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Monday, January 30, 2017

[MATD drops on Shell delay; MNT gains 1% last week; and thousands protest air pollution again]

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Monday, January 30, 2017

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

Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

HEADLINES

Int'l Market

·         Petro Matad Tender Marred By Further Delay To Shell Payment

·         Government to resume talks on Gatsuurt deposit

·         Xanadu: Retirement of Chairman

·         MMC CEO delves into debt restructuring and coal market

Local Market

·         MSE Weekly Report: Top 20 -0.38%, ALL -0.75%, Turnover ₮262.9 Million Shares, ₮8.5 Billion T-Bills

Economy

·         MNT gains almost 1% last week

·         BoM issues ₮122 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +28.5% to ₮428.4 billion

·         BoM declines USD, CNY bids, USD ask offers; declines MNT, USD swap offers

·         Meat prices increase 20 percent from December

·         Automobile import increases in 2016, while truck import drops

·         World Bank predicts industrial commodities prices will surge in 2017

Politics & Legal

·         First cash handout for the elderly to be issued this February

·         Cabinet approves 2017 socio-economic development scheme

·         Revised law on the elderly approved

·         Apartment for the visually impaired to be commissioned in February

·         MP N.Oyundari delves into main changes in the new Law on Domestic Violence

·         Law on Arbitration revised

·         "Student-soldier" regulations amended

·         €50 Million Soft Loan from Poland to Be Submitted to Parliament

·         Police to hold repeat drunk driving offenders in jail for up to 30 days

·         Government bodies to have councils on rights of disabled

·         AmCham Daily NewsWire, January 26

·         AmCham Daily NewsWire, January 27

Business

·         Excise taxes on gasoline and diesel reduced

·         Deloitte: Mongolia Tax Highlights 2017

·         General Taxation Department head elaborates on VAT refunds and future plans

·         Sanitizing transiting vehicles in Nalaikh after animal pox outbreak

·         D.Gankhuyag: Mongolia can fully supply China's energy needs using only solar

·         Renewable energy in Mongolia discussed at IRENA Assembly

·         Energy Minister attends first session of ESCAP Committee on Energy

·         Rich in livestock – poor in regulation

·         De Facto: How the Japanese see Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar

·         In frigid cold, Mongolians stand in protest of air pollution

·         Record Smog Forces Ulaanbaatar to Take Action

·         Invaluable clean air

·         Young lieutenant saves four lives, named city's best official

·         Museum of Ulaanbaatar City

Diplomacy

·         Elbegdorj: Mongolia as a neutral state

·         Parliament approves extending diplomatic appointments to four years

·         Mongolia and US celebrate 30th anniversary of ties

·         Belarus seeks closer all-round cooperation with Mongolia

·         Belarus ready to share advanced agricultural technologies with Mongolia

·         MFA State Secretary receives Ambassador of Belarus

·         Transport Minister D.Ganbat meets French Ambassador

·         Vietnamese community in Mongolia celebrate Lunar New Year

·         "Kuwait District" project to assist flood victims in Bayan-Ulgii

·         Mongolia opens information center on Java

·         Khusugtun performs for Mongolia-Brazil diplomatic anniversary

·         Brazil hopes for better economic collaboration with Mongolia

·         Mongolian peacekeepers receive medals from NATO

·         The Developing Strategic Partnership between India and Mongolia: Challenges and Opportunities

Health & Education

·         Coronary disease prevention project to be implemented with JICA

·         Mongolian hospital performs 228 open heart surgeries a year

·         Methylated spirit detected from blood sample of man who died of alcohol poisoning

·         Selenium-enriched eggs for Mongolia

·         EU project aims to highlight importance of biosafety in Mongolia

·         Mongolian students gain "Best Hack Award" at JP HACKS in Japan

·         UVA Center for Politics Hosts Mongolia Delegation

Culture & Society

·         Genghis Khan's Golden Saddle on its Way to The Dutch National Military Museum

·         UNESCO to register traditional Mongolian handicrafts

·         Desert Dwellers: Explore Life Amongst Mongolia's Singing Dunes

·         Studying human generosity around the globe

·         How should Mongolian parents be raising their children?

·         Guest Post: Mongol Man Conquers American Woman's Heart

Nature & Environment

·         Dzud 2017: Impacting Women and Their Families

·         Herders to receive assistance from USAID and Red Cross

·         Mongolia: Lethal livestock plague now hitting endangered antelope, warns UN agency

·         Protect Snow Leopards, Says Global Leaders

Sports

·         Mongolian bandy team tops group after beating Ukraine, Japan, Hungary

·         Farewell ceremony held for Mongolian Winter Universiade team

·         Mongolian girls' U14 football team trains for Hong Kong tournament

·         Olympic participant pin awarded to Rio 2016 team

·         State Ice Climbing Championship features new artificial ice wall

Art & Entertainment

·         Hard Rock Café Hosting Elvis Presley Tribute Night

·         Tusgal Photography Club's 'The Edge of Blue Heaven' Exhibition

·         Folk tale-based play to be staged for children

·         Mongolian embroidery art exhibition opens

·         Top U.S. cello rock band to play with traditional Mongolian musicians

·         Mongolia wins bronze at Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships

Travel

·         10 Popular Questions On Mongolia

·         Indy Guide: Central Mongolia Tour of Beauties, Nomadic & Culture, 5 Days

·         Indy Guide: Winter Tour in Mongolia: Terelj national park short tour, 3D

·         Indy Guide: Western Mongolia and Gobi safari tours, 19 days

 

 

ARTICLES

Int'l Market

MATD closed -13.09% Friday to 20.75p

Petro Matad Tender Marred By Further Delay To Shell Payment

LONDON, January 27 (Alliance News) - Petro Matad Ltd shares dropped on Friday after the launch of a tender offer for drilling services on the company's two blocks in Mongolia was overshadowed by yet another delay to the USD5 million payment due from oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

Petro Matad has been waiting since last year for the USD5 million payment from Shell, owed after the FTSE 100 constituent opted to exit from the joint development of Blocks IV and V in Mongolia.

Shell paid Petro Matad USD10 million as a result and was expected to pay a further USD5 million once Shell's interest had been reassigned to Petro Matad and the Mongolian government had signed off its approval.

The process was first delayed due to the Mongolian national elections in June and the subsequent reorganization of government departments, causing approval to take longer than expected. Petro Matad, in November, had said it was not sure exactly when the payment would be secured, but guided it would be before the end of 2016, subsequently stating it would be secured before Christmas day.

No payment had been made by January 10, when Petro Matad said the Petroleum Authority of Mongolia proposed a change in wording of the protocols of reassignment, described "purely a technical matter", causing further delays.

Still, Petro Matad told shareholders payment was still expected within weeks and, following the signing of the new protocols of reassignment last week, Petro Matad said Shell would pay the company by Friday last week.

Petro Matad on Friday said the payment from Shell is now due "early next week", without providing a reason for the latest delay. If received, Petro Matad will push its cash balance up to USD11 million from the current balance of USD6 million.

The company believes USD11 million will be enough to undertake a drilling programme this year as planned, even without finding a new partner to enter the project as desired.

Petro Matad continues to search for a partner for the two Mongolian blocks, stating there has been "considerable interest shown by potential farmee's in all the company's blocks", which includes Block XX as well as Blocks IV and V.

"To date, a significant number of companies have signed confidentiality agreements and have gained access to our virtual dataroom. The virtual dataroom is a convenient mechanism for companies to initially review data on-line and decide if they want to move to the next stage, which would be to visit the company's physical dataroom. Most companies that visited the virtual dataroom have requested access to the physical dataroom, and this process is ongoing," said Petro Matad.

On a more positive note, Petro Matad on Friday said it has launched a tender for drilling services needed for its planned work programme this year as scheduled, which will involve drilling two wells in 2017, the first of which will spud in the middle of the year.

Petro Matad pre-qualified potential new bidders for the tender last year and also had received interest from companies that had undertaken work for the London-listed firm previously. In total, four companies have been issued the tender, Petro Matad said.

"Based on pre-qualification results, drilling operational facility visits and rig inspections of the pre-qualified drilling contractors which were undertaken in Mongolia and abroad, the company believes that any of these potential bidders will be able to undertake the drilling programme," said Petro Matad.

Bids are due to be received in late February and, after an evaluation of the offers, Petro Matad expects to offer the final contract "in late March or early April," with the rig to be mobilised "shortly thereafter".

"Further details of the drilling campaign and identification of the successful bidder will be disclosed in future announcements," said Petro Matad.

In addition, Petro Matad is holding important discussions with the Mongolian authorities about extending the initial eight-year production sharing contracts covering Blocks IV and V as they are due to expire on July 29, 2017.

The contracts include the provision to extend the production sharing contracts twice, each by two years or four years in total.

"Production sharing contract extension discussions with the regulatory body have commenced and no issues are expected. The company expects that the extensions will be granted well in advance of the commencement of the drilling programme," said Petro Matad.

Petro Matad shares were trading down 7.9% to 22.00 pence per share on Friday, still 2.7 times higher than the start of 2017 and 8.0 times higher than one year ago.

Link to article

Link to MATD release

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Government to resume talks on Gatsuurt deposit

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) During its regular meeting on January 25, the Cabinet resolved to establish working groups designed to hold talks with Centerra Gold Inc, which holds a mining license in Gatsuurt gold deposit regarding the establishment of investment and exploitation agreements on the strategic deposit.

Representatives of the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports and Ministry of Environment and Tourism are included in the working group on exploitation agreement whereas those of the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Development Agency are included in the working group on investment agreement.

The Gatsuurt gold deposit was defined a deposit of strategic importance by Parliament resolution issued on January 23, 2015. Moreover, Parliament resolution of February 4, 2016 fixed the Government ownership percentage of the deposit at 34 percent. Though a working group established by an ordinance of Prime Minister had been engaging in talks on exploitation and investment agreements in accordance with the above mentioned resolutions, the talks were at a halt. And now, the agreement talks are set to resume.

Link to article

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XAM closed flat Friday at A$0.205

Xanadu: Retirement of Chairman

January 27 -- Xanadu Mines Ltd (ASX: XAM – "Xanadu" or "Company") wishes to announce that Mr. Mark Wheatley has decided to step down as Chairman and Non-Executive Director.

Mark has advised the Board that he will be leaving Xanadu at the Company's Annual General Meeting in May 2017.

The Board wishes to thank Mark for his commitment and valued contribution as Director since November 2012 and as Chairman since November 2013 where he has acted in both executive and non-executive roles, overseeing the transformation and growth of Xanadu during very tough commodity and equity markets. The Board will commence a search for a suitable replacement.

Mr. Mark Wheatley, commented "The Company is now in the best shape its been in during my tenure with a healthy cash balance to follow up the recent excellent drilling results at our flagship Kharmagtai copper-gold project and I am very keen to continue to support Andrew and the Board and assist in the transition to a new Chairman over the coming months."

Link to release

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MMC CEO delves into debt restructuring and coal market

January 26 (UB Post) Recently, Bloomberg reported that Energy Resources LLC had successfully restructured its debt and that the bond and stock value of the company had risen. The CEO of Energy Resources LLC, G.Battsengel, spoke to Bloomberg Television Mongolia regarding the company's debt and the performance of the coal market. Energy Resources LLC is an indirectly, wholly-owned subsidiary of Mongolian Mining Corporation (MMC), which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Around 94 percent of bondholders supported debt restructuring. What conditions were agreed upon?

