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Monday, December 5, 2016
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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original
TRQ closed +0.3% Friday on the announcement to US$3.34
Dec 2 (Reuters) Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd said on Friday it has suspended concentrate shipments from its giant copper-gold Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia across the Chinese border, blaming problems with a crossing route.
Vancouver-based Turquoise Hill said it suspended shipments effective Thursday, after a new requirement at the Chinese-Mongolian border to use one joint coal and concentrate route created "unreasonably" long waits to cross the border along with safety and security concerns.
The company, whose shares fell 2.5 percent to C$4.34 in early trade on Friday, said in a statement it was unclear how long the suspension would continue and it was trying to clarify the matter with Mongolian and Chinese authorities.
Turquoise Hill was not immediately available for comment.
In 2016, the south Gobi desert mine is forecast to produce 175,000 to 195,000 tonnes of copper in concentrates and 255,000 to 285,000 ounces of gold in concentrates, the company said in early November.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Fraser Phillips said in a note to clients that the suspension was a negative.
It comes one day after new fees were levied on commodity shipments between Mongolia and China, following a diplomatic row sparked by last week's visit of Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to Ulaanbaatar.
The Dalai Lama is cherished as a spiritual leader in predominantly Buddhist Mongolia, but China regards him as a dangerous separatist and warned the visit could damage bilateral relations.
Rio Tinto Plc's majority-owned Turquoise Hill has a 66 percent stake in the mine, with the Mongolian government holding the remainder. Rio Tinto operates Oyu Tolgoi.
In June, Rio gave the go-ahead for a $5.3 billion underground expansion of the mine, with first production expected in 2020. When fully ramped in 2027, copper output is forecast at more than 500,000 tonnes annually.
Rio Tinto suspends shipments from Mongolia mine – Financial Times, December 3
Rio suspends Mongolia copper shipments across Chinese border – The Australian, December 5
China's anger at Dalai Lama visit triggers copper blockade – The Times, December 5
Rio Tinto suspends shipments to China from Oyu Tolgoi mine – The Australian Financial Review, December 4
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on December 1, 2016
December 1 (China MFA) --
Q: According to a document, at least one of the Chinese border posts on the border between China and Mongolia has begun asking truckers who want to bring goods to China to pay money. Is this connected to China's displeasure with Mongolia of hosting the Dalai Lama last week?
A: I am not aware of what you said. As for the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia, the Chinese side has made its point on many occasions.
FM: "Chinese side has increased customs fee, not duties" – Montsame, December 2
China imposes new fees on Mongolian imports after Dalai Lama visit – Phayul.com, December 2
China imposes new fees on the Mongolian border crossing – GoGo Mongolia, December 2
China imposes new fees on Mongolian exporters – news.mn, December 2
Chinese port applies new fees to Mongolian mining imports – UB Post, December 3
ULAANBAATAR, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Development Bank of Mongolia bondholders can expect their debts to be repaid in full when they fall due next year, a senior finance official said on Friday, even as the state-backed bonds traded below par just three months before maturity.
The International Monetary Fund is predicting zero growth this year for Mongolia's once promising economy, as a result of years of declining foreign investment, slower growth in China, and a softer market for its abundant coal resources.
The country pinned between China and Russia is reeling from a balance of payments crisis and a tumbling tugrik currency that the present government has blamed on mismanagement by the prior administration.
On Friday, Mongolian finance ministry officials held talks with groups such as the IMF and World Bank to present their plan to buoy the economy.
Deputy Finance Minister Khurelbaatar Bulgantuya told a news conference following the talks that Mongolia hoped to work with partners to refinance $580 million in sovereign-backed debt from the Development Bank of Mongolia due in 2017.
The government could lighten its burden on interest on loans with new "soft" loans that offer easier terms and lower interest for repayment, she said.
Renegotiating its debt for a smaller repayment on the principal, known as a haircut, "would be the last resort," she said. "With the IMF, we're looking to refinance."
The Development Bank bonds on Friday were trading below par at 97 - just months away from the redemption date in March 2017.
"The correction was triggered by President-elect (Donald) Trump's expected protectionist policies and frontier market outflows. The coupon is low and the price fall brings the yield in line with fair value," said a Hong Kong based credit analyst, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Moody's Investors Service last month downgraded the country's rating to Caa1 from B3, citing heightened uncertainty on whether it could meet its debt obligations.
Mongolian officials have been in talks for a standby agreement from the IMF since a new government under Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat took power last June.
Mongolia tapped into a similar agreement in 2009 when it suffered from delayed effects of the global economic crisis, but that was before the government ever borrowed on international markets.
The government has issued and sponsored billions worth of debt since 2012, which has been directed partly towards the construction of roads, railway and other infrastructure.
China, Mongolia's number-one trade partner, could also take part in the bailout.
"Given the size of the challenges, we expect bilateral organisations, including China, to be part of the broad coalition to help Mongolia through these difficult times," said World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman.
December 5 -- Eumeralla Resources Limited (ASX: EUM, "the Company") requests an extension of the voluntary suspension of its securities in accordance with ASX Listing Rule 17.2, pending an announcement by the Company in respect to a proposed acquisition by the Company.
The Company requests that the voluntary suspension remain in place until the Company makes an announcement to the market, which it expects to make pre-market on Tuesday, 6 December 2016
The Company is not aware of any reason why the voluntary suspension should not be granted or any other information necessary to inform the market about the voluntary suspension.
Mongolia Growth Group: Cash Essentially Doubled, Yet, Stock Sold Off 20%
By BuyTheDip SellTheRip, Contrarian, event-driven, special situations, deep value
December 1 (Seeking Alpha) --
· Mongolia Growth Group disclosed several materially positive developments in its third quarter earnings release, yet the stock is 20% lower today.
· An "October surprise" essentially doubles the co.'s cash balance and provides tangible evidence suggesting MNGGF's book value may be dramatically understated.
· Investors may not be aware of these developments, as they occurred subsequent to quarter-end. Management buried the details at the bottom of the 3Q quarterly report and didn't issue a press release.
· Pro-forma cash should comprise over 30% of MNGGF's market cap: The co. is debt-free and posting a sharp positive inflection in operating results, hence, a very attractive entry point.
· I believe the stock has 20% near-term upside (back to "pre-3Q" levels), with another 20-30% possible by the time MNGGF reports 4Q results in early 2017.
(Editor's Note: Investors should be mindful of the risks of transacting in securities with limited liquidity, such as MNGGF. Mongolia Growth Group does also trade in Canada as YAK.V, however this issue also suffers for thin liquidity.)
Executive Summary: Buy Mongolia Growth Group (OTCPK:MNGGF) On Significantly De-Risked Balance Sheet That Few Investors Are Aware Of
Mongolia Growth Group is a real-estate owner and property manager/developer that owns office, residential, retail, and redevelopment properties in Ulaanbaatar (the capital city of Mongolia). The difficulties faced by the Mongolian economy are well-documented: A series of poor foreign relations decisions made by the government resulted in substantial capital outflows, decelerating economic growth, and deteriorating currency trends over the last few years.
Accordingly, the Mongolian Stock Exchange has been one of the worst-performing global exchanges (down 47% over the past five years). MNGGF's stock has fallen 95% over the same time frame due to falling property rental rates, widening operating losses, and market concerns regarding the co.'s liquidity. Exacerbating its already numerous problems, MNGGF took an $8m (Canadian Dollars) loss on changes in the fair value of its properties during 2015, casting a cloud over the market's ability to accurately assess the value of the co.'s real estate portfolio.
Despite what I've laid out above, there are a few key reasons I am very constructive on MNGGF (much more so following the co.'s 3Q16 earnings report, released on November 15th). With the stroke of a pen on October 28th, MNGGF potentially doubled its cash balance, demonstrated that its real estate may be worth much more than current balance sheet value, and secured multiple new properties that may prove very lucrative down the line. Furthermore, pro-forma cash now comprises 32% of market cap just as MNGGF is posting a sharp positive inflection in operating results.
Despite these materially positive developments, the stock sold off 30% on the day of its 3Q earnings release and now prices 20% lower than pre-3Q levels. I believe a 20% move (back to "pre-3Q" trading levels) is imminent, with another 20-30% of upside possible by the time MNGGF reports 4Q results and offers better granularity on its liquidity and recent real estate activity. Longer term, the stock can be viewed as a cheap call option on the Mongolian economy.
For reference, Mongolia is one of the top-10 most mineral rich nations in the world with over 80% of its terrain yet to be explored… the Mongolian economy was posting double-digit GDP growth prior to the commodity bear market, and there are several absolutely massive blockbuster-type mining/infrastructure projects currently underwayto support acceleration in foreign investment and GDP growth.
"October Surprise" Suggests Big Improvement In Liquidity, But Stock Is 20% Lower Today
MNGGF was unjustly punished after reporting its third quarter results, with the stock falling nearly 30% in a single day (it has since recovered modestly, but still sits 20% below pre-3Q trading levels). The reason is fairly obvious: Rental revenues fell 10% y/y, and management offered a relatively somber outlook in their quarterly commentary.
Within the 3Q report, management dedicated four full paragraphs of text to chastising the Mongolian economy while discussing their expectations for continued weakness: but there is not a single mention of the extremely positive property deal that essentially doubles the co.'s cash balance while possibly adding multiple new properties to MNGGF's real estate portfolio.
Furthermore, none of this newfound cash has appeared on the company's balance sheet (yet) because the agreement was signed subsequent to quarter-end, leading me to believe investors may be totally oblivious to what actually occurred. Instead, management decided to bury the transaction's details in the very last paragraph of the company's quarterly filing:
"On October 28th, 2016, the Corporation signed a Memorandum of Understanding to sell a property valued at $814,351 for $1,339,600 cash plus various additional properties of an indeterminate value. A deposit of $669,800 has been received to date."
This is an extremely significant and positive data point for several reasons:
1. The sale price implies an impressive 64% premium to book value BEFORE even considering the "various additional properties received." This could be a big positive turning point in how investors value MNGGF's real estate going forward, as the company has been forced to negatively revalue its property portfolio in recent years due to falling rental rates and weakening currency. Furthermore, MNGGF already trades at a substantial 73% discount to book value, and this real estate deal would suggest such a discount may be strictly unjustified.
2. The deal roughly doubles MNGGF's cash and provides the company with ample liquidity to continue operating while waiting for the Mongolian economy's eventual recovery. Based on the co.'s cash burn rate (which recently slowed from "hundreds of thousands" per quarter to essentially break-even), MNGGF has enough cash to operate for at least another 5-6 years before even having to think about raising capital. Furthermore, the newly-acquired properties from the October deal may be just enough to push MNGGF back into profitable territory.
3. Investors do not seem aware of this highly positive development, likely due to management's decision to bury the details at the bottom of the quarterly filing without even mentioning the deal in their lengthy MD&A commentary or issuing a press release. The stock selling off on the 3Q release only reinforces my view that investors are probably clueless about this development. Keep in mind that the cash didn't actually appear on the 3Q balance sheet, because the deal occurred after the quarter ended. This also contributes to the market's misunderstanding of MNGGF's liquidity.
I am not sure why management chose not to discuss the transaction in more detail, but it's worth noting that the CEO (Harris Kupperman) purchased ~50,000 shares on November 21st, while the corporation repurchased 285K shares of its own stock during the month of October.
Separately, the company received a tax refund from Canadian authorities for $366K on October 3rd. Again, this was subsequent to the quarter's end and thus, the cash is not reflected on the 3Q balance sheet. To help investors understand the company's "pro-forma cash," I've created a table below. As shown, "pro-forma cash" now comprises 32% of the company's market cap after rising 128% q/q and 164% y/y due to the property sale, Canadian tax refund, and share repurchases after 3Q ended. More importantly, the "true" cash balance is 83% higher than the "reported" cash balance.
Please note I've adjusted the table below to be shown in USD. The co. reports in CAD, but MNGGF trades OTC in USD.
Bottom-line is that the company's true cash balance and liquidity position appear to be substantially better than investors believe, and I expect a sharp re-rate for the stock once the market becomes aware of the aforementioned developments.
Editor's note: MNGGF purchased stock in Mongolia Mining Corp. (HKG: 0975) during the third quarter. HKG: 0975 stock has declined modestly in 4Q. In the table above, I assume the co. held HKG: 0975's stock past quarter-end, thus, the table reflects the decline in the market value of that stock. MNGGF also disclosed it had repurchased 285K shares of its own common stock during the month of October, and the table above reflects that as well. Also note that I have adjusted all figures to be shown in USD: MNGGF reports in Canadian Dollars, but the stock trades OTC in USD.
Sharp Inflection In Fundamentals: EBITDA Positive For The First Time In Years
As noted previously, MNGGF has seen softer rental rates due to broader economic weakness in the Mongolian economy. In response, management embarked on an aggressive cost-cutting program during 2014/2015 that is now beginning to yield positive benefits: On an adjusted EBITDA basis, MNGGF was essentially break-even in 3Q, which is a substantial improvement vs. the prior fourteen quarters. EBITDA has now shown y/y improvement for seven consecutive quarters and is up 63% YTD.
Based on YTD EBITDA loss of $300K, I estimate MNGGF could survive another five years before even thinking about tapping the capital markets (and before even factoring in potential improvement in the Mongolian economy). In other words, there should be no discussion about the company's viability as a "going concern."
Furthermore, if the company is already operating at break-even levels, even a modest rise in rental rates should be enough to push the company "over the hump" and begin generating meaningful cash flow (the pre-tax incremental margins on rental rate hikes should approximate 100%). Investors should also note that aside from owning real estate and charging rent, MNGGF operates an asset-light services business whereby it serves as a broker/advisor for new and existing market entrants.
