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Thursday, December 15, 2016

[OT restarts shipments; MNT sets 13th straight low; coal exports soar, inflation returns; and economic gods smiling on Mongolia?]

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

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Jump to: Int'l Market - Local Market - Economy - Politics & Legal - Business - Ulaanbaatar - Diplomacy - Health & Education - Culture & Society - Nature & Environment - Sports - Art & Entertainment - Travel

Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

HEADLINES

Int'l Market

·         Turquoise Hill restarts Oyu Tolgoi concentrate shipments

·         Petro Matad Unaware Of Reason For Surge In Share Price This Week

·         Get your house in order, major investor orders Rio

·         Massive Mongolia coal deposits could revive its flagging economy

·         World Out Of Whack: Why We Bought A Bankrupt Mongolian Miner

Local Market

·         MSE Trading Report, Dec 9: Top 20 +2.99%, ALL +2.04%, Turnover ₮6. Million Shares, ₮102.3 Million T-Bills

·         ₮14 Billion 39-Week Treasuries Sold at 16.99% Discount on MSE

·         MSE Registers 853.1 Million New Ulaanbaatar District Heating JSC Shares, Total Outstanding 1 Billion

·         Market value of Tavan Tolgoi JSC increases by MNT 45.5 billion

·         MSE promotes "Advantages of Bonds"

Economy

·         MNT sets 13th straight historic low vs USD

·         BoM issues ₮99 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding -10% to ₮296.3 billion

·         BoM sells US$18m at ₮2,487.91 with $41.7m bids, declines CNY59m bids & $1m MNT swap offers

·         GoM sells ₮51 billion T-bills at 17% discount from offered ₮100 billion

·         GoM receives no bids for ₮40 billion 28-week treasury auction

·         Mongolia Coal Exports Soar 72% in Jan.-Nov. to 22.2m Tons

·         Mongolia's Jan.-Nov. Budget Deficit Rises to $1.1b

·         CPI rises in November after two months of deflation

·         UB Housing Prices Fall 0.3% in November, Down 5.5% from 2015

·         Economic gods may be smiling again at Mongolia

·         How Can Mineral-Rich Mongolia Emerge Prosperous From the Debt Crisis?

·         Bert Hofman: Mongolia already has the tools for fiscal discipline

·         Influence of Foreign Direct Investments on the Development of Mongolia

·         The effects of multinational corporations

·         What if Mongolia Went All-Organic?

Politics & Legal

·         DeFacto Review, December 11

·         Mining Ministry officials meet with delegations from China Shenhua

·         Who Owns the Media Sector in Mongolia?

·         December 29 is non-working public holiday

·         105th anniversary of National Liberation Movement to be marked on December 29

·         Swastika attack: 'Black Rose' singer speaks...

·         Tavan Tolgoi: new deal - new suspicions

·         S.Zorig's murder trial postponed by a week

·         D.Amarbayasgalan appointed MPP Secretary General

·         Ts.Zorig re-appointed Chief Justice

·         Race for the Democratic Party chairmanship kicks off

·         Mongolia Approves List of Railroad and Energy Projects for 2017

·         Mongolia Submits Bill to Improve Finances of Development Bank

·         Mongolian delegation trained in managing wealth for future generations

·         Freedom in Mongolia in 2016 by Freedom House

·         MONPAC Parliamentary Anti-Corruption group set up in Mongolia

·         Mongolia chairs 25th Council Session of IDEA

·         Speaker M.Enkhbold speaks to Parliament about corruption

·         Discussion on Corruption and Human Rights held in UB

·         MFA considering dual citizenship for Mongolians born in UK, Canada and USA

·         Economic Dynamics in Russia's Transbaikal and Mongolia

·         ADB and Mongolia implementing 10 projects

·         GIZ's biodiversity expert awarded with "Friendship" medal

·         Mongolia: Development Effectiveness Brief

·         A UN convention on ageing would protect older people's rights in Mongolia

·         De Facto: Power or economy?

Business

·         Golomt Bank's Copper Credit Card Recognised as the Best Product Innovation of 2016 by VISA

·         Mobicom: Leader of an era

·         MONTSAME.MN named as the best news website of Mongolia of 2016

·         Mongolian Economy magazine recognised as 2016 Magazine of the Year

·         How Your Cashmere Sweater Is Decimating Mongolia's Grasslands

·         How Mongolian cashmere is helping sustainable fashion

·         Russian Railways Seeks to Ramp Up Transit Through Mongolia

·         Japan to build solar power plant in Baganuur district

·         Mongolia's XacBank signs accreditation agreement as GCF Partner

·         Erdenet Carpet opens store in Hohhot

·         FESCO, Eurosib and Sinotrans launch land route from China to Russia through Mongolia

·         The trade turnover of agricultural products between Russia and Mongolia grew by 35%

·         Alltech collaborates to enrich eggs in Mongolia

·         Mongolia Keeps Animal Diseases at Bay with the Help of Nuclear Technologies

·         Businesses Navigate Troubled Waters in Mongolia

·         Three-word addressing scheme adopted in Mongolia and Ivory Coast

Ulaanbaatar

·         Right turn on red will be allowed at 11 intersections

·         Hazardous levels of air pollution hit Bayanhoshuu and Amgalan

·         Ulaanbaatar air pollution reaches hazardous levels

·         Ulaanbaatar's silent killer

·         483 CCTV cameras in Ulaanbaatar monitored by 56 police officers

·         Neglected children in Ulaanbaatar

·         Cheating bus fares costs us all

·         Ziferblat Ulaanbaatar Grand Opening

Diplomacy

·         China 'blocks' Mongolia border after Dalai Lama visit

·         China Dalai Lama Conflict: Mongolian Border 'Blocked' Following Tibetan Spiritual Leader's Visit

·         Indian solidarity with Mongolia: one billion US dollars against Chinese sanctions

·         China, Mongolia and the Dalai Lama: What India can learn

·         Does India Sense an Opportunity in Mongolia Amid Ulaanbataar-Beijing Split Over Dalai Lama?

·         China, Mongolia and Russian Federation to open up new era of trade cooperation

·         Russian Environment Minister visits Mongolia

·         Prime Minister discusses economic cooperation with Russia's Minister of Natural Resources Ministry and the Environment

·         Mongolia-Russia Intergovernmental Commission reaches agreement on hydropower plant issue and many others

·         Mongolia and Russia to strengthen economic cooperation

·         M.Enkhbold: "Mongolia and Russia must focus on trade imbalance"

·         Selenga 2017, joint Russia-Mongolia exercise, will be held in Mongolia

·         Speaker M.Enkhbold paying official visits to Russia, Saudi Arabia and Emirates

·         Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus V.Rybakov meets the Ambassador of Mongolia

·         Mongolia to boost transport ties with Eurasian Economic Union

·         Projects to be implemented with US$40 million loan from Austria

·         Cuban Ambassador presents his Letters of Credentials to the President of Mongolia

·         FM Ts.Munkh-Orgil discusses energy security with OSCE Secretary General

Health & Education

·         Surgical Access in Rural Mongolia

·         "In 10 years from now, our cervical cancer may go up even higher"

·         Mongolian wiktionary containing explanations of 50,000 words and phrases

·         Children's writer J.Dashdondog receives State Laureate award

Culture & Society

·         ASU archaeologist goes 'Jeep' into Mongolia

·         Empire of Tolerance

·         Stone soldiers, athletes and giants of Mongolia

·         Boob Necklaces, Mongolian Yurts And More: Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop 2016 Gift Guide Is As Ridiculous as Ever

Nature & Environment

·         Rarest bear: Montanan tracks Gobi grizzlies

·         Black-tailed gazelle essential contributor to sustain Gobi ecosystem

·         REDD+ Mongolia Supports Scientific Research Conference

·         KT&G to build forestry and agriculture education center in Mongolia

Sports

·         Mongolian becomes world chess champion of minors

·         M.Urantsetseg, D.Sumiya topping IJF Rankings

·         MNOC to cooperate with Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee

·         King Tug knocks out Mexican boxer for 7 wins in 7 career fights

·         Mongolia Dancers Place Fifth at World Latin Championship

·         Russian coaches to train Mongolian athletes under contract

·         Gymnasts win Bronze Cup in Dubai

·         Judokas grab three gold medals at World Military Championships

·         Ulaanbaatar Electricity Distribution Network Wins Coca-Cola Zero Bowling Championship 2016

Art & Entertainment

·         'Marco Polo' axed after only two seasons on Netflix

·         Miss World Mongolia's humanitarian work named as one of Best

·         A National Competition for Hairdressers, Cosmetologists and Nail Artists takes place in Ulaanbaatar

·         Review: The Eagle Huntress

·         "The Eagle Huntress" preparing to swoop on the Oscars

·         Mongolian Throat Singing Is So Mesmerizing You Will Listen To It More Than Once

·         Singer O.Enkh-Erdene won Mongolia's Got Talent 2016

·         MGT Winner O.Enkh-Erdene receives MNT 100 million in cash

·         Got Talent's first runner-up awarded travel cost to USA

Travel

·         Mongolia requests multi-entry visa from South Korea for top businessmen

·         New Ulaanbaatar International Airport approaches completion in January

·         7 Ways to Explore Mongolia's Terelj National Park

·         Mongolia: A Land Like No Other

 

ARTICLES

Int'l Market

TRQ closed -2.88% Wednesday to US$3.37

Turquoise Hill restarts Oyu Tolgoi concentrate shipments

BY: HENRY LAZENBY 

VANCOUVER, December 15 (miningweekly.com) – Canadian copper miner Turquoise Hill Resources has restarted shipments of copper concentrate from the Oyu Tolgoi copper/gold mine, in Mongolia, across the Chinese border.

The Vancouver-based Rio Tinto subsidiary stated Wednesday that talks with Chinese and Mongolian authorities have resulted in a new joint coal and concentrate crossing route at the Chinese-Mongolian border.

Shipments were halted early this month following the imposition of new fees on commodity shipments as a result of a diplomatic row after Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama paid a visit to Ulaanbaatar.

Turquoise Hill said Oyu Tolgoi expects shipments to return to pre-suspension levels over the coming weeks, based on completed trial shipments.

Production at Oyu Tolgoi was unaffected during the shipment suspension.

Rio Tinto operates the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper/gold mine, which is 66% owned by its Turquoise Hill arm and 34% owned by the Mongolian government.

Link to article

Link to TRQ release

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MATD closed +5.57% Wednesday to 8.05p

Petro Matad Unaware Of Reason For Surge In Share Price This Week

LONDON, December 9 (Alliance News) - Petro Matad Ltd on Friday said it knows of no reason for the recent movement in the company's share price and said all the resolutions put forward to shareholders at the annual general meeting were passed.

Petro Matad shares were down 7.7% to 8.10 pence per share on Friday, but still 60% higher than the start of the week.

"Petro Matad notes the recent movement in the company's share price and can confirm that there is nothing further to update since the company's updates on November 3 and November 16, 2016," said Petro Matad.

"The company continues to expect that the approval from the Mongolian government of the reassignment of the interest in Blocks IV and V is likely to occur before the end of 2016. Following the approval, Petro Matad will hold 100% of Blocks IV and V, and a payment of USDD5.0 million will be due to the company from Shell," the company added.

"The company's formal farmout process is in progress. There is a significant amount of interest expressed in our blocks and several companies are now reviewing the information in the data room. Therefore, the company has extended the bid deadline to February 2017," said Petro Matad.

Further updates will be supplied in due course.

Link to article

Link to MATD release

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Get your house in order, major investor orders Rio

BY LUCY TOBIN 

December 14 (Evening Standard) Scandal-struck Rio Tinto needs to "strengthen internal processes and controls", one of its biggest investors warned today.

The mining giant's governance has been thrust into the spotlight after twoof its most senior former executives, Alan Davies and Debra Valentine were sacked over an alleged $10.5 million (£8.3 million) African bribery scandal.

Now Jason Kururangi of Aberdeen Asset Management — the eighth-largest holder of Rio's shares — has publicly warned the miner to "strengthen internal processes and controls around things such as bidding," and to ensure "people are held accountable." 

His comments follow concerns, raised anonymously by other major shareholders, over Rio's handling of the Guinea bribery claims. One warned Rio could miss out on other major mine deals and said "the message [the sacking of Davies] sends is that you're expendable."

Rio wouldn't comment on Kururangi's warning.

Link to article

Related:

Rio Tinto faces scrutiny over Guinea paymentThe Tiimes, December 14

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Massive Mongolia coal deposits could revive its flagging economy

by Saheli Roy Choudhury@sahelirc

December 13 (CNBC) Former frontier market darling Mongolia has had a tough time in a world of low commodity prices, with its government struggling to make ends meet, but a spike in global coal prices could see the country stage a comeback. 

The mineral-rich country had seen double-digit economic growth as high as 17.3 percent in 2011 at the height of the mining industry boom. Subsequent declines in global commodity prices eroded those gains, with ratings agency Moody's predicting 2016 growth to be flat and only a 1 percent uptick in 2017.

But following reforms in China this year to rein in overproduction, and growing demand in Asia Pacific, coal prices soared. In November, Reuters reported premium coking coal prices in Australia had jumped to $289.30 a metric ton, up from about $85 at the beginning of June. Coking coal is a key component in steel production.

The recovery in prices has spurred Mongolia's hopes for a complex restructuring of the Tavan Tolgoi coal mine in the South Gobi desert, a move that would settle outstanding debt to Chinese aluminum producer Chalco Group. An end to the Tavan Tolgoi upset would make it easier to invite new investors such as Chinese state-owned firm Shenhua Group to help ramp up production and shipments to key market China at better prices.

"Nothing has changed on the Mongolian side of the border, in terms of quality of the coal, the availability (and) the low production costs," Layton Croft, an independent director at Mongolian real estate business Asia Pacific Investment Partners, told CNBC.

"In some cases, the ability to add value by washing the coal and, of course, the short transpiration distances are competitive advantages for Mongolian producers."

The development of Tavan Tolgoi, which contains 7.4 billion ton of coking and thermal coal deposits and is largely untapped, hit a series of political and economic roadblocks over the past few years, but the July election of the Mongolian People's Party is expected to ease the way forward.

To be sure, global coal demand is expected to remain sluggish, according to an International Energy Agency forecast released this month, noting while China aims to curb production it also is looking at to further develop other power sources.

Potential $3 billion revenue source

Mongolia's government on Friday held an initial meeting with a private consortium, led by Shenhua, which is in talks to take over development of the Tavan Tolgoi mine from the Mongolian state-owned company Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC (ETT). 

ETT owns six mining licenses, including one in the Tsankhi section of the Tavan Tolgoi mine that has coking coal deposits, but the company has been saddled with outstanding debt to Chalco. In 2011, the company borrowed $350 million from Chalco and agreed to repay the debt in the form of coal deliveries, according to Reuters. Because ETT is the largest miner in the country, this deal has meant much of Mongolia's coal exports have been unable to benefit from a resurgence in coal prices.

Under the agreement with Chalco, Mongolia was selling coal at $33 a metric ton, significantly lower than international average selling prices, according to Nick Cousyn, chief operating officer BDSec Joint Stock Company, a Mongolian brokerage,

With ETT representing a majority of Mongolia's current coal production, private companies have to contend with these low coal prices. "They are effectively being crowded out by the government," Cousyn told CNBC by phone.

He said Mongolia was missing out $70 a metric ton, or about $2 billion, in potential revenue if it produced about 30 million tonnes of coal on the assumption coking coal sold for $100 a metric ton on average. For Mongolia's $12 billion economy, that is a significant amount.

A representative from ETT told CNBC by email the key focus of the negotiations between the Mongolian government and the Shenhua-led consortium was to come up with a holistic approach to fix current underlying issues.

"For ETT, it means to fix its heavily discounted unwashed coal export and to regain commercial freedom through the economics of washing the coal and mining at both East and West Tsankhi," the spokeswoman said. She added that ETT expected to pay off its remaining $96 million debt to Chalco by the end of fiscal 2016.

Commentators said the new operating model would unlock the mine's ability to increase its production level and sell at a higher price.

It would also lead to infrastructure investments in Mongolia, including the development of a railway that could link into the Chinese rail network and deliver coal to destinations throughout China.

The latter benefit, Cousyn said, could ensure the Chinese still bought Mongolian coal even if prices went up, by easing the route of supply.

Under the current agreement with ETT, Cousyn said only inner Mongolia - an autonomous, northern region in China - benefited from the lower coal prices because shipments arrived across the border on trucks and was unloaded there for industrial use.

"What China wants is a much (bigger) access to natural resources globally at the lowest possible price," he said.

A road beset with obstacles

Still, politically Mongolia irked China in November after Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama visited Ulaanbaatar, the country's capital. In response, Reuters said China imposed new fees on commodity shipments at the crossing at Gashuun Sukhait, which is used to export copper from the Rio Tinto-run Oyu Tolgoi mine and coal from Tavan Tolgoi. 

Meanwhile, the country's short-term economic outlook is expected to remain depressed due to a drop in private consumption and negative impact of exports, according to Moody's analyst Mathias Angonin. He told CNBC by phone the benefits from the development of Tavan Tolgoi will only be realized beyond 2020, when growth is expected to hit 8.6 percent.

In the interim, the government has outstanding bonds that are set to mature in 2017, 2018 and 2022, including a $580 million maturity due in March 2017. The bond was issued by the Development Bank of Mongolia, with a government guarantee.

"We think the government will have to bear the refinancing risk for that bond and the modes of financing are not ascertained yet," said Angonin.

Moody's recently downgraded the Mongolian government's rating to Caa1 from B3, a high credit risk rating, citing increased uncertainty over the government's ability to meet its debt obligations in the near term.

The ratings agency said as of September 2016, the country's foreign reserves had fallen to a 7-year low of $1.1 billion. In 2018, the government has a bond repayment of $500 million in January, followed by a 1 billion yuan ($145 million) maturity in the same year, according to Moody's.

"The prospects are very favorable in the (Mongolian) mining sector, but the timing is uncertain."

Link to article

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World Out Of Whack: Why We Bought A Bankrupt Mongolian Miner

by Chris

December 14 (Capitalist Exploits) Market dislocations occur when financial markets, operating under stressful conditions, experience large widespread asset mispricing.

Welcome to this week's edition of "World Out Of Whack" where every Wednesday we take time out of our day to laugh, poke fun at and present to you absurdity in global financial markets in all its glorious insanity.

While we enjoy a good laugh, the truth is that the first step to protecting ourselves from losses is to protect ourselves from ignorance. Think of the "World Out Of Whack" as your double thick armour plated side impact protection system in a financial world littered with drunk drivers.

Selfishly we also know that the biggest (and often the fastest) returns come from asymmetric market moves. But, in order to identify these moves we must first identify where they live.

Occasionally we find opportunities where we can buy (or sell) assets for mere cents on the dollar – because, after all, we are capitalists.

In this week's edition of the WOW we're covering an update to a "freebie" I sent out a couple months ago

Like my beautiful wife, this one is going to be short and sweet.

Early September I threw out a "freebie", partly to reward long-term readers and partly to provide a heads up and a sampling of the kind of product I was polishing, shining, and packaging up into the awesomest, shiniest independent investment service I could be proud of and one dedicated to investing in asymmetric investment. Ok, it's not really shiny. I mean, it's a publication, not bloody silverware.

The alert, which I sent out to everyone on our email list can be found here. This week's WOW won't make a whole lot of sense until you've read the alert so go read it now if you are new or haven't read it for whatever reason and then come back….

Read it? Ok.

I received a lot of thank you comments after sending that out but in the melee was one from a subscriber:

"This is disgusting. Politics is dirty and I prefer to invest in non-political investments. This isn't for me and I'm not sure I want to even read your stuff anymore"

Listen snowflake, there is no such thing as "non-political investments".

Maybe if you've grown up in a cotton wool environment, spoon-fed Barney the Dinosaur as a kid, which then morphed into Hollywood sitcoms as an adult, and your idea of a "tough" world is when some pimply faced middle class pot smoking teenager gets kicked of the stage at X Factor because he cracked under the pressure, then maybe this all makes sense. But if that's indeed the case you need to put down the scissors before you hurt yourself.

Politics matters. Deal with it. Understand it. Baseball has a hard ball. If you cock it up you get a black eye or worse. Actions have consequences. A reason not to play baseball? Hardly.

This deal is all about politics and far less about anything else. Yes, the economics matters in the long run, and fortunately it has sound math on its side here but trust me when I say that sound math on its own in opposition to political pressure rarely wins the day.

Fast forward to a meeting that just went down in Ulaanbaatar. CNBC just reportedon it:

"The development of Tavan Tolgoi, which contains 7.4 billion ton of coking and thermal coal deposits and is largely untapped, hit a series of political and economic roadblocks over the past few years, but the July election of the Mongolian People's Party is expected to ease the way forward."

Political roadblocks? Hmmm…

And then this is what was written in the Insider alert:

"Adding insult to injury, the government owns the TT deposit and has consistently produced and sold coal for less than market prices, effectively undercutting MMC (Mongolian Mining Corporation) coal—while also creating a glut at the border and largely bankrupting the government's coal company (ETT) in the process. Mongolian Mining Corporation stopped production, but the government's ETT continues to produce at massive losses for no logical reason."

Yep. Politics matters, all right?

The CNBC article goes on to state the following:

"Mongolia's government on Friday held an initial meeting with a private consortium, led by Shenhua, which is in talks to take over development of the Tavan Tolgoi mine from the Mongolian state-owned company Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC (ETT)."

Now, as soon as Shenhua agreed to come to town the probabilities for the one company that's not even mentioned anywhere in the media to be one of the topics of discussion just got a whole lot better.

In the alert you'll recall the one major accelerant needed is the railroad. Here's what we said:

"In 2015, Mongolian Mining Corporation was able to put together a consortium of leading Chinese and Japanese firms (including Shenhua Energy and Sumitomo) that would pay to build a railroad to the border, build a power plant and then operate the TT mine so that the government of Mongolia would no longer be in the coal business.

Instead, the government was to earn royalties and taxes. Mongolian Mining Corporation would benefit as project operator, but more importantly, they would get access to the new railroad that would make their coal cheaper than Australian coal and let them once again ramp up production from almost nothing to nearly 10 million tons a year without substantial additional capital investment as all mining is done by a contractor.

It was a brilliant deal for all involved, but the DP government was so focused on destroying Mongolian Mining Corporation that they refused a deal that would have improved the government's own finances."

And we followed on with:

"It seems pretty obvious that the consortium deal is back on the table and will probably become sweeter for MMC than the prior version. In addition, there's also a strong likelihood that MMC's 18 million ton wash plant will be used to wash ETT coal in a toll milling situation.

The new railroad, a toll washing agreement on ETT coal, management of the ETT mine will all create huge value. No one knows the terms yet, but people are throwing around cash flow estimates to Mongolian Mining Corporation in the hundreds of millions (possibly even a billion) annually."

Now from CNBC:

"It would also lead to infrastructure investments in Mongolia, including the development of a railway that could link into the Chinese rail network and deliver coal to destinations throughout China."

That, folks, is the same railroad.

Here's the bottom line. Politics always matters and the politics in Mongolia changed recently. You'd be well served to understand who is in power and what their motivations may be.

As Mark Yusko, the brilliant mind behind Morgan Creek Capital, remarked to me:"You can make a lot of money when things go from awful to merely bad."

Oh, and before you ask… Yes, I'm fully aware it's up 3x but if you're buying a bankrupt Mongolian miner with a reward potential of only 3x you need your head examined.

Why?

Mongolia has a huge amount of problems ahead of them. They'll probably default on their debt, be bailed out by the IMF, and who knows what else but things just went from goddamned awful to less bad and the political motivations favour one company right now.

The Insider program is up and running. You can hunt it down here. It's not for everyone, it doesn't have some quantum code, revealing secrets from Richy Rich (they don't exist – the secrets, that is), and it absolutely won't solve your problems if you're down to the last few thousand bucks looking to buy that McMansion. If that's your problem then go read what I wrote about the easy, uncomplicated road to riches.

If, on the other hand, you would like to know about some of the most asymmetric opportunities that my team and I find and how to trade them, then it's probably something you'd be interested in.

– Chris

PS: Please note that I've disclosed my interests in this company.

"You can make a lot of money when things go from awful to merely bad." — Mark Yusko

Link to article

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Local Market

MSE Trading Report, Dec 9: Top 20 +2.99%, ALL +2.04%, Turnover 6. Million Shares, 102.3 Million T-Bills

December 14 (MSE) --

Link to report

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14 Billion 39-Week Treasuries Sold at 16.99% Discount on MSE

December 13 (Bank of Mongolia) On 13 December 2016, 39 weeks Government bonds /16.99% annual coupon rate/ worth  MNT14.0 billion traded at Mongolian Stock Exchange.

Bellow member brokerage companies participated in bonds trading as follows:

Link to release

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MSE Registers 853.1 Million New Ulaanbaatar District Heating JSC Shares, Total Outstanding 1 Billion

December 9 (MSE) According to the resolution No.:286 of Financial Regulatory Commission on 2015 and Listing Rule of MSE and Listing materials and documents of "Ulaanbaatar District Heating" JSC, Mongolian Stock Exchange /MSE/ registered additional 853,084,673 shares at MNT100.0 per share and made listing amendment on "Ulaanbaatar District Heating" JSC to total of 1,008,662,956 shares at MNT100.0 per share.

Link to release

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Market value of Tavan Tolgoi JSC increases by MNT 45.5 billion

Ulaanbaatar, December 12 (MONTSAME) In the last month of 2016, the market value of the Tavan Tolgoi company has been increased by MNT 45.5 billion.

For this period, the market value of 28 domestic joint-stock companies increased by MNT 81.8 billion, namely, that of the Gobi JSC rose up to MNT 12 billion, and the Mongol Post by MNT 6 billion MNT.

Meanwhile, the market value of 27 companies decreased by MNT 45.2 billion, namely, that ofthe APU company fell by MNT 25.5 billion MNT, MIC Holding by MNT 21 billion, and the Shivee Ovoo by MNT 3  billion.

Link to article

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MSE promotes "Advantages of Bonds"

Ulaanbaatar, December 12 (MONTSAME) On December 9, training themed "Advantages of Bonds" was organized by the Mongolian Stock Exchange /MSE/ in cooperation with the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) in Ulaanbaatar with an aim to promote the fundraising opportunities on the stock market.  

For instance, issuing bonds gives to Mongolian enterprises a range of benefits such as finding sources for long-term investments, drawing low-cost investments with more flexible interest rate than that of commercial banks, attracting investments in the very amounts needed for their business activities compared with other financial means.

The event brought together more than 20 members of MNCCI, Mongolian enterprises and businessmen who are interested in learning fundraising possibilities at stock market.

In receiving information about the ways of issuing company bonds and their importance and the stock market as a whole, the participants set to maintain active cooperation with the Mongolian Stock Exchange.

Link to article

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Economy

Reds are when MNT fell, greens when it rose. Bold reds are rates that set a new historic high at the time.

BoM MNT Rates: Wednesday, December 14 Close

 

12/14

12/13

12/12

12/9

12/8

12/7

12/6

12/5

12/2

12/1

High

Date

USD

2,487.58

2,483.00

2,480.65

2,478.64

2,475.65

2,474.86

2,472.63

2,470.03

2,468.68

2,468.07

2,487.58

12/13/2016

EUR

2,649.15

2,642.91

2,623.66

2,632.32

2,664.54

2,651.57

2,661.29

2,618.60

2,634.45

2,619.73

2,681.43

11/10/2016

JPY

21.63

21.54

21.41

21.66

21.79

21.64

21.72

21.68

21.66

21.62

23.49

11/09/2016

GBP

3,151.27

3,147.33

3,125.87

3,113.79

3,129.47

3,126.00

3,153.96

3,134.72

3,116.83

3,093.85

3,183.26

8/13/2014

RUB

40.89

40.63

40.52

39.12

39.03

38.73

38.75

38.59

38.40

38.69

54.32

6/27/2014

CNY

360.29

359.83

358.71

359.23

359.82

359.17

359.64

358.57

358.84

357.99

361.23

11/10/2016

KRW

2.13

2.13

2.12

2.12

2.13

2.12

2.11

2.11

2.11

2.11

2.14

12/08/2016

SGD

1,745.67

1,741.11

1,733.57

1,740.50

1,745.94

1,739.06

1,742.64

1,733.84

1,735.15

1,726.77

1,752.48

11/10/2016

CAD

1,896.38

1,891.09

1,890.38

1,879.11

1,872.30

1,862.69

1,865.08

1,852.99

1,854.06

1,842.67

1,896.38

12/13/2016

AUD

1,865.56

1,859.27

1,849.82

1,851.92

1,853.89

1,836.22

1,841.24

1,836.34

1,831.02

1,826.99

1,886.29

11/10/2016

HKD

320.72

320.00

319.70

319.48

319.19

319.10

318.82

318.51

318.30

318.23

320.72

12/13/2016

CHF

2,459.18

2,450.53

2,438.70

2,439.01

2,460.03

2,450.11

2,458.00

2,437.49

2,443.03

2,431.00

2,497.77

11/09/2016

Bank USD rates at time of sending: Khan (Buy ₮2,470 Sell ₮2,480), TDB (Buy ₮2,470 Sell ₮2,480), Golomt (Buy ₮2,470 Sell ₮2,480), XacBank (Buy ₮2,472 Sell ₮2,481), State Bank (Buy ₮2,470 Sell ₮2,480)

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

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BoM issues 99 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding -10% to 296.3 billion

December 14 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 99 billion at a weighted interest rate of 15.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

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BoM sells US$18m at 2,487.91 with $41.7m bids, declines CNY59m bids & $1m MNT swap offers

December 13 (Bank of Mongolia) Spot trade: Commercial banks bid weighted average rate of MNT2486.13 for USD41.7 million and weighted average rate of MNT358.10 for CNY59.0 million respectively. The BoM sold USD18.0 million with a single rate of MNT 2487.91.

Swap and forward trade: The BoM received bid offers of USD1.0 million of MNT swap agreements from commercial banks and the BoM did not accept any bid offers.

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GoM sells 51 billion T-bills at 17% discount from offered 100 billion

December 14 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 12 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 100.0 billion MNT. Face value of 51.0 billion /out of 51.0 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 17.000 %.

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GoM receives no bids for 40 billion 28-week treasury auction

December 14 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 28 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 40.0 billion MNT. Government Treasury bill was not sold due to absence of both competitive and non-competitive bids.