The debt restructuring process of Mongolian Mining Corporation (MMC) started in January 2016. Looking at the debt in its entirety, it was the 600 million USD bond issued in 2012 and the 93 million USD owed to BNP and ICBC. In late 2016, we came to an agreement with all parties regarding the debt. First, the repayment of the bond was postponed by six years, to 2022. Second, the previous interest rate was consistently around 8.077 percent. In light of the drop in the market price for coal, it was agreed that the interest rate would become a floating rate that would fluctuate between five to eight percent. In other words, depending on the market price of coal, the interest rate is likely to decrease. Third, we managed to decrease the volume of the bond.The bank loans were 93 million USD, the bond repayment 600 million USD, and the accumulated interest totaled about 750 million USD. We came to an agreement, which helped lower the 750 million USD to around 425 million USD. This resulted in the current account of the company yielding a positive balance. All of the agreements mentioned were discussed in 2016. On January 13, 2017, 94 percent of bondholders officially agreed to the conditions of the agreements.

In terms of cash flow and financial pressure, how have the agreements positively affected the company?

Postponing and lowering the volume of the 750 million USD debt is a big issue. Our financial expenditure will basically be cut in half.

What do you have planned to improve performance and cut costs this year?

Of course, in order to improve the competitiveness of the company, costs must be cut and efficiency must be improved. If you look at the financial reports of the company since 2012, we have consistently decreased costs and expenditure every year.

We have worked to decrease the cost of transport to the Chinese border crossing of Gants Mod. It cost around 80 USD to transport one ton of coal concentrate to Gants Mod in 2011 and 2012. Now, the cost is around 50 USD. Yet, even though we have cut costs, the downfall of the market price of coal has affected our operations.

Our investors and bondholders understanding the current situation and coming to an agreement shows us that they support the company long-term.

The issue that has been at the forefront for both investors and the public is undoubtedly the Tavan Tolgoi project and contract. How will the negotiations continue? How do you see the involvement and responsibilities of your company in the project?

When the bid was announced, our company established a consortium with China's Shenhua Group and Japan's Sumitomo Corporation. The new government has appointed a large working group to work on the Tavan Tolgoi negotiations. They are working to take many things, such as the legal aspects and economic benefits, into account. The position that Energy Resources takes regarding Tavan Tolgoi is that this project is beneficial to Mongolia; it will increase cash flow and export revenue.

The final say for the negotiations lies with Cabinet and the government, meaning that this issue will probably be presented to Parliament. Whatever decision the government makes, we are ready to cooperate. However, our company has decided the issue of our debt. The market price for coal has been increasing somewhat, and financial performance and sales have risen as a result. Therefore, we are focusing more on our main operations. In other words, we see the Tavan Tolgoi project as an opportunity to expand our business portfolio.

Recently, Cabinet gave coal companies an order to implement a unified policy on coal exports. Which policies will your company be adhering to regarding cooperating with other companies to determine pricing?

We have expressed, time and time again, that Mongolia must cooperate domestically and coal companies do not need to drive prices down; this hurts the country. There has been news that all coal companies operating in the Tavan Tolgoi region have been cooperating andmaking an effort to increase prices, even state-owned Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi has increased their prices. Our company's price for coal at the end of 2016 was 120 USD per one ton of coal.

It is not known whether or not the current market price will be consistent until the end of Lunar New Year celebrations. There is hope, however, that average coal prices in 2017 will be higher than those of 2016.

Undoubtedly, your company has created a business plan for 2017. What are your forecasts for export revenue and coal sales?

The investment and construction that Energy Resources LLC has accomplished is well-known. A refinery with the capacity to process 15 million tons of coal annually is ready to work. All essential infrastructure, water supply, a power station, and transportation network has been built. We hope to use our facilities to their full capacity, depending on market conditions.

When the market price for coal is ideal, like it is today, it is important to use the opportunity and work at full capacity.

Link to article

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Local Market

MSE Weekly Report: Top 20 -0.38%, ALL -0.75%, Turnover 262.9 Million Shares, 8.5 Billion T-Bills

January 27 (MSE) --

Link to report

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Economy

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

BoM MNT Rates: Friday, January 27 Close

 

1/27

1/26

1/25

1/24

1/23

1/20

1/19

1/18

1/17

1/16

High

Date

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USD

2,465.63

2,474.49

2,479.91

2,484.27

2,487.89

2,489.44

2,491.83

2,495.23

2,490.83

2,495.29

2,498.75

1/10/2017

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EUR

2,631.57

2,655.25

2,656.85

2,667.61

2,672.62

2,656.85

2,651.81

2,664.41

2,653.61

2,648.88

2,681.43

11/10/2016

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JPY

21.40

21.75

21.84

21.91

21.92

21.69

21.70

22.02

21.98

21.87

23.49

11/09/2016

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GBP

3,095.97

3,124.79

3,098.65

3,097.51

3,099.29

3,070.10

3,060.09

3,075.75

3,018.64

3,005.08

3,183.26

8/13/2014

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RUB

40.89

41.43

41.94

41.94

41.84

41.72

41.95

42.21

41.94

41.89

54.32

6/27/2014

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CNY

358.29

359.65

360.51

362.32

362.77

362.24

362.66

364.95

362.06

361.91

363.02

1/5/2017

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KRW

2.10

2.13

2.13

2.13

2.13

2.13

2.11

2.14

2.13

2.11

2.14

12/08/2016

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SGD

1,725.79

1,744.81

1,745.37

1,750.47

1,753.21

1,746.55

1,744.25

1,757.02

1,751.08

1,745.75

1,757.02

1/18/2017

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CAD

1,880.87

1,890.80

1,886.51

1,872.52

1,874.26

1,871.48

1,877.44

1,908.84

1,902.05

1,899.73

1,908.84

1/18/2017

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AUD

1,856.25

1,869.72

1,867.50

1,877.49

1,881.34

1,881.64

1,875.23

1,882.90

1,875.72

1,864.85

1,886.29

11/10/2016

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HKD

317.80

318.97

319.68

320.27

320.71

320.89

321.23

321.70

321.16

321.76

322.21

1/10/2017

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CHF

2,461.20

2,474.98

2,474.34

2,485.64

2,490.38

2,475.33

2,475.12

2,484.55

2,474.99

2,470.58

2,497.77

11/09/2016

Bank USD rates at time of sending: Khan (Buy ₮2,445 Sell ₮2,470), TDB (site down), Golomt (Buy ₮2,445 Sell ₮2,468), XacBank (Buy ₮2,442 Sell ₮2,467), State Bank (Buy ₮2,445 Sell ₮2,470)

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

Link to rates

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BoM issues 122 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +28.5% to 428.4 billion

January 27 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 122 billion at a weighted interest rate of 14.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

Link to release

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BoM declines USD, CNY bids, USD ask offers; declines MNT, USD swap offers

January 26 (Bank of Mongolia) Spot trade: Commercial banks bid weighted average rate of MNT2462.53 for USD1.7 million, asked weighted average rate of MNT2480.23 for USD16.0 million and bid weighted average rate of MNT353.28 for CNY48.0 million respectively. the BoM did not accept any bid offers.

Swap and forward trade: The BoM received buying bid offers of USD1.0 million of MNT swap agreements and selling bid offers of USD20.0 million of USD swap agreements from commercial banks and the BoM did not accept any bid offers.

Link to release

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Meat prices increase 20 percent from December

January 27 (gogo.mn) As of Jan 25th, consumer prices have increased by 10.9 percent compared with previous month and 0.4 percent compared with previous week. 

Meat prices have increased as follows compared to Dec, 2016:

  • Lamb with bones price by 29.2 percent,
  • Beef with bones price by 23.7 percent,
  • Beef price by 10.4 percent,
  • Horse meat with bones price by 5.0 percent,
  • Goat meat with bones price 21.3 percent. 

Price for 1kg lamb with bones is at 5,675 MNT, price for 1kg beef with bones is at 6,900 MNT, price for 1kg beef is at 8,355 MNT, price for 1kg horse meat with bones is at 4,625 MNT and price for 1kg goat meat with bones is at 4,300 MNT.

Link to article

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Automobile import increases in 2016, while truck import drops

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) Automobile imports increased by 1.7 percent in 2016 compared to that of previous year. A total of 37 thousand and 738 automobiles were imported to Mongolia last year.

In terms of value, the import totaled USD 219.7 million, which represents 4.6 percent increase against 2015. USD 185.1 million or 84.2 percent of the total imported cars came from Japan, while German cars make up 7.0 percent and S.Korean cars – 3.6 percent.

In 2016, Mongolia imported automobiles from 24 countries.

On the other hand, the import of trucks decreased by 12.2 percent, going down to 6,835 trucks. The value of truck import fell by 7.5 percent to USD 46.4 million.

The majority of imported trucks are supplied from China and South Korea.

Source: Bloomberg TV Mongolia

Link to article

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World Bank predicts industrial commodities prices will surge in 2017

January 28 (UB Post) The World Bank forecasts a strong boost for industrial commodities such as energy and metals in 2017, mainly caused by a decline in supply and an increase in demand.

The bank has raised its metals price forecast to an increase of 11 percent from the four percent rise anticipated in its October outlook, based on further tightening of supply and strong demand from China and other advanced economies. The largest gains are expected in zinc (27 percent) and lead (18 percent) due to mine supply constraints brought on by permanent and discretionary closures. Double-digit gains are also expected for copper, nickel, and tin. "Prices for most commodities appear to have bottomed out last year and are on track to climb in 2017," said John Baffes, senior economist and lead author of the Commodity Markets Outlook. "However, changes in policies could alter this path."

Precious metals prices are projected to fall seven percent in 2017, mainly due to weak investment demand, prospects of a stronger dollar, and rising real interest rates. Gold prices are expected to decline eight percent on weak investment demand, while silver prices are expected to fall by four percent.

Commodity-exporting emerging and developing economies have been hit hard by slowing investment growth, which fell from 7.1 percent in2010 to 1.6 percent in 2015, according to World Bank.

"Investment weakness, both public and private, hinders a range of activity in commodity-exporting emerging market and developing economies," said Ayhan Kose, director of World Bank's Development Prospects Group. "Most of these economies have limited policy space to counteract the slowdown in investment growth, so they need to employ measures to enhance the business environment, promote economic diversification, and improve governance to better growth prospects over the longer term."

Mongolia falls into the category of commodity-exporting countries which have experienced low investment growth. Economists predict the forecasted increase of commodities prices in 2017 will help slightly in alleviating the pressures put on the Mongolian economy.

Coal, one of Mongolia's top exports, is expected by World Bank to average 70 USD per ton in 2017, due to supply additions and weakening import demand from China. The bank highlighted that China's coal policy will be a key determinant on prices, as China consumes half of the world's coal output and coal accounts for nearly two-thirds of the country's energy consumption. The Chinese government has recently been changing its policy on coal, placing restrictions on output and then relaxing restrictions. In 2016, China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) ordered coal mines to produce coal for 276 days instead of 330 days, decreasing output by 16 percent. They reverted to a 330-day production basis in November. The NDRC has ordered thermal power stations to sign contracts to buy coal at a ceiling of 77 USD per ton.

Link to article

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Politics & Legal

First cash handout for the elderly to be issued this February

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) During its regular meeting on January 25, the Cabinet discussed and approved the procedure for issuance of Longevity grant for elders.

N.Nomtoibayar, Minister for Labor and Social Protection was assigned to see to the issuance of the grant starting this February.

Law of Mongolia on Elders' Social Protection reflects that elders will receive a Longevity grant twice a year on national holidays Tsagaan sar and Naadam. In compliance with this, elders of age 65-69 will be given MNT 50 thousand, 70-79 MNT 80 thousand, 80-89 MNT 150 thousand and elders above 90 will receive MNT 250 thousand.