This is also likely to prove itself as a high margin business, particularly as revenues scale and the co. adds clients. In fact, it should already be gaining momentum given the persistent turnover occurring in the Mongolian real estate market. Not to mention the "various additional properties" to potentially be received from the October deal, which could very well be enough to push the company into profitable territory.
Stock Has Gotten Cheaper And Is A Better Buy Today
MNGGF was cheap before the 3Q release and is an even better buy today, in my view. Not only is the stock cheaper, but as discussed previously, the co.'s balance sheet has been de-risked significantly.
Investors have been wary in their attempts to value the stock, given recent impairments to the co.'s property portfolio coupled with a recent property sale at a 15% discount to book value. But one can make the case that the October agreement (transacted at a 60%+ premium to book value) serves as a material de-risking event, demonstrating there is indeed a market for the company's real estate and perhaps paving the way for MNGGF to positively revise its property values at the end of FY2016.
MNGGF is a much better (and safer) buy today after reporting its 3Q results. The company disclosed several materially positive developments that occurred subsequent to quarter-end (which I believe investors are actually widely unaware of), yet, the stock sold off 30% after reporting and is now 20% lower than pre-3Q levels. Not only do the October property sale and tax refund reinforce the co.'s balance sheet, but the property sale itself offers investors a positive data point into the value of MNGGF's real estate portfolio value and the health of the broader Mongolian real estate market.
MNGGF is very cheap at a 73% discount to book, and I believe the stock has 20% near-term upside (back to pre-3Q levels) with another 20-30% possible by the time the co. reports 4Q results in early 2017. Longer term, the stock represents a cheap call option on the Mongolian economy (Mongolia GDP was growing 17% as recent as 2011, and Mongolia may be the most mineral-rich nation in the world).
Disclosure: I am/we are long MNGGF.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: This article reflects numerous personal opinions and estimates. Investors should do their own due diligence before making any investment recommendations.
Editor's Note: This article covers one or more stocks trading at less than $1 per share and/or with less than a $100 million market cap. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.
December 2 (MSE) --
December 2 (MSE) --
December 2 (MSE) Buy order of 52 weeks Government bonds with annual interest of 17.00% starts from 02 December 2016 until 06 December 2016 through brokerage companies.
Click here to see detailed information of 52 weeks Government bonds.
December 2 (MSE) --
Reds are when MNT fell, greens when it rose. Bold reds are rates that set a new historic high at the time.
USD (blue), CNY (red) vs MNT in last 1 year:
December 2 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 12 billion at a weighted interest rate of 15.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/
December 2 (Bank of Mongolia) Auction for 12 weeks maturity Government Treasury bill was announced at face value of 20.0 billion MNT. Face value of 1.0 billion /out of 1.0 billion bid/ Government Treasury bill was sold at discounted price and with weighted average yield of 16.980 %.
December 2 (Bank of Mongolia) --
· For the reporting month, mortgage loan was issued to 672 borrowers and the total number of borrowers reaching 88044.
· The total outstanding mortgage loan reaching MNT 3950.2 billion, of which 3,052.3 billion was issued by the "Housing Mortgage Program".
· The amount of mortgage loan issued in the reporting month has decreased by 31.9 percent from the previous month.
· The amount of mortgage loan repaid in the reporting month has increased by 8.3 percent from the previous month.
· The weighted average interest rate of issued mortgage loan stood at 9.1 percent.
· The weighted average maturity of outstanding mortgage loan is 18.1 years.
· The amount of issued loan per borrower has reached MNT 51.6 million by the end of the reporting month.
· The share of nonperforming loan in total outstanding mortgage loan was 1.2 percent, past due in arrears loan was 3.4 percent.
1. Total outstanding mortgage loan
In end of the reporting month, year-on-year growth rate of total mortgage loan outstanding decreased by 1.6 percentage points from the previous month, by 7.5 percentage points from the same period of previous year.
Figure 1. Total outstanding loan, year-on-year growth rate
Among the outstanding mortgage loan, 77.3 percent or MNT 3052.3 billion was issued by the "Housing Mortgage Program" (including refinanced mortgage loan with reduced interest rate of 5 percent, 8 percent per annum and refinanced from 8% to 5%), 20.2 percent or MNT 798.8 billion was financed by commercial banks' own capital and 2.5 percent or MNT 99.1 billion was issued from other sources.
Figure 2. Outstanding mortgage loan by sources
By the end of the reporting month, mortgage loan in domestic currency made up 99.1 percent of the total outstanding mortgage loan.
The share of nonperforming loan in total outstanding mortgage loan is gradually increased. By the end of October 2016, the share of nonperforming loan in total outstanding mortgage loan was 1.2 percent. The share of past due in arrears loan has decreased by 1.1 percentage point from the previous month reaching 3.4 percent.
Figure 3. Past due in arrears and non-performing loan
2. Mortgage loan issued in the reporting month
The amount of mortgage loan issued in the reporting month has decreased by 31.9 percent from the previous month, by 56.9 percent from the same period of previous year.
Figure 4. Mortgage loan issued in the reporting month
Majority of the mortgage loan issued in the reporting month (MNT 24.2 billion, which made up 69.8 percent) was issued by the "Housing Mortgage Program" with an interest rate of 5 percent and 8 percent per annum, 30.2 percent or MNT 10.5 billion was financed by commercial banks' own capital.
Figure 5. Mortgage loan issued in the reporting month per borrower
The amount of issued loan per borrower has reached MNT 51.6 million by the end of October 2016.
In the reporting month, MNT 31.6 billion mortgage loan has been repaid, which is 8.3 percent higher compared to the same period of previous year.
Figure 6. Mortgage loan issued and repaid in the reporting month
3. Number of borrowers
In the reporting month, mortgage loan by the "Housing Mortgage Program" was issued to 419 borrowers, mortgage loan from commercial banks' own capital was issued to 253 borrowers.
Figure 7. Borrowers provided with mortgage loan in the reporting month
By the end of October 2016, the total number of borrowers has reached 88044.
Figure 8. Total number of borrowers
4. Maturity of mortgage loan
In the reporting month the maturity of mortgage loan issued in the reporting month ranges between 0.3 to 30 years and has the weighted average maturity of 18.1 years. The weighted average maturity of total outstanding mortgage loan is 16.2 years.
In the reporting month 37.1 percent of the mortgage loan issued for 16-20 years.
Figure 9. Outstanding mortgage loan, by maturity
5. Interest rate of mortgage loan
The weighted average interest rate of issued mortgage loan stood at 9.1 percent. The weighted average interest rate of mortgage loan issued in the reporting month by commercial banks' own capital stood at 14.2 percent per annum.
Figure 10. The weighted average interest rate of issued mortgage loan in the reporting month
Appendix 1. Consolidated mortgage loan report of commercial banks.
Outstanding mortgage loan (MNT million)
Weighted average term of loan issued in the reporting month (months)
Weighted average interest rate of loan issued in the reporting month (in annual basis) (%)
Total number of borrowers
"Housing Mortgage Program"
"Housing Mortgage Program"
December 1 (Frontera News) Over 60 kilometers, they line up: truck after truck, after truck. Nearly every one of them is laden with coal.
The world's longest tailback has been building for months and has varying drivers: first, China's drought prompted Beijing to slash water-intensive coal production; last, President-elect Donald Trump fanned revival for the least loved of commodities by casting doubt on the world's commitment to outmode coal.
In the background, a newly installed government in Ulaanbaatar was quietly negotiating its way out of the economic crisis it inherited.
Last week, those negotiations came out into the open. Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi, the state-owned miner of the world's largest undeveloped coal deposit, announced it had negotiated an 85% price jump in its average selling price to $50 a ton from December, rising to $60 for 2017. Mongolia had been selling its coal at only $32 as part of a settlement for debt owed to the Aluminum Corporation of China, or Chalco. In another part of Tavan Tolgoi, Mongolia Mining Corp. had already struck a deal to sell its premium washed variety of coal at $107.
So what's the big deal? Right now, Mongolia is pleading poverty. Mounting debt has driven the government into talks with the International Monetary Fund. It's been whacked with two credit rating downgrades in as many weeks.
Yet, sales of coal – coupled with rising earnings from the country's other main resources, namely copper, gold and iron ore – appear destined to rescue this nation of 3 million people, with or without foreign handouts.
Interviews with drivers and border guards indicated that around half – or 1,500 trucks – make it across the border each day. That equates to around 135,000 tons every day. That's 4,050,000 tons per month, or 48,600,000 tons annually.
How much annual revenue will 48.6 million tons of coal exports bring to Mongolia? Based on a mid-price between the $60 and $107 so far achieved at Tavan Tolgoi, the consignment at $83 a ton equates to over $4 billion – just from coal.
In a report published by Frontera News earlier this month, Nick Cousyn, the Chief Operating Officer for BDSec, Mongolia's largest broker and investment bank, arrives at a similar conclusion, albeit via a different route:
"It doesn't take Herculean assumptions to expect that through improvements and reform, Mongolia's coal companies can collectively produce 40 million tons next year," writes Cousyn. Basing his math on the price achieved by Mongolia Mining Corp., Cousyn continues:
"At an average price of $105 per ton, that would represent more than $4 billion in economic activity for the sector – or an increase of over $3 billion compared with an estimated $960 million for 2016. For Mongolia's $12 billion economy, this would mean a 25% jump in GDP, returning the economy to the type of dizzying growth rates seen last decade."
As border crossings go, Mongolia's seems an interesting space to watch.
By B. Chintushig
December 3 (UB Post) Ever since the 2001 discovery of the Oyu Tolgoi mine by Ivanhoe Mines, there has been an equal amount of optimism and cautionary sentiment regarding the use of the resource model to develop the economy. While many have recognized the potential that a thriving mining industry can have for an economy, detractors have cited the dangers that over reliance on mining can have and the environmental damage it could cause.
There are many arguments to be made regarding whether or not it is right for the economy to be based on natural resources. The reality of the situation is that mining has become the primary driver of economic growth in the country. It is not realistic to go back and try to change the model of development that our government has chosen. On the contrary, our main priority should be to maximize and reap the benefits of mining while also studying and implementing ways to diversify the economy and ideally move away from mining. So, what comes next?
Questions about how a country with 20 times more livestock than people can diversify its economy arise. The potential answer lies within the question. According to a 2015 livestock census by the National Registration and Statistical Office, Mongolia has around 55.9 million livestock. According to a July 2016 estimate, the population of the country stands at 3.03 million. These two contrasting numbers show that the country has enough resources and the capacity to not only supply the population but to export large volumes of animal products. The numbers show that the country has a major surplus, which if utilized to its full potential, could be just as integral to the economy as mining. Livestock has been seen as a potential "gold mine" by many economists, and it offers a wide array of products. Cashmere, meat, leather, wool, and a host of other products have the potential to be exported to foreign markets. The two main problems that have held back the development of such exports are transportation and animal health issues. Being a landlocked country with extreme weather is a major setback in terms of transportation, the price of transportation has been a major factor in keeping the prices for exports from being competitive. The government has led large scale projects to develop railways in the hope of cutting transportation costs, but these efforts have largely been ineffective due to bureaucratic problems and mismanagement.
The other looming issue with the export of animal products has been the health of livestock. In terms of international standards, livestock in Mongolia has been deemed unhealthy due to outbreaks of disease. China's temporary ban on meat imported from Mongolia is still in place. Russia has expressed willingness to import animal products, but has also been hesitant due to concerns about health. There have been efforts to improve the health of livestock by drafting legislation that address veterinary hospitals and the management of livestock. Better management of animal health could potentially open Mongolia up to China's market with a population of 1.37 billion people. If the transportation and the health issues are addressed correctly, and China is willing to import, Mongolia could export meat only to China and it would be enough to sustain the sector.
This is not to mention the environmental benefits that exporting agricultural products could have. Studies have shown that the overpopulation of livestock, especially goats, has intensified desertification in the country. If exports become regular and large in volume, the government would be better able to manage livestock and increase the efficiency of the sector.
While livestock provides an ideal alternative to mining, it would be negligent to ignore the effects that a commercialized livestock industry would have on the environment. The commercialization of livestock, coupled with mining, could have disastrous effects on the often touted "undisturbed" nature of the country. While animal products offer a good short- term solution to the economic diversity problem, it may not be environmentally sustainable.
Another sector that people often bring up for diversification is manufacturing. Manufacturing is advantageous in that it creates jobs and can be made sustainable. However, in Mongolia's case, developing mass manufacturing seems like a pipe dream when China has essentially monopolized the global manufacturing market. It seems like an insurmountable task to compete with a country with a workforce of 770 million people. However, this does not mean that we should rule out the potential of manufactur- ing. The country had a self-sustaining manufacturing industry that produced a wide array of products during socialist times. There is potential to at least develop factories to meet domestic demand and decrease imports. While it is virtually impossible for the country to compete in global mass manufacturing, there are many niche markets that Mongolia could focus on. Just as the Belgians are famous for their chocolate, Mongolia could focus on a small number of products, such as sea buckthorn. There isn't a need for Mongolia to try to compete in multiple markets already dominated by large countries. Products that symbolize the Mongolian spirit and culture could be effective in penetrating foreign markets. However, as mentioned before, transportation and the infrastructure are the biggest obstacles to the development of these types of exports.
