 16.9% to 5.19m barrels from 4.44m barrels yr earlier; value falls to $263.6m from $443.4m
* Total exports were $3.25b in the first eight months compared to $3.58b yr earlier
Erdenet Mining Corp battles copper slump
September 10 (infomongolia.com) As of September 07, 2015 copper price per ton was 5,176 US dollar on London Metal Exchange. Sudden drop of copper price has brought negative effect on Erdenet Mining Corporation (EMC) leading to decline in price of planned products by 650-1,000 US dollar from its cost.
According to financial experts this situation is likely to continue further, therefore administration of EMC is taking anti-crisis measures such as reduction of expense of each factory workshop to increase profit and until end of 2015 the main manufacturing workshop and repair mechanical plant of EMC will mainly focus on production of import replacing products and order of foreign companies.
Currently they are working on 3.5 billion MNT (Tugrug) import replacing products. Engineer M.Byambazorigt of factory technology bureau of the repair mechanical plant of EMC informed that the company prepared plan for production of 150 million MNT products within anti-crisis measures.
UB Housing Prices Fall 0.5% in August, Down 10.1% from 2014
Index change /from 2013.01 base/
From previous month
From year start
From previous year
Link to release (in Mongolian)
Asia Frontier Capital Economic Report: Mongolia
· Asia Frontier Capital publishes monthly economic country reports. This month we are writing about Mongolia.
· Mongolia has some of the largest mineral deposits in the world and the economy is currently facing some economic challenges.
· Politically there have been this year also various challenges and changes.
September 11 (Seeking Alpha) Mongolia has some of the largest mineral deposits in the world of coal, copper, gold, molybdenum, oil, fluorspar, uranium, tin, and tungsten. Despite its vast natural resource wealth, Mongolia implemented protectionist policies in 2012, including attempting to renegotiate with Rio Tinto over the country's largest copper and gold mine, Oyu Tolgoi, which rattled the psyche of investors. Mongolia has since come to a medium term settlement with Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) and in the process has liberalized its investment environment. Unluckily, this liberalization coincided with a peak in global commodities demand and a slowing Chinese economy leading investors to "wait and see".
Despite recently sagging foreign direct investment, which fell 74% in 2014 year-on-year, a bright spot for the country's outlook in recent years has been its push to develop infrastructure. Ulaanbaatar has continued to develop and change rapidly, and agreements have been signed to establish a northern railway connecting eastern Mongolia to Russia as part of a new Russian-Chinese rail corridor, an airport in the capital being financed by Japan slated to open in 2017, and regional road buildouts cutting travel time significantly. Such infrastructure projects will help to lay a solid foundation for the country's development when foreign investment picks up in the future.
Rebuilding investor confidence in Mongolia will occur in alignment with a global commodity price rebound. However, if the last three years have taught investors anything, it is that to invest in countries like Mongolia, one must have a medium to long term investment horizon. Mongolia's resources will still be here, patiently awaiting a more stable global climate for export. Asia Frontier Capital will be well positioned when this occurs.
Mongolia's Credit Rating in the World
September 11 (Mongolian Economy) Credit ratings are rather important when talking about global investment. In 2012, Mongolia transitioned to the middle ranks of developed countries and started to refuse foreign donations, emphasising fundraising based on market principles. In this context, the first bonds were successfully issued. As of today, even secured corporate bonds have been issued. Unfortunately, our credit rating has declined over the past two years. In July of last year, Moody's downgraded Mongolia's foreign currency government bond rating from B1 to B2. Other agencies throughout the world also did re-evaluations – S&P and Fitch both gave a B+ rating. Mongolia's credit rating, which was previously said to be stable and rising, now has a not-so-good outlook and is on a downward trend.
The reason is that foreign investment has sharply declined. The previous year's balance of payments deficit reached USD 1.9 billion, causing foreign exchange reserves to bleed out, and the stalled megaprojects also played a part. At the time, agencies were saying that investors are waiting to see how the issues surrounding Oyu Tolgoi (OT) plays out. These agencies recommended that we implement more stable policies, attract foreign investment, increase foreign exchange reserves and improve the macro-economic environment. Getting the megaprojects moving will have significant effects.
The good news is that the causes and shortcomings which led to Mongolia's credit rating being downgraded are being fixed from the ground up. For example, the foreign trade balance had a deficit of USD 2.08 billion at the end of 2013, but the preliminary results of the first seven months of this year show a surplus of USD 604 million. The foreign trade balance has been steadily growing since last October's trade balance surplus of USD 129 million. As a result, the current account figure reached negative USD 216 million, which is a USD 904 million or a 5.2-fold decrease from the same period of the previous year. Capital and financial accounts are USD 237 million in the positive, an increase of USD 68 million from the same period of the previous year. Thus, the overall balance of payments showed a surplus of USD 83 million in the first half of the year, which is an improvement of USD 998 million from the same period of the previous year.
Moreover, according to the central bank's foreign exchange reserves report of June, official reserves increased by 5.95 percent that month, by 2.16 percent from the beginning of the year and by 27.94 percent from the June of the previous year. The total official reserves have reached USD 1.6 billion. According to the statistics, foreign exchange reserves have increased for the last three months in a row. All of these are positive signals of the macro-economy.
In brief, the current account deficit is a net total which subtracts foreign goods, services and transaction costs from the income of the goods, services and transactions that are being sold abroad by Mongolians. In other words, it is an economic indicator that shows what we purchase from abroad and what amount of foreign currency we paid for the purchases. If this indicator is negative, this means that our foreign currency income is nowhere near what we send abroad. In 2008-2009, this indicator showed a deficit slightly above USD one billion. However, the deficit reached USD 6.6 billion and increased 6.4-fold in 2012-2013. We bought more from abroad, but produced less and earned little from foreign trades.
Mongolia currently stands in the ranks of countries with a lower investment risk. However, we rank pretty low among these low-risk countries. If we can get the AAA rating, which indicates an excellent investment environment, our country can take out loans on more favourable terms. "Mongolia's credit rating is set independently of us, making it a reflection of the current reality," said N.Munkhbat, Executive Director of the Development Bank of Mongolia.
According to the Vice President of Golomt Bank L.Bolormaa, the stability of policies is important when talking about improving these ratings. "The key factor in the rating is how consistent the business and investment environment is. Investors do not care much for the political situation," she said. She used Kazakhstan as an example, where bad loans in the country are at 40 percent, but their rating is BBB.
Credit rating increases and decreases directly impact the economy. The most recent example is the Chinggis bond programme, which offered the USD-denominated security at four percent interest. If these bonds were to be traded in market today, the interest rate would almost double. In addition, the bonds are nearing their maturity. It is unclear how repayment will be funded. There is a possibility to extend the programme or refinance it, but that is not so different from issuing new bonds. On the other hand, buying bonds at high interest rates is profitable for investors, but it would be difficult to find a person to buy a bond from Mongolia if the country's public debt keeps increasing and the credit rating continues to decline.
Apart from bonds, a credit rating affects domestic banks and funding for businesses. Investment Director of MCS Holding LLC S.Tsengel explained that "private enterprises have almost no chance to get lower interest rate loans from the government. Business loan interest rates increase when a country's credit rating falls."
Furthermore, one major issue hindering Mongolia from becoming a least risky country for investment is dependence on one particular sector. Mining exports accounted for 20 percent of the GDP. Fitch Ratings is warning that this sector's loans are weakening the capacity of the domestic banks. Thus, they are advising Mongolia to diversify its economy. Accordingly, the Deputy Minister of Finance S.Purev stated, "The government is working to boost the development of non-mining sectors and diversify the economy."
Justice Coalition Takes 5-Day Recess on President's Veto of Amnesty Law
September 8 (UB Post) During the meeting of the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs of Parliament yesterday, parliamentarians discussed the President's veto of the newly approved Amnesty Law and did not reach a decision on how to proceed.
Deputy Chairman Z.Bayanselenge of the Justice Coalition, the merging of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party and Mongolian National Democratic Party, stressed that the issue of 350 billion MNT in damages has been raised in conjunction with corruption cases, and asked for the names of the people who caused the damage. She also expressed her position that the President's veto should be discussed after the announcement and proposed holding a five-day break in the discussion, which was accepted by the committee.
MP Ts.Nyamdorj opposed the break and said, "The state should promptly resolve the issue and free the citizens." Minister of Population Development and Social Protection S.Erdene shared MP S.Nyamdorj's position, explaining that Parliament should reach a decision on the President's veto of the Amnesty Law, as citizens who are subject to the new law are eagerly awaiting their decision.
The majority of parliamentarians stressed that the new amnesty law should be revised and the issue should be resolved rationally, not making the humble citizens victims by delaying the enforcement of the law because of cases involving officials who were implicated in corruption and bribery.
The new Amnesty Law, adopted on August 11, pardons all first-time and repeat offenders, no matter the classification of the crime, gender, age, or personal status. Amendments to the law approved from 1991 to 2009, have stated that pardons should not be given to those who have committed crime three times or more and sentenced to prison, those who committed a crime intentionally, those who committed a crime during probation, of those who committed a crime after being pardoned under the Amnesty Law.
The newly amended Amnesty Law does not state such regulations, which gives all offenders the opportunity to walk free. The President believes that this is a huge step backwards from the correct principles adhered to in previous amnesty laws.
The new Amnesty Law includes rarely committed crimes in Mongolia, such as hijacking and financing terrorism, in the list of crimes not to be pardoned, but parliamentarians did not include the crimes of corruption and the abuse of position and authority in the list of cases exempt from pardon. The President has expressed the position that cases related to corruption, misuse and abuse of state authority, illegal profiteering, illegal spending of the state budget, fraud, and appropriation and embezzlement of another's property should be added to the list of cases not to be pardoned by the Amnesty Law.
Parliament Approves All Six Cabinet Nominees
September 9 (infomongolia.com) At the irregular plenary session of the State Great Khural (Parliament of Mongolia) held on September 08, 2015, the issue on appointing some Ministers of the Cabinet was discussed and ratified after approval at relevant Standing committees of the Parliament.
The newly appointed Ministers of the Government:
1. Mr. Tserendash OYUNBAATAR as Deputy Prime Minister (State Structure's Standing Committee);
2. Mr. Bayarbaatar BOLOR as Minister of Finance (State Budget Standing Committee);
3. Mr. Namdag BATTSEREG as Minister of Environment, Green Development and Tourism (Environment, Food and Agricultural Standing Committee);
4. Mrs. Zangad BAYANSELENGE as Minister of Construction and Urban Development (Economic Standing Committee);
5. Mr. Munkhchuluun ZORIGT as Minister of Roads and Transportation (Economic Standing Committee);
6. Mr. Garidkhuu BAYARSAIKHAN as Minister of Labor (Social Policy, Education, Culture and Science's Standing Committee).
On the same say, newly appointed Ministers received the state stamps from members of the Government that were assigned as Acting Ministers.
New Ministers Receive Seals – Montsame, September 9
New Ministers officially approved – news.mn, September 9
Mongolia Focus: Cabinet Reshuffle
September 8 (Mongolia Focus) Roughly a month after MPP members were kicked out of cabinet, we now appear to have a Saikhanbileg II cabinet forming.
The new cabinet members are:
· G Bayarsaikhan (DP), Min of Labour
· B Bolor (DP), Min of Finance
· M Zorigt (DP), Min of Roads and Transport
· N Battsereg (JC), Min of Environment , Green Development and Tourism
· Z Bayanselenge (JC), Min of Construction and Urban Development
· Ts Oyunbaatar (JC), Deputy PM
Note that these are all current MPs. The ambition to not appoint a majority of members of parliament to the cabinet (avoiding the "double-deel") has thus apparently been abandoned even though it was one of the issues that animated political debates in 2014, and was emphasized by PM Saikhanbileg in announcing his first cabinet. The only non-MP members of cabinet are now D Dorjiglav (Justice), R Jigjid (Mining), L Purevsuren (Foreign Affairs), and G Shiilegdamba (Health and Sports).
Note also that neither S Oyun nor S Demberel from the Civil Will Green Party have joined the cabinet suggesting that this is not quite a return to the coalition under PM Altankhuyag pre-Nov 2014 as it does not appear to include the CWGP. Instead, cabinet now includes six ministers nominated by the Justice Coalition suggesting their increased clout within cabinet.
Last November we had offered mini-bios and the faction affiliation of Saikhanbileg I cabinet members, here's a limited update (DP faction/ Justice Coalition party membership).
· G Bayarsaikhan (DP: Falcon faction)
· B Bolor (DP: Mongolian National Progressive Party faction)
· M Zorigt (DP: Mongolian Democratic Union faction)
· N Battsereg (JC: MNDP)
· Z Bayanselenge (JC: MPRP)
· Ts Oyunbaatar (JC: MPRP)
Given the continuity in the Prime Minister and the fact that the super coalition has simply been reduced to a coalition, there is no reason to expect any major shifts in policy. The previous MPP members of the cabinet did not seem to differ in any specific policies from the PM and his other colleagues, so their forced departure should not lead to any redirection of efforts or review of previous decisions.
Of the major resource projects that would continue to jump start the Mongolian economy again, Tavan Tolgoi is the obvious remaining challenge. However, it strikes me as quite unlikely that this (or any future cabinet, before or after the election) will have much luck with that particular project. The first (almost insurmountable in my mind) hurdle is the fact that multiple private Mongolian investors are vying for variously large pieces of the TT project. While more private sector involvement may be a good thing in some people's eyes, I see it as ultimately leading to a stalemate between different efforts to lobby for a particular domestic investor to gain the upper hand. As a resource, the thermal coal that might be produced at TT is increasingly unattractive on the international market as even China may be moving away from coal in the long run. In the medium term there may still be plenty of a market, but this is not exactly a future-oriented investment. Coking or metallurgical coal by contrast is likely to continue to find buyers into the future.. The decline of the use of thermal coal may make TT less of a prize possession than it seemed some year ago.
Beyond Oyu Tolgoi and the economy, I had included a number of other policy arenas that I was hoping Saikhanbileg I might address: anti-corruption, public service, higher education, long-term research to promote diversification, strengthening policy-making capacity, a role for repats, support for aimag centres, and nurturing democracy (incl. democracy as an important pillar in foreign policy). I don't really expect movement in any of these areas (though the topics have lost none of their urgency in my mind).