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Mongolia Coal Exports Soar 72% in Jan.-Nov. to 22.2m Tons

By Michael Kohn

December 12 (Bloomberg) -- Mongolia exported 22.2m tons of coal in Jan.-Nov., compared with 12.9m tons in the same period a year earlier, the National Statistics Office says on its website.

* 3.46m tons of coal exported in the month of November, representing 15.6% of the total coal exports this year

* Value of Jan.-Nov. coal exports was $776.6m, up 53% from $509.3m a yr earlier

* Copper concentrate exports rose 8.5% to 1.45m tons from 1.36m tons; value fell 28% to $1.5b from $2.1b

* Crude oil exports fell 0.5% y/y to 7.4m barrels; value fell to $303.5m from $360m yr earlier

(BFW)

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Mongolia's Jan.-Nov. Budget Deficit Rises to $1.1b

By Michael Kohn

December 12 (Bloomberg) -- Mongolia's budget deficit in the first 11 months of this year was 2.68t tugrik ($1.1b), according to a release by the National Statistics Office.

* Total revenue and grants to the general govt budget were 5.06t tugrik, while total expenditure and net lending rose 26% y/y to 7.74t tugrik

* NOTE: budget deficit in same period yr ago was 1.1 trillion tugrik

* Jan.-Nov. trade data:

* Surplus reaches $1.2b in first eleven months of 2016 compared with $747.8m a yr earlier

* Total external trade turnover reached $7.36b, down 4.9% compared with same period yr ago

* Exports rose 0.8% y/y to $4.28b

* Imports declined 11.9% y/y to $3.1b

* November CPI increased 0.5% m/m, 0.2 y/y and 0.4% YTD

* At end November non-performing loans in the banking system stood at 1.15t tugrik, a 33.1% increase y/y

* Rate of non-performing loans in total loans outstanding was 9.1%, compared to 7.1% at the same period a year ago

(BFW)

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CPI rises in November after two months of deflation

Ulaanbaatar, December 13 (MONTSAME) In November of 2016, the national consumer price index across the country increased by 0.5 percent compared to the previous month and by 0.2 percent compared to the same period in 2015 and by 0.4 percent against the beginning of 2016.

This slight increase of 0.2 percent from the same period of the previous year was mainly due to increase of 1.3 percent in prices for clothing and footwear (6.0 percent in prices for clothing materials subgroup), 6.0 percent in prices for health group (12.2 percent in prices for out-patient services subgroup), and 2.5 percent in prices for education group.

Last month, the national consumer price index for urban consumers increased by 0.7 percent against the previous month, decreased by 0.4 percent from the beginning of the year and by 0.6 percent from the same period in 2015.

This slight drop of 0.6 percent from the same period of the previous year was mainly due to decrease of 4.6 percent in prices for housing, water, electricity and fuels group (of which 11.6 percent in prices electricity, gas and other fuels subgroup), 1.7 percent in prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages group (of which 20.7 percent in prices potato and vegetables subgroup) and 1.7 percent in prices for transport group.

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UB Housing Prices Fall 0.3% in November, Down 5.5% from 2015

December 14 (Bank of Mongolia) Following is the public report of the November 2016 results of the "Housing Price Index" (HPI) research conducted independently by Tenkhleg Zuuch LLC at the request of Mongol Bank.

The research shows that the general index of housing price was at 0.8 percent in November 2016. It shows a decline by 0.3 percent compared to the previous month. The general index dropped by 4.4% compared to the starting period, and by 5.5 % compared to the same month in previous year. Below are the Price index indicators classified by new and old houses.

The new house price index was at 15.7 percent. There is no change compared to the previous month. The index dropped by 2.8% compared to an earlier period of this year, and by 3.3% compared to the same month in previous year.

The old house price index was at 8.1 percent. This shows a decline by 0.8 percent compared to the previous month. The index dropped by 6.7% compared to the earlier period of this year, and by 7.8 % compared to the same month in previous year. 

 

 

General

New houses

Old houses

Index change /starting period -2013.01/

0.8%

15.7%

-8.1%

Compared to previous month

-0.3%

1.1%

-0.8%

Compared to the beginning of the year

-4.4%

-2.8%

-6.7%

Compared to the same month in previous year

-5.5%

-3.3%

-7.8%

HPI was calculated by applying Hedonic regression methods and the calculation was based on the information available for 4938 old and new houses supplied for sale at the real estate market of Ulaanbaatar for the particular month.

Research Division, Tenkhleg Zuuch LLC.

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Economic gods may be smiling again at Mongolia

Despite debt downgrade, IMF-led bailout looks realistic as commodities bottom out

By KEN KOYANAGI, Editor-at-large

TOKYO, December 15 (Nikkei Asian Review) -- The international financial community's confidence in the Mongolian government's capability in delivering reforms and debt services seems to be ameliorating after a long slump. That was an impression left by an investment-promotion conference held in Tokyo last week, attended by representatives of foreign lenders and investors as well as officials at the country's central bank and legislature.

The timing of the conference, hosted by Frontier Securities, a Japanese-run Ulaanbaatar-based investment bank, seemed to be as bad as it could be.

The country's sovereign debt rating had been downgraded from "B3" to "Caa1" by Moody's in mid-November, with less than four months before the mid-March maturity of a $580 million bond issued by state-run Development Bank of Mongolia. There is no hope that the bank itself will manage to secure funds to repay the bond, given its poor management. The former chief executive of the bank was arrested in October for arbitrary use of funds raised from the bond issuance.

The country's fiscal deficit has exploded to reach 20% of gross domestic product this year. The 2016 GDP is projected to show no growth at around $12 billion, if not a contraction. Mongolia's total external debt is estimated at as much as $23.5 billion, of which the government debt accounts for about $8.4 billion. Analysts say the government needs to repay $1.7 billion-$1.8 billion over the next two years.

In such a situation, to meet the March deadline for the Development Bank's $580 million bond, many believe that the government will need to agree the IMF's loan terms by early February at the latest.

Graeme Knowd, a managing director at Moody's Japan, was straightforward on that issue at the conference. "There seems to be a large gap in the growth forecasts between the Mongolian government's and the IMF's, and we think it will take some time for them to agree on a consensus somewhere in the middle."

On the other hand, Knowd also made a remark that seemed to contradict his own institution's decision to downgrade the country's debt, which led to worries about a default. "What we are seeing is not an insolvency issue but a liquidity issue. We are quite confident that repayment will be made. We are just not certain that it will be made on time in March," he said.

Following Knowd's comment, Neil Saker, IMF's resident representative in Ulaanbaatar, even sounded optimistic. "Regarding the liquidity issue, I am hopeful. We don't really see any big difference [between IMF and the Mongolian government] on the policy framework," Saker said, which many saw as implication that the IMF's talks with the Mongolian government are advancing smoothly. He revealed that the IMF is encouraging other international institutions and countries to join in the rescue initiative as well.

High coupons

Some conference participants said they expected holders of the Development Bank's $580 million would be willing to roll over the debt because the coupon rate will be in double digits. Such a rate would be attractive enough considering that fundamentals internally and externally, including resource commodity prices, mining project progress and macro-economic policies, are starting to ameliorate. "Not many countries have very high interest rates and a bright future at the same time like Mongolia," one of those participants said.

On the sidelines of the conference, an official of the country's central bank, the Bank of Mongolia, was reassuring to both the IMF and Moody's representatives, repeating the line that "the government will repay on schedule for sure."

The central banker also told the Nikkei Asian Review that the bank is determined to maintain the current level of tight monetary policy to maintain the value of the Mongolian currency, the tugrik, for at least a couple of years despite political pressures against it. Saker had told the conference a sustained tight monetary policy is a prerequisite for a new IMF loan.

In recent years, a sharp decline in resource commodity prices led to a sharp drop in government revenues from the mining sector and to a deterioration of the balance of payments. In the June 29 general election, the then-ruling Democratic Party was removed from power and an overwhelming majority voted in the Mongolian People's Party. The new parliament named Erdenebat Jargaltulga, former finance minister, as the new prime minister.

The new government started drafting a policy package involving a fiscal restructure and structural reforms immediately after the inauguration in early July and started talks with the IMF. It proceeded in late September to officially request for an IMF bailout.

Almost all the speakers pointed to a rapid rebound in the prices of coals and copper, both crucial exports for Mongolia. "The economic gods are starting to smile for Mongolia," Nicholas Edwards, a veteran American investor, said. He pointed out that, thanks to the recent price increase, Mongolian coal mines are starting to make money He also noted that copper has been the best performing metal for the past six weeks in the international market.

Of course, every participant agreed that continuous fiscal reforms and economic restructuring are absolute "musts" for the Mongolian government in order to attract a substantial amount of foreign direct investments again.

IMF's Saker warned that the government and politicians should refrain from expanding government expenditure even if the commodity market recovers substantially. "Rather than increasing expenditure when commodity prices go up, which was the story over the last 10 years, [Mongolians] should save those windfalls into sovereign wealth funds and other effective instruments," he said.

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How Can Mineral-Rich Mongolia Emerge Prosperous From the Debt Crisis?

December 9 (Natural Resource Governance Institute) Only a few years ago, Mongolia was hailed as the world's next economic dynamo.

"Mongolia is in the middle of an epic gold rush—think San Francisco in 1849—but it's copper and coal that have enticed businessmen, investment bankers, and miners from London, Dallas and Toronto by the planeload," Ron Gluckman wrote in Foreign Policyin 2011. (The publication also dubbed the country "Minegolia.")

Stark realities

Five years later, things are much different. The economy is likely to contract for the first time in eight years. Unemployment is rising. The tugrug, the national currency, is in freefall, having lost nearly 25 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of the year. Household consumption has dropped by 20 percent in 2016.

The drop since 2011 in prices of commodities—specifically copper and coal, Mongolia's most valuable natural resources—has played its part (a recent rebound notwithstanding). Foreign investment has dried up as mining companies have cut costs and consolidated operations worldwide. As a result, government revenues are much lower than expected. At 19.5 percent of GDP, Mongolia's budget deficit will be one of the world's highest this year.

The commodity price crash is not the only cause of low mineral revenue projections. Several tax agreements covering Mongolia's biggest mines, Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi, are also of concern. For example, coal giant Tavan Tolgoi's long-term offtake agreement, designed to repay debt owed by Mongolia's state-owned mining company, is hampering the government's ability to benefit from high coal prices in China. Likewise, the government's double tax treaty with the Netherlands, which is locked into the government's contract with Rio Tinto, could cost upward of USD 6.5 billionin unpaid withholding taxes over the lifespan of the Oyu Tolgoi mine.

Of course, lower revenues represent just one side of the deficit story. Higher spending constitutes the other. Government spending has tripled in nominal terms since 2010. Fiscal revenues, meanwhile, have only risen by 75 percent.

Unrealistic expectations of massive mining sector revenues fueled a spending spree starting in 2011. Government salaries, infrastructure costs and cash transfers have spiraled. For example, the government wage bill rose by more than 60 percent in nominal terms from 2012 to 2016.

Lack of transparency has aggravated the situation. While the rapid deterioration in public finances in recent years was apparent, some opaque arrangements were not counted as official government liabilities. For instance, subsidized household mortgages, Development Bank of Mongolia debt, and loans for herders, students and rural households were kept off the books. The loans and mortgages were financed by the central bank. These programs together added 4 percent of GDP to the exploding deficit in 2016.

To compensate for the budget deficit, the government has resorted to substantial borrowing. Yet even this might not be possible for much longer. The government is already paying more than 10 percent interest on foreign currency-denominated debt. Domestic currency denominated sovereign debt rates generally exceed 16 percent annually.

As we recently wrote in the Mongolian Mining Journal, interest payments on debt alone cost the government in excess of MNT 1 trillion (approximately USD 400 million) in 2016, more than the government spent on healthcare. By next year, interest payments will likely exceed either the healthcare or education budgets. Owing to past mismanagement, the government is essentially transferring money to foreign financial institutions and domestic bank shareholders at the expense of greater social spending and public investment. As interest rates continue to rise, the government will have to radically increase borrowing just to roll over an ever growing debt stock.

Preliminary analysis using NRGI's forthcoming macroeconomic model confirms that the current trajectory of Mongolia's public finances is unsustainable in the absence of radical measures. Assuming short-term liquidity pressures are resolved (i.e., debt is rolled over and maturities are lengthened), that the external environment remains accommodating, and domestic growth picks up rapidly, our model projects debt remaining far above the legislated limit and spiraling upward from 2025 onward. This is if creditors do not take a major haircut on their lending to Mongolia and there is no drastic change in government policy.

The model also shows that from 2019 to 2024 there may be a temporary stabilization of headline deficit and debt, fueled largely by windfall revenues from the Oyu Tolgoi mine. After this period, the deficit starts widening again and remains large even if interest payments are excluded. So even if Mongolia had no previous debt, it would be rapidly building up a new debt stock. This shows that Mongolia is facing solvency crisis and debt sustainability challenges and not just a liquidity crisis, as in 2009 when the IMF and other creditors carried the country through a temporary commodity price crash. Without a significant cut in the debt level as well as a rethink of public spending priorities and expenditure controls—not just a temporary shrinking of the deficit or short-term bailout—Mongolia will not return to a sustainable debt path.

In short, Mongolia is facing a debt crisis unlike anything seen since the end of communism. Without debt restructuring or several new mines the size of Oyu Tolgoi coming online prior to 2024—a near impossibility—Mongolia is likely to stagnate under the weight of debt for decades. Furthermore, it may be unwise to bring new mines online quickly as a savior for Mongolia's woes. Bad deals could set the country back for generations.

What to do?

It is not too late to avoid a chaotic sovereign default, whereby the government is suddenly unable to pay its bills. Several options are available to the government to stem the crisis.

Any bailout package—either from international financial institutions or foreign countries—will contain a mix of possible measures, which are outlined in an upcoming NRGI paper. Creditor conditions should minimize the financial harm inflicted on Mongolia's most vulnerable citizens, for example by protecting some social programs. It will also be important to find a way to credibly commit to future fiscal sustainability and address financial tricks that have contributed to the crisis, such as borrowing by off-budget entities or central bank lending that principally benefits the wealthy. All major political parties could sign an agreement committing to future fiscal sustainability and creating binding mechanisms for fiscal rules compliance.

Mongolian authorities may wish to heed the lessons of South Korea, Russia and other countries that have faced sovereign debt crises, avoiding unnecessary privatizations that do not generate much revenue and taking a proactive approach to debt restructuring. Any package will likely require Mongolia's creditors taking a haircut. Otherwise Mongolia's economic growth could stagnate for years under the weight of high debt service payments. Just ask Greece.

Andrew Bauer is a senior economic analyst with the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI). Dorjdari Namkhaijantsan is Mongolia manager with NRGI. David Mihalyi is an economic analyst with NRGI.

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Bert Hofman: Mongolia already has the tools for fiscal discipline

December 10 (Mongolian Economy) Interview with Bert Hofman, World Bank's Country Director for China, Mongolia and Korea in the East Asia and Pacific Region.

-How do you see Mongolia's long term prospects as IMF Resident Representative Neil Saker touched on during his presentation? What kind of positive developments do you expect for Mongolia?

-Mongolia has a very bright future given its natural resource wealth and wealth in human capital, and given the environment that the country lives in.  Asia is a very dynamic part of the world, so there is a lot of promise. In the short-term, as pointed out by the PM, Minister of Finance and Neil Saker of the IMF, there are considerable challenges. So we are here together not only to discuss this longer-term future and what we can do to build that for Mongolia, but also how to help Mongolia get through this shorter-term phase.

-What kind recommendations would you make related to Mongolia's economy for the coming 2 years?

-Firstly, is important to re-establish fiscal sustainability, and secondly, it also very important to rebuild resilience for the future, so that there is less fluctuation coming from commodity prices. Third, diversification of the economy is needed in order to create jobs outside of the mining sector. Agriculture and tourism are very promising sectors and focusing on them so that it would work is what is important right now. But the highest priorities are probably stability and resilience.

-As you know, the government of Mongolia is negotiating a programme with the IMF and government is planning to borrow 4.2 billion USD from China. How do you see this?

-Well, I think Mongolia needs a lot of help in the short term, which is why a whole team of development assistance partners of Mongolia would come together to support the government's programme. That includes China, the World Bank, the ADB and others. We are all in discussions, and we hope that the government concludes its programme discussions very soon so that we can start helping.

-Given Mongolia's biggest export destination is China, and with China limiting its imports from Mongolia, will this hinder Mongolian economic growth (Bloomberg)?

-I am not aware of that policy and I can't react to that.

-Has is the slowdown in China affecting Mongolia?

-There is a threat as well as an opportunity. China is slowing and rebalancing into an economy of more consumption, less investment, and that is more domestically-oriented, less export-oriented. This will change China's demand for Mongolian goods.  So one can expect lower growth in the longer term. However, I am not saying levels fall altogether, but less growth in commodity demand and more growth in consumer demand will be seen. Mongolia has lots of things to offer China, especially in the agricultural sector, but don't forget tourism, as it's a fantastic country to visit. So from the consumption side of China, there will be probably more demand or will be more growth than the past, and on commodity side, there will be less growth than the past. However, overall demand will remain very high.

-So you still see that there will be growth rather than contraction?

-China still has lots of things to build in terms of housing, and to some extent infrastructure, but also lots of consumer and commodity goods in the longer-term. Other emerging economies also see this phase, and Mongolia can ride along. It is not just China.

-Many of the international financial institutions talk about improving fiscal discipline. So what kinds of specific fiscal changes or fiscal policy need to be implemented?

-In a way Mongolia, already has the tools for fiscal discipline. The Fiscal Stability Law is fantastic legal framework, but Mongolia has to abide by it and fix backdoors and loopholes. So, a comprehensive budget that includes all government spending, no matter how they are financed, whether it is through the Development Bank of Mongolia or Bank of Mongolia, should be reflected in the budget and part of that fiscal constraint. Secondly, Mongolia up until now has not raised that much in taxes, and Mongolia is very different from when I started 22 years ago. Everybody was poor 22 years ago. Now, there are lots of rich people, and there is a lot of opportunity to mobilise more domestic resources – talking not just about financing, but also domestic tax resources that will help to achieve the necessary fiscal sustainability and fiscal discipline.

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Influence of Foreign Direct Investments on the Development of Mongolia

By Matej Šimalčík, University of Groningen, Students; Independent

December 2015

Abstract:      
During the last decade, Mongolia was a destination of increasingly higher volume of foreign direct investment. These investments targeted mostly the country's mining industry. This paper analyzes how the increased foreign direct investment inflow influenced Mongolia's socio-economic development.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 16

Keywords: Mongolia, development, foreign direct investment, mining industry

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The effects of multinational corporations

December 9 (UB Post) Just taking a five-minute walk in UB makes it hard to ignore the presence that international brands have established in the city. A fast food chain such as KFC or a coffee chain such as Cafe Bene is a common sight, with a seemingly ever-expanding amount of branches. This was not case as recently as five to six years ago. However, this is just perception, looking beyond the visual test and delving deeper beneath the surface can show us the effects multinational corporations have had on Mongolia and will have in the future.

The recent opening of South Korea's E-mart hypermarket chain has caught the attention of the public and many economists. Opinions on the opening of the store have been very much divided. Many people praise the increase in the quality of products and services offered in the city, while also mentioning the competition it presents. Economists seem to agree on the potential risks that a large chain like E-mart could pose for the economy. Even in a time of economic hardship, E-mart found large success in its opening. As reported by the Korea Herald, "more than 3,500 customers came to the store by 3 p.m. on the official opening day, and the store had to limit their entrance as many as six times. During its 'soft opening' period, from July 26 to 27, the hypermarket posted 400 million KRW (353,515 USD) in sales, about three times its estimate."

The tactics employed by E-mart seem to be reminiscent of what Walmart employs in the United States. Walmart's monopolization in local economies has been well documented. Many analysts have noticed the pattern of Walmart's market penetration tactics. By offering low prices and a wide array of products, they tend to quickly attract shoppers. In several cases, this has had a negative effect on the performance of local businesses and the local economy as a whole. The same trend can be seen in Mongolia; it has become hard for domestic chains such as Nomin and Orgil to compete with the pricing, quality, and environment that E-mart offers. With a reported plan to open 30 chains in the country, this trend looks like it will continue even further. This is not to negate the positive effects that E-mart has had on consumers; the store offers high quality products that consumers want. The argument made by many seems to be that domestic chains need to put in more effort to compete with E-mart. However, according to Forbes, E-mart's sales for 2015 totaled 12.05 billion USD, and they were ranked at 1,320 in the list of Global 2000 list. In comparison, Mongolia's total exports in 2015 totaled 5.27 billion USD. We are talking about a company that is arguably larger than the Mongolian economy. Therefore, the cautious sentiment by many seems to be warranted. If the chain establishes a monopoly in the market, which is looking increasingly likely, that would mean a large amount of money consumers spend would be diverted outside of the country. It is worth mentioning that E-mart is cooperating with the Mongolian-owned Altai Holding LLC, so not all of the money will be leaving the country.

E-mart is just the latest example in the increasing number of Mongolian sectors being dominated by foreign companies. The food and beverage industry has recently been overtaken by large international chains such as KFC, Pizza Hut, and Burger King. While the trend of local restaurants and chains closing continues, the expansion of international fast food chains seems to be ever-growing. The expanding coffee industry has seemingly been overtaken by a number of South Korean chains, such as Cafe Bene and Tom n Toms. With the opening of the Shangri-La Hotel in June 2016, the hospitality sector has seen another major foreign player enter the market. Like E-mart, Shangri-La established a partnership agreement with MCS Group to build the hotel. Shangri-La is known to prioritize ownership above strictly franchising its hotels; it runs 95 hotels, of which 75 are privately owned or part-owned. Like Shangri-La and E-mart, many of these foreign companies have a Mongolian company mediate their penetration of the Mongolian market. This helps offset some concerns regarding the increased role of multinational corporations, but it is hard to dismiss the concerns outright.

Foreign involvement in Mongolian sectors is nothing new. Ever since 1990, foreign investors and companies have played a large role in helping establish companies in the market. The involvement of multinational corporations has not been limited to a few sectors only. This is evident in the banking sector, where almost all of the country's 13 commercial banks have some type of foreign stake. For instance, 54.4 percent of Khan Bank is owned by Sawada Holdings, a company listed on the Osaka Stock Exchange. The IFC also holds a majority stake in Khan Bank. Orix, EBRD, and IFC hold stakes in Xac Bank, and there is a small equity stake in Golomt Bank held by Swiss companies. Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation have offices in the country. Foreign banks, including Bank of China and ING, have representative offices in Ulaanbaatar and are looking to expand operations.

All of this foreign involvement could have a positive aspect, it could help attract investment and help to bring in new technology and know-how. On the other hand, the domination of and dependency on multinational corporations is a very real risk that seems to be looming over the economy.

In a country where most products are imported, cutting out the Mongolian middlemen (domestic companies) has the potential risk of turning the country into an exclusively consumerist country that only exports its natural resources. Protectionism is an option used by many countries in the hope of offsetting the dependence and monopolization of multinational corporations. In the past, and in our current liberalized global economic system, the notion of protectionism has become taboo and is seen as a barrier to trade. However, the recent trend of populist governments and anti-globalization sentiment has opened the door for countries to implement more protectionist policies. The Mongolian government already has a few protectionist policies that give domestic companies tax breaks and such, but it has not been largely effective in helping domestic companies reach their potential.

The reality of the situation is that the potential risks and detriments of multinational corporations have not been discussed enough. It is imperative that we, as a country, look at the situation and make decisions based on the long-term outlook of the economy. This does not mean a total barring of all foreign company operations, that would be more destructive than constructive. The most logical move would be to assess the current situation and implement policies or enforce regulation that would take into account the interests and concerns of both sides, while also promoting the growth of domestic companies.

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What if Mongolia Went All-Organic?

By Julian Dierkes

December 9 (Mongolia Focus) I recently re-tweeted an ADB tweet about one of their blog posts, "The Foreseeable Future of Mongolia's Agriculture"

@jdierkes: So important to note that "#Mongolia's agriculture [...] is organic, less polluted" thus huge, high-value potential in East Asia.#yummy https://twitter.com/ADB_HQ/status/806800747610259456 …

My RT proved surprisingly popular and ended up with over 20 RTs and over 3,500 impressions (yes, I watch these Twitter stats!). It clearly resonated. The post was generally very good, but as you can see in my tweet, I find the potential of high-value exports to China, Japan and Korea particularly interesting given the organic quality of Mongolian meat, especially.

Among the reactions to my RT were those pointing out some of the challenges in setting up such high-value exports. For example,

@jdierkes: So important to note that "#Mongolia's agriculture [...] is organic, less polluted" thus huge, high-value potential in East Asia.#yummy https://twitter.com/ADB_HQ/status/806800747610259456 …

@marissa_j_smith: @jdierkes @ADB_HQ As others have pointed out before me, organic means certification... how to implement this in Mongolia? Big challenge...

Country-Wide Certification

This question gets raised regularly and there have been a number of attempts at certification and establishing product chains to benefit from the quality of Mongolian produce. Generally, such attempts as well as branding attempts have faltered and thus leaves many people skeptical.

Would it be possible to consider all-of-Mongolia certification as an alternative?

Rather than certify individual producting sites, why not go all-pesticide(and other nasty things)-free for all of Mongolia?

Has anyone considered this?

Obviously, going all organic would be a challenge to some producers, but it would not be a challenge at all to others. Most mobile pastoralists who are raising animals are probably doing so in organic fashion already. Grasslands (given prevailing wind patterns, etc.) should be certifiably organic.

The question then might be that if industrial production can be set up (that's a topic that E Enerelt's blog post focusses on), would that automatically imply a shift to more intensive production, presumably raising the possibility of hormones, antibiotics, etc.

The constraints that have kept Mongolia from realizing its meat export potential include low technological and production capacity, logistics limitations, few meat plants, quotas, and phytosanitary barriers. Existing processing plants require substantive upgrading to improve production capacity and meet quality and sanitary requirements. Due to poorly developed logistics and trade procedures, the costs of trading across borders are considerable.

If any of these obstacles can be overcome without introducing chemicals, etc. would that not be an innovation that would be worth considering?

Some elements of Mongolian agricultural production are so recent (or are getting re-established recently) that they should be able to adjust more easily to a different production paradigm, organic.

Other Possibilities

Organic certification would be quite natural for a number of Mongolian agricultural products, especially meat.

But sea buckthorn (чацаргана) is also produced organically, I would guess, as is honey or pine nuts.

Gobi Cashmere is already promoting their organic line, so the label seems to be meaningful in the cashmere context as well. The same logic would hold for some of the Mongolian skincare/beauty product brands that are establishing themselves.

I don't know if ingredients for Chinggis Beer are sourced locally, but if they are, their lager could be "organic lager".

All-country organic certification would make marketing simpler as it could simply advertise all Mongolian agricultural production as organic, possibly raising the possibility of buy-in from a variety of producers (and perhaps donors).

Finally, any marketing of all Mongolian agricultural products as organic would reinforce the kind of eco-tourism that is regularly touted as a diversification possibility for the Mongolian economy.

Crazy idea? Been done before? Comments, please!

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Politics & Legal

DeFacto Review, December 11

December 12 (Jargal Dambadarjaa) Reviewed topics:

1. CHINA-MONGOLIA TENSION

2. DEMOCRATIC PARTY CONVENTION

3. 2017 PROJECTS APPROVED

4. HOMELESSNESS ALERT

5. WHO OWNS THE MEDIA?

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Mining Ministry officials meet with delegations from China Shenhua

December 9 (gogo.mn) Mining and Heavy Industry Ministry officials today received delegations from China Shenhua Energy Company Limited. 

During the meeting, China Shenhua proposed to commence Tavantolgoi`s power station, railway construction and mining projects at the same time. 

Previously, China Shenhua has expressed incentives to invest in Tavantolgoi coal deposit. The company has won the bid, announced by the previous government, establishing a consortium agreement jointly with the Energy Resource LLC and Japanese Sumitomo Corporation. 

According to the consortium agreement, China Shenhua has announced to invest US$ 4 billion to Tavantolgoi coal deposit. However, a working group, led by MP L.Erdenechimeg deferred the agreement, noting that the agreement would result in significant loss to our country. 

Following, due to the coal price drop on international market, the negotiations on the agreement have been halted. 

China Shenhua expressed  incentives to invest Tavantolgoi coal deposit after the establishment of new Government of Mongolia, led by Prime Minister J.Erdenebat. 

Mongolia is to violate the recommendations, approved by the National Security Commission, if Shenhua Group operate alone in Tavan Tolgoi group deposits. Because China plays important role in the foreign trade and foreign investment of the country. Meanwhile, the recommendations, approved by the National Security Commission does not support too much dependence on foreign countries.

Link to article

Related:

Gov't working group resuming stakeholder negotiations on TavantolgoiMontsame, December 9

Tavan Tolgoi deal restartsnews.mn, December 9

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Who Owns the Media Sector in Mongolia?

December 9 (gogo.mn) Following a 3 month research project entitled 'Media Ownership Monitoring Mongolia', conducted in association with the German branch of Reporters Without Borders, the Press Institute of Mongolia reported that 74% of all media in Mongolia is influenced by the political sector.

As of 2016, there were 485 media organizations including 101 newspapers, 69 radio stations, 131 television stations, 98 media web sites and 86 magazines in Mongolia. The research project involved 11 television stations, 6 radio stations, 10 web sites and 12 newspapers.

74% is high, indicating that the freedom of the public to access accurate information free from propaganda or black PR is being damaged.

The research team remarked that as media influences people's attitudes and political views. When media is owned, controlled or used by politicians and political organizations, it harms and slows the main threads of democracy and pluralism.

The reason that the political influences conquered the media is that there is no regulatory framework governing this situation. Besides the ownership percentages mentioned aboveother issues were revealed during the research, including:

  • More than half of media organizations conceal the sources of their finance;
  • Concealing ownership is not prohibited;
  • the freedom of press is guaranteed by law but not effective in practice
  • Independence of redacting is limited
  • Media organizations get the license from the government and.

The report also stated that media organizations and journalists are threatened fairly often.

The director of the Press Institute, Mr Monkhmandakh stated that relations between politics and businesses is the main reason that the journalists and media organizations getting threatened. Being depended on finance (economic situation) and politic make media organizations to work for the owners, but not for public or society.

Journalists in Mongolia are not paid well and work on a piece basis, hence the value of journalism goes down.