Agriculture and manufacturing have the potential to eliminate the country's increasing reliance on mining. Mining is not a sustainable economic model; we have seen how the boom and bust cycles affect the country. Being over reliant on mining can leave an economy vulnerable to these cycles. This is not to mention the global trend of shifting away from fossil fuels. Although the world has not fully shifted away from mining and fossil fuels, it is becoming more and more likely as the threat of climate change becomes more evident. What this means for Mongolia is that now is the time to use mining as a stepping stone to a more sustainable economic model. Especially now, when commodity prices have resurged, better management of exports could help finance the manufacturing and agricultural sectors.
The bottom line is that although there are only two key sectors mentioned here, Mongolia has a wide array of economic opportunities. The service industry and information communications sector were not mentioned, but there is no denying the potential these sectors have. Manufacturing and livestock are seen as the two largest avenues for economic diversification, and with improved management, these two sectors could quickly be taken to a new level. It is imperative that the government and the general public realize the potential of other sectors and the importance of economic diversification, and begin taking action now instead of later.
Ulaanbaatar, December 2 (MONTSAME) On Thursday's plenary session of the parliament held the final reading of the draft new version of the Law on International Agreements. The law was first adopted in 1993, and amended in 1998 and 2012.
A law on the Rules of Establishing, Observing and Terminating International Agreements was adopted in 1985 in accordance with the Ordinance No. 95 of the then Presidium of the People's Great Khural of the People's Republic of Mongolia.
Mongolia joined the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties in 1988.
In frameworks of the previous laws and regulations, Mongolia have become party to 290 multilateral agreements, and signed over 1,500 bilateral agreements. As the foreign interactions of the country expand, the necessity to establish international agreements and treaties grows. Within the past decade, Mongolia joined 64 international multi-partite agreements.
O.Baasankhuu MP inquired about whether or not the previously signed international agreements of Mongolia would change with the adoption of the law revision. To his question, head of the parliamentary Standing committee on State structure N.Enkhbold answered "The previously bound agreements and treaties will not be affected by this revision. Hundreds of agreements are being implemented at the moment between Mongolia and other countries and international organizations. The new version of law will govern the relations regarding the establishment of any international agreement from the moment on when it takes force".
The new version of the law was backed with 73 percent votes.
December 2 (UB Post) During Cabinet's weekly Wednesday meeting, an excise tax cut, support for road construction projects, and a bill on youth development were approved. The ministers agreed to further reduce excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel to support fuel importers, which have reportedly faced financial challenges due to the depreciation of the MNT.
Cabinet lowered excise taxes to 160,000 MNT per ton for gasoline and 180,000 MNT per ton for diesel, the second tax cut since October 5. Cabinet members approved an overview of a bill to promote youth development, and the Minister of Justice and Interior Affairs and Minister of Labor and Social Protection have been instructed to prepare the bill for a full Cabinet review.
The bill addresses the development needs of citizens from the ages of 16 to 40, who made up 42.9 percent of Mongolia's population as of 2015. Amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of the Capital was approved.
Ulaanbaatar's leadership believes that the amendments will provide Ulaanbaatar with the legal status of a metropolitan city with a focus on safety, a healthy environment, good governance, competitiveness, and civic participation by enhancing the responsibilities of district mayors, administrators, entrepreneurs, and individual residents.
Cabinet agreed to expand the UlaanbaatarDarkhan highway to become a four lane roadway. The highway's construction would include renovating bridges, digging a 1,000 meter tunnel through Takhilt Hill, leveling hills along the roadway, and establishing crosswalks.
Prime Minister J.Erdenebat instructed Minister of Roads and Transportation D.Ganbat to study foreign and domestic financing resources for conducting feasibility studies and drafting blueprints for the highway's expansion.
A protocol on amendments to the Mongolia's partnership and cooperation agreement with the European Union was approved by Cabinet. And ministers also approved conducting a study to analyze household income across Mongolia in the first four months of 2017.
December 2 (news.mn) Mr. M.Enkhsaikhan has resigned as leader of the Mongolian National Democratic Party following a new appointment by the Government; he is to become Mongolian Ambassador to Sweden.
B.Tsoggerel will lead the party in the place of M.Enkhsaikhan. The Mongolian National Democratic Party (not to be confused with the Democratic Party) did not participate in the parliamentary election in June, which brought down the previous administration. Member of Parliament, G.Uyanga left the party and became leader of the Independence and Unity party. Other members, namely M.Sonompil and N.Battsetseg became members of the Democratic Party.
December 2 (UB Post) Speaker of Parliament M.Enkhbold met with World Bank's Country Director for Mongolia, Bert Hofman, who arrived in Ulaanbaatar to participate in a meeting between the Government of Mongolia and development partners to discuss World Bank's assistance in Mongolian efforts to deal with economic challenges.
Speaker M.Enkhbold pointed out that the assistance of foreign countries and international financial organizations, including the World Bank, are of great importance to overcoming the challenges facing Mongolia. The Speaker said that he hopes the World Bank delegation will carry out an evaluation of Mongolia's current economic situation during their visit, and provide Mongolia with development policy credit under negotiated terms.
Hofman told the Speaker that he was grateful to Parliament for supporting the Cabinet's activities and efforts to deal with the nation's economic challenges. He noted that the Government of Mongolia is still in discussions with the IMF on acceptance of a credit facility, and that if Mongolia receives the credit facility, it would be possible for the World Bank to assist Mongolia with developing policy to manage the credit facility and efforts to attract other foreign investment.
Hofman emphasized that he hopes the government's program to overcome economic challenges will restore the trust of international financial organizations. He also thanked Parliament for approving the export promotion agreement signed with World Bank.
He added that the World Bank negotiated with Mongolia to implement World Bank projects to develop Mongolia's labor market, strengthen its financial capacity, and promote development in energy, and that he hopes they will undergo parliamentary review soon.
WB views Mongolia can re-gain growth in long run despite temporary decline – Montsame, December 2
December 2 (UB Post) The following is an interview with former Speaker of Parliament D.Demberel about issues related to Erdenet Mining Corporation (EMC) and the cause of the current economic crisis in the country.
When you were the Speaker of Parliament from 2008 to 2012, Mongolia's annual growth was over 17 percent, but now the Mongolian economy is at a weak point. Please tell us about what it was like when you came into office?
The Mongolian People's Party (MPP) and the Democratic Party (DP) worked together for four years, and a lot of money was scattered before the 2012 elections because they both promised to distribute one million to 1.5 million MNT to all citizens during the 2008 parliamentary election campaigns. As a result, several banks went bankrupt.
Do you want to say that policy failures of the two parties and incompetency of the Cabinet and Mongol Bank have caused the current economic difficulties?
Yes. I agree with that. We focused on budget, financial and monetary policies from 2008 to 2012 and approved the Law on Budget Stability, but previous cabinets of this past four years
increased the debt ceiling, issued bonds, and spent much without control by making changes to laws and regulations. We overcame financial challenges facing Mongolia from 2008 to 2010 by collaborating with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. I think Mongolia should accept conditions proposed by international financial organizations. In my opinion, Parliament and the Cabinet need to push the Ministry of Finance and Mongol Bank to own up to their responsibilities.
You said that there is a chance to turn difficulty into opportunity. How could we turn economic challenges into opportunity?
It depends on government policies. MPs are responsible for doing this and they have to figure out how to do it. I mean that the Cabinet and Parliament have boundaries.
That is true but boundaries have become vague in recent years. Can you comment on this?
Former Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag violated financial discipline from the day he got into office. Besides the allocated money in the Prime Minister's budget, he has no right to spend more. For example, after investigation on the operations of the Development Bank, many financial violations and unprofitable investments of the Chinggis Bonds were unraveled. The economic and financial challenges were caused by state authorities who are not following the laws. During the MPP-led Cabinet, Prime Minister S.Bayar never asked MPP's legislators why they didn't vote for the Cabinet's bills when Parliament dismissed some proposals concerning the Oyu Tolgoi Project put forward by Bayar's Cabinet. This showed that state authorities had boundaries. Bayar's successor S.Batbold showed the same tendency while in office.
What should we do right now to address the economic crisis?
I think the ways that we dealt with economic crisis and high inflation from 2008 to 2012 don't apply to the current economic challenges. There should be a big focus on figuring out which policies we should pursue during challenging economic times. Making a to-do-list is not important to dealing with economic challenges. The Cabinet's performance and Parliament's oversight are important. If the cause of the issue is identified, there will be clear steps to dealing with the challenges. I think that the first thing to address is to identify who put us in difficulty. If we prosecute them, we will see a better outcome in 2018 or 2019. If we do not, the bad habits and tendencies will happen to us over and over again.
After winning majority in Parliament, the ruling political party seems to always investigate rival parties and seek revenge. Is this the correct way to move forward?
We cannot tolerate corruption, we must fight it. Every country fights corruption. Corruption will destroy the Mongolian economy and financial system unless we keep fighting it.
Corruption has become the cancer of Mongolian society. What is responsibility of Parliament in the fight against corruption?
Parliament has a very big role and responsibility in fighting corruption. Parliament has been trying to take control of it in recent years by approving the Law on Conflict of Interest and requiring income statements from government officials. MPs have made the
responsibilities and duties of the Independent Authority Against Corruption clear.
Foreign investments in Mongolia have frozen up. What must we do to attract investment, especially in the agricultural sector?
We need to increase the use of innovative technology in agriculture and promote intellectual investment. Developing Mongolia-Russia-China transit trade is of great importance for improving the Mongolian economy. We also need to make clear policies for developing the mining sector and promote cost-effective manufacturing. Collaboration with investors to seek fruitful cooperation is important.
There are a number of young people in Prime Minister J.Erdenebat's Cabinet. What is your opinion about the new government?
The Cabinet needs to work in effective and fast ways. A government that includes seniors and youth is great. I support having experienced as well as eager representatives from the young generation work for the state. If they sincerely work for the state by adhering to the law, we will see great outcomes. If they don't adhere to the law and become corrupt, the state will be in trouble.
After winning 65 seats in Parliament, the MPP can now do anything they want. Which laws do you want Parliament to approve?
There should be changes made in the laws concerning the selection process and evaluation of state employees working in public sectors. I think that a good legal and regulatory environment has to be created for appointing state officials by basing it on their qualifications, experience, and other essential requirements.
I hope you have noticed that the public is critical of many appointments in the new Cabinet and Parliament?
President Ts.Elbegdorj once said that only applicants who have over 15 years of experience in a particular field should be considered for the position of state secretaries. But this guideline isn't followed at all. As a Member of Parliament, I never asked anyone to appoint anyone. I totally disagree with political appointments. Changes should be made to the Law on Political Party because political parties are very involved in investments and businesses. Financing political parties through the state budget is important, by at least allocating money to parties which have seats in Parliament. If their finances are resolved, they won't work for rich people.
The public has been critical of the 49 percent of EMC shares sold by Russia to the Trade and Development Bank of Mongolia. You have been appointed as one of the board of directors of EMC recently. Please tell us about the situation?
Everybody is interested in knowing about this matter because there is a critical thing related to the ownership of 49 percent of EMC. The former Prime Minister and ministers are at fault for this issue. After investigation, the issue will be clear to the public. If the privatizing operation violated the laws, the state will redo the privatization of the 49 percent.
If the state does this, Mongolia will need to pay a fine to the company that purchased 49 percent of EMC. Won't this present more financial burden on the state when it is already facing economic challenges?
100 million USD in fines is okay if it resolves the bigger issue. The people who violated the law should own up to their responsibilities. If it is found that they violated the law in the selling of 49 percent of EMC, the state will not pay any fines.
December 3 (UB Post) Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs' legal policy officer D.Saruul gave an interview about the recently submitted draft bill on domestic violence.
A new draft domestic violence bill will be discussed by parliamentary standing committees and Parliament. Can you tell us more about the bill?
The Law on Domestic Violence was approved in 2004. It's been nearly 12 years since. Several new articles were added in the bill to improve the law and resolve problems that weren't covered or couldn't be fully regulated with the previous version. The draft bill is special because it includes even more detailed articles based on good practices of Mongolia. In particular, it specifies rights and responsibilities of the public for raising awareness and reporting domestic violence when it has been detected to bolster preventive measures.
Government services for rehabilitating victims of domestic violence and preventing them from experiencing it again will be provided under a better management and organization as the new bill mandates details of works in this direction. Moreover, it raises accountability and responsibility issues of domestic violence perpetrators based on the extent and severity of the violence inflicted on victims.
Can you elaborate on the criminal charges for domestic violence specified in the bill?
Some forms of domestic violence have been considered as crimes. Following amendments to the Criminal Code, domestic violence offenders can be arrested and even sentenced to prison for up to two years. Some actions are considered violations and crimes so the Administrative Penalty Law imposes up to 30 days of imprisonment. It has been specified in the draft bill that a person arrested for domestic violence must undergo interrogation and investigation.
What kind of penalties will be imposed on domestic violence perpetrators? International domestic violence and abuse agencies assessed that Mongolia's legislation on domestic violence is very poor. What's your opinion on this?
Domestic violence offenders can face five types of penalty in accordance with the current Law on Domestic Violence. In the past, victims and offenders were put in front of the judge as if they were handling a case about loans and trying to decide whether the borrower should repay or not. Offenders were put behind bars for just a few days. That was the only measure we took for domestic violence. Domestic violence wasn't considered as a separate crime. Now, certain actions will be considered as crime and punished as such. It's become possible to charge domestic violence offenders for intentional murder if a victim dies or if murder was intended.
The past 12 years show that it's impossible to resolve domestic violence with a single law. Experts complain that Mongolia needs a comprehensive law on domestic violence instead. Do you agree with these complaints?
The Law on Domestic Violence is focused on preventive measures. Prevention means that it's more important to improve public understanding and awareness about domestic violence rather than regulating punishment issues. The law's main priority is to dictate how specialists should be trained and the types of services to be offered to victims. Determining punishment for offenders is the next priority. The previous government had a policy consistent with the Law on Domestic Violence, Criminal Code, Law on Conflicts and its procedures.
The newly adopted legislations will start to take effect on July 1, 2017 and so will the draft domestic violence bill if it's passed. The bill is all about prevention, meaning that it should be implemented without waiting for amendments to the Criminal Code and Conflicts Law. It's more important to train specialists and provide services rather than imposing punishments.
The issue about the punishment for domestic violence offenders must be included in the Law on Enforcement of Court Decisions.
The domestic violence bill is consistent with current laws but it has been designed to complement new laws to take effect on July 1 next year. We will lose time if we put the adoption of the bill on hold until then.
According to some, NGOs are working more to combat domestic violence than the government. Starting from temporary accommodations for domestic violence victims to financial issues, there are tons of problems to resolve. How will government services change once the bill and its regulations are in place?
The old version of the Law on Domestic Violence lists the services the government is to provide. However, it didn't specify who and how it should be executed, what standards to follow or how it should be financed. The new version specifies all of this. NGOs working in this field are progressing and expanding operations well. How a certain service is provided, under which regulation and rule, and what kind of services and standards are urgently needed are all determined to a certain extent.
Rather than using another country's practice, the draft domestic violence bill is based on Mongolia's experience and practice of more than 10 years. It regulates budgeting and financial issues to some degree. People think that everything has been changed from scratch and that it will cost more, but it's untrue. Even if it were, it is the responsibility of the state.
Social workers, police officers, doctors and other civil servants are obliged to prevent crimes and domestic violence. There's no need to hire more specialists.
There is a requirement for training and capacity-building for doctors, social workers and police officers. Already, a portion of the state budget is projected for improving skills and capacity of civil servants. In the past, this money might have been used for other things but from now on, it will be spent on its intended purpose through policy.
We're not trying to start a brand new thing, put extra burden on the state, and cause additional costs. We're only clarifying things that were unclear and making sure the money is spent on what it's supposed to be spent on and where it should be going. We might even be able to resolve temporary accommodation issues for domestic violence victims.
The truth is that provincial mayors and agencies are in charge of providing temporary accommodations. They should be handling the financial issue as well and build accommodations for victims based on surveys and research. Of course, temporarily accommodations will have to be built with state funds but services for victims of domestic violence are provided through to the Social Welfare Law. These services have been clarified in the bill.
Is it true that the draft domestic violence bill has separate articles on the rights and obligations of the public on reporting domestic violence?
The bill states that citizens have the right to report domestic violence and abuse. If your neighbor is committing domestic violence or abuse, you should report it. You will not be held accountable for anything for reporting it. You will not be asked to prove it. In other words, legal organizations are not obliged to tell the suspects who reported their action. The safety and security of informants is absolutely important. This way, people can report without any worry if they suspect domestic violence or other crimes.
One thing was specified in the obligation to report. It urges people to promptly report children being affected by domestic violence. It's a must because children aren't able to protect their own rights and interests, or report that they are subject to violence and abuse. Adults have certain obligations to children. In this sense, they must report on behalf of children as stated in the law. The law states that civil servants must report as well.
For example, let's say that a student keeps sleeping through classes. This could be due to lack of sleep caused by alcoholic and violent parents. Or a student might not be doing his or her homework. It could be caused by domestic violence too. If a teacher notices these things, they shouldn't hide it or ignore it, but immediately report it to the police because they have that obligation. The same applies to doctors. If a person is badly hurt because of domestic abuse, doctors should report. They might be injured today, but their life might be in danger tomorrow. To prevent dangers or risks, everyone should report to the police if they detect signs of domestic violence.
Rights and obligations of civil servants may vary, but they will be protected and their confidentiality will be ensured for exercising their rights and executing their civic obligations. Only this way can we examine and resolve problems within families. Doing hundreds of patrols around the city is not enough to know what's happening among the 700,000 families in the city.
December 2 (gogo.mn) Fortunately, the Ebarimt program (online registration) has been upgraded with some helpful updates. Therefore, if you have foreign passport you can register on ebarimt.mn with your alien registration number (АВБ0000000123). As shown, you will need to write the first 3 letters in Mongolian Cyrillic.
If you do not have an alien registration number, you will need to go to the Tax Department. You can go there by yourself or you can send someone with your trust letter that has proved by notary. In both cases, you need copy of your passport and the one's passport who represents you.
The Tax Department has three service centres as stated below, or you can go to the one for your area/khoroo.
1. Dunjingarav market
2. Misheel Expo Centre
3. Dragon Centre
Unless you register your registration number and bank account number on "ebarimt.mn", you will not get the reimbursement of 20% of the VAT that you have paid.
See the guide below on how to register.
Step 1. Log in to www.ebarimt.mn with your username and password
Step 2. Go the personal information section
Step 3. Choose your bank and add your bank account number.
Step 4. Click the "foreign citizen" box
Step 5. Add your name and alien registration number
Step 6. Save the changes and you are all done!
Good luck with the lottery!
December 1 (AgroInsurance) AgroInsurance experts have successfully conducted desk study and delivered consulting services on crop insurance product development for Agricultural Reinsurance Company of Mongolia
Project: Developing a crop insurance product in Mongolia
Country: Mongolia Duration: 04/2016 – 05/2016
Client: Agricultural Reinsurance Company of Mongolia
Consultant(s): Olena Sosenko (Products & Trainings Manager), AgroInsurance International LLC.,
Evaluation of the current agricultural production industry in Mongolia. Outline of the way for new agricultural (crop) insurance product development. Transfer of the international know how in agro insurance product development. Creation of the strategy for the new insurance product development and marketing. Work with country stakeholders: Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, farmers' association, insurance companies, and financial regulator.
· Meet the country stakeholders and understand their positions
· Collect and analyze the statistical data, calculate the insurance rates
· Define the key terms of insurance product
· Transfer international know how (underwriting, loss adjustment guidelines), train the Mongolian staff
· Prepare and conduct a workshop with country stakeholders on the insurance product launch
December 2 (news.mn) The Chairman of the Ulaanbaatar City Council, Ts.Sandui has presented the Order of 'Khangarid' to His Excellency Takenori Shimizu, Ambassador of Japan to Mongolia for his contribution to the development of the Mongolian capital. The Order of 'Khangarid' is the highest award the city can give. The Japanese diplomat has come the end of his five-year posting to Ulaanbaatar and is to return to Tokyo.
Ambassador Shimizu thanked Mr Ts. Sandui for the award and said 'I have been connected to Mongolia since 1973 and have contributed not a little for the infrastructure and education sector of Ulaanbaatar. I am proud of myself. Also, I thank those Mongolians who have appreciated my contribution. It must be said, Mongolia has also done a lot for Japan. I will never forget the support Mongolians have when Japan was hit by the earthquake and tsunami disaster'.
December 3 (UB Post) Ulaanbaatar Mayor S.Batbold met with the public on Tuesday at Dunjingarav State Services Center to identify problems faced by Ulaanbaatar residents and seek appropriate solutions.
At the meeting, Bayangol District resident Ch.Munkhjargal initiated a project for improving roads and pavements, enhancing preparedness for natural disasters, and ensuring security.
"I'm ready to cooperate with the city administration and contribute everything I know and can do to improve the city. We can improve water supply, humidify dry air and enhance the irrigation system by forming a project team with professionals. This could be a very significant task for protecting [the public] from floods and soil pollution risks and hazards," Ch.Munkhjargal said.
Songinokhairkhan District resident J.Dashdavaa said that he had been studying the capital for nearly 30 years to produce "History Highlights", a series of 14 books.
"I'd like to say that the legal environment of the capital must be improved. The mayor needs to be a cabinet member. Public services, provided on the streets, need to be centralized at a designated center as well," J.Dashdavaa insisted.
Next, Khan-Uul resident G.Yesujinbayar talked about the Nogoon Kherem (Green Wall) National Program, progress, results and prospect plans for the program's development center, and underlined that it's necessary to build a complex park dedicated to the victims of political persecution in Songinokhairkhan District. Other residents recommended developing Sukhbaatar District into a green district and establishing an agro park in the capital.
Ulaanbaatar Mayor S.Batbold responded, "The Government Action Plan states that parks will be built in every district. Some districts have cleared space and are proceeding to construction work. I will give orders to associated agencies and pay special attention to this matter. I will also try to sign a memorandum with the Minister of Construction and Urban Development."
December 3 (UB Post) The Ulaanbaatar Ger District Infrastructure Department and the Asian Development Bank's Ulaanbaatar Urban Services and Ger Areas Development Investment Program (Ger Area Program) team held a joint conference on the topic of "Ger Area Re-Planning and Participation of Public, Private and International Organizations". Deputy director of the Ger Area Program, member of the Ulaanbaatar City Council, and advisor to the Minister of Construction and Urban Development Ch.Gantulga spoke about the program and its importance in the following interview.
Ger area re-planning has become one of the most urgent issues in Ulaanbaatar. Public and private organizations and foreign investors discussed this matter from all sides last week. What were the conclusions they reached?
We've been discussing this issue for years and implemented all kinds of projects and programs to resolve it. Like I mentioned during my presentation, there were some 70,000 families living in ger areas but this figure tripled to nearly 220,000.
Right now, there are 80,000 apartments already supplied in the market. Around 30,000 of them have been commissioned, yet families aren't able to move in. This is a reality. It might seem like apartments are being built from one side, but on the other side, ger areas are expanding every passing year. We're spending a considerable amount of time for the price stabilizing program and other things for supporting small and medium-sized businesses. Then why are we in this state? All that money came from bonds. Basically, they're loans. But we have yet to see results. This was a policy mistake. We were supposed to enforce these programs with a proper rule and regulation, which prohibits residents from purchasing another apartment in Ulaanbaatar. The program was initiated to house ger area residents and resolve air and soil pollution issues.
Unfortunately, the program didn't reach its target group. The money for ger area re-planning is going back and forth between a few banks and construction companies. People doing business, who have reasonable income, have bought two to three apartments and some even bought four. Those people took away the apartments that were supposed to go to ger area residents, increasing apartment prices. Now, they're even renting those apartment to our target group. I'm wondering if we needed to implement the program under strict regulation and terms in the first place.
The Housing Program has been ongoing for many years and has intensified in recent years. How many ger area residents were able to move into apartments?
In the last four years, apartments were built in 14 locations and over 20,000 families were expected to be housed. However, data shows that barely 2,000 families were able to leave ger areas. This is a very poor result. Through re-planning, land permits were issued and infrastructure was developed with state funds.
Unfortunately, construction companies are unable to build apartments for 500 to 1,000 families, sell them out, do profitable business, and repay their debt. This is an indication that ger area re-planning was done wrongly from the beginning. Now, we need to sit together, discuss and assess everything, find out where we were wrong, and determine what to do next. We also need to carefully consider what kind of a legal environment ought to be established and ways to raise funds and use it for projects.
The ger area re-planning is the most anticipated program by many, but it has temporarily halted. When will it resume?
Minister of Construction and Urban Development G.Munkhbayar stated that infrastructure for several subcenters, such as Bayankhoshuu, have been resolved. I believe it's only right to re-plan these subcenters, build apartments and connect them to infrastructure. This is a form of solution. From another perspective, there's also the issue about the location of ger areas. They are located in the western and eastern sides of the city, on the mouth of mountains and in areas with ravines. It isn't right to build apartments on that kind of land. It would be too challenging to supply heat and hot water. First of all, we need to take this into account.
If it's inappropriate to build apartments in these areas, we'll need to discuss what to build instead, as well as what kind of technology we can utilize. It's right to introduce new technology, but it needs to be able to withstand Mongolia's extreme climate, it must be affordable, and practical. Mongolia has sunlight for almost 280 out of 365 days of the year. That's why I think it's a better choice to use solar power systems to build a macro city with everything people need such as the internet and state services. This way residents can live happily at their current location with low cost.
A research was conducted for this and it has been concluded. It's possible to further discuss, improve and implement this research and idea with the Ulaanbaatar Administration, Ministry of Construction and Urban Development and the government. Mongolians are capable of constructing their own houses and live comfortably. We need to give and open the opportunity through policy for them to do this.
Ulaanbaatar needs subcenters. If people are able to access state and other services from where they live, they wouldn't have to centralize in one area and it will also reduce traffic congestion in the city. Don't you agree?
Exactly. Today, all services and ministries are too centralized in the city center. We need to disperse them. The Action Plan of our party (MPP) specifies three policy-oriented strategies for subcenters, which are for Emeelt, Baganuur and Nalaikh Industrial Parks. We can also build a city next to the new international airport in Khushig Valley and Mongol Naadam Complex in Khui Doloon Khutag.
I know that there will be problems financially and time-wise. However, we need to find those solutions. The population density in the capital has increased too much. We will depopulate the city by making state services accessible. Residents living in Doloon Buudal and Chingeltei District access state services from the State Services Centers in Dunjingarav, Dragon and Misheel Expo. There are many issues that make it questionable whether they are smart solutions.
There's nothing wrong with starting city development from khoroos.
Instead of having two or three people sit at khoroo offices to register the population, we should do staff training and capacity-building. In particular, they should be how taught to use various software and the internet so that we can improve online services and provide all state services at khoroo offices. Like so, there are several options to resolve some things with technology. I introduced them at the meeting. We're getting ready to launch what3words for facilitating the addressing system. We will cooperate with a British company on this and it will be completed without spending much money.
Nowadays, we haven't been able to fully address the nation. Addresses of residents in ger areas are disorganized. They can address their properties by simply installing and running the application. Whenever they're in an emergency, the fire department, police, post office and hospitals can find their location immediately using Google Maps.
Mongolia isn't in its best shape economically. Ger area re-planning and other relevant projects require a lot of funding. How will their finances be resolved?
Capital cities must have a financial status. Capital cities have the right to release bonds, trade, raise funds from it, earn profit, and use it to finance development programs and projects. This is how it should be. This needs to be discussed within the scope of the legal reform for the capital. As for subcenters, or small towns, that we plan to construct, we plan to build the first few through foreign investment.
Of course, commercial banks will participate, which will involve mortgage loans. Banks can give loans and financing to Mongolian construction companies that will work on this project. Overall, I want to show that it's possible to execute projects by getting the main investment from an external source.
You said that you want to build small towns. Exactly where will they be established? Has it been determined?
These issues need to be negotiated with the city administration. New things always bring tons of risks. We plan to build these small towns near the city center to reduce risks. It's possible to build them near Gandan Monastery or Nogoon Lake. However, we will carefully choose the location so as to prevent another policy mistake.
A top Mongolian rapper was beaten into a coma by a Russian diplomat after wearing a swastika on stage, his lawyer and family have claimed.
December 2 (BBC) Amarmandakh Sukhbaatar was performing in the country's capital Ulan Bator when the alleged attack took place.
Russian news reports said he was hit over the head with a bottle and repeatedly kicked in the face.
The Russian embassy said it was investigating, but called local press reports "distorted".
The rapper had taken to the stage in a red deel - a Mongolian robe - embroidered with a swastika.
Though associated with the Nazis, the swastika is a traditional symbol in Mongolia that pre-dates Hitler.
Mr Sukhbaatar's father, Sevjidiin Sukhbaatar, told a news conference that his son spent about 10 days in a coma after the beating.
"My son was hit in the face several times with a metal object and was seriously injured. His brain was seriously hurt," he said.
Mr Sukhbaatar displayed a book of traditional swastika patterns to emphasise that it is not a hate symbol in his country.
The Russian official accused of attacking the rapper has not been identified.
In a statement, the Russian embassy said it was investigating press and social media reports of the assault.
"According to our preliminary information," it said, the reports were "distorted, particularly about the date, the number of participants and the circumstances of the accident".
Tens of millions of Soviet citizens died fighting the forces of Nazi Germany during World War Two.
Symbol of eternity
The swastika is believed to have originated in India thousands of years ago, and was used in Mongolia as a symbol of eternity centuries before the Third Reich.
Amarmandakh Sukhbaatar - who is known as Amraa and is the lead singer of the band Khar Sarnai [Black Rose] - frequently wears the symbol on stage, and his songs often refer to his country's history, culture and identity.
The swastika is also used by groups on Mongolia's far-right however.
The musician's lawyer, father, and a band member denied reports on social media that he shouted "Heil Hitler" at the show.
Lawyer Gankhuugiin Batbayar said the suspect in the beating had not been arrested, adding: "[He] must be investigated according to Mongolian law, no matter his status or immunity as a diplomat".
A police spokesman told the AFP news agency that the case was under investigation.
"The suspect is a Russian diplomatic officer and the reason he wasn't kept in detention is the injury is not serious," he said.
"It's not true that the suspect wasn't arrested because of diplomatic immunity."
Russian diplomat 'beat a Mongolian rapper into a coma after he wore a swastika outfit on stage' –Daily Mail, December 3
Singer S.Amarmandakh's family, friends call press conference – Montsame, December 2
December 1 (U.S. Department of State) On Thursday, December 1, 2016, the United States and Mongolia met for bilateral consultations at the State Department in Washington, DC. These talks are an important opportunity to review the bilateral relationship between the United States and Mongolia and our shared interests and goals, both in the region and globally.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel R. Russel and Mongolian State Secretary D. Davaasuren co-chaired the meeting, which was attended by representatives from U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of Justice, National Park Service, U.S. Agency for International Development, National Security Council, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps, and numerous bureaus of the U.S. Department of State.
During this year's talks, the major topics discussed were: strengthening Mongolia's economy, development of trade and commercial relations, a bilateral Transparency Agreement, the U.S.-Mongolia military-to-military relationship, the international response to the D.P.R.K. threat, and the upcoming 30th anniversary of U.S.-Mongolia relations in 2017.
December 1 (QNA) Doha, December 01 (QNA) - HE Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani has received a written message from Mongolian Minister of Foreign Affairs Tsend Munkh-Orgil, dealing with bilateral relations between the two countries and ways of enhancing them.
The message was handed over to HE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad Al Muraikhi during a meeting with Mongolian Health Minister Dr Tsogtsetseg Ayush.
December 2 (New Eastern Outlook) International news agencies are already beginning to move ahead in the list of the top event involving a five-day visit (from November 18 to November 23, 2016) by the 14th Dalai Lama to Mongolia mainly due to the publicly expressed opposition against China making this visit.
The official representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Mongolia in the strongest possible terms to assume "the wider picture of the stable development of bilateral relations" and cancel the visit. In the same statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry warned the Mongolian leadership against "supporting the Dalai Lama faction's separatist actions" ().
As the New Eastern Outlook has written many times, the last statement has a long-standing nature when China is discussing various aspects of the activities of the global Buddhism spiritual leader).
In the eyes of Beijing, the current Dalai Lama has since 1959 been serving as the head of the "Tibetan Separatists' Faction", when an armed revolt broke out in Tibet not without external involvement, but was quickly crushed by the Chinese People's Liberation Army. This resulted in the next wave of Tibetan refugees, who moved mostly to neighbouring India.
The 14th Dalai Lama was among these refugees. Since then, his residence and the Parliament and the Government of Tibet in Exile have been located in the city of Dharamsala in Northern India.
Although in 2011, the current Dalai Lama announced departure from politics and focus on being the spiritual leader of all Buddhists (whose number, according to estimates, could reach up to 1 billion people), he, however, de facto and regardless of his own wishes and specific actions, continues to play a prominent role on the international political chessboard.
In particular, it concerns an important fragment that is formed by a triangle of such leading global powers as the USA, India, and China. Beijing perceives this role very negatively, which explains the sharpness of the above-mentioned statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in respect of the Buddhists leader's current visit to Mongolia.
It should be noted that Mongolia also plays an important role in the game of the above-mentioned leading players and others.
Ulan Bator cannot be unaware of the "peculiarities" of Dalai Lama's relations with the great neighbour of Mongolia, which is its major economic partner. Therefore, the Mongolian government officially had no relation to Dalai Lama's current visit to the country. He arrived at invitation of the monks from a number of Mongolian monasteries, the Gandantegchinlen Capital being the main one.
As for the 14th Dalai Lama, he announced in advance that he had had no plans on establishing contacts with Mongolian officials, especially with its leadership, taking into account the same "peculiarities".
The latter should have helped him alleviate the problem that inevitably arose due to ignoring Beijing's call to ban the visit of the "Leader of Tibetan Separatists" to the country.
As you can see, in this case, Dalai Lama's main purpose in visiting Mongolia was not for the visit to serve as a political anti-Chinese demonstration, but was spiritual in nature. The visit was confined to a closed meeting with Mongolian bishops, as well as public conversations with groups of believers.
However, a speech in a square in Ulan Bator included words that could hardly appeal to Beijing. This included statements like: "In general, Mongolia and Tibet have maintained close relations since the dawn of time – from the pre-Buddhist times. … In connection with the spread of Buddhism, our "master-follower" relations have grown even deeper.
These words contributed to the negative assessment of the results of Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia by China, despite the "security measures" taken by the Mongolian leadership, which should have left no doubt on the exclusively private ("spiritual") character of this visit.
In the course of the November 23 Daily Briefing by the official representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, this visit was described as "an erroneous action taken by the Mongolian side that impacted on Chinese-Mongolia relations".
The announced response procedures include the postponement of the previously scheduled intergovernmental meeting for an indefinite period and the expected conclusion of new agreements in the fields of mining and energy production.
They also hinted at a possible review of the existing agreements that were concluded during Chinese President, Xi Jinping's official visit to Mongolia in August 2014.
Among other things, Beijing referred to the possible abolition of the use of the Chinese railway and port infrastructure by the Mongolians for exporting Mongolian products, mainly coal and other minerals, to foreign markets.
It is important to note that the export of such products continues to support Mongolia's economy. However, this is increasingly becoming difficult, as it is integrated into the global economy, which has been facing serious problems in recent years.
Mongolia's hopes on the possible passing of the railway route through its territory as part of China's 'Revival of the Silk Road' initiative may make it become the victim of the suddenly emerged tension in bilateral relations.
Taking into consideration the high level of Mongolia's economic dependence on ties with China, the above mentioned "enforcement measures" (if they are implemented in full) could result in the most serious consequences for the country.
Due to Mongolia's specific geographical position, the country can hardly expect prompt assistance from some "third neighbour" that is barely designated in Mongolia's foreign policy.
The unprecedented severity of the above-mentioned "measures" against the country that allowed Dalai Lama to visit its territory requires attention. Previously in such cases, everything was confined to the Chinese Foreign Ministry's varyingly rigid statements.
One of the several explanations of Mongolia's loss of this practice may be associated with the worsening of the general problems of "separatism" on the outskirts of China, which has been discussed several times on the pages of the New Eastern Outlook with respect to Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan. This problem also exists in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Territory in a more pronounced form.
With respect to this common problem, Beijing tends to give a significant role to the current Dalai Lama and to the regional and global political opponents "behind him", mainly India and the United States.
Finally, it is not clear whether Mongolia's leadership have properly assessed the risks associated with the resolution for the 14th Dalai Lama to visit the country, even if this is a private visit for exclusively spiritual purposes.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook"
Under the Radar: Singapore latest to be punished by China's opportunism – Global Risk Insights, December 1
Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia angers China – The Sunday Guardian, December 4
Understanding Chinese behavior from the Pacific to the Himalayas.
December 1 (National Interest) No one country in today's world has as many neighbors as China does. China's vast territory is bounded by fourteen overland countries and six maritime ones, rendering it extremely difficult to be a good neighbor to all. Already the world's second-largest economy, behind only the United States, China feels more of an urge now to secure a favorable peripheral environment for its further rise and expansion, toward the ambitious goal of revitalizing its ancient civilization and realizing "the Chinese Dream." Recent years have seen China implement one strategy after another, the best known being the "One Belt, One Road" strategy and the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), both aimed at tapping new markets for its growing economy and extending its influence wherever it can reach. China knows that its global ambitions have to begin with its neighbors, and that differentiated approaches to different neighbors make the most sense in creating an overall favorable neighborhood environment.
To the east, China overlooks North Korea, South Korea and Japan, each a hard nut to crack.
The DPRK, once China's closest ally, is quickly becoming a "negative asset" for China, with bilateral relations dropping to a historic low, due largely to North Korea's nuclear program. China seems to be at a loss in the face of the gambits of North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un, who ordered a series of nuclear tests in defiance of harsh international sanctions and China's strong opposition. Domestically, Kim has cruelly purged several high-ranking pro-Chinese officials; new faces in the top brass are believed to be less China-friendly. To date, Chinese president Xi Jinping has not met with his North Korean counterpart. Therefore, it's quite safe to say that as long as King Jong-un refuses to abandon his nuclear program and continues to diminish China's role in the "Six-Party Talks," China is not likely to rally North Korea to its side in joint defense against America and Japan on its eastern front.
For well over a century since the first Sino-Japanese War in 1895, China-Japan relations have seen structural contradictions. The second Sino-Japanese War, which broke out in 1937, was another attempt by Japan to dominate East Asia by means of force. While the first war taught China a lesson, the second ended in Japan's defeat, leading to Japan's dependence on the United States as a goalkeeper in the Asia-Pacific against China, Russia and North Korea. Later on, the handover of jurisdiction over the Diaoyu Islands (known in Japan as the Senkaku) by America to Japan in 1972 exacerbated structural contradictions between the two neighbors, as showcased by the long-standing territorial disputes in the East China Sea. However, China chooses to refrain from escalating tensions, trying to minimize hostility to Japan at this crucial moment of its development.
In contrast to China's relations with Japan and North Korea in Northeast Asia, China–South Korea relations have registered steady development, particularly in trade and economic terms. The exchange of visits by top leaders in recent years facilitated the signing of the China-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect on December 20, 2015, broadening and deepening the China-ROK Strategic Cooperative Partnership. However, the United States' proposed deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea has cast considerable shadow over the bilateral relationship.
Taiwan is internationally recognized as part of China, but the United States' continuous intervention in cross-Strait relations has made the Taiwan issue highly internationalized. During the eight years of the Nationalist Party's rule (also known as the KMT), cross-Strait relations recorded substantial détente, reaching a zenith at the summit meeting between then ruling KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jinping in February 2016. As such, China quickened its pace toward peaceful reunification, but the trend was reversed by the election last May of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led by Tsai Ing-wen, who is now Taiwan's leader. With the ruling DPP moving faster toward de facto independence, China is now preparing for a final solution by non-peaceful means, which is the last resort China would prefer to turn to.
In a nutshell, China seems to be on the defensive against its eastern neighbors in its overall foreign-policy configuration.
To the north, China shares boundaries with two neighbors: giant Russia and neutral Mongolia. As early as in 1996, China and Russia signed a strategic partnership agreement, the first of its kind China ever struck with a foreign country after China's own "glasnost" and "perestroika" in 1979.The strategic partnership served as a guide not only to trade, economic and military cooperation in their bilateral relationships, but also to their joint actions at the UN Security Council. Later on, in 2011, both countries decided to elevate the partnership, prefixing it with the word "comprehensive," the highest-level partnership China could ever offer to a foreign government by then. Today, reinforced by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS, China and Russia, as two big world powers, would assist each other in world affairs against America and its Western allies.
Mongolia used to be part of China, and after it gained independence from China in 1947, it remained a long-time ally to the former Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War, it normalized its relations with China and ever since then, it has managed to strike a balance in between China and Russia, seeking to be recognized as a permanently neutral state. Needless to say, a neutral Mongolia is in China's best interest. Today, Mongolia is becoming more dependent on China for free riding on the fast track of China's economic growth, and is embracing the proposed China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor.
In short, China's strategy regarding its relations with the two northern neighbors has been aimed at continuous consolidation.
China's long western border is adjacent to four Central Asian countries and another four South Asian countries. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are members of the China-dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with Afghanistan currently having observer status in the organization. Originally, China initiated and created the SCO with an aim to fight against extremism, separatism and terrorism in the vast areas of Central Asia and in China's far-flung region of Xinjiang, where the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which seeks independence from China, poses a serious threat to China's social stability and territorial integrity. Apart from security concerns, China also takes advantage of the SCO to deepen and widen its economic ties with Central Asian countries, focusing on oil and gas, which China needs to fuel its economic engine. In terms of the reconstruction in Afghanistan, China keeps telling the rest of the world that it also has a stake in the effort.
China's relations with its South Asian neighbors are much more complicated. Pakistan is a godsend to China, enjoying the All-Weather Strategic Partnership, the highest-level partnership China has ever established with a foreign government thus far. In contrast, India's strategic partnership with China is far from all-weather, haunted by long-standing mistrust and suspicion stemming from its territorial disputes with China and its policy toward Tibet and the Dalai Lama's exile government. Besides, India is now a strong competitor against China in the international arena, ruling out the likelihood of the two countries becoming too close. Nepal is traditionally India's sphere of influence, but because of India's ferocious appetite for controlling Nepal, the Himalayan kingdom seems to be swinging to China.
To sum up, China's strategy toward its Central Asian and South Asian neighbors has been one that seeks to maintain the status quo.
To the south, China has seven neighbors—namely Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam overland, and the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei across the South China Sea.
For decades, China had long been boastful of its special relations with the junta-ruled Myanmar, but the paukphaw ("brotherhood") began to erode with the advent of Myanmar's democratization process in recent years, as when several of China's massive projects in Myanmar were suspended by Myanmar's democratically elected government. Now, with the leader of the ruling National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi sitting above the president, Myanmar maneuvers between China and America, creating uncertainties in the future development of China-Myanmar relations. Laos, a socialist country and impoverished as it is, relies on China for much of what it needs to get by. Currently, as the landlocked Laos is improving its connection with China under China's Belt and Road Initiative, the Laotian government is more willing to speak out on China's behalf within ASEAN. Vietnam, once China's comrade and brother, continues to be China's comrade ideologically, but no longer looks like much of a brother in practice, as a result of the 1979 border war and long-standing disputes over the Paracel Islands. President Obama's historic visit to Hanoi in May 2016 eventually led to the lifting of arms embargoes on Vietnam, galvanizing more leverage in Vietnam's advantage over China.
China claims 80 percent of the South China Sea, which is contested by its four maritime neighbors. For decades, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines had been easygoing with China's principle of "lay aside disputes for joint development," while making inroads into the troubled waters and contested islands. However, against the backdrop of President Obama's "pivot to Asia" and China's reclamation of a few sensitive shoals and reefs in the South China sea in recent years, the four maritime neighbors began to openly challenge China's territorial claims, with the Philippines going so far as to have brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague against China. The court eventually ruled completely in the Philippines' favor, encouraging and emboldening the other claimant nations to assemble more closely together behind the Philippines. But surprisingly, the new Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, instead of taking advantage of the leverage his predecessor passed on to him, chose to visit China to seek favorable terms in a compromise. Duterte even announced to his Chinese counterpart that he would separate from America militarily and economically. Ironically, the South China Sea seems to be more tranquil than it was before the arbitration.
In a word, given the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean's importance to its steady rise to global-power status, China is least likely to back away from its territorial claims in the South China Sea. It follows, therefore, that China's policy toward its southern neighbors is an aggressive one and it will remain so in the foreseeable future.
North Korea's nuclear program, South Korea's THAAD deployment, Taiwan's independence movement, Japan's assertiveness in the East China Sea and the four maritime neighbors' claim to the South China Sea are among China's, and perhaps even the world's, tensest geopolitical situations. Now that Donald Trump has been elected to the U.S. presidency, no one knows whether these situations will change for better or worse, judging from remarks the president-elect made during his campaign that he would reverse President Obama's rebalancing policy, meaning pulling back from Asia and giving freedom of navigation back to China.
Liu Xuejun and Liu Jun are both associate professors at the Institute of International Studies of Yunnan University based in Kunming, Yunnan, the People's Republic of China.
Mongolia Photo Exhibition "Mongolia where the grasslands and the sky meet" Held in UNHQ
December 2 (Asian Development Blog) During a preparation mission for an ADB project to ensure inclusiveness and service delivery for people with disabilities in Mongolia this year, I met with one of the stakeholders. She is one of the representatives from disabled people organizations (DPOs) and a local entrepreneur that has used her own resources to establish a small rehabilitation center to provide services for PWDs.
The lady, who lost her leg years ago in an accident that also killed her son, told me very exciting news: she was able to rehabilitate her small hospital and add another 38 beds for her rehabilitation center. The center employs PWDs to make, refit and adjust artificial limbs for other PWDs, who can stay there until their prosthetic arms or legs are ready. This is no trivial matter in Mongolia, where PWDs are more vulnerable to the rest of the population due to the tyranny of distance, lack of services outside of the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, and lack pf public transport.
More importantly, she has been able to create local employment for skilled and unskilled workers. She gets most of the contracts from government programs for PWDs. This is a true nature of a public-private partnership.
Lack of life-cycle comprehensive social protection programs for PWDs is a serious concern in Mongolia, where the disability prevalence estimated at around 4% based on the 2010 census is likely to be underestimated. About 15% of the world's population lives with some form of disabilities, of whom 2-4% experience significant difficulties in functioning, according to the World Health Organization's first global report on the issue published in 2011. Like in Mongolia, the global disability prevalence is also higher than previous WHO estimates, which date from the 1970s and suggested a figure of around 10%.
PWDs and their households are substantially poorer than the rest of the population in Mongolia, and rank much lower on human development indicators like employment or literacy. PWDs spend much more on health services than non-disabled people, and many must add other expenditures like travel, as many health services for PWDs are only available in the capital; this added financial burden plunges PDWs deeper into poverty.
The consultation meeting with more than 25 representatives of DPOs was an incredible experience, as well as an opportunity to listen and learn about their challenges on getting education, livelihood and employment, and basic services like reproductive health, among other issues. The participants offered practical solutions to implement legal frameworks that address their problems, and improve their roles as a productive member of society.
A representative of youth DPO mentioned that their ultimate goal to live as independent citizens. They are tired of feeling excluded by being institutionalized in special government-run residences for PWDs.
Discrimination is arguably the main underlying obstacle for PWDs in Mongolia, where most non-disabled people share the attitude and perception that PWDs always need help, and cannot survive without assistance. While this may be true for persons with severe disabilities, the fact is that over 75% of Mongolian PWDs could live independently if they had proper access to public facilities and basic services. Unfortunately they don't, so most of them live hidden within their communities, unaccounted for, and pretty much forgotten by everyone outside of their families.
PWDs in Mongolia also face a general social attitude that does not recognize them as individuals capable of contributing positively to society, and this is a major source of frustration for PWDs that often leads them to feel rejected and vulnerable.
ADB is in the process of assisting the Government of Mongolia in addressing a major social and rights issue for PWDs in Ulaanbaatar and at the aimag (province) level. The overall aim of the project is to ensure access to employment for PWDs to increase their autonomy and contribution to the economy and society in general. It will support government efforts to comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of PWDs and the Incheon Strategy, and to implement the new Law on the Rights of PWDs adopted by the Parliament of Mongolia in February 2016.
To help PWDs find jobs, the project will fund skills development programs so PWDs may enter selected industries, and bolster inclusive businesses that employ PWDs in regular jobs or as self-employed professionals. It also encourages PWDs to take part in monitoring compliance with regulation on both private and public employment quotas for PWDs, and aspires to for half of all Mongolian companies to employ at least one disabled person by 2022.
PWDs can make an effective contribution to Mongolian society, and ADB plans to help them achieve this goal to be a productive member of society with equal opportunities for all, and to live with dignity.
INFORMATION SUMMARY FOR THE PUBLIC
Name of Borrower:
International School of Ulaanbaatar ("ISU")
The OPIC Loan will support ISU's campus expansion project, which includes construction of new classrooms, science laboratories, and other campus improvements.
Proposed OPIC Loan:
$20 million (tenor up to 16 years)
Total Project Costs:
U.S. citizens or green card holders, who serve as six of the eleven voting members of ISU's board of trustees.
Non-U.S. citizens, who serve as five of the eleven voting members of ISU's board of trustees.
U.S. Economic Impact:
The Project is not expected to have a negative impact on the U.S. economy. There is no U.S. procurement associated with this Project, and, therefore the Project is expected to have a neutral impact on U.S. employment. The Project is expected to have a net negative five-year U.S. balance of payments impact.
This Project is expected to have a positive developmental impact by supporting high-quality education services in Mongolia. ISU is one of the few schools in Mongolia offering an American-style curriculum. With a student body that is over 40% comprised of Mongolians, the school serves the local community as well as expatriates. ISU also provides full scholarships to 19 local students. Following its recent expansion, the school now offers state-of-the-art amenities to students. The expansion has increased the school's student capacity, and has added five new science laboratories, two visual arts studios and a music studio. Through its teacher and librarian training workshops for local schools, ISU has continuing positive impacts on the local education sector.
The Project has been reviewed against OPIC's categorical prohibitions and has been determined to be categorically eligible. Loan restructuring projects are screened as Category C projects under OPIC's environmental and social guidelines. Environmental, health, safety and social impact concerns are minimal. ISU has an environmental and social policy as well as an adequate grievance mechanism in place.
New York, November 22 (Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center) Since November 5, 2016, Mongolian parents from eastern Southern (Inner) Mongolia's Ulaanhad Municipality ("chifeng shi" in Chinese) have launched a series of protests against the educational authorities for appointing Chinese principals to the only two Mongolian kindergartens allowed to teach in Mongolian. Outraged by the newly appointed Chinese principals' ban of the Mongolian language in the kindergartens, Mongolian parents collected signatures and published open letters via Chinese social media.
In the latest development, local authorities failed to address the Mongolian parents' demands, sparking further protests and inviting strong criticism of the Chinese authorities' ethnic policy in Southern Mongolia.
According to the earliest appeal from the Mongolian parents, "the Ulaanhad Municipality Educational Bureau head Mr. Han Lizhong, ignoring relevant laws and regulations, arbitrarily appointed his close associate Ms. Dai Xiaoli, a Chinese teacher from the former Ulaanhad Municipality 6.1 Kindergarten, to Vice Principal of the Ulaanhad Municipality Mongolian Kindergarten."
"As soon as taking office, Dai Xiaoli, disregarding laws and regulations, banned the teachers from preparing lectures in Mongolian," the appeal from the Mongolian parents states. "What is even more egregious is that her administrative director, Ms. Lü Xiaoli, publicly ordered the Mongolian teachers not to speak in Mongolian in the office."
According to an open letter to the Ulaanhad Municipality Party Committee and the Municipal Government, the appointed principal of the Ulaanhad Municipality Xincheng District Mongolian Kindergarten is also Chinese.
"Dai Xiaoli and Lü Xiaoli's public action of depriving the Mongolians of their right to speak and use their native language is an ethnic discrimination," the outraged Mongolian parents state in the open letter. "The words and actions of Dai Xiaoli and Lü Xiaoli are nothing but a flagrant demonstration of typical Chinese chauvinism."
"Depriving us, the legitimate owners of the land, of the right to speak our language and telling us shut our mouths up and speak Chinese is another form of ethno-terrorism. This is a typical hate speech and hate action against humanity that has been practiced by colonial occupiers only in the past," stated the open letter. It used strong language to liken the Chinese regime in Southern Mongolia as a "colonial occupation."
Mongolian parents also complained that seats available for Mongolian children in the only existing two Mongolian kindergartens in the entire city of Ulaanhad are very limited, as an increasing number of Chinese children are accepted.
On November 15, 2016, in response to these strong protests and public outcry, the local educational bureau verbally promised to appoint Mongolian principals to the two kindergartens. However, according to complaints from the parents, the educational authorities are not taking any action to keep their promise.
"We are ready to fight for our rights until they are truly honored and respected," a Mongolian parent named Tuyaa said in a message to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC). "We are not asking for any special privilege. What we are asking for is our most basic right, the right to use our native language and the right to teach our language to our children."
According to the "Way Out of Southern Mongolia," a newly published work by Mr. Hada—a prominent Southern Mongolian political prisoner who served 19 years in prison—Hohhot, the capital of Southern Mongolia, is home to 210,000 Mongolians. Yet, the number of students who have the opportunity to attend the only two existing Mongolian elementary schools is no more than 3,000. In the entire Autonomous Region, the number of Mongolian students enrolled in Mongolian elementary schools was reduced to 19,000 in 2009 from 110,000 in the early 1980s.
Appeals from Mongolian parents:
Introducing China's lesser-known contributions to UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage lists: Khoomei
Delving into China's contributions to UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage lists
December 4 (Global Times) On Wednesday, China's 24 Solar Terms were officially included on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at the 11th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The terms were the 39th item from China to make it on one of UNESCO's lists dedicated to intangible cultural heritage. Currently, China has 31 items listed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, seven items on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and one item on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.
Below, the Global Times would like to introduce a few of these intangible cultural heritages with which readers may be unfamiliar.
Mongolian singing - Khoomei
Khoomei, or throat harmony, is a unique Mongolian overtone singing style. The singer uses his or her vocal cords to produce two pitches at the same time.
Khoomei is thought to trace back to an ancient ethnic group, the Huns. To connect with nature, the Huns who lived on the Mongolian Plateau mimicked the sounds found in natural environments and was closely tied to this group's nomadic and hunting culture. A skilled singer can produce a continual harmony while also mimicking the sound of things like a waterfall or various wildlife.
It is still practiced by Mongolians around the world today, including in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and western Mongolia.
It was included on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009 by the fourth Committee.
Ulaanbaatar, December 2 (MONTSAME) A World Champion and State Honored Athlete of Mongolia, M.Urantsetseg won a gold medal in -48kg at the IJF Grand Slam, launched in Tokyo today.
In the final bout, she defeated her S.Korean rival Jeong Bokyeong by penalty. In the first round, she won Mary dee Vargas Ley of Chile, and also defeated Kang Yujeong of Korea by Ippon, making her path to the semi-finals.
In the semi finals, M.Uranstetseg won the bout with Japan's Tonaki Funa.
Mongolia is being represented by 12 judokas at this Grand Slam, which brought together 193 men and 144 women athletes from 46 countries.
December 1 (UB Post) The Mongolian Bodybuilding Fitness Federation announced that Ulaanbaatar will host the ninth World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championships from October 3 to 9, 2017, during a press conference this week.
The championships are expected to attract over 1,000 athletes from 61 countries.
During the press conference, the federation announced the appointment of its new president G.Anarkhuu, who is director of Octopus Consulting LLC.
Former mayor of Ulaanbaatar E.Bat-Uul was the previous president of the federation.
G.Anarkhuu said, "It is not easy to lead a federation. I talked with sports experts and my family before I took on this job. I am planning to do a lot of work in order to intensify the federation's activity. The most important thing is to pay attention to athletes. Bodybuilding and fitness athletes are currently competing in the eighth World Championships. I believe that they will be successful. The year of 2017 will be very important for us because Mongolia will host the World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championships. I love sports. I like playing football. I used to play for Ulaanbaatar's Unaganuud FC. I know the taste of victory and defeat. I will do my best."
Mongolia at World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championships
A bodybuilding and fitness team comprised of 10 male and six female athletes are representing Mongolia at the 2016 World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championships, which kicked off on Tuesday in Pattaya, Thailand.
More than 600 athletes from 59 countries are competing in 36 categories of the championships.
The Mongolian team is taking part in bodybuilding, athletic, fitness, model and sport model categories.
The championships will conclude on December 5.
Ulaanbaatar, December 2 (MONTSAME) The introductory video of the Miss World contestant of Mongolia A.Bayartsetseg was selected as the best video presentation of this year's pageant.
As described on the official thegreatpageantcommunity.com website, Mongolia tops the list based on the quality of the video alone, apart from her ravishing beauty. "It is made like a Movie and each shot is worth all the applause. Her Miss Earth 2015 Eco Video was also one of the well shot videos ever in the history of any pageantry", it said.
A.Bayartsetseg was also selected to be one of ten girls, who will have the honor to dance in the very front row of the dance opening of the 66th Miss World finale, being held in Washington D.C.
Her talent performance, combining quick-change tricks with Mongolian calligraphy, was ranked at 21st place among 130 performances.
December 2 (gogo.mn) Fashion industry bests were named last night (Dec 01) during the 29th annual "Goyol 2017" Fashion Festival. The most awaited nominations at "Goyol" have been Best Designer and Top Model winners ever since the festival was initiated by Mongolian Designer Association.
However, this year Top Model award has not been awarded.
"No models were required to hold the Top Model title, this year", said by the Secretary of Mongolian Designer Association Kh.Baigalmaa.
Best Designer award went to O.Urantsetseg, desinger at "Ertnii Mongol Hiits" and Best Female Model award went to D.Dolgion while Best Male Model award went to Azjargal.
Winner of Best Female Model award D.Dolgion said:
"Goyol" is the first and biggest fashion festival in Mongolia. It is honor for me to win this award. Therefore, I will take my full responsibility and try my best in the future.
Winner of Best Male Model award Azjargal said:
"I have started my career in modelling 12 years ago. During that time, I attended "Goyol" fashion festival for 10 times. I won Asian Star Model award in 2011 and I am very pleased to receive awards from "Goyol" after six years since then".
Best Designer awards went to:
- Grand Prix: O.Urantsetseg, desinger at "Ertnii Mongol Hiits
- National costume: M.Enkhtuya
- Avant-garde: Kh.Tserenlhagva, designer at Precious Fashion House
- Casual: designers of Evseg LLC
- Best Young Designer: I.Urangoo, designer at Urangoo Ider brand
- Special Award Designer: S.Ganzorig, designer at J&C LLC, N.Unenbat, Tserenhand, designers at Monline LLC
Bests of Goyol 2015:
- Best Male Model: Azjargal
- Best Female Model: D.Dolgion
- Second runner up: Ts.Altantuya
- Photo model: O.Ariunzul
- Photo model: N.Anu
- Best Fashion House - Master Dodo LLC
- Best Makeup Artist: G.Narmandakh, Narumi studio
- Best Hairstylist: D.Odongoo, hairstylist at Vidal salon
Goyol fashion show skips naming new Top Model – Montsame, December 2
Mongolian top fashion show attracts foreigners – news.mn, December 2
December 2 (MONTSAME) A Mongolian film – "the Golden Treasure" is competing for the right to become the Best Foreign Language Film nominee of the forthcoming 89th Academy Awards. The film is included in the top 20 among total of 50 works.
Academy Awards require the best foreign language films to raise social problems regarding the environment, ecology, human rights and gender equality. The key message of the "Golden Treasure" is directly connected to the gender issue.
For the above reason, EFILM and the Motion Picture Association of America have given authorization to screen this movie in theatres in the USA.
The storyline shows a girl who was raised as a boy, treated as a boy and forced to act as a boy by her father who desperately wants a son, but instead has four daughters. This story touches upon gender equality and human rights issues.
December 2 (gogo.mn) The Mongolian State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet is set to stage both Mongolian and world classics in December, 2016 including opera "Tosca" by G.Puccini, ballet "Giselle" by A.Adan, ballet "Swan Lake" by P.Y.Tchaikovsky and opera "La Bohene" by G.Puccini.
Moreover, the Mongolian Ballet Development Fund jointly with the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet will organize the performance of "The Nutcracker", the most played ballet around the world this month.
Tickets for the all performances of December are available now at www.ticket.mn and ticket office of the Mongolian State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet. Technically, ticket prices vary by location and prices are set at MNT 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 (USD 5, 10, 15).
Below is the Program for December, 2016.
The true story of a young Mongolian tribeswoman and her hunting eagle has become the most unlikely hit film of 2016 – with a little help from Star Wars.
December 3 (The Telegraph) On a bright and brisk Thursday morning, Aisholpan – the teenage heroine of the documentary The Eagle Huntress – is going about her usual post-breakfast business: picking up cow dung with a woollen-gloved hand. Nearby, fierce talons gripping a sturdy wooden perch, sits her young golden eagle, ruffling her 6ft wingspan in the sunshine and quietly preening with a dagger-sharp beak.
After collecting the moist brown pats in a pail, Aisholpan tips them on to the top of the dry-stone wall that rings the corrals in which 20 cows and 300 sheep and goats spend the nights (10 horses roam free). There they will dry, ready for burning in the stove she helps tend with her mother, younger sister and sister-in-law. The family of seven are Kazakh nomads, and in summer they live in a ger (similar to a yurt).
This remote, spartan one-room farmstead is their winter base, but even here they're constantly on the move. There's always work to be done, Aisholpan's eight-year-old brother, Dinka, included (although a boy's work won't be domestic). Under big blue Mongolian skies, eye-watering in both their expanse and their early winter crispness, Aisholpan works through her daily chores. It's the school holidays, so the 15-year-old has more work to do, not less.
All around lies the bone-dry expanse of the province of Bayan-Olgii: thousands of square miles of sparsely inhabited rocky grassland ringed by snow-capped mountains. This is the landscape and stoutly traditional lifestyle captured in the beautiful feature documentary, directed by Northumberland-born, New York-based Otto Bell and narrated by Daisy Ridley, who played Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And it's the backdrop to the story of Aisholpan's quest.
She was determined to follow in her father and elder brother's footsteps and learn to hunt on horseback (for rabbits and foxes, for food and fur) using golden eagles – and, in so doing, defy generations of patriarchal Kazakh custom. The Eagle Huntress is the soaring tale of an adolescent girl, 13 at the time filming began, training hard and fighting for her passion.
It is little wonder, perhaps, that Ridley embraced the project (she is also an executive producer). The similarities between Aisholpan and Ridley's Star Wars character, Rey, are plain: two young women battling for their beliefs. But Ridley demurs.
'I see more similarities between myself and Aisholpan,' she says. 'Aisholpan's story is around her family and the support they offer her, much like my own. However, both Rey and Aisholpan represent something incredibly exciting. It just so happens Aisholpan is real.'
Aisholpan herself, however, would not entertain such Western-hued fancies. She is a sweet, shy girl whose smile is as wide as her ego is non-existent – and this despite what for her and her family has been an extraordinary year. It began with a visit to the Sundance Film Festival, where The Eagle Huntress premiered to great acclaim.
Then, further North American trips, for the Toronto and Telluride film festivals, and for the New York and Los Angeles theatrical premieres. Aisholpan and her father, the charismatically jovial Agalai, who can name 12 generations of eagle-hunter forebears, have been met with enthusiasm everywhere they've gone. Yet even after the reviews, red carpets, interviews and photocalls with Ridley, Aisholpan's fur-booted feet remain planted on her beloved steppe.
When I ask if she feels like a celebrity or a feminist trailblazer, she can't bring herself to answer. 'I was raised with eagles,' she says simply. 'I was looking at my father and seeing it as normal. But [later] when people were coming up with the idea that girls can't do this, I just wondered, why not?'
I have come to spend two days with Aisholpan and her family in this distant corner of western Mongolia: her father, Nurgaiv, 48 (known by the diminutive Agalai), her mother, Almagul, 47 (known as Alma), her two brothers and sister, Saigulug, 12, and her sister-in-law, Alia. Kinfolk and continuity are everything to the nomads, a point underlined by the fact that their only neighbours are Agalai's brother and his family.
All seven members of Aisholpan's immediate family share one low-ceilinged room sited out of the icy wind, at the foot of a range of jagged hills. It's roughly 15ft by 25ft and also houses the stove and kitchen area. Baldyrgan Baidolda (known as Baldo, my guide and interpreter) and I will be sharing it, too. We also share the lavatory, an open-air pit 50ft or so from the house, with waist-height dry-stone walls on three sides.
For washing, there is a bowl filled from a well sunk on the property. Each person has less space than the sole occupant of the windowless 6ft-by-8ft anteroom through which the living quarters are accessed. This is the domain of Aisholpan's eagle. Agalai has an eagle, too.
It is eagle-hunter tradition not to name the birds, which are always female (they're bigger and more aggressive) and are always returned to the wild after seven years, when they reach breeding maturity. Instead they're known by their age.
Agalai's is currently called Balapan, Kazakh for 'one-year-old'; Aisholpan's two-year-old is Tastuluk, but will soon be Tirnek (three). That said, Aisholpan has given her eagle a name: White Feathers. (Aisholpan's own name translates as Moon Venus.)
I ask Agalai why eagle hunting is so important to his people. 'This tradition is 2,000 years old,' he replies. 'Poor people survived by eagle hunting – catching the animal, selling the pelts. So it's important for us to keep that tradition alive. We have a really small population in the Altai Mountains, so the thing we can be most proud of is eagle hunting.'
Even by the standards of nomadic life in the windswept heart of Central Asia, being an eagle hunter is tough. This is evident in the person of Agalai. He's missing teeth after a fall from his horse on the mountains, and has scars around his right thumb where an eagle talon went in one side and came out the other ('it's not a big deal').
This, he says, is why eagle hunting was hitherto a male preserve. 'In our culture, the men look after the women. Hunting with eagles takes place only during the wintertime, and sometimes we go alone, just ourselves in the mountains. It's very cold, high rocks, high snows. Also, carrying the bird on the arm is not easy for the ladies.'
None of this daunted Aisholpan. After her elder brother, Samarkan, was drafted into the Mongolian army, it fell to her as the next oldest child to take over the duties of helping her father with his eagle. But she wasn't content with helping. She wanted to learn.