It is relatively unclear how long this cabinet might last. The DP continues to be rife with vaguely suicidal factional battles which might erupt at any moment again. The tug-of-war about the MPRP-demanded amnesty law suggests that that party and the Justice Coalition might also become less attractive as a partner as the election approaches. But whatever permutation of DP-led coalitions might arrive, the looming election probably will prevent both, any significant change of policy direction, and – sadly – any real policy achievements.
United Nations voices concerns over Amnesty Law
September 9 (news.mn) The "United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime" delivered the official letter about the "Amnesty Law" is tolerating the "United Nations Convention against Corruption". According to their conclusion, some provisions of the "Amnesty Law" is making the questionable situation, which may violate the convention duties. The letter noted specific issues especially, for example:
1. What is the exact reason to free guilty persons from the investigation and punishment? /7th indent 30thprovision of the United Nations Convention against Corruption/.
2. How to provide the rights of the corruption victims? /35th provision of the United Nations Convention against Corruption/.
3. What will be the results after the intercepting the investigation on the capital arresting, which came from corruption? /31st provision of the United Nations Convention against Corruption/.
Also, the "United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime" expressed, that they are ready to provide detailed descriptions about the conclusion to any Mongolian organizations.
MP Baasankhuu submits proposal to dismiss Minister Bayartsogt
September 8 (parliament.mn) On September 8, 2015, member of the State Great Hural (Parliament) O.Baasankhuu presented a parliamentary draft resolution to Chairman of the Parliament Z.Enkhbold on releasing a member of parliament Mr. Sangajav BAYARTSOGT from post of the Head of Government Office.
MP O.Baasankhuu introduced that an incumbent member of Cabinet, Head of Government Office, MP S.Bayartsogt is not capable to administer his responsible sector as well as violated an act of Mongolian law and regulation. Moreover, MP S.Bayartsogt does not meet ethical requirements of a member of Cabinet and therefore, the draft resolution is presented, demands MP O.Baasankhuu.
Afterward, MP O.Baasankhuu called a press conference explaining the grounds of submission the draft resolution.
Constitutional Court rules only PM can propose changes to cabinet members
September 10 (news.mn) Yesterday, the Constitutional Court had a meeting about some Governmental issues. According to their report, one of their discussions was connected to the law presentation to dismiss the Director of the Governmental Executive Authority S.Bayartsogt by the Member of the Parliament O.Baasankhuu. Whilst it is true that MP's have the right to make draft law and make presentations to the Parliament - under Provision 37.2 of Constitution only; "The Mongolian Prime Minister has the right to make proposals about structural changes of the Government and only after discussion with the President". Therefore, the Constitutional Court considers that - "Discussion about the dismissal of a member of the Government by the Parliament contravenes the Mongolian Constitution, since a Member of Parliament presented the project to Speaker and not to the Prime Minister".
Swiss Agency helps Mongolian government to decentralize
September 10 (infomongolia.com) In 2012, Mongolian government has launched "Governance Support and Decentralization" program with financial assistance of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to resolve growing decentralization issues in Mongolia. Its next phase started on April 2015.
In order to put a favorable ground for the decentralization program's implementation, Cabinet Secretariat of the Government has developed a support project "Decentralization Policy Support" jointly with Ministry of Finance of Mongolia and will implement with assistance of other ministries and local administrations.
On September 08, 2015, Deputy Head of the Cabinet Secretariat G.Ganbold and SDC Director of Cooperation and Swiss Consul General Markus Waldvogel have signed agreement on cooperation on the project implementation.
The newly developed project will be implemented for three years and six months under Cabinet Secretariat through organizations involved in the project. It aims to clarify directives, authority and responsibility of local administrations and improve legislation for equal distribution of state resources to its citizens.
Cabinet Approves Concept of Law on Mineral Commodities Exchange
Ulaanbaatar, September 8 (MONTSAME) The cabinet meeting on Monday discussed a draft concept of the law on exchange of minerals, and approved it, reflecting proposals from Ministers.
The Minister of Mining R.Jigjid was ordered to work out the draft law and to present it to a cabinet meeting.
Adopted by parliament in 2014, the state policy on mineral sector reflects a matter on founding an exchange of minerals with aims to run the sales of minerals of Mongolia in the both domestic and international markets under principles of open, precise and fruitful methods. In accordance with this document, the cabinet has approved a resolution on establishing the exchange, and has started formulating the bill together with the Ministry of Mining and the Finance Regulatory Committee (FRC) in order to create a legal environment.
Besides making the legal environment for the mineral exchange, the draft law will create reliable system between suppliers and purchasers, fix more realistic prices of minerals, provide investors with reliable source of information on the exchange and prices, and promote the Mongolia's competitiveness at the world's market of minerals.
Cabinet to Submit New Farming Bill to Parliament
Ulaanbaatar, September 8 (MONTSAME) The cabinet meeting on Monday discussed a draft new wording of the law on land farming, and then decided to submit it to parliament, reflecting proposals from Ministers.
Having 28 clauses in five articles about farming lands, farm industry and protection of soils for farming, the law's new version regulates relations in doing farm business, determining, owning and protecting farm lands and developing land farming, combining it with intensified animal husbandry.
The new version of the law will create a legal environment for ensuring sustainable activities of land farming, keeping and augmenting job places in localities, domestically preparing industrial raw materials, ensuring agro-ecological stability by protecting soils and improving the fertility and introducing technological progress in the industry. Moreover, the draft law will contribute to increase rights, duties and responsibilities of land farmers and intensifying environmentally-friendly land farming.
Cabinet Approves Concept of Law on Film Industry
Ulaanbaatar, September 8 (MONTSAME) At its meeting on Monday, the cabinet discussed a concept of the law on film, and then obliged D.Dorligjav, the Minister of Justice; and L.Gantomor, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, to adopt the concept, reflecting proposals from Ministers and to submit a bill on film to the cabinet.
At a national level, about 30-40 movies are made a year, but Mongolia lacks a legal regulation for providing movie makers and theatres with professional and methodological management. Moreover, the country is vital to create the legal environment for realizing the state policy and strategy on film, therefore the bill has been formulated to regulate works related to rights and duties of film makers, financing of film industry and protecting rights of movie theatres.
Having 16 clauses in five articles, the bill on film is projected to make the policy on film more accurate, train professionals, to gain progressive technologies and to make the Mongolian film industry competitive.
Cabinet Replaces Customs Chief
Ulaanbaatar, September 8 (MONTSAME) The cabinet Monday discharged B.Tsengel from the post of head of the General Customs Office (GCO) and appointed O.Ganbat as the new head.
- The cabinet approved a rule of financing the expense for drawing up a document on energy development, its strategy and normative and for calculating a national balance of energy reserve.
- By a cabinet decision, money will be allotted from the governmental reserve fund to publish volumes on history of the Mongolian Constitutions, the Constitution for people and comics for children, in frames of the 25th anniversary of adoption of the Constitution of Mongolia.
Sovereign wealth fund: Mongolia's Temasek fixation
In establishing its sovereign wealth fund, Mongolia had a wide range of forebears to learn from. Singapore's Temasek may not be the best choice.
September 11 (Euromoney Magazine) International investors couldn't get enough of Mongolia, and Mongolia of them, back in 2010-2011.
With its unending mineral abundance notionally worth trillions, it was said that the world's busiest place was the area between an investment banker and a Mongolian cabinet minister. IPO deal hunters auctioned cattle-class seats on the few flights into Mongolia. And when they got there, they brawled over who would get the mandate of some mine in this new Saudi, this would-be Qatar-of-the-Steppe.
But it was all for nought. There were no mandates. Commodity prices – and several Mongolian governments, and local banks too – have since tanked. As one-time partners feud in endless disputes, foreign geologists and bankers have been locked up. The tumult in China – the 'Minegolian' business plan held that its paydirt would service the never-ending Sino-boom next door – has topped out the torment over the North Asian tundra.
Rainmakers have been spurned and capital markets have not developed. Corporate Mongolia's best deals are still done elsewhere. All that developable coal, copper, gold, molybdenum and uranium et al still lurks beneath the steppe. Mongolians want to be rich but its 'resources nationalists' jealously want to hold onto their bounty.
They can't have both.
The middle ground is to husband the state's bounty into a sovereign wealth fund. The government's preferred model is Singapore's Temasek Holdings, owned by the finance ministry. Ulaanbaatar mandarins like the look of Singapore's Government Investment Corp too.
But does either model provide the right mix for Mongolia? Singapore's economy is the antithesis of Mongolia's, in size, composition and geography. There are no mines in Singapore. Indeed, as every loyal Singaporean was reminded this year upon the death of their supreme leader Lee Kuan Yew, pretty much the only resource he had available from the mid-1960s to build a modern city-state was its people, living on a tiny island. Mongolia's three million spread themselves over a Europe-sized landmass.
Inevitably, if Mongolia follows the Temasek route, there will be differences. In Mongolia's vigorous post-Soviet democracy, for example, one presumes its First Lady will not be CEO for more than a decade, or at all. And journalists inquiring into how their national nest-egg is invested won't hazard lawsuits by doing so. More transparency would also be nice. Despite Temasek's oft-stated commitment to it, Singaporeans – and foreign investors – don't know how much they pay Ho Ching, Temasek's CEO and the prime minister's wife, to manage their $200 billion fund.
Encouragingly, Bayanjargal Byambasaikhan, the boss of Mongolia's nascent SWF, Erdenes Mongol, says it is crucial that the fund be independent from politicians.
There are numerous, obvious, role models available to Mongolia: Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Kuwait and Norway for starters, or even mining-rich Kazakhstan.
But the Mongolians seem fixed on Singapore. Erdenes Mongol officials have been shuttling south to Orchard Road for lessons in how it is done and Erdenes CEO Byambasaikhan likes Singapore because it's "neutral, it's not China or Japan etc."
That seems an odd reason.
Mongolia's Fight for Freedom
· IN 1989 THE MONGOLIAN PEOPLE EXPERIENCED NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE AND FREEDOM FOR THE FIRST TIME
· MONGOLIAN VICTIMS OF POLITICAL REPRESSION SUFFERED UNDER COMMUNISM FOR MORE THAN 70 YEARS
Honoring Victims of Political Oppression
September 11 (news.mn) On 10th September each year, Mongolia pays respect to the Victims of Political Oppression. Today, President Ts.Elbegdorj, Parliamentary Speaker Z.Enkhbold and other officials participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at 12.00 pm at the "Monument to the Victims of Political Oppression".
Representatives of the Parliament and Government, the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs, the State Rehabilitation Commission and also Mongolian citizens, who have lost their parents and grandparents, participated in the wreath-laying ceremony.
During the first half of 2015, some 30 applications for rehabilitation we received by the "Prosecutor General's Office of Mongolia".
IFPI director: Respect of IP rights is assurance of quality
September 10 (gogo.mn) Regional Director for International Federation of the Phonographic Industry Asian Regional Office Ang Kwee Tiang is visiting Mongolia in order to advise on the legal environment changes to be done in music industry in Mongolia.
Moreover, the Regional Director is meeting with the representatives of Mongolian music industry and associations representing their rights in order to improve the coordination of their acitivites and advise on further steps to take for the development of the industry.
GoGo News Agency had the exclusive rights to interview Mr Ang Kwee Tiang on current situation of the Mongolian music industry, how much Mongolia needs to grow and challenges faced by the industry.
For full interview please view the below video.
Chinggis Airport Director Dismissed Over $160 Guidebook Scandal
September 10 (news.mn) The director of the "Chinggis Khaan International Airport", Mr. M.Davaajav has been dismissed from his position on the grounds of gross irresponsibility. This in connection with the fact that he has done nothing about the sale of the of the "Access Journal". This official document is valued at USD 160. Currently, the next official director of the airport has not been appointed.
Dornod citizens oppose establishment of Khalkh River Agricultural FTZ
September 10 (infomongolia.com) At spring session of the State Great Khural (Parliament of Mongolia), the resolution No. 75 on establishment of a free economic zone in the area of the Khalkh River basin in Dornod aimag of Mongolia was adopted to promote agriculture. But later, citizens of Dornod aimag have started to protest the resolution.
Protesters joined with lawyers, non-government organizations such as "Khalkhyn Gol Minii Nutag" and "Setsen Uils" and demands the government to withdraw its decision as they consider that the territory of 500 thousand hectares allocated for the free economic zone is suspiciously too big, it takes most part of the pasture which is crucial to herdsmen, and also the government didn't even reflect opinion of the citizens of Dornod aimag in the first place. On top of that it included Menen Steppe which is the last remaining wild feather-grass steppe in the world.
As protesters find the government's decision illegal they have addressed the Constitutional Court of Mongolia to sue the Parliament of Mongolia over charge of violation of constitution, law on land and law on national security.
On September 09, 2015, they have established temporary headquarter called "Let's save the Khalkh River" to continue their struggle. Further, they plan to request the Independent Authority against Corruption of Mongolia (IAAC) and General Intelligence Agency of Mongolia (GIAM) to conduct investigation on the Speaker of Parliament Z.Enkhbold and Minister for Food and Agriculture R.Burmaa who signed the resolution over allegation of possible abuse of their duty.
$2 billion agreements signed with China companies for two power plant projects
Ulaanbaatar, September 11 (MONTSAME) The Prime Minister of Mongolia Ch.Saikhanbileg Thursday received authorities of the China's "Power China Resources" Company and the "Senco III" LLC that are implementing projects in Mongolia on the energy industry, during participating in the Summer Davos Forum in Dalian, China.
At the meeting, the China's companies presented to the Premier their projects being realized in Mongolia. Saying that the energy sector is one of the vital spheres of Mongolian economy, the Premier expressed his satisfaction with starting of joint projects on constructing power plants in Mongolia.
Following the meeting, agreements were signed between Mongolia and the China's companies on realizing project on building the "Tevshiin Gobi" and "Booroljuut" power plants.
Signed between the SENCO III and Mogul Power LLC, the project on establishing the "Tevshiin Gobi" power plant has an investment of some USD one billion. The second project's agreement was established between the Power China Resources company and Bodi International LLC. It also has an investment of over USD one billion, and the project is expected to continue for 31 years.