The Director of the Reporters Without Borders in Germany remarked that professional journalism is the 4thand most powerful pillar of democracy. But to make it reality, we have to improve the framework.

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December 29 is non-working public holiday

December 12 (gogo.mn) On December 29th, Mongolia commemorates its Restoration of National Freedom and Independence.

The Government approved this day as a non-working public holiday every year starting Dec 23, 2011 and legislated to be celebrated as Day of National Freedom and Independence. 

Mongolia declared its independence on Dec 29, 1911 by expelling the Manchu Qin Dynasty domination over Mongolia, which lasted for more than two centuries and started the Democratic Revolution.

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105th anniversary of National Liberation Movement to be marked on December 29

Ulaanbaatar, December 12 (MONTSAME) The 105th jubilee of the Victory of National Liberation Movement and the Restoration of Independence of Mongolia is being celebrated on December 29, as a public holiday.

On December 29 of 1911, Mongolians have put an end to the Manchu domination, which lasted for more than two centuries, restored its independence and consecrated the VIII Bogd Khaan as the Theocratic Monarch of Mongolia.

The Day of National Independence has been celebrated since 2011 as a Public Holiday, in accordance with the Law on Public Holidays and Celebrations.

Also, January 1st is a public holiday in Mongolia. In 2017, this day befalls on Sunday. Thus, the public holiday might be moved to Friday of December 30, according to an unofficial source.

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Swastika attack: 'Black Rose' singer speaks...

December 12 (news.mn) On Friday (9th of December) S.Amarmandakh, frontman of the Mongolian rock band 'Khar Sarnai' (Black Rose) spoke from his hospital bed about the so-called 'swastika attack', which caused his injuries. The singer was seriously beaten by an employee of the Russian Embassy at a 'Happy Ulaanbaatar' public celebration on 22nd of November.

S.Amarmandakh said: "I didn't know that my attacker was a foreigner. I didn't say "Heil Hitler! The attack happened when I came down from stage and was leaving. Some people have explained the attack wrongly - so, I'll tell you what happened myself.  After the attack I was unconscious for five days and semi-conscious for ten more. I'm grateful to all the people who prayed for me. I think that the guy who attacked me has a family. So I ask that he comes to see me man-to-man - so we can understand each other. People can make mistakes. If he begs my forgiveness, I will handle the issue as a man. I graduated from School 23 in Ulaanbaatar, which was a "Russian school". I like Russia. I don't wish that relations between Russia and Mongolia get damaged over the issue."

The reason for the attack appears to have been the fact that 'Khar Sarnai' often uses the symbol of the swastika, which, for them, is intrinsically linked to Mongolia's Buddhist identity. At the concert S.Amarmandakh was wearing a Mongolian deel with a prominent swastika motif. This is what appears to have triggered the incident. For Mongolians, it is a positive cultural symbol; for Russians, and many nations, however, it represents the evil and tyranny of Hitler's Germany and the greatest tragedy of the last century. In the Soviet Union, it is estimated that 20 million died in WW2.

'Black Rose' can also be seen as an unfortunate name; the 'White Rose' (die Weisse Rose), was the name of the group of the brave German students and young intellectuals who stood up to what the Nazi regime represented - and died for it.

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Tavan Tolgoi: new deal - new suspicions

December 13 (news.mn) The Government of Mongolia is hurrying to finish construction of a rail link connecting the Tavan Tolgoi mine with the Gashuun Sukhait border crossing within two years. A 49% stake of project funding to cover the project is expected to come from China's Shenhua Group LLC. Previously, in the cabinet's "100 day report", Transport Minister D.Ganbat said 'to sell 49% stakes of the Tavan Tolgoi railway to Shenhua Group'. This seems to be the Mongolian Government's official plan.

Ts.Dashdorj, Mongolian Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry and other officials entered into hammering out a new deal with a delegation from China's biggest coal producer Shenhua Group on Friday (9th of December). The Government had planned to 'move' mega projects to the 2017 state budget.

The Government of Mongolia issued a decision to develop and extend the Tavan Tolgoi mine in 2010. Since then, Mongolia has announced two tenders for investors in Tavan Tolgoi - but these were unsuccessful. On this occasion, the meeting between Mongolian Government and Shenhua Group came to foreign media attention and Mongolians are left wondering why had only a Chinese company been involved in the deal?

Shenhua Energy, a subsidiary of the Shenhua Group, has been selected as part of the investment consortium along with Japan's Sumitomo Corporation and the Mongolian Mining Corporation. It will be their responsibility to develop and operate the mine.

Ts.Dashdorj noted that deal has only just started; but he didn't explain why only a Chinese company had been involved.  In addition, there was no accounting for the issue about Japan's Sumitomo Corporation and the Mongolian Mining Corporation. This increases suspicion, that the new Tavan Tolgoi deal will not be beneficial for Mongolia and that the railway construction project is a 100% Chinese project. 

In 2015, a working group led by M.Enkhsailhan, former special minister of Mongolia, selected an investment consortium including the Mongolian Mining Corporation, Japan's Sumitomo Corporation and China's Shenhua Group following a tender. After a three month-long discussion with them, they partially agreed to provide US200 million for the repayment of the Mongolian Government's debts to Chalco debts, and a 'built, operate, transfer' (BOT) project for a new railway, which will be handed back to Mongolia after 30 years. However, the tender was scuttled due to the involvement of former Parliamentary Speaker Z.Enkhbold, MP Kh.Battulga and L.Erdenechimeg.

Mongolia cannot finance its own 51% stake in the Tavan Tolgoi railway project - the state coffers are nearly empty and the budget deficit is fast approaching a trillion MNT. Mongolia cannot borrow anything and there is not enough money in the Development Bank of Mongolia to cover previous debt repayments.  On this occasion, if government borrows money from China to cover Mongolia's 51% stake in Tavan Tolgoi, the railway project will become 100% Chinese.

Link to article

Related:

Government officials meet with Shenhua GroupUB Post, December 13

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S.Zorig's murder trial postponed by a week

Ulaanbaatar, December 14 (MONTSAME) A trial over the murder of Sanjaasurengiin Zorig began today at the 461st prison camp. The judges just made a decision to postpone the trial until next week, reportedly at request of the attorneys.

According to the official source, the trial will continue at 11.00 am of December 21, 2016, at the 461st prison camp. For an excuse to their request to postpone the trial, the attorneys said they "need to conduct further research on the case file".

Also, the judges and attorneys decided to include more witnesses. 

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D.Amarbayasgalan appointed MPP Secretary General

Ulaanbaatar, December 13 (MONTSAME) The Seventh Conference of the Mongolian People's Party completed on December 12. The MPP Chairman and Speaker of Mongolian Parliament, Mr M.Enkhbold in his opening address stated that the party will establish agreements on accountability with each officials who were appointed from the MPP to political offices.

On Monday, the MPP appointed 33 conference members, the Secretary General and secretaries. The administrative board nominated D.Amarbayasgalan to the office of Secretary General of MPP, whose candidacy was backed with majority approval. Ts.Bat-Enkh was appointed the vacant Secretary.

The leaders of MPP concluded that this year's conference has been special for it is being organized in these times of economic tensions Mongolia is confronted with and in post-elections period.

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Ts.Zorig re-appointed Chief Justice

Ulaanbaatar, December 14 (MONTSAME) In accordance with the Decree No. 159 of the President of Mongolia issued on December 5, Zorig Tsevegmid was re-appointed the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of Mongolia.

He will hold the office for six more years, pursuant to the Law. He was first appointed to be the Chief Judge in 2010.

The ceremony for presenting the presidential decree took place on Wednesday at the office of the Supreme Court. The decree was presented by the Chief of Staff of the President's Office, Mr Ts.Bayarsaikhan.

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Race for the Democratic Party chairmanship kicks off

December 13 (UB Post) One of the critical decisions made by the 1,210 attendees of the Democratic Party's Sixth Congress held last week was to elect a new party chairman through votes from all members of the Democratic Party (DP).

An election commission consisting of 30 DP members was set up, made up of one representative from each of Mongolia's 21 provinces and Ulaanbaatar's nine districts. Member of the National Consultative Council of the DP and former Mayor of Khentii Province J.Oyunbaatar is leading the commission.

On Monday, General Secretary of the DP L.Erkhembayar and Head of the Election Commission J.Oyunbaatar held a briefing about the chairmanship election. General Secretary L.Erkhembayar stated that candidate registration for the election will be carried out from December 12 to 4:00 p.m. on December 17. The election will be held on January 29, 2017.

J.Oyunbaatar noted that the election commission has set up 339 5-member election sub-commissions to organize the election in districts, provinces, and soums.

During the briefing, L.Erkhembayar noted that election campaigns were going to start on December 21, carried out for 40 days, and that a debate between the candidates will be scheduled during the campaign.

L.Erkhembayar said, "The DP has also started its new membership registration throughout Mongolia, and all members of the DP who have registered and paid their membership dues are eligible to vote in the January 29 election."

Observers believe that MPs D.Erdenebat, S.Erdene, L.Bold, and J.Batzandan; former Head of the Office of the President P.Tsagaan; former Member of Parliament and Minister of Education, Culture, and Science L.Gantumur; and former parliamentarian G.Batkhuu will run for party chairman.

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Mongolia Approves List of Railroad and Energy Projects for 2017

By Michael Kohn

December 9 (Bloomberg) -- Mongolia had approved nine infrastructure projects to be started in 2017 on turnkey basis, including construction of four railroads and expansion of two power plants, according to statement on government website.

* Agreements on projects to be concluded with selected investors in 1Q of 2017

* Railroad projects incl. 192km Choibalsan to Khuut line (Dornod Aimag); 234km from Khuut to Bichigt border crossing (Dornod Aimag); 281km Zuunbayan to Khangi border crossing (Dornogov Aimag) and 45.3km project from Nariinsukhait mine to Shiveekhuren border crossing (Omnogov Aimag)

* Power station projects incl. 250 megawatt expansion of Ulaanbaatar's Third Power Station and 50 megawatt expansion of Choibalsan Power Plant

* Other projects incl: Baganuur-Choir overhead transmission grid and expansion of Baganuur substation, and overhead transmission line connecting Khushuut mine with Altai Soum in Khovd province and construction of substation

(BFW)

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Mongolia Submits Bill to Improve Finances of Development Bank

By Michael Kohn

December 9 (Bloomberg) -- The government of Mongolia submits to parliament a resolution to improve the financial position of the Development Bank of Mongolia.

Resolution has the following goals:

* Financial ratios and covenants to be met at a "prudential level"

* Loan portfolio structure is expected to shift from loans to be repaid from the state budget and other loans guaranteed by the government, to corporate loans without government guarantees

* In mid- and long term, the share of project financing that generates revenue will increase above the current level

* Financing based on project finance and syndicated loans will be pursued as a "top financing policy"

* Total assets of DBM amount to 7tr tugrik ($2.83b), loan portfolio stands at 5.9tr tugrik

* NOTE: Batbayar Balgan appointed chief executive officer of DBM on Wednesday. Batbayar has an M.A. from Indiana University and has served as chief officer of the Budget Policy Department of the Ministry of Finance

(BFW)

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Mongolian delegation trained in managing wealth for future generations

The School of Public Policy hosts five-day training session for senior public servants

By School of Public Policy Staff

December 16 (University of Calgary) A senior delegation from mineral-rich Mongolia was educated in how to best manage the wealth of their nation's growing economy, in a five-day program hosted by The School of Public Policy.

Last week, The School of Public Policy's Extractive Resource Governance Program (ERGP) hosted three Mongolian senior public servants, Guljan Kagvat, Munkhzul Gantumur, and Undraa Nursed, for training on the topic of sovereign wealth funds (money derived from a country's reserves, set aside for investment purposes that benefit the economy and its citizens).

The ERGP provides policy education and analysis to regions with newly discovered or evolving extractive industries to promote responsible resource development.

This training mission is part of a larger project in Mongolia funded by the Government of Canada and managed by Agriteam, with the aim of strengthening extractive sector management in mining. The program is focused on the development of Mongolia's Future Heritage Fund and is part of a longer-term partnership on developing capacity in strategic revenue management in Mongolia.

Training was held at the UCalgary downtown campus, as well as in Edmonton with the support of the Alberta International Development Office. The School delivered focused policy presentations and workshops as well as exploring best practices in the development of sovereign wealth funds and investment corporations. Bev Dahlby, director of the Fiscal and Economic Policy Division at the school, said, "The Alberta experience with the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund and AIMCo provide important points of reference and lessons for the establishment and operation of sovereign wealth funds in other resource-rich countries such as Mongolia."

The ERGP is a global network of expertise partnering with various jurisdictions to develop sound public policy around their extractive resource sectors. In January 2017, The School of Public Policy will deliver an additional training program in fiscal policy in Mongolia's capital city, Ulaanbaatar, as well as applied research and training programs planned for 2017 in Mozambique and Mexico.

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Freedom in Mongolia in 2016 by Freedom House

December 12 (gogo.mn) FREEDOM STATUS: Free
AGGREGATE SCORE: 86
FREEDOM RATING: 1.5
POLITICAL RIGHTS: 1
CIVIL LIBERTIES: 2

Capital: Ulaanbaatar
Population: 3,120,622
GDP/Capita: $4,129.40
Press Freedom Status: Partly Free
Net Freedom Status: N/A

Overview: 

President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj was in the middle of his second four-year term in 2015 after winning the 2013 presidential election. Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg of the Democratic Party (DP), who took office in 2014, remained at the helm of a coalition government. In August, six cabinet members from the coalition's other major party, the Mongolian People's Party (MPP), were discharged from their positions as part of preparations for the 2016 national elections.

Mongolia continued to experience economic difficulties including growing public debt and reduced foreign investment. Corruption, the alignment of politicians and powerful business interests, and politicization of the media remained key challenges to freedom and democracy.

POLITICAL RIGHTS rating: 1    (Political Rights score: 36/40)

Countries and territories with a rating of 1 enjoy a wide range of political rights, including free and fair elections. Candidates who are elected actually rule, political parties are competitive, the opposition plays an important role and enjoys real power, and the interests of minority groups are well represented in politics and government. 

CIVIL LIBERTIES rating: 2    (Civil Liberties score: 50/60)

Countries and territories with a rating of 2 have slightly weaker civil liberties than those with a rating of 1 because of such factors as limits on media independence, restrictions on trade union activities, and discrimination against minority groups and women.

FREEDOM RATING rating: 1.5     

The average of a country's or territory's political rights and civil liberties ratings is called the Freedom Rating, and it is this figure that determines the status of Free (1.0 to 2.5) Also, a designation of Free does not mean that a country or territory enjoys perfect freedom or lacks serious problems, only that it enjoys comparatively more freedom than those rated Partly Free or Not Free (and some others rated Free).

For more information: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2016/mongolia

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MONPAC Parliamentary Anti-Corruption group set up in Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, December 13 (MONTSAME) On the occasion of the International Anti-Corruption Day, some members of Parliament of Mongolia, including J.Enkhbayar, J.Batzandan, L.Oyun-Erdene, Sh.Radnaased, D.Sarangerel, D.Tsogtbaatar and B.Enkh-Amgalan have set up the MONPAC Parliamentary Anti-Corruption Group.   

The mission of this group is to develop a draft bill on combating corruption, to share information about corruption, to ensure transparency, to cooperate with civil society and to organize targeted training.

In the history of the Mongolian parliament, this is the third time when such kind of group is created. The first parliamentary group against corruption was established in 2010 and the second one is in 2013.

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Mongolia chairs 25th Council Session of IDEA

Ulaanbaatar, December 13 (MONTSAME) In 2016, Mongolia successfully chaired the Council International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). 

While its Presidency of the Council of IDEA, Mongolia has achieved certain results in expanding its activity, enhancing its memberships, hosting various international events wth participation of prominent politicians and persons, in resolving an issue of founding a training center for election observers in Ulaanbaatar. 

At the 25th IDEA Council meeting which was chaired by Mongolia, the Republic of Peru assumed the Presidency of the IDEA Council for the year of 2017. The 25th IDEA Council meeting took place on 8-9 December in Stockholm, Sweden.

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Speaker M.Enkhbold speaks to Parliament about corruption

December 11 (UB Post) On December 9, International Anti-Corruption Day, Speaker of Parliament M.Enkhbold spoke to MPs about the current state of corruption in Mongolia. Speaker of Parliament M.Enkhbold stated that according to the corruption perceptions index published annually by Transparency International, a global coalition against corruption, Mongolia ranked 72 out of 168 countries in 2015.

He noted that the 2015 results showed that Mongolia's ranking on the corruption index has fallen by 8 places, as it was 80th in 2014. Mongolia's corruption has decreased in recent years, but independent studies suggest that corruption in Mongolia still threatens national security. He added that independent studies also illustrate that Mongolia's political corruption has increased, and corruption per capita is high.

Anti-corruption measures to be carried out throughout Mongolia are critical actions that must be taken during the nation's economic crisis. The Speaker highlighted that making amendments to laws on political parties and elections are very important to fighting political corruption, and referenced making political party financing transparent.

He said the responsibilities of legislators are to fight corruption through legal and regulatory means and to uncover highlevel corruption. He added that Mongolia should join the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption to actively fight corruption. Speaker M.Enkhbold said that all institutions of government should be free of corruption, their operations should be clear to the public, and public officials must avoid conflicts of interest to fight corruption.

The Speaker called on MPs to create the legal and regulatory environment for auditing state spending, monitoring tenders put forward by state organizations, maintaining judicial independence, and preventing groups engaged in corruption from joining the legislature.

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Discussion on Corruption and Human Rights held in UB

By N. Khaliun

Ulaanbaatar, December 12 (MONTSAME) On the occasion of the International Anti-Corruption Day, the Anti -Corruption Authority in cooperation with the Parliamentary Subcommittee on Human Rights, the Administration of the President of Mongolia,  and the Mongolian Ministries of Justice and Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs have organized a discussion themed "Corruption and Human Rights".

Reports were delivered by representatives of the Amnesty International NGO and other officials on legal regulation for protecting human rights, human rights and practices of foreign countries in combating corruption, roles of courts and establishment of justice and the role of prosecutor in protection of human rights.  

Every year, $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global GDP. In developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune. This year UNODC and UNDP have developed a joint global campaign, focusing on how corruption affects education, health, justice, democracy, prosperity and development.

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MFA considering dual citizenship for Mongolians born in UK, Canada and USA

Ulaanbaatar, December 13 (MONTSAME) Since 1998, about 5,000 Mongolian young nationals were born in foreign countries, of whom more than 2,800 have been born and naturalized in the UK, USA and Canada.

In accordance with the law in effect, Mongolia does not allow dual citizenship. Therefore, they are not eligible to assume Mongolian citizenship, despite having both parents of Mongolian nationals.

The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Justice and Domestic Affairs have set up a joint working group to work out a proposal on potential ways to handle this problem.

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Economic Dynamics in Russia's Transbaikal and Mongolia

Comparing the Border Areas during the Transformational Period

Pages 805-820 | Published online: 14 Dec 2016 | N.I. Atanov & A.B. Munkodugarova

Abstract

This article presents an analysis comparing the economies in the Transbaikal region (the Republic of Buryatia and Zabaikalsk krai) with the economy of Mongolia. It reveals the similarities and differences in demographic and economic indicators in the neighboring territories and outlines the paths for development of cross-border cooperation.

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ADB and Mongolia implementing 10 projects

Ulaanbaatar, December 14 (MONTSAME) Mongolia maintains active cooperation with the Asian Development Bank in implementing joint projects in Mongolia.

These are the projects on Strengthening Institutional Framework and Management Capacity Project, on Dzud Disaster Response, on Regional Improvement of Border Services, on Southeast Gobi Urban and Border Town Development Project —Additional Financing, on Intelligent Transport Systems Development for Mongolia, on Development of Road Safety Policy and Action Plan, on Strengthening of Public Procurement for Improved Project Implementation, on Supporting Financial Sector Development and Stability, on Sustaining Access to and Quality of Education during Economic Difficulties, and on Upscaling Renewable Energy Sector Project.

The ADB's assistance has played an important role in transforming Mongolia into a middle-income economy, and ADB's country strategy for Mongolia has evolved over the years to match the changing needs of the country.

Assistance has been provided to help deepen market-oriented reforms, stabilize and broaden financial markets, establish or rehabilitate key infrastructure, develop agribusiness, improve services in secondary towns and cities, and restructure social services including education and health.

ADB is celebrating 25 years of successful partnership with Mongolia in 2016, and is now Mongolia's largest multilateral development partner, with cumulative assistance of 2 billion USD in grants and loans. The total approved projects in 2015 alone amounted to 275 million USD, and ADB has an active portfolio of projects totaling 1 billion USD.

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GIZ's biodiversity expert awarded with "Friendship" medal

Ulaanbaatar, December 14 (MONTSAME) Pursuant to a decree of the President of Mongolia, the "Friendship" medal was awarded to Mr Klaus Schmidt-Corsitto, Director of GIZ Programme "Biodiversity", citizen of Federal Republic of Germany.

The Chief of Staff of the President's Office Ts.Bayarsaikhan Tuesday handed the medal to Mr Klaus Schmidt-Corsitto while acknowledging his outstanding contribution to the development of forest management and environmental protection.

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Mongolia: Development Effectiveness Brief

ADB Publication | December 2016

ADB's assistance has played an important role in transforming Mongolia into a middle-income economy, and ADB's country strategy for Mongolia has evolved over the years to match the changing needs of the country.

Assistance has been provided to help deepen market-oriented reforms, stabilize and broaden financial markets, establish or rehabilitate key infrastructure, develop agribusiness, improve services in secondary towns and cities, and restructure social services including education and health.

ADB is celebrating 25 years of successful partnership with Mongolia in 2016, and is now Mongolia's largest multilateral development partner, with cumulative assistance of $2 billion in grants and loans. The total approved projects in 2015 alone amounted to $275 million, and ADB has an active portfolio of projects totaling $1 billion.

Contents 

  • Mongolia Development Indicators 
  • Mongolia and ADB: 25 Years of Development
  • ADB's Contribution to Development and Poverty Reduction
  • Improving Operational Effectiveness and Services
  • Future Challenges and Goals

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A UN convention on ageing would protect older people's rights in Mongolia

By Amarsanaa Darisuren

December 12 (HelpAge International) This week I am in New York attending the seventh UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) taking place from 12-15 December. The OEWG is the only UN process that is focused on the rights of older people. I am representing my organisation from Mongolia, the Centre for Human Rights and Development.

I am honoured to be participating in this meeting on behalf of older people in Mongolia. I will be speaking about the ageism that older people face in my country, and how we have been involved in campaigning for a convention to protect our rights.

How does ageism manifest in Mongolia?

Ageism is a hidden problem and is so widespread that often as older people we don't see it ourselves. It takes place at all levels in society - in our homes, in our communities and in our institutions.

We are laughed at if we want to learn new skills or attend a course. W are seen as being too old and people question why we need to continue to educate ourselves at our age. When we ask banks for credit cards or loans, our applications are denied because of our age. Employers pressure us into retiring before we are ready - they do not let us make the decision ourselves. All of these examples of discrimination stem from the ageism within our society. It is everywhere and something must be done to tackle it.

National laws in Mongolia do exist to protect the rights of older people, but they are poorly enforced. An internationally-binding convention would ultimately be more effective at keeping our lives free from ageism and age discrimination.

Campaigning for a UN convention on ageing in Mongolia

I joined HelpAge International's Age Demands Action movement over a year ago, and since then have been campaigning for a UN convention on ageing.

Over the past few months in the lead up to the OEWG, we have increased our lobbying efforts. One of our tactics has been to bring older people, government representatives and the National Human Rights Commission together to discuss older people's rights.

It has been good to bring these groups together and give older people the opportunity to talk about how they specifically feel they are being denied their rights, and the ways in which a convention could protect them. This is just the start. Our campaigning efforts are vital to achieving this crucial end goal.

If we are to succeed, we must share our knowledge and build alliances across the wider rights movement so that we are stronger together. I have been involved in the women's rights movement for the past 20 years, for example, and we must reach out to these groups to explore how we can support one another's causes.

Our ultimate goal

I'm very excited to be participating in this year's OEWG - to be able to speak on behalf of older people in Mongolia and to let member states know why we need a new convention.

Mongolia has never attended the OEWG and I hope this year that will change. We've been asking the representatives from our country to develop their own clear position on a convention and hopefully we will see the impact of our campaigning.

Whatever the outcomes are at the end of this year's OEWG, we know that we still have a lot more work to do. Ultimately we want our own convention. Other groups, such as women and children, have legislation that protect their rights. We want to be able to say we have a convention that protects our rights too.

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De Facto: Power or economy?

By Jargal "De Facto" Dambadarjaa

December 11 (UB Post) It seems like the world sees Mongolia as a bankrupt country that has nothing left to do other than announce its financial meltdown. Reputable organizations that assess the fiscal health of countries have downgraded Mongolia's credit ratings, one after another. On November 18, Moody's downgraded Mongolia's rating from B3 (highly speculative) to Caa1 (substantial risk).

Moody's linked the downgrade to the increased uncertainty over the Mongolian government's ability to meet its debt obligations over the next two years as economic growth weakens and budget revenue decreases, which has resulted in increased government debt pressure. Given the expectation that the factors contributing to current economic hardships would not swing, Mongolia's credit rating was given a stable outlook.

It is true that Mongolia's short-term future depends on our ability to reduce budget deficit while meeting existing debt obligations. Our economic outlook is defined by whether or not we manage to create new goods and services to be exported, and if we are able to export our coal, copper, and gold in greater volumes.

Mongolia is currently in a situation where there are limited opportunities to change our debt structure and bring foreign investment into the country. The solution hangs on whether or not Prime Minister Erdenebat's government will be allowed by his political party to tackle the challenges, and – if so – if the government can succeed.

CAN THINGS BE TURNED AROUND?

The Mongolian People's Party (MPP) has the important task of getting the country out of its economic crisis and strengthening the values of democracy and a free market economy. Even though the MPP had a landslide victory in the last elections, winning 85 percent of votes, they must remember that the choice made by the people was largely due to the fact that voters wanted to see a political party other than the Democratic Party (DP) in power. The media is still reporting about how MPP members who are lesser known and have less experience have ended up acquiring a seat in Parliament.

The MPP established its government and selected J.Erdenebat as Prime Minister. They made controversial political appointments within the political party and set up a "professional" cabinet in a relatively short time. The new government had its action plan approved by Parliament and started their work without wasting time. However, its internal debt has grown so big that they are now unable to fulfill their obligations. Interest payments now account for one-fourth of the public budget. Under these conditions, the government has set forth an objective to acquire a huge loan quickly, at any cost.

Although the government had almost finalized an agreement with China to receive a soft loan of 4 billion USD, the Chinese government postponed all meetings and negotiations following the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia. Also, it looks like the stand-by program being negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is likely to be concluded next year, by the time we celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Furthermore, the Oyu Tolgoi mine stopped its exports after the Chinese side increased the payments they impose at the border. Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi is not able to contribute to state revenue because it is exporting coal at a price that is five times below global market rates to pay off existing debt. Due to the limited capacity of Chinese border points, our coal trucks are making the world's longest traffic jam as they line up, one after another, for 20 kilometers. Foreign investment in our mining sector has almost stopped completely.

So, what can we lean on during this time of hardship? Government stability is essential today. One point of proof is that we have a parliament that is dominated by a single political party. However, some MPP members of parliament have already started talking about replacing the government or changing some of its ministers. They should look at what happened with the DP and understand the dire consequences of changing the government. This is usually fueled by members of parliament willing to do anything to get a ministerial position.

Parliament does not have much of a choice other than letting Prime Minister Erdenebat's government finish what they started.

CAN THE GOVERNMENT SUCCEED?

After becoming the majority party, the MPP kept talking about how the DP put the country in debt. However, the reality is that the decision to issue 6 billion USD in government bonds was made by the MPP-DP coalition government. Although it is late, the MPP has finally stopped the talk of division and has started taking action.

A crisis is a rare opportunity to fix mistakes. The current situation is our opportunity to strengthen our government and economic institutions and to make them inclusive. We need to move away from having extractive institutions that only serve the interests of political groups, and hold those who have stolen public funds accountable for their actions. The reform in political institutions must start with the political parties, they need to make their financing transparent to the public and have their financials assessed through  independent audits.

Also, we need to fully embed the principles of the free market, free up all prices (with the exception of electricity, which should be freed up in phases by creating more supply options), allow for free competition, and create opportunities for the private sector to increase their competitiveness. State-owned companies should be privatized, one after another, and we need the infrastructure for this to happen.

If Mongol Bank delivers on its accountability to operate independently from the government, stops its foreign currency interventions, and refuses to take part in selling government bonds, commercial banks will have no other choice but to grant loans. True market prices can only be achieved when the government's bonds are traded on the stock exchange.

The question is whether or not Prime Minister J.Erdenebat's government has the courage, desire, and capability to carry out these macroeconomic changes. We should see our current situation as an opportunity to fix previous mistakes and lay the foundation for moving forward, regardless of which political party is in power. What is critical is that our parliament must not waste this opportunity by creating political instability or uncertainty. Also, what is equally important is that the current government cannot afford to make mistakes now.

Translated by B.Amar

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Business

Golomt Bank's Copper Credit Card Recognised as the Best Product Innovation of 2016 by VISA

December 11 (Golomt Bank) Since the 1950s, the speed of development in payment card systems has not seen any slowdown. In 1999, Golomt Bank became the pioneer in establishing the foundation of this trend in Mongolia, which brought the advancement of banking and financial sector to a brand new level.

Ever since, the bank has been proving its original success in the payment card market. The launch of the Copper Credit Card on August 22 2016 was no exception. The card was a breath of fresh air to the card system with its innovative technology and product novelty. 

The card is available to customers of any bank and offers a credit line of up to MNT 5 million. The credit utilisation is interest free for up to 45 days and requires a minimum repayment limit of 10%. The EMV chip ensures high-level of security and 3D protection on internet purchases. So far, over 80,000 customers have applied for this new product, which demonstrates its successful market introduction.

The success was acknowledged by the globally-renown Visa International, which recognised Golomt Bank's Copper Card as the "The Best Product Innovation of the Year 2016".

When accepting this honour, U.Ganzorig, the Chief Executive Officer of Golomt Bank stated that: "A survey among the public revealed that the information about credit cards, which have already become a daily necessity internationally, was insufficient among Mongolians.  Thus, we emphasised that our Copper Card was a "post-paid card" during our market launch. The card offers quick solution to the unexpected financial needs of our customers. Prior to our product, people used to face an interest rate burden and other difficulties when they loan money from their acquaintances or NBFIs, Savings Unions and pawn shops, in the event of "rainy days". Now, this need can be easily provided with our Copper Card"...

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Mobicom: Leader of an era

By Ts. Bunia

December 9 (Mongolian Economy) Not everyone has the courage to be a pioneer. Pioneers are the ones to bear all the risk and confront challenges. On the other hand, it is always easier and less risky following the path set by pioneers. But in the end, it is the pioneers that develop new ideas, products and advancements.

People who bid farewell to university at turn the turn of the millennium would probably say 20 years is not that long ago. Back then, not every household in provincial capitals had a landline. As for soum centres, only post offices had telephones for people to use. In Ulaanbaatar, people queued up to use the telephone at the central post office. Those in the queue probably received some mail the prior week before from their hometown, with a note from mum or dad about when to call. The current generation has never known and cannot imagine such a life.

Since its inception two decades ago until the present day, MobiCom has been a pioneer of many new services. MobiCom introduced 2G service and then the 3G service for the first time in Mongolia's market. Life moves faster with the development of telecom services. It is more than just transferring information, as the speed of information is crucial in making timely and correct decisions.

The carrier launched the first electronic money in Mongolia two years ago. The "Candy" programme, which collects points from consumer purchases, is the only e-money guaranteed by the Financial Regulatory Commission, distinguishing it from other loyalty services. One Candy equals one tugrik. You can buy 20 litres of water for 20 Candy, and you can even pay utilities. Furthermore, Candy users can conduct transactions with various partner organisations throughout the country, such as purchasing units from MobiCom, coffee from Caffe Bene and medicine from Monos.

Throughout its existence, MobiCom Corporation has contributed MNT 626 billion to the state budget and the company was regularly included in the ranking of Top 10 taxpayers. The company's investment in Mongolia's communications industry and technological development is estimated at in the trillions of tugriks. The company's profits are reinvested in the company, said M.Enkhsaikhan, Vice President of Chief Commercial Officer.

The public is suspicious of foreign-invested companies, thinking the profits are leaving the country. However, today's success and wealth was created by bringing foreign investment into the Mongolian market. "If you can earn more profit by cooperating instead of going at it alone, foreign investment is necessary," explained M.Enkhsaikhan.

Today, the company employs more than 1,500 people. The company's key principle is to support the families of its employees and to help with their social issues. For example, MobiCom provided MNT 25.5 million to employees who got newly married, MNT 46.8 million to employees who had their first child, and MNT 20.2 million to employees who received first and second order state commendations of motherhood. Moreover, the company spends about MNT 270 million per year on annual medical check-ups and health insurance of their employees.

Furthermore, MobiCom gives employees opportunities to receive training every half year by cooperating with domestic education institutions, and sends specialists, especially engineers, overseas by granting scholarships.

The employees of MobiCom Corporation are aware of their responsibility and are proud to be part of a reputable organisation. In particular, it is important for the employees that MobiCom is a trustworthy and reliable company.

No one doubts it when MobiCom promises to introduce new technologies. Even the critics and their rivals know that MobiCom does what it says. Although some people criticise that MobiCom's rates are too high, the company is still maintaining its leading position in the market. Today, more than half of the Mongolian population are MobiCom customers in one way or another. The company dominates telecom, with more than 40 percent of Mongolian mobile users covered by MobiCom. If this company reduces rates too much, it would crush the competition and a monopoly could arise. Therefore, the state specifically regulates issues related to MobiCom's rates. Price is an important factor in competitiveness. So the reason why the company remains users' first choice even in such a situation can be explained by their reliable, innovative and high quality service.

The establishment of MobiCom brought Mongolia into a new era of development, with the main goal of all the investment of this company having always been to bring Mongolians in step with global development.

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MONTSAME.MN named as the best news website of Mongolia of 2016

Ulaanbaatar, December 12 (MONTSAME) Each year the Confederation of Mongolian journalists names the best of the bests of Mongolian media industry. Thus, this year the MONTSAME national news agency's official website www.montsame.mn was named as the best news website of Mongolia of 2016.

The www.montsame.mn is the only website which covers news stories in Mongolian, English, Russian, Chinese and Japanese languages in Mongolia.

In his speech, Mr B.Galaarid, the President of CMJ noted that MONTSAME's website provides readers with fresh news about highlight events taking place in Mongolia and in the World.

As a member of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA), the MONTSAME exchanges its news and video news with other members of the organization including the TASS, Reuters, Xinhua, Yonhap, Anandolu and Kazinform and supplies news products to the OANA news network www.oananews.org.

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Mongolian Economy magazine recognised as 2016 Magazine of the Year

December 13 (Mongolian Economy) The New Year celebrations of Mongolia's journalism and media sector were held at Elite Center, with the year's bests being announced at the ceremony, selected by the Confederation of Mongolian Journalists (CMJ). About 20 nominations divided into two main categories: "Journalist of the Year" and "Best Media Organisation."

"The objective of the award ceremony is to increase enthusiasm and initiative among journalists and media organisations as well as to strengthen professional journalism," said B.Galaarid, President of the CMJ.

During the ceremony, Mongolian Economy magazine recognized as "2016Mongolian Magazine of the Year." On the award it is written: "Mongolian Economy magazine is recognized as the best magazine of Mongolia in 2016 as it has been the leader in developing independent journalism, promoting Mongolia's economy abroad and delivering information about Mongolia's economy and business at a professional level."

Board member of the CMJ D.Zayabat and the 2015 Journalist of the Year E.Enerel handed over the award for best magazine of the year.

Hence, our magazine has been recognised as Mongolia's best magazine for the second time. Previously, our organization was named the best magazine of Mongolia in 2013 during the ceremony of the 100th anniversary of the development of journalism in Mongolia.

Launched in 2011, Mongolian Economy magazine publishes issues bi-weekly in Mongolian and English, along with news on its website mongolianeconomy.mn. We have garnered significant experience in promoting Mongolia abroad. We published a special issue for the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2012 in cooperation with the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as a special issue to the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the UK in 2013. In 2016, Mongolian Economy magazine has published a special issue dedicated to the ASEM Summit entirely in English, distributing the issue in hotels where the representatives stayed and at the meetings of the summit. More recently, we finished working on the special issue dedicated to the 95th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Russia in Mongolian, Russian and English.

Our vision is to be the most influential magazine domestically and to be the most reputable Mongolian magazine internationally. Our goal is to introduce the best global standards of journalism in Mongolia and work in accordance with the professional journalistic ethics, being a facilitator of success to our creative and intellectual readers. We are glad that we are making concrete steps towards this goal.

In 2016, we re-published world renowned The Economist's annual special issue "The World in 2016" in Mongolia under an exclusive licence agreement to re-publish the special issue in Mongolian. This annual issue forecasts the major events, changes, trends and results of the upcoming year. We are working to yet again re-publish "The World in 2017" in Mongolian and deliver it to the hands of our readers. Thus, we have learned and will continue to learn a great deal by working with highly respected global magazines.

The founders and management of Mongolian Economy magazine operate independent of political interests, politicians and business groups and were able to from a professional editorial staff. In the coming years, we will maintain our high level of professionalism and the faith of our readers and professional bodies whom encourage us. Mongolian Economy magazine recognised as 2016 Magazine of the Year

The New Year celebrations of Mongolia's journalism and media sector were held at Elite Center, with the year's bests being announced at the ceremony, selected by the Confederation of Mongolian Journalists (CMJ). About 20 nominations divided into two main categories: "Journalist of the Year" and "Best Media Organisation."

"The objective of the award ceremony is to increase enthusiasm and initiative among journalists and media organisations as well as to strengthen professional journalism," said B.Galaarid, President of the CMJ.

During the ceremony, Mongolian Economy magazine recognized as "2016Mongolian Magazine of the Year." On the award it is written: "Mongolian Economy magazine is recognized as the best magazine of Mongolia in 2016 as it has been the leader in developing independent journalism, promoting Mongolia's economy abroad and delivering information about Mongolia's economy and business at a professional level."

Board member of the CMJ D.Zayabat and the 2015 Journalist of the Year E.Enerel handed over the award for best magazine of the year.

Hence, our magazine has been recognised as Mongolia's best magazine for the second time. Previously, our organization was named the best magazine of Mongolia in 2013 during the ceremony of the 100th anniversary of the development of journalism in Mongolia.

Launched in 2011, Mongolian Economy magazine publishes issues bi-weekly in Mongolian and English, along with news on its website mongolianeconomy.mn. We have garnered significant experience in promoting Mongolia abroad. We published a special issue for the World Economic Forum in Davosin 2012 in cooperation with the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,as well as a special issue to the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the UK in 2013. In 2016, Mongolian Economy magazine has published a special issue dedicated to the ASEM Summit entirely in English, distributing the issue in hotels where the representatives stayed and at the meetings of the summit. More recently, we finished working on the special issue dedicated to the 95th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Russia in Mongolian, Russian and English.

Our vision is to be the most influential magazine domestically and to be the most reputable Mongolian magazine internationally. Our goal is to introduce the best global standards of journalism in Mongolia and work in accordance with the professional journalistic ethics, being a facilitator of success to our creative and intellectual readers. We are glad that we are making concrete steps towards this goal.

In 2016, we re-published world renowned The Economist's annual special issue "The World in 2016" in Mongolia under an exclusive licence agreement to re-publish the special issue in Mongolian. This annual issue forecasts the major events, changes, trends and results of the upcoming year. We are working to yet again re-publish "The World in 2017" in Mongolian and deliver it to the hands of our readers. Thus, we have learned and will continue to learn a great deal by working with highly respected global magazines.

The founders and management of Mongolian Economy magazine operate independent of political interests, politicians and business groups and were able to from a professional editorial staff. In the coming years, we will maintain our high level of professionalism and the faith of our readers and professional bodies whom encourage us.

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How Your Cashmere Sweater Is Decimating Mongolia's Grasslands

December 9 (NPR) There's a lot of time for contemplation when you're milking cows in Mongolia. 90-year-old Lkhagvajav Bish has milked them for decades. She's a nomadic herder, and she follows them in their endless search for grass.

Today, the ger, or tent, she and her son live in is pitched in a valley surrounded by brown hills whose tops are white with frost, and as her hands squeeze the last milk from one of her herd, Bish reminisces about a time when this valley looked completely different.

"We've been wintering in this valley for 30 years," she says, looking away from her cows toward the hills in the distance. "Back then, the grass came up to my chest. It grew so tall that we had use a sickle and horse-drawn equipment to cut through it. But the grass of my time is gone. There's no longer enough to feed the animals."

The culprits stand innocently grazing nearby: cashmere goats. Their sharp hooves cut through the soil surface, and their eating habits — voraciously ripping up plants by their roots — make it impossible for grass to thrive.

But thriving isn't a problem for the goats. If there's no grass, livestock in Mongolia eat feed, a mix of grains that herders must buy in the city.

"Goats reproduce faster than all my other animals, even faster than my sheep!" Bish says with a frown. "Not too long ago, I used to have 20 of them. Now I've got 150. I don't want that many. They're just taking over."

Thirty years ago, when the grass grew tall, cashmere goats made up 19 percent of all livestock in Mongolia. Since then, their numbers have skyrocketed to make up 60 percent today.

The explanation goes beyond the animals' capacity to breed. This is about money.

China, Mongolia's biggest trading partner and southern neighbor, has strict controls on importing meat and milk from Mongolian sheep and cows, but not on cashmere. It is the biggest consumer of cashmere from Mongolia.

Mongolia produces a third of the global supply, and cashmere makes up 40 percent of the country's nonmineral exports. Mongolia produced more than 7,000 tons of cashmere in 2015, the last year on record.

The rise of China's consumer class has meant the price of cashmere has risen by more than 60 percent since the 1980s.

Now, Mongolia's million nomadic herders have turned to herding goats to make a living, destroying their own grasslands in the process. In the past, they relied on cows, sheep, camels and yaks to make a living instead.

"Today, Mongolian rangeland is at a crossroads," says Bulgamaa Densambuu, a researcher for the Swiss-funded Green-Gold project. Her organization focuses on preventing overgrazing of Mongolia's grasslands, which Densambuu calls "rangeland."

Densambuu recently completed a survey that found 65 percent of Mongolia's grasslands have been degraded due to overgrazing of cashmere goats and to climate change. The climate change has led to a 4-degree Fahrenheit rise in average temperature in Mongolia, outpacing the rest of the world by three degrees.

But Densambuu hasn't lost hope.

"Ninety percent of this total degraded rangelands can be recovered naturally within 10 years if we can change existing management," she says from her office in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. "But if we can't change the existing management today, it will be too late after five to 10 years."

By then, she says, Mongolia's grasslands would be transformed into an ecosystem that would be unusable, bringing an end to Mongolians' traditional way of life. "A desert would be much healthier," she says.

That's why Densambuu and other activists and groups are working with herders to come up with viable solutions. Gankhuyag Nyam-Ochir, who directs the Mongolian Association of Pastureland User Groups, representing a third of all nomadic herders in Mongolia, says the trick is to supplement herders' income from cashmere goats with other animals that carry the promise of high revenue, like yaks or camels.

"Yak wool and the hair from a baby camel have fibers that are just as fine as the wool from a cashmere goat," says Nyam-Ochir. "If a baby camel's hair is combed early in its life, its hair is much finer than a cashmere goat."

Nyam-Ochir is convincing his herders to trade in their goats for camels, whose soft paws are much easier on the land. He says if herders don't start to get rid of their goats now, Mongolia's grasslands are doomed.

But try telling that to Lkhagvajav Bish, the 90-year-old herder.

"Yes, I know my goats are harmful to our grassland and the more we have, the worse our land becomes," says Bish. "I get that. But this is how we earn our money."

Bish prepares a pot of salty milk tea inside her ger while her goats graze outside. She says there is so little grass left that she's had to buy supplemental grains to feed her livestock, otherwise they'd die. But not the goats, she says. They seem to live through anything. She says she doesn't know what the answer is.

"All I can do," the 90-year-old says after a sip of hot tea, "is watch my grassland disappear."

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For Mongolia's Environment, Don't Put Cashmere on Your Holiday ListCare2, December 11

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How Mongolian cashmere is helping sustainable fashion

Ethical brand Maiyet teams up with Hong Kong's Denise Ho and Chinese designers Helen Lee, Ziggy Chen and Daniel Chen of Xu Zhi to spread the word on socially responsible production

December 12 (South China Morning Post) A new collaboration between ethical luxury brand Maiyet and four Chinese designers aims to arouse interest in sustainability in fashion.

"It surprised me that sustainability is a relatively new topic in the marketplace beyond the US," says Karen Wood, head of development at Maiyet. "It's really about education in multiple markets, although I feel Hong Kong and China are at a tipping point as there is increasing awareness about ethical and environment issues in fashion such as transparency and sourcing," she says.

Maiyet launched in 2011 hoping to promote sustainability, self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship in developing economies.

Its commercially successful collections have straddled high fashion and social responsibility, while raising ethical issues in fashion production.

Maiyet has just partnered with local retailer Lane Crawford to create two capsule collections using the world's only certified, ethical and environmentally sustainable cashmere yarn. The first features a series of limited editions by four Chinese designers - China-based Helen Lee, Ziggy Chen and Daniel Chen of Xu Zhi and Hong Kong stylist Denise Ho.

"We decided to create a cashmere capsule collection over a year ago but the Chinese designer component came later," says Wood. "We looked at a number of emerging designers through Lane Crawford's 'Created in China' programme who had experience working in knits and decided to provide them with raw cashmere to spin into designs. It was important to give them full creative freedom," she says.

Menswear designer Ziggy Chen produced an oversized frayed sweater with colour blocks and a detachable scarf that can be styled into a myriad of looks, while Helen Lee's sweater is decorated with intricate 3D appliqués, frayed stripes and tiered fringes. Zhi's cardi coat comes with an ombré effect.

Ho, who has her own ethical fashion label, Knotti, continues to work with women knitters in Hong Kong. "When we teach our knitting classes, we usually create test squares for practice. Instead of unravelling them, we assemble them to form a sweater. Each sweater is hand knitted by eight different women so it's a community effort," she says.

Called Fair, the cashmere is sourced through a partnership with Mongolian-based NGO The Gobi Revival Fund which works directly with nomadic herders.

"Projects like this push us to make better quality designs and products so we can reduce fabric waste while ensuring our sell-through is high," says Lee. "I love the fact that we can still be creative while reminding people to be more environmentally aware and helping them understand sustainable and ethical fashion."

In addition to limited-edition designs, the second collection features 14 classic styles by Maiyet, including off-the-shoulder sweaters, a mid-length trench and a scarf with tassels.

"Everything you purchase has an impact. We want to teach people to keep things for the long term," says Wood. "One of the biggest challenges in running a sustainable brand is educating people about building a wardrobe. We are the complete opposite of fast fashion in that we have an incredible story to tell while making a difference in the world."

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Russian Railways Seeks to Ramp Up Transit Through Mongolia

Russian Railways is seeking to attract additional cargo traffic to the Ulan Bator Railway, Russian Railways President Oleg Belozerov said at a meeting with Minister of Roads and Transport Development of Mongolia Dangaa Ganbat in Moscow.

MOSCOW, December 13 (Sputnik) — Russian Railways manages a 50-percent stake in the Russian-Mongolian venture, Ulan Bator Railway Joint-Stock Company. According to Russian Railways, Oleg Belozerov and Dangaa Ganbat discussed the operations and prospects of the Ulan Bator Railway, including the program to create a Russia-Mongolia-China economic corridor and the development of Mongolia's potential for increasing transit cargo shipments.

They also agreed on the need for proactive trilateral cooperation involving China in order to create this Russia-Mongolia-China corridor.

Efforts to upgrade the Ulan Bator Railway are expected to increase its capacity so that it can satisfy domestic demand in Mongolia for the shipment of local goods, and promote transit shipments between China, Russia and Europe. At the conclusion of the meeting, Oleg Belozerov and Dangaa Ganbat signed the minutes of the Ulan Bator Railway Joint-Stock Company shareholders' meeting to approve the 2015 results and the distribution of dividends to Russia and Mongolia as the company's shareholders.

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RZD is actively involved in Mongolia's railway infrastructureRailway Pro, December 13

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Japan to build solar power plant in Baganuur district

December 14 (news.mn) J.Batbayasgalan, Deputy Ulaanbaatar Mayor, responsible for Green Development and Air Pollution, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding on renewable energy with Mr Tatsuya Sato, General Secretary of the Sharp corporation. Japan's electronics giant Sharp Corp. will build a 20 megawatt solar power plant in the Baganuur district of Ulaanbaatar.

Upon completion, the new Baganuur plant will supply clean energy with significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Despite its huge potential for developing solar and wind power, Mongolia, still relies heavily on traditional coal-fired power plants.

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Mongolia's XacBank signs accreditation agreement as GCF Partner

APIA, 14 DEC 2016 (Green Climate Fund) -- Mongolia's XacBank today signed an Accreditation Master Agreement (AMA) with the Green Climate Fund, setting out its partnership with GCF to forge low-emissions and climate-resilient development paths in Asia.

"There is a big potential in Mongolia for businesses to generate profits by introducing new economically and environmentally sustainable ways of doing things," said Mr. Amartuvshin Hanibal, President of XacBank on the sidelines of GCF's 15th Board meeting. "This marks an important milestone for the development of the Eco Banking line of business at our Bank," he explained. "The agreement will help our bank create new links between profits and low-carbon development."

GCF Executive Director ad interim Javier Manzanares, signing the agreement on behalf of the Fund, said: "Encouraging private sector investment is a key way in which GCF is leveraging its climate finance resources."

Beginning in 2001 as a merger between micro-financing to help employ people, and a provider of loans to medium enterprises, XacBank is now one of Mongolia's most prominent banks. The Banker magazine presented XacBank the best bank in Mongolia of 2016 award during a ceremony in London earlier this month.

XacBank was accredited to GCF as a direct access private sector entity earlier this year. It is the first commercial bank to sign an AMA with the Fund.

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Erdenet Carpet opens store in Hohhot

December 13 (news.mn) One of Mongolia's top manufacturers, 'Erdenet Carpet' LLC, has opened a store in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia in northern China.

The 450 square meter store offers the full range of products by two companies, Erdenet Carpet and Erdenet Cashmere. On sale are rugs, woolen blankets, felt slippers, cashmere scarves and coats, as well as over 2,000 different carpet designs.

The company aims to open more shops abroad and to export Mongolian natural products around the world. Erdenet Carpet supplies more than 90 percent of the domestic market and exports its products to over 20 countries in Asia and Europe.

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FESCO, Eurosib and Sinotrans launch land route from China to Russia through Mongolia

December 9 (PortNews) FESCO Transportation Group ("FESCO" or the "Group") in partnership with Eurosib, a Russian logistics and transportation services provider, and Sinotrans, a Chinese logistics company, are launching the Mongolian Shuttle – a container train from Tianjin (China) to Moscow (Russia), FESCO says in a press release. It is FESCO's first land route from China to Russia going through Mongolia.

The first train with 84 TEUs of cargo left Tianjin on 2 December 2016 and is scheduled to reach the Kresty Station in the Moscow Region on 14 December 2016. The Mongolian Shuttle departs from China once every ten days. As the cargo base expands, a reverse route is planned for export deliveries from Russia.

The new train is designed predominantly for FMCG with time-sensitive delivery requirements. The launch of the Mongolian Shuttle enables a much faster delivery of Chinese exports, cutting the transit time to just 14 days on a route of less than 8,000 km, while a trip using the traditional sea route across the Suez Canal takes 45 days and spans more than 22,000 km. On top of that, the Mongolian Shuttle goes along the transport corridor that is new for the China to Moscow deliveries and includes the land border crossings of Erenhot (China), Zamyn-Uud (Mongolia), and Naushki (Republic of Buryatia, Russia).

Following their delivery to Moscow, the cargoes are then transported by FESCO to Russian regions and the CIS using the Group's existing services, including the last mile technology (delivery by car to the client's warehouse).

The Mongolian Shuttle has become FESCO's second service that links China and Russia. Earlier, in July 2016, the Group launched the FESCO Zabaikalsk Shuttle, a block train from Nanjing (Jiangsu Province) to Moscow. In addition to expediting cargo delivery from Chinese provinces to Russia, the train is also part of FESCO's intermodal routes going from China and Southeast Asia to Europe.

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The trade turnover of agricultural products between Russia and Mongolia grew by 35%

The trade of agricultural products between Russia and Mongolia in 10 months of 2016 has increased by 35% to $141 million

December 14 (agro2b) About this informed the head of Ministry of Russia Sergey Donskoy at the meeting of the intergovernmental Russian-Mongolian Commission on trade-economic and scientific-technical cooperation (IPC) in Ulaanbaatar. 

He noted that the development of agricultural trade between countries is complicated by the unfavourable epidemic situation in Mongolia by animal diseases. The parties also discussed the functioning of the checkpoints on the Russian-Mongolian state border.

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Alltech collaborates to enrich eggs in Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, December 12 (Wisconsin State Farmer) — Tumen Shuvuut, one of the two largest layer companies in Mongolia, will begin marketing selenium-enriched eggs made with Sel-Plex® organic selenium to Mongolian consumers nationwide.

In a joint press conference with the Public Health Institute of Mongolia held on Nov. 22 in Ulaanbaatar, Tumen Shuvuut said the company is launching its selenium egg to help alleviate a persistent selenium deficiency in the Mongolian diet, which was identified in a recent study by the country's Ministry of Health. The new product will be available in supermarkets and other retail outlets beginning in December. Alltech will continue to provide technical and other assistance to Tumen Shuvuut as they introduce this first-ever selenium-enriched egg to be marketed in Mongolia.

Due to variances in mineral levels in Mongolia's soil, many Mongolians have micronutrient deficiencies in their diets that can cause health challenges at all stages of life. One of the most critical of these deficiencies is related to selenium. The Mongolia Ministry of Health and the Public Health Institute of Mongolia have identified selenium deficiency as a serious health threat and have called for increasing the population's selenium intake through enriched foods.

Selenium, which is nutritionally essential for humans, is a constituent of more than two dozen selenoproteins that play critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis and protection from oxidative damage and infection. The selenium enrichment process takes place when an animal is fed with an approved source of organic selenium, providing natural enrichment of the food product.

"Based on trials conducted with our flock using Sel-Plex, the research reports showed that the 0.5-ppm enriched eggs were more likely to offset the selenium deficiency in the Mongolian population," said Mr. Bold Jigjid, CEO of Tumen Shuvuut LLC. "We were very satisfied with the outcome of the trial with Alltech, and we look forward to producing eggs that will benefit the Mongolian people.

"Working with Alltech, we wish to deliver a positive message about the benefits of selenium to the general public," continued Jigjid. "Consumers are demanding better food, and partnering with Alltech allows us to deliver enriched foods. We want consumers to understand how important selenium is for the human body."

"Selenium levels decrease with aging, and the selenium deficiency in Mongolia is particularly prevalent among the elderly," added Dr. Jamayan Batjargal, director of the Food Research Center at the Public Health Institute of Mongolia. "Therefore, Mongolia needs to produce functional food, which is enriched with selenium, and put more effort into providing food supplements that contain selenium to high-risk groups. Government policies must support using selenium-enriched foods."

Also participating in the press conference, Mongolian Minister of Health Dr. Tsogtsetseg Ayush commented on the health challenges from Mongolia's micronutrient deficit and expressed strong support for Tumen Shuvuut's selenium-enriched eggs.

"Minerals and some microelements play essential roles in human health," said Ayush. "However, today we are facing a problem of how to ensure sufficient intake given low levels found in the environment. I very much appreciate Tumen Shuvuut LLC for conducting research of a functional food that can improve the health status of the Mongolian population, and I am glad to hear that selenium-enriched eggs will be available on supermarket shelves. We will cooperate with Tumen Shuvuut on this project hereafter."

Addressing the press conference in Ulaanbaatar, Dr. Mark Lyons, Alltech global vice president and head of Greater China, noted that Alltech has been working on the enrichment of food products with Sel-Plex for more than 15 years.

"Our organic form of selenium is able to support the immune system of the animal during production while also differentiating the final product in the market and contributing to human health," said Lyons. "We are delighted to work with Tumen Shuvuut and to have the opportunity to highlight the benefits of selenium-enriched foods in Mongolia."

Alltech is working with nearly 60 companies around the globe to enrich food products in the areas of dairy, beef, pork, poultry and pet food.

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Mongolia Keeps Animal Diseases at Bay with the Help of Nuclear Technologies

December 14 (IAEA) A portrait of life in Mongolia is not complete without livestock. For city dwellers and nomads alike, more than 70 million animals are an essential source of food, income and cultural symbols for this country of barely three million inhabitants. Yet livestock owners like Batbaatar Chuluun are calm about highly contagious animal diseases. That's thanks to Mongolia's comprehensive animal disease control system built in part with support from the IAEA, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).  

"I don't worry about my animals or the diseases. If my animals get sick, the local vet will come and help me and will know what to do. I know the government is ready and can help," said Chuluun, a nomadic farmer from just outside the capital city Ulan Bator, who owns a few hundred cattle, goats and sheep. He relies on the meat and milk of these animals for his income and for feeding his family.

For decades, scientists and veterinarians in Mongolia have been trained and equipped by the IAEA and the FAO. Through this support, veterinarians have learned how to correctly take samples and manage potentially infected livestock, and scientists have acquired the skills and tools to use nuclear and nuclear-derived techniques to quickly and accurately analyse these samples (see The Science box).

Animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), peste des petits ruminants (PPR) and brucellosis, can easily spread to livestock through direct contact with wild animals, as well as through the air or contact with foodstuffs and objects contaminated by an infected animal. Their effects can range from lameness to death. These diseases are at times linked to infected meat and animal products, which causes many countries to impose trade restrictions to minimize the risk of potentially importing a disease. 

"When an animal disease strikes, we're well-trained and ready to respond fast," said Batsukh Zayat, Lead Veterinary Scientist at Mongolia's Institute of Veterinary Medicine. "We know how to work together at all levels to quickly enact emergency response plans, effectively analyse samples and distribute vaccines to minimize the spread of a disease."

Animals on the move

Fast and accurate diagnosis is critical in Mongolia where nearly all of the livestock roam free and graze off the land, explained Bandi Tsolomon, Head of the Veterinary Division and Chief Epidemiologist at the Implementing Agency of the Government of Mongolia for Veterinary and Animal Breeding.

Risk of contamination is further exacerbated by the nomadic lifestyle of around half of the Mongolian population who care for the majority of the country's livestock. Nomadic people move on average four to five times per year to ensure their animals have sufficient land for grazing.

Put to the test

Mongolia's animal disease control system was put to the test during a major FMD outbreak in September 2010. The country was struck by a severe case of this infectious disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals — those with hooves split into two toes — such as cattle, sheep, goats and antelopes.

"At the time of the outbreak, we had to cull more than 25 000 animals, while many more fell sick," explained Zayat. Through the decades of close collaboration with the IAEA and the FAO, Mongolian scientists and veterinarians had the training and equipment they needed to quickly respond to the epidemic.

Once farmers and local veterinarians spotted the sick animals, they quickly quarantined them and took samples. These samples were first analysed at provincial labs and then sent for further analysis to the veterinary scientists at Mongolia's State Central Veterinary Laboratory (SCVL). They used nuclear and nuclear-derived techniques to detect and evaluate the virus strains and to determine which vaccines to use.

Viruses evolve over time, which means a vaccine that may have worked for one virus strain, may not provide sufficient protection for another virus strain, even if they are similar," explained Gerrit Viljoen, Head of the Animal Production and Health Section at the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. A strain-specific vaccine becomes necessary when a standard vaccine is no longer providing full protection.

Mongolian officials and scientists worked directly with the Joint FAO/IAEA Division to trace and procure the most suitable vaccine from a supplier in France. Within three months of getting the vaccine, the outbreak was contained.

Mongolia's control system continues to perform. Most recently, PPR crossed borders into Mongolia for the first time, affecting at least four provinces. Scientists at SCVL were able to quickly identify the pathogen, and Joint FAO/IAEA Division scientists quickly confirmed the findings.

These findings immediately triggered prepared intervention plans that involved monitoring herds and separating infected animals from non-infected animals. The early and rapid diagnosis of PPR allowed Mongolia to effectively gain control of the disease before it could spread.

Regaining lost export ground

As animal diseases continue to be controlled on a local level, officials are now also using the animal disease control system as a springboard for re-establishing the country's position in export markets as a source of high quality meat.

Historically, Mongolia exported approximately 150 000 tonnes of animal products per year. Due to animal diseases, its export market shrank as countries have grown concerned about the spread of diseases potentially affecting the quality of the products.

Mongolia's export potential remains at just under 150 000 tonnes per year, but the country only exports on average less than 10 000 tonnes annually. This equates to around $600 million in lost revenue compared to before.

But the situation is now changing as Mongolian officials use the animal disease control system to build confidence in the country's products. This includes establishing and maintaining zones free of FMD. "We now have an area with three zones: one that is free of FMD, another that is a buffer zone, and the third is a vaccination zone. By having this system, we have been able to open up exports from the FMD-free zone to neighbouring countries. We hope to continue this trend and continue to grow our export market again," Tsolomon said.

Scientists are also actively working to prove other diseases have never been present in the country and that their country meets World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards. These standards play an important part in international trade.

"Now with the tools and equipment we have, we are making steady progress to gain back lost markets," Zayat said.

THE SCIENCE

The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are two nuclear-derived techniques commonly used for detecting diseases in animals.

ELISA is easy to setup and use, which makes it suitable for smaller veterinary laboratories, like those found at regional level in Mongolia. Scientists place a serum sample from an animal on a prepared dish and if the sample contains the suspected disease, it causes the enzymes on the dish to change colours confirming the presence of the disease. ELISA is often used for initial tests, but it has a limited sensitivity and specificity and cannot be used to identify virus strains.

PCR is a technique involving more equipment and procedures than ELISA, but it is highly sensitive and accurate, making it well-suited for identifying virus strains and bacteria. This technique is used to replicate, or amplify, a specific region of pathogen (such as a virus or bacteria) DNA billion-fold in just half an hour. Scientists then detect and monitor this target DNA amplification through either radioisotopes or by counting fluorescent molecules.

Both methods originally worked with radioisotopes and now apply enzymes instead, which has helped to streamline the testing process.

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Businesses Navigate Troubled Waters in Mongolia

By Amarzaya NaranDiana Fernandez

December 14 (The Asia Foundation) Mongolia is facing challenging times economically, especially compared to four or five years ago when the country was growing at a breakneck speed of 17 percent, that today is down to just 1.3 percent. The drop is a result of slumping demand for minerals, and for mineral-rich Mongolia this has spelled bad news for business.

With the lack of confidence in the current government's ability to dig the country out of its malaise, increasingly people are looking to the local business community to help revive the economy. But what does the business community think about issues related to investment and business development in the country?

The latest Study on Private Perceptions on Corruption (STOPP), released last month by The Asia Foundation and the Sant Maral Foundation, reveals a decline in satisfaction among the business community with the current business environment. Conducted since December 2012, the 7th STOPP survey interviewed 330 senior-level managers of Mongolian businesses in Ulaanbaatar in October 2016.

This year, the satisfaction level was at an all-time low, with a quarter of respondents citing that they are "very dissatisfied" with the business environment. This decline appears to be strongly correlated with the drop in foreign direct investment, which fell from $4.5 billion in 2012 to $35.2 million in the first half of 2016. In the STOPP surveys, negative assessments of the business environment have almost doubled—from -0.58 in 2012 to -1 in 2016.

Small businesses, which are the main generators of employment in Mongolia, showed the highest level of dissatisfaction with the business environment in 2016. Although decreasing steadily from past years, more than a quarter of respondents say that investment conditions will improve in the next six months, a reflection of the government's recent announcement that the economic crisis is expected to end and recovery to begin next year. The group most optimistic about investment prospects is large businesses, while medium and small enterprises are less hopeful.

Since 2012, the top three cited obstacles for businesses remain the same: high taxes, access to credit, and obtainment and renewal of licenses and permits. The Tax Office and the Specialized Inspection Agency are believed to be the two leading agencies creating obstacles, but as this survey focuses on perceptions it is not fully clear whether the agencies are indeed creating obstacles, or if they are just unpopular agencies based on their mandates of taxation and inspections, two things that no company welcomes.

The number of respondents who have experienced or heard of corrupt transactions in the last 12 months is 34.9 percent, compared to 48.5 percent in 2012. What is not clear is if this lower level of experiences with corruption is because the business environment is becoming more transparent, or that there are simply fewer transactions taking place in the declining economic environment, and thus fewer opportunities to seek bribes. Only 9 percent of respondents said that they had ever reported incidences of corruption (since 2012), and the number of surveyed firms that have a written policy to deal with corruption remains quite low at 14.8 percent. The percentage of companies that claimed to have actually taken steps to combat fraud or corruption remains the same as previous years at 13.3 percent.

One aspect of this low involvement from the business community in combating corruption could be due to the negative assessments of the existing legal environment as being "not effective at all." The survey suggests that businesses have very little optimism in the government's anti-corruption initiatives as well as existing laws against corruption: 19.1 percent of respondents in 2012 compared to 39.8 percent in 2016 who think the legal environment is not effective at all.

The government of Mongolia is trying to crawl its way out of the current financial crisis by taking some unpopular measures such as cutting welfare spending grants to university students, and is in discussion with the International Monetary Fund to bring the budget deficit to under 10 percent of GDP. The country is also trying to create a less erratic and more friendly and favorable legal environment for businesses to increase economic diversification, particularly in light of the boom-and-bust cycles of the resource industry. The government is also trying to incorporate pro-business and investor-friendly policies and accelerate trade, and not introduce any more tax increases.

However, as the STOPP survey shows, what also needs to be addressed is corruption and the legal frameworks and enforcement of those laws to protect businesses and investors. Businesses need to feel confident in pouring their money and hard work into the country, as they are ultimately key to its economic recovery.

Amarzaya Naran is deputy manager of The Asia Foundation's Governance Program in Mongolia and Diana Fernandez is deputy country representative there. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.

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Three-word addressing scheme adopted in Mongolia and Ivory Coast

By David Post

December 14 (The Washington Post) About a year ago I posted a story about What3Words.com, a British start-up that came up with what looked to me like a true game-changer application that not only was incredibly cool, but which could actually improve the lot of many millions of people:

Here's the problem: hundreds of millions, and more likely several billion, of the world's people live in a world in which few or none of the places that are important in their lives — where they live, where they work, where they catch the bus, where their kids go to school, where they go for a drink or to watch the movies — has an "address," a unique and commonly understood designator indicating their actual physical location. Think of just the inhabitants of the slums and favelas in and around the great world mega-cities — Sao Paolo, Brazil; Mexico City; Shanghai; Istanbul; Mumbai; Jakarta, Indonesia … and multiply that many times over.  And think of what it would be like to live in a world without addresses and how difficult (or impossible) it would be to get utility service or request an ambulance or report a crime or obtain public services or get a product delivered or start a business or open a school or call a meeting of your neighbors or find the voting booth you're supposed to go to . . .

The What3Words solution was, as I wrote last year, "to divide the Earth into squares three meters on a side and given a unique three-word name to each, using only common English words. So the Capitol Rotunda is in 'shall.spider.bake'; the Empire State Building in 'heaves.wipes.clay'; the Camp Nou, home of the world's greatest soccer team, FC Barcelona, is at 'comb.bombard.cooks'; the corner of Hollywood and Vine at 'gently.fears.lives,' etc.  [You can play with their interactive map, which is surprisingly engaging, at the what3words website here." [An excellent essay by Frederic Filloux at MondayNote has more details, as does the what3words.com website.]

It was, I thought, "worth keeping an eye on":

I've been wrong before, but I've also been right before — and this does seem like something of a game-changer to me.  It all depends on standardization, of course — my telling you to come to the picnic tomorrow at calm.update.output only works if you and I share the dictionary (presumably, on our phones). But that's true for Internet addresses and names, too … and look how that worked out.

Many reader comments expressed skepticism — not unfairly, to be sure. But I have been keeping an eye on it (with the help of friends and colleague — thanks to Byron Walker and David Seidman for these most recent pointers), and over the past few months two countries — Mongolia and Ivory Coast — have adopted the What3Words scheme for their national postal services. [See here for the Mongolia story, here and here for Ivory Coast].

I realize that inasmuch as the American people have more or less declared that they basically don't give a rat's ass about people who live in Mongolia or Ivory Coast, this might not seem like such a big deal to many of you.  But I'm pretty excited about it. It's a neat, out-of-the-box kind of idea, and it could make a real difference in the many places in the world where peoples' lives are really burdened by the absence of something those of us in the "first world" take for granted, viz., an effective street-addressing system.

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Ulaanbaatar

Right turn on red will be allowed at 11 intersections

December 12 (gogo.mn) Right turn on red will be allowed at following 11 intersections starting Dec 19th, reported by the City Governor`s Office. 

1.    32th toirog intersection 

2.    100 ail intersection 

3.    Dari-Ekh intersection

4.    Tasganii ovoo intersection

5.    Maternal and Child Research Center intersection (Ekh Nyalhas)

6.    Central Post intersection (Tuv Shuudan)

7.    10th micro district intersection 

8.    120k intersection 

9.    North intersection of APU 

10.  North intersection of CHP-3

11.  Amarsanaa intersection 

Cars were allowed to turn right on red lights at West four intersection, East four intersection, Sapporo and Geser monastery intersections since Oct 10th with the aim to decrease traffic. 

According to the study conducted by the Road Police Department, right turn on red will reduce traffic congestion by 20 percent while it has expected to reduce air pollution. 

However, drivers must give way to pedestrians and vehicles on the opposite side crossing by green.

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Hazardous levels of air pollution hit Bayanhoshuu and Amgalan

December 14 (gogo.mn) As of today at 9AM, (Dec 14th), levels of PM2.5 particulates, which are the most hazardous to health, was as high as 2001 micrograms per cubic meter in Bayanhoshuu, 946 micrograms per cubic meter in 100 ail, 683 micrograms per cubic meter at an area nearby Mongolian National Public Television and 569 micrograms per cubic meter in Tolgoit, according to the agaar.mn, an air quality monitoring website. 

Ulaanbaatar city, where air pollution reaches 80 times above the recommended levels, as compared with the World Health Organization safe level of 25.

According to the PM2.5 health effects statement, hazardous levels of air pollution can cause serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly; serious risk of respiratory effects in general population.

Thus, households should close the window during the most polluted periods (from 6AM to 10AM and 5PM to 9PM) and residents should wear PM2.5 pollution mask regularly when go outside. Also, use of air conditioning is effective way to improve indoor air quality.

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Ulaanbaatar air pollution reaches hazardous levels

By A. Odontuya

December 13 (gogo.mn) Air pollution has soared to hazardous levels in the most areas of Ulaanbaatar city, reaching 40 times the limit, as compared with the World Health Organization safe level of 25. 

On Tuesday (Dec 13th), levels of PM2.5 particulates, which are the most hazardous to health, was as high as 1003 micrograms per cubic meter in Tolgoit, 555 micrograms per cubic meter at an area nearby Mongolian National Public Television, 248 micrograms per cubic meter in Nisekh and 131 micrograms per cubic meter in Amgalan, according to the agaar.mn, air quality monitoring webstie. 

According to the PM2.5 health effects statement, hazardous levels of air pollution can cause serious aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly; serious risk of respiratory effects in general population.

Every winter, the amount of particles in air has rising, particularly in ger-areas of Ulaanbaatar city where two third of population live in houses and traditional dwellings that have not connected to the central heating system. From November to March, the citizens of Ulaanbaatar city face the worst air quality caused by heavy coal burning. 

Preliminary Results from the Ugaar Randomized Intervention Study of Air Pollution and Fetal Growth shows that 130 children and 1400 adults die from air pollution in Ulaanbaatar city annually. 

According to the study conducted among the capital city, air pollution has been shown to exacerbate pneumonia of children and cardiovascular disease of adults. 

CAUTIONARY STATEMENT

Everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors; people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low. 

Households should close the window during the most polluted periods (from 6AM to 10AM and 5PM to 9PM).

Moreover, residents should wear PM2.5 pollution mask regularly when go outside. Also, use of air conditioning is effective way to improve indoor air quality.

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Ulaanbaatar's silent killer

By Casey-Ann Seaniger

December 14 (gogo.mn) At a small medical clinic on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar's ger district, the waiting room is full of mothers and fathers cradling their sick children.

One baby vomits in the hallway, while another tiny boy struggles to breathe, wheezing and gasping for air.

The three-room Orkhon Tushee Murun medical center in the 17th Khoroo of Bayanzurkh District sees 115 patients a day. Around 30 to 40 patients are children who have symptoms of pneumonia.

The clinic's head doctor, Dr. B.Ankhtuya, is nervous. Last month on a home visit, she watched the death of a one-month-old girl from pneumonia.

Dr. Ankhtuya is bracing for a dramatic increase in patients over the next four months. She attributes the increase in pneumonia cases to air pollution exposure, which is causing infant disease and deaths, and long-term lung damage.

"In the morning and evening, this area has a smoke-like fog, and children are badly affected by this air pollution," Dr. Ankhtuya said.

"Most of the families living here are low-income. They are not burning coal, they are burning plastics, rubbish and car tyres to keep warm," she said. "When I visit families, sometimes it is very cold inside in the house, and others are warm, so it depends on their financial situation."

Pneumonia is the second most common cause of infant and under-five mortality in Mongolia, accounting for 15 percent of infant deaths. For adults, air pollution-related diseases – Ischemic heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – were the top three causes of premature death in 2013.

Ulaanbaatar is one of the most polluted cities in the world. The primary indicator of air pollution impacts on human health, PM 2.5, is at a level seven times higher than World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, and the prediction is that air pollution will only get worse in the next 10 years.

A report released this month by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Public Health Institute of Mongolia and the Association of Public Health Professionals titled "Understanding and addressing the impact of air pollution on children's health in Mongolia" warned air pollution in Ulaanbaatar had now reached "critical" levels.

Air pollution in Ulaanbaatar is caused by a combination of high emissions, rapid and unplanned urbanization in the ger district and the city's unique geography and climate.

Sixty percent of Ulaanbaatar's population lives in the ger district and residents rely on coal-burning stoves to heat their homes and for cooking. This is the source of 70 percent of PM 2.5 in Ulaanbaatar, with power plants, vehicles and industry making up the rest, according to a World Bank report.

While outdoor air pollution is a killer, many do not know that indoor air pollution causes more deaths. Studies show that Mongolian adults and children spend 90 percent of their time indoors during winter; either at home, work or school. It's these indoor environments that dominate exposure to air pollution and the resultant health impacts.

Through the cries of children waiting outside her door for treatment, Dr. Ankhtuya explains that the majority of residents in the 17th Khoroo area are poor and parents can't always afford treatment such as medication or the pneumonia vaccine.

One of Dr. Ankhtuya's patients is nine-month- old B.Batchimed who has pneumonia. His mother, B.Battsetseg said she tried to get him into hospital but all the beds were full and the only option was sharing a room with up to eight other sick children.

The shortage of public hospital beds and under-resourced hospitals is a common problem faced in this area, according to Dr. Ankhtuya.

"We've sent some people from our clinic to the hospital with a referral letter saying this baby needs to stay at the hospital but the hospital can't take them because of the bed shortages so they send them back to us," she said.

Children living in the ger district are most at risk of diseases and death caused by air pollution, said UNICEF Mongolia Representative Roberto Benes.

"The levels of incidences of diseases have been growing in certain areas in the ger district,'' Benes said. "Children in highly polluted areas in Ulaanbaatar were found to have 50 percent lower lung function than children in rural areas.

"And if we look at generational change in Mongolia's population, the current generation, that is those born in the last five to 10 years, have experienced a level of air pollution that has not been experienced by previous generations."

The growing body of scientific evidence on the short and long term impacts of air pollution exposure on young infants is compelling; from reduced fetal growth, preterm birth, pneumonia and acute respiratory disease, to severe lung damage. In Ulaanbaatar, miscarriages increase by four folds in winter compared to summer months and this has been strongly correlated to air pollution.

The social and economic effects are also crippling. As children are increasingly sick, kids miss school and parents can't work. Evidence shows the bulk rates of absence in schools and kindergartens are related to respiratory diseases from air pollution.

The Ulaanbaatar Mayor's Office has acknowledged air pollution as "the most urgent problem in our city". While both local and national levels of government have increased efforts to combat air pollution, the economic downturn coupled with political instability and the absence of an alliance between government, civil society and industry has plagued sustainable progress.

After the July 2016 elections, and with a new government now in place, UNICEF has called for urgent action on air pollution. Benes has warned of a "veritable public health crisis" with significant economic consequences in coming years if more is not done.

"This issue is not just morally unacceptable but it's also bad for the national health system and the economy. These are all lives that will not be productive, and they will have a weight on the health care system in the future,'' he added.

"We can't keep silent while children are brought into life breathing in polluted air."

"We are going towards generations of Mongolians suffering from unprecedented levels of chronic respiratory disease later in life.''

Even though the long-term solution to the air pollution crisis is reducing emissions by switching to clean fuels and fixing the energy and urban planning in the ger district, more immediate low-cost methods and behavioral changes are also crucial.

At the corporate level, big businesses, mining companies and small-budget companies are being encouraged to provide low-cost items such as HEPA filter air purifiers to schools and kindergartens.

In the community, social change must start with knowledge and awareness at the grassroots' level.

One of the key messages is the need to increase exclusive breastfeeding, which is the number one shield for protecting the immune system of infants. Breastfeeding rates have declined in Mongolia and last year's outbreak of measles was partially linked to low breastfeeding rates, according to doctors and UNICEF.

Tackling other risk factors such as reducing tobacco smoke exposure inside the home, undernutrition, zinc deficiency and educating the public about the importance of masks are also important.

Dr. Ankhtuya said increasing knowledge about the impact of burning coal indoors is difficult as there are no other short-term, low-cost alternatives to keep warm.

While government, industry and civil society talk about big structural change at a high political level, parents like B.Battsetseg can only wait.

Until then, they go to bed every night worrying about their children.

"My child and every child in Ulaanbaatar deserve fresh air to breathe,'' B.Battsetseg said. "We are waiting for this day."

Translation assistance by T.Bayarbat

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483 CCTV cameras in Ulaanbaatar monitored by 56 police officers

December 12 (gogo.mn) There are currently 1483 closed circuit ("CCTV") cameras in public places in Ulaanbaatar and these are being monitored by 56 police officers from the City Police Department. As of October 2016, by having the cameras the police departments were able to intervene in 52 crimes and have made 163 prosecutions for administrative offences. These numbers only relate to the cases only where they were able to intervene while the crime was ongoing -there are thousands of other offences and crimes where they made prosecutions with the help of the cameras.

Unfortunately, 376 of the above mentioned 1483 cameras are broken and not operational. Erdenebold J, the head of the City Police Department, made a public plea requesting support to fix or exchange the broken units.

The Vice-Mayor of the City has stated that the cameras coming under the responsibility of the city office should be updated. As for the cameras in the districts, the budgets for the districts for the upcoming year will allow the districts to take care of their cameras also. There should be a centralised control system for any new cameras. In my view, we should invest in new cameras rather than attempt to fix old cameras.

The City Council members have revealed that making the Ulaanbaatar fully covered by CCTV camera would have a real influence on the "Safe City" project, the aim of which is to give citizens safe and peaceful lives. They also revealed having a centralised control system under the City Police Department will also make it easier to have a successful and proactive criminal investigation and prosecution process. 

The Council has mandated the City Police Department to fix any broken cameras, and make an assessment of new CCTV camera locations, before upcoming new year.

The City Mayor Office's press department announced that the Bayanzurkh District is fully under covered in terms of CCTV, and that the City could also be fully covered before the new year if it was able to fix its existing cameras.

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Neglected children in Ulaanbaatar

December 13 (gogo.mn) As of October 2016, there were known to be 74 homeless children in the central 6 districts of Ulaanbaatar. This figure is given by the City Children and Family Development Center and Mayors' Training and Education Complex for Children and Youth.

Of these, 44 children who did in fact have a home and parents were sent back to their families based on an agreement made between the campaigners and the children's parents or care-takers. There are 27 children had no place or care-taker to which to go. The campaigners took 9 children to a centre for development for abandoned and vulnerable children and 18 children to a Children and Youth Training and Education Special Centre.

The head of the Families and Children Protection Department of City Children and Family Development Centre, Ms.Baigalmaa S. stated that a quarter of these children are not been watched continuously and have lived without any care-taker for anywhere between 2 – 8 years. They are generally between 8-18 years old and about 80% of them are male. All of them said that they left their family because of domestic violence at their home, and thus they became homeless due to a wish to be alone or at least somewhere less violent.

Mostly, children are found at places like PC gaming centers, building entrances and tunnels, bigger trade centers and markets. All children have health problems, but especially, most of them have computer addictions.

Children and Youth Training and Education Special Centre's social worker, Mr.Tserendavaa stated that "For first one month to one year, we cultivate and socialise the children and we start to educate them in service training, carpentry, music training, physical education et cetera. We have an informal training programme for those who have never been to school"..

According to what the children say, during the day time they go to church to get some food and then hang out at PC gaming centres.

The officials stated that this reveals that the government and police need to work hard with the PC gaming centres and that they will hold the parents accountable in accordance with the law.

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Cheating bus fares costs us all

December 13 (UB Post) On July 24, public transportation buses started using a magnetic pre-paid card to collect fares instead of collecting cash for tickets. Passengers didn't need to buy a ticket from a conductor, and all bus ticket agents lost their jobs. The leadership and management of bus companies claimed that conductors and drivers put a lot of money in their pockets each day by stealing a large portion of fares, so they wanted to change the fare payment system.

Pensioners and people living with disabilities have a specific card that gives them free bus fares. Students can receive a card that gives them 44 free rides a month, and police officers and street sweepers can ride buses for free. There are nearly 800,000 bus passengers in the city, but only 60 percent of them are using the new U Money fare cards. An estimated 35,000 passengers a day, excluding pensioners, disabled people, and students, use the fare cards to travel by bus. People who don't use the pre-paid cards are required to deposit 500 MNT into the fare box.

HOW DO PEOPLE CHEAT FARES?

Of course, riding the bus is the least expensive mode of transport in the city, aside from the difficult task of using a bicycle for transportation. People agree that riding the bus is cheap and can sometimes be fast, but a number of people are still avoiding paying full fare.

There are many different ways to cheat bus fares, such as putting small bills in between bigger ones and folding a bill four times to trick the driver monitoring the fare box. People also split 500 MNT bills, putting half of the bill into the fare box for one ride and using the other half for another ride.

Some cheaters cut a 1,000 MNT bill in half and put half of it into the box, then they ask a passenger getting on the bus with a 500 MNT bill to take the 500 MNT for change due. Drivers have a hard time paying attention to how much passengers drop into the fare box when a bunch of people crowd around it.

Some bus drivers don't require full bus fares from passengers because the drivers see no difference in their earnings from passengers paying full fare. The problem is that passengers still have two ways to pay their bus fares: use a bus card or pay in cash. People are still cheating the fare payment system, and bus companies are losing profits.

Director of the Union of Big Bus Operators J.Damdinsuren pointed out that there is no regulation that states 100 percent of passengers have to use a fare card, so many passengers are avoiding paying full fare and bus companies are losing profits. He said that lost profits means that budget expenditures are going up.

Senior Manager of U Money Ts.Tuvshinjargal noted that a task force dealing with the financial challenges facing bus companies is collaborating with the Ulaanbaatar Mayor's Office, and the task force is pursuing ways to resolve problems. He said that he hopes the financial losses due to fare evasion will not happen for companies in 2017.

The Ulaanbaatar Mayor's Office was expected to profit from implementing the pre-paid fare card project, so they gave bus companies 60.6 billion MNT from Ulaanbaatar's 2015 city budget. Only 47 billion MNT in revenue was generated in 2015.

Ulaanbaatar's 2016 budget included 80 billion MNT allocated for bus companies, but the companies have only collected 41 billion MNT from passengers as of November. The fare card project doesn't help balance public transportation revenue. The Mayor's Office has been spending too much money on transportation instead of generating profit, and the project is contributing to a budget deficit.

HOW CAN WE RESOLVE THIS PROBLEM?

Public transportation deficit Some bus companies have started hiring fare monitors to see that passengers are paying full bus fares. If all buses are staffed with monitors, 4.5 billion MNT needs to be factored into Ulaanbaatar's budget to pay their wages. If new technology and equipment for counting cash fares or fare tokens are installed, more money will have to come from the city's budget.

Making improvements without spending more money is important during these challenging economic times. I think that the best way to deal with the challenges would be to create a regulation requiring all passengers to use fare payment cards.

Some set regulations would encourage passengers to use the system that works best for the transportation system. Our taxes will keep paying for cheaters to ride the bus for free or with deep discounts unless the Mayor's Office finds a good solution to addressing public transportation deficits.

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Ziferblat Ulaanbaatar Grand Opening

December 13 (UB Post) Ziferblat is a chain of spaces for individuals. Visitors will pay for time only and get unlimited coffee, tea, snacks, Wi-Fi, events and homey atmosphere.

The grand opening of Ziferblat Ulaanbaatar will be held on December 15 on the third floor of the Mongolian Youth Federation.

Details

Where: 3rd floor of the Mongolian Youth Federation

When: December 15, 6:00 p.m.

Admission: Free

More Information: 95158000

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Diplomacy

China 'blocks' Mongolia border after Dalai Lama visit

Mongolia says hundreds of trucks stuck at the border after move seen as a response to Dalai Lama's visit to Ulaanbaatar.

December 10 (Al Jazeera) Mongolia says China has closed a key border crossing, creating huge congestion, nearly a week after the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, visited the country.

Hundreds of truck drivers for the mining conglomerate Rio Tinto are stuck at the Gants Mod crossing in southeastern Mongolia in freezing temperatures.

Footage shows a long line of trucks on the Mongolian side of the border waiting to cross.

"Mongolia says these drivers spend hours, and in some cases days, waiting in the cold," Al Jazeera's Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing, said on Saturday. "Temperatures at night that can drop to minus 20 degrees Celsius." 

Rio Tinto, which operates vast copper and gold mines, has now suspended shipment to China of copper concentrate.

The Dalai Lama is cherished as a spiritual leader in predominantly Buddhist Mongolia, but is considered a separatist in China for supporting a long drawn-out campaign for independence for Tibet.

Beijing has been campaigning for a diplomatic boycott of the Dalai Lama since 1959, when he escaped to India and formed a government-in-exile. The Dalai Lama retired from political life in 2011.

Last month, Beijing imposed new tariffs on commodity shipments between China and Mongolia. But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang did not confirm whether or not the new border fees were connected to the Dalai Lama's visit, saying that he was unaware of the situation.

"As for the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia, China has expressed its position many times," he said at the ministry's regular press briefing on Thursday, covered by the Reuters news agency.

The diplomatic repercussions could hit Mongolia hard, with the crisis-hit government desperate to boost economic ties with its powerful southern neighbour and to use Chinese investment to kick-start key mining and infrastructure projects.

Al Jazeera's correspondent said Mongolia had been negotiating a loan with China to help ease its acute financial troubles.

"Its government is basically broke, but China has cancelled talks to discuss the loan that Mongolia needs so very badly.

"So, in a sense, Mongolia, is paying a very heavy economic price for putting religious freedom ahead of economic necessity," Brown added.

In advance of Dalai Lama's visit to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, China warned in October of "damage" to bilateral ties between the two countries.

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China Dalai Lama Conflict: Mongolian Border 'Blocked' Following Tibetan Spiritual Leader's Visit

BY JANICE WILLIAMS

December 14 (International Business Times) China has been blocking Mongolian truck drivers from crossing into its borders following a visit from the Dalai Lama, according to reports. More than 100 truck drivers from Mongolian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto were stuck at the Gants Mod border in southeastern Mongolia on Friday after China officials closed off the border entry, which Mongolian authorities believe was a response to the Tibetan spiritual leader's four-day visit in late November.

It was expected that the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia last month would add to tension between the country and China. The Chinese have been against the Dalia Lama since he fled to India and formed a government supporting Tibet's independence during his exile in 1959. Although the Dalai Lama retired from political life in 2011, the Chinese still view him as a separationist.

China closed its border when the Dalai Lama visited Mongolia in 2002. It also temporarily canceled flights from Beijing to Mongolia when the Dalai Lama visited in 2006. Before his most recent visit to Mongolia, China issued a warning to the country urging it against admitting the Dalai Lama in an effort to maintain bilateral ties between the governments, the New York Times reported.

New tariffs have been imposed on commodity shipments from Mongolia, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang confirmed last week. However, Chinese officials haven't confirmed that the recent border blocking was connected to the Dalai Lama's visit to Ulaanbaatar.

"As for the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia, China has expressed its position many times," Shuang told Reuters.

The border closing came right after Mongolian leaders requested a $4.2 billion loan from Beijing. Mongolia asked for the loan to help pull the country out of a recession. China accounts for about 90 percent of Mongolian exports. However, commodity prices have declined, making it even harder for Mongolia to pay off foreign debts to other countries.

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Indian solidarity with Mongolia: one billion US dollars against Chinese sanctions

China imposes economic sanctions on Mongolia for hosting the Dalai Lama in November. India is ready to help the country economically. India's External Affairs minister announces a beneficial credit line.

Ulaan Baatar, December 13 (AsiaNews) – India is ready to provide Mongolia with one billion US dollars in financial assistance to deal with China's decision to impose economic sanctions after the visit of the Dalai Lama between 18 and 21 November.

China did its utmost to discourage the visit to Mongolia by the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. Beijing views the Dalai Lama as a political enemy.

A week after the visit, the Chinese government cancelled a biannual meeting with Mongolia, with negative repercussions on the latter's economy.

Southern ​​Mongolia, which borders China, has rich coal, copper, and natural gas deposits. Over the past 20 years, the country has based its economy on resource development and exports to China.

Every day about 900 lorries cross the border into China's autonomous province of Inner Mongolia. Now they are charged 10 yuan each (US$ 1,45), and 0.1% of the worth of the cargo if it is beyond 10,000 yuan (US$ 1,450).

This way, China can harm Mongolia's mining sector, which is being developed with financial aid from the Chinese government.

In view of this, India wants to help. "We are ready to work with Mongolian people in this time of their difficulty," said a spokesman for India's Ministry of External Affairs.