Following document submission and related process, elders meeting the age requirement or their confidential legal person will receive the benefit through a commercial bank which established an agreement with the corresponding government organization in charge of social welfare. The law also states that the benefit will be issued to a legal person of elders living abroad after accreditation by a diplomatic mission in the country.

The commercial banks will initiate a bank account for longevity grant for free. The Longevity grant procedure also authorizes that the banks won't charge elders transaction fee of any kind. More importantly, the benefit won't be deducted in repayment of pension loan or any loan and loan interest.

The Longevity grant will be issued to some 122 thousand elders on national level in 2017. Age-wise, there are 43,089 elders aged between 65 and 69, 57,624 elders of age 70-79, 18,700 elders of age 80-89 and 2,492 elders aged above 90.

Link to article

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Cabinet approves 2017 socio-economic development scheme

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) At its regular meeting on January 25, the Cabinet  approved an action scheme to realize 'The 2017 directions for the economic and social development of Mongolia'. General budget administrators were ordered to allocate and spend the required money efficiently, and work attentively towards mustering non-budgetary sources.

In accordance with the scheme, a total of 342 measures - 31 in macro-economic sphere, 118 in frames of sectoral policies to facilitate economic growth, 64 in frames of policy on regional and rural development and environment, 65 in frames of social policy on human development and 64 in governance, legal renovation, foreign policy and defense will be taken.

This year, the Government will focus on activating major mining and infrastructure projects, ensuring economic growth, reducing unemployment, maintaining inflation at a low and stable level, lowering budget deficit than last year's and enforcing progress in every sector.

With realization of the scheme, it's estimated that economic growth will reach 3 percent, inflation 6.5 percent, percentage of budget deficit in GDP 9.1 percent and unemployment rate no more than 9 percent. MNT 5.4 trillion is required to realize the scheme; and the financing sources are state budget - MNT 353.9 billion, private sector investment 4.1 trillion and foreign sources - MNT 825 billion and others - MNT 104 billion.

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Revised law on the elderly approved

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) Draft new-wording of the law on the elderly was submitted to the parliament on November 11, 2016. After the affiliated standing committee had revised certain provisions, the finalized version was approved by the parliament session on January 26 at its final reading.

During the introduction of the parliament session on the revised law, PMs S.Erdene, Kh.Bolorchuluun, O.Baasankhuu, S.Chinzorig and D.Lundeejantsan asked questions and stated their positions. From the 57 members, 47 (83.9%) approved during the vote, also 78.6% voted to repeal the law on social welfare for the elderly, which was approved in 2005. 

The revision secluded one-time free resort voucher, instead, set out to add more doctors in every health care clinics. Minimum age for endowment grant on national holidays is now set at 65 from 70.

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Apartment for the visually impaired to be commissioned in February

January 29 (UB Post) Ulaanbaatar's first apartment for the blind and visually impaired is nearing its opening in February. Officials stated that the construction work is at 90 percent completion at present.

"Bayangol District staff are working at the Vocational Institute for Industry and Craftsmanship for the Blind, located in 3rd khoroo of our district, as part of 'One District – One Organization' measure. We are discussing details of the new apartment being built for those living with visual impairment, mainly the construction process, its quality, and how people can make orders. We will commission the apartment before Tsagaan Sar," said Bayangol District Mayor S.Odontuya.

Bayangol District is currently focusing on sales of products produced by the Vocational Institute for Industry and Craftsmanship for the Blind. The district mayor was pleased that the district was able to construct the apartment for 90 households with blind or visually impaired members.

"Most importantly, the apartment provides comfortable living conditions for the blind and visually impaired who hardly receive any support from others. Their commute to the vocational institute will become easier when they move into the apartment," Mayor S.Odontuya assured.

Director of the Center for the Blind E.Boldsaikhan emphasized the importance of housing people living with visual impairment through government investment, explaining that visually impaired people couldn't afford apartments and that they weren't included in housing projects and eight percent interest mortgage loan programs.

"Workers at the vocational institute and factory for the blind in Ulaanbaatar can immediately move into the apartment. Those interested in remaining apartments will have to submit applications and some materials to the Mongolian National Federation for the Blind and those who've been selected through a council meeting can move in," E.Boldsaikhan added.

The selection of potential residents will be determined based on living standards, current residence, and employment. Director E.Boldsaikhan underlined that the apartment isn't privatized, but state-owned and that residents will not pay rent. However, residents will have to pay a small amount of flat fee in addition to their utility bills for their monthly expenses for heat, electricity, cable, internet, and other costs.

The first design for the apartment for 90 households with blind or visually impaired members was developed in 2012 through the initiative of Member of Parliament S.Erdene. While serving as the Minister of Population Development and Social Security, S.Erdene allocated four billion MNT from his portfolio to the project and started the construction work. An additional 850 million MNT was allocated to the project in the 2016 state budget amendment.

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MP N.Oyundari delves into main changes in the new Law on Domestic Violence

The revised Law on Domestic Violence will become effective on February 1. Member of Parliament N.Oyundari, who led the working group responsible for revising the legislation, gave an interview to clarify on changes made to the law and other important domestic violence related matters. 

Parliament passed the revised Law on Domestic Violence on December 22, 2016 and the new law will become effective from next month. How much study and research did the working group do? Were there any challenges developing the bill?

The working group researched challenges faced by the police and rural communities when regulating domestic violence crimes at districts in the capital and rural settlements. We expanded the scope of the law enforcement and cooperation with NGOs, civil society organizations and international organizations.

The working group also studied Austria's practice for implementing measures against domestic violence. Considering that it was best to adopt effective practices of other countries, we made some amendments to the law. The new version has 46 articles.

The Law on Domestic Violence was amended once before by the previous Parliament. What are the main changes made to the law this time? 

It's definitely a law that impacts the lives of everyone. Several conceptual changes have been made. Overall, domestic violence is a very sensitive issue. Its scope can be broad depending on events happening between separated and blended families, and their siblings, parents and relatives. As it is a sensitive domestic matter, the scope of the legislation has been expanded and the roles of police organizations in detecting domestic violence, viewing certain actions as crime, and ensuring safety of victims have been made more specific. The new law provides additional regulations for protecting children from domestic violence, more services for victims, and allows these victims to access comprehensive services from a single place.

A council has been put in charge of enforcing a policy against domestic violence and preventing this form of crime, and eliminating the main source and cause of domestic violence. Many proposals were reflected in the law in relation to its principals, but the most important one was determining domestic violence as either administrative violation or criminal act depending on the extent of damage to the victims and impact on society.

What kind of measures will be taken through the new law?

Articles 120.1 and 120.2 of the Criminal Code states that administrative measures (fines or warnings) will be taken for first instances. If actions considered as domestic violence is continuously committed, it will be viewed a criminal offence and appropriate measures (confinement) will be taken. Every victim appealing to the court will get a trial in accordance with  the revised law. In the past, victims could cancel court trials if they refuse to make an official complaint or reconcile during investigation procedures. There were rumors that police officers pressure victims to withdraw charges. Domestic violence cases usually reoccur after investigation. Special measures have been specified to prevent this and the accountability system has been improved. The previous law didn't assign roles to organizations, but now, the government, Parliament and law enforcement agencies know exactly what their role is for preventing domestic violence. Measures to be taken by health and education institutes have been made clear.

What kinds of actions are considered domestic violence?

Domestic violence includes willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, economic abuse and other abusive behavior.

For example, a person can be charged for economic domestic violence if they repeatedly take their parent's pension without consent.

How will people extorting pension from their parents or seniors be held accountable?

The same system I mentioned before will apply. First, administrative measures will be taken, but if it continues to the extent that offenders waste victims' money for food on alcohol, for instance, several forms of penalty will be imposed to the offender, such as imprisonment.

During discussions of the revised bill, MP A.Sukhbat criticized that the law was too westernized and not suitable for Mongolian culture. Can you comment on this?

A working group from the previous and current Parliament spent a considerable amount of time working on the Law on Domestic Violence. A lot of comparisons were made with foreign legislations. We considered which practice would suit Mongolia the best. We also took into account that Mongolia has both sedentary and nomadic lifestyle when developing and approving the bill.

Is it true that victims can demand pain and suffering damages when the law becomes effective?

This kind of article isn't in the Law on Domestic Violence, but it's closely linked to the Criminal Code. Victims can suffer from emotional and mental damages besides physical ones. Some people can be emotionally and mentally abused only, which can be caused by constant restriction from having interactions with others or going to school, and due to stalking. It's an improvement that these things are now considered crimes.

It's difficult to prove pain and suffering. Wouldn't some people take advantage of the law and try to extort money from others?

Such things are inevitable. Let me share an example that happened while I worked at Songinokhairkhan District. Apparently, practically 70 to 80 percent of reports to the Songinokhairkhan District are related to domestic violence. Hence, police officers become counselors and psychologists on top of their primary work. They said that they're able to tell when someone lies when questioning about the case.

We found out that pain and suffering was always present when studying practices of other countries. Like you said, it's difficult to prove this. Let me share some common cases. A husband buys his wife a phone under his name. He can supervise incoming and outgoing calls from his wife's phone as it's legally under his ownership. This often leads to jealousy and stalking in most countries. These kinds of husbands usually make sure that they don't leave a trace of their tracking so that the victim can't provide substantial evidence for the police. Therefore, very specific things have been reflected in the law in relation to this.

According to the law, the public has a responsibility to report when they suspect or detect domestic violence. In the case that people ignore domestic violence victims, how will they be held accountable?

Article 46 is fully dedicated to specifying measures for ordinary people, as well as civil servants, who don't fulfill their responsibility to report. The law is more focused on the protection of victims and witnesses. You can find details about this from Article 23.

Overall, people are instructed to report to their soum or district mayors. All teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses, health workers, child and family support workers, administrative workers, government officials, civil servants, and independent contractors working on government projects are obliged to report if they detect or suspect domestic violence, in accordance with the law.

The law also specified seven types of services for victims of domestic violence, which includes security, health care, counseling and psychological services, as well as social welfare and legal assistance. Legal assistance includes advocacy service, which means that intermediary services will be provided too. All of this will be granted for free of charge.

Then who will cover costs of these services for domestic violence victims?

As the 2017 state budget has already been approved, there isn't a specific budget for these free services. However, the Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs assured that it was possible to manage these costs using internal resources, and through projects and programs implemented by NGOs and international organizations. Soum and provincial administrations have separate crime prevention councils that have a certain amount of financing. They said it was possible to use that financing for covering costs of these services.

Has the punishment system changed compared to the previous version of the law? How strict or light are penalties for domestic violence offenders compared to other countries?

Couples quarrel due to small problems all the time. There are some parents who believe that they need to give a good spanking to their children to discipline and educate them properly. It's impossible to start a criminal case every time it happens. The Law on Domestic Violence of Mongolia aims to help families to reconcile and become closer and stronger, whereas legislation of some countries try to immediately split families when a parent inflicts physical injury.

The most important thing is that the Law on Domestic Violence doesn't just regulate issues between spouses. It has a relatively fair coverage for issues related to seniors and children. The scope of the law has been broadened so that even harassment by parents-in-law and issues between split families are regulated.

Many couples cohabitate. Does the law regulate issues and harassment between couples who used to cohabitate?

It's common for couples to split even when they had a child while living together without marrying. Harassment by a former partner is a form of abuse so it has been legalized.

Mongolia has the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Law. How consistent is the Law on Domestic Violence with these two legislations?

The Criminal Procedure Law, adopted in 2004, was repealed following the adoption of the revised Law on Domestic Violence. Moreover, Parliament already discussed amendments to nine legislations on education, social welfare, criminal procedure and more. Several changes were made to the bills and the most important ones were penalties in the Criminal Code.