The projects will play a vital role in ensuring increasing needs of energy in Mongolia, and will help to create reliable energy sources for Mongolia, said Mr D.Zorigt, the Minister of Energy.
Present at the signing ceremonies were D.Zorigt MP, the Minister of Energy; D.Sumyabazar MP; B.Delgermaa, an advisor to the Prime Minister; and leaders of the Mogul Power and the Bodi Group.
FRC slaps ₮26.1 million fines on insurers following industry audit
September 11 (gogo.mn) Insurance Monitoring Department of Financial Regulatory Commission (FRC) conducted full audit at five insurance companies, partial audit at 11 insurance companies and full audit of the activities of Mandatory Insurance Federation as of August 31st of 2015. MNT 26.1 million fines were collected as a result of the auditing.
Common violations in the operations of the insurance companies were mislocation of the reserve funds, miscalculation of the reserve funds and revenues, investments from the reserve fund exceeded the accepted percentage, lack of insurance software, improper accounting and violations of the compensations.
MNT 5.1 million fine was imposed on 16 insurance companies, 34 insurance brokers, 25 damage valuation companies, agriculture sector re-insurers and mandatory insurance companies.
Financial reporting feedbacks were given to 15 insurance companies, 13 insurance brokers, 8 damage valuation companies and Mandatory insurance Association. During this procedure common violations were present at insurance entities such as sales of the unregistered products, exceeding the reporting periods for financial reports, lack of public announcement of financial audit results and lack of permanent operations.
Full audits were held at Khaan Insurance, Bodi Insurance, Monre Insurance, Mongol Insurance, Ulaanbaatar City Insurance, Mandatory Insurance Association, partial audits were held at Munkh Insurance, Mongol Insurance, Bodi Insurance, Tenger Insurance, MIG Insurance, Ard Insurance, Nomin Insurance, Practical Insurance, Soyombo Insurance, Mandal Insurance and National Life Insurance.
Source: Financial Regulatory Commission
Mongolia Banks Host Forum on Payment Card Risk
September 10 (gogo.mn) The forum is to discuss the payment card risks, its management and improvement of the cooperation.
The forum is co-organized by Bank of Mongolia, Mongolian Bankers Association, commercial banks and UnionPay International.
The forum aims to discuss on decreasing the risks associated with use of payment cards, prevention of risks, improving the legal environment, developing the ties between the international organizations and penetration of the best practices and come up with an guidelines for use by public and private entities.
The forum has three parallel session on introduction, international practices seminar and discussion.
Participants of the forum are governing organizations and management of the participating bodies. Over 120 participants have registered to be part of this event.
Mongolia PM meets India's Hinduja Group in Dalian
Ulaanbaatar, September 11 (MONTSAME) With a working visit to China for the Summer Davos Forum in Dalian, the Prime Minister of Mongolia Thursday received Mr Prakash P. Hinduja, the chairman of the India's Hinduja Group for European region.
They have discussed issues of a chance for widening the Mongolia-India collaboration in the defense and mining sectors.
The Premier said that investments of India, an intellectual neighbor of Mongolia, are vital for Mongolia. He noted that the two countries discussed matters on expanding the cooperation in all sectors , especially the collaboration in the private sector, during the visit of the India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Mongolia, and then emphasized the Hinduja Group is possible to cooperate with Mongolia in the banking, financing, oil and defense sectors. Mr Saikhanbileg also invited the Hinduja Group's chairman to visit Mongolia.
Mongolian engineers begin producing LED lights
September 8 (UB Post) Four electrical engineers of Erdenet Mining Corporation have established the first factory in Mongolia to produce light-emitting diodes, commonly known as LED lights.
During a working visit to Orkhon Province, Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg visited the factory to see their products. The engineers showed the PM how LED power consumption is eight times lower than incandescent lamps and is environmentally-friendly. The factory's LED lights are also reported to save on maintenance costs, ensure fire safety, and they cannot be easily damaged or cracked.
The Office of the Media and Public Relations of the Cabinet reported that the PM advised the factory authorities to cooperate with UB and Erdenet authorities for lighting streets.
Discover Mongolia 2015: Highlights
September 8 (UB Post) During Discover Mongolia Forum, participants said that the competition to attract foreign investment has intensified as the mining industry is the main engine of Mongolia's economic growth.
Investors and participants of the forum reiterated that they have been encountering difficulty due to political risks.
World stock market has been unstable as prices of mining products have dropped and investors are losing money in many countries, noted participants. Investors have started withdrawing investment from developing countries to invest in developed countries.
S.Narantuguldur the CEO of King Investment Management Company (Mogi: King, lol) noted, "Investors have poured two trillion USD into developing countries since 2009. However, they withdrew one trillion USD from developing countries, due to the world economic crisis."
S.Narantuguldur, claimed that investors view that investing into developed countries such as the USA is beneficial. They also believe that competitions between developing countries with mining resources like Mongolia will increase.
According to S.Narantuguldur, foreigner investors encounter several difficulties when doing business in Mongolia. Firstly, Mongolia has unstable political and legal environment. The Investment Law was enacted two years ago, but the fundamental part of the legislation has been amended recently, which shows that it is risky to invest in Mongolia.
Last week, Moody's international agency decreased the credit rating of Mongolian Mining Corporation.
The last good news about Mongolia's investment environment came when the stock price of Hunnu Coal increased in 2012 and significant investment came to Mongolia. Since then, no good news about Mongolia has been reported among international investors. It is obvious that investors are considering the risk factors when investing for long-term project.
At the Discover Mongolia Forum, CEO of MIBG investment company Christopher McDougall said, "Mongolian political and legal environment is not that bad, the production cost is low and the country has a competitive geographic location."
Furthermore, he noted the Investment Law doesn't discriminate between foreign and domestic investors. Participants said the even though the Mongolian economy is projected to increase this year, it might encounter difficulties at the beginning of next year again.
Mining experts needed
On the second day of the Discover Mongolia Forum, participants discussed various topics including preparation of mineral processing industry experts. The president of the Union of Mineral Concentrator said that Mongolia needs to concentrate on mineral processing.
Participants noted preparing experts in the mining industry and supporting them financially is vital for attracting foreign investment in major mining projects.
Director of the German-Mongolian Institute of Technology N.Dorjderem said, "Mongolian mining products accounted for 83 percent of exports and these products are raw."
China is the biggest buyer of Mongolian exports. N.Dorjderem noted that China is shifting to a service-oriented economy from manufacturer-oriented economy, and that sufficient amount of experts are not being prepared in Mongolia.
Companies complain about the shortage of processing industry experts. Hence, it is important to create a link between the labor market and education sector. Additionally, value added production, diversification of export products and mining industry development are needed, claimed N.Dorjderem.
Specifically, it is important to focus on training programs and quality of industry practice.
N.Dorjderem noted that the German-Mongolian Institute of Technology prepares student with problem solving skills, as well as languages and knowledge of law and legal practice. Starting from next year, they are offering masters degree programs for students.
Director of School Mining of the Mongolian University of Science and Technology B.Chinzorig said, "No project will succeed without qualified experts. Experts are more important than a financial source… We need to update the education system. Universities in Mongolia are not our competitors. Our competitors are universities abroad. We hope domestic universities will start preparing experts in fluorite processing and prepare them in more specialized directions."
At the end of the Mineral Processing, Expert Preparation and Investment Forum, Erdes Mongolia and the German-Mongolian Institute of Technology signed a memorandum of cooperation.
Artisanal mining and land restoration
On the second day of the forum, artisanal mining issues in provinces and their social and environmental impacts were discussed. During the forum, community development officer of the artisanal mining Deever course, R.Tumendemberel said, "Artisanal mining was messy in 1990s, wherever there was gold. Today artisanal miners hand over used lands, and restore the land."
A survey carried out in 2012 stated that between 60 and 100 thousand artisanal miners were extracting minerals in Mongolia. Most operate with legitimate licenses and contracts with the local authority.
Furthermore, land restoration has been increasing and many artisanal miners have shifted to other industries such as small and medium enterprises.
During the Discover Mongolia Forum, the president of Mongolian National Mining Association N.Algaa said, "We have been trying to implement foreign expertise and legal practice in Mongolia for 25 years, from five continents. Some have been implemented and some have not. It is time to look back into what we have brought into this country and analyze. We have made enough mistakes and now we all need to discuss and decide which strategy is suitable."
Copper prices to remain stable
At the forum, domestic miners such as Xanadu Mines, Erdenes Resources Development, Baganuur, and Shivee-Ovoo have presented their operational report.
Rio Tinto country representative S.Munkhsukh also presented about Oyu Tolgoi's operations. He said that copper prices will remain stable throughout the world, meaning that Oyu Tolgoi will be profitable in the short and mid-term.
Around 80 percent of Oyu Tolgoi's resource is located deep in the ground and the company is planning a six km vertical shaft and 200 km cross shaft to explore the underground mine. Currently they are preparing to start the underground exploration. The underground mine's cost will be recalculated and will be validated by Rio Tinto, Turquoise Hill Resources, and board of Oyu Tolgoi LLC.
Invest Mongolia 2015 Presentations
Real Estate Sector Waiting for Demand
September 11 (Mongolian Economy) Trends in the real sector were highlighted in this year's "Invest Mongolia" conference held for the 9th consecutive year. Director of Asia Pacific Investment Partner, B.Tsendsuren, noted in his presentation that despite the country's economic worries, companies are still interested in building and investing in construction projects. Real estate located downtown or in Zaisan are still in demand, as can be seen from the current as well as planned projects. Location is the main driver of this demand, with demand for office space dominating the overall demand in the sector. Experts say that now is an opportune time to buy office space financed by long-term loans, as prices have dropped due to an increase in supply to meet the demand. As for companies and investors, experts say that they need to supply what the market needs in order to stay stable in the current economic situation.
Despite the fact that officials in the development sector have stated the invisible hand will determine the real estate market, more than 30,000 apartments on the market are waiting for their owners. People are sure to wonder what the banks will do when the amount of construction exceeds the demand, given that mortgage loans make up the majority of loans from commercial banks. In 2010, around 16,000 people had loans, while today this number reached 60,000. Of that, 2.3 percent are overdue loans and non-performing loans are less than one percent. According to the CEO of Khan Bank, Norihiko Kato, overdue loans are not a huge problem. The key issues are that people's income level is insufficient to receive loans and government guarantees are not cash.
People are interested in purchasing modest apartments within their financial means. "This market is expected to slow in terms of supply and demand, but there will still be significant demand for housing," said Norihiko Kato. Sixty percent of the 1.4 million residents of Ulaanbaatar need apartments, and to make this happen, 200,000 need to be built over the next five years.
In a market where it seems the consumers' purchasing power is insufficient and a surplus of apartments exists, demand is still palpably present. The sector's officials are sure there are going to be changes in the future, because investment in real estate has climbed in a short time period, and the sector has been developing accordingly. B.Tsendsuren said investment in this sector equates to 7.8 percent of GDP. He expects USD 10 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) will come to Mongolia over the next two years.
B.Tsendsured stressed that FDI coming into Mongolia has been decreasing in recent years, but also stated that now is a good time to invest in the real estate sector. "It's the perfect time to agree on a price. It's true that office buildings are empty. However, it has long-term potential in the future. Therefore, I want people to turn this situation into an opportunity," he said.
The International Banker Award for Commercial Bank of the Year Mongolia 2015 Goes to Capital Bank Mongolia
CBM Wins a Prestigious International Banker Banking Award for Its Contributions to Fostering Mongolia's Commercial Community
London, United Kingdom - September 10, 2015 /MarketersMedia/ — International Banker held its annual Banking Awards acknowledging top Asia and Australasia banking institutions and individuals. Capital Bank Mongolia received an award for Commercial Bank of the Year Mongolia 2015.
International Banker offers a global view of banking and finance. Each year through the Banking Awards, it recognises the leading banking institutions (and individuals), which have set the bar for industry excellence. The 2015 Banking Awards acknowledge the organisations within the banking and financial industry in Asia and Australasia that drive global economic commerce, create capital and opportunities for economic growth within their regions, set the benchmarks for technological advancement and customer service while maintaining high levels of regulatory compliance and corporate governance. The standout institutions working within retail, commercial, investment and private banking are recognised with these awards. In addition, special awards are given to outstanding CEOs in each region.
Honoured with an award to acknowledge and celebrate its innovation and leadership in the area of commercial banking, Capital Bank Mongolia has achieved a prominent position on the 2015 International Banker Asia and Australasia Banking Awards list.
The Commercial Bank of the Year Mongolia 2015 award has been awarded to Capital Bank Mongolia based on its 25 years of consistent service to the business community of Mongolia, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which make up approximately 80 percent of the country's companies. This commercial lender, the first in Mongolia to be 100 percent owned by Mongolians, is growing exponentially in its numbers of loan portfolios and branches, even in the midst of mixed national economic conditions. CBM oversees a vast network of technologically efficient branches throughout the country. Branch expansion has been at the centre of CBM's plans, and in terms of branch count, CBM is among the top three banks in Mongolia.
CBM has set an example to other commercial bankers through its innovative approaches to supporting SMEs, overseeing more than 25 projects dedicated to SME financing, some of which are joint efforts with the Mongolian government or some of the world's top financial institutions. The bank organizes an open forum that focuses on nurturing domestic producers to contribute to economic development and providing financial education to new business operators. In recognition of CBM's contribution to the economy, Mongolia's Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry chose CBM, from a multitude of commercial lenders, to be its partner in launching the SME Development Fund, which aims to "support SMEs, increase workplaces and to expand production" throughout the country.
In line with its support to national businesses, CBM has taken an active corporate social responsibility role, with a particular emphasis on the promotion of eco-friendly projects. The bank co-founded, for example, the Organic Mongolia program, a fund designed to support Mongolians engaged in the production of organic products but unable to meet collateral requirements for bank loans.
CBM has demonstrated a keen appetite for international business, having formed key strategic partnerships with many of the world's leading financial institutions. For example CBM opened Nostro accounts for dollar, euro, sterling, ruble and yen payments, and is implementing Constar, a money-transfer service, to deliver banking services to overseas customers and provide access to Mongolia's financial markets.
Capital Bank Mongolia has adapted to the latest developments in technology, linking its rural branches through high-speed, fibre-optic Internet connections, while establishing call centres to integrate its communication system. An electronic accounting system facilitates the automation of several key processes, and Bancassurance software provides insurance brokerage through its branches.
For more information please visit – http://internationalbanker.com/banking/capital-bank-mongolia-continues-to-blaze-new-trails-in-the-midst-of-economic-instability/
Capital Bank Mongolia Continues to Blaze New Trails in the Midst of Economic Instability
September 10 (International Banker) The Mongolian economy over the last five years has undergone unprecedented expansion. GDP grew by a staggering 17.8 percent in 2011 and was followed up by double-digit growth on a nominal basis until 2014, when growth slowed to 7.8 percent. During this period, inflation concurrently accelerated, and concerns have recently emerged over the country's prominent decline in total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). This deficit, coupled with the stark depreciation in Mongolia's currency, the tughrik (MNT), has posed significant challenges to the country's banking sector. The quality of commercial-banking assets in Mongolia has come under increasing pressure, growth in the total value of loans is slowing, and the stock of loans that remained outstanding past their due dates had more than doubled to 2.2 percent by the end of last year.
Capital Bank Mongolia (CBM), however, is admirably managing to prove its resilience in the face of such pressures thus far. By the end of 2014, CBM's total corporate-loan provisions had increased by 39.16 percent, while the total of all outstanding loans on December 31 had jumped by 58 percent and reached 491.05 billion MNT from the end of 2013. Today, CBM can boast of its own range of branded products; a vast network of branches throughout the country, all of which are online and electronically literate; and several years of stable business growth.
A commercial lender and the country's first to be 100 percent owned by Mongolians, CBM celebrates its 25th birthday this year. The modern roots of the bank can be traced back to 1990, when foundations were first laid through the establishment of the Industrial Shareholding Bank by a group of 16 various business entities. Over the quarter-century period, CBM has expanded operations in Mongolia considerably, gaining more than 500,000 permanent customers, employing more than 600 employees and establishing 90 branches and units throughout the country (withf those branches in capital city Ulaanbaatar).
Indeed, branch expansion has been at the centre of CBM's plans in recent years, with the lender concentrating on delivering its services to as geographically diverse an area as possible. In terms of branch count, CBM is now among the top three banks in Mongolia.
A SME specialist
Of CBM's many core competencies, its specified goals pertaining to the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) deserve special mention. It is estimated that a substantial 82 percent of the approximately 55,000 companies in Mongolia in active operation at present are classed as SME operators, indicating the dominant role that the SME sector plays as an engine of growth in the country. CBM has more than 25 projects dedicated to such operators, some of which are in joint cooperation with the Mongolian government, and others with some of the world's finest financial institutions, such as the Sustainable Livelihoods, SME Supporting and 40,000 Apartments projects with the World Bank; the Adventist Development and Relief Agency's Micro Economic Development project; Mercy Corps' Rural Agri-business Support program; and the Japan International Cooperation Agency's project loan facility from the Japanese government.
Capital Bank organizes an open forum dedicated to small and medium-sized enterprises, and focuses on developing domestic production and national industries to contribute to the development of the country as well as to provide financial education to new business operators by promoting their inquiries and demands.
In 2011, Mongolia's Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry also specifically chose CBM, from a multitude of commercial lenders, as a partner to create the SME Development Fund, a program that aims to "support SMEs, increase workplaces and to expand production" throughout the country. Environmentally friendly activity by SMEs is encouraged through the provision of more favourable lending terms. Last year saw 5 billion MNT in loans allocated to the fund by CBM.
This unwavering commitment towards Mongolia's SME sector has earnt CBM a considerable amount of international recognition—in 2014, the lender was bestowed with the Best SME Bank Mongolia 2014 award by UK finance publication Capital Finance International. The award is given to leaders of the banking and financial-services industry, and is reportedly based on judgments contributed by prestigious global organisations including the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and International Finance Corporation.
The bank has also ensured that its loan portfolio is well-diversified by allocating credit across a wide range of industries in order to support national industries. In 2014, the production of major construction materials was supported, loans were provided to 11 different entities as part of a policy initiated by the government and central bank—the "price-stabilizing sub-program of consumer products"—for the purposes of reserving meat, increasing the number of storehouses of food and food products, and developing intensive farming. The wool-and-cashmere industry is also given a sizeable amount of support.
A leader in corporate social responsibility
Technologically innovative with strong global relationships
Hotel insider: Shangri-La, Mongolia
A year after opening a hotel in London's Shard, Shangri-La has another glass skyscraper — the latest marker in the transformation of Ulan Bator
September 11 (Financial Times) Looking south from the Horizon Club Lounge on the top floor of the new Shangri-La in Ulan Bator, I could see the single track of the trans-Siberian Railway, which loops down from Irkutsk in Russia for the 26-hour journey to the Mongolian capital. In the foreground, was the National Amusement Park — opened in 1969, during Mongolia's seven decades of communism — with a Ferris wheel, rollercoaster and a Disneyesque castle.
In the far distance lay the forest-covered mountains of the Bogd Khan Uul, which, early in the last century were something of a playground for Mongolia's religious leader and king, the Bogd Khan. Among the most important Buddhists in Asia, he preferred expensive champagne over the traditional asceticism of his role and was a keen collector of animals, including cheetahs, tigers and an elephant. According to James Palmer's 2008 book, The Bloody White Baron, which describes the last days of the Bogd Khan's rule, these creatures lived in the forest, with the elephant minded by Gongor, a 7ft 6in Mongol giant, who was also part of the Bogd Khan's curious collection.
A century on, the exotica have gone and the wanderings of the forest's indigenous wildlife are circumscribed by the multi-lane highway leading to the airport. "When I first came to Mongolia 20 years ago to make a movie, I used to jog in this area where the hotel stands. I remember deer grazing in the grassland right here," said Christopher Giercke, a German-born former film producer staying at the Shangri-La, who now supplies Mongolian cashmere to Hermès. "There is still wildlife in the forests, but it has retreated with the real estate boom. The new Mongolia is a tale of remarkable transformation."
In July, city real estate prices broke new records, with a penthouse in the Olympic Residences, close to the Shangri-La, selling at $3,500 per square metre (10 years ago, the highest price was $700 per square metre). Of the country's 3 million inhabitants, 1.4 million now live in Ulan Bator. Some 700,000 are on low incomes, says Lee Cashell, founder of Mongolian Properties, the city's largest real estate company. The poorest migrants congregate in the "ger district", named after the felt-lined tents used by Mongolian nomads who have come to the city in search of work. Their homes are pitched close to each other, bringing issues of sanitation and overcrowding.
The new money, however, is reaching for the sky. Shangri-La's 290-room hotel, which opened in June, is housed in a 95m-high, 21-storey, glass-walled tower. The Hong Kong-based group is earning a reputation for such statement properties, having opened a hotel on the 34th to 52nd floors of London's Shard last year. Whereas many of the well-known luxury hotel brands concentrate on managing properties for third-party owners, Shangri-La is unusual in that it also owns a large proportion of its hotels. Ritz-Carlton, for example, runs 90 hotels worldwide but does not own any of them; Starwood owns only 33 the 1,249 properties it runs. By contrast, Shangri-La runs 95 hotels, of which 75 are owned or part-owned.
The Ulan Bator project is a joint venture with the MCS Group, Mongolia's largest real estate and construction group, and has cost close to $600m. A Chinese restaurant opens in October, with a spa to follow by the end of the year. The second phase will include two more towers — one for serviced apartments, the other for offices — to be completed next summer. The development will also include a four-floor mall with an Imax cinema, shops, swimming pool and health club.
I visited late last month, along with the last trickle of summer tourists (in winter, temperatures can drop to minus 40C). Visitor numbers have been growing since the end of communist rule in 1990, but even in the high summer months, tourist numbers are hardly overwhelming. According to the World Bank, the total number of international visitors in 2013 was 418,000, which is a few thousand fewer than visited Trinidad and Tobago, a country which, in terms of area, is 300 times smaller.
The Shangri-La, however, seemed to be doing fine. At Sunday lunchtime, the hotel's main restaurant, Café Park, was full to bursting — if I hadn't been staying at the hotel, and therefore assured of a reservation, I would have been unable to get a table. Mongol families with small children and grandparents ate at long tables, grazing long into the afternoon on a fresh buffet comprised of local lamb-filled dumplings, freshly made noodle soups, Indian curries and pastas (the sushi station appeared less popular, but then Mongolia is the second-largest landlocked nation on Earth, and Ulan Bator more than 800 miles from the sea).
There were also parties. The following week, I observed little girls in white heels and party dresses filling the vast lobby. There was a wedding going on, with numerous politicians in attendance. Drivers swooped past in shiny four-by-fours, dropping off their glittering cargo, who swept through the hotel's double-height revolving doors. Inside, a member of staff endlessly polished the marble floor into a creamy mirror to reflect the lobby's four round chandeliers — each about 3.5m in diameter.
The bedrooms upstairs are less show-stopping — a little generic, a tad beige perhaps — but just as Shangri-La proved with its London hotel in the Shard, sometimes the point of a room is the view, not the decoration of the walls that surround you. I stayed in a Deluxe Twin room, which I later discovered is the cheapest type (starting at $215 per night) but had assumed was a few grades higher. There was space for an extra bed; the desk was very large indeed. The bathroom had a bath and separate shower which thundered with hot water. The windows soaked me in sunshine and everything worked.
As to service, staff proved consistently willing if inconsistently experienced. A bottle of white wine came to the table warm. Other drinks appeared when the meal was already completed. Waiters serving drinks on the second-floor's open-air terrace, who were run off their feet, showed little control over the push and pull for tables (the best table is in the corner, looking out towards the rollercoaster). But then Naadam, as this restaurant and bar is called, is the beating heart of the hotel, packed with Mongolia's demanding, on-the-make businesspeople and glamorous young women. And the hotel is still new, working through its glitches.
Personally I will always tend towards liking hotels with a little more romance or history. Last time I was in the Ulan Bator, 15 years ago, I stayed in what was the capital's grand dame at the time, the Hotel Ulaanbaatar, built in the Soviet-style in 1961, with brutal architecture and amusingly grumpy, sallow-faced staff. I loved its lack of apology to international tastes, even if it was the city's first public building with running hot water. How times have changed. The Shangri-La is the proof of it. What this hotel isn't is just another soulless shell planting itself in an emerging market — though that was my preconception. The way Mongolians have embraced it so completely makes all the difference to its spirit, with the humming lobby — like Claridge's in London, or the Metropole in Hanoi — a place I wanted to stay all day to people-watch.
Photographs: Ken Kochey
Deputy Mayor Approves Ulaanbaatar Memorial Park Project for Concession
September 11 (news.mn) Ulaanbaatar Deputy Mayor N.Bataa, who is responsible for the Finance and Economic Office has issued an order (A/721) according to which the team responsible for the organizing and overseeing the "Ulaanbaatar Memorial Park in" has been approved. The "Memorial Park" will be built under a concession contract, according to Protocol 132 (of 2015). Mr. N.Bataa tasked the Deputy Mayor at the Ecology and Green Development Office, T.Bat-Erdene, to provide the necessary management for this project.
Seoul Mayor to visit UB on September 20-23
September 9 (news.mn) At the invitation of Ulaanbaatar Mayor E.Bat-Uul, the Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-Soon, is going to make an official visit to Ulaanbaatar. This will take place on 20th-23rd September and is being held in the context of the 20th Anniversary of the "Peaceful Brotherhood Relation between Ulaanbaatar and Seoul". During the visit, and a "Seoul Day" photo exhibition and art concert will take place. Mayor Park Won-Soon will make what is expected to be an interesting presentation about the "Eco City". This will take place at the first forum of North Eastern Asian City Mayors - "Green Development of the City" , which will take place in Ulaanbaatar.
National Security Council Backs President's Proposal for a Neutral Mongolia
September 10 (news.mn) The Mongolian National Security Council (NSC) met on 8th September to discuss "A Neutral Mongolia", an idea inspired by President Ts.Elbegdorj. As a result, the NSC decided to accept the President's concept and make according recommendation to the Governments. If all goes according to plan, a draft "Mongolian Neutrality" law will be submitted for approval by Parliament. President Elbegdorj's initiative, if ratified will be proclaimed internationally.
Mongolia = Neutrality
By Mongolyin Tsakhiagiin ELBEGDORJ, The President of Mongolia
September 8 (president.mn) Mongolia as a neutral state. I have long pondered about this issue. And I exchanged views on the matter. And had some studies done and conclusions drawn. Now the time to discuss it publicly has come.
Every Mongolian cares for further consolidation of our country's freedom, independence and sovereignty. And every Mongolian endeavors to make his own contribution to this cause. Many view that being a neutral state perfectly serves that very interest. The issue – neutrality – had been hotly debated and discussed during the years when Mongolians fought for restoration of our freedom and independence, and during the tense days of democratic revolution too.
International law views the neutrality status quo in two main categories. This status classification purely depends on the decisions and proclamations a neutral state undertakes. There is a neutrality status quo in wartime. There is also a permanent neutrality status quo. There can also be active and inactive neutrality. So how the policy is named, so the content is defined. And there are certain treaties and agreements in international relations that define the policy essence and principles.
As far as Mongolia is concerned, it is true that Mongolia did not declare herself "as a permanently neutral state". Yet in substance, form and action our foreign policy is fully coherent with the principles of neutral foreign policy. And it's commendable that our national laws and the international treaties and agreements that Mongolia is signatory to are consistent with the neutrality principles. More specifically, Mongolia's neutrality is delicately reflected in the very letter and spirit of the agreements and treaties we concluded with our neighboring states.
When contemplating on and discussing Mongolia's neutrality policy we must first of all consider the following factors.
One: Since Mongolia adopted her new democratic Constitution Mongolia has actively pursued neutral in substance policies. However, we are yet to declare it, in form. The process of shaping and validating this policy is now only a matter of time.
Two: The history Mongolia has authored, our geographic location, the uniqueness of our chosen path of development are congruent with the spirit and principles of neutralism. Neutrality enables a country to maintain equal and balanced international relations. Other states and international organizations respect such a status quo of a neutral state.
Three: The state of international affairs and International order change over time. Yet the neutral policies and actions do sustain over the course of time. For the state which upholds neutrality preserves the full power to amend, renew or abandon its neutralist policy.
What does "Permanent Neutrality" mean? A permanent neutrality is a policy whereby a sovereign state declares itself to be neutral toward the belligerents during wartime and maintain neutrality in time of peace. In the event a neutral state is attacked by external aggression, it has a full right for defense. At the same time, it voluntarily assumes a duty not to wage and join wars. A permanently neutral state reserves a power to have its own army and troops. And this very right serves as the assurance of the immunity of its neutrality. A classical representative of a permanently neutral state, Switzerland, is considered to have Europe's most capable army with high maneuver skills. And the founding concepts of Mongolia's defense concepts are consonant with neutralism.
The territorial immunity of a neutral state is re-assured by international law. This includes both air and water borders too. It is prohibited for belligerent troops to conduct war on the territories of a neutral state. Also a neutral state has the power to not let the transportation of belligerent armies' personnel, arms and war materials across its territory. Permanent neutrality also has certain implications for nuclear weapons issue and the country's membership in any military alliance.
In this way the core principle of neutrality is formulated and implemented. Even so, the form of actions and implementation of this policy depends directly on the state which declares neutrality. And the interpretation is the same. Put shortly, the state declaring neutrality has the right to even narrowly define or set certain boundaries and constraints over its neutral powers, and expound and declare this policy. On the other hand, the quality of the neutrality of the state also depends on its international reputation and how active the country is on international stage.
It is not necessary for a state to seek support from any particular country or international organization to validate its neutrality status quo. Yet in international relations, a country which declares neutrality is recognized and even registered as such. But obviously any such state would aspire to achieve understanding, recognition and support from its neighboring states, other countries and international organizations. Our forefathers and fathers have always maintained dignity and temperance in any matter. Inheriting this ancestral quality, we shall hold equally high and honor the UN and our own Charter in our aspirations in the new era.
Unity, continuity and clarity of Mongolia's foreign policy are at the heart of Mongolia's interests and benefits. Neutrality is a universally recognized tool useful for us, the Mongolians, to harness and build upon our existing potentials on one hand, and to pursue active, flexible relations with other countries, on the other hand. This may also be seen a universal value, a collective human experience. And an opportunity for Mongolia. Opportunities are rare. Values evolve slowly. Handy here would come our persistence and consistency. Inarguably, that status of ours will help invigorate many policies, initiatives and actions centered on Mongolia.
Mongolia as a permanent neutral state. I think, further discussions and deliberations on this topic, and achieving and implementing certain decisions will be consistent with Mongolia's interests and benefits. I have briefly explored on the definition, legal status and some other related aspects in a separate note, referenced to this article. May good deeds prosper. May my Mongolia dwell eternally.
U.S. - Mongolia Consultations Focus on Lasting Partnerships
September 9 (U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar) The Annual Bilateral Consultations (ABCs) between the Governments of Mongolia and the United States were held September 8 at the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ulaanbaatar. Daniel R. Russel, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, led the U.S delegation, which also included Deputy Assistant Secretary Susan Thornton. D. Gankhuyag, State Secretary of the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led the Mongolian government delegation at the talks.
The United States and Mongolia discussed economic and commercial ties, U.S. support for Mongolia's peacekeeping efforts, and regional security. Assistant Secretary Russel noted that this year's ABCs were especially important because they occurred after the revival of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks. The U.S. delegation also expressed its support for Mongolia's 25 years of democratic progress and its commitment to being a role model for developing democracies.
Saikhanbileg becomes first Mongolia PM to attend Summer Davos
September 11 (infomongolia.com) The Prime Minister of Mongolia, Mr. Ch.Saikhanbileg is attending the Summer Davos Meeting in Dalian city of China on September 09-11, 2015.
On September 10, Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg had a business meeting with the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Professor Klaus Schwab. Minister for Energy of Mongolia D.Zorigt, MP D.Sumiyabazar, Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister B.Delgermaa and other accompanying businessmen and officials were in attendance at the meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, PM Ch.Saikhanbileg said: "Mongolia has tight relation and close collaboration with the World Economic Forum. President Ts.Elbegdorj has been attending Winter Davos Meeting as an honorable guest every time. We can consider it as a sign of tight collaboration. In addition, the Summer Davos Meeting is important to Mongolia as it will help our government to find suitable economic development plan for our country."
In response Professor Klaus Schwab stressed that PM Ch.Saikhanbileg becomes the first ever Mongolian Prime Minister to attend the Summer Davos Meeting since its start in 2007. Furthermore, Professor Klaus Schwab said: "The visit of Prime Minister shows that how much importance Mongolia gives to our Summer Davos Meeting and I am grateful that Prime Minister Saikhanbileg attending it."
The Summer Davos Meeting has been organized in Tianjin and Dalian cities of China since 2007. This year, 1,500 guests such as media agencies, government and business delegations from 90 countries are attending the Summer Davos Meeting.
Around 160 sessions on topics such as science, information technology development, its influence to the economy and society, world economy situation, depletion of natural resources, growth of the Chinese economy will be held at Summer Davos Meeting.
Premier Ch.Saikhanbileg meets WEF executive chairman – Montsame, September 11
PM Ch.Saikhanbileg participates as panelist at The Modern Silk Road panel at Dalian
September 11 (gogo.mn) Annual Meeting of The New Champions 2015 is being held in Dalian, China these days. Mongolian Prime Minister Saikhanbileg Chimed, participated as a panelist at The Modern Silk Road panel.
The Panel discussed the impact of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Silk Road Fund and other China-led global institutions on the region and the world. Addressing the dimensions:
- Future of multilateral development lending
- Potential of infrastructure projects
- Impact of geo-economic competition
PM emphasized on the initiatives such as Silk Road of China, Steppe Road of Mongolian and Economic Corridor of Russia. As Mongolia is located between the two big markets and is landlocked, it supports the Silk Road initiative of the three countries. Moreover, PM talked on the previous meetings held in Ufa, Russia, on developing the Steppe Road, Silk Road Economic Zone and Eurasian Economic Association.
During the panel PM Ch.Saikhanbileg noted on the potentials of the Silk Road as being the closest route to connect the Asia and Europe, therefore, how Mongolia can play crucial part in building infrastructures such as railroads, highways, energy lines, natural gas and oil pipes. Moreover, how such initiatives can boost the development of the regions in Mongolia and drive its economic growth.
Panelists of The Modern Silk Road were James Harding, Director, BBC News and Current Affairs, BBC News, Mustapa Mohamed, Minister of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia, Benedikt Sobotka, Chief Executive Officer, Eurasian Resources Group Sàrl, Wu Xinbo, Executive Dean, Institute of International Studies, Fudan University, Irakli Garibashvili,Prime Minister of Georgia and Chen Guogang Vice-President, China Minsheng Investment Corp., Ltd.
Ch.Saikhanbileg attends "Modern Silk Road" sub-forum – Montsame, September 11
Saikhanbileg talks exporting $1 billion meat to China with Li Keqiang
Ulaanbaatar, September 11 (MONTSAME) Within a working visit to China, the Prime Minister of Mongolia Mr Ch.Saikhanbileg Thursday held an official meeting with Mr Li Keqiang, the Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China (PRC).
The parties have exchanged views on the Mongolia-China relations and the economic and trade cooperation, and discussed issues of intensifying a course of joint big projects being implemented in the infrastructure and energy sectors. Moreover, the Mongolian side has put forward a proposal to supply meat and meat products costing USD 1 billion to China, and then sides considered as necessity to realize this proposal.
"China agreed with Mongolia to give a soft-loan of USD 1 billion during a visit of the PRC President Mr Xi Jinping to Mongolia in 2014. In accordance with this, the government of Mongolia has decided to finance the biggest projects with the soft-loan, and the China's side set a condition for Mongolia to finance 15% of the projects, while the 85% of it will be financed by the China's side with 2 per cent interest in a period of 20 years," Mr Saikhanbileg said, and then asked the China's side to prolong this period to 30 years.
The sides also discussed matters on augmenting a size of the Swap agreement between the Bank of Mongolia and the People's Bank of China, and then related bodies of the countries concurred to hold talks on facilitating the soft-loan of China.
Premier talks expanding ties with Georgian counterpart
Ulaanbaatar, September 11 (MONTSAME) In frames of the Summer Davos Forum in Dalian city of China, the Prime Minister of Mongolia Mr Saikhanbileg has met with his counterpart of Georgia Mr Irakli Garibashvili.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mr Saikhanbileg emphasized Mongolia and Georgia have long-year friendly relations, and highlighted Mongolians love drinking Georgian green tea.
In turn, Mr Garibashvili underlined that state visits are important for the bilateral relations, and expressed a willingness to visit Mongolia as the Prime Minister.
The sides exchanged views on a chance of expanding the economic cooperation between the countries.
Foreign Minister Purevsuren to pay official visit to Russia, September 10-11
September 9 (infomongolia.com) The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, Mr. Lundeg PUREVSUREN will pay an official visit to Russian Federation on September 10-11, 2015, at the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation, Mr. Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov.
During the visit, Foreign Minister L.Purevsuren will have official discussions with Russian counterpart, Minister S.V.Lavrov, and will meet the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation and head of Russian part of the Russia-Mongolia Intergovernmental commission on trade, economy, science and technical cooperation, Mr. S.Ye.Donskoy, and Minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, Mr. A.N.Tkachyov.
During offical talks Minister L.Purevsuren will discuss current state of Mongolian-Russian strategic partnership and cooperation, new opportunities of development of these relations, advancement of some previously discussed matters, exchange opinions and information on cooperation in regional and international levels.
New Mongolian Ambassador presents credentials to Poland President
Ulaanbaatar, September 11 (MONTSAME) The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Poland Mr N.Bataa presented his diplomatic credentials to Mr Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland on September 7, 2015 in Warsaw.
After the presentation, the Poland's President received Mr Bataa, congratulating him on becoming the Ambassador to Poland and conveying his greetings to the President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj.
Mentioning that Mongolia has created a favorable legal condition for domestic and foreign investors after passing the new law on investments, Mr Bataa urged the Polish side to collaborate with Mongolia not only in the mining sector, but also in animal husbandry, land farming, infrastructure and industry of wool and cashmere products.
The Ambassador said he is hopeful the Polish side will open its diplomatic mission in Mongolia in near future in order to expand the business and inter-citizen ties.
The President of Poland Mr Duda said he will back developing and widening the bilateral cooperation in economy, business and cultural spheres.
Besides the Mongolia-Poland relations and cooperation, the sides exchanged views on the bilateral cooperation at an international arena and in the peacekeeping operation, supporting each other within the United Nations and other opportunities for collaboration.
Mr Bataa has become the very first Ambassador to Poland to present the diplomatic credentials to the new President of Poland who took the duties on August 6, 2015.
U.K. Embassy to Host GREAT British Fair, September 18, National Amusement Park
The Great British Fair will be held at the National Amusement Park - Black Pearl Ship on September 18, 2015 to promote British culture and strengthen the relationship between two countries.
The fair will include many activities including tasting of famous English cuisines, fun games, music concerts and exhibition of British companies. Don't miss a chance to learn more about Great Britain's culture, history, and also business opportunities.
The following companies will attend the exhibit:
1 Oyu Tolgoi LLC
2 British School of Ulaanbaatar
3 Gradon Architecture
6 Anglo American
8 Hogan lovells
9 PG Perkins
10 Study UK
11 Wagner Asia
12 Double Check Translation
14 Mother Care
15 Akuma (PG tea)
16 Mary&Martha Mongolia
17 Start Right shoes
18 Succedu LLC
19 Oxford Business Group
21 Master shoes
23 Nomiin Khishig LLC
24 Smylie Limited
25 The Wild Camel Foundation
26 ZSL London Zoo
28 NLCS Jeju
29 Bath Ales
30 English School of Mongolia
Detailed programme will be provided shortly.
Mogi: save it from yourselves first before you blame Mongolia for what you yourselves have done to Lake Baikal.
Saving Lake Baikal from Mongolia's Dam(n) Plans
By Nezir Sinani, Safeguards Campaign Coordinator at Bank Information Center
September 10 (Huffington Post) Lake Baikal is the largest, deepest, and oldest freshwater lake in the world, containing roughly 20 percent of the world's unfrozen surface fresh water. It is so large that it contains more water than all of the North American Great Lakes combined. Baikal is estimated to be over 25 million years old and 5,387 feet deep. In 1996, UNESCO inscribed Lake Baikal into the World Heritage List, describing it as "the most outstanding example of a freshwater ecosystem on the basis of natural criteria." Baikal hosts more than 1,000 species of plants and 2,500 species of animals, and new species are discovered every year. 80 percent of the animals are endemic, found only in Lake Baikal.
According to these groups, plans for massive hydropower development will result in irreversible environmental impacts on the Selenga river basin and Lake Baikal, and will also have significant socio-economic impacts on the communities who depend upon these resources. By disrupting the river flow, changing the natural seasonal cycles, reducing flow volumes in dry periods and blocking the flow of sediments, these dams will bring about degradation of critical habitats. These include river floodplains, the Selenga Delta Ramsar wetland and the Lake Baikal UNESCO World Heritage Site. Endemic species, such as the Baikal Sturgeon and the nerpa, listed under Bonn Convention, could go extinct. Local pastoral communities will be displaced from river valleys and traditional fishermen deprived of their catch.
Banks Competing to Have a Piece of Cake
World Heritage Committee Alarms Ring
In July 2015, the World Heritage Committee (WHC) met to discuss the impact of dams on Lake Baikal. This Committee issued a decision that calls on Mongolia to avoid approving any new dams until Environment Impact Assessments are carried out for all project-related activities. Additionally, WHC called for a robust cumulative impact assessment to be completed by the World Heritage Center and IUCN before deciding on new dams, and that Mongolia and Russia "jointly develop a Strategic Environmental Assessment for any future hydro power and water management projects."
Lake Baikal, as a World Heritage site, should be off limits to any economic activities that may negatively affect designated sites, even under the banners of "development" or "carbon emission reductions." Development should not come at such a high cost to one of the world's rarest and most critical natural habitats. Saving Lake Baikal should not be only a mission for environmentalists and communities' whose lives depend on it: it should be a priority of the Mongolian government and its financial supporters. It is time for both to stop ticking the boxes for destructive dam projects to come to life.
Book on President Ho Chi Minh unveiled in Mongolia
September 10 (VNA) A Mongolian language book on the career of late Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh was unveiled in Mongolia's capital city of Ulaanbaatar on September 9.
Vietnamese Ambassador to Mongolia Phan Dang Duong appreciated efforts by the book's author, Sonomish Dashtsevel, who has spent his entire life researching the land, people and culture of Vietnam.
Sonomish Dashtsevel has translated a number of Vietnamese works of literature into Mongolian, including "Truyen Kieu" (the Tale of Kieu) by Nguyen Du and "Nhat ky trong tu" (Prison Diary) by Ho Chi Minh.
Duong said the life and career of Ho Chi Minh are closely attached to Vietnam's glorious revolution, the Vietnamese nation and peace lovers around the globe. The leader is not only the Hero of National Liberation and an Eminent Personality in the Culture of the world but also a close friend of the Mongolian people. He and the late Mongolian leader Yu. Tsedenbal laid the foundation for the friendship between the two countries.
The diplomat thanked Dashtsevel and scientists of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences for publishing the book, which he said will help the Mongolian people, especially the younger generation, gain an insight into the life of the late Vietnamese President.
Meanwhile, local scholars said the book is both a valuable work and a friendship bridge linking the two countries' peoples, thus helping bolster the amity and traditional cooperation between Vietnam and Mongolia.
Mongolian students studying abroad to give free English lessons in Ulaanbaatar
September 11 (news.mn) The "Mongolian Student Youth Federation in Foreign Universities" claimed that they are going to teach English to the 1800 citizens of the Ulaanbaatar free.
Approximately, 100 students, who study abroad prepared, to provide English knowledge via the "District with English Language -2015" project. In framework of the project, they will teach to the 1800 citizens. Their studying programs have three levels: elementary, intermediate, and upper mediate. In order to select the students, 10.000 lottery will be delivered to the people, through the every housing committee (khoroo) of the nine districts. After this,1800 people will be chosen. The English classes will start from 1st October to the 15th November. Every level will have 48 hours curriculum at the hours between at 10.00-20.00.
In addition, "Mongolian Student Youth Federation in Foreign Universities" has organized the programs, namely: "Dormitory with English Language" and "Province with English Language" since January 2015. In these programs, 5000 students, 15000 citizens of the 18 provinces have involved.
Clement Med's "Portable Hospitals"
September 11 (news.mn) Since May 2015 new standard emergency vehicles have been operating in Mongolia. The initiator of this new service, Consultant Dr B.Erdenebulgan (PhD) of the "Clement Med Hospital" provided some information about these vehicles, which have been named "Portable Hospitals". These vehicles are equipped with the diagnosis and medication apparatus, for example, various monitors (ECHO etc). The vehicles are also capable of providing the results of the blood, urine, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C virus tests. In addition helicon bacterium and bio-chemic tests can also be conducted on the spot. Other tests can be conducted in the vehicles – but the diagnosis can only be conducted in a specialised laboratory. The result of such tests can be obtained via the www.shinjilgee.mn site. In other words, these vehicles have the ability to conduct tests, except MRI, X-Ray, Scope test, or Computer Tomography which requires specialised static equipment.
New Brucellosis Laboratory Improves Mongolia's Veterinary Diagnostic Capacity
Ulaanbaatar, September 9 (MONTSAME) A Livestock Reference Laboratory for Brucellosis opened at the Mongolian State Central Veterinary Laboratory on September 3, 2015 will improve the country's capacity to diagnose the disease in animals in line with international standards, the website of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) said Wednesday.
Bacteriologist J. Monkhgerel explains the functions of equipment at the newly established laboratory for brucellosis.
"We are now able to diagnose livestock brucellosis at world standards" said State Central Veterinary Laboratory Director Ch. Ganzorig. "This means we are making a step forward in improving food security for consumers and are safeguarding public health issues,"
Money of MNT 200 million (CHF 100,000) laboratory was backed with international expertise and trainings for laboratory staff.
"We received numerous trainings by international experts on using the cutting-edge technologies and equipment in brucellosis diagnosis thanks to support from the Swiss-funded Animal Health Project," said J. Monkhgerel.
Ms Monkhgerel said the state-of-art diagnosis of brucellosis would help to improve the national brucellosis control strategy. "It will also help to eliminate human brucellosis in the future,"
SDC in Mongolia's Head of Programme Daniel Valenghi said: "It is a part of the technical assistance from the Swiss Government to Mongolia in reforming the veterinary sector. With the collaboration in improving Mongolia's diagnostic system, we envision a dramatic drop in the incidence of human brucellosis, which is currently about five percent of the entire population,"
UN Health Experts Look to Expand Assistance in Preventing NCDs
Ulaanbaatar, September 9 (MONTSAME) Chief advisor to the Speaker of parliament S.Lambaa Tuesday met members of the UN joint team led by Ms Dr Carmen Audera-Lopez, an expert of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Thanking Mr Lambaa for an audience, the WHO expert said that the UN joint team is visiting here with aims to implement a global strategic plan on non-infectious diseases and to expand technical assistance to Mongolia for reducing and preventing non-infectious diseases in Mongolia.
Ms Audera-Lopez pointed out that the UN team has included officials and professionals from the UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, FAO and WHO, and they intend to focus attention to ongoing measures in other areas for reducing non-infectious diseases in Mongolia such as tobacco control, impact of alcoholism, traffic safety; measures for health, their risks and factors. They aim to intensify works of regulating activities among organizations and creating a fund for realizing it, she added.
Mr Lambaa mentioned that a new version of the law on tobacco control was passed by parliament in 2012, and Mongolia has commenced several works to combat smoking. He put forward some specific proposals to the UN to reduce non-infectious diseases and running activities for prevention.
2nd Annual Social Good Summit Mongolia to Be Held September 26
Ulaanbaatar, September 8 (MONTSAME) The UNFPA and UNDP Mongolia in cooperation with local partners and youth organizations will host the 2nd annual Social Good Summit Mongolia which is a part of global discussion examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world, on September 26 in National IT Park.
This year's Social Good Summit will explore how young people in Mongolia can contribute to the achievement of the new Sustainable Development Goals using innovation, technology and new media.
The Social Good Summit is a two-day conference examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world. Held during UN Week from September 27-28, the Social Good Summit unites a dynamic community of global leaders and grassroots activists to discuss solutions for the greatest challenges of our time.
Social Good Summit Mongolia 2015 will bring Mongolia's most creative and engaged young people together with national leaders to discuss challenges for Mongolia in the years ahead and to collectively commit to the innovations, engagement and social enterprises that will help contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This dynamic event will bring together a mix of civil society leaders, grassroot activists, IT and social media experts and influencers, representatives of government, academia, private sector and media.
The event will revolve around the three main topics: health; environment; and education and opportunities. All topics will be discussed in relation to main cross-cutting issues: Youth, technology and sustainable development goals.
Mongolia's largest collection of fridge magnets: 4,000 from 95 countries
September 9 (gogo.mn) Almost every household has magnets on their fridges.
There are many who would buy a fridge magnet from their trips abroad as a reminder of a memorable trip, whether it was a work trip or a vacation. Even there are ones who would collect the magnets and expand their collection with the help of their friends and family contributing to their collections.
One of those is Ch.Otgonbaatar, owner of the largest magnet collection in Mongolia.
He has been the keen collector for the past 50 years of the stamps, bank notes of 150 countries, newspapers and sports magazines. Even he has the collection of toothpaste boxes. He started the collection of sports magazine since 1970s in his students years.
"I came from Moscow where I have spent my student years with 20 boxes of magazines and my other collections, while other Mongolian students would have come back with furniture for their homes. Unfortunately, extensive part of my collection has been lost throughout the years with moving from one place to another."
On Mongolia's deserts an ancient competition for water resumes
September 8 (Smithsonian Science News) If you were dumped into the middle of a desert, your first instinct would be to look for water—it is, after all, the stuff of life. You might even bully other competitors for that water, and that's exactly what one species of horse did when it was reintroduced into an area where it had roamed free for thousands of years.
Przewalski's horses or P-horses, as scientists call them are the world's only true wild horse species; they went extinct in the wild nearly 50 years ago. Through aggressive captive breeding programs using descendants of horses captured for zoos at the turn of the 20th century, Przewalski's horses were reintroduced to several sites in China and Mongolia, including the Kalamaili Nature Reserve in Xinjiang. Since the first horses were released in 2001, scientists in Xinjiang have been tracking their progress.
In an area that receives less than seven inches of rainfall annually, access to water is the trump card for survival.
In the Kalamaili, several horses didn't live through their first winter and the Xinjiang Forestry Department decided to round up and feed the remaining horses during the winter seasons. Project leaders asked for help from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in satellite tracking the horses and studying the ecosystem to better understand the horses' ecology and habitat requirements.
Melissa Songer and Peter Leimgruber, conservation biologists with SCBI, have worked with Przewalski's horses for more than nine years. Their objective was to develop a scientific framework to reintroduce and move the horses back into full, year-round release.
Songer and Leimgruber became interested in assessing the horses' interactions with another native wild equine, the closely related khulan or Mongolian wild ass. They wanted to know if competition for water with species like khulan may have been a contributing factor to their earlier decline.
"We didn't know what to expect since they've been out of the wild for a long time," Songer says. "Now, these two equid species that used to co-exist are coming back together, and it was a great opportunity to look at the competition between the two species."
In areas where water is more abundant, khulan and reintroduced P-horses drink together without conflict. In Xinjiang, where water is scarce or limited, motion-triggered cameras revealed that P-horses shifted the khulan's behavior from mostly daytime drinking visits to nighttime visits. The scientists were surprised to see khulan behavior so significantly affected by the P-horse presence.
Though P-horses occupied extremely arid habitats prior to their extinction, some scientists think they originally evolved to live in wetter, greener areas. "Many also assumed they would be more similar to domestic horses," Songer says. "The challenge has been that they disappeared before any significant ecological research had been done."
The horses drink frequently during the day to help cope with the punishing heat of the high desert where they now live. Silk Road travelers called them "the wild horse living by the water" and recent GPS tracking studies have verified that P-horses never stray far from reliable fresh water sources.
Yet, pushed to increasingly inhospitable areas by competition with humans and other animals, Przewalski's horses were forced to adapt to survive.
P-horses' aggressive defense of high-quality water sites also forced khulan to use poor-quality watering holes, and, because khulan are people-averse, they avoided better watering sites in proximity to human residences (in this study, a park ranger station.) Khulan waited until nightfall to share the P-horses' favored watering holes, or used more distant, low-quality water source with salinity as high as 10 percent. The average salinity of oceans worldwide is around 3.5 percent.
Smaller and slimmer, khulan don't require as much water as the taller, stockier P-horses, and so are better adapted to desert environments. Scientists think khulan can tolerate saltier water in part by restricting their daytime activity.
"In terms of their evolution, they seem to have evolved in these drier environments, as opposed to the P-horses, which evolved in mesic (wetter) environments," Songer says. "The P-horses were forced into this area. It's not prime habitat for them, and drinking during the day isn't ideal. So we think they're adapting behaviorally."
Looking at the nature of the competition—or cooperation—between the two horse species for food and water resources is helpful in knowing how to help Przewalski's horses thrive in the future.
"Part of doing this reintroduction is learning what works and what doesn't," Songer says. "Before Przewalski's horses went extinct in the wild, there hadn't been a lot of ecological research done, so we were interested to see what would happen here."
Last days: the Mongolian nomads whose way of life is lost to climate change – in pictures
Climate change is threatening the nomadic lifestyle in Mongolia, with 90% of the landscape degrading into desert. Photographer Daesung Lee shows the nomads trapped between their fertile present and their arid future
September 1 (The Guardian) --
Mongolia's S.Battsetseg claims second world wrestling title
September 11 (gogo.mn) Battsetseg Soronzonbold qualified for the finals she has secured the olympic qualification and was set to wrestle for gold.
At her wrestling match for the finals she has defeated her opponent Risako Kawai, Japan and two times Champion at Junior World Championship.
This is the 50th medal in the history of wrestling in Mongolia and the second gold from the World Championship for S.Battsetseg.
S.Battsetseg won gold medal in 2010 from the World Championship, bronze medal from 2012 London Olympics, silver medal from 2013 World Championship and gold medal from 2015 World Championship.
She proves the title of a World Champion for the second time after 5 years.
S.Battsetseg becomes twice World Champion in wrestling – Montsame, September 11
Mongolia-born U.Ermek becomes Asian Weightlifting Champion
September 10 (gogo.mn) Ermek Umirtai, born and raised in Mongolia, claims gold medal n the 2015 Asian Weightlifting Championships in Phuket, Thailand.
U.Ermek competes as a member of Kazakhstan National Team, wins the title of Asian Champion by lifting 161 kg in the snatch, 203 kg in the clean and lifting total of 203 kg.
He was born in 1992 in Bayan-Ulgii aimag and is a grandsonson of a prominent athlete Darivkhaan, who is behind the national weightlifting records during 1960s and 1970s.
U.Ermek, claimed bronze medal from 2011 Youth Asian Championship and is a Sports Master of Kazakhstan.
Mongolia wins 2 cups, 13 medals at Human Calculator competition
September 8 (gogo.mn) Mongolian Intelligence Academy athletes have successfully participated in Human Calculator competition held in Ankara, turkey by winning 2 Cups and 13 medals.
Competitions had two segments of fast calculating and soroban. Mongolian athletes have won medals from the first day of competitions out of total 256 competitors in the soroban segment and B.Khangal placed in best three.
Second day was held among the 87 athletes without age difference in fast calculating segment featuring the Falsh Anzan, Root calculation and other techniques. Mongolians have won number of medal sets as well.
Kh.Khatanbaatar, Board Director of Mongolian Intelligence Academy, has was in the Human Calendar competition.
Mongolia puts faith in futsal
September 9 (FIFA.com) One of football's most formidable adversaries is of course the climate, and there can be few better examples than Mongolia. Landlocked between China and Russia in central-east Asia, its winters can last up to six months and generate temperatures as low as -45 C°. In fact, no other country has a lower annual mean temperature.
However, these climatic challenges have not discouraged the Football Federation of Mongolia (FFM), which has been working diligently since its re-establishment in 1997 to develop the game in its country. The project has at its core a long-term strategic plan, in which futsal has a key role for the simple reason that it can be played all year round.
Futsal in Mongolia was given a significant boost 2011, when, with the assistance of FIFA'sGoal Projects 3 and 4, the country's first futsal arena was inaugurated. Since then, and with the continued backing of FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the FFM has held six futsal courses in Mongolia, laying the foundations for both the organisation of tournaments and the national team infrastructure.
An historic moment
In that context, Mongolian futsal will celebrate a very significant milestone this November, when it hosts the Eastern Zone Qualifiers of the Asian Futsal Championship. At the tournament, China PR, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong and Korea Republic will vie with the hosts for two berths at the final phase of the continental championship, which in turn will decide the AFC's five representatives at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016.
"Developing football and futsal in a measured way is one of the priorities of our strategic plan for 2012-2022," Mongoljingoo Sodgerel, a member of the FFM's Department of Development and International Relations, told FIFA.com.
"With this goal in mind, it would be immensely beneficial if we could compete at a Futsal World Cup. And while we envisage a good performance in the qualifiers for 2016, we expect to see the results for the 2020 edition. We have a generation of talented youngsters, and we're doing everything in our power to ensure they continue developing."
The national team was still in its infancy in 2011 when Mongolia first participated in the preliminary round of qualifiers for a Futsal World Cup. On that occasion they lost their two games against Korea Republic (5-1) and Hong Kong (3-0), finishing bottom of their group on the road to Thailand 2012. The decision not to take part in the qualifiers for the 2014 Asian Championship was not so much a step backwards as a means of allocating resources with a view to the future.
One aspect of that plan was a series of courses and seminars aimed at training referees and coaches. With these in place, it was then possible to organise futsal tournaments at school level for all age categories, including girls. At the same time, the FFM began staging its two official annual competitions, the Futsal Cup, featuring eight professional clubs, and the City Cup, for which 12 amateur teams compete. In this way, the federation began to see an increase in number of players practicing the sport outside of winter.
At national level, the FFM have continued the process began in 2011, culminating in Erdede Ochi, the then assistant coach, being promoted to head coach. Looking ahead to the November qualifiers, Ochi was frank and realistic when he spoke to FIFA.com. "The overall standard in the region is very high, and it'd be great if we got to compete with such powerful teams as Japan, Iran, Thailand, Kuwait and Uzbekistan. In my opinion, Japan are even contenders for the world title. However, we know it'll be very difficult to get a chance to face them, but we'll give it everything."
For Sodgerel, hosting the Eastern Zone Qualifiers will leave a legacy beyond that of the team's results. "We're very proud to be organising the event, not just because of everything we've had to do to get to this point, but because the public will get to see the national team play important matches in their own country. This will have a significant impact on football in general and futsal in particular, at all levels," he concluded.
Kendo instructor G.Naranbold: One moment, last chance...
September 11 (gogo.mn) --
Position: Instructor at UB Кендо Club
Years practicing: Five
Kendo established in Mongolia: 1999
Kendo clubs: Ulaanbaatar Kendo, Mongol Club
"Japanese have developed kendo as cultural heritage in order to recover the tradition..."
Kendo is spread to over 100 countries and has been established back in 11-12th centuries and the development was at its peak during 13-15th centuries. Kendo ( lit."sword way") is a modern Japanese martial art, which descended from swordsmanship. It is believed that judo, karate, aikido and kendo have the same origins. While kendo has kept the traditional swordmanship. Kendo (along with other martial arts) was banned in Japan in 1946 by the occupying powers, in response to the wartime militarisation of martial arts instruction in Japan. immediately after Japan's independence was restored and the ban on martial arts in Japan was lifted. It was formed on the principle of kendo not as a martial art but as educational sport, and it has continued to be practiced as such to this day. Japanese have developed kendo as cultural heritage and recovered the tradition.
Sport for Tomorrow programme provides support to the development of sport in Mongolia
September 7 (Sport for Tomorrow Consortium) The Sport for Tomorrow programme, a Japanese government-initiated programme to promote international cooperation through sport, extended support to the development of sport in Mongolia, including a project to assist the Mongolian Special Olympics table tennis team, which qualified for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games.
The Sport for Tomorrow project in Mongolia has provided equipment to approximately 1,400 students in four special schools in Ulan Bator. This has resulted in many local children, who had been required to travel to other venues to play sport, now being able to play sport at their own schools and enjoy the benefits of sport on a daily basis.
This support project was organised by three member companies of the Sport for Tomorrow Consortium: the Japan Table Tennis Association, table tennis equipment maker Nippon Takkyu Co., Ltd., and athletic equipment and sportswear company ASICS. The Sport for Tomorrow programme aims to bring together public and private sector organisations to collaborate on a variety of projects by launching the Sport for Tomorrow Consortium that plays a key role in facilitating member organisation collaborations. This project is a prime example of a successful collaboration that the Consortium was set up to achieve.
The project began as a response to a request for assistance from the Autism Association of Mongolia, a local NGO that supports autistic children and their parents. Sport for Tomorrow Consortium member the Japan Table Tennis Association, contacted Nippon Takkyu Co., Ltd. and ASICS with a view to working together on the project, and both companies readily agreed. Nippon Takkyu Co., Ltd. donated several items of equipment and provided other equipment at discounted rates, while ASICS donated equipment, raised funds to cover export fees and provided uniforms for the members of the Mongolian Special Olympics team that took part in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games at Los Angeles, America.
This support also encompassed the enhancement of the overall domestic sports environment for table tennis in Mongolia. Together, the Autism Association of Mongolia, Japan's governing body for table tennis, and two Japanese private sector companies were able to form a private-public initiative to provide assistance that transcended mere business interests.
On 25 July 2015, the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games were officially opened in Los Angeles, with approximately 7,000 athletes from 177 countries taking part. Four Mongolian table tennis players, proudly wearing their ASICS-donated national uniforms, also participated in the Games, obtaining a gold, silver and bronze medal.
Altangerel Lkhagvajav, executive officer of the Autism Association of Mongolia, was delighted with the result of the Sport for Tomorrow project: "We really appreciate everyone's efforts to respond to our request for table-tennis tables for our special schools, as well as the Olympic standard equipment and the team uniforms. Of course, the coaching and practice sessions were important, but I think that being able to practice on Olympic standard table-tennis tables was particularly effective. Now that we have outstanding training facilities, we are determined to expand the scope of our activities and aim for more medals in the future."
Motoi Oyama, President and CEO of ASICS remarked, "The project brought together private sector companies, sport federations, NGOs, universities and local governments, and provided an excellent platform for us to make a meaningful contribution to the international community through sport. We look forward to the opportunity of being able to contribute to sports further in the lead up to 2020."
Mongol Rally: The Race That Never Ends
September 10 (MOTHERBOARD) Mongolia! After weeks of driving and months of planning, we made it, and it was even more desolate and amazing than we could ever have dreamed.
We crossed into Mongolia from Russia and were immediately presented with a fork in the road. There were two choices for crossing the country: a northern route through the mountains with a major river crossing, or a southern route—the "easier" of the two—through the Gobi desert. We went south, but only after running into another Mongol Rally team from Italy who had turned back from the northern route after encountering treacherous roads and rivers swollen from recent rainstorms.
We expected to make great time across Mongolia, leaving plenty of opportunity to explore the country. The first hundred kilometers were promising; cruising at a cool 65 MPH along smooth tarmac, we were all excited. Then we met the true roads of Mongolia.
Imagine sitting in a tub of loose nuts and bolts vibrating on the paint-mixing machine at your local hardware store. For 12 hours a day. The bone-jarring shaking was so loud we were unable to talk with each other, or even hear ourselves think. Sometimes we would pull over and shut the car down just to have ten minutes of silence.
After nearly 8,000 kilometers of driving, the weakest point on our car was the suspension. A brief stop in Altai to repair the shocks and lower the torsion bars marginally reduced the effects of the terrain, but all we could really hope for was that the pavement would begin again.
In Bayankhongor, we finally saw the Mongolia we had dreamed of. Golden eagles used for hunting. Herds of camel 100 strong. Lots of sheep and goats. And the ever-elusive yak, which I declared the coolest looking animal there. It's like an uncoordinated cow with long bushy hair.
Other Mongol Rally stories:
Co Down pals raise thousands for Tiny Life after epic Mongolian Adventure – Belfast Live, September 7
September 7 (Munich's A Kind of Guide unveils their latest collection inspired by Mongolia and its football culture. Officially titled "FB Baganuur," the offerings consist of a unique juxtaposition of simple workwear silhouettes, sportswear-influenced cuts, sophisticated tailoring and elegant coats. With a long and ancient tradition of nomadic life in arid conditions, influeneced by the Russian and Chinese during its socialist period, the country continues to be changed even further thanks to the Westernized lifestyle of today. The brand's fictitious team and accompanying goods aim to capture this vivid contrast and while doing so, they may have just created their most luxurious collection to date.
Mongolian Songs in English Contest Announced
September 9 (news.mn) The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is planning to organize a competition entitled "Mongolian Song to the World", the purpose of which is to promote Mongolian national songs internationally. The competition will be undertaken in two phases. The participants can be Mongolians and also foreigners, who will sing modern Mongolian pop songs in English. The participants should upload their singing videos on YouTube, and register themselves on www.mecs.gov.mn before 5th October 2015.
Mogi: another season not shot in Mongolia
Marco Polo TV series finishes shooting in Slovakia
September 11 (The Slovak Spectator) US FILM studio The Weinstein Company finished filming on location in Slovakia for the second season of the television series Marco Polo in the Súľovské skaly mountains in Bytča district (Žilina Region) on September 9.
"The second season was shot in Hungary, Slovakia and Malaysia," said Slovak producer Dalibor Vašica, as quoted by the TASR newswire. "Eight weeks in Hungary, three weeks in Slovakia, ten weeks in Malaysia. It involves around 500-550 foreign and 100-150 Slovak crew members."
The filmmakers began shooting in the High Tatras at Sliezsky Dom mountain chalet, then moved to the Slovenský Raj National Park, and finally to the Súľovské skaly mountains, Vašica continued. They have not used only Slovak locations, but also Slovak construction, transportation and catering services and have stayed in more than 20 Slovak hotels.
The mountain chain of the High Tatras was arranged to resemble the Mongolian countryside.
"The story of the series takes place in Mongolia, and thus, everything in the Tatras must look like it is in Mongolia," one of the cameramen, Frenchman David Foquin, told the SITA newswire. He added that the film crew did not have to change the environment very much, as the region of the Tatras resembles, in a way, the zone of coniferous forests of the Siberian taiga, to which Mongolia stretches.
They tried to leave the scene as it is in reality, but sometimes they had to adjust it a bit so that it looked more like Mongolia, another cameraman, Steve de Rocco, said. He added that shooting in Slovakia was easier than, for example, in Kazakhstan, where the first season was made. Kazakhstan was much more demanding, especially regarding logistics. According to Foquin, they spent a lot of time travelling and moving around in Kazakhstan, as the distances are much greater than in Slovakia.
Some scenes also included wolves, which had already been used in Hungary. They were not a danger to people, however, as everything was under control and the shooting took place in a closed complex, Rocco explained.
Filmmakers were working for 12 hours a day, as shooting lasted only for a short time at the end of August. The hiking trails to and from Velická dolina valley were limited due to filming. Cameramen were surprised by the high temperatures in the mountains, but they evaluated the cooperation with Slovaks positively.
In the Súľovské skaly mountains, the scenes that were shot are also supposed to be located in Mongolia and China. The case includes people of about 20 nationalities from all over the world, including New Zealand, Australia, Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia.
"The second season will feature 10 episodes," said Vašica, as quoted by TASR.
The main cast includes Lorenzo Richelmy, Benedict Wong (known from Prometheus, Spy Games), Tom Wu (Skyfall) and Zhu Thu (Cloud Atlas). The second season's directors are Alik Sakharov and Dan Minahan (who also directed episodes of Game of Thrones, Dexter, The Sopranos, The Newsroom) and Jon Amiel. Director Sean Cameron Guest, who participated in several famous Hollywood movies (starring e.g. Pierce Brosnan, Nicolas Cage, Bruce Willis, and Catherine Zeta-Jones), also participated in the production and directing of this season.
"The foreign crew, which includes more than 350 people and 120 extras from 20 countries, was also in Vrátna dolina valley, Slovenský raj, Mengusovce and Hrabušice," Slovak service producer Dalibor Vašica told the Popradský Korzár, a regional newspaper..
Over the course of filming, the studio has invested more than €2.1 million in Slovakia (Mogi: hope we can bring this to Mongolia for Season 3). Thanks to this, it can apply for a subsidy through the Slovak Audio-visual Fund, Popradský Korzár wrote.
US filmmakers did not just use Slovak localities but also Slovak construction and transport companies, catering services, and more than 22 Slovak hotels. They may be aided financially thanks to the amendment to the law on the Audio-visual Fund, which enables the fund to render a retrospective subsidy of 20 percent to those film projects whose budget of justified expenses spent in Slovakia amounts to at least two million euros – mostly feature, documentary and animated audio-visual works meant for distribution to cinemas or TV broadcasting.
Review: Annaud's 'Wolf Totem,' Set in Inner Mongolia in the 1960s
September 10 (The New York Times) In "Wolf Totem," the French director Jean-Jacques Annaud, no stranger to animals ("The Bear") or turbulent Chinese history ("Seven Years in Tibet"), adapts a novel that grew into a controversial phenomenon in China. The book, written by a Beijing professor, Lu Jiamin, under the pseudonym Jiang Rong, was second in circulation only to Mao's little red book, according to a 2008 review in The New York Times.
The novel was received as a critique of Chinese modernization and environmental policies. The film, a Chinese production, reaches the screen with at least some sensitive material omitted. Characters seem carved from a much larger narrative. The landscape and painstakingly trained wolves are the true stars.
The story concerns Chen Zhen (Feng Shaofeng), a student who travels from Beijing to Inner Mongolia to teach during the Cultural Revolution. Entranced with the wolves there — whose behavior inspired Genghis Khan, the village leader tells him — Chen Zhen adopts a cub and raises it, sparing it from the orders of his superior, who wants the wolves culled.
In its tale of an outsider acclimating to a vanishing way of life, "Wolf Totem" sometimes recalls another sentimental wolf movie (the one in which Kevin Costner dances with them). But the work with actual animals offers an increasingly rare pleasure. Mr. Annaud makes subtle use of 3-D to highlight the crags and grasslands, aided by a swirling score from James Horner, who died in June.
"Wolf Totem" is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Lupine violence.
Bomanbridge Media to bring Korean dramas to Mongolia
MUMBAI, September 10 (IndianTelevision.com) Singapore-based production/distribution agency, Bomanbridge Media has acquired several popular Korean dramas to bring into Mongolia. The production house has closed deals with major Korean broadcasters like KBS and SBS to get broadcast rights of dramas like The Producers, Unkind Ladies, The Mask and The Gang Doctor, among others.
"Bomanbridge is strategically moving into developing Asian countries and we strongly believe in the growth of the Mongolian television landscape. Korean broadcasters such as KBS and SBS are well recognized brands, and increasingly around the globe, as top Korean producers of drama. As Mongolians have an increasing appetite for well-produced content, we are happy to deliver the best," said Bomanbridge Media CEO Sonia Fleck.
KBS sold the Mongolian rights to dramas The Producers starring Soo Hyun Kim, IU and Gong Yo Jin, Unkind Ladies: a drama series about four women of three generations trying to live their lives together, The Man in the Mask : a Korean version of The Legend of Zorro; and Who Are You – School 2015: A realistic teen drama.
SBS sold rights for four of its popular shows including Heard It Through the Grapevine, A Girl Who Can See Smell, The Mask, and The Gang Doctor.
Inspired by Zaya - D.Munkhbaatar, Image Consultant
September 9 (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.
With this episode we are introducing D.Munkhbaatar, most known as Mike, works in a very interesting field and does an image consulting. He has excellent taste, is intelligent and skilled as no one is. He is definitely one of the young representatives Mongolia should be proud of. I was ashamed by my poor English. Really proud of you Mike.
The full episode can be viewed here.
"Mother Earth" International Shaman Festival 2015, September 21-23
September 11 (gogo.mn) Shamanism is the most ancient belief among the mankind and you can see people still practicing shamanism almost at every corner of the earth. Mongolia is one of the biggest shamanic centres in the world with ancient traditions and rich heritage due to the nomadic culture that is about living in a solid harmony with the Mother Earth.
An international shamanic festival is being organised in Mongolia on 21-23 September and shamans and shamanesses from about 40 countries will participate. The festival consists of 2 parts, an academic conference in Ulaanbaatar and a ritual ceremony (includes a mini Naadam Festival) in Selenge province.
"The Mother Earth" International Shaman Festival Guideline
Purpose: "The Mother Earth" International scientific conference and shaman gathering is dedicated to share and spread the knowledge and skills of sustainable livelihood according to the law of nature.
Sep 21, 2015. "The Mother earth" scientific conference both shamans and scientific scholars are invited to make presentations within the theme "Air, Water, Soil". Since these three are the most basic elements of life, presentations are to compare the current situation (air pollution, climate change, mineral exploitation etc) with what they are supposed to be in order to efficiently support all life forms on earth.
Sep 22, 2015. "Dear mother earth" shamanic ceremony and rituals.
International shamanic ceremony to soothe and protect the mother earth will start at Horse hour (11.40) and continue till Dog hour (21.40). During the ceremony, terms such as 99 tengers, 5 continents (Lus, Savdag, Hurmast, Erleg, Tam), which are used in Mongolian shamanism, shall be explained and proper methods to approach them shall be introduced as were taught by Ancestors spirits. International attendance from France, Sweden, Mexico, Switzerland and Kazakhstan has been confirmed, and organizers are happy to host those shamans from other countries who are interested.
Sep 23, 2015. The World shamans who invited in this ceremony will practice their ceremony. Also mini Naadam Festival, consisted of traditional wrestling, archery and horse racing, to celebrate the successful completion of the ceremony, shall take place.
Date: September 21-23, 2015
Venue: Scientific conference in Ulaanbaatar city. Shamanic ceremony in Selenge aimag, near Noyon Mountain.
Registration: email@example.com. Web: www.tengermongolgazar.mn
Organizers: Mongol Tenger Unen NGO, Gerliin Urguu group; Co-organizers: World Shamanic Union
Sponsors: Governor's office of Mandal soum, Selenge aimag, Regional council of Selenge aimag
"The Mother Earth" Conference Program
For more info about the International Shama Festival please contact the organisers at firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com or call +976-8807-7002, more info can be obtained at their websitewww.tengermongolgazar.mn. And the organisers have also created an event on FaceBookhttps://www.facebook.com/events/923509074337875/
Photos are provided by the Organisers.
Prepared by Zola, General Manager of Mongolian Tourism Association for GoGo Travel. © All rights reserved 2015.
18 jaw-droppingly beautiful Mongolia moments
Nila Sweeney is a Sydney-based writer and photographer. A former CNN producer, Sweeney has written on a range of topics including personal finance, lifestyle and current affairs.
Mongolia (CNN) Mongolia is wild in every sense of the word.
With more than one third of its three million inhabitants living as nomads, Mongolia is one of the few countries where visitors can still experience a genuine nomadic lifestyle.
Mongolia's also the place where American adventurer Roy Chapman Andrews discovered unhatched dinosaur eggs among other significant finds in the 1920s.
How to Be a True Nomad: Milking Camels in Mongolia
September 10 (Yahoo Travel) This summer, I fulfilled a lifelong dream: visiting Mongolia. I'd read about Genghis Khan and his conquests for years and had always wanted to visit — a bucket list dream come true, if you will. I decided to do a road trip, as, 800 years after the Great Khan died, over one-third of the population still leads a nomadic lifestyle, living in gers (yurts), with their cattle (camels, cows, goats, and yaks) roaming the fields outside. Not much has changed over the years except for the method of transportation. In the older days, the ger would be wrapped up and put on a camel's back for the move to fertile fields, while today, it is loaded up on a truck.
And, as there are few hotels outside of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, one must rely on the Nomad Code to survive. Which basically means rolling up on an unsuspecting family and asking to spend the night.
My guide, Timor from Intrepid Travel, explained.
"If someone comes to your door, you must give them food and shelter," Timor said. "Or they might not survive. And the next time you are traveling, they will give you shelter — or you might not survive."
The first ger we rolled up to was outside of the singing sand dunes. It had been a long day and I had climbed a 50-meter-high sand dune. I was hungry, dirty, and tired. Thankfully, Ankhaa, the owner of the yurt, was hospitable.
We were immediately given tea, bread, and camel milk curd — a substance that has the consistency of maple sugar candy but, unfortunately, doesn't taste as nice. More like a musty sour cream in a brick.
After we'd eaten, Ankhaa's neighbor and her family started rounding up the goats and camels.
"It's milking time," Timor said.
While we'd decided not to spend the night, Ankhaa and his neighbors had been so hospitable, I made a half-hearted offer to help. I just didn't expect to be taken up on it.
For the uninitiated, milking camels is not like milking a cow.
How to milk a camel:
1. Get a bucket, preferably one that is not too rusty.
2. Pick a camel that seems even-tempered.
3. Lean on said camel in a "crow" pose (one leg bent, with foot resting on inner knee).
4. Place the bucket on your knee.
5. Proceed to try and milk camel with both hands, while not losing balance or spilling any milk.
Nota bene: Watch out for the camel getting annoyed and tripping you — they can move their legs in a full sideways swipe and take you out by the ankles. Also watch out for biting, kicking, farting, spitting, and general malfeasance.
To my credit, I got the job done. Not very well, but I did, in fact, milk a camel. Next time, I think I will just watch.
Thanks to Intrepid Travel for setting me up on the trip!
Mongolia: A beautiful and friendly country
September 8 (The Star/ANN) Once upon a time, the camel had beautiful antlers and a flowing long tail. The bald reindeer begged to borrow the antlers from the camel, who generously agreed. Learning of this, the stump-tailed horse also asked to borrow its long swishing tail.
As Mongolian folk tales would have it, today, the denuded camel looks wistfully into the expanses of the Gobi, still waiting patiently for the return of its beautiful assets.
We were in Mongolia for 17 days and were going to encounter many of these creatures. From our central starting point in Ulaanbaatar, the country's capital, we flew north, then southwards by road to the Gobi desert before completing an easterly loop back to our starting point. It was just about enough to get a taste of life in the 1.6mil sqkm of this semi-desert country (the 19th biggest in the world).
Our first encounter with the great Mongolian outback was at Lake Khuvsgul, the second largest (by volume) fresh water lake in Asia.
Ambling uphill through light forest cover before coming out into a clearing, we walked unsuspectingly into the spectacle of Lake Khuvsgul spread out before us like an infinity pool dissolving into eternally blue skies.
But since the lake was over 130km in length, getting on horseback was a far better way to explore this place.
Our early communication lessons in the Mongol language thus began. A sharp authoritative "Cho!" and a nudge with the rump got our horses walking. We wanted this to be gentle enough so as not to launch a breakaway gallop. Although a short trot was fun in a bone-rattling way, having the horses walk in a steady gait was more comfortable for us novices. Horsemen of the high chaparral we certainly weren't, even as the lively western score played in my head while we rode.
Up till now, my horse riding had been limited to a few guided rounds in a small fenced arena. It was a different feeling now, just hanging on to the saddle as my horse went for a drink and frolic at the lake.
I grappled with the nuances of gripping and letting go (of the reins), adjusting to a new sense of balance some six feet (2m) above ground. And I gained an elevated perspective of the great outdoors.
Mongolia claims the title, the Land of Blue Skies. It was not an empty boast: while landscapes changed as we moved, the electric sky blue persisted. The national flag reflects this gift of nature in its colours.
This eternal blue loomed over us wherever we travelled, over rolling steppes into volcanic grounds, at arid desert lands or even in the city.
Whether walled in by granite cliffs (as we trained our eyes to look for some skipping ibex), or forming a backdrop (as we gazed out at old dinosaur digs in flame-coloured rocky slopes), the constant blue overhead kept a steady gaze on our activities.
Imagine the dismay over our loss when one morning we Malaysians came out of our gers (Mongolian tents) and instinctively yelped, "the haze is back!" - fires ignite easily in the dry Mongolian outback, often caused by careless campers.
A place called the Secret of Ongi, smack in the middle of the Gobi desert, lulled us with the trappings of resort living one night. The next morning, we stood at the base of the 300m-high Khongor sand dunes.
We tackled the fine golden sands, plunging one foot ahead, only to have it sink backwards into the sand as we pulled the other foot up.
This took its toll. Giggles degenerated into curses as we sank and slid backwards with each step. The journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step wasn't happening the way we were used to. This was liquid sand!
We had trekked 5,000m-high mountains in our lives. But now, we were experiencing new-found humility in this surreal soft world. So, we gritted our sandy teeth and grumbled. We leaned into our sides or sometimes got on all fours. We all had a good laugh at the peak of the dunes some three hours later.
Going down was a gravity-assisted ski-plough kind of plunge - all over in under 15 minutes. We were then ready for lunch followed by camelback riding, which, from recent experience, proved a much more sensible way of moving across the sand!
Not all travel was so dramatic, as we were usually ferried around in a hardy Russian-made van when we had to cover long distances.
End-of-day luxury often came in the form of running taps and a refreshing hot shower or a soak in hot springs when the land accorded it. Wrap that with good dinners, comfy beds in spacious gers and late wake up times, and we got a bundle of happy campers.
We experienced a good dose of nomadic hospitality. The tribes of Mongolia still continue their ancestral lifestyle of moving from grassland to grassland as the seasons change to accommodate the needs of their herds.
But with about 40 per cent of the country's roughly eight million population centred in the capital city, the great outback is sparsely populated and beasts easily outnumber men. And the fully nomadic lifestyle is slowly adapting to modern times, as children attend village or town schools while subsistence herding is supplemented by tourism.
The nomad's centre of action is the ger. Easy to set up and dismantle, beds, dressers, stoves are arranged around these large tent homes. The centrepiece is the stove and here we often gathered for a meal of khorkhog. This is a specialty reserved for significant occasions and honoured guests, prepared by cooking an entire cleaned goat (or even a deboned marmot as we savoured one day) with hot stones and root vegetables stuffed in its abdominal cavity. Flavoured mainly by salt and some spice, the meat cooks in its natural juices in a pressure cooker mounted over a wood stove.
Cooking and carving up meat servings are a man's job, we observed, as we sat on the floor of the ger. Little is wasted and as we stuffed ourselves, the point sank in that per capita income in monetary terms means little to the self-sustaining nomads.
We were also pleasantly surprised to meet numerous Mongolian women who owned and ran some of the ger camps and businesses that we visited. Our guide, Dorj, another capable young lady running her own travel agency (aptly named DreamMongolia) shared that women in Mongolia were strong characters who valued their independence especially as education opened up career opportunities.
The infamous strong character, still male, that represents Mongolia to the world is probably Genghis Khan (Chinggis Khan to the locals), founder of the 13th century Mongol empire. You won't find any references here to him as a bloodthirsty barbarian as popularised by the entertainment media outside the country.
Instead, Chinggis is revered, his giant statue presiding over Parliament square in Ulaanbaatar. Interestingly, the figure was a target of obliteration during communist rule in the 1920s, along with the zealous destruction of monasteries and religious artefacts. But this changed after the democratic revolution of 1990, introducing a new social, political and economic landscape.
Chinggis now represents a unifying theme in modern Mongolia.
6th Floor, NTN Tower
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