In late 2013, a young Israeli fresh out of the military was backpacking through the north-west corner of Mongolia, where the country borders Russia, China and Kazakhstan, trying to establish himself as a documentary photographer. Asher Svidensky sought out Kazakh eagle hunters, shooting weather-roughened men in traditional costume. 'Classic stuff,' he tells me, meaning it was clichéd. So he decided to embark on something more, a project on 'successors' – the generational handover of traditions.
With a driver and an interpreter, he says, he 'drove around the province, thousands of kilometres, knocking on doors, seeing if families wanted to take part and talking to the kids – and quite by chance I met Aisholpan.' Svidenksy's photostory was published on the BBC News website. The image of Aisholpan caught the eye of a commercial filmmaker, Otto Bell, who was used to travelling the world making short documentaries for companies such as American Express and IBM.
But the shots of Aisholpan and White Feathers sparked an idea for his first feature. 'I thought they were watercolours,' he remembers. 'I saw the landscape, the Altai Mountains; these birds – the biggest golden eagles in the world; and then I saw Aisholpan's face. She's angelic. I saw these three things and thought, there's got to be a film behind this.' Bell contacted Svidenksy, and together they got in touch with Aisholpan's father.
The pair, together with American cameraman Chris Raymond, then flew to Ulaanbaatar, before making the long journey to the family's summer ger. Bell pitched his idea to Agalai and his daughter. The family, by now somewhat used to being photographed by intrepid tourists, agreed.
As Agalai saw it, anything that promoted his proud Kazakh tradition could only be a good thing. As it happened, at that moment, father and daughter were about to embark on a crucial stage of her training: they were going to steal a chick, an eaglet she would rear as her own.
Would Bell like to film the expedition? The sequence, hastily shot on the basic equipment the trio had brought with them, is the most heart-stopping part of The Eagle Huntress. No helmets or harnesses here. Agalai lowers his daughter over a cliff edge on a single rope knotted round her waist, then shouts instructions as she inches her away along a crumbling ledge towards the nest, armed with only a blanket, while the mother eagle circles overhead.
'I didn't think of any danger,' murmurs Aisholpan when I ask about that day. 'Except that the mother eagle might come and attack me. But apart from that I wasn't worried; it was normal. To me, climbing in the mountains is like a game. People always ask me about this, and I'm always wondering, why are you asking?'
It's not the only jaw-dropping sequence in The Eagle Huntress. Aisholpan's journey, climaxing with her competing in the annual Eagle Festival in the regional capital, Olgii (the first female ever to do so), is a triumph of the spirit. The film has made Aisholpan famous in Mongolia, a country of fewer than three million people.
In July she was a guest of honour at the 11th annual Asia-Europe Meeting, a 51-country summit held this year in Ulaanbaatar. She met President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and several other heads of state. 'All of them wanted a picture with me!' she says, beaming. I see some on her phone: nervously grinning middle-aged men in suits, an eagle on their outstretched arms.
Aisholpan stands next to them in the traditional ceremonial costume of frilly white dress, white boots, blue blouson and a helmet with owl-feather plumage. The film has also made her somewhat famous worldwide. She has a Facebook page with 'three or four thousand "friends"', but seems a reluctant user of social media.
Baldo, who accompanies the family on their international duties, says, 'Many people write asking to meet her. She doesn't reply except to the people she knows.' Life remains simple. All the family's possessions seem to be artfully packed around the perimeter of their clean, warm home. And apart from Agalai's recently purchased second-hand Toyota Land Cruiser, it's here that I see the only evidence of the change wrought by The Eagle Huntress.
Some of the bedding is packed into a promotional Amazon Studios rucksack from the Telluride Film Festival; Aisholpan wears a hot-pink I [Heart] New York wristband; on the wall is a snap of her and her parents on Santa Monica Pier, screaming delightedly on the Pacific Park rollercoaster. Other than that, there seems little material impact. The television is still tiny, the electricity still supplied by a single solar panel; the home still one busy and laughter-filled room.
To my eyes, it's a cramped environment in which to share your every hour. When I need to use the pit in the night, I step gingerly past eight people, one eagle and one hunting dog. It's about to get more cramped still: Alia is heavily pregnant. The couple's privacy amounts to a curtain round their bed in one corner of the room. I ask Baldo if they will move to their own place when the baby comes.
'Maybe not. Kazakh tradition is that the son stays until the next son gets married.' The most important benefit, everyone agrees, is Aisholpan's education. When news of The Eagle Huntress spread in Mongolia, a fee-paying Turkish school in Olgii – 'One of the best in the country,' says Baldo – offered her a free place. She boards there during the week in term time. This 'Hollywood dividend' has only reinforced her ambitions. To be a film star? Hardly. 'To be a doctor,' she says, eyes shining.
The Eagle Huntress is released on December 16
December 2 (The New York Times) One of the heartwarmers at this year's Sundance Film Festival was "The Eagle Huntress," a documentary about a 13-year-old Kazakh girl living in northwest Mongolia, determined to break into the traditionally all-male sport of hunting with trained birds of prey.
The film, by Otto Bell, has been nominated for a Producers Guild Award and is a strong contender for an Oscar nomination. In promoting it, its young star, Aisholpan Nurgaiv, now 15, wore her land's traditional clothes as she traveled to the Toronto and Telluride film festivals (among others) with her father and translator. The three met up briefly in New York last month, just a short time before embarking on their 20-hour journey back home, where Aisholpan is enjoying newfound fame and planning to help her younger sister learn the art of eagle hunting too.
Is it your first time in New York — what do you think?
It's my second time in New York, my third time in the United States. There are so many people here, and the city is very beautiful.
Are you homesick?
I've been here four days. I don't miss my home that much, but I'm always thinking about it. My older brother is taking care of my eagle now. I do miss her a lot. We have so many memories together.
How did you meet Otto, and, at that time, had you found your eagle yet?
Asher Svidensky, who is a photographer, took my photo, and then brought Otto to my home. During that time, I didn't have my own eagle — I was sometimes hunting with my father's eagle. But I had plans to get my own. The eagle I have in the movie is the same one I have now. She's already three years old, but I have two years left at high school now, and after graduation I might study in a different city, far away from my homeland and my eagle. So I might release my eagle in two years, and stop hunting with eagles. But I also plan to teach my younger sister eagle hunting.
Does your eagle have a name?
Yes, Aq Qanattarı, which means white wings. Earlier, according to tradition, people usually don't give names to eagles or the animals, so I'm kind of the first person to do that.
Do the people back home know about the movie?
Yes, and they are already proud of me, because I'm famous now. They haven't seen the film yet, but they can't wait to see it. It was very interesting and very funny to watch myself on the big screen. There were also some moments when I didn't realize I was being filmed.
The film shows several older men who are eagle hunters saying it was no sport for a girl. Have their opinions changed?
Yes, before they were saying that it's not a girl's activity, but after I won the festival, and after I did some hunting with my father's friends, they shared their experiences with their friends about what I did. So right now they fully accept me as an eagle huntress.
Do more girls want to do it, having seen you succeed?
Yes, last year there was another girl in the festival, and this year there are two more, so right now there are four eagle huntresses.
You started a revolution.
"Angel by the Wings" is a piano-driven ballad from the new documentary The Eagle Huntress, which tells the story of a 13-year-old Mongolian girl training to become the first female eagle hunter in her country. It begins on a soft, somber note before bursting into a dramatic declaration of triumph: "You can do anything," Sia repeats on the booming chorus. Yep, this one definitely gets you in the mood to see a badass, eagle-hunting teen shatter the glass ceiling.
The Eagle Huntress — executive-produced and narrated by Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Daisy Ridley — is in theaters now, and will probably send your spirit soaring if this new jam is any indication.
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December 4 (TV, Eh?) Whoa, talk about one heck of a winter finale for Heartland. "A Horse with No Rider," was jam-packed with drama and danger on both sides of the world.
First, Ty and Bob were on the hunt for the elusive—and endangered—Gobi bears in Mongolia. They ran into some pretty tough customers on the road and then battled the heat and terrain in their quest before finding a cub whose mother had been killed.
Back in Alberta, Tim, Georgie and Amy fought for their own survival after a rockslide crushed the truck and horse trailer. With a horse trapped inside the trailer, Tim suffering from a concussion and Amy in physical distress with the baby, Season 10 is taking a break with plenty of drama.
One of the most interesting—and galvanizing—storylines this season has been Ty's personal journey. He left Heartland with Bob because of something he believes in, despite Amy's pregnancy. Not only has this story angle been an adventure for Ty but actor Graham Wardle, who really jetted to Mongolia earlier this year to film segments for the series and Ty's blog, BordenWithoutBorders. With 10 seasons playing Ty under his belt, we spoke to Wardle about Ty's journey, his time in Mongolia and what's the come for his character.
I just watched the pilot episode of Heartland on Netflix a week or so ago. Was it ever a kick to see Ty in a leather jacket and smoking a cigarette.
Graham Wardle: [Laughs.] Yeah, that was the character back then. He was a smoker, but they axed that as soon as the show got picked up. They were like, 'Yeah, we're not going to have him smoke.' I think it was a wise decision, because having to smoke on-screen for 10 seasons … my character would have lung cancer by now. [Laughs.]
What's it been like to have that character evolution? To go from a guy who was rough and tumble to the man we see today, who not only has a baby on the way but is in Mongolia because of something he believes in?
I'm very honoured to be part of the journey this character has been on and able to contribute to it. I think that's what every artist wants to get out of their work. To contribute something authentic, to contribute something that inspires them and other people as well and speaks to bigger truths about turning your life around or going from a rebel troublemaker to getting his life straightened out and standing up for what he believes in is a big turn. That's a big storyline. I'm a bit older than the character, but close enough in age that, as he goes through these things I learn and then want to contribute and add to him. I feel very blessed and passionate about telling those bigger stories, arcs and journeys. This is one of them.
I wanted to talk to you because of Ty heading to Mongolia. You really went there to film scenes. How did that and the story that sent Ty there come about?
It was a bit of a collaboration where I had sort of presented an idea about doing something a little bit different and we were going back and forth. [Showrunner] Heather [Conkie] had found a story about the Gobi bear and how there are, I think, less than 24 left in the desert. They are on the brink of extinction. And, from what I remember, the Cecil the lion incident was kind of part of that idea and how that impacts society, along with the Gobi bear story in Mongolia.
That was presented to me and I thought it was really cool, very unique and very different. As we started Season 10, I thought, 'Well, what if I really go there?' Most of the time when a character goes away somewhere they're talked about but not seen, so I thought this was an opportunity to do something new and different and, I think, add a tremendous amount of value for the audience because they'd see a new part of the world and it would expand the storyline beyond Canada and Alberta. How to other people interact with their animals on the other side of the world?
Scott Lepp, our digital producer, set up BordenWithoutBorders, where Ty updates—within the reality of the show—Amy and his family about what's going on. I went with a friend from Toronto, a good friend of mine who I went to school with named Peter Harvey. He came along and he shot stuff and I shot stuff. We were out there for just under two weeks and we did everything we could.
You said you had some ideas for Ty before this was sussed out. What were some of your ideas?
I'm actually meeting with the writers to go over potential storylines for next year and is exactly some of the stuff I pitched to them originally. I could tell you, but then it would be out about what could be happening next year. It speaks to the larger vision that I want to contribute to this role and this show … the relationship of human beings to animals and how we see that relationship. A lot of people see animals as less than us … I want to explore the magical connection between animals and us.
You mentioned yourself and Peter filming the Mongolia bits. It sounds like you're moving into producing and directing your own stuff. Is that fair?
Absolutely. I'm writing my own scripts and taking classes and doing my best to further my storytelling abilities behind the camera. That fits into that vision of what I feel passionate about in my life and what I want to contribute to the world is telling stories either in front of or behind the camera.
What was filming like in Mongolia? It's not a country I know very much about.
Neither did I! I got a Lonely Planet book and was reading it. I met a guy from Mongolia who was an actor on the show before I went over. We filmed some stuff in Drumheller and I was talking to him about it and he told me what it was like. Filming there was a challenge at first because of the jet lag. Peter and myself taking care of the acting, the continuity, the scripts, the costumes and the filming … that was a challenge to do all at once. The heat wasn't that bad, the people were really friendly, we could stop and talk to anybody at the side of the road and find out what was going on. Beautiful country and beautiful people.
OK, so what segments were actually filmed in Mongolia? Bob and Ty looking for the bear cub was done in Drumheller.
Almost all of the Skype calls, the blog and then some establishing shots were done in Mongolia. The rest is Drumheller doubling as Mongolia.
Let's talk about Ty and Amy. This storyline has been galvanizing for the fans. Some want him on this journey and others think he should be with Amy. Where do you stand, as Graham the actor?
It's something I took seriously as an actor and a person. We all have responsibilities in our lives, things we are committed to and responsible for. At the same time, we all have dreams, hopes and wanting to experience and give more. This storyline is important to me because I think it's something everyone struggles with, including me. How do you balance your passion with making time for your family, your loved ones and your responsibilities? I'm glad that the fans are interacting because it means it's striking a chord with them and they're asking those questions or stating those opinions. That conversation is out there and I'm happy about it.
What can you say about how this experience affects Ty? I feel like taking care of horses would be boring.
Hey man, you're onto the nerve of it in a sense. That's what I want to talk to with the writers. Where does he go from this? How do things change going forward? We have some pretty cool ideas about that.
Heartland returns with new episodes on Sunday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. on CBC.
November 30 --
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