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Law on Arbitration revised

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) The State Great Khural (Parliament) passed the new version of the Law on Arbitration on Thursday's plenary meeting. The Law on Arbitration was first adopted in 2003.

According to the cabinet's presentation of the draft new wording, the former law had not met the standards set out by the United Nations Commission on the International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

Minister of Justice and Domestic Affairs S.Byambatsogt noted that sophisticating the legal provisions for arbitrary relations will help protect and promote national companies and individuals, by facilitating them with adequate arbitrary services and lawyers.

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"Student-soldier" regulations amended

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) Admissions for military service and military professions for male students of university, college, high school and vocational training center or institute of technology will be regulated by the regulation on military profession of Student-Soldier, approved by the Cabinet on January 25. 

"Student-soldier" volunteer training is available for freshmen students of accredited universities or high schools. The participating students must be registered to the military staff office of relevant districts or province by March 10 each year.

Minimum GPA for the participants must be 2.8 or higher while physical development and health will be the main criteria. The applicant must prepare identification card, student card, health insurance, approval of school/university, identification, student performance table and his request for training.

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50 Million Soft Loan from Poland to Be Submitted to Parliament

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) During the yesterday's cabinet meeting, the Government discussed general intergovernmental agreement draft between Mongolia and Poland on conditional loan and decided to counsel it with the relevant Parliamentary Standing Committees.

The EUR 50 million loan has 28 year term with annual interest of 0.15 per cent and basic repayment exemption is for 5 years. The loan is planned to be spent on sectors of agriculture, infrastructure, education and environment protection.

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Police to hold repeat drunk driving offenders in jail for up to 30 days

January 26 (UB Post) From now on, drivers with revoked licenses caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be held in prison for seven to 30 days, under the newly amended Law on Traffic Safety.

The Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs submitted the amendments to the Law on Traffic Safety on December 16, 2016, repealing doubled penalties (fines and arrests) for drunk driving violations.

Prior to the adoption of the new amendments, as specified in Article 27.3 of the Law on Traffic Safety, drivers caught driving while intoxicated after having their license revoked had to pay a fine equal to two to four times the minimum monthly wage in addition to facing seven to 30 days of confinement.

In response to complaints from the public, the ministry drafted changes to the article to ensure that offenders are imposed with a single form of punishment. The amendments were approved by Parliament last Thursday.

The period of confinement imposed for a repeat drunk driving offense committed by an unlicensed driver will be determined by the court.

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Government bodies to have councils on rights of disabled

Ulaanbaatar, January 27 (MONTSAME) The non-vacant council, headed by Prime Minister, on the Protection of Rights of the Persons with Disabilities held its first meeting on January 26. The Council resolved to issue a recommendation to the cabinet on establishing subsidiary councils in certain ministries and government agencies.

The sub-councils will operate to improve accessibility for the disabled on public transports, public facilities and buildings, enhance their incomes, living conditions, broaden their access to necessary education, healthcare, labor and socio-psycological services, ensure equal involvement to the social relations, cultural and sports events, and discover their skills and talents.

The meeting also compiled the general guidelines of the activities to be completed by the council in 2017. The guidelines included the initiation of a specialized agency for the disabled, increased focus on ensuring that the disabled have access to long-term apartment loans and discounts on housing and many other issues.

According to the latest data provided by the National Statistics Office, there are some 101 thousand people with disabilities as of the end of 2016. Among them were 10,700 children.

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AmCham Daily NewsWire, January 26

GOVERNMENT

Bill on Development Bank will be submitted to Parliament

Summary: The Economic Standing Committee convened to discuss the bill on Development Bank. The committee was scheduled to discuss the sale of 49% of Erdenet Mining Corporation but the discussion was postponed, and the first discussion of the bill was held. The bill includes provisions to establish a legal framework for the bank to operate independently from the government. According to the bill, the Bank of Mongolia would conduct an audit of the bank each year, and the government would conduct an audit every three years.

The CEO of Development Bank, B. Batbayar, stated, "The 580 million USD will be repaid on March 21, and we are discussing three possible ways of repayment. The Independent Authority Against Corruption is currently getting statements from five former department heads. All of the heads of departments have been replaced. Law enforcement agencies are in the process of conducting investigations." The bill was approved by the committee and is set to be submitted to Parliament.

Keywords: Development Bank, Parliament | Daily News /page 5/


Fiscal Standing Committee convenes to discuss the Law on Exemption of Customs Duty

Summary: The Fiscal Standing Committee voted in support of the proposed Law on Exemption of Customs Duty. The Head of the Fiscal Policy Planning Department of the Ministry of Finance, J. Ganbat, noted that Cabinet supports the bill. The Head of the Fiscal Standing Committee, Ch. Khurelbaatar, suggested changing the effective date of the law to March 1, and MP Kh. Badyelhan is set to introduce the bill to Parliament.

Keywords: customs taxes, Parliament | Daily News /page 4/


ECONOMY

AmCham hosts Chairman of the State Great Khural M. Enkhbold for his first formal engagement with the international business community

Summary: The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Mongolia hosted its January Monthly Meeting with His Excellency Miyegombo Enkhbold, Chairman of State Great Khural of Mongolia. The Honorable Jennifer Zimdahl Galt, U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia, also attended the meeting as a guest of honor. The meeting convened over 100 participants, including AmCham members, foreign ambassadors, heads of international financial institutions, leaders of foreign business groups, and representatives from the local and international private sector.

His Excellency M. Enkhbold, Chairman of the State Great Khural of Mongolia, commented on Mongolia's efforts to regain investor confidence and noted, "We are working to firmly maintain the stability of policy and transparent governance in law making, while strongly addressing the issue of corruption. Mongolia is also closely working with the IMF and other international donor organizations, as well as countries such as USA, Russia, China and Japan, to overcome the current economic challenges in a short period of time."

"The United States Embassy and AmCham are partnering with the Mongolian government in other areas to successfully transform the Mongolian business environment into one that enables long-term, sustainable economic growth. To that end, I look forward to joining the annual AmCham Mongolia and Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce Delegation in  Washington, D.C. this June. We will tell Mongolia's story to potential U.S. investors, as well as to the new U.S. administration," said Jennifer Zimdahl Galt, U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia, during her remarks.

The Chairman of AmCham Mongolia, Mr. Jay Liotta, said, "One of AmCham's major initiatives in 2017 is to make sure that each one of our member companies has a success story to tell the world in 2017. In other words, Mongolia's private sector, small and large businesses, need to succeed for Mongolia to succeed."

Keywords: AmCham, Speaker of the Parliament, U.S. Embassy | The Official Gazette /page 5/


MINING

Oyu Tolgoi spent 279 million USD for domestic supplies in 2016

Summary: Oyu Tolgoi (OT) introduced their 2016 annual report as well as a Q4 report. Oyu Tolgoi reports that it paid 210 million USD in taxes in 2016, and from 2010 to Q4'16, OT has spent 6.1 billion USD in Mongolia so far. Last year, the company noted that the investment of 760 million USD in the development of underground and pit mining is a clear sign of the company's commitment to supporting domestic suppliers. The company reported that at the end of 2016, 93.5% of its employees were Mongolian, and 96% of their open mine and enrichment plant workers are Mongolian citizens. OT bought 62% of its supplies from domestic companies, totaling 279 million USD in purchases.

Keywords: Oyu Tolgoi | Today /B1/


ONLINE STORY

Action plan for economic and social development guidelines have been approved by Cabinet

Summary: During its regular session, Cabinet approved an action plan to implement guidelines to develop Mongolia's economy and society in 2017. According to the action plan, 342 measures will be implemented. Economic growth is expected to be 3%, inflation level 6.5%, budget deficit 9.1% of GDP, and the unemployment level is expected to not exceed 9%. It is estimated that 5.4 trillion MNT is needed to implement the action plan's measures, and lawmakers hope to have 4.1 trillion MNT financed by public-private partnerships and private investment.

During this week's Cabinet meeting, a working group was established to negotiate the use of the Gatsuurt mine. In 2015, the mine was registered as one of the nation's strategic mines, and in 2016, a parliamentary resolution was passed to set the government's ownership of Gatsuurt at 34%. Since then, negotiations with investors have halted.

In order to stabilize prices for gasoline and diesel fuel, the fuel excise tax was lowered. The state is set to see a loss of around 110 billion MNT in tax revenue, but has prioritized the stabilization of fuel prices.

Keywords: Cabinet, development, economy | www.bloombergtv.mn

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AmCham Daily NewsWire, January 27

GOVERNMENT

Parliament approves the date for the presidential election

Summary: Parliament approved dates for the organizing of the presidential election, and voting will take place on June 26, with citizens living abroad voting on June 10th and 11th. A budget of 14.9 billion MNT will be allocated to organize the election. Parliament also approved amendments to the Law on Seniors, which aim to increase pension allowances based on certain factors and creates the opportunity for seniors to be employed after retirement. Parliament approved amendments to the Law on Diplomats and also approved the Law on Arbitration. Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs S. Byambatsogt stated, "There are no provisions in the Law on Arbitration that have negative consequences for Mongolia." The President's bill on civil rights was not supported and sent back to its authors.

Keywords: presidential election, Parliament | Today /page A2/


Independent Authority Against Corruption summons N. Altankhuyag for a statement

Summary: The Independent Authority against Corruption (IAAC) is currently investigating former Prime Minister N. Altankhuag on charges of abusing his position to secure a tender to benefit his financial interests. The IACC summoned N. Altankhuyg to give a statement on the matter, and presented him with a list of specifics regarding the charges. N. Altankhuag stated, "I was called three days before the election for the chairmanship of the party. I was called before the Democratic Party convention, and I believe this is an attempt to influence the election. I have not done anything wrong and I will oppose the charges."

Keywords: IAAC, presidential election | Daily News /page 7/


ECONOMY

Head of the Budget Standing Committee notes that the  repayment of Development Bank debt is still unresolved

Summary: Member of Parliament and the Head of the Budget Standing Committee Ch. Khurelbaatar stated, "The National Statistical Office released a report on Mongolia's economy in 2016, and according to the report, the economy shrank by 1.6%, the foreign exchange rate for USD stands at 2,482 MNT, and Mongolia's credit rating fell another level to 'C'. The economy is in a very difficult situation and the government must act quickly, but we are acting as if we are waiting for something. When the 2017 budget was approved, the cabinet introduced policies to implement the Tavan Tolgoi project, the Gatsuurt project, and to build railroads, and we are still waiting for a response. Cabinet still hasn't introduced a method of repayment of the 580 million USD debt to the Budget Standing Committee, and the cabinet is too slow to make any progress."

Keywords: Parliament, national debt, Development Bank  | Daily News /page 2/


ONLINE STORY

2016 state revenue 9.4% higher than planned

Summary: The Ministry of Finance announced that state revenue in 2016 was 9.4% greater than planned, but that the state's budget deficit reached 3.6 trillion MNT, three times higher than it was in 2015. Mongolia's total state budget revenue reached 5.8 trillion MNT, 504 billion MNT higher than planned, but the total amount is still 2.4% less than it was in 2015. Tax  revenue was around 400 billion MNT more than planned, and was the primary factor contributing to the increase. Value added tax revenue was more than 50 billion MNT, with officials saying proves the effectiveness of the new law on VAT. In 2015, the state's total expenditure and net loans stood at 7.1 trillion MNT, and in 2016, the amount increased to 9.5 trillion MNT.