"During the visit of the PM to Mongolia in May 2015," he added, the prime minister "had conveyed to the Mongolian leadership that India will extend support in diverse fields. We had announced a credit line of US$ 1 billion.

At present, "We are closely working with the Mongolian government to implement the credit line in a manner that is deemed beneficial to the friendly people of Mongolia".

Ties between the two countries are important. "We have a long spiritual relationship with India," noted Gonchig Ganbold, Mongolia's ambassador to India.

What is more, "It is important India raises its voice against China's unilateral measures which are hurting our people, specially when severe winter is upon us."

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Related:

On Dalai Lama, India Stops Being DefensiveThe Pioneer, December 15

New bone of contention: India, China pick a fight over MongoliaThe Tribune, December 14

India making vain efforts to bribe Mongolia: Chinese state mediaIndia TV, December 12

India must support Mongolia after China's crackdown post Dalai Lama's visit, imposition of toll taxFirst Post, December 11

China's official media warns Mongolia over seeking Indian help Economic Times, December 9

Chinese state media slams Mongolia for seeking India's helpIndia Today, December 9

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China, Mongolia and the Dalai Lama: What India can learn

By PEMA TSETEN

December 14 (Asia Times) The recent visit by the Dalai Lama to a far-reaching nation of Mongolia has brought a new jigsaw puzzle in Mongolia-China relations.

Mongolia, a sparsely populated landlocked state is sandwiched between China to the south and Russia to the north. Prior to independence Mongolia and China had very complicated relations. Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan conquered all of China and established the Yuan dynasty in 1279. Similarly, in 1368 Chinese under the Ming Dynasty expelled the Mongols from China and successfully strengthened the Great Wall to ward off the Mongolians from raiding into China.

It was only after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 that the Republic of China was established and Mongolia declared its independence. Thereafter the communications between Mongolia and China have dramatically increased and more significantly after the end of the cold war. The 1994 treaty on 'Friendly Relations and Cooperation' made China a major trade, economic and strategic partner of Mongolia in a sense for a simple reason.

First, the economy of one nation is always conditioned by the development and expansion of its relations with other economies for carrying out its economic activities and since Mongolia is a geographically landlocked region sandwiched between China and Russia it was applied that Mongols will heavily depend on China's economy that has grown substantially since the introduction of the economic reforms in 1979. Second, due to China's rampant industrialization and urbanization it wants to access its control over the available natural resources such as coal, gold, and copper of Mongolia that are found in abundance. In this regard China has expanded its investments in Mongolia's mining industries, giving it access to the country's natural resources. Indeed, these reasons personify China- Mongolia relations from a mere "strategic partnership" to a "comprehensive strategic partnership."

However, the recent visit by the Dalai Lama to Mongolia has brought a new cleavage in the bilateral relations. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, made a four-day religious trip to predominantly Buddhist Mongolia despite China's objection. Beijing regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist and a 'wolf in the monk's robe' who seeks to alienate Chinese-controlled Tibet from Beijing. Despite repeated warning, Ulaanbaatar ignored the warning and hosted Dalai Lama's arrival just like in the past. He visited monasteries, preached his blessing and attended the international conference on Buddhist Science.

Beijing's repercussion to the visit was anticipated. China imposed a new fee on commodity shipments between the two countries at Gashuun Sukhait, a major border crossing between China and Mongolia. Furthermore, it canceled all the bilateral interaction with Mongolia and postponed the bilateral meeting that was seen as crucial for Mongolia to access badly-needed Chinese loans and developmental projects as Mongolia mired in an economic recession was seeking emergency loans from bilateral partners and international institutions.

The effect has brought into play a new dynamic with India, which has deepened its tie with Mongolia, particularly after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit in 2015.

India signaled that it may step up to help Mongolia amid its alienation from China. India's spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swarup added that India is "ready to work with the Mongolian people in this time of their difficulty." This comment comes in line with Mongolia's ambassador in India, Gonchig Ganbold who sought India's assistance in helping Ulaanbataar out of its current problems with China.

This will bring a new discourse to India's larger geo-strategic game in Asia viz-a-viz China particularly when Beijing is making expensive initiatives, such as the 'One Belt, One Road' (OBOR), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and the BRICS Bank in order to strengthen infrastructure, both on the westward land route from China through Central Asia and on the southerly maritime routes from China through Southeast Asia and on to South Asia, Africa, and Europe.

India should keep in mind that Mongolia has pursued a 'third neighbor' policy in order to deepen its ties with countries beyond its real neighbors — China and Russia. In this regard, India must take the full potential of its initiative and also be very careful in updating its policy relations, particularly when it is not an audacious attempt to substitute and replace China in its own neighborhood. More importantly, India should also know that deepening its tie with far-reaching nations, including Mongolia, will sharply deteriorate its close tie with China in the larger geo-strategic game.

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Does India Sense an Opportunity in Mongolia Amid Ulaanbataar-Beijing Split Over Dalai Lama?

Is Mongolia hoping that India will chime in on its current difficulties with China?

By Ankit Panda

December 10 (The Diplomat) As I discussed a few weeks ago, bilateral ties between China and Mongolia entered a deep freeze after the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, traveled to Mongolia for an unofficial religious visit. China, which sees the Dalai Lama as a separatist leader, immediately froze all diplomacy with Mongolia, including ongoing talks over a critical $4.2 billion loan that would have come as an important lifeline for the country, which remains mired in economic recession. (More background on Mongolia's circumstances here.)

The episode between the two countries has now taken on an interesting trilateral angle, with India — the Dalai Lama's host country since 1959 — signaling that it may step up to help Ulaanbataar amid its alienation from China. Vikas Swarup, the spokesperson for India's Ministry of External Affairs, recently acknowledged Mongolia's situation, noting that India was "ready to work with Mongolian people in this time of their difficulty." He continued:

During the visit of Prime Minister to Mongolia in May 2015, PM had conveyed to the Mongolian leadership that India will extend support to Mongolia in diverse fields. We had announced a credit line of US$ 1 billion during the visit. Mongolian leadership was highly appreciative of this gesture and conveyed that it would help them in obtaining investment and financial resources from their other partners. We are closely working with the Mongolian government to implement the credit line in a manner that is deemed beneficial to the friendly people of Mongolia by its leadership.

Mongolia's ambassador in India, meanwhile, sought India's assistance in helping Ulaanbataar out of its current problems with China: "It's important that India raises its voice against the unilateral measures China is taking against us which is hurting our people specially when severe winter is upon us."

In both China and India, media commentators have read the Indian spokesperson's remark as a suggestion that New Delhi is seizing on an opportunity as Ulaanbataar and Beijing drift apart. However, viewed within the context of what India and Mongolia have achieved bilaterally in recent years — particularly since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 — the Indian position is simply an extension of existing policy, not an audacious attempt to substitute and supplant China in its own neighborhood.

Mongolia, which has famously pursued a "third neighbor" policy, seeking to deepen ties with countries beyond its "first" and "second" neighbors — China and Russia — has deepened ties with India considerably. Modi's 2015 visit was an important milestone, and the two countries cooperate closely on defense and counterterrorism as well.

Despite these close ties, there is little that Delhi can realistically do to unilaterally help Mongolia out of its current fiscal circumstances. However, as some commentary in China suggests, this is likely not the sense in Beijing. Interestingly, China's foreign ministry appears reluctant to comment on the matter of Mongolia seeking assistance from India, with its spokesperson appearing evasive on the question on multiple occasions in the past week. (Asked once, Lu Kang, the foreign ministry spokesperson, notes that he hasn't "heard of this," and the second time he tells the reporter asking the question: "I'd refer you to competent authorities for specifics.")

The lack of official Chinese comment may suggest that Beijing is caught off-guard by Mongolia's outreach to India over the post-Dalai Lama visit diplomatic and economic sanctions from the Chinese side. India, meanwhile, has yet to play any cards directly so far over the Mongolia-China divergence. New Delhi may sense an opportunity here to deepen ties with Ulaanbataar, but the cost of such a move may be a sharp deterioration of ties with China.

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China, Mongolia and Russian Federation to open up new era of trade cooperation

Moscow, December 9 (ESCAP News) – A new era of trade cooperation between China, Mongolia and the Russian Federation was opened in Moscow on 8 December 2016, when the governments of the three countries signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on International Road Transport along the Asian Highway Network.

By signing the Agreement, each country agreed to give the other two countries traffic rights for international road transport operation on the parts of Asian Highway routes AH3 and AH 4 connecting their respective territories.

"Member States use of the Asian Highway network as a pivot to negotiate an operational agreement will position infrastructure networks to provide impetus for trade and people connectivity, particularly to landlocked Mongolia, and enable the network to act as a platform for multilateral and regional cooperation", said Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

The Agreement was negotiated by the three countries over a three-year period, with ESCAP providing technical assistance on its formulation.

To demonstrate the benefits of the initiative, in August 2016, the transport ministries of the three countries concerned organized a pilot run of a nine-truck caravan that travelled a 2,150-km distance in seven days from the Chinese port of Tianjin to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia and then on to Ulan-Ude on the shore of Lake Baikal in the Russian Federation.

Under the Agreement, Asian Highway route No.4 (AH4) will be opened to China's border with Pakistan, then connected by bilateral and quadrilateral agreements with China and some Central Asian countries along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for connectivity, creating a western corridor of the Silk Road Economic Belt.

The Agreement also opened Asian Highway route No. 3 from Ulan-Ude (Russian Federation) – Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) –Beijing to Tianjin port (China), and Asian Highway route No. 4 from Novosibirsk (Russian Federation) – Urumqi (China) – Kashi – Honqiraf (Chinese border with Pakistan), making it the first substantive achievement of the new China-Mongolia-Russia trilateral economic cooperation initiative.

Other countries willing to exchange similar transit rights along Asian Highway routes will have the opportunity to accede to the Agreement after its entry into force.

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Russian Environment Minister visits Mongolia

December 14 (news.mn) Sergei Donskoi, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation is currently visiting Ulaanbaatar in his capacity as co-chair of inter-governmental commission meeting between Mongolia and Russia. The meeting commenced at Government House on Tuesday 13th December.  The same day, the head of State Great Khural, Speaker M.Enkbold, also met with Minister Donskoi.

At the meeting, Speaker M.Enkhbold said: 'I see that a new era is coming in cooperation between our two countries. Over the last three weeks, five of our ministers have visited Russia. There they met around nine deputies of the Russian State Duma (parliament) and discussed cooperation in many areas. The annual Saint-Petersburg Economic Forum has also taken place and now the Inter-Governmental Commission Meeting is happening in Ulaanbaatar. I will visit Moscow on 14th of December where I will meet members of the Duma, the Federation Council (upper house) and Yedinaya Rossiya ('United Russia' - the main political party).

Sergei Donskoi noted that this year marks the 95th Anniversary of the establishment of relations between the two countries. He also said: 'We see Mongolia as a direct neighbour, an important partner and a country with a history of cooperation. In April, the Chinese, Russian and Mongolian Economic Partnership Agreement was signed. This represents the biggest stimulus for the development of future cooperation.

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Prime Minister discusses economic cooperation with Russia's Minister of Natural Resources Ministry and the Environment

December 13 (UB Post) Prime Minister J.Erdenebat received Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment of the Russian Federation Sergey Donskoy on Tuesday. Minister Donskoy arrived in Ulaanbaatar to chair the 20th meeting of the Mongolia-Russia intergovernmental commission on December 13 to 14, and to discuss some aspects of cooperation between the two countries.

The Prime Minister pointed out that relations and cooperation between the two countries have reached the level of strategic partnership, and are successfully developing. He noted that mutual collaboration is of importance to developing trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.

Minister Donskoy noted that establishing a free-trade agreement between the Eurasian Economic Community and Mongolia is of great important to developing trade.

During their meeting, the sides expressed their satisfaction with successful cooperation between a number of Russian and Mongolian ministries in recent years.

The sides also agreed to actively organize working groups under principles outlined in a mid-term program agreement for the development of a strategic partnership between the two countries, to increase the cost efficiency of Ulaanbaatar Railway, and to strengthen trade in areas along the Mongolian and Russian border.

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Mongolia-Russia Intergovernmental Commission reaches agreement on hydropower plant issue and many others

Ulaanbaatar, December 14 (MONTSAME) The 20th Meeting of the Mongolia-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economy, Science and Technical Cooperation completed on December 13  in Ulaanbaatar.

The sides have released protocols on cooperation in trade, economy, road and transport, investment, agriculture, energy and humanities. The ceremony for signing these documents was held at the State House. The documents were inked by the Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia and Chair of the Mongolian part of the commission, Mr U.Khurelsukh and the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation and Chair of the Russian part of the Commission, Mr Sergey E.Donskoy.

Mr Donskoy said, summing up the commission meeting, "The 20th Meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economy, Science and Technical Cooperation completed with success. During this meeting and the previous ones, both sides considered issues covering many areas of bilateral cooperation. Today, the cooperation in economic sphere is facing some difficulties. In 2015, the total external turnover decreased by 22 percent, and the negative trend was carried on throughout 2016. We must combine our efforts to produce tangible results from the political negotiations".

"Today, we addressed a broad range of issues covering Russian-Mongolian commercial and economic transport, agriculture and the environment. Moreover, we also discussed new directions of cooperation. The matters of relations between Mongolia and the Eurasian Economic Union and establishing the Mongolia-Russia-China economic corridor were deliberated. Also, the sides elaborated issues of implementing the medium term program on realizing the strategic partnership and the operations of Ulaanbaatar Railway in details. After careful discussion on the hydropower plant project, based on the bank of Selenge River, the sides agreed to further collaboration. Today's session revealed that abundance of cooperation potentials awaits the two countries. After all, the substantiating the ideas through actions is on us", he added.

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Mongolia and Russia to strengthen economic cooperation

December 14 (news.mn) The 20th Mongolia and Russian Inter-Governmental Commission Meeting for trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation took place on 13th and 14th of December in Ulaanbaatar. Vice-Premier U.Khurelsukh has led the Mongolian delegation and Sergei Donskoi, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment the Russian delegation. The two sides have signed a protocol and agreed to strengthen cooperation in the spheres of food, agriculture, environment, technology, highways and other forms of transportation.

Minister Donskoi said: 'The 20th Inter-Governmental Commission Meeting between our two countries has been a great success. We have discussed cooperation in a number of sectors. Out of these, I would like to highlight trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Mongolia. Currently, economic cooperation faces some difficulties; the volume of trade between our two countries decreased by 22% in 2015 and it had a negative rating in 2016. We need to put into action the ideas negotiated at a political level.'

The following actions were agreed at the commission meeting:

  • Mongolian and Russian Central Banks to organise a meeting of creditors in 2017
  • In total, 70 Mongolian students will receive scholarships from the Russian Federation and study in universities under the control of the Ministry of Transport.
  • Rail transport issues to be finalised and an inter-governmental agreement will be signed in 2017.
  • The Russian side expressed interest on establishing a joint company and to participate in Mongolian energy projects as well as the reconstruction of power stations.
  • Russia and Mongolia agreed to start the second stage in the joint programme for 'making Mongolian livestock more healthy'. This project is essential in order to increase exports to Russia.
  • Both sides agreed to hold an annual inter-commission meeting with an agenda of preventing forest fires. Russia has declared 2017, the year of Ecology and Protecting Nature. On this occasion, a creative competition will be held among Russian and Mongolian students.
  • The next 21st Mongolia and Russian Inter-Governmental Commission Meeting will be held in Russia in February, 2017

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Related:

Mongolia and Russia to broaden cooperation in energy, tourism, agricultureMontsame, December 14

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M.Enkhbold: "Mongolia and Russia must focus on trade imbalance"

Ulaanbaatar, December 13 (MONTSAME) "The both sides should pay a particular attention to implementing medium-term program for the development of strategic partnership between Mongolia and Russia", stressed the Parliament Speaker M.Enkhbold at a meeting with Sergey Donskoy, the Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment on Tuesday.

"In the past 20 years, the volume of trade turnover between Mongolia and Russia has decreased. So, we must focus on the trade imbalance between the two countries. Also, there are tariff and nontariff trade barriers. These challenges can be tackled not only in the scope of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), but through direct connections", he went on.

Then Mr Enkhbold noted that the Mongolian-Russian joint stock company Ulaanbaatar railway is a symbol of bilateral relations. "Therefore, the sides must put efforts for increasing efficiency of Ulaanbaatar railway, improving its technical capacity, and using all potentials of transit transportation linking Asia with Europe", he added.

In turn, Mr Donskoy pointed out that Russia and Mongolia is celebrating the 95th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations. "We consider that Mongolia is a close neighbour and the main partner of Russia. Last April, Russia and Mongolia signed a medium-term program for the development of strategic partnership. This document will give an impetus to further development of both countries. The economic cooperation is developing slowly than political ties. So it shows that we must focus on using existing potentials in more effective way.  An annual meeting of the Russian- Mongolian intergovernmental commission for trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation is giving a great attention to this issue", he noted.

The parties also mentioned that working groups of the both sides should actively work on issues regarding real estates of the Russian Federation in the Mongolian territory, on improving the economic efficiency and performance of the Ulaanbaatar Railway joint venture and on implementing projects which were included in a tri-partite program on creation of the economic corridor between Mongolia, Russia and China.

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Selenga 2017, joint Russia-Mongolia exercise, will be held in Mongolia

December 8 (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation) Selenga 2017, joint Russia-Mongolia counter-terrorist exercise, will be held in Mongolia from the late August to the early September.

The number of forces involved in the exercise will be approved in course of the planning conferences, which are to take place in 2017.

In 2016, the Selenga exercise was held at the Burduny training complex on August 29-September 7.

Joint Russia-Mongolia force grouping performed joint tactic actions in course of the counter-terrorist operation.

The exercise is held annually starting from 2008. Russian and Mongolian military servicemen were practicing searching, blocking and eliminating simulated illegal armed formations in course of the exercise. 

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Speaker M.Enkhbold paying official visits to Russia, Saudi Arabia and Emirates

Ulaanbaatar, December 14 (MONTSAME) Chairman of the State Great Khural (Parliament) M.Enkhbold left Ulaanbaatar on December 14 to pay an official visit to the Russian Federation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from the Chinggis Khaan International Airport.

During his visit to the Russian Federation, to take place on December 14-16, the Speaker is to hold meetings with the Valentina I.Matvienko, the Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia, Vyacheslav V.Volodin, the Chairman of the State Duma, and Vladimir A.Vasiliev, the Deputy Chairman of the State Duma. Moreover, Mr M.Enkhbold plans to attend a ceremony for signing the cooperation document between the Development Bank of Mongolia and the Savings Bank of Russia, and to visit the Moscow Power Engineering Institute.

In the Russian Federation he will be accompanied by Minister of Environment and Tourism D.Oyunkhorol MP, J.Bat-Erdene, G.Munkhtsetseg, B.Narankhuu, O.Sodbileg and G.Temuulen MPs, Minister of Energy P.Gankhuu and other officials.

After the official visit to Russia, Speaker M.Enkhbold is to pay official visits to the UAE on December 16-18 and the KSA on December 18-20.

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Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus V.Rybakov meets the Ambassador of Mongolia

December 12 (Belarus MFA) On December 12, 2016 the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Valentin Rybakov, met with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Republic of Belarus, Banzragch Delgermaa, on the occasion of presentation of copies of the Credentials.

During the meeting, the sides discussed topical issues of the bilateral agenda, including the expansion of trade, economic and humanitarian cooperation.

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Mongolia to boost transport ties with Eurasian Economic Union

Ulaanbaatar, December 9 (MONTSAME) The Third Session of the UN Ministerial Conference on Transport is being held in Moscow on December 5-9. A Mongolian delegation headed by Minister of Road and Transport Development D.Ganbat is paying a working visit to Russia between the 7th and 9th.

As a part of the visit, Minister D.Ganbat held a business meeting with the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure of the Eurasian Economic Union, A.O.Junusov on December 7. Present were, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Russian Federation B.Delgermaa.

The sides touched upon the follow-up actions of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation between Mongolia and the Eurasian Economic Union, specifically, the further development of transport cooperation between Mongolia and the EEU member states, cooperation in realization of projects agreed in the margin of the Programme on Establishing Mongolia-Russia-China Economic Corridor, alleviation of conditions for Mongolian transit transportation going through territories of EEU members, and strengthening the carrying capacity of transit transport of Mongolia.

The dignitaries also agreed on setting up a working group in approximate future to prepare the draft of cooperation document in order to lay the legal foundation for intensifying the cooperation in the transportation sector.

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Projects to be implemented with US$40 million loan from Austria

December 12 (gogo.mn) Technical loans from the Austrian Government worth USD 40 million was approved by the State Great Khural and projected to be granted in 2017. The loan is to have zero interest rate.

Following projects are expected to be implemented by the loan from Austrian Government;

  • build mortuary facility in Ulaanbaatar city that meets international standard,
  • construct renewable energy plant which has capacity of 4.5MV, 
  • develop, finance and supply non-centralized small sewage system for ger-district and satellite cities,
  • build waste plastic recycling plant in Ulaanbaatar city.

Budget for each project is estimated to be around EUR 6-7 million. 

In 2011, Austrian Government granted EUR 40 million soft loan to Mongolia and funded the following projects;

  • supplied medical equipment to four hospitals of Ulaanbaatar city
  • City Emergency Management Agency purchased firefighting apparatus for tall buildings (more than 15 storey)
  • started the project to introduce technological upgrades in repair of fresh water pipeline.

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Cuban Ambassador presents his Letters of Credentials to the President of Mongolia

MONGOLIA, December 9, 2016 (Cubaminrex-EmbaCuba Mongolia) The Ambassador of Cuba to Mongolia, Raúl Delgado Concepción, was received today by President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, who presented the Letters of Credence accrediting him as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cuba in Mongolia.

The meeting took place in a friendly atmosphere in which President Elbegdorj said that with the new accreditation of the Cuban Ambassador added a new page in the long history of the relationship between both countries. President Elbegdorj recalled his recent visit to Cuba and the meeting with the President Raúl Castro last September, noting the good state of cooperation in the fields of education, humanities, agriculture , Medicine, pharmacy and sport. He also stressed that many Mongolian students graduated from universities in Cuba do a very effective job when they return to their homeland.

Ambassador Raúl Delgado Concepción expressed his willingness to continue working to develop and strengthen this relationship.

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Vice FM receives newly accredited Ambassador of Cuba to MongoliaDecember 9, December 9

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FM Ts.Munkh-Orgil discusses energy security with OSCE Secretary General

Ulaanbaatar, December 12 (MONTSAME) On the sidelines of his participation in the 23rd Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia Ts.Munkh-Orgil met with his counterparts from Hungary, Switzerland, Belaurs, Poland, Austria, Germany, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Georgia, in Hamburg, Germany.

Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil invited Mr Peter Szijjarto, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, to the ceremony for launching the "Biocombinat" state-run industry modernization project with assistance of the Government of the Republic of Hungary, to take place in January.

The Mongolian FM conveyed Mongolia's proposal on adding the quota of Hungarian government scholarships for Mongolian students and training agricultural professionals for the additional quota. The Hungarian FM confirmed that it is possible and the sides agreed on signing a Memorandum of Understanding on the cooperation by the end of 2016.

Mr Munkh-Orgil also said Mongolia is interested in involving Hungarian companies in technological modernization and constructions at the sewage treatment facility of Ulaanbaatar, and agreed on studying the feasibilities for resolving financing with loan from Hungarian Ex-Im Bank.

During the meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation D.Burkhalter, the sides agreed on formalizing an intergovernmental visa waiver agreement for diplomatic passport holders. Studying possibilities for freeing ordinary passport bearers from visa was also concerted. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia extended gratitude for the fact that the issue of continuation of the development aid to Mongolia through the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development has been discussed by the Swiss parliament.

As for the meeting with the Polish FM Witold Waszczykowski, the latter said the Polish government  is taking efforts for re-opening its embassy in Mongolia. The sides agreed to restore the regular mechanism for economic cooperation and to attach more importance to the implementation of projects with export loans from Poland, as well as on promoting the Department of Mongolian studies in the Warsaw University.

Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil congratulated Mr S.Kurz, the Austrian FM, on Austria's victory in the election for chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2017. They discussed about the priorities Austria is assuming as the chair of OSCE and ways of effective utiliziation of Austrian Government's soft loan to Mongolia.

FM Ts.Munkh-Orgil asked his counterpart to resolve the social insurance issues of the Mongolian nationals, who are returning home after studying and working in Austria and Poland.

The foreign ministers of Mongolia and Belarus concerted exchanging high-level visits in 2017 in order to broaden the bilateral economic ties. The Belarusian FM pledged support the Eurasian Economic Union's Committee meeting for an issue of forming a research team on establishing Free Trade Agreement between Mongolia and the EEU.

Mr Munkh-Orgil exchanged opinions with Mr F.Steinmeier, the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, on widening bilateral economic cooperation and wished success to Mr Steinmeier as he is running for president of Germany, in the election to take place early 2017.

With the OSCE Secretary General, Mr Lamberto Zannier, the FM Ts.Munkh-Orgil discussed about strengthening the law enforcement of Mongolia and energy security and put forward a request to employing Mongolian representatives for the OSCE.

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Health & Education

Surgical Access in Rural Mongolia

December 13 (Center for Global Surgery) Healthcare providers in LMICs around the world face a similar tension: whereas lack of resources set limits to what is possible, the ubiquity of cell-phones, computers, and satellite TV inspires demand for higher standards of care.

"How do we deliver the highest standards of care to our people, knowing that they need this more than anybody?" We know that the poor suffer more than their high income country peers, often traveling further from rural homes to surgical centers, losing income from unpaid leave, staying longer in hospitals due to a lack of minimally invasive surgeries, and experiencing higher complication rates. 

Mongolian Surgeons have been heroic leaders in global surgery, transforming their health system so as to achieve country-wide access to laparoscopic surgery in even the most rural areas, with secondary improvements in their health system as a whole. Their passion to acquire technical abilities matched to their population's need is producing patient-focused results.

This video was produced in both Mongolia and USA and is being considered for the CUGH-Pulitzer Global Health Video Competition.

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"In 10 years from now, our cervical cancer may go up even higher"

December 9 (gogo.mn) The World Health Organization (WHO) is the technical agency responsible for health within the United Nations system. Our principle job is to provide technical advice and support to the Government of Mongolia and the Ministry of Health. Also, we work closely with other partners to promote the global and regional health goals to prevent and protect humankind from devastating ill health in an era of globalization with increasing interdependencies between countries.

We interviewed with Dr Soe Nyunt U, WHO Representative in Mongolia. 

-You are working in Mongolia as country representative since 2012. What is the priority health issue of Mongolia?

-When you look at mortality and mobility issues, top causes of deaths in Mongolia are noncommunicable diseases. Mongolians are still dying of heart attack at first (cardiovascular diseases). Second are the cancers. Mongolian death rate from liver cancer is highest in the world. Also, we have common stomach cancer. Third we have road traffic accident, violence and injuries. Even roads are getting better and better in terms of connection, but because of the weather during the winter is very dangerous. Also, during summer in Mongolia, people drink lots of vodka and they ride. Because of this, lots of car accidents happen and many young adults die. Diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases are popular among Mongolians.

-How about communicable diseases?

-Mongolia still has a lot of communicable disease among the population. Notable is tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections (STI) among the young adults. We have pneumonia due to we have very cold winter. Since March 2015, we have measles outbreak. Also, foodborne disease outbreak or food safety problem and drink safety problems are common in Mongolia. Even last weekend, we have alcohol poisoning. We still have issue with hygiene and hand hygiene. Because of this, hydro or foodborne diseases are happening in the school canteen.

Moreover, we have 60 plus millions of animals, zoonotic diseases are important. But not in terms of frequency, in terms of outbreak, sometimes we get brucellosis and anthrax outbreak.

-What STIs are common in Mongolia?

-Gonorrhea is popular among young adults of Mongolia. Many people treat it without proper prescriptions, they treat it themselves buying medicine. Not properly treat, but later infections become resistant to all this antibiotics.

Second is syphilis. Because many pregnant mothers got syphilis and they pass it to their newborn babies. We call it congenital syphilis. If a baby is born with syphilis, the baby has many sign and symptoms of congenital syphilis. Normally a woman in her pregnancy should go to care center for screening. If their syphilis positive, they should get a full treatment. If both partners are treated, they should not be any problem and their baby will be born without syphilis. But sometimes mothers do not come to hospital.

In 2015, we have 52 cases of babies born with congenital syphilis. We do not want any baby born with any infection. We can prevent mother to child transmission. As long as the mother is coming to the health care and get properly tested, we can treat and cure them together with the partner and prevent infection from innocent child. Infectious disease is heavy problem in Mongolia, but our main problems are noncommunicable diseases.

STI, by itself does not kill a person, but you will have several symptoms and you will have complications. Later you might have serious disease like cervical cancer.

Not only in Ulaanbaatar city but also other rural areas, STI is popular among the young adults. It does not mean that rural areas are completely free from STI. Now the road network has became really good. In the next couple year, every aimags will be connected with each other with roads. So we have to be careful that even STI is spreading. In terms of the percentage, about 32 percent of all infectious diseases are STI, which is one third of all infectious disease.

In Mongolia, if the woman is sexually active almost 100 percent of those women already have human papillomavirus (HPV). It does not produce serious symptoms. But ten years later, it causes cervical cancer for woman and genital cancer in man. Mongolia is already among the leading country in Asia Pacific countries with cervical cancer.  In 10 years from now, our cervical cancer may go up even higher. If you do not do proper screening and the prevention in the next 10 years, you have a chance of developing cervical cancer.

I want to advice any woman definitely about the age of 30 to do the examination every three years.

-I think the epidemic proportion of STI among young adults are because of they have not enough health education. What do you think?

-Mongolian literacy rate is high. However knowledge about protective health behavior is low. In Mongolia, understanding about condom use is not very high. When it comes to behavior using condom for sex, no one is using condom. 

In country like Thailand, Cambodia, we promote "no condom, no sex". Now it with all education and help promotion, HIV incidents and unwanted pregnancy and STI in those countries has dropped. Also, we have to prevent young adults from alcohol abuse.

Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education need to collaborate with each other. Mongolia is the only country among the other developing countries in Asia-Pacific region where every school employ medical doctor. Those doctors in the schools have to do health education and promotion, not just treating students when they got injure. If they provide the appropriate health education at appropriate age, children can grow without any infection or disease. Even we should start at kindergarten from hand hygiene after going to toilet. If you start this kind of appropriate health behavior training from kindergarten, you do not have to this anymore.

-What is the major cause of other noncommunicable diseases?

-Everyone say that no family in Mongolia has person without liver cancer. The cause of cancer is Hepatitis B and C. It leads to liver cirrhosis and later liver cancer. Now we have drugs for Hepatitis B and C. Liver is very fantastic organism. Regeneration of liver is so good. If you cure the Hepatitis viruses, liver damage will be stopped and the liver will regenerate. But the drug is still expensive in Mongolia. The Government is now planning to use their budget and social insurance contribution for the medical expense. As a result, we can make the medicine available to the poor patients. Combine with this treatment, we have to do prevention and control. In this way we can bring down the liver cancer rates. In regards, many stakeholders are collaborating and we are increasing the availability and treatment of those drugs to many people.

Stomach cancer is related to H pylori infection. H pylori infection is related to hygiene, sanitation and food safety issue. If food outlets, dormitory, food stores are not properly hygienic, they can spread H pylori infection to many people.  If you have a chronic H pylori infection, you can end up with a stomach cancer. Now Ministry of Health put screening for both noncommunicable and communicable diseases as a priority. 

-I think maybe the major cause for those diseases are caused by smoking and alcohol abuse?

-Now the average life expectancy of Mongolians is 68-69. We want to reduce the gap between the men and women`s life expectancy from current 10 years to 8 or 7. Mongolian men are died ten years ahead of the women. Ten years is too much.

Two things are very common, smoking and drinking. The Ministry of Health wants to increase the tobacco and alcohol taxes. Cigarettes are very cheap in Mongolia. Mongolia has one of the cheapest cigarettes in Asia. Even students can afford the cigarettes and start smoking. Alcohol is very cheap too. Unfortunately, when we have very cheap alcohol and cigarettes, medicine price are very high. We are looking for possibility to reduce the drug price. 

I had the same problem in Philippine before I came to Mongolia, they had cheap cigarettes and very expensive drugs around 2007. Ministry of Health and many stakeholders worked really hard to increase the tobacco and alcohol price by increasing the tax by 20-30 percent. Now Philippine is different from Mongolia.

-Could you name the positive changes that have occurred in Mongolian health sector?

-We have great achievement in maternal and child health. Mongolia has become one of the nine countries that achieved Millennium Development Goals, especially in maternal and child health.

Almost 100 percent of Mongolian mothers deliver their babies in the health facilities. We have a very high delivery rates in health facilities attended by skilled professionals who are trained for a safe delivery. Developing countries like Indonesia and Philippine, 40-50 percent of deliveries are still happening at home. Those countries have higher maternal death and higher infant death.

Also, Mongolian sportsman and woman are winning Olympic medals and World Championship medals. Many Mongolians are having some issues with health behavior. Thus, it is great for them to use those role models as inspiration and start training by not ending up with drinking and smoking.

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Mongolian wiktionary containing explanations of 50,000 words and phrases

Ulaanbaatar, December 9 (MONTSAME) Mongolian language "Wiktionary" (mn.wiktionary.org) has been developing at the order of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences, in the frameworks  a national program. The online dictionary offers detailed meanings of some 50 thousand words and phrases.

In order to facilitate continuous development of the dictionary, the website is open for editing by university professors, specialists from every sector and anyone who is interested.

Doctor of Science of Law S.Narangerel and Candidate of Economic Sciences A.Ganzorig enriched the online dictionary with explanations of juridical and financial jargons and terms.

The further maintenance and updates of the online dictionary will be carried out mainly by the professors and students of the Institute of Mongolian Studies of the National University of Mongolia.

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Children's writer J.Dashdondog receives State Laureate award

December 9 (news.mn) The famous Mongolian children's writer J.Dashdondog received the State Laureate award from President Ts.Elbegdorj at a ceremony in Government House earlier today (9th of December). The author was awarded for his book 'Father, Mother and Me'

J.Dashdondog said, "I'm glad to have been awarded the State Laureate by the President of Mongolia in the hour of the horse (7.40-9.40 a.m). The award was given for my book 'Father, Mother and Me'. I wrote the book with my father, mother and siblings. My mother told me once that I'd receive the State Laureate award and it came true today".

Since the age of seventeen, J.Dashdondog has written more than 100 children's books. Over 30 have been printed in Korean, Japanese and many other languages; they have also been used in schools in places as diverse as the UK and the Republic of Kalmykia.

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Children's writer J.Dashdondog receives State PrizeMontsame, December 9

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Culture & Society

ASU archaeologist goes 'Jeep' into Mongolia

Research in the relatively unstudied region could have a big impact on our knowledge of human origins

December 13 (Arizona State University) When archaeologist Charles Perreault traveled to Mongolia for some investigative fieldwork, he didn't bring the typical tool set of shovels and spades. Instead, he brought two all-terrain Jeeps, beginning a new project that will improve our knowledge of the early hominin groups that occupied northeast Asia, including ancient Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and a newly discovered species called Denisovans.

As an assistant professor at Arizona State University's School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Perreault studies cultural evolution, or the way that people share cultural information like technology through social interaction. He is also an evolutionary anthropologist, meaning he looks at archaeological evidence to research the ancestors of modern humans.

Perreault did his master's thesis on basketry technology in Peru, but as he worked to finish his graduate program, he often found himself being driven by questions about human evolution. Finding the answers to those questions soon required him to start looking beyond more recent archeological sites in the Americas to older, more foundational sites in Eurasia.

In graduate school, Perreault worked on the riddle of why humans first decided to live in the high-altitude environment of Tibet. But it was Mongolia that truly began to draw Perreault's interest, particularly after archaeologists found millennia-old hominin bone fragments in a cave near the country's shared border with Russia in 2008.

A little revolution

The Russian cave finding that inspired Perreault was significant for several reasons — first, because some bone fragments within were identified as belonging to Neanderthals. Before then, Perreault explained, scientists believed that Neanderthals were mostly limited to Western Europe. Suddenly, their range had doubled.

Second, analysis of part of a pinky bone from the cave revealed the existence of an entirely new hominin species, dubbed Denisovans after the cave where scientists found the fragment. These Denisovans — cousins of Neanderthals and modern humans — were the first species to ever be identified on ancient DNA alone.

Lastly, further analysis of other ancient bones from the site suggested that Neanderthals had interbred with Denisovans at some point in history. And by comparing the Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA samples to modern human DNA samples, scientists found that people today have genes from both groups in their DNA. This means that Neanderthals and Denisovans also interbred with ancient Homo sapiens — a finding that sheds new light on the interactions between hominin groups thousands of years ago.

"It led to a little revolution in our understanding of human evolution outside of Africa," Perreault said. ­"As modern humans expanded their territories, they weren't just colonizing some empty world. They were entering and colonizing areas populated with other hominin species … maybe with different language, clothing and culture. That's crazy when you think about it."

It was just crazy enough, in fact, to inspire Perreault to begin his own journey across the globe to Mongolia. Part of the appeal, of course, was the chance to do archaeology in the region of the groundbreaking Denisovan find — but the undertaking was not without its challenges.

"We have to build everything from the foundation," Perreault said. "We know little about that part of the world, so the effort is just to get a basic understanding of [questions like], 'When did people arrive in that region?'"

Research, risks and rocky roads

By summer 2016, Perreault found himself in the Darkhad Valley of northern Mongolia, but before he could even think about excavating, he had to first find potential archaeological sites. He and his team of two drivers, two archaeologists from the Mongolian Institute of Archaeology and two American archaeologists formed an off-road caravan. Every day, they drove for eight to 10 hours, crossing miles of mountains and rivers — hence the all-terrain Jeeps.

"The goal of the trip was to find prospective sites to go back to and do excavation. So this time around, it was just traveling, trying to find caves or rock shelters," Perreault said. "We looked at the caves to see if there were any cultural artifacts on the surface, but we didn't dig a single hole."

With a daunting amount of ground to cover and limited time to cover it, the team knew they couldn't afford to just throw darts at a map. Instead, Perreault tried to gather as much information as possible in advance. By looking at geological maps, for example, he was able to note the locations of limestone outcrops, an ideal rock type for cave formation. He also reviewed reports and papers from other archaeology projects near Mongolia to see what others had found. He even tracked down and talked to another archaeologist who had once driven through the region 10 years prior and reported seeing a few rock shelters.

"The good type of rock is there, people have seen rock shelters, Mongolia has a deep archaeological record, and very important sites have been found in similar geological settings in Russia," Perreault said. "Taken together, all these things suggest to us that this is an area that has some potential."

Of course, no amount of advance research guarantees success in the field.

"It's possible we could have gone there and found nothing," he said. "But it went very well; it went better than I expected."

In fact, by the end of the three weeks, Perreault's team had found about a dozen rock shelters.

Now that the first step is done, he plans to do some test excavations next summer in the three or four more promising caves. If all goes well, a bigger team of workers and researchers will come in to do a full excavation — and with the possibility of rock-hard permafrost to dig through, that looks to be no small feat.

Perreault explained that in the initial stages of an archaeological project, much of the energy is devoted to excavation, with a preliminary analysis of artifacts sometimes conducted in the field. For example, students often help by cleaning and cataloging artifacts on site.

Once the team has excavated a greater portion of the site, which could be years later, the primary investigator will do a deeper analysis of the uncovered artifacts.

Perreault plans to be involved both in the excavation and the artifact analysis in later stages of the project. He is excited for the new discoveries the sites might yield. Though these archaeological ventures tend to be long affairs, he welcomes the challenge.

"Hopefully, there's enough stuff there to keep me busy for the next 10 years or so," he said.

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Empire of Tolerance

By SIMON WINCHESTER

GENGHIS KHAN AND THE QUEST FOR GOD

How the World's Greatest Conqueror Gave Us Religious Freedom
By Jack Weatherford
407 pp. Viking. $28.

December 9 (The New York Times) Thirty-one years ago, while on a railway journey between London and Hong Kong, I stopped off in Mongolia and to a briefly illustrative encounter.

At the time the British had the sole Western embassy in Ulan Bator — at 30 Peace Street, if I remember — and I thought I might interview the ambassador and present him, as it was early December and he was said to cut a lonesome and homesick figure, with a Christmas plum pudding. I rang the mission's doorbell and must have looked faintly taken aback when it was opened by a young man of evidently Caribbean origin.

"Don't be startled," he said cheerfully, in a broad Welsh accent. "I'm Trevor Jones, first secretary. From Cardiff. I think I'm the only black man in the diplomatic service, and look see, they pack me off to bloody Ulan Bator!"

Back in 1985 that set the tone. Mongolia. Utterly out there. Grass. Ponies. Wrestling. Forgotten. Of no importance. Genghis Khan maybe. A brute. Otherwise, a place consigned to geographical oblivion in the minds of most.

That was then. Now, thanks in large part to the restored reputation of Genghis and the many successor Khans — a restoration achieved in no small part thanks to the literary diligence of Jack Weatherford — Mongolia has come roaring back, being currently a highly modish place to visit (tourism has tripled in the last decade), a place to revere, be amazed by and in awe of. As a minuscule country that for a few shining centuries — rather like Britain, six hundred years later — expanded and held sway around a goodly part of the globe, from Vietnam, Burma and China to Hungary, Thrace and Poland.

Weatherford (an anthropologist whose fathomless wellsprings of curiosity once led him to clerk in a Capitol Hill porn store to write a book that remains discreetly unlisted on the Also By page here) would like us to believe that those centuries of Mongol rule did indeed shine, and were, as far as imperial adventures go, among the best of their kind.

It was in an earlier best-selling volume that Weatherford persuasively argued that the 25-year blitzkrieg mounted by Genghis and his cavalries — who, in "the most extensive war in world history" beginning in 1206, swept mercilessly and unstoppably over the Altai Mountains to their west and the Gobi Desert to their south — brought civilization, fairness, meritocracy and avuncular kindliness to legions of undeserving satrapies across Eurasia. Those who believed Genghis to be a tyrant of monstrous heartlessness have thus lately come to think otherwise: Weatherford's writings present us revisionist history on a grand scale, but one as scrupulously well researched (with ample endnotes) as such an intellectual overhaul needs to be.

Now, with "Genghis Khan and the Quest for God" he has taken his thesis still further, arguing with equal fervor and conviction that the Khan, though godless himself, favored total religious freedom for his subjugated millions. While his empire encompassed "Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Confucians, Zoroastrians, Manichaeans, Hindus, Jews, Christians and animists of different types" (Weatherford's passions for lists can sometimes seem like stylistic overkill), he was eager that all should "live together in a cohesive society under one government." No walls to be built, no immigration bans, no spiritual examinations.

To be reminded of such secular civility is one thing; but what is most remarkable about this fine and fascinating book is Weatherford's central claim that the Great Khan's ecumenism has as its legacy the very same rigid separation of church and state that underpins no less than the American idea itself. The United States Constitution's First Amendment is, at its root, an originally Mongol notion.

Many might think this eccentric in the extreme, until we learn that a runaway 18th-century best seller in the American colonies was in fact a history of "Genghizcan the Great," by a Frenchman, Pétis de la Croix, and that it was a book devoured by both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Moreover, the quoted rubric of the Mongol and United States laws is uncannily similar: Among other passages, Mongol law forbids anyone to "disturb or molest any person on account of religion," and Jefferson, after reading its strictures, went on to suggest in his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, a precursor of the First Amendment, that "no man shall ... suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief."

The link between Genghis and Jefferson may seem tenuous to the point of absurdity; but Weatherford argues his case very well — and in doing so offers further amplification of the notion that so many of the West's claimed achievements in fact have their true origins in the East, and that countries like Mongolia, far from being, as those hapless British diplomats once believed, at the utter ends of the earth, are very much more central than most of us nowadays like to imagine. In a sense we are all Mongols; we are all one.

Simon Winchester is the author, most recently, of "Pacific."

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Stone soldiers, athletes and giants of Mongolia

December 9 (Earth Chronicles) The primordial drevnetyurksky name – "бәдіз" ("badiz"), in some regions – "мүсін" ("musin"), but the most known – балбалтас. From the sacred Mongolian Orkhon River to the Caspian Sea it is possible to meet these stone soldiers, athletes and giants. 

The political scientist Ierlan Karin was engaged five years in studying of balbal in the different countries – Mongolia, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, China and in different regions of Kazakhstan. With assistance of the Japanese company Mitsubishi Corporation it issued the photo album devoted to this research.

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Boob Necklaces, Mongolian Yurts And More: Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop 2016 Gift Guide Is As Ridiculous as Ever

December 10 (Inquisitr) Gwyneth Paltrow's luxe lifestyle website, Goop, is once again offering a mix of outrageously expensive, horrifyingly tacky, and all-around cringeworthy gifts in its 2016 gift guide.

Goop is offering 10 different Goop gift guides for 2016, including gift collections for travelers, lovers, hosts, health nuts, cooks, kids, and thinkers, among others. Other gift guides are just for personalized items and stocking stuffers (gifts under $100), while one is dubbed "The Ridiculous, But Awesome Gift Guide."

"Because it wouldn't be a goop gift guide without a portable yurt," Goop says.

And yes, among the top most ridiculous gifts for the year, a Mongolian yurt has to top the list.

"For 10 plus years, Groovyyurts has been working with families in rural areas of Mongolia to develop authentic Mongolian yurts adapted to North American conditions," El Cosmico Provision Co. says about its $8,300 yurt. They offer door-to-door shipping but you'd better act fast. They say you'll need to contact them to find out how much lead time you need to have it delivered by Christmas, along with calculations for shipping costs.

But wait. It gets worse. Perhaps from the lovers' gift guide, your sweetheart would like some $39 pubic hair oil?

"For those who prefer to go au naturel in the bikini area, this essential-oil blend not only treats pubic hair, it also clears pores and soothes hair follicles for fewer ingrowns and healthier skin," Goop raves.

Scarymommy, which included the pubic oil in their round-up of hilariously unsexy Goop gifts from their lovers collection, also takes issue with the listing of tea tree oil for its antimicrobial properties. "The no-nonsense packaging (FOR PUBIC HAIR) is almost as romantic as the thought of putting burning tea tree oil near your vagina," they said.

For jewelry lovers, there's the oh-so-classy "Rubies Boobies" necklace for $507.

"Made in gold-plated silver, this ruby-encrusted bust pendant is deeply luxurious and adorably tongue-in-cheek," says Goop. On the other hand, perhaps for "tongue-in-cheek options," buyers would go for the matching $370 "derriere necklace" instead.

Continuing with the theme of overpriced gifts related to rear ends, you can also check out the Toilet Paper Little Butt Table for $416.25 (with free shipping). That one joins several dozen other horrifying and overpriced gifts in Goop's gift guide for lovers.

What about health nuts? Don't worry, they're covered too.

There's the fresh "human grade" dog food delivery service, that delivers fresh-made gourmet dog food right to your door. Want to know the cost? You'll need to fill out a questionnaire to get a quote.

There's also a $700 juicer or a $496 "meditation cushion" set. Health nuts would apparently also enjoy a set of four singing bowls for $372 or a $100 one-hour tarot card reading, just to name a few of the selections there.

Many of the gift choices in the "under 18" gift guide are downright normal, but Goop had to put a few over-the-top items in that section, too, like an $80 hand-knit stuffed Sriracha bottle plushie made from baby alpaca wool or a $1,499 Onewheel.

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Nature & Environment

Rarest bear: Montanan tracks Gobi grizzlies

By ROB CHANEY

December 15 (The Missoulian) The bear charging out of the cover photo of Douglas Chadwick's new book, "Tracking Gobi Grizzlies" looks like Paddington gone feral on Mars.

The ground it gallops across doesn't support a blade of grass. The bear's claws stick out big as pencils, seen from the stubby eraser end rather than the sharp tip. And the fur: frizzy as a Steiff teddy bear run through the dryer on high for an hour.

The world's rarest bear inhabits a corner of Mongolia 18 times as big as Glacier National Park, and counts perhaps 40 individuals in its entire population. Mongolians call them "mazaalai." Whitefish-based Chadwick recounts its story with a combination of awe for the sheer cussed chutzpah of its survival and angst for an encounter with something so wonderful perched on the edge of extinction.

"I wanted to know how it's possible for a grizzly bear to make living in such an arid stonescape," Chadwick said in an interview days after the book came off the press. "They've got this wild, thick bed-hair, which serves as a substitute for layers of fat for insulation. Right now, they're hibernating in caves exposed to the air, and it will get 40 below."

The Gobi Desert of Mongolia lurks just beyond the reach of the Indian Ocean storms that water the Himalayas to the west, and Pacific weather that supports the forests of China, Korea and Japan to the east. Its geologically ancient mountains never knew glaciers, shaped instead by shattering freezes and unending winds.

Yet if Mongolia seems otherworldly, consider this. Montanan fishing guides already lead trips to Mongolian trout streams. Montana University System crews have led expeditions for both modern wildlife and fossil dinosaur research. A quarter of the desert dust in the Earth's atmosphere blows off the Gobi and adjacent Taklamakan deserts of Mongolia and China. The phosphorus, nitrogen, calcium and iron components of that Gobi dust can be detected enriching forest soils in Montana's Rocky Mountains.

Chadwick confesses his professional naturalist career really gives respectability to his inner "11-year-old on a treasure hunt" wondering what the heck is that? He combines that with a willingness to spend multiple springs in the Gobi, enduring camel spiders that are sort of scorpions, and camel ticks that occasionally dig into places unmentionable in a family newspaper. Also, Bactrian double-humped camels that are almost as endangered as the bears.

That sense of scientific abandon has led to books like "The Wolverine Way" chronicling Glacier National Park's fiercest inhabitants, "The Grandest of Lives" about great whales around the world, and nearly 50 articles for National Geographic Magazine.

As small as the Gobi grizzly population is, the gang of people who fight for them seems smaller. The book paints a family tree linking generations of naturalists. Harry Reynolds, the bear biologist who organized the Gobi research project, got his start as a 15-year-old assistant to Frank and John Craighead during their groundbreaking Yellowstone National Park grizzly research in 1959. John Craighead was Chadwick's academic adviser when the author was doing his graduate work at the University of Montana.

They all depended on baseline research completed by biologist George Schaller in the 1970s. That was about the same time author Peter Matthiessen wrote his classic "The Snow Leopard" account of pursuing Himalayan blue sheep, all-but-invisible felines and Buddhist understanding with equal frustration in the footsteps of Schaller.

It was while Chadwick was doing his own snow leopard reporting in Mongolia that he met Tserennadmid Mijiddorj, a translator/naturalist who off-handedly alerted Chadwick to the existence of Gobi grizzlies, which weren't even known to science before 1943.

"And now I'm on the board of the Liz Claiborne-Art Ortenberg Foundation with seven other scientists, one of whom is George Schaller," Chadwick said. "I grew up reading about his studies of gorillas and lions of Africa, and now twice a year I'm sitting there discussing how to allocate significant amounts of money to research projects all around the world."

In true Chadwick fashion, the search for Gobi grizzlies rambles from the comic to the surreal. Just getting to the bears' desert involves cranky Russian-built vans loaded with "full gas drums that leaked a little and burlap bags full of fresh goat and sheep parts, making our caravan a sort of combination of a rolling slaughterhouse and incendiary bomb."

Project photographer Joe Riis sacrificed at least five Nikons to drug-addled grizzlies that consistently attacked the first thing making a noise as they came out of their research stupor – the automatic camera he'd set up to photograph their departure.

The bears themselves behave like the vegans of the predator class: Undisputedly the strongest critter in the desert, they apparently never hunt anything bigger than a gerbil. They disdain bacon in the trap bait and even avoid the dog food kibbles mixed in with grain pellets in the government-supplied feed bins, put off by the meat byproducts.

The dietary restrictions extend to people as well. Local herders had no reports of bears attacking livestock, although they would raid food pellets.

"There were no rip-snorting grizzly stories we have over here," Chadwick said. "And not because they're weenies – they're full-on grizzly. They'll charge an 8-foot-tall van loaded with big Mongolians. They don't back off. They have the grizzly attitude."

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Whitefish author, biologist tracks Mongolian bearsDaily Inter Lake, December 14

Grizzlies of the GobiFlathead Beacon, December 13

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Black-tailed gazelle essential contributor to sustain Gobi ecosystem

By B. Oyundelger

December 13 (gogo.mn) In previous editions, the Mongol Messenger presented the Gobi Great Six initiative being implemented by the WWF Mongolia in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Environment Office of the Gobi-Altai Aimag and the Administration of Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area to protect Gobi ecosystems as well as introduce the Mongolia Saiga which is one of the symbols of well-being and health of the Gobi ecosystems.

We are now presenting our readers with 'goitered' or 'black-tailed gazelle, which is included in the Red Book of Endangered Species.

The population of the black-tailed gazette or Gazella subgutturosa is listed in the Mongolian Red Book of Endangered Species as 'vulnerable'.  It was estimated to be at around 20 thousand Gazelle inhabiting 343,982 square km territory of 52 soums of 10 aimags in Mongolia with a population density of 0.3 head per 10 square km according to research made in 2010.  Comparing different studies made more recently, the distribution territory of black-tailed gazette has been reduced 1.5 times, showing its population has declined 5.8 times and the population density per 1 square km has been reduced 6.6 times.  All of these facts bring about an urgent need to take immediate action to protect this susceptible species.

The black-tailed gazette's decline is mainly due to climate change effects and both direct and indirect human wrongdoing.  Therefore, populating black-tailed gazette in Uvs, Khyargas and Khar Us Lakes basins and Khom Steppe and Khuis Gobi areas and domesticating them under the protection and efforts of local residents is one way to save the species living in this territory.

"After annual counts on territories with the same population density of of 0.3 heads per 10 square km, such as west side from the Aj Bog – Zakhui – Zarman and Dalanzadgad to Ih and baga Bogd and east from Dalanzadgad, it was concluded that trophy hunting or other another type of hunting designed for adjusting the number of species would help the species of black-tailed gazette to expand and multiply on the one hand and serves to preserve the original natural environment and its biological diversity on the other" said Ph.D L.Amgalan, Head of Animal sector of the Institute of General and Experimental Biology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences.

By qualification of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List Categories and Criteria, the black-tailed gazette was globally listed as 'vulnerable' and regionally evaluated as 'vulnerable'.  The black-tailed gazelle stands about 61-70 cm at the shoulder, with a head and body length of 97–118 cm and its tail weighs 20-30 kg and is black or brown.

In Mongolia, the species is spread through most of the territory of Altai Gobi region and Umnugobi and Dornod aimags, southern part of Dornogobi aimag and the south west of Sukhbaatar Aimag and sparsely disperses around the Great Lakes Depression.  They usually reside in mountain foothills associated with spear grasses and aggregations or deserts and sandy shrubs and bushes and sandy hills.  It was once recorded that the black-tailed gazelle was pasturing on the ridge of a 2700-meter-high mountain in the Mongol-Altai Mountains.  As human activities in the wild area increases substantially, black-tailed gazelles start to inhabit areas far from auto roads or places that are difficult to move around with vehicles.

With financial support by phase two of the Netherlands Mongolia Trust Fund for Environment and Reform project (NEMO-II), jointly implanted by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia, World Bank Group and the Government of the Netherlands, the Biology Institute of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences conducted an assessment of reserve population of the steppe and desert ungulates in 2010 to report that the goitered gazelle inhabit a 343,982 square meter territory of 52 soums in 10 aimags and compared to 2000, the population had decreased by 37.6 percent.

Open water source, springs and pastureland are occupied by human and livestock animals and the consumption intensifies in the Gobi Desert regions to drive black-tailed gazelles away from their natural habitat.  Also, chasing after them with vehicles and hunting them with the use of lamps causes them to flee and the population declines.  Since the 1960s, animal husbandry has been attached more importance creating more threats for the species such as possession of open water sources and oases by humans, and owning uninhabited pasture lands to grow vegetables and an abundance of vehicles in their habitat areas.  Their main enemy is the wolf, eagle, lynx and dzud – the extremes of winter season also kill them in abundant numbers.  In addition, illegal hunting which started a long time ago lead to the loss of herd structure resulting in low distribution.

The Government of Mongolia registered the black-tailed gazelle as a rare species in 2012.  Since 1962, commercial hunting of black-tailed gazelles has been prohibited and hunting for them for and hunting for personal use has been temporarily allowed only from September 15 to October 30 for one month.  Starting in 1965, the government also entirely forbade hunting black-tailed gazelle and made its main inhabited lands lands of several Gobi regions strictly prohibited areas.  B part of the Great Gobi Strictly Prohibited Land, A and B parts of the Small Gobi Strictly Prohibited Land, Gobi Three, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park in southern Mongolia and Zag Water Reserve land, which are home to the largest number of them and are the most important territory for black-tailed gazelle's reproduction.

Black-tailed gazelle's distribution land is estimated around 10,929.272 thousand ha land, which accounts for 20.1 percent of the state specially protected areas of Mongolia.  Certain measures are being taken by different popel, porjects and organizations creating an open water sources in the desert and steppe areas for gazelles, providing extra fodder during dzud times, employ cooperative conservation methods of natural resource management within the distribution area and involving  local participation in conservation efforts and stopping illegal hunting activities,  reintroduce the species in the Great lakes Depression and the Valley of the Lakes, creating conditions conducive for gazelles to migrate to its northern boundary and preserving gene pool.  However, those steps have not met with much up until today.

From 1940-1960, the size of the distribution area of black-tailed gazelles in Mongolia declined by over 50 percent.  According to studies, a total of 2610 goitered gazelles of 255 flocks were registered, most of them were in Umnugobi and Dornogobi aimags.  In late autumn and the start of winter, the number of gazelles in each flock are usually higher than in the spring and summer seasons.  During times of stable growth, each flock of gazelle have 60 heads.  During migration and relocation to another place, the number of head in each flock is around 30-100.

Despite the fact that black-tailed gazelle inhabit areas distant from high population and infrastructure areas, the decline in their population shows the increasing problem of their deteriorating living environment such as the the growing mining explorations followed by more infrastructure and road networks.  All those factors threaten the lives of this endangered species reveal necessities to make some actions top-priorities, such as protecting and breeding them, implement proper comprehensive management plan and determine factors affecting the status of the population.

Black-tailed gazelle, one of the main representatives of the Gobi mammals, plays an important role in the biocenosis or ecological community being one part in the livelihood survival in the chain of the secies.  The gazelles are eaten by carnivorous animals such as grey wolfs, vultures and eagles, and their dead bodies are consumed by yellow fox, crow and steppe fox.  In such a manner, the black-tailed gazelles become a significant part of the Gobi ecosystem essentially contributing to the sustainability of environment and wildlife.

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REDD+ Mongolia Supports Scientific Research Conference

December 12 (REDD+) The Ministry of Environment and National University of Mongolia organized a scientific conference to discuss major issues facing Mongolia's forests and how research can support policy and strategy making. Over sixty researchers attended the workshop that was opened by the Minster of Environment, Madame Oyunkhorol.D. The findings will be written up and disseminated amongst partners and institutions for helping determine research priorities for 2017, and development of the National REDD+ Strategy.

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KT&G to build forestry and agriculture education center in Mongolia

KT&G Aggressively Participate in CSR Activities Overseas

December 14 (Business Korea) KT&G, South Korea's top tobacco maker, has carried out various corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities at home and abroad, actively practicing its management philosophy of "Go-together Company." The company has been involved in CSR activities in Cambodia, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Mongolia over the past 11 years.

Since 2005 KT&G has dispatched a total of 960 volunteers to Cambodia on 35 separate missions. This year marks the 12th year the company sent volunteer teams.

The volunteer teams were sent to mainly Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia and committed to building libraries, repairing educational facilities, providing educational programs including health and sanitation.

KT&G has carried out a global CSR project called "Sangsang Village" to improve living conditions of the poor and help them stand on their own two feet. In October 2014, the company chose Surabaya, Indonesia, as the first site and invested a total of 810 million won (US$694,087) to improve poor residential environments and provide residents with educational programs related to safety and finances.

Moreover, KT&G signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Mongolia's Ministry of Environment and Green Development in June this year in a bid to prevent the desertification in Mongolia in where desertification is rapidly going on due to global warming. The company will build a forestry and agriculture education center in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, to train reforestation professionals. It will also support research activities by creating learning and farming training centers.

In addition, KT&G has joined hands with Seoul National University Bundang Hospital to provide volunteer medical services to the disadvantaged in Indonesia since 2012.

The company invests more than 50 billion won (US$42.84 million) in CRS activities every year, including 80.8 billion won (US$69.24 million) last year. The ratio of CSR investment to sales stands at 2 percent, which is 10 times higher than the average of the nation's top 200 companies at 0.2 percent, according to the data from the Federation of the Korean Industries. The cumulative amount for CSR over the last decade totals a whopping 580 billion won (US$497 million).

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Sports

Mongolian becomes world chess champion of minors

By B. Amarsaikhan

Ulaanbaatar, December 12 (MONTSAME) N.Sodbilegt won a gold medal in the age category up to 7 of the World Schools Individual Championships, taking place between the 2nd and 12th of December in Sochi, Russia.

Mongolia is being represented by 21 teenage and minor chess players in age categories of 7, 9 and 13 years. S.Chinguun and T.Khuslen were ranked the 6th in their respective age groups.

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M.Urantsetseg, D.Sumiya topping IJF Rankings

Ulaanbaatar, December 9 (MONTSAME) Mongolian judokas M.Urantsetseg and D.Sumiya are leading the International Judo Federation rankings in their respective weights, according to the updates on December 2. It means the two women judokas are keeping their ranks since Rio 2016.

In particular, State Honored Athlete M.Urantsetseg is leading the IJF Ranking in women's 48 kg with 2,790 points, while Rio 2016 silver medalist D.Sumiya also tops the women's 57 kg ranking with 3,530 points.

Urantsetseg Munkhbat a grabbed gold and Sumiya Dorjsuren won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Grand Slam. With ranking the first in their weights, they have thus secured the USD 10,000 cash prizes.

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MNOC to cooperate with Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee

December 13 (UB Post) President of the Mongolian National Olympic Committee (MNOC) D.Zagdsuren and president of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee Ling Hong-Dow signed a cooperation agreement on December 9 in Taipei.

Through the agreement, both committees will exchange athletes, coaches and researchers, and organize joint training.

Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and Mongolian Trade and Economic Representative Office in Taipei attended the bilateral cooperation agreement signing ceremony.

Mongolian boxing and freestyle wrestling coaches have worked in Taipei before. MNOC started cooperating with Chinese Taipei in 1994.

Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee will host the 2017 Summer Universiade and 2019 East Asian Youth Games.

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King Tug knocks out Mexican boxer for 7 wins in 7 career fights

December 13 (UB Post) Mongolian boxer N.Tugstsogt, known as King Tug, had his seventh fight in his professional career against German Meraz of Mexico on December 8 at Orange County Fairgrounds in California.

N.Tugstsogt ended his fight with German Meraz with a knockout.

After beating Meraz, N.Tugstsogt said, "German Meraz's team refused to continue the fight after the fifth round. German Meraz wasn't able to fight. There was blood all over his face. I think I broke his nose. He is a very experienced fighter who had many fights in his career. I am really happy that I defeated this experienced fighter."

N.Tugtsogt is an Olympic silver medalist and has won all seven of his fights since he started his professional career last year.

He is currently ranked 74th in the featherweight division of the World Professional Boxing Ranking out of 1,515 boxers.

German Meraz, 30, currently ranks 282nd in the featherweight division. He has had 96 fights in his professional fighting career; 55 wins, 40 loses and one draw.

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Mongolia Dancers Place Fifth at World Latin Championship

December 13 (UB Post) Moon Dance, a Mongolian ballroom dance team, placed fifth in the World Dance Sport Federation's World Latin Championship, held in Bremen, Germany on December 10.

Seventeen teams from 10 countries competed in the championship. In the first round, Moon Dance was selected as one of the top 12 teams. In the semi-final, the team ranked sixth. In the finals, the Mongolian dance team competed against Russia, Germany, and Poland, and came in fifth place.

Ballroom dance experts of Mongolia believe that the team's success at the World Championship is the greatest achievement of a Mongolian dance team at an international competition to date.

Two dance teams, Star Dance and Moon Dance, represented Mongolia at the event. Star Dance came in eighth place.

A dance team from Germany won the gold medal of the championship. Russian and German teams placed second and third.

Moon Dance came in seventh place at last year's World Latin Championship.

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Russian coaches to train Mongolian athletes under contract

December 12 (news.mn) Mongolia and Russia have agreed to sign a Memorandum of Cooperation in sports next year. Under the agreement, both sides are expected to conduct joint training of their two national teams from 2018. In this connection, highly skilled Russian coaches will train Mongolian athletes under contract.

Russia has promised to help in attracting a sponsor for Mongolia to organize the 7th Children of Asia International Sports Games in 2020 in Ulaanbaatar.  Furthermore, Moscow has agreed to increase the quota of Mongolian students studying at Russian universities for the professions of national team and winter sport coaches.

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Gymnasts win Bronze Cup in Dubai

Ulaanbaatar, December 12 (MONTSAME) A team of Mongolian gymnasts came in the third place and won the bronze cup at the Dubai Cup 2016, held on December 9 and 10 in the United Arab Emirates.

In detail, members of the national team, coached by B.Khaliun, grabbed one gold, eight silver and one bronze medals.

This year's Dubai Cup attracted athletes from 21 countries.

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Judokas grab three gold medals at World Military Championships

Ulaanbaatar, December 12 (MONTSAME) On the last day of the 37th World Military Judo Championships, G.Altanbagana and O.Duurenbayar won gold medals, having defeated their rivals with clean sweep.

The championships took place on December 9-11 in Uster, Switzerland. On Saturday A.Batsuuri claimed a gold and E.Tumennasan grabbed a bronze medal in their respective weights.

On December 11, Kh.Tsogtgerel also secured a bronze medal. At the end, Mongolian team is returning home with three gold and two bronze medals.

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Ulaanbaatar Electricity Distribution Network Wins Coca-Cola Zero Bowling Championship 2016

December 13 (UB Post) The final stage of the Coca-Cola Zero Bowling Championship 2016 concluded on December 10, at Big Bowling Center.

The Mongolian Bowling Amateurs Association and MCS Coca Cola LLC have organized the seventh Coca-Cola Zero Bowling Championship since March 2016 at Big Bowling Center among 10 sectors of Mongolia, including mining, media, banking, education, health, and technology.

More than 1,200 bowlers from 150 teams competed in the competition. The top 20 teams shortlisted from sector competitions faced off in the finals on Saturday.

Ulaanbaatar Electricity Distribution Network team won the tournament for the first time, and received a cash prize, cup, gold medals and certificate.

Teams from IT Zone and the Institute of Finance and Economics placed second and third respectively. The Institute of Finance and Economics won a silver medal last year, but settled for a bronze medal this year.

Bowler of the Institute of Finance and Economics B.Purevdorj collected the highest score of 245 in a single round and was awarded the Best Player award.

This year's Coca-Cola Zero Bowling Championship's added a tournament among foreign embassies in Mongolia.

MCS Coca Cola LLC, the general sponsor of the event, promised to award 10 million MNT to a player who collects a perfect score of 300 points during the competition. No one was able to achieve this to date.

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Art & Entertainment

'Marco Polo' axed after only two seasons on Netflix

December 14 (news.mn) Netflix cancelled its 13th-century drama about the titular merchant after two seasons, a company spokesperson confirmed to EW on Monday. The Weinstein Co. series is one of the few Netflix shows to have production halted early into its run.

Created by John Fusco, 'Marco Polo' followed the Venetian merchant Polo (Lorenzo Richelmy) while he served the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan (Benedict Wong) in the late 1200s. Season 2 was released last July. The series lasted 20 episodes and a 2015 Christmas special.

"Netflix has been incredible to give us the room to make a series with a cast true to every principle of diversity," said executive producer Harvey Weinstein in a statement, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "It's a bold network that allows you to do that and support us in the way that Netflix did. As many people know, Asian history and the world of martial arts have fascinated me for all of my career — I've made many movies around these topics and this genre, and now this TV show I'm so proud of. John has been a great partner and we're both fascinated to continue exploring this exciting period in history on future projects together."

Marco Polo's quick finish is rare, but not unheard of at Netflix; 'Bloodline', 'Hemlock Grove', and 'Lilyhammer' were all cancelled after three seasons.

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Miss World Mongolia's humanitarian work named as one of Best

Ulaanbaatar, December 12 (MONTSAME) Miss World 2016 announced yesterday the 25 semi-finalists of its "Beauty with a Purpose" platform. Mongolian contestant A.Bayartsetseg's brother-sister mentorship program, which aims to help the children from the most vulnerable groups of society, was ranked the 13th.

On this platform, the beauties from over 120 countries had been competing by their contribution to humanitarian activities.

The finale of Miss World 2016 will take place on December 18. A.Bayartsetseg is one of the strongest candidates to become the winner of the crown, having been included in the Top 10 talented beauties and possessed the second place by the number of online votes following the Miss Philippines.

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A National Competition for Hairdressers, Cosmetologists and Nail Artists takes place in Ulaanbaatar

December 8 (UB Post) On Tuesday, the Mongolian Association of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and the Mongolian Association of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists jointly organized the 23rd National Hairdressers, Cosmetologists, and Nail Artists Championship at the Wrestling Palace.

The Mongolian Association of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists is the premiere association for professionals in the beauty, health and wellness industry in the Asia Pacific region, fostering camaraderie and sharing of trends and knowledge among beauty practitioners in Mongolia. On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, hairdressers, cosmetologists and nails artists from 21 provinces and eight districts were invited to compete in the championship.

According to the head of the association, Ts.Tsogzolmaa, "Over 200 hairdresser and cosmetologists competed in the 24 categories of the championship. The national championship hasn't been organized on such a large scale before. The number of contestants increased dramatically this year. Within the frames of the 20th anniversary, we announced the competition to create artwork that can show the traditional Mongolian style of using artificial nails and hair. We then unveiled the newest creation and ideas during an exhibition."

A judge of the championship and master hairdresser of Khos Shagai Salon, N.Altanshagai, commented, "Mongolian hairdressers won a lot of prizes from international competition this year. We have a chance to compete in the world by winning these [national] competitions. I think that's why this year's competitors increased. I am seeing that Mongolian hairdressers' skill can meet international standard. Many young hairdressers and cosmetologists are competing this year.  [The National Hairdressers, Cosmetologists, and Nail Artists Championship] is a good thing."

The province with the best hairdressers and cosmetologists was given to Khusvgul Province, while Sukhbaatar District won the title of the district with the best hairdressers and cosmetologists.

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Review: The Eagle Huntress

Girl power Mongolian-style in a bewitching but problematic feature-doc

December 14 (The Arts Desk) Thirteen-year-old Aishopan desperately wants to be an eagle hunter. The problem is, she's a girl. And in the traditional Mongolian nomadic community where she lives, rearing a golden eagle chick to hunt foxes for their fur is very much the preserve of men.

British director Otto Bell's sumptuous film is certainly an inspirational story of struggle and triumph, and it's set against an arrestingly unfamiliar context – the icy peaks and frozen rivers at the crossroads between Mongolia, Kazakhstan, China and Russia. It's a warm-hearted offering, almost to a fault – indeed, its set-pieces and lavish camerawork make it feel more feature than documentary – that charts the young Aishopan's quiet determination to pursue her passion. And by her looks of unmitigated delight as she begins to train her eagle, a passion it clearly is. To demonstrate the villains of his story, Bell contrasts her enthusiasm with a remarkable sequence of fur-hatted elders shaking their heads at the audacity of this girl daring to step into their male-only world.

It's all beautifully delivered, family-friendly (except perhaps for the slaughtering of a sheep early on), and with a stirring message of equality and determination. And although The Eagle Huntress may not exactly challenge our preconceptions of exotic, yurt-inhabiting, horse-riding Mongolian nomads, it at least fills in some unexpected modern details – motorbikes, solar panels, and Aishopan's rustic boarding school and the gaggle of excitable teenagers who share its dormitory.

Bell examines Aishopan's warm, close relationship with her father Nurgaiv (pictured above) in tender detail. He's an eagle hunter himself, with generations of tradition behind him, and entirely supportive of his daughter's seemingly natural talent without being pushy. Their closeness emerges most touchingly – and dramatically – in the film's pivotal eaglet-stealing scene, where Aishopan dangles precariously off a mountainside from a rope wrapped equally precariously around her father's body, in order to snare what becomes her hunting bird.

Most memorable of all, though, is veteran nature photographer Simon Niblett's astonishing cinematography of the Mongolian mountains and steppes (pictured below), often breathtaking in its endless vistas – and achieved with some stunning aerial shots from drones and cranes.

But for all its ravishing camerawork and its inspirational message, there are some deep ironies here. The biggest one is the seeming lack of serious opposition to Aishopan taking part in the film's climactic hunting competition – aside from a few frowns and raised eyebrows from the other competitors, hunters and judges alike actually seem amused and then impressed by her abilities. Other than the elders' gentle disapproval, Bell simply doesn't delve deeply enough into the nomadic society's gender issues to explore any beliefs behind resistance to Aishopan's ambitions. In fact, it's Aishopan's mother – who seems to have quite a distant, almost subservient relationship to both her husband and daughter – who most clearly embodies women's rather restricted status.

It was probably a bit of a mistake, too, to use the rather mannered, disconcertingly on-off commentary from British actor Daisy Ridley (of Star Wars: The Force Awakens fame – also credited as an executive producer), who contributes so sporadically that each time she cuts in, you'd forgotten that there was a narrator at all.

There's the unavoidable feeling by the end that reality has failed to delivery on Bell's girl-against-the-world storyline. And his film's rather paradoxical views on tradition – crucial to his picturesque portrayal of the nomads' broader lives, but something to be challenged and subverted in Aishopan's eagle-hunting ambitions – make it all the more problematic.

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Related:

'The Eagle Huntress' Review: Fly, You Fools!Santa Fe Reporter, December 14

The Eagle Huntress: how a Mongolian teenager triumphed over traditionThe Guardian, December 13

The Eagle Huntress: the teenage Mongolian nomad who's preparing to swoop on the Oscars The Guardian, December 11

A soaring tale of what's possible for a Mongolian girlNorthwest Asian Weekly, December 9

Review: Mongolian girl learns to hunt with eagles Lincoln Journal Star, December 8

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"The Eagle Huntress" preparing to swoop on the Oscars

December 13 (news.mn) "The Eagle Huntress", a joyful and majestic documentary film follows 13-year-old Aisholpan's quest to become a record-breaking eagle hunter. The Kazakh people, however, have been doing so for centuries, and the practitioners in the Bayan-Ulgii province in the mountainous far west of Mongolia are the most faithful keepers of the tradition. For 13-year-old Aisholpan Nurgaiv, participating in this practice means being the first female in twelve generations of her family to become an eagle hunter.

As a result of her fame, Aisholpan has been given a scholarship to one of Mongolia's best schools, while an educational trust set up for her also means she can pursue her other lifelong dream: to become a doctor.

Narrated by executive producer, Daisy Ridley, who rose to fame in the last Star War's film, and featuring stunning cinematography by Simon Niblett, this riveting documentary from director Otto Bell is a breathtaking Oscar contender.

Director Otto Bell hopes the success of "The Eagle Huntress" will boost tourism and help the community continue their ancient tradition, which is under threat as nomads move to the city. "A lot of the herders are being hammered by climate change," says Bell. "Vicious winters are literally freezing whole herds to death overnight."

The Eagle Huntress is out now in the US and will be released in the UK on 16thDecember. Doubtless, it will be on screens in Mongolia in the near future.

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Mongolian Throat Singing Is So Mesmerizing You Will Listen To It More Than Once

December 12 (Klipland) Mongolian throat singing is one particular variant of overtone singing practiced by people in Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Tuva and Siberia. It is inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO, under the name Mongolian art of singing, Khoomei. Listen to one local from Mongolia singing with this technique.

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Singer O.Enkh-Erdene won Mongolia's Got Talent 2016

December 12 (gogo.mn) Mongolia's Got Talent 2016, the most expensive and most successful TV show ever made, revealed its winner on Dec 11. 

Singer O.Enkh-Erdene thundered to victory after beating back the seven other finalists in Sunday`s final to take home to the prize money of MNT 100 million. 

The 20-year-old covered Amarillo By Morning, the country song at the first round which won many`s heart.

He won the most votes from the audience and below is his performance for the final.

Meanwhile, his strongest component was a dancer and graphic designer B.Shijirbat. His performances, combined both dance and graphic design went viral on Facebook and Youtube.

His performance for the final was awesome too.

For more videos for the show, please click HERE.

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Related:

Country singer O.Enkh-Erdene wins Mongolia's Got Talent, receives 100 Million TogrogMontsame, December 12

Former electrician wins Mongolia's Got Talentnews.mn, December 12

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MGT Winner O.Enkh-Erdene receives MNT 100 million in cash

Ulaanbaatar, December 14 (MONTSAME) Director of Gatsuurt LLC L.Chinbat handed the cash prize of MNT 100 million to the winner of this year's Mongolia's Got Talent – the country singer O.Enkh-Erdene.

Gatsuurt LLC is the parent company of Mongol TV, which hosted the Mongolian format of the international Got Talent franchise.

Mr Chinbat Lkhagva bestowed a wish on O.Enkh-Erdene to produce many outstanding creations and to be a famous singer, whom Mongolians will listen to and cherish for decades.

L.Chinbat wrote in a Facebook post that he wishes O.Enkh-Erdene not to lose his humble and gentle manner and to become a renowned cultural figure, who deserves the people's respect and trust.

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Got Talent's first runner-up awarded travel cost to USA

Ulaanbaatar, December 14 (MONTSAME) The first runner-up of the Mongolia's Got Talent 2016 show by Mongol TV B.Shijirbat, dancer and graphic designer, was awarded today the cost to travel to the USA. About this, the director of Gatsuurt LLC L.Chinbat posted on his Facebook page.

Mr Chinbat wished success in Shijirbat's future endeavors and said he is awarding him with a ticket to a technology fair in the USA along with travel costs, reasoning that it might be of some help in improving Shijirbat's skills as a graphic designer.

L.Chinbat thanked B.Shijirbat for entertaining us with his extraordinary performances. He wished B.Shijirbat to present Mongolia to the whole world.

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Travel

Mongolia requests multi-entry visa from South Korea for top businessmen

December 13 (news.mn) Consul L.Munkhtushig has announced the introduction of programmes for multiple-entry visas for Mongolian businessmen to South Korea and guest workers to the United States.

Last week, D.Davaasuren, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, had a meeting with the South Korean ambassador to Ulaanbaatar, His Excellency U Sung. At the meeting, Secretary D.Davaasuren handed over an official request for obtaining multiple-entry visas to those Mongolian businessmen who pay more than MNT500 million in tax each year to the government of Mongolia. Also, they agreed to organize a consultative meeting in the first half of 2017; on the agenda will be ways to increase consular cooperation and protect citizens' rights.

At the consultative meeting between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and the USA, officials requested that Mongolia be included in the guest worker visa programme. The US officials agreed to examine possible ways to include Mongolia in the guest worker visa programme in 2018.

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New Ulaanbaatar International Airport approaches completion in January

December 13 (UB Post) Kimihiro Maeda, the official representative of the Japanese delegation leading construction of the New Ulaanbaatar International Airport, spoke with Montsame News Agency regarding the progress of construction in Khushig Valley.

Mongolians are very interested in the progress of the new international airport. Plans called for the new airport to be handed over to the government on January 7, 2017. What is the current progress of the Khushig Valley international airport?

The construction of the new international airport commenced in June 2013, with financing from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency. I am pleased to have been part of the process from its beginning to the planning, and to the actual construction. We are currently working to hand over the airport on January 10. Construction of the airport is at 99 percent completion.

Since it is the first airport in Mongolia being built to international standards, it is no doubt that it would require a large amount of capital. Has the cost of the project increased since the first feasibility study?

The first feasibility study indicated that the project required 28.8 billion JPY. Last year, the Japanese and Mongolian governments established an agreement to increase investment. After the agreement was established, the total amount of money invested was 65.6 billion JPY. Equipment was bought from Japan with loans. With the increased investment, we are building the parking garage. With investment from the Mongolian side, the baggage terminal, the airport offices, and the repair and service facility are being built with plans to be finished by next year.

Outside of the Mitsubishi Chiyoda joint venture, Samsung C&T is also involved as a subcontractor. How many Mongolian companies have worked as subcontractors?

The project is headed by the Mitsubishi Chiyoda joint venture. Oriental Consultancy Global is working as an advisor. More than 40 Mongolian companies are involved in building roads, and installing electrical lines and a navigation system. More than 70 percent of the workers are Mongolian.

What are your views on the Mongolian companies working as subcontractors and the employees of those companies?

Due to the limited experience of Mongolian companies working on large projects such as this one, there were many instances where we had to correct mistakes. There were also instances where we had to re-do many tasks, as they required very precise standards. But Mongolians are unique in that they are very intellectual. The main thing is implementing this in real life. The important thing is experience.

It is common practice to conduct tests for new international airports. Have tests been conducted?

Since the construction of the airport is very close to being finished, technical groups from the General Agency for Specialized Investigation and the National Emergency Management Agency have begun technical inspections. Once the inspections are done, the Civil Aviation Authority will probably conduct test flights.

Are you involved in the training of the engineers, technical workers, and service workers of the new airport?

I heard that Narita International Airport has asked to be involved in the management of the new airport. This issue will be decided by the Mongolian government and the Civil Aviation Authority, so I have no news regarding this.

This new airport is considered to be a very large project in Mongolia. How would you classify the new airport in comparison to other international airports? Can you tell us how it ranks?

When taking the population into account, the new airport would be graded highly. In terms of international airports, it would be classified as a local airport.

What kind of obstacles and issues did you face while constructing the airport?

Since Mongolia has extreme weather conditions, it was only possible to work seven months a year, which was a difficulty. Also, not many companies placed bids when the procurement bid was announced. Everything from the Japanese side was ready. Due to the small population, there were only a few domestic companies with the capability of working on large projects. They work from project to project. The reason they did not place bids on the procurement of the airport was that they were already working on other projects.

The new airport is being built up to Japanese standards and quality. Mongolians are very impressed with Japanese quality. You mentioned how many tasks had to be re-done. Would you say the new airport is up to Japanese standards?

The airport completely fulfills standards. We were able to meet the standards as many tasks were re-done. The construction was not done solely on Japanese standards. The airport was built also using international and Mongolian standards.

Even though the wind patterns and the geological features of Khushig Valley were taken into account, many of the locals claim that the valley has very strong winds. How favorable are the weather conditions in regard to flights?

There are no problems regarding winds. Even if there are, there are measures that can be taken. In the three years I've worked here, I have noticed that fog seems to loom over the area. There might be issues involving visibility.

The new airport will have the capacity to receive up to three million passengers a year. How will the flight capacity change?

The current airport, Chinggis Khaan International Airport, receives around 900,000 passengers annually. This number will double with the new airport. There is the possibility it will be crowded if the airport receives three million passengers annually. For this reason, we have left room for expansion.

Many people are wondering when the new airport will work at full capacity. Can you give us information about this?

There is much work to be done, starting with human resources. I can't exactly say when the new airport will be operational.

One important component of the new airport is the new highway. Do you have information regarding the new highway?

With a discounted loan from the Export-Import Bank of China, China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group Co. Ltd is executing the highway project. I have visited the work site but I do not have complete information regarding the project. The highway will be operational by 2018.

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7 Ways to Explore Mongolia's Terelj National Park

A night spent experiencing the truly authentic Mongolian nomadic lifestyle.

By: Rachel Davidson

December 14 (The Outbound Collective) Mongolia isn't on everyone's to-do list. I know for a fact it wasn't for me, until three friends invited me to join them on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and we found ourselves with a 48-hour stop in "The Land of the Blue Sky." Terelj National Park was even farther off of my radar, but the evening we spent there was one of the most memorable of our entire trip. Once we heard about the horseback riding, archery, hiking, and other activities people embark on in this truly authentic Mongolian nomadic experience – we knew we had to see it for ourselves.

Terelj National Park is the third largest protected area in Mongolia, and it may be the most popular tourist attraction in the entire nation. If you find yourself in the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, spending a day (and night) in this neighboring national park is a must.

The park is about 80 km (50 miles) outside of Ulaanbaatar, and it's easy to arrange cheap transportation there and back. Before going, talk to people around the city – your hostel manager, the tourism center, or a neighborhood restaurant owner will be able to give you advice on what to do in the park.

Here's a few of the different activities offered within Terelj:

1. Overnight in a traditional Mongolian ger. There are dozens of camps hosted by local families who take in tourists for the night and provide freshly cooked food, plenty of tea, in the comfort of a mountainside ger (known to Westerners as a yurt). Your hosts may play traditional Mongolian music for you, or invite you to sing karaoke. Oddly enough, most of these gers feature karaoke.

2. Visit Turtle Rock. "Melkhii Khad" is a 80 ft. tall granite formation you'll pass on your way into Terelj, where most people stop for a photo opp. This rock, obviously, bears a striking resemblance to a turtle.

3. Go horseback riding. The family we stayed with included horseback riding in our entire sleepover + meal package. We had to read a number of rules before mounting our horses, most of which hammered in the fact that "these are wild Mongolian horses" who don't always listen to human instruction.

4. Try archery. What better place to learn how to shoot a bow and arrow than in wild Mongolia? These aren't so much archery "lessons" as they are, "take these tools and teach yourself." Unclear whether this could be combined with horseback riding, though that would be pretty sweet.

5. Take the challenging trek to Aryapala. This impossibly tiny and out-of-reach Buddhist temple is tucked between a rocky mountainside and looking out at the entire park. Getting there is the real test – you'll cross the "Bridge to Heaven," a long, swinging suspension bridge, and trek up 108 impossibly steep steps to the temple itself. Enjoy the views, and (do) look down.

6. Hold an eagle on your arm. Another popular point of interest for first-time visitors, you'll see eagles and their owners all along the main road encouraging tourists to stop and take a photo with an eagle on their arm.

8. Hike. Probably the easiest and best thing to do in the park is to hike around and truly reconnoiter the area. There are no trails in the park, which makes exploring all the more fun. We visited towards the end of June and the sun didn't set until after 11pm, so we embarked on an after-dinner mission up the highest peak we could find. At 10pm we stood on the summit with the sun barely hitting golden hour. It was a truly unforgettable experience.

Overall, my experience in the park was like something out of a fairytale. I don't think I ever imagined myself visiting this part of the world before these plans fell into place, and so seeing this remote culture was all the more inspiring and enchanting.

If you're one of the unique, brave souls who has added Mongolia to their travel itinerary – Terelj National Park is an absolute requirement to add to your plans.

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Mongolia: A Land Like No Other

December 8 (Run/Wild/Gypsy/Child) It was within the pages of a Steve McCurry coffee table book that I received the summons. Three men on horseback dressed head to toe in furs called out to me. Each had an eagle perched on one arm, reins loosely clutched in the other hand. Behind them lie a never ending range of peaks and valleys, some snowcapped, others the colour of burnt amber.

The fur-laden-eagle-clutching men belonged to a group called Kazakhs who have roamed the mountains and valleys of Western Mongolia since the 19th Century. They were probably the coolest people I'd ever locked my eyes upon and I decided there and then I had to go and visit these people in real life.

Skip a few chapters of this enchanting book (Before They Pass Away – Steve McCurry) and you'll find another of Mongolia's ridiculously cool nomadic tribes. The Tsaatan people – or Reindeer Herders as they have become known. Inhabiting the remotest subarctic taiga, they rely on their reindeer for most of their basic needs: transport, milk (for tea, cheese, yoghurt etc) and antlers for carving into tools. I didn't need any more reasons to visit this magical kingdom, I was already sold.

I continued to watch documentary after documentary (including Wild Horses of Mongolia with Julia Roberts – a change of scenery from her usual Hollywood set!) until my bottom occupied seat 40C of a Boeing 737 en route to the cold capital, Ulaanbatar.

Despite reading every blog post I could find (there weren't too many) I could never have painted an accurate picture nor have been prepared for what Mongolia had in store for me.

Mongols tend to live a nomadic lifestyle moving with the seasons, and having very little possessions. Outside of the Capital wifi is a rare treat and electricity is a privilege. During the seven weeks I spent travelling around Mongolia I chose not to chase Western luxuries and live life as closely to theirs as possible. This meant only drinking water out of lakes and wells, finishing the meals I was served which was generally boiled meat and bones and fat! (I drew the line at horses head and faked stomach ache at this point!), drinking the milk of every animal milkable (as well as eating the cheese, yoghurt, butter and curd too), riding horses and sitting in cramped shared jeeps for hours on end, peeing in the open with nothing but a shirt round my wait to hide my dignity, and sleeping on hard wooden beds, or mats on the cold floor.

Mongolians are know for their hospitality – every car is a taxi, every house (ger) is a hotel. I wouldn't blink an eyelid at hailing a car in the middle of the night and travelling for hours in the dark with strangers whom speak no mutual language but had an irrational fear of falling down the long drop! It is considered rude to knock on the door of a ger, as guests are always welcome, instead, they will call out "Hold the dog". You will always be offered tea and something sweet.

I learned how to start fires from scratch, picked wild berries in the forest, I milked cows, yaks and a reindeer. I became enviable of their simple lifestyle. One that knew how to use their surrounding environment for survival. They required very little, and wasted nothing.

My showering habits reduced themselves from once a day to once a week, and even then it resembled the ice bucket challenge more than an actual shower, crouched naked behind some kind of sheet in a field with a pallet of water you've just fetched from the lake. Mongolia is probably the only place you'll go where you get wished good luck before attempting to freshen up.

Forget the backpackers who take a three week trip around the watering holes and temples of South-East Asia and then refer to themselves as 'Nomads' afterwards. These people are the epitome of the word. Outside of the Capital, the only traffic you're likely to come across has four legs and a fur coat.

That's what I think I liked most about Mongolia; It's raw, no bullshit attitude to life. Caveman style living, you won't hear any-one bitching about feminism, vegetarianism or some distant political decision that has no impact on their current status of living.

If there was a job to be done, it would get done by whoever was available to do it, be it old, young, male or female. The focus wasn't on religion, or temples, or buildings and museums…it was on the people, the animals and the landscape. Nature as it was intended. Yes they eat their animals. They also use them for milk, transport, clothing, tools and convert their stools into burnable energy. They do not treat them as pets, nor do they mistreat them. They aren't shy about taking a dump in the middle of a field in full view  of the bus the are travelling on because pooping is nature and everybody does it.

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1 comment:

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