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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

[PCY to settle TDB debt; USDMNT falls below 2K; banking loss shrinks, MPP/MPRP coalition announced; TDB signs $300m oil financing; and India speaker arrives]

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

ASEM 11

Asian and European MPs to assemble here this week

Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) In the margin of the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit, the ninth meeting of the Asia-Europe Parliament Partnership (ASEP9) is to run here this April 21-23. The national working group in charge of organizing and preparing for ASEP9 held its final meeting on Monday.

A leader of the group and the head of Parliament Secretariat B.Boldbaatar informed the gathered that three heads of legislatures (India, Italy and Thailand), 11 vice speakers (Australia, Italy, Indonesia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Vietnam and Spain) are attending the ASEP9, among the 152 registered guests from 32 countries, so far.

Invitees from 14 countries have notified "no-show", while Brunei, Malaysia and Greece have not responded yet.

The opening ceremony will be attended by the Chairman of the State Great Khural (parliament) of Mongolia Z.Enkhbold, his three Vice chairmen, and five international guest-observers.

Link to article

 

Mongolia issues postage stamps dedicated to ASEM 20th Anniversary

April 18 (ASEM Mongolia Office) The first-day-of-issue ceremony for 20th anniversary of ASEM postage stamps has been held on April 15. Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and "Mongol Post" state-owned enterprise unveiled the two sheets of postage stamps at Zovshiltsol Hall of MFA, officiating the issuance.

"This year is the twentieth anniversary of ASEM, which makes the 11th ASEM Summit even more significant," said Foreign Minister L. Purevsuren. "This stamp will memorialize the unprecedented level of diplomatic achievement of Mongolia for posterity."

"ASEM 20th Anniversary" stamps, as designed by Ts. Tsengel and J.Gankhuyag under the supervision of art director D. Erdembileg (Honorary Cultural Artist), has the official logo of 11th ASEM Summit, the equestrian statue of Genghis Khan, Government Palace of Mongolia, and central high-rise landmarks of the capital Ulaanbaatar.

Also included in the stamp sheets are map of Asia and Europe, flag of Mongolia and other countries that organized the previous Summits, name of the capital and the year of the ASEM11 Summit.

Mongolia first issued postage stamps in 1924, and now has 1,007 releases so far. A total of 156 stamps on 78 themes of anniversary of international events, diplomatic milestones or significant international summits starting from 1955. 

20,000 copies of "20th Anniversary of ASEM" stamps have been issued, and each one is sold for 1,300-1,500 MNT.

Link to release

 

Domestic flights won't be interrupted during the ASEM Summit

April 15 (ASEM Mongolia) The National Council to guide and manage the 11th ASEM Summit, headed by Prime Minister Ch. Saikhanbileg, recently issued a briefing about organizational issues, one of which was domestic flights.

More than 6,500 tourists have booked a trip to Mongolia, about 3,000 of which are planning to use domestic flight service between July 13 and July 18, according to the Mongolian Tourism Association.

Earlier, the domestic flights were planned to be suspended so as not to overload the Chinggis Khaan International Airport, as the tourist season coincided with the ASEM Summit. But a new request has been made to use the aerodrome in Nalaikh district for domestic flights between July 13 and July 16, in order to retain domestic flights schedules.

Link to post

 

Mongolia plans Naadam festivities for ASEM guests

April 15 (ASEM Mongolia) The ASEM Catering, Entertainment and Safety working group has announced plans to organize a "Nomadic Naadam" at Bogd Khan National Park's Jargalant area for ASEM dignitaries.

The Nomadic Naadam will be held in an amphitheater with the outline of a Mongolian ger -- a venue which would also host national cultural functions and an exhibition of Mongolian cuisine. E. Bat-Uul, the working group, head and the Governor of Ulaanbaatar, said the security and food safety are top priorities, with promotion of the Mongolian Naadam ceremony being the next focus.

The working group is currently coordinating emergency medical service, and medical aid points at venues of side events of the ASEM Summit.

Link to release

 

Police Acquires 52 Priuses for ASEM Patrol

The Mongolian Police has been conferred a fleet of vehicles to lead the motorcade of ASEM Summit dignitaries, which is scheduled to be held in Ulaanbaatar this coming July. A ceremony of handing over the vehicles was held at the Department vehicle depot on April 8.

The ceremony was attended by J. Bayartsetseg, State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Colonel B. Batsuuri, chief of the planning and organizational section of the Police Department, as well as members of the ASEM Infrastructure and Airport working group, and officers of the Mongolian Police.

J. Bayartsetseg, State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, opened the ceremony by saying, "The Government of Mongolia attaches enormous significance to ASEM Summit preparations, and is providing all possible support. Approving a legislation to waive import, VAT and special taxes of the ASEM service vehicles was one example of this. Under this legislation, specially equipped vehicles have been imported from Japan. Our most important duty is to ensure at the highest possible level the security and organization of the Summit" and wished success for the police force.

52 specially equipped cars (Toyota Prius-20) have been imported by Het Motors Company, to be used as lead cars in the motorcade of the dignitary. After the summit, the police will use these vehicles in their routine tour of duty to ensure public safety and order.

Link to post

 

Int'l Market

PCY closed flat Monday at C$0.015

Prophecy to Clear TDB Loan and Issues Shares for Debt

Vancouver, British Columbia, April  (FSCwire) - Prophecy Development Corp. ("Prophecy" or the "Company") (TSX:PCY, Frankfurt:1P2) is pleased to announce that it intends to pay off and close out the USD$1.5 million line of credit facility with the Trade and Development Bank of Mongolia at end of this month. 

The Company has also agreed to issue 2,651,096 Common shares to Nargil Molor, an insider of the company, at a deemed price of $0.015 per Common share to settle all remaining and outstanding debts owed to her.  The shares for debt are being issued through the Company's Share-Based Compensation Plan which was approved by shareholders at the Company's annual general meeting of shareholders held on June 19, 2014, and is subject to the approval of the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Link to release

 

XAM jumped 7.5% on the announced to A$0.215. +95.5% YTD

Xanadu Mines continues to find high grade gold in Mongolia

April 18 (Proactive Investors) Xanadu Mines Ltd (ASX:XAM) has yielded high grade gold assays of up to 145g/t from recent trench sampling at the Stockwork Zone II discovery at its 90% owned Oyut Ulaan copper-gold project in Mongolia. 

Trench results with assays up to 145g/t of gold confirm the existence of a continuous zone of shallow high-grade narrow vein gold mineralisation.

The systematic sampling within this zone displays remarkable continuity along the entire 33 metre strike of the exposed vein and structure.

This follows recent results from 157 rock chips samples collected from out cropping and sub cropping veins where 57.9% of samples graded more than 1g/t gold.

A total of 56 samples returned grades higher than 10g/t gold and 8 samples returned more than 100g/t gold.

Geophysics indicates the prospective area of mineralisation is 4.5 kilometres long and 300 metres wide.

Further geologic work, including a drilling program, is planned once assay results have been evaluated.

Xanadu's CEO, Dr Andrew Stewart said "The rapid delineation of high-grade gold, in multiple structures, at surface and now confirmed through trenching is an outstanding achievement by the company's exploration team."

"Although early-stage these untested possibilities and the high gold grades of surface rock samples and the first trench results combine to suggest that the targets may form potentially mineable bodies."

Oyut Ulaan

The project is strategically located within the South Gobi Copper Belt, which hosts the world class Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project, and 260 kilometres east of Xanadu's flagship Kharmagtai copper-gold project.

Oyut Ulaan comprises a large and underexplored porphyry district covering 40 square kilometres, and consists of multiple co-genetic porphyry copper-gold centres, mineralised tourmaline breccia pipes and copper-gold/base metal magnetite skarns.

Xanadu will continue its systematic, low cost exploration at Oyut Ulaan with further reconnaissance exploration, field mapping, trenching and infill sampling ongoing.

Trenching and detailed channel sampling of other parallel structures at Stockwork I and Bavuu Zone within 1.5 kilometres is now complete and results are expected in coming weeks, before drilling is planned.

Porphyry copper potential

Copper grades within the samples from the Stockwork II zone average 0.3% which supports the possibility of a buried porphyry copper mineralisation.

The zonation seen world-wide for this association includes upwards transitions from copper-gold porphyry veins to shallow level gold systems.

Analysis

Xanadu is trading around $0.21 giving it a market cap of $93 million, which is also double where it started the year at $0.11

The stock continues to attract broker attention from Bell Potter, who lifted their target price in February to $0.35 while maintaining their Speculative Buy rating. 

While Xanadu's flagship project remains to be the more advanced Kharmagtai, the exploration upside that Oyut Ulaan offers is compelling given the continued high grade and bonanza trenching results.

Link to article

Link to XAM release

Related:

ASX All Ords trades in tight band; but this Mongolian gold explorer soaredProactive Investors, April 18

 

TRQ closed +2.93% Monday to US$2.81

Rio Tinto releases robust first quarter production results

April 19, Rio Tinto Ltd. (ASX:RIO) -- Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh said "These results demonstrate our commitment to operational excellence in 2016, with notable improvements in several important areas, including a strong performance in Aluminium. However, we continue to experience volatility in commodity prices across all markets. In the face of a testing external environment, our focus remains on delivering further cost and productivity improvements, disciplined capital management and maximising free cash flow, to ensure that Rio Tinto remains strong."

Oyu Tolgoi

In the first quarter of 2016, Oyu Tolgoi achieved record levels of ore processed due to mill throughput improvements. With the mine also continuing to access higher grades, this resulted in mined copper production during the period being 71 per cent higher than the first quarter of 2015 and comparable with the previous quarter. Work continues on gaining the required permits and licenses for the development of the underground mine. It is expected that the Rio Tinto board will consider this project for approval during the second quarter of 2016.

Link to release

 

CNNC Int'l 2015 Annual Report

April  18, CNNC Int'l Ltd. (HKEx:2302) --

During the Year, the Group had negotiations with the representatives of the Mongolian Government in relation to the formation of a joint venture company for the operation of the uranium mine in Mongolia ("Mongolian Project"). The Group is still waiting for feedback from the Mongolian Government. All exploration works of the Mongolian Project had been completed. Progress has also been made with respect to the environment impact report which is still subject to approval of the Mongolian Government.

Link to report

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Local Market

MSE Trading Report: Top 20 +0.51%, ALL +0.21%, Turnover 35.4 Million Shares, 10.6 Billion T-Bills

April 18 (MSE) --

Link to report

Back to top

Economy

Historic low 2,050.85/USD set March 28, 2016. Reds are rates that set a new low at the time

BoM MNT Rates: Monday, April 18 Close

4/18

4/15

4/14

4/13

4/12

4/11

4/8

4/7

4/6

4/5

4/4

4/1

3/31

3/30

3/29

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4296ba475e0a2fd5de8e5bee5/images/611b76b6-2b0b-4a23-a444-02f9cb3dd75f.png

USD

1,992.39

2,005.08

2,008.46

2,013.15

2,020.04

2,023.91

2,026.93

2,032.89

2,042.75

2,042.49

2,047.17

2,048.79

2,048.90

2,050.73

2,050.77

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EUR

2,249.41

2,257.52

2,258.71

2,285.13

2,306.89

2,310.29

2,301.07

2,326.13

2,320.56

2,325.37

2,329.47

2,331.73

2,322.22

2,317.94

2,293.48

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JPY

18.45

18.34

18.35

18.49

18.64

18.77

18.64

18.69

18.51

18.50

18.34

18.23

18.23

18.26

18.04

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GBP

2,817.34

2,839.59

2,833.33

2,864.31

2,880.38

2,861.40

2,851.18

2,869.53

2,887.43

2,908.81

2,911.69

2,943.39

2,939.25

2,956.85

2,914.35

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RUB

29.12

30.27

30.16

30.49

30.34

30.17

30.02

30.04

29.79

29.61

29.84

30.64

30.24

30.14

29.75

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CNY

307.49

309.33

309.66

311.28

312.38

312.97

312.81

314.47

315.36

315.67

315.99

316.91

316.86

316.35

315.03

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KRW

1.73

1.75

1.74

1.76

1.76

1.77

1.76

1.76

1.77

1.77

1.78

1.78

1.79

1.78

1.76

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SGD

1,466.45

1,474.43

1,470.43

1,493.82

1,501.33

1,504.54

1,500.98

1,508.30

1,508.79

1,505.21

1,514.91

1,517.96

1,518.32

1,516.48

1,496.20

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4296ba475e0a2fd5de8e5bee5/images/e78a2df0-8efa-4dfa-adb2-9cf7540dfc08.png

CAD

1,534.61

1,566.04

1,557.67

1,571.12

1,566.71

1,558.17

1,547.81

1,559.80

1,554.66

1,559.15

1,567.51

1,572.61

1,579.97

1,571.20

1,552.09

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AUD

1,523.78

1,547.82

1,534.87

1,539.56

1,543.21

1,529.27

1,528.41

1,547.54

1,545.54

1,551.37

1,559.53

1,572.14

1,569.76

1,566.76

1,545.77

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HKD

256.90

258.50

258.91

259.56

260.46

260.89

261.30

262.09

263.35

263.36

263.99

264.20

264.23

264.46

264.38

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/4296ba475e0a2fd5de8e5bee5/images/9775661f-ece0-420b-843d-58b1b4b23546.png

CHF

2,061.77

2,071.90

2,075.71

2,100.53

2,120.78

2,124.06

2,116.79

2,134.27

2,130.75

2,130.48

2,132.80

2,133.05

2,124.20

2,123.57

2,104.65

Bank USD rates at time of sending: TDB (Buy ₮1,980 Sell ₮1,998), Khan (Buy ₮1,980 Sell ₮1,999), Golomt (Buy ₮1,980 Sell ₮1,998), XacBank (Buy ₮1,984 Sell ₮1,998), State Bank (Buy ₮1,980 Sell ₮1,998)

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

Link to rates

 

BoM issues 139 billion 1-week bills at 12%, total outstanding -18.6% to ₮336.3 billion

April 18 (BoM) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 139 billion at a weighted interest rate of 12.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release

 

Subsidized Mortgage Report: 47 Billion Issued at 5%, ₮144.6 Billion at 8%, 23.5 Billion Transferred to 5%

April 18 (Bank of Mongolia) As of April 15 banks received ₮245.2 billion (₮213.1 billion as of April 8) mortgage requests of 3,966 citizens (3,432 as of April 8), of which ₮47 billion (₮37.5 billion as April 8) of 996 citizens (793 as of April 8) have been approved at 5%, ₮144.6 billion (₮120 billion as of April 8) of 2,191citizens (1,833 as of April 8) at 8%.

Also, ₮23.4 billion mortgages (₮22.9 billion as of April 8) of 573 borrowers (559 as of April 8) who bought housing in Ulaanbaatar ger area redevelopment zones, satellite districts Baganuur, Bagakhangai, and Nalaikh, new capital housing zones, and 21 aimags have been transferred to 5%.

Link to release (in Mongolian)

 

NPLs +37.5% YoY to 0.96 Trillion, 8.2% of Total Loans, Banking Loss -88% MoM to 7.7 Billion

Consolidated Balance Sheet of Commercial Banks, March 2016

April 18 (Bank of Mongolia) --

Assets

3/31/2015

6/30/2015

9/30/2015

12/31/2015

1/31/2016

2/29/2016

3/31/2016

Bank reservers

2,166,627.6

2,009,193.0

2,096,368.9

2,064,802.2

1,884,265.2

1,955,884.9

1,995,463.7

Central bank bills

384,618.6

1,150,480.3

628,681.1

1,024,770.8

502,263.4

781,138.6

691,696.6

Foreign assets

678,991.1

933,597.8

1,034,485.9

977,926.2

967,508.1

1,238,957.2

1,379,075.8

Government securities

2,129,362.7

2,291,034.0

2,141,525.6

2,543,100.8

2,550,042.8

2,519,390.1

2,532,738.1

Other securities

433,905.1

791,068.6

604,210.5

762,088.6

733,087.0

1,084,448.8

1,032,197.7

Loans

12,211,911.3

11,881,967.3

11,873,157.6

11,633,582.6

11,720,824.2

11,565,212.9

11,764,551.5

In domestic currency

9,315,301.6

9,009,262.3

8,986,030.4

8,857,639.7

8,991,798.2

8,824,124.7

9,053,513.2

In foreign currency

2,896,609.7

2,872,704.9

2,887,127.2

2,775,942.9

2,729,026.0

2,741,088.2

2,711,038.2

Non-performing loans

701,393.4

771,939.9

850,227.0

867,288.7

891,398.2

907,607.5

964,396.5

Total Assets

20,778,313.4

21,861,631.6

21,316,424.7

21,521,242.5

20,858,066.6

21,844,684.3

22,042,486.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liabilities

3/31/2015

6/30/2015

9/30/2015

12/31/2015

1/31/2016

2/29/2016

3/31/2016

Current Accounts

2,142,904.5

2,298,855.5

2,248,819.0

2,208,520.6

2,066,761.7

2,163,933.2

2,114,696.0

In domestic currency

1,055,584.0

1,233,720.2

1,206,297.8

1,226,775.5

1,121,332.6

1,109,279.6

1,156,950.6

In foreign currency

1,087,320.5

1,065,135.2

1,042,521.2

981,745.1

945,429.1

1,054,653.6

957,745.4

Deposits

7,327,177.8

7,262,890.4

7,230,539.0

7,339,720.7

7,253,933.7

7,394,502.1

7,529,373.6

In domestic currency

5,144,588.5

5,244,138.0

5,135,099.1

5,390,685.4

5,269,150.3

5,327,494.8

5,424,466.0

In foreign currency

2,182,589.3

2,018,752.4

2,095,439.9

1,949,035.3

1,984,783.4

2,067,007.3

2,104,907.5

Foreign liabilities

2,543,800.2

3,526,325.8

3,158,428.2

3,595,478.1

3,601,792.6

3,720,904.9

3,762,953.4

Government deposits

1,413,505.0

1,357,006.6

1,466,673.9

1,453,863.8

1,495,838.4

1,469,081.0

2,247,310.7

Total Liabilities

18,561,507.4

19,535,743.5

18,937,145.9

19,094,433.4

18,531,266.0

19,509,713.9

19,647,892.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capital

2,216,805.9

2,325,888.1

2,379,278.9

2,426,809.1

2,326,800.6

2,334,970.4

2,394,594.2

Profit/loss of current year

73,971.0

179,045.6

176,135.3

218,253.8

-64,686.1

-68,947.1

-7,689.3

Link to full table

 

Social insurance revenue up 25.6% in Q1, expenditure +10.9%

Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) In the first quarter of this year, the revenue of Social Insurance Fund (SIF) was MNT 402.4 billion, reflecting an increase of MNT 82.1 billion or 25.6%, while the SIF expenditure--MNT 402.9 billion, increasing by MNT 39.4 billion or 10.9% against the previous year.

In the first quarter of 2016, money of MNT 36.7 billion was granted to 188.5 thousand people for pensions, and welfare benefits from the Social Welfare Fund (SWF). A number of people receiving pensions and welfare allowances increased by 4.1 thousand people or 2.2%, therefore an amount of pensions and allowances increased by MNT 1.5 billion or 4.2% compared to same period of the previous year.

In the first quarter of 2016, money of MNT 59.7 billion was granted from the Human Development Fund (HDF) to 990.1 thousand children aged below 18 as cash benefits.

Link to article

 

Freight and passengers fall 10.7%, 29.5% in first quarter from 2015

Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) In the first quarter of this year, 7.0 million ton of freight and 53.7 million passengers (duplicated counting) were carried by all types of transport.

The size of freight decreased in the first quarter of this year by 0.8 million tons or 10.7% and the number of passengers--by 22.5 million 29.5%.

In the first quarter of this year, 4,437 thousand tons of freight and 630.1 thousand passengers (duplicated counting) were carried by railway transport. The size of freight by railways decreased by 288.2 thousand tons or 6.9%, while the passengers decreased by 80.2 thousand or 11.3%.

The revenue from railway transport in the first quarter of 2016 reached MNT 87.0 billion, reflecting an increase of MNT 7.7 billion or 9.7% against the same period of the previous year.

In the same period, 635.8 tons of freight and 127.7 thousand passengers (duplicated counting) were carried by air transport. Freight by air declined by 7.8 tons or 1.2%, whereas the number of passengers had a remain with the level of the previous year. The revenue from air transport reached MNT 48.9 billion, showing a decrease by MNT 0.9 billion or 1.8% against the same period of the previous year.

Link to article

 

Births decline 4.2% in first quarter from 2015

Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) In the first quarter of this year, 19,043 mothers delivered 19,141 children (live births), showing a decreased of 598 mothers or 3.0% and by 294 children or 4.2% compared to same period of the previous year.

The mortality rate reached 4,146 in first quarter of 2016, increasing by 69 or 1.7% against the previous year. In this period, the birth rate per 1,000 people was 6.4, the mortality per 1,000 people--1.4, and the net growth of population per 1,000 people--5.0.

The births per 1,000 people declined by 0.3 units in the first quarter, while the average population growth--by 0.3 units, and the mortality rate was stable against the previous year.

The birth rate per 1,000 people was higher than the national average by 0.8 units in UB, by 0.6 units in Bayan-Olgii aimag, by 0.6 units--in Khovd aimag, and by 0.3 units--in Dornod aimag, whereas it was lower than the national average by 0.1--in Gobisumber, by 0.2--in Orkhon, by 0.5--in Khovsgol, Dornogobi, Omnogobi, by 0.6--in Ovorkhangai, Sukhbaatar, by 0.7--in Bayankhongor, Dundgobi, by 1.0--in Khentii, by 1.1--in Zavkhan, Gobi-Altai, by 1.3%--in Arkhangai, by 1.9%--in Selenge, by 2.7--in Bulgan, and by 3.1% in Tov aimag. It was stable in Darkhan-Uul aimag.

Link to article  

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Politics & Legal

Mogi: MPRP is not opposition, but part of the ruling coalition

Mongolia's leading opposition parties to form coalition ahead of elections

ULAN BATOR, April 18 (Xinhua) -- Mongolia's two leading opposition parties are forming a coalition ahead of June's general elections, the two parties announced on Monday.

The Mongolian People's Party (MPP), Mongolia's largest opposition party, and the Mongolian Peoples' Revolutionary Party, have reached agreement after intensive negotiations.

The decision will be submitted for approval by the ruling councils of the two parties on Tuesday, Khurelbaatar Chimed, a lawmaker of the MPP, told a press conference.

Analysts expect the ruling councils of both parties to approve it unanimously, believing that the formation of the coalition might be the first step toward a merger of the two parties, both of which are left-wing parties.

The ruling Democratic Party of Mongolia is also seeking to enter coalition with other minor parties ahead of the elections.

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Prime Minister gives official statement to Parliament on Mongolia's debt

April 18 (UB Post) During Friday's regular Parliamentary session meeting, Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg gave an official statement on the current state of Mongolia's foreign and internal debt. The PM said the statement was being made to provide accurate information to a misinformed public about the country's debt.

PM Ch.Saikhanbileg said, "Under the Law on the Government of Mongolia, the Law on State Budget, and the Law on Debt Management, the Finance Ministry has obligations to register statistical information about the government's debt and to report on it. "In accordance with the law on the Central Bank, Mongol Bank is in charge of registering and reporting the statistics of the external sector of Mongolia, or the statistical information and debt registration of government, the private sector, and banks. "Fulfilling its obligation under the law, the Finance Ministry issues an annual report on governmental debt, and Mongol Bank hosts the registration of Mongolia's internal and external debt registration and issues annual and quarterly reports. These reports are uploaded on the websites of Mongol Bank and the Finance Ministry and are accessible and open to the public. Therefore, I want political parties, politicians, researchers, and interested citizens to get debt information from these official sources to avoid having off-balance concepts and understanding about debt.

"The World Bank annually issues a report on detailed statistical information about the world's countries. Its last edition included statistical information about external and internal debts as of the end of 2014.

"The Finance Ministry has delivered statistical information on the government's debt as of the end of 2015 to all parliamentary members. I hope you all reviewed the official report. The report, issued from the Finance Ministry, was developed in accordance with financial registration methods offered by the International Monetary Fund.

"The statistical information on Mongolia's total debt includes direct foreign investments and loans between companies. As of the end of 2015, Mongolia's total debt reached 21.6 billion USD, whereas 4.9 billion of it, or 22.9 percent, is debt taken on by the government.

"The government does not bear any financial obligation for foreign investments and loans issued to the private sector in cases where it did not guarantee it. Government debt is debt that is repaid from the state budget or tax income. The government's nominal debt remainder was 14.3 trillion MNT as of the end of 2015, or 12.1 trillion MNT under the present value of the principal. Equaling 52.3 percent of the GDP, it is below the debt limit in compliance with the law on budget stability. This means that the government did not violate the law and is operating under the law.

"The misleading information that says every citizen of Mongolia has a debt of 15 million MNT is spreading and is creating mental stress for citizens. I believe and suspect that this is an intentional tactic to scare people as the parliamentary elections are approaching.

"Some people are giving the wrong idea that citizens should pay off the country's loans. International investors and assessment organizations pay attention to the repayment capacity of a country rather than its amount of debt. When investors make a decision to invest, they compare the government's debt to several indicators, including GDP, export income, the government's income, and the government's debt service, in order to determine the country's repayment capacity and its potential to pay off debt.

"As part of the Law on Debt Management of the government, the government is aiming to implement moderate debt management, based on a strategic document on 2016 – 2018 governmental debt management, adhering to its principles: to not put massive pressure on the balance of budget and payments, to not reduce official foreign currency reserves, to keep the balance of tugrug stable, to pursue refinancing for less expense and to improve special drawing power.

"The spread of stirred up, misleading information on debt among the public is causing instability in political affairs, impacting a downgrade of Mongolia's drawing power, and increasing interest expenses."

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UNDP to support realization of policy document on sustainable development

Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) Head of the parliamentary Standing committee on state structure A.Bakei Monday received a delegation led by Ms Daniela Gasparikova, the first Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to Mongolia.

The latter said the UNDP decided to implement a special program to realize a policy document of Mongolia named "Concept on sustainable development of Mongolia 2030", adopted by parliament in February of this year.  A work launched to formulate the project, so the UNDP wants to hear the Mongolian government's views about methods of the assistance, she added.

While talking about the project by the UNDP, Ms Gasparikova said it will be implemented until 2020 in two phases. In the first phase, a preparation will be ensured for realizing the document about the concept on sustainable development of Mongolia. Within the second phase, which will mostly focuses on implementation of the policy document, programs will be worked out on middle-term development policy, and research will be done based on the policy. Data on the program will be created, and measures will be taken for strengthening the parliamentary potential for monitoring over the realization, Ms Gasparikova said.

In response, A.Bakei thanked the UNDP for supporting a realization of this policy document and emphasized a significance of promptly starting the project's first phase, prior to a formation of the new cabinet.

Present at the meeting were S.Demberel MP; R.Khatanbaatar, a deputy chair of the working group for the policy document; officials at the Standing committee; Patrick Duang and Tom Beloe, consultants to the UNDP.

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DeFacto: Regional development policy and the role of the younger generation

By Jargal "DeFacto" Dambadarjaa

April 18 (UB Post) Although Mongolia is three times bigger than France in terms of territory, our population is only three million people divided into 21 provinces and one capital city. Given that half of the population lives in the capital, it is time to thoroughly discuss how to carry out regional development in our country with equity and make smart decisions.

If the current trend keeps up, and people keep moving from rural locations to urban areas, from soums to aimag centers, and from aimags to the capital, who will live in the countryside, take care of the vast land, and continue the animal husbandry that is the core of Mongolia's nomadic culture?

Due to urbanization taking place globally, Mongolia's younger generation increasingly prefers to stay close to and live in urban settlements instead of pursuing herding and farming. In other countries people do not flock to a single city, because their regional towns are well developed and have their own identities and special features.

Could Mongolia have three large hubs: western, central, and eastern? Could every aimag be a unique center of their respective region? How can the full potential of regional development be achieved? What is the best economic policy to implement? Why is the role of the younger generation crucial?

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT POLICY

The Economic Policy and Competitiveness Research Center recently published its 4th annual report on aimag competitiveness. Aimags were ranked after processing data covering 180 parameters, two thirds of which were statistical calculations and the rest came from surveys. The ranking was done with the general competitiveness index (aimag GDP per capita, unemployment rate, inflation rate, etc.) and four major indicators (economic performance, governance efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure). It appears that Orkhon Province led the list, followed by Dundgobi in 2015. More information can be found at aimagindex.mn.

This report provides us with a general picture we can zoom in on to look at the nation's economic conditions, business environment, and the employment levels of aimags to make comparisons. However, it does not show us what products produced in which aimags are competitive in their industry, or which are capable of entering the international market. But it should be noted that this analysis is not the objective of this report in the first place.

We call a business competitive when it exports its products abroad after meeting domestic demand. Only such companies can make an aimag or a region competitive and ensure a sustainable economy. Otherwise, at this time when commodity prices continue to fall, we can see that extracting and exporting resources brings about only short-term achievement.

In order to make aimags competitive, Mongolia's tax policy needs to go through a structural change. History tells us that regions cannot achieve development without giving aimags and towns the right to set local tax rates, collect those taxes, and decide for themselves how to spend local tax revenue.

Up to 40 percent of tax revenue and expenditures such as healthcare, pensions, and social welfare should be governed locally by aimags. Only then will aimags be able to develop and will we see people choosing to live there permanently.

Local tax governance would also allow for competition between aimags. In order to create jobs, aimags should start implementing good policies, such as those directed at reducing the amount of taxes they govern to ensure that as many businesses as possible are set up in their community. Also, aimags should be able to establish specific, competitive industrial clusters.

BAGS ARE THE CORE OF REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The underlying reason why herders are moving away from the countryside is associated with property regulations. Besides their livestock, herders need to be able to own their winter camp locations, and share pastures with other households in their bag (a bag is the smallest regional administrative unit in Mongolia). The more cooperation the bag households have, the greater labor productivity they will achieve. It will increase their profits, improve livelihoods, bring development to regions, and ultimately, to the nation as a whole.

First of all, the territorial boundaries of each soum need to be made clear with GPS coordinates. Every herder household should privatize their winter pasture and own it without having the right to sell it. Other pastures should be governed by the bag. This way, bag households could start fixing their water wells together and coming up with the best ways to use pastures. Their labor productivity and income will increase only when they work together in building fences, collecting hay, and preparing and selling meat and dairy products. When livelihoods improve, the people living in the countryside will have a lesser need to relocate to urban areas.

A similar movement in South Korea, called the New Community Movement (Sae Maul Undong), changed Korea's rural areas completely. Today, Mongolian herder households each own a satellite antenna and a mobile phone. This is a great advantage in comparison to what Koreans had in 1960. We need to do the research and establish a New Community Movement here in Mongolia, and establish a government policy to develop community businesses, encourage competition, and allow new regulations for land relations.

THE ROLE OF THE YOUNGER GENERATION

The younger generation is the wealth and future of a nation. It is essential to develop the younger generation into independent, responsible citizens with a positive mindset. Countries have a specific policy on their younger generation. Such policies focus on developing young people, educating them, providing them with a safe environment to live and work in, and ensuring healthcare wherever they may reside – be it in urban or rural areas.

The Government of Mongolia has cooperated with the United Nations Population Fund and other donor countries to develop the Youth Development Program. Under this program, 16 youth development centers and 27 clinics for youth have been established in the countryside (http://countryoffice.unfpa.org/mongolia/). These clinics are equipped with technical resources and trained personnel. The clinics provide young people with health advice, diagnostics, and treatment services, and improve their skills to live a healthy life. As needed, they provide professional, confidential, and high-quality medical services.

JSI Mongolia has recently published a countryside hospitality index and compared it to Ulaanbaatar's. The average hospitality of Ulaanbaatar residents was ranked 3.2 compared to the 3.8 ranking of countryside residents. The index shows that the people of the countryside are more hospitable and friendly than the dwellers of the capital city. Our younger generation can play an important role in taking advantage of the special qualities of the countryside, creating a value chain of goods and services, meet domestic demand, and potentially expand to international markets. They can do it because half of Mongolia's population is under 30 years old and are the people who are best at using information and communications technology. Mongolians have a great opportunity to use smart technology to improve our productivity. Our countryside has great potential for development, and we need to make the best out of it.

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Business

TDB signs $300 million oil import financing agreement with Russia's VTB

April 18 (Mongolian Economy) Today the Development Bank of Mongolia signed a USD 300 million trade financing agreement VTB Bank of Russia. The deal is meant to provide crude oil importers with a source of affordable and reliable financing.

With the backing of VTB, importers will have more opportunity to sell on the domestic market and repay the loan from revenues. Previously, companies would have to seek high-cost financing from other sources with high down payments in order to import.

As a result of the negotiations between the two parties, interest rate and term of loans were agreed at 7.6 percent and six months. The trade financing agreement will resume for three years. NIK, Magnai Trade, Sod Mongol and Shunkhlai, the companies that have met the loan conditions, will receive the first round of loans. Another advantage of this scheme is that it is possible to get partial financing in accordance with import volume.

Oil products account for 20-25 percent of the total imports of Mongolia and cause USD 800 million to 1.4 billion in outflows (depending on the price and volume). One of the causes of the recent slight depreciation of the tugrug is the weak inflows of foreign exchange reserves in the first two quarters of the year. Officials believe the agreement is also beneficial in reducing exchange rate fluctuations by taking out loans when the USD reserves decrease and pay them back when it increases.

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TV channels broadcast grand opening of road construction nationwide

Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) Grand construction works of roads and bridges started Monday at the same time nationwide. The opening was broadcasted live by the MNB (Mongolian national broadcaster), TV9, MNC, ETV and Eagle TV channels.

Mongolia had built 2,964 kilometers of auto roads in total, between 1921 and 2012. In the last three years, Mongolia built 3,405 km roads connecting aimags' centers to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, said the Ch.Saikhanbileg PM.

In 2013 and 2014, centers of Dornogovi, Dundgovi, Bayankhongor, Omnogovi, Khovsgol and Sukhbaatar were connected to Ulaanbaatar by the auto roads. Today's event is the opening of construction for 1,538 kilometers of the roads to connect centers of Dornod, Govi-Altai, Zavkhan, Khovd, Bayan-Olgii and Uvs aimags to Ulaanbaatar.

The construction is to be executed on the financing from public and private sectors (concessions), foreign credits and loan from the Development Bank of Mongolia.

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Mongolia-India Business Council opens to support cross-border business

April 18 (UB Post) Last Friday, Mongolia India Business Council (MIBC) was established to support the businesses of the two countries and help in expanding their cooperation.

At the opening ceremony of the council, President of the MIBC B.Gantulga said that Mongolia has been importing only religious items and souvenirs from India. He noted that some of India's biggest companies have expressed interest in investing in Mongolia's engineering infrastructure.

He said, "During his state visit to Mongolia paid last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India will consistently support Mongolia in every sector. In order to develop the trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, we are establishing the MIBC at the initiative of Indian entrepreneurs."

"In recent years, the electronics business is developing around the world. In addition to importing religious items and souvenirs, we are interested in cooperating to develop e-commerce between the two states. Any kind of business relationship develops based on mutual trust. That's why our council will provide the two countries' businesses with real and current market information."

Honorary President of the MIBC O.Nyamdavaa pointed out that 95 years have passed since Mongolia and India established diplomatic relations. "During this time, political and cultural relations and cooperation of Mongolia and India have been intensively developing. First Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru consistently supported Mongolia in joining the UN. Last year, Prime Minister Modi paid his first official visit to Mongolia. The visit was crucial in taking the strategic cooperation of the two countries to a new level. Involving the private sectors of the two states is important in advancing economic cooperation between Mongolia and India. The MIBC will work toward providing support in this matter."

During the council's opening ceremony, Mongolian representatives and Executive Director of the MIBC Surendra Kumar Bansal spoke about current economic cooperation between Mongolia and India. It was noted that even though trade turnover between the two countries has been reaching around 50 to 60 million USD per year, the volume has decreased since 2010. In 2014, trade turnover fell to 15 million USD, which the MIBC believes should be improved.

Executive Director Bansal said that if Mongolian products are being sold abroad in countries like the U.S. and France, they can also be exported to India, highlighting that India is one of the biggest retail markets in the world.

Bansal said that the council will conduct studies on which Mongolian brands can be introduced to the Indian market, and what kind of activities Indian businesses can carry out in Mongolia. He said that the council will present the results of their studies and provide Mongolian and Indian businesses with information about mutually beneficial business opportunities.

Bansal underlined, "We could say that India is a country of farming. Farmers make up around 70 percent of the country's population… We will study possibilities for introducing Indian farming experience and equipment to Mongolia."

"Mongolia can supply wool and cashmere products to India. The country can also supply food products, including meat and meat products, but processed as sausages. The world believes that Mongolian food products are organic and healthy. Not only in India, but in the region, there is a water shortage. That's why we should also study the possibility of supplying pure water from Mongolia," Bansal noted.

He emphasized that Mongolian food products will meet India's quarantine standards, but that beef export will not be an option.

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Ulaanbaatar

Major markets will be closed on Apr 21-22 during ASEP9

April 18 (gogo.mn) Biggest markets of Ulaanbaatar city will be closed on Apr 21, 22 due to The Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership (ASEP) meeting. 

As of today, more than 100 parliament members from 23 countries are expected to attend the meeting, reported by the officials. Speaker of the Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the Parliament from six countries will arrive in Mongolia. 

Therefore, City Mayor E.Bat-Uul issued a decree to close the biggest markets and to limit the cars by odd and even numbers during ASEP meeting. 

SCHEDULE OF MARKETS DURING ASEP MEETING

Name of the markets

Location

Apr 21

Apr 22

1

Narantuul international market

14th khoroo of Bayanzurh district 

Closed

Closed

2

Uguumur technical market 

14th khoroo of Bayanzurh district 

Closed

Closed

3

Bumbugur 

2nd khoroo of Chingeltei district

Closed

Closed

4

Bumbugur - 2 

2nd khoroo of Chingeltei district

Closed

Closed

5

Altjin bumbugur 

2nd khoroo of Chingeltei district

Closed

Closed

6

Dunjingarav center 

14th khoroo of Bayanzurh district

Closed

Closed

7

Sunday plaza

14th khoroo of Bayanzurh district

Closed

Closed

8

Night plaza

14th khoroo of Bayanzurh district

Closed

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Attention UB drivers! Plate restrictions on 21st and 22nd April

April 15 (news.mn) The 9th Asia Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting will be held in Ulaanbaatar on 21st-23rd April. As the first two days of the ASEP are working days, the Traffic Police Authority has informed that on 21st-22nd April, cars use in UB will be restricted depending on the vehicle's license plate.

Please note:

The following are allowed on the road

On 21st April, cars with a license plate ending in an even number.

On 22nd April, cars with a license plate ending in an odd number.

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Health, Education

Oyu Tolgoi Completes Trades Training Programme In Khanbogd and 21 Trainees Received International Standard Trades Certifications

April 18 (Oyu Tolgoi) Twenty one Khanbogd residents celebrated last Thursday as they completed a unique training programme strengthening their skills as they enter the job market.

The six month Oyu Tolgoi Pre-Apprenticeship programme started in October 2015. Over the past six months, the trainees undertook specialised courses in electrical trades, welding, and mechanics and received internationally-recognised Australian trades. The skills that the programme focused on are in high demand in the mining, construction and infrastructure sectors, equipping the participants to enter the job market.

To mark the completion of the programme, a graduation event took place at the Khanbogd Technical Training Centre attended by Minister of Labour Mr Bayarsaikhan Garidkhuu, senior Khanbogd soum officials and representatives of Oyu Tolgoi management.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Minister Bayarsaikhan Garidkhuu said, "Today is a special day for all involved in this meaningful project. Thanks to the cooperation between Oyu Tolgoi and its partnering institutions, these bright young people are trained to internationally-accepted Australian trades certification standards. I'm confident that they will contribute to the prosperity of their own community as well as Mongolia."

Michael Gavin, Oyu Tolgoi's General Manager of People & Organisation said, "Congratulations to the participants of our pre-apprenticeship programme. Working with us these young people have successfully developed international standard skills and knowledge. Training and skills transfer are central to Oyu Tolgoi's sustainable development approach. This is just one programme in a series of investments and partnerships we have made focused on education."

"By implementing this programme and others, our company helps meet the commitments we have made and to forge long-lasting, sustainable partnerships locally."

The programme featured in-class and on-the-job training jointly delivered by Oyu Tolgoi's Technical Training Centre, the Dornod Polytechnical College, in collaboration with Subutai Mining Services LLC and TAFE Queensland Skill Tech – a highly experienced Australian training provider.

The company has just announced an 18-week pre-employment training program in Khanbogd, which provides a combination of the necessary skills, knowledge and practical experience to assist participants in finding employment opportunities. Successful graduates will be awarded Australian trades certificates.

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Culture, Society

Istanbul Mayor to be guest of honor at Turkish Cultural Event

Ulaanbaatar, April 18 (MONTSAME) Minister of Environment, Green Development and Tourism N.Battsereg received April 14 the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey Mr Murat Karagoz to discuss an  execution of a cooperation memorandum, established between the two environment Ministries, and its related provisions.

During a talk about a preparation for the Turkish Cultural Days in Mongolia, which will run this April 22-29, it was sounded that the Mayor of Istanbul will take part in the measure as the guest of honor. The Ambassador Karagoz also informed the Minister that a delegation of the Association of Turkish Travel Agents (TURSAB) will pay a visit to Mongolia at the support of Mongolian Tourism Association.

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Nature, Environment

Asia Foundation Launches Frugal Rehabilitation Methodology for Small-Scale Mining in Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, April 15, 2016 (The Asia Foundation) — This week, the "Engaging Stakeholders in Environmental Conservation – II" project (ESEC II), implemented by The Asia Foundation jointly with the Mongolian Ministry of Mining launched a key foundation product of the project – the Frugal Rehabilitation Methodology (FRM). The FRM has been specifically developed for the rehabilitation of lands degraded by artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). The event brought together over 150 participants who represent a diverse range of stakeholders both international and local, including officials from central and local governments, local environmental inspectors, ASM NGOs and international organizations. The project has received financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

The FRM Launch is an opportunity for ESEC II to profile the importance of this methodology – a unique toolkit that allows rehabilitation to be achieved in an economically affordable, socially acceptable and ecologically viable way. The FRM is a document that has emerged as a result of ESEC II's collaborative efforts to implement Frugal Rehabilitation Demonstration (FRD) projects across 17 locations within nine aimags. The toolkit is designed to help ASM NGOs demonstrate their environmental responsibility through best practice and provide support to the formalization process within the ASM sub-sector by improving such ASM NGOs' "license to operate" through encouraging and guiding positive engagement with stakeholders on social and environmental responsibility.

"Through sustained collaboration with national and local government, and through the committed efforts of formalized ASMrs across the country, the Frugal Rehabilitation Methodology is tool that has evolved through practical demonstration," said Jonathan Stacey, Project Manager for the ESEC II Project. "From the positive results we have seen, we know it works – it is affordable, local communities have welcomed its results, and the positive recovery seen at demonstration sites indicate that it is ecologically viable."

The launch introduced two main publications – the FRM Field Handbook and the Frugal Rehabilitation Demonstration (FRD) Case Studies Handbook. These publications, when used in conjunction, will serve to inform and guide ASM NGOs and partnerships to scale-up and replicate frugal rehabilitation best practices, significantly reducing the impacts of ASM across the country.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women's empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation.

Link to release

Related:

The Asia Foundation Appoints Diana Fernandez as Deputy Country Representative in MongoliaThe Asia Foundation, March 23

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Sports

Team Mongolia comes 2nd in Asian Judo Championships

April 18 (MONTSAME) The Mongolian national team for judo has showed historical results at the latest Judo Asian Championship, which ended on Sunday in Tashkent of Uzbekistan.

In the events, which gathered 235 judokas from 30 countries, Mongolia won 4 gold, 1 silver and 6 bronze medals in the men and women's 11 weight categories.

A Hero of Labor, Olympic gold and silver medalist N.Tuvshinbayar has gained a gold medal in the men's -100kg by winning his rivals from Japan, Pakistan and Iran. In the finals, he beats a judoka of the host nation Soyib Kurbanov.

Other gold medals went to D.Altansukh (men's -66kg), N.Dagvasuren (men's -81kg) and D.Sumiya (women's -57kg).

2013 World champion M.Urantsetseg grabbed a silver in the women's -48kg. At the finals, she was beaten by G.Otgontsetseg, a former judoka of the Mongolian national team and a current representation of Kazakhstan.

Bronze medals went to 6 mongolian athletes and other six judokas took the 5th place.

Both men's and women's teams won silver medals in the team contests.

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Ser-Od comes in second in Nagano Marathon

Ulaanbaatar, April 18 /MONTSAME/ The Mongolian B.Ser-Od has grabbed the silver medal at the 18th International Nagano Marathon coming to the finish within two hours 15 minutes 56 seconds. The marathon took place this April 17 in Japanese Nagano.

The fastest man in the field was Jairus Chanchima from Kenya (2:15:31), followed by our Ser-Od (2:15:56), and a second runner up Taiga Ito from Japan (2:16:32).

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Mongolia wins its first Olympic berth in Taekwondo

April 18 (gogo.mn) Asian Taekwondo qualification tournament for Rio-2016 Olympic games commenced yesterday in Philippines. Mongolia was represented by Asian games bronze medalist, Aldar sports committee athlete M.Tumenbayar in 58kg and IMS P.Temuujin in 68kg divisions.

P.Temuujin, who competed in 68kg division, won against Afghanistan's legendary athlete, Olympic silver and bronze medalist R.Nekpakh and qualified for bronze medal. In the decisive match for Olympic quota, he defeated Taiwanese Jing Hao Cheng with 12-6 score. 

For the first time in Mongolia's sports history, Mongolian Taekwondo athelete will participate in Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

P.Temuujin will fight against Abughaush Ahmad from Jordan for the championship title.

Link to article

Related:

Mongolia to compete in Olympics for taekwondoMontsame, April 18

 

"Mongolia is very lucky to have a five-star golf course for less than 100 golfers"

April 18 (gogo.mn) Kevin Brand has traveled to over 53 different countries around the world, both working as a professional golf instructor and as a tourist. Before he came to Mongolia, he worked as a professional in India at a golf club which is almost 200 years old. 

-How long have you been teaching a golf?

-I am 44 years old now, and I have been a PGA golf professional for 24 years. I have taught golf around the world, but mainly in the UK and India. This is my fourth year in UB.

-What is your position here?

-I have two positions here. One position is a golf coach. The other job is helping run Skyresort golf club. I am here for eight months a year. I come March 01 and leave Nov 01. The outside golf course is open from Apr 01 until October 01.

-How many active golfers in Mongolia?

-At that moment we probably have one hundred Mongolians who play golf regularly. In Mongolia we still need at least one or two hundred more golfers. Our golf course can take easily one hundred people a day. So if people play two times a week, you need three or two hundred golfers to be able to fill the golf course every day. That is my objective.

This year my plan is to try actively get young people to play golf. My plan is to encourage  new golfers aged 12 to 26. I want 50 golfers and I am going to give them free group golf lessons. I have got some sponsorship that will help. Particularly, Mongolian ladies seem to be able to be good at golf. 

-More on that free lessons, please?

Link to interview

 

Mongolian in Third at Fantasy Premier League Table

Link to Munkhbayar Byambaa's page

 

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Art, Entertainment

 

 

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Travel

Why You Should Make Your Way to Mongolia

New luxury has made the far-flung Gobi more accessible than ever.

April 18 (Out Magazine) Nomadic culture is alive and well in one of the most enigmatic and faraway countries: Mongolia. After years of communism that isolated much of this landlocked country, the homeland of Genghis Khan is poised to reconquer the world, at least from the tourism perspective, by showcasing its richest asset: thousands of miles of remarkable nothingness once home to great dinosaurs that is today the backyard of a compelling culture of camel-toting wanderers. 

All travelers to the Mongolian outback must first lay over in Ulan Bator. And fortunately for them, the country's cultural, financial, and industrial center is also evolving at a steady clip. What was once a  dusty nexus of nomadic trails, UB is now a metropolis so fervently embracing globalization that the cityscape looks like a bizarre Sim City animation complete with residential towers swarmed by phalanxes of canvas yurts.   

The legend of Genghis Khan (known locally as Chinggis Khan) is also apparent throughout the city, from his gigantic portrait etched into the side of a mountain to the proliferation of institutions named in his honor. As the founder of the great Mongol Empire, which at its height of power was the largest contiguous kingdom in history, he is celebrated as the figurehead of national might. 

Khan's empire was short-lived, and Mongolia's more recent history is one of subjugation, easily discerned by the Chinese temples and Soviet relics throughout. A stop on the Mongolian branch of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, UB feels like an unlikely outpost where two superpowers, China and Russia, suddenly interlock. Where else in the world would you see a Cyrillic sign pointing the way to a Buddhist monastery? 

The Shangri-La Ulaanbaatar (Shangri-La.com) has solved the accommodation conundrum in the capital by providing the first luxury stay in the nation, equipped with all of the trappings of an upmarket hotel catering to business travelers and the discerning adventurer alike. Rooms climb a modern tower, and employ a sleek international style with views of a heterogenous skyline below. 

The hotel's most impressive feature, however, is its culinarily offerings. A foodie destination Mongolia is not, and while the country's Sino-Russki combustion promises fascinating cultural manifestations, the heavy, winter-proof cuisine is woefully lackluster. The Shangri-La's elevated approach to traditional favorites makes it an oasis in this dining desert. Three separate venues attract both travelers on a stopover and local expats: Hutong explores the flavors of Northern China with classics like Peking duck and steaming clay pot stews; Naadam tries its hand a simmering steaks and top-shelf vodka; and Cafe Park breaks away from regional flavors and provides an assortment of international comfort food served buffet-style. 

Desert camping has elevated the comfort quotient as well. Nomadic Expeditions (NomadicExpeditions.com) is the undisputed trendsetter, fusing modern amenities to their traditional yurts. Their flagship camp in the Gobi desert, Three Camel Lodge, pipes hot running water into their en-suite showers, and even offers guests an array of l'Occitane beauty products to slough off a day's worth of dusty exploration. 

The huddle of yurts operates as central command, from which excursions are executed in a style similar to African safaris — protracted jeep journeys through arid expanses of wilderness to take in the region's highlights, like fields of dried mud that have perfectly preserved thousands of shards of ancient dinosaur bones, rock drawings, and close encounters with Bactrian camels and their nomadic owners. 

The Gobi experience culminates with a unique dinner at the Flaming Cliffs. Named by Roy Chapman Andrews, the buffs turn a scorching orange — even more brilliant than the canyons of Utah — at sunset. It was here in 1923 that he discovered the world's first hoard of dinosaur eggs, forever cementing the area's reputation in the annals of paleontology. Young musicians serenade VIP diners as the beige landscape turns amber, red, and gold. 

The best time to visit Mongolia is during the Naadam festival season in summer when far-flung nomadic clans come together to fraternize and compete in traditional games. Recognized as an intangible treasure by UNESCO, the gatherings feature three competitive events and provide a crucial window into Mongolia's nomadic traditions — it's one of the last places on the planet that preserves this ancient way of life. Children jockey long-haul horse races, muscly wrestlers show off their assets with a tight ceremonial vest and tiny shorts, and archers engage in target practice while adorned in glossy ceremonial robes called deel. 

Many attendees play shagai, a fortune-telling game using the anklebones of a sheep. Offering a great souvenir to bring home to your friends, shagai further mints Mongolia's not-in-Kansas currency, which is luring new adventurers. 

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