Keywords: state revenue, Ministry of Finance, economy | www.bloombergtv.mn

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Business

Excise taxes on gasoline and diesel reduced

January 27 (Mongolian Economy) On January 25, 2017, the administration decided to cut excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel in order to hold consumer prices steady, given the increase in global market oil prices and the depreciation of the MNT.

According to the government resolution, excise tax on gasoline was reduced to MNT 50,000 per tonne from MNT 160,000 (to MNT 30,000 from MNT 160,000 for 90 or more octane gasoline), and excise tax on diesel was reduced to MNT 70,000 from MNT 180,000.

Although the state budget's revenue will reduce by around MNT 110 billion with the cuts, the relevant ministry and the Association of Oil Product Importers believe that it will mitigate the rise in fuel prices. Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry Ts.Dashdorj and the head of the Authority for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection B.Lkhagva were tasked with overseeing implementation of the decision.

In addition, the government has previously cut excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel twice in order to offset increases in the price of oil.

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Deloitte: Mongolia Tax Highlights 2017

Investment basics

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General Taxation Department head elaborates on VAT refunds and future plans

January 26 (UB Post) Head of the General Taxation Department L.Zorig announced that VAT refunds amounting to nearly 35 billion MNT will be distributed to taxpayers starting February 1, at a conference on the impact of the new VAT Law on the economy, which took place at the Press Institute on January 19.

He shared at the conference that the General Taxation Department brought in over 1.5 trillion MNT to the state budget in 2016, 35 percent of which came from VAT revenue. This is reportedly 70 billion MNT more than the amount of revenue the General Taxation Department generated for the state budget in 2015.

"Seeing these results, I believe that the new VAT Law is effective," he concluded.

L.Zorig added that there are 38,000 businesses using receipt printers and that out of some 900,000 consumers who received receipts, only around 620,000 of them have scanned and registered receipts on ebarimt.mn website. The General Taxation Department plans to finish distribution of VAT refunds to those registered within the first quarter of 2017.

 L.Zorig gave a brief interview to provide details about the VAT refund and lottery for this year.

The revised VAT Law has been effective for over a year. Can you share some of the changes the law brought?

The General Taxation Department exceeded its projected revenue in every section last year. In other words, we earned more than we estimated. We originally planned to generate 1.39 trillion MNT into the state budget, but generated 175 billon MNT more.

Statistics include revenue from all sources, not just tax. For example, there are social insurance contributions, customs tax, and other fees. We saw a slight decline in terms of total tax revenue compared to 2014. It could be said that 35 percent of total funds centralized to the state budget by the General Taxation Department, specifically 555 billion MNT of 1.56 billion MNT, was from VAT revenue.

It was very challenging to meet the VAT revenue projection in the past. In general, we used to collect only 90 percent of the revenue projection. However, we were able to exceed the projection by over 70 billion MNT last year. This is the result of the new VAT Law. Moreover, many new organizations registered as VAT payers last year – 2,708 new businesses to be exact. This is the outcome of a new system.

On the other hand, we're rewarding the public. Taxpayers get the chance to participate in a lottery and become a lucky winner if they register their receipt to the VAT system. In addition to that, they can get refunds of up to 20 percent of their tax contributions in the previous year, which is two percent of their VAT contribution. Around 620,000 people have been regularly registering receipts of their purchase. Refunds for these people ammount to 34 billion MNT. Taxpayers will receive refunds depending on how earnestly they registered their receipts to the system. Some might get back 100,000 MNT and others might even get 500,000 MNT. Like so, there are many beneficial results from the new VAT Law.

It's good that the number of registered taxpaying companies increased. However, most of the public purchase goods from markets, yet merchants and dealers there don't give out receipts. What will the General Taxation Department do to address this issue?

We have to encourage more people to register receipts and promote people's contribution to the tax revenue. Mostly people living in Ulaanbaatar where the internet environment is good are able to diligently register their receipts. People living in rural and provincial settlements aren't able to do so. I guess we still have some technical problems, but we're searching for ways to resolve this problem for residents in soums and provinces. Most people purchase the things they need from large markets like Narantuul and Kharkhorin although they don't receive receipts.

First of all, private merchants at markets don't have receipt printers. Secondly, they don't have the desire to report on their income. Hence, we will first cooperate with the Ulaanbaatar Mayor and conduct a research at Narantuul, 100 Ail, Kharkhorin, Bars and other large markets so that we can introduce a system to print receipts for customers. We have the responsibility to enforce the law. The fact that this law is not being implemented means that the rights of the public are being violated. We must ensure that all customers receive receipts no matter where they purchase goods – even if they make a purchase at shops or market places. This way, everyone can exercise equal rights and maintain fairness.

Is it true that the super draw of the VAT lottery will be reduced? Does that mean people will be able to win 20,000 MNT instead of 100 million MNT, 200 million MNT and 300 million MNT lottery draws?

Small prize draws for 20,000 MNT, 100,000 MNT and 500,000 MNT will remain the same. As for the 100 million MNT and 200 million MNT draws, we plan to split them into smaller prizes of five million MNT, 10 million MNT and 20 million MNT. There will no longer be super lottery draws. I'm sure the Ministry of Finance will support this idea. This is a policy to allow more people to win. This way, a lot more people will become interested in registering receipts and participating in the lottery. We must do something like this since the accessibility of the VAT refund and lottery is quite low right now. For example, even I registered quite a few receipts but haven't been able to win anything yet.

Some opposing opinions are being raised, saying that tax reduction and exemption should be ended. What's your opinion on this?

That is correct and right. People are able to get a bunch of tax reductions and exemption just for purchasing goods from small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are exempt from import duties and VAT if they import any kind of equipment. The government supports agriculture and farming by exempting domestically produced vegetables and chicken from tax. Every law Parliament is approving is trying to exempt someone or something from taxes. Now, there are tons of tax reduction and exemption possibilities because of this.

It's necessary to reduce and avoid approving additional tax reduction and exemption conditions in legislations in upcoming years. Of course, there are essential exemptions and reduction, but there are some we don't need at all. We must study and find these exemptions that aren't beneficial and hardly affect the economy and end them. According to an American lawyer specialized in taxes, the USA approved loopholes in their Tax Law.The loopholes were believed to be so small as to only mosquitoes could pass through, but a few years later, the tiny holes became large, allowing even elephants to pass through. The lawyer said that the country ended up with a very huge gap in the fiscal budget because every organization tried to take advantage of those loopholes. Our country will end up the same way at this rate.

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Sanitizing transiting vehicles in Nalaikh after animal pox outbreak

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) Contagious animal disease "pox" was reported in Nalaikh district by the analysis of State Central Veterinary Laboratory (SCVL). With the A/26 ordinance of the governor of Nalaikh district, the epicenter of the disease area was quarantined on January 24.

The report came in on January 23, stating two herders of a household was infected in 5th khoroo of Nalaikh district, known as "Darkhanii noyn khudag". Veterinarians of "Bukh-Mo" animal hospital, N.Altantuya, R.Ulziibayar and A.Munguntsetseg made inspection on 399 sheep and detected "pox" disease on 51 sheep, quarantining the area. On this allegation, Ts.Gantumur, veterinarian at SCVL had taken samples of 15 sheep to test in laboratory, soon after clarified as "pox".

Currently the residents of 5th khoroo, along with the military units are detained in the area. The emergency commission of Nalaikh district called an emergency conference and took immediate actions. As of January 23, 24 and 25, a total of 1762 sheep were inspected and 173 have shown signs of pox.

The military unit located in the epicenter of the animal disease is patrolling the area within 3 posts in the area. Currently, sanitation is in progress within the area. The vaccination will be conducted soon.

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D.Gankhuyag: Mongolia can fully supply China's energy needs using only solar

January 27 (gogo.mn) We interviewed with D.Gankhuyag, CEO, Clean Energy Asia LLC on whether renewable energy is a factor to get rid of air pollution and dependence on energy import. 

CHP5 WILL BE TRANSFERRED TO THE GOVERNMENT AT ITS 26th YEAR FOR FREE 

-It is estimated that Mongolian energy demand will be increased 3-4 times by 2030. Public voices against air pollution enabled ger district households to use electric heater, using the free nighttime electricity discount. This expects to increase the energy demand. Could Mongolian energy sector be able to supply such electricity demand today?

-Mongolia is a small market with population of over three million people and has only two main consumers: mining industries and households, meaning that energy consumption is relatively low. In 2016, the country used 5.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. Increase in energy demand varies depending on the economic situation of the country. According to the multi-year average, when major mining industries such as Oyu Tolgoi commences its operation, energy demand increases by 10 percent per year, while an average annual growth is ranging between 3-4 percent. However, increase in energy demand of the country is still low. As you said, energy demand might grow 3-4 times by 2030. Hence, it will directly accompanied by the number of newly established manufacturers. Free nighttime electricity discount could not affect the capacity. Nighttime electricity use of households accounts for only 3-4 percent of the total energy capacity of the country.

-Your company has entered into bid for Combined Heat and Power Plant Number 5 Project (CHP5). A Consortium consisting of 'GDF SUEZ, Sojitz, POSCO Energy and Newcom was selected as the preferred bidder. What is the reason for delaying the CHP5 project? What proposals have you included in your project?

-The CHP5 Concessionaire, consisting of Engie (new name of Gdf Suez, 30%), Sojitz Corporation (30%), Posco Energy (30%) and Newcom LLC (10%) have signed concession agreement announced by the Government of Mongolia in 2012. It was the biggest mega project announced as a concession. The implementation process has slowed down for more than four years as the project model was new and there were many uncertainties with the legal and commercial terms. We have reported the problems to the Ministry of Energy. However, the Government has not officially said to stop the project. Funding model of the project is brand new. In other words, financial institutions will fund the project based on the agreements made between the Government and other organizations as well as licenses. Simply, it is an unsecured loan, which is very hard to get.

-Concession agreement means that you transfer the plant to the Government after building and operating the plant for certain period of time?

-The project is to be developed under a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer scheme via a 25-year Concession Agreement. Plant then transferred to the Government at its 26thyear for free.

-So the private company will bear all the risks of the project for 25 years, right?

-Indeed.

-Does Mongolia really need CHP5?

-There are many answers for that question. International organizations that have worked in Mongolia for many years including World Bank, International Financial Corporation, Asian Development Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development consider that the world`s coldest capital city which is home to a half of total population really needs a combined heat and power generation facility. Thus, the talks on the plant have started in 2008 and Asian Development Bank developed the bid materials and announced the bid in 2011.

-Will CHP5 enable 70-80 percent of ger district households to use electric heaters?

-Yes. Current CHPs have capacity to generate 1000 MW electricity. The gross installed capacity of CHP-5 will be 450 MW. In order to provide rising energy and heat demand, we need a reliable source that can boost the capacity by 50 percent. Moreover, all CHPs are located in the western part of the city. Therefore, it is significant to supply reliable energy and heat to Bayanzurkh and Nalaikh districts, which are expanding to the East. 

-Will ger district households be able to use electric heaters during the day as well after CHP5 construction?

-Of course. Mongolia has 5.6 billion kilowatt hours of energy consumption, of which 20 percent is imported from Russia and China. Oyu Tolgoi LLC imports 1 billion kilowatt hours of energy from China and the country imports 300-400 thousand kilowatt hours of energy from Russia annually.

If we commission CHP5, the country`s dependence on imported energy will be stopped. Second, the CHP5 will solve the lack of thermal infrastructure, resulting increase in construction of housings. However, one CHP can`t solve all the problems, because energy sector is a comprehensive system. Our electric and heat distribution systems are worn out and their capacity has declined. Therefore, we should focus on how to improve the system and how to distribute a new supply.

-The problem is all CHPs is facing budget deficit today. Thus, should we really need to build unprofitable CHP again? Will electricity tariff increase or decrease? How did you estimate the risks?

-According to the market regulation, nobody will invest in unprofitable project. CHP5 is a business project funded by the project financing. Electricity tariff is a sore point to all countries. We can`t earn profits from old CHPs as they were built in different social system, using different financial schemes. But new CHP must be able to pay the debt and earn certain amount of profit. Thus, the Energy Regulation Committee reported that electricity tariff would be at least 7 US cent.

WE HAVE POTENTIAL TO FULLY SUPPLY THE ENERGY CONSUMPTION OF CHINA, IF WE USE ONLY SOLAR ENERGY SOURCE 

-How much renewable energy source do we have?

-Mongolia is spread out on total of 1.5 million sq.km. By solar and wind energy resources capacity Mongolia is in leading position. It is estimated that area of more than 400 thousand sq.km of Southern region of the country is able to produce energy using solar and wind sources. We have potential to fully supply the energy consumption of China, if we use only solar energy source. China became the largest energy consumer of the world in 2014 with its annual 3.6 trillion kilowatt hours of energy demand. As we mentioned before, Mongolia`s consumption of energy totaled 5.6 billion kilowatt hours annually.

-How about solar energy source?

-We are able to supply 20 percent of Chinese total energy consumption, using our solar energy source. If we commercialize our solar and wind energy and supply it to the two neighboring countries, we will be able to diversify our economy and expand export. Providing integrated energy system to Northeast Asian countries and connecting Asian super grid has been on talks quite rapidly in recent years. Korea, Japan, China, Russia and Mongolian Government and businesses are involving this mega project. If this mega project will be implemented successfully, Mongolia would export its solar and wind energy. 

-We are able to solve the start-up cost for renewable energy through this mega project, right?

-Yes, indeed. If we look at renewable energy trends, technology has improved, efficiency has increased while unit tariff has reduced. Especially, solar energy has been developing rapidly. Thus, renewable energy tariff will become cheaper than traditional energy soon.

SALKHIT WIND FARM PROVIDES PER kWh ELECTRICITY FOR 9.5 US CENT. HOWEVER, OYU TOLGOI LLC IS PURCHASING ELECTRICITY FROM CHINA AT 13 CENTS.

-How much power is providing by 50MW Salkhit wind farm?

-50MW Salkhit wind farm is the first large-scale renewable energy plant. It has been operating successfully in over three years, providing power to around 100 thousand families per year. A certain percentage of the capital city consumers are supplied with renewable energy.

-How much percentage?

-About three percent of the capital city consumers.

-How about economic benefits?

-At the beginning risks were high for Salkhit wind farm. It was the first independent energy producer funded by project financing. Newcom group initiated and implemented the project for 10 years funded the project with its own profit and loans in cooperation with European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Dutch Development Bank. Per kWh electricity price is 9.5 US cent. That sounded very expensive at first. Some people were saying that we will always purchase energy from Russia at low price. However, today we purchase 1 kWh electricity for 11 US cent and the price is increasing every year. In addition, there is no other way for our country to accept the increase in price as we are dependent on them for the reliable source especially during the harsh winter. In particular, if Russia stops the energy supply in winter, our energy system can not operate independently. Our daily life is too dependent from electricity. However, Salkhit wind farm must not change electricity tariff for 20 years.

-Even the farm is faced with budget deficit?

-The assumptions were made the project profitability at 9.5 cents. Oyu Tolgoi is purchasing their electricity from China at the rate of 13 cents. Suppose if we are dependent on imported electricity supply for another 10 years it is inevitable the price increase up to 15 or 20 cents. Therefore the point here is the long term sustainability of the energy sector itself.

-Do you agree that renewable energy is the solution to get rid of air pollution and it will change the energy sector condition?-Where is the location of Tsetsii wind farm?

-It locates to the South of Tsogttsetsii soum, 100 km away from Oyutolgoi mining site. If operation of Oyu Tolgoi expands, we will have opportunity to supply renewable energy to Oyu Tolgoi. We are studying the opportunity. Mining companies support eco friendly, new technologies. Our Tsetsii wind farm will connect to central grid through Tavantolgoi substation. Also, we will have opportunity to supply solar and wind energy to other mines in future. 

-Definitely. But it is relative. For air pollution, the main producers are ger district and old vehicles. Salkhit wind farm offset 150 thousand tons of CO2 emissions, that is equivalent to building 400 green parks similar to Children's Park in UB. Our Tsetsii wind farm is expected to offset same amount of CO2 emissions. Solar and wind energy will become the most reliable and environmentally friendly source in the future as development of technology. It is just a matter of time.

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Renewable energy in Mongolia discussed at IRENA Assembly

January 26 (UB Post) Minister of Energy P.Gankhuu participated in the 7th International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly, held in the United Arab Emirates, and reiterated Mongolia's goal to source 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Mongolia is seen as a haven for solar power by many international analysts, as it receives 250 days of sunshine annually, yet only two to three percent of the country's energy currently comes from renewable sources. Mongolia has relied on its vast reserve ofcoal to produce electricity. However, as global trends move toward lowering carbon emissions by switching to clean energy, Mongolia is one of 150 countries to participate in efforts to intensify the development of renewable energy.

Representatives from 150 countries gathered in Abu Dhabi to discuss the future of renewable energy at the IRENA Assembly. During this year's assembly, Adnan Z. Amin, the Director-General of IRENA, stated an IRENA goal of seeing countries source 45 percent of all their energy from renewable sources by 2030.

The decreased cost of renewable energy was a major topic at the conference. Speakers noted that compared to 20 years ago, the cost of producing renewable energy has decreased significantly. For instance, prices for solar power technology have decreased by 60 percent, solar heating power by 45 percent, wind power by 24 percent, and the cost of wind power produced near coastlines has dropped by 36 percent.

Minister P.Gankhuu presented a keynote speech at the commencement ceremony of the assembly. He spoke about the current state of Mongolia's renewable energy industry, the future of its development, and reported on cooperation agreements that have been signed with international organizations such as IRENA. The Minister of Energy noted how Mongolia was one of the founding members of IRENA, and that Parliament ratified incorporating the procedures of the organization in Mongolia. "We want to cooperate with IRENA and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development on introducing geothermal heat pumps and other renewable power for heating in urban areas. We are interested in learning from the experiences of other countries in this area," Minister P.Gankhuu told the assembly's attendees that Mongolia has been operating a 50MW wind farm since 2013, and launched a 10MW solar power plant this year.

Minister P.Gankhuu said that his ministry is working to replace coal with renewable technology in a country with extreme climate conditions.

Director-General Adnan Z. Amin thanked Mongolia for its efforts and vowed to intensify further cooperation between IRENA and Mongolia. In a separate meeting with Minister P.Gankhuu, Amin talked about the pollution levels in Ulaanbaatar. He proposed using renewable energy in order to decrease the city's toxic levels of pollution.

Former President of Iceland Olafur Ragnar Grimsson also met with Minister Gankhuu, and discussed the possibility of implementing Iceland's technology in Mongolia. Iceland gets nearly 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources.

Potential investors also met with the Minister. Jean-Pascal Pham-Ba, Secretary General of the Terrawatt Initiative, a global non-profit organization based in Paris, met with Minister Gankhuu about building a solar power station in Mongolia that provides low-cost energy.

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Energy Minister attends first session of ESCAP Committee on Energy

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) Mongolian delegation headed by Energy Minister P.Gankhuu attended the first session of the Committee on Energy of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), ran on January 17-19 in Bangkok.

The session discussed pressing energy issues in Asia and the Pacific, particularly equal distribution of energy resource in the region for sustainable development, creating cross border energy network to reduce coal consumption and increasing utilization of renewable energy and developing partnership in sub-regions, following the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

On January 17, during a panel on "Opportunities and challenges of Energy systems transformation in Asia and the Pacific" Minister P.Gankhuu introduced the Government position on boosting energy connections in North East Asia, regional economic cooperation and integration as well as its priorities.

The same day, Minister P.Gankhuu met with Dr Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP and exchanged views on issues regarding cooperation between Mongolia and ESCAP.

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Rich in livestock – poor in regulation

January 26 (UB Post) Certainly, the majority of our readers know that Mongolia is rich in livestock. As of last year, Mongolia was estimated to have more than 60 million head of livestock. Many think that we consume the most organic and healthy meat. Unfortunately, food safety is a major concern in Mongolia, in addition to air pollution. But unlike air pollution, which is visible to everyone, food safety isn't touched upon often, because its affects are not immediately visible.

Recently, I had the chance to talk to a herder about the quality of Mongolian meat. He said that all herders use a medication they call "white injection", which is commercially known as Ivomec. Previously, herders gave this injection to their cattle under the regulation of veterinarians, but now they can buy it from a pharmacy and inject it on their own, without any control. Herders believe that this injection helps their livestock get fat, but this medication is used to control parasites. Doctors all over the world talk about the side effects of needless medication in the human body, such as antibiotics, and suggest avoiding unnecessary medication as much as possible. After a cow is injected with Ivomec, its meat and milk can't be consumed for 30 days due to its harmful side effects for humans. Doctors say that when people eat meat with Ivomec, it can cause damage to their central nervous system, blood, liver, and kidneys. But Mongolian herders slaughter their cattle whenever they want, not following any instructions on the use of Ivomec.

As for a regular consumer of meat, and for all Mongolians who love eating meat, this is a serious issue that should be addressed immediately. Not long ago, after meat emitting a strong chemical odor was found at Khuchit Shonkhor Market, the market's health inspector took a sample and sent it to a laboratory for analysis. The analysis showed that the meat contained 15 times more antibiotics and other medications than permissible levels. Most Ulaanbaatarians purchase their meat from open markets, because the meat sold there is cheaper than what can be found at grocery stores. Unfortunately, the majority of consumers don't know about the meat they consume, and it's not a subject made transparent to the public. Even the media avoids touching this issue.

In an interview with Udriin Sonin, President of the National Veterinary Association of Mongolia Ts.Ulziitogtokh spoke about issues concerning the quality of Mongolian meat and the inappropriate use of Ivomec in Mongolia.

He said, "It is true that there isn't any control of medication for livestock in Mongolia. First, its import is not being regulated. Second, the regulation of information, quality, and registration of drugs for livestock is very poor. The capabilities of inspection laboratories are insufficient. In other words, veterinarians and herders are using drugs for livestock arbitrarily, not in accordance with its prescribed use.

"For instance, there's the use of Ivomec, which herders believe is useful for getting their livestock fat. But this medication doesn't have any fattening qualities. It only prevents the contraction of certain parasites. Even if it is given to cattle according to proper dosages, meat and milk can't be directly consumed. But both herders and veterinarians ignore this, and even three days after an Ivomec injection, they sell the milk and eat the meat. This could be one of the major causes of cases of liver cancer, which are very high in number in Mongolia. It's related to food safety, especially to animal products, but it's also due to the inappropriate use of medication."

Dr. Ulziitogtokh said that there are only a few organizations that control the consumption of veterinary medication in Mongolia. One organization is the Central Laboratory of National Veterinary Sanitation. "They are trying to control the drugs and medicine from remaining in meat and dairy products. However, meat and dairy products being supplied to markets by herders and traders are not being controlled. Even though markets have a small laboratory, their capacity is too poor."

Mongolian livestock is known for being organic and healthy, but due to a lack of control it is actually unhealthy and non-organic. Dr. Ulziitogtokh claims that Mongolian veterinarians, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and the government are complicit in poisoning Mongolian meat and milk, distributing unhealthy products to Mongolian consumers.

There are over 400 types of drugs for livestock that are registered for use in Mongolia. Dr. Ulziitogtokh said that Ivomec is one of the most dangerous to humans. Also, not much work is done to provide herders and the public with proper information about the dangers of these medications.

Last summer, a friend of mine visited the countryside and heard how the head of the family told his son to slaughter a sheep that wasn't injected. Now, it seems that the only way to consume healthy meat, until the government takes any effective measures toward addressing the quality of Mongolian meat, is to purchase meat directly from a friendly herder.

The Mongolian government keeps talking about how it is looking for opportunities to increase the export of Mongolian meat, but is this possible when the country is not even providing its citizens with healthy meat? The ministry should focus on placing strict controls on the quality of meat and dairy products, and make sure veterinarians and herders are provided with enough knowledge and information about livestock medications, and that they are using them under strict regulations.

Agriculture Ministry officials have reported that there is shortage of veterinarians in Mongolia. According to one report, there are around 1,700 veterinarians nationwide, which means that one veterinarian is available to care for approximately 40,000 head of livestock. The ministry should place a priority on increasing the sector's personnel in order to improve the quality of the country's meat and dairy products and to be able to export our agricultural resources to foreign countries.

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De Facto: How the Japanese see Mongolia

By Jargal "De Facto" Dambadarjaa

January 29 (UB Post) Investors need a strong reason to be attracted to foreign investment. Investors look to grow their business, expand their market, and gain more profits. The main reason for investing in Mongolia's mining industry is the country's vast natural resources and its close proximity to the gigantic Chinese market. However, the cost of exploration, mining, and transport needs to be lower than the cost of making sales, and it has to be cost-effective in the long run. Otherwise, investors will look elsewhere. We already know that the cost of doing business here was the exact reason why many investors left Mongolia.

Is there any Mongolian industry other than mining that can be invested in? What are the obstacles and gains? How do outsiders view this possibility? We have recently had the opportunity to learn how Japan assesses the situation. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) conducted a survey among Japanese companies about potential opportunities to invest in Mongolia. The project was supported by the Mongolian Embassy in Japan, Consulate General of Mongolia in Osaka, and carried out with the assistance of associations that support Japanese businesses, such as JETRO.

A total of 150 participants took part in the survey. Approximately 12 percent of the participants were from manufacturing, 7.5 percent from construction, 2.5 percent from mining, 3.5 percent from retail, 12.5 percent from wholesale, 7.5 percent from information technology and communications, 12.5 percent from transportation, and 41 percent were from other industries. Forty percent of the participants were already doing business in Mongolia, whereas another 40 percent were planning to. Let's now find out how Japan sees Mongolia.

CURRENT ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

Since its recorded 17 percent growth in 2011, Mongolia's economy has been declining and it yielded no growth in 2016. It is said that the stagnation was caused by a decrease in foreign investment, falling commodity prices, and weaker growth in China's economy. However, our economy could grow by 2.5 percent in 2017, 5.7 percent in 2018, 7.9 percent in 2019, and 10.5 percent in 2020. Our GDP per capita once exceeded 4,000 USD, and we are projected to return to that figure in 2018. Nevertheless, our economic growth and income vary between provinces, and the largest income in Mongolia is 400 percent higher than the lowest. This clearly shows that development is taking place on uneven ground.

In terms of our economic structure, mining has become the main engine of growth since 2005, accounting for 20 percent of our economy. Mining is followed by commerce (17 percent), agriculture (13 percent), and manufacturing (10 percent). The challenge for Mongolia today is to have an economy based on the wealth we have aboveground, including farming and agriculture, not on the wealth buried underground (copper, coal, and gold).

The foreign investment that has flowed into Mongolia totals 14.2 billion USD, half of which came from offshore zones and a quarter of which came from China. The majority of the investment has gone into mining, whereas 17 percent has gone into commerce and services, and 1.5 percent into transport. Mongolia's balance of trade was always in deficit until after 2013, when our imports significantly fell and oil prices decreased. Approximately 84 percent of our exports – nearly all of them mining products – go to China. Two-thirds of the goods and services we import come from China and Russia. The fuel we buy from Russia accounts for half of our imports. We spend 20 percent of the international currency we earn on purchasing fuel.

Although our unemployment rate is eight percent, the younger population  – many of whom have already acquired an education from domestic and international universities – cannot find good jobs. The labor law offers strong protections for the rights of employees. A manager in Ulaanbaatar earns 1,200 USD on average, which is lower than what a manager would earn in Beijing, but a higher average salary compared to Jakarta, Hanoi, or Yangon.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF INVESTING IN MONGOLIA

A 2016 report produced by the World Bank placed Mongolia 64th out of 190 countries in an assessment of the investment environment. The key benefit of investing in Mongolia comes from the vast amount of wealth underground and aboveground. Mongolia leads the world in reserves of copper, gold, coal, and uranium, and has vast molybdenum and spar resources – all contained in 6,000 deposits of 80 minerals. Eighty percent of Mongolia's territory is suitable for farming and agriculture, with 56 million livestock already being managed. Mongolia currently produces 30 percent of the world's cashmere and accounts for half of the camel wool market. On top of that, we have solid resources for producing meat.

In addition, Mongolia has strong relations with Japan. We currently have 1,548 students studying Japan, which translates to a ratio higher than that of any other country hosting Mongolian students: 5.3 students per 10,000 people. The people of both countries are growing even friendlier toward each other through sumo.

Mongolia is still an emerging market, which means there is less competition here and more investment opportunities. However, Chinese companies seem to be given more advantages. Another advantage for Mongolia is that the investment environment is less restricted, in the sense that there are lower taxes for small and medium-sized enterprises and greater freedom to transfer money abroad. Another advantage is the fact that the economic partnership agreement between Mongolia and Japan has been seeing successful implementation since last year.

The first disadvantage of investing in Mongolia is the small, widely dispersed population. Second, the cost of logistics is high due to weak transportation infrastructure. For example, it costs 5,400 USD to transport a 40 ft container from Ulaanbaatar to Japan, 1,900 USD from Beijing to Japan, and 3,440 USD from Hanoi to Japan. Third, there is political uncertainty and instability in Mongolia. Also, our economic structure and private sector are not strong. Another disadvantage would be the harsh climate and extremely low temperatures in winter. In addition, the Japanese businesses surveyed noted that it is challenging to compete with Chinese and South Korean companies in Mongolia.

THE DIFFICULTIES OF DOING BUSINESS IN MONGOLIA

The JICA poll unveiled the following difficulties that occur for Japanese companies doing business in Mongolia. Forty-six percent of respondents identified Mongolia's political and economic instability as a difficulty, 28 percent pointed to the lack of information around the investment environment and structure, 20 percent said that it is difficult to find partners or to get information (such as loan portfolio data) about potential partners, and 2.7 percent said  that it is unclear where to get advice.

These assessments can be divided into two categories: political instability and the immaturity of the private sector. When the structure of the government changes every time there is a transition of power in Mongolia, it poses great difficulties for businesses. For example, the government agencies and staff that are involved in permits and tenders are always replaced, and sometimes, it simply takes too long for the transition process to be finalized. It forces companies to start everything from the beginning. The Japanese respondents also pointed out that there are regular changes made to policies and rules.

When it comes to the private sector, Mongolia has many companies with group, holding, and corporation status. However, it is impossible to obtain information about their daughter companies, and the management structure of these companies is often unclear. It is not uncommon to find out that a father is the company's chief executive officer, his son is the deputy director, and his wife is a member of the board. The Japanese business owners surveyed agree that it is hard to get third party information about Mongolian companies, how many employees they have, and how much debt they have. It makes the job of finding a business partner even more difficult. It is true, because Mongolia has 100,000 registered economic entities, but half of them are not carrying out any business operations. Only 3,700 Mongolian companies have verifiable information about their structure, ownership, and finances, and are members of the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

This is how Japanese businessmen see Mongolia as an investment destination.

Translated by B.Amar

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Ulaanbaatar

In frigid cold, Mongolians stand in protest of air pollution

By Grace Brown

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, January 28 (AP) — Thousands of Mongolians stood in frigid weather Saturday for the second time this winter to protest the government response to smog that routinely blankets their capital.

An estimated 7,000 people, many of them wearing air masks and gas masks underneath thick winter hats, braved temperatures that fell below minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit). Standing in the city's central Sukhbataar Square, they held black balloons and protest signs. One banner read: "Wake up and smell the smog."

Ulaanbaatar is one of the world's coldest capitals, and more than half of the city's 1.3 million residents rely on burning raw coal, plastic, rubber tires and other materials to stay warm and cook meals in their homes. In impoverished neighborhoods that ring the city, known as ger districts, many herders and others live in traditional round tents without heating, leaving them to burn polluting fuels.

UNICEF, the United Nations' children's agency, said last year that Ulaanbaatar was one of the 10 most polluted cities in the world. It found that the lungs of children living in the districts with the highest pollution did not function as well as those of children living in rural areas, putting them at risk of chronic respiratory diseases as they grow older.

Pollution readings in one ger district Friday were at times nearly 30 times above the levels considered safe by the World Health Organization. Icy winds that whipped through the square during Saturday's protest cleared some of the previous day's pollution.

Sanchir Jargalsaikhan, a political scientist in Ulaanbaatar, said climate change has intensified summer droughts and winter colds, making it harder to maintain livestock and forcing more herders into overcrowded ger districts.

"The policies our government is pursuing are pretty piecemeal, I would say," Jargalsaikhan said. "They're not part of a development project or a comprehensive program."

Mongolia's environment and tourism minister, Oyunkhorol Dulamsuren, said in December that the government spent more than $37 million and international donors $47 million between 2011 and 2015 on measures to cut down air pollution.

But many protesters Saturday said that they didn't have the means to do more on their own. Dorjin Dolgor, a retiree, said she lives on an annual pension of 275,000 MNT ($112). She burns coal in the stove of her house to stay warm.

She called herself a "smogmaker" by necessity.

"To get heaters for my three-room house would cost me one year of my pension, and maybe not even be enough," she said. "That is the real price. And on top of that, we don't know how my electrical bill would be afterward."

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Related:

Video - Mongolia: Thousands of protesters say "no more" to capital's toxic air pollutionRuptly TV, January 28

Mongolians protest over air pollution: 'Wake up and smell the smog'BBC News, January 28

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Record Smog Forces Ulaanbaatar to Take Action

The Mongolian capital has few resources to battle pollution and associated poverty amid the economic downturn.

January 27 (Transitions Online) Two weeks ago the mayor of Ulaanbaatar issued a decree restricting rural migration for a year. Coming shortly after the city recorded particulate levels 80 times higher than the WHO's recommended safety level, the measure is one of three designed to reduce air pollution in the fast-expanding Mongolian capital. 

During the December smog alert, Mongolia's government cut nighttime electricity rates in half to encourage the use of electric heaters instead of coal or wood. Prime Minister Erdenebat Jargaltulga also proposed to build apartments for residents of gers, or yurts; more incentives to heat with electricity; and combating the poverty that drives rural dwellers to migrate to the capital, Bloomberg reported

Around 200,000 people live in the ger districts on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, a city meant for a population of half a million that now counts around 1.2 to 1.3 million inhabitants, according to Deutsche Welle

Burning coal in stoves designed for wood and animal dung in the tent-like homes releases particulate matter from uncombusted coal into the air. In the country as a whole, carbon dioxide emissions nearly tripled between 2009 and 2013.

Moving people from gers to apartments is being complicated by an economic crisis, Bloomberg notes. Hit by low prices for the mining products that are its major source of wealth, the government has sought aid from the International Monetary Fund and from China. 

Progress has been slow on a plan approved in 2013 to replace gers with apartment blocks, as many ger dwellers prefer the traditional housing, DW says. 

·         In a community effort to raise awareness about air pollution, activists will map children's exposure to pollution during their daily trips to and from school, as well as overall pollution levels in Ulaanbaatar, DW writes.  

·         During last month's smog episode, levels of particulate matter in Ulaanbaatar were five times higher than in Beijing during the Chinese capital's worst smog alert of the year just a week earlier. 

·         The measures announced by Ulaanbaatar Mayor S. Batbold also include prohibiting new settlements outside residential areas and banning coal burning in some residential zones, the UB Post reported.

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Invaluable clean air

January 26 (Mongolian Economy) It has been officially acknowledged that air pollution in Ulaanbaatar has reached disaster levels. Some were under the impression that the level of toxins decreased, but on the contrary, wintertime pollution in the capital is suffocating is citizens now more than ever.

The public has united in the fight against air pollution for the first time, as the people realise that our right to live in a healthy and safe environment is being violated. Authorities have taken the issue into account and have made some decisive moves.

The Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism in cooperation with the Ulaanbaatar City Mayor's Office organised a technology exhibition named "Your involvement in reducing air pollution" at the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the 9th and 10th of this month in relation to this winter's hottest topic.

More than 50 enterprises participated in this exhibition and a variety of products were showcased, starting from equipment that reduces vehicle fuel consumption and gas emissions, to traditional water heaters, electric floor heaters, briquette, exhaust filters, Mongolian ger heating curtain and gas heaters.

At this crowded exhibition, a piece of technology that does not use solid fuel and is affordable for the average family caught my eye. Coal in small green sacks sold for MNT 3,000 is the main contributor to Ulaanbaatar's air pollution; hence, if air pollution is related to poverty, can be solved using technology?

Almost 40 companies that participated in the exhibition were offering electric heating. A common heater which does not require additional costs other than purchase and installation costs around MNT 600,000 and can fully heat a five-walled ger regardless of gas or electricity utilisation.

Floor heaters cost approximately MNT 60,000 per square metre. In addition to that, some additional costs will be incurred in choosing the right flooring materials and installation. It would cost MNT 2.3 million for an exhaust filter that neutralises toxic substances in smoke if you decide not to change out a traditional fire stove.

The salesmen said monthly electricity costs of a household becomes MNT 50-60,000 at the minimum depending on the type of electric heater. The monthly costs for gas heating are also about the same. Although the cost is lower than MNT 3,000 per day for coal, how much electricity you use or gas you purchase depends on the amount heat loss from your home. The above numbers are estimates that calculated heat loss at a minimum.

The reality is that people without the financial means to purchase 1.5 tonnes of coal for MNT 150,000 are purchasing small sacks of coal in order to have some money left to buy food. There are those who cannot even buy coal by the small sacks and turn to burning tyres, sacks and old jeans.

The majority of the people who came to the exhibition were interested in heating solutions for summer camps, garages, cellars and small storage units. The best-selling product here was oil that reduces vehicle fuel consumption.

Since the population of the capital has already reached 1.3 million, limiting rural-to-urban migration and subsidising night time electricity tariffs is not likely to be a full solution. Even though the "Khas" and "Ulzii" stoves which were provided to ger district residents showed no visible results, policies and programmes to supply technology that can replace ger district homes' exhaust pipes are required.

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Young lieutenant saves four lives, named city's best official

Ulaanbaatar, January 27 (MONTSAME) Lieutenant G.Ganbayar, an officer of the Songinokhairkhan police department, has rescued four people's lives from fire. In recognition of his bravery, Mayor of Ulaanbaatar S.Batbold honored him with the title "Foremost Staff of Municipality".

The Mayor said, upon granting him the title, "We are the witnesses of an outstanding event. Lieutenant G.Ganbayar rescued four lives on January 24. Not to mention that the law enforcement officers observe their duties to ensure security and order at all times, day and night, the young officer's performance was out of the ordinary in terms of professionalism, as well as bravery". Mr S.Batbold wished the officer best of success.

The incident happened on G.Ganbayar's way to work, when he noticed a smoke coming out of a yard in Ger district area close to the bus stop. He went to have a closer look and saw that the house was on fire. Ganbayar pounded on the door and shouted "Fire!". No one showed up. He quickly passed over the fence, broke the living room window and carried four out of the house one by one. Although, he was momentarily blinded by the smoke, as the fire picked up, he was trying to save all who were inside, including the one in bed rest and could not move. He succeeded.

Lieutenant G.Ganbayar expressed heartfelt gratitude to the UB city administration for recognizing his deed and wished wellbeing to the rescued family.

The Mongolian Red Cross Society also awarded G.Ganbayar the "Compassion" medal, and gifted him a medium-sized ger (national dwelling) and a complete kitchen set. 

He claimed that he will give the ger to one of the poorest families in Songinokhairkhan district.

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Museum of Ulaanbaatar City

January 27 (MONTSAME) Museum of Ulaanbaatar, established in 1956, shows history and development of the capital city Ulaanbaatar. The museum has three halls, where exhibits are demonstrated, according to historic development periods of Ulaanbaatar.  It has over 3300 collections, however only one third of them are on display for visitors.

Some remarkable and highlighting exhibits include, a picture named "Niislelkhuree" by well-known artist Manibadar in 1946, ivory carving work 'Historical Ulaanbaatar' by D.Sengee, drawing of general third plan to develop Ulaanbaatar in 1976-2000, 5 million year old mammoth skeleton pieces found nearby Tuul river, decoration, ornament and household items with unique design, made by Ulaanbaatar artists in the XIX-XX centuries.

The museum building itself is a historic memorial. It was a house of a Russian Buriyat merchant Badamjav, who lived in the capital city in the beginning of the XX century. Central Committee of the Mongolian People's Party, temporary People's Government and Headquarters of Armed forces located in this building in July 1921 as well as army commander D.Sukhbaatar had worked here. Moreover, the building housed the embassy of Soviet-Tuva in the 1930s.

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Diplomacy

Elbegdorj: Mongolia as a neutral state

Author: Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia.

January 27 (gogo.mn) Mongolia as a neutral state. I have long pondered this issue, exchanging views, carrying out studies and drawing conclusions. Now the time has come to discuss it publicly.

Every Mongolian cares about the further consolidation of our country's freedom, independence and sovereignty. And every Mongolian endeavors to make his own contribution to this cause. Many view that being a neutral state perfectly serves that very interest. The issue of neutrality was hotly debated during the years that Mongolians fought for the restoration of our freedom and independence, and during the tense days of our democratic revolution in 1990.

International law views the neutrality status quo in two main categories, which depend on the decisions and proclamations a neutral state undertakes. There is a neutrality status quo in wartime. There is also a permanent neutrality status quo. There can also be active and inactive neutrality.

As far as Mongolia is concerned, it is true that Mongolia has not declared a "permanently neutral state". Yet in substance, form and action our foreign policy is fully coherent with the principles of neutral foreign policy. And it's commendable that our national laws and the international treaties and agreements that Mongolia is signatory to are consistent with neutrality principles. More specifically, Mongolia's neutrality is delicately reflected in the very letter and spirit of the agreements and treaties we concluded with our neighboring states.

When considering Mongolia's neutrality, we must first of all take into account the following factors.

1.    Since Mongolia adopted its new democratic constitution, Mongolia has actively pursued policies that are neutral in substance. However, we are yet to declare it, in form. The process of shaping and validating this policy is now only a matter of time.

2.    The history of Mongolia, our geographic location and the uniqueness of our chosen path of development are congruent with the spirit and principles of neutralism. Neutrality enables a country to maintain equal and balanced international relations. Other states and international organizations respect such a status quo of a neutral state.

3.    The state of international affairs and the international order changes over time. Yet neutral policies and actions can be sustained. The state which upholds neutrality preserves the full power to amend, renew or abandon its neutralist policy.

What does "permanent neutrality" mean? A permanent neutrality means that a sovereign state declares itself to be neutral both during times of war and peace. In the event that a neutral state is attacked by external aggression, it has a full right for defense. At the same time, it voluntarily assumes a duty not to wage and join wars. A permanently neutral state reserves a power to have its own army and troops. And this very right serves as the assurance of the immunity of its neutrality.

A classical representative of a permanently neutral state, Switzerland, is considered to have Europe's most capable army. And the founding concepts of Mongolia's defense concepts are consonant with neutralism.

The territorial immunity of a neutral state is re-assured by international law. This includes both air and water borders too. It is prohibited for belligerent troops to conduct war on the territories of a neutral state. Also, a neutral state has the power not to let the transportation of belligerent armies' personnel, arms and war materials across its territory. Permanent neutrality also has certain implications for nuclear weapons issue and the country's membership in any military alliance.

It is not necessary for a state to seek support from any particular country or international organization to validate its neutrality status quo. Yet obviously any such state would aspire to achieve understanding, recognition and support from its neighboring states, other countries and international organizations. Our forefathers and fathers have always valued dignity and temperance. Inheriting this ancestral quality, we shall hold equally high and honor the UN and our own Charter in our aspirations in this new era.

Unity, continuity and clarity in Mongolia's foreign policy are at the heart of Mongolia's interests and benefits. Neutrality is a universally recognized tool useful for us, the Mongolians, to harness and build upon our existing potential on one hand, and to pursue active, flexible relations with other countries, on the other hand.

This may also be seen as a universal value, a collective human experience. And an opportunity for Mongolia. Opportunities are rare. Values evolve slowly. Persistence and consistency will serve us well. Inarguably, that status of ours will help to invigorate many policies, initiatives and actions to benefit the future of Mongolia.

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Parliament approves extending diplomatic appointments to four years

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) Today, Parliamentary plenary session passed amended law on Diplomatic service. To improve unity of state foreign policy and its activities, the amended law restricts governmental and local administrative organizations to open their representative office abroad or appoint representatives.

Appointment term of diplomatic mission is defined to be four years. One year is added to the term of service considering international standard and as it takes time for diplomatic officials to arrange things, establish good relationship with officials of the relevant country and activate actions.

To improve social guarantee of diplomats, it is enacted that the Government would renew salary of diplomatic personnel abroad every three years, kindergarten fee for diplomats' children would be covered from state budget, and working place of diplomat's spouse would be kept.

These actions need to be taken, considering that professional young diplomats tended to move to private sector due to uncompetitive state of salaries and social welfare in government services. Some USD300 thousand will be required to finance kindergarten fees, however it would not be additional expenditure to the state budget, explained Minister of Foreign Affairs Ts.Munkh-Orgil. Savings from operational costs of four diplomatic missions, which are to be closed in June and cuts of employees in some diplomatic missions planned to be spent for it.

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Mongolia and US celebrate 30th anniversary of ties

Ulaanbaatar, January 27 (MONTSAME) "The United States has been and remains proud to be Mongolia's "third neighbor," a phrase coined by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker during his historic 1990 visit to Mongolia", remarked Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Jennifer Zimdahl Galt at the opening ceremony of an academic conference themed 'A commitment towards a strategic partnership' which is taking place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

January 27 marks the 30th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the United States, and the conference is the first of series of events that are taking place in commemoration of the anniversary.

Co-organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mongolian Diplomatic Academy, Institute of Strategic Studies of National Security Council, Institute of International relations of Mongolian Academy of Sciences and Defense Institute, the conference assembles over 100 foreign policy experts, scholars and ambassadors.

On January 27, 1987, US Secretary of State George Schultz and Mongolian Ambassador to the United Nations G.Nyamdoo signed a Memorandum of Understanding formally establishing diplomