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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

[FCG drops casino plan; MNT drops to new low; $1.3B sought for TT rail; meat export to China launched; and dzud takes 125K]

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

Int'l Market

FCG closed -24.5% Tuesday to A$0.20

ASX-Listed Frontier Capital Drops Lottery Venture in Mongolia

February 23 (CalvinAyre.com) Australian firm Frontier Capital Group Ltd. has dropped its lottery and possibly casino venture in Mongolia.

Frontier, in a filing to the Australian Securities Exchange on Tuesday, announced that it has terminated an agreement to operate the Mongolian National Lottery (MNL).

Frontier said it had received a notice from the vendor [Monvest Group Pte. Ltd.] saying that a number of conditions will not be satisfied within the period provided in the agreement. The deal would have given Frontier the right to establish the first casino in Mongolia, once the country allows it.

Frontier was acquiring the companies—BizNVIN LLC and Modern Capital Vest LLC, Mongolian subsidiaries of Monvest— which hold a special license to operate the MNL.

"The acquisition of the Mongolian National Lottery license would have complemented the recent move by the Company to Gaming and Hospitality." said Frontier director Ram Navaratnam. "However, Frontier Capital has robust requirements that need to be met to minimize risks associated with acquisitions that the Company considers. In this instance those requirements have not been satisfied."

The company announced its proposed acquisition of MNL in April 2015 and was to be completed in March 2016. They even appointed WSOP bracelet winner Johnny Chan to lead the proposed acquisition and investigate the Mongolian gaming opportunity.

The proposed casino legislation was submitted to the Mongolian parliament for review in early 2015 but is still under consideration.

For now, Frontier said that its board of directors will review the company's investment portfolio in order to align it with the direction of gaming and hospitality. The termination will be effective upon receipt of AUD1.5 million from the vendor.

Frontier, in another filing earlier this month, said that it has completed the takeover of Hotel Stotsenberg and Casablanca Casino in the Clark Freeport Zone. The acquisition marked its entry into the gaming and hospitality industry.

The company is also pinning its growth expectations on the recently announced $1.5-billion passenger terminal expansion project at Clark International Airport, which is less than 2 kilometers from the hotel and casino. The company expects its profit to reach $11.7 million in 2018.

Link to article

Link to FCG release

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Local Market

MSE Trading Report: Top 20 +0.38%, ALL +0.16%, Turnover 10.6 Million Shares

February 23 (Bank of Mongolia) --

Link to report

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Economy

Historic low ₮2,021.72/USD set February 16, 2016. Reds are rates that set a new low at the time

BoM MNT Rates: Tuesday, February 23 Close

2/23

2/22

2/19

2/18

2/17

2/16

2/15

2/12

2/8

2/5

2/4

2/3

2/2

2/1

1/29

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USD

2,033.45

2,029.17

2,029.30

2,026.75

2,022.11

2,021.72

2,020.45

2,019.42

2,018.82

2,018.53

2,017.42

2,014.43

2,013.38

2,010.73

2,011.38

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EUR

2,245.13

2,249.74

2,255.97

2,254.76

2,258.80

2,255.03

2,265.33

2,279.93

2,248.56

2,260.45

2,235.50

2,197.24

2,195.29

2,180.84

2,192.10

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JPY

18.16

17.97

17.96

17.80

17.82

17.66

17.77

17.98

17.20

17.29

17.11

16.79

16.69

16.59

16.67

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GBP

2,869.20

2,882.33

2,904.03

2,894.40

2,886.76

2,920.07

2,929.96

2,932.00

2,930.92

2,931.41

2,939.08

2,901.79

2,899.07

2,868.51

2,890.96

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RUB

26.86

26.70

26.56

26.91

26.10

26.49

25.95

25.41

26.25

26.11

26.36

25.49

25.89

26.36

26.70

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CNY

311.49

311.26

311.25

310.92

309.89

310.54

311.12

307.19

307.10

307.26

306.69

306.19

306.01

305.65

305.88

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KRW

1.65

1.64

1.65

1.65

1.65

1.66

1.67

1.67

1.67

1.69

1.68

1.65

1.67

1.67

1.68

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SGD

1,446.68

1,446.20

1,442.75

1,444.07

1,437.89

1,442.13

1,444.88

1,447.56

1,435.96

1,444.13

1,427.10

1,408.40

1,413.84

1,411.98

1,415.82

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CAD

1,480.27

1,476.57

1,474.73

1,482.19

1,457.59

1,471.25

1,461.87

1,450.52

1,454.38

1,469.36

1,464.45

1,434.88

1,437.20

1,433.57

1,438.55

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AUD

1,469.68

1,459.07

1,443.34

1,447.40

1,436.20

1,449.98

1,444.52

1,432.07

1,432.45

1,449.30

1,445.38

1,420.98

1,425.37

1,421.39

1,432.40

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HKD

261.77

261.14

260.93

260.45

259.63

259.62

259.56

259.32

259.27

259.03

259.03

258.34

258.85

258.33

258.25

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CHF

2,046.03

2,044.19

2,044.74

2,042.07

2,049.89

2,047.42

2,059.58

2,069.93

2,031.72

2,031.12

2,004.59

1,976.29

1,974.58

1,967.45

1,975.52

Bank USD rates at time of sending: TDB (Buy ₮2,028 Sell ₮2,036), Khan (Buy ₮2,028 Sell ₮2,036), Golomt (Buy ₮2,028 Sell ₮2,036), XacBank (Buy ₮2,030 Sell ₮2,037), State Bank (Buy ₮2,027 Sell ₮2,037)

MNT vs USD (blue), CNY (red) in last 1 year:

Link to rates

 

BoM FX auction: US$24m sold at 2,033.99, CNY28m at 311.35, $2.5m MNT swap offers accepted

February 23 (Bank of Mongolia) On the Foreign Exchange Auction held on February 23rd, 2016, the BOM has received buying bid offers of USD and CNY. The BOM sold USD 24.0 million in a consistency rate of MNT 2033.99 and CNY 28.0 million in a closing rate of MNT 311.35 respectively.

On February 23rd, 2016, the BOM has received MNT Swap agreement buying bid offers equivalent to USD 2.5 million and USD swap agreement selling bid offers equivalent to USD 12.0 million from local commercial banks respectively. The BOM accepted the MNT swap agreement buying bid offers of USD 2.5 million.

Link to release

 

GOBankingRates rates Mongolia as 10th most expensive country to live in

February 23 (gogo.mn) To find the cheapest countries to live in, GoBankingRates ranked nations by four key affordability metrics provided by online pricing database Numbeo:

  • Local purchasing power index: Measures the relative purchasing power of a typical salary in that country, compared to New York City. A lower purchasing power buys fewer goods, while a higher purchasing power buys more.
  • Rent index: Compares typical rental prices in the country to New York City.
  • Groceries index: Compares typical grocery prices in the country to New York City.
  • Consumer price index: Compares costs of local goods and services — including restaurants, groceries, transportation and utilities — to New York City.

However Mongolia ranks 103rd out of 112 countries and listed in the most expensive ten countries to live. 

Following is the most expensive countries to live:

  • Mongolia (103),
  • Singapore (104),
  • Kuwait (105),
  • Iceland (106),
  • Norway (107),
  • Ghana (108),
  • Switzerland (109),
  • Hong Kong (110),
  • Bahamas (111),
  • Bermuda (112)

Source: TIME

Link to article

 

20 trillion in hidden assets "found" in Mongolia

February 23 (news.mn) The "Economic Transparency Law" was in force until 20th February. This provided a grace period for people to declare their hitherto undeclared income without fear of penalties. Officials are saying that as a result of this law, MNT 20 trillion were been declared – a remarkable figure which is equal to 90% of Mongolian GDP! It should be noted that 40,000 civil servants were not involved in the "Economic Transparency Law". Therefore, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry is proposing a deal with the Government, to involve these 40,000 civil staff, and thereby generate additional revenue.

Link to article

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Politics & Legal

Finance Minister to Approve Operational Rules of Debt Management Council

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) The FM L.Purevsuren reported to the cabinet on Monday the results of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Mongolia-France diplomatic relations, marked in 2015.

- An obligation was given to the Finance Minister B.Bolor to approve an operational rule for the Council of Debt Management and to control the realization.

- The cabinet reviewed results of the official visit of the Hungarian PM Viktor Orban to Mongolia paid January 24-26 of 2016. This matter will be submitted to the National Security Council (NSC).

- The FM L.Purevsuren highlighted results of his working tour to the Burgastai border point made this February 19.

Link to article

 

Mogi: feels like we launch such programs multiple times a year

Government launches Best Herder Program to promote productivity

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) The cabinet on February 22 approved the Best Herder Programme at its regular meeting. The project, aiming at improved productivity and economic efficiency of animal farming, will be implemented under supervision of Minister of Food and Agriculture R.Burmaa, Minister of Population Development and Social Welfare S.Erdene, and the boards of the Development Bank and the State Bank.

Main purposes of the project are to increase herdsmen's access to financial services that are rendered during a "production-delivery to customer" process, and to regularly introduce the latest hi tech in the livestock herding and farming. By this, the project team expects an increase in income of livestock herding families, farmers and herders' cooperatives.

The programme will be implemented until 2020, in two stages.

Link to article

 

Customs & Tax IT, Database Center to Be Established

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) The center will be responsible for creating a general database of tax and customs registrations, ensuring operational safety, and developing the system further.

Such a decision was made at a regular meeting of the cabinet on February 22. The cabinet also approved the rules of this center and permitted the Minister of Finance B.Bolor to reflect the center's budget into the State Budget packages. 

Link to article

 

Longest serving judge Jantsan stands in head of Constitutional Court

February 23The irregular parliamentary plenary session, which was held on Friday 19th February, approved the decision to dismiss the director of the Constitutional Court J.Amarsanaa. According to the "Constitutional Court Law", if the director of the Constitutional Court dies, is dismissed, resignes or is absent for whatever reason, the member of the Constitutional Court, who has worked for longest in the court will act as temporary director. In this instance, the longest serving member is Judge N.Jantsan.

The Constitutional Court must have 9 members. The Supreme Court must offer a ninth member to fill the vacated place in the Constitutional Court. Therefore, Parliament must discuss and, hopefully approve, the candidate presented by the Supreme Court. Following the appointment, all nine members of the Constitutional Court must convene to discuss and choose their new director by closed ballot.

Finally, the same source in response to our question, "Is it possible, that for the Constitutional Court to discuss the dismissal of Mr Amarsanaa?" replied by saying, "there cannot be a discussion, because no complaint has been delivered to the Constitutional Court.  

Link to article

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Business

Mongolia Seeks $1.3 Billion From China to Complete Coal Railway

By Michael Kohn

·         Officials are in China for talks on funding for the project

·         Mongolia hopes for deal in next few weeks so work can start

February 23 (Bloomberg) Mongolia is seeking a $1.3 billion loan from the Export-Import Bank of China to complete a railway connecting its Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit with the Chinese border, a project that has stalled because of lack of funds.

Officials from Mongolian Railway SOSC are meeting in China for talks with the bank to secure the loan, Idesh Ivshin, the company's head of projects, said Monday in an interview in Ulaanbaatar.

The 240-kilometer (150-mile) railway will increase export volumes and lower the cost of transporting coal to Mongolia's biggest customer at a time when weak prices are tightening margins. Coal is the nation's second-largest export earner, accounting for $556 million last year.

The Ministry of Finance may also offer a government guarantee, said Manduul Nyamdeleg, Head of Financial Markets and Insurance Division. The proposal would need to be ratified by the cabinet.

"We hope to conclude agreements in the next few weeks because the construction season starts in spring,'' said Idesh, adding the railway could be completed by 2018 if work begins this year.

According to terms under discussion, the Export-Import Bank would appoint a Chinese contractor to construct the railway, Idesh said. That would replace the existing agreement with South Korea's Samsung C&T, which has stalled over a debt of more than $30 million that the railway says it can't pay due to lack of funds. The two sides are negotiating a settlement, according to Idesh.

An official at the Export-Import Bank of China's press office in Beijing said he couldn't immediately comment.

State-owned Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC and Tavantolgoi JSC, and Hong Kong-listed Mongolian Mining Corp., operate in the Tavan Tolgoi basin, located 540 kilometers south of Ulaanbaatar in the Gobi Desert.

Link to article

 

Erdenes TT makes up third of Mongolia's coal exports in 2015

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) Erdenes Tavantolgoi exported 4.2 million tons of coal last year, which made up 29 percent of the total coal export of Mongolia. The company extracted 3.8 million tons from the western Tsankhi mine and the rest--from eastern mine. Total revenue reached 114 million USD.

Erdenes Tavantolgoi has been operating at western Tsankhi since 2013. Operations have temporary closed due to the expiration of the early 2006 cooperation agreement with Mongol Uurkhaichid (Mongolian Miners) Partnership.

The company has been working to select a new tenor.

TT JV CO has been operating the eastern Tsankhi mine from 2011, and renewed the cooperation agreement at the end of 2015.

Since the beginning of operations, 14.4 million tons of coal have been extracted from the two mines, mostly from the western one. In 2011, Erdenes Tavantolgoi compensated for Chalco debt by 300 thousand tons of coal extracted from the eastern mine.

Remaining debt totals to 120 million USD, Erdenes Tavantolgoi reports.

Link to article

 

Foreign Ministry Announces Launch of Meat Export to China

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) This Ministry called a press briefing on Tuesday to inform about the official launch of meat export to China starting February 19. The FM L.Purevsuren had worked at Burgastai border checkpoint and attended the ceremony for shipping 16 tons of mutton by Mon-Tuva LLC from Uvs aimag.

"Mongolia is bordered by 13 Chinese ports. Burgastai is the nearest to the Chinese districts with the highest meat consumption checkpoint. Prepared mutton, beef and goat meat will be exported through this checkpoint from five western aimags", said the Ministry.

Burgastai border checkpoint will be operational during the even numbered months, in accordance with the 2004 Mongolia-China agreement on ports and their regimes.

Link to article

 

Unprocessed Cashmere, Yak Hides and Camel Wool Prices in UB

February 23 (news.mn) Cashmere is produced from the thin fibres of goat wool and is one of Mongolia's key exports. Currently, a kilogram of unprocessed cashmere is being sold at the "Emeelt -Raw Material Bazaar" for MNT 48,000-55,000, the price depending on the color and the thickness of the fibres, which are measured in microns.

Other, less exotic items are also on sale: cowhides are currently going for MNT 40,000-60,000, horsehides for MNT 35,000, yak hides MNT 25,000-60,000 and camel hides from MNT 18,000 - 22,000. The "Emeelt-Raw Material Bazaar" is selling raw unprocessed hides; the current rates are as follows: sheepskins - MNT 1000-2500, goat skins MNT 16,000, horsehair MNT 8500 and horse tails MNT 12,000.

In addition, camel wool is also being sold, the price depending upon the sex of the animal – male camel wool is going for at MNT 7500 per kilogram and female camel wool is MNT 5500.

Link to article

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Ulaanbaatar

7 UB hotels offer up to 50% discount during Sep-may low season

February 23 (gogo.mn) In the scope of "Hospitable Ulaanbaatar" program, seven hotels in Ulaanbaatar city are offering up to 50% off during low season (from Sep to May) for tourists with the aim to promote winter tourism. Below is the list and introduction of these seven hotels providing above specials.

1. PUMA IMPERIAL HOTEL 

2. THE BLUE SKY HOTEL 

3. BAYANGOL HOTEL 

4. SUNJIN GRAND HOTEL

5. BEST WESTERN GOBI`S KELSO HOTEL 

6. ULAANBAATAR HOTEL 

7. CHINGGIS KHAN HOTEL 

Link to article

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Diplomacy

Mongolia, Indonesia parliaments sign memorandum of understanding

February 23 (news.mn) A delegation headed by a Member of the Indonesian People's Representative Council, Mr. Jazilul Fawaid is currently making an official visit to Mongolia. In the framework of the visit, which began on 21st February, meetings have taken place with M.Sonompil, director of the National Security and Foreign Affairs Standing Committee and other officials; the Indonesians have also been introduced to the operations of the Mongolian State Great Khural (Parliament). On 23rd February, Parliamentary Speaker Z.Enkhbold signed a memorandum on behalf of the between Mongolian Parliament and Indonesian People's Representative Council. The visit is due to conclude on 26th February.

Source: Media Bureau at the Parliamentary Administration

Link to article

Related:

Mongolian parliament to collaborate with House of Reps of IndonesiaMontsame, February 23

 

Social Welfare Minister Leaves for Turkey on Working Visit

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) A delegation headed by S.Erdene, the Minister of Population Development and Social Welfare, has left for Turkey to pay a working visit until February 26.

S.Erdene will hold a meeting with Mr Suleyman Soylu, Turkey's Minister of Labor and Social Security, to share views on developing the bilateral cooperation in the social welfare, on learning experiences, exchanging experts, holding joint trainings. An agreement might be established on social welfare as well.

The two countries' Ministries launched their cooperation in 2005. Some 3,000 Mongolians are working/ studying in Turkey today.

Link to article

 

Mongolia seeks advice from Canada on legal documents

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) Head of the parliamentary Standing committee on justice D.Ganbat Tuesday received Mr Serge Lortie, a department head of Canada's Ministry of Justice, and Mr Oleg Shakov, a director of the International Programs Division of the Office of Canada's Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs.

Ganbat wished the guests a nice stay in Mongolia and spoke about ongoing reforms in the legal sphere.

In response, Mr Lortie clarified types of assistance necessary for Mongolian legal and court.

Noting that our parliament passed the new laws on crime and on conflicts last year, Ganbat said it would be appropriate to get from Canada an advice regarding several bills such as on combating family violence and on police, discussed by their Standing committee.

He also underlined an importance of collaborating with the Canadian side in training experts in Canada and getting familiarized on the spot with realization of similar laws.

Link to article

 

Mongolia to sign intergovernmental aviation agreements with Czech, Malta, Myanmar, Luxembourg

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) A permission will be issued by the Prime Minister on signing the intergovernmental airfare agreements with the Czech Republic, the Republic of Malta, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, resolved the cabinet on February 22.

These agreements set out common standards and regulations on performing international flights, appointments of air companies, their licenses, load, tariffs, customs duty and other fees, in accordance with the Convention on the International Civil Aviation (Chicago, 1944). 

Link to article

 

Turkish embassy to visit to Turkic Empire relics in Dundgovi

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) As an answer to the project proposal from Dundgovi aimag authorities on improving conservation and safeguarding of historical and cultural monument dating back to the Turkic Empire, the Embassy of Turkey in Ulaanbaatar has requested a site visit.

Over 40 historic monuments and landmarks are located in seven soums of this province. They are mainly offering tables, square tombs and old Turkic scripts. The project is aiming to build fences around them, put introductory signs, compile their histories in a book.

The Dundgovi museum accepted the Embassy's request for the site visit and will organize it this April through Bayanjargalan, Tsagaandelger, Erdenedalai, Adaatsag, Gurvansaikhan, Olziit and Govi-Ugtaal soums.

Link to article

 

China happy with Mongolian aviation security on flight paths

February 23 (news.mn) A delegation headed by the director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Mongolia worked in Beijing from 17thto 19th February, where it met the Deputy Chinese Minister of Transport and the director of Civil Aviation Administration, Mr Feng Zhenglin together with other officials.

During the meeting, the issue of some Chinese flights crossing Mongolian airspace was resolved. This has brought Mongolian and Chinese transportation relations to a new level. In addition, this can be seen as a mark of Chinese estimation for Mongolian aviation security and navigation systems.

China is the longest air-bordered neighbor of Mongolia; the two countries share six "air gates". During the meetings in Beijing, the two sides discussed improving the usage of these six air gates and to study the opening of the new 7th Mongolian-Chinese air gate.

In addition, on 17th February, the memorandum was signed to procure a "Harbin" Y-12 twin-engine turboprop from the AVIC International Aero Development Corporation, in order to conduct trial flights in Mongolia. As part of the memorandum a study will be made of financing the Y-12 plane using a Chinese free grant.

One of the interesting issues discussed during the Beijing aviation meeting was the offer to introduce a Silk Road of the Air using Mongolian airspace. Currently, discussion on this proposal is at an unofficial level.

Link to article

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Health, Education

Scientists discover curing power of camel milk for diabetes

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) Scientists from Mongolia and the Chinese Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region have revealed that camels can act as live observatories for finding a cure for diabetes. Evidence is that camels have unique biological traits of adaption to hunger, thirst and temperature changes.

Camel's blood glucose is higher, whereas the insulin level is lower, which circumstances signal diabetes in humans. A scientific study has found that a number of Cytochrome P450 genes in camel is higher than that of humans and cows, which provides stability in the metabolism. With the help of this character, camels are able to control the insulin level regardless of the high blood glucose. N.Juramt, Prof. at Landfarming University of Chinese Inner Mongolia, said, "Our work concerned the issue of applying a diabetes-curing chemical to human body and found that camel milk has a stronger ability to treat the disease. According to our research, people with 13 or more blood sugar level have gotten better consuming camel milk. Some people have been cured of diabetes."

The unique setting of camel's metabolism has immunity against diabetes and other metabolic diseases. Therefore, it has shed a light of hope in curing diabetes with camel milk. Furthermore, VHH antibodies in camels play important roles in genetic engineering, and can have positive effects over diagnoses and treatments of tumor, cancer, diarrhea, parasitic illnesses, influenza, dental inflammations, brucellosis, nervous system diseases and circulatory disorders.

Link to article

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Culture, Society

125 thousand livestock lost in dzud as 20 aimags in critical condition

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) The Deputy Premier Ts.Oyunbaatar introduced to the Ministers at the cabinet meeting Monday a report about winter and spring in localities.

After this, an obligation was given to the FM to ask foreign countries and international organizations to give humanitarian assistance.

According to the Deputy PM, some 70% of the territories have been covered by snow; 98 soums of 18 aimags are suffering from the dzud (heavy snow natural disaster); 113 soums of 20 aimags are in critical condition due to snow. The animal loss has reached 125 thousand heads by February 22. Some herders are in worse condition due to absence of an access to hay and fodder, and lack of cash. They are also suffering from a shortage of animal vaccines as well as vehicles to receive state services.

The cabinet decided to ask international humanitarian organizations for aid in order to overcome the spring with less damage and to prevent possible difficulties.

Link to article

 

Mongolian Language Dictionary iOS App Launched

February 23 (news.mn) At the initiative of President Ts.Elbegdorj and with the support of the Presidential Administration, the Language Society and Informatics Society at the Academy of Sciences an encyclopedia of the Mongolian language as the website www.монголтоль.мон and www.mongoltoli.mn has been created. Work took a year and was undertaken between December 2014 and December 2015.  Subsequently a mobile version of this encyclopedia for android system users was launched on 2nd February. Yesterday (22nd February), a new version for iOS system was launched at the AppStore. In addition, the application or website enables guests to edit and add new word meanings as well as add and images to this dictionary. The download link is: itunes.apple.com/us/app/id1084230579.

Link to article

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Sports

TheMongolz denied U.S. visas, to miss MLG qualifier

EventMLG Columbus 2016 Main Qualifier

Game: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

February 23 (HLTV.org) TheMongolz's plans to travel to America this week to compete at the MLG Columbus qualifier have been halted after being refused visas.

The Mongolian team were due to fight for a spot at the upcoming major after winning the Asia Minor Championship, only to be refused entry on the grounds of not being able to provide enough evidence that the players would return home after the tournament.

TheMongolz's visa application has twice been refused, and with the US embassy in Mongolia not taking visa appointments on Wednesday, the team's hopes of attending the event have gone up in smoke.

Group C of the MLG Columbus Qualifier, which will kick off on Friday, is now down to just three teams - CLG, Vexed Gaming and SK Gaming.

TheMongolz, who caused a sensation by beating Renegades in the grand final of the Asia Minor, are due to travel to Beijing later this week to apply for a Polish visa to be able to attend IEM Katowice as Mongolia does not have a Polish embassy.

Link to article

 

Pitching Cricket to Mongolia

By Helen Wright

February 23 (UB Post) It was soon clear that there was nowhere I could sit in the small gymnasium at School No. 34 where I would be safe from flying balls.

At 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, 14 boys aged between 11 and 14 had dragged themselves out of bed from the surrounding ger district of the school to practice throwing and catching cricket balls.

Cricket, which originated in England, is popular in Australia, the Caribbean, South Africa, India and Pakistan and is being launched in Mongolia by sports enthusiast Battulga Gombo.

Tulga, as he is known, is now trying to raise enough money to create the country's first cricket pitch in the National Park of Ulaanbaatar. In total, he needs to find 120,000 USD and is doing so through a crowdfunding website. So far, approximately 30,000 USD has been raised and it is hoped the pitch will open in 2017.  He founded Mongolian Amateur Cricket Association NGO in 2007 and doesn't get paid for any of the coaching or sessions he provides.

Five years ago, Tulga moved to Australia with his wife, who was studying for a Ph.D. at university in Melbourne. While living in Australia, he fell in love with cricket and trained to become a coach in 2012. Today, he is Mongolia's only qualified coach and has spent the last three years teaching children throughout the country how to play the "gentleman's game".

Cricket is a team sport involving two sides of 11 players. It is played using a bat and ball on a 22-yard long pitch and is the second most popular game in the world after football. It is played by an estimated 120 million people around the globe.

Games can last for up to five days, and each team takes it in turn to bat, attempting to score runs while the other team tries to catch the ball while fielding the pitch.

The bowler throws the ball to the batsman who attempts to hit the ball away from the fielders so he can run to the other end of the pitch and score a run. Each batsman continues batting until he is out.

This continues until 10 batsmen are out, or a specified number of balls have been thrown, at which point the teams switch roles and the fielding team comes in to bat.

"It reminded me a lot of a Mongolian game called Matka, which I played when I grew up here", Tulga, who is a university lecturer, told me, while we drove out of Ulaanbaatar towards the airport in his car on Saturday morning. "Cricket is just a brilliant sport, and the kids, they just love to play it."

The 37-year-old coaches a mix of kids, but most of them are from the "underprivileged" ger districts and orphanages. In total, he teaches around 40 children a week.

"There is nothing for them to do, there is a lack of facilities and sports gear, and in general, there is not a big emphasis on team sports in Mongolia – it is all about the individual: horse racing, wrestling, but none of it promotes working together… but cricket changes that," he says as we pull into the school's car park.

This is why he, and a handful of others, are working so hard to build Mongolia's first cricket pitch. In summer, the kids practice on an Astroturf football pitch and in winter, they are restricted to practising inside, in small school sports halls.

At School No. 34, a handful of boys are already waiting for Tulga when we arrive. He starts off by getting them to divide into pairs and throw red plastic balls to each other. Then they run around the hall and split into two teams and start throwing balls to a batsman.

The boys shriek and laugh and jeer at each other, their voices carrying over the sound of sneakers squeaking on the green laminate sports hall floor. Many of them have been coming to the sessions since they started two years ago and wear white polo shirts with Cricket Mongolia stitched in red on the back.

The plastic stumps, balls and bats they are playing with have mostly been donated or sent from Cricket Australia which has an initiative called "Milo" encouraging youngsters into the game.

The hall is so small that balls regularly smack into the walls, windows and other people. But the kids don't seem to mind and are eager to play.

As the practice games stop and they move on to playing a real game of cricket, Tulga comes over to the window ledge I'm trying to shelter in and says, "They have all improved a lot since we first started playing. Not just in terms of technique but also attitude.

"The first couple of months, some of the bigger kids were bullying the smaller ones but now you can't see that attitude. I don't tolerate it.

"They congratulate each other and clap when the other team gets a run, and they apologize if there is an argument.

"Cricket has a big philosophy, that it is a gentleman's game played by gentlemen and I want to get that spirit across in Mongolia.

"It is a friendly game and promotes teamwork. Hopefully, it helps them not only physically but mentally too."

The ball flies my way again and I duck for cover. It makes me think just how much they need a real place to play.

On the Thursday of Tsagaan Sar week, English accountant Chris Hurd, who has helped draw up designs for a pitch, took me along to see where it will be built.

Half way around the path at the National Park of Ulaanbaatar, next to a huge hole which looks like the surface of the moon, is hopefully where – if the money can be raised – the first pitch will be. There will be a bank around the edge of the pitch for seating, a water tank to keep the grass healthy and a pavilion.

Our job for the day was to take soil samples to see what condition the frozen earth was in. After scrapping away the snow and filling four Tupperware boxes we relocated to a cafe and Chris told me why he had gotten involved with the project.

Over hot cups of juice and burgers, the 38-year-old told the UB Post, "It is a good opportunity for the ex-pats with cash and a good way of getting cricket kicked off in Mongolia for the kids."

In England, there is the preconception that cricket is more of an upper-class game and that more boys play it than girls. But Chris said one of the most exciting things about "re-launching" cricket in Mongolia is that none of those issues were known here.

Although more boys tend to come to the ger sessions than girls, in the orphanage sessions, the ratio is 50:50.

"The great thing is that over here there are no preconceptions of cricket at all," he said.  "So the only marks on the canvas, so to speak, are what Tulga has been doing over the past two to three years and it has been a great way for the kids to build friendship and teamwork in that context."

Chris became involved in the project after meeting Tulga. When he first moved to Ulaanbaatar, he started playing with a group of expats and when he heard about the project, he was desperate to get involved.

He started playing cricket at school and that love continued into adulthood. He drew up plans for the pitch and is now trying to find funding for the appeal.

"I think first and foremost it is about bringing a new team sport to a country that has a massive lack of team sports. It also gives kids with nothing that change to get involved with something, to get them working together, learning and supporting each other," he said.

"There is also a tangible need for expats to have stuff to do and we can share these facilities with the kids – it is the perfect situation."

Back at School No. 34, the session has drawn to a close and the kids are putting the bats and balls away.

I ask them, through Tulga, what they like about playing cricket.

Bagana, 13, who is wearing a green baseball cap back to front, says, "It's fun to spend my free time with my friends playing sports. It's a really interesting game to learn."

A small boy with freckles and a grey cardigan called Angara came to the practice session for the first time today. He tells the UB Post he will definitely be coming back again.

"I like playing team sports," he said. "I had a lot of fun today. I liked bowling a lot but it was difficult, I want to get better."

Baatar, 14, also said that playing team sports with his friends was a reason he came along to the Saturday sessions.

On the drive back to central Ulaanbaatar, Tulga tells me about his dreams for the project.

"Little by little, step by step, I think it will be good," he said. "But you know the saying 'Rome wasn't built in a day'? Well that is how I feel.

"There is such a need for sports like cricket that emphasis teamwork, because traditionally, Mongolian people lived isolated lives as herders moving around a lot. It is why we have a lot of individual sports like archery and horse racing.

"But this is the 21st century and the kids need to get other skills about how to work together to get on in life."

He adds that football and basketball are thriving and popular sports in the country and that the children's parents have all been hugely supportive; helping them get to matches and fundraising nights.

"My dream," he says. "Is that one day I can take them to Australia or England, India or even Hong Kong, and I can show how cricket is really played. It would be such a great experience for them – they wouldn't believe it."

For more information and to find out how to donate to the cricket pitch visit www.fb.com/mongoliancricketseedappeal or https://www.goldengiving.com/charity/maca

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Art, Entertainment

Mongolia Highlights Its Arts and Culture at Spotlight Asia in New York

Ulaanbaatar, February 23 (MONTSAME) The Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the United Nations S.Sukhbold has addressed the Spotlight Asia event, which took place this February 21 in the American Museum of Natural History.

Held for the second year dedicated to the Year of Monkey, the event attracted representatives of Mongolia, China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam. These countries gave folklore concerts and propagandized their traditions.

To represent Mongolia, the NY city-based "Mongolian Contact" NGO attended the event to advertise our traditions and cultural pieces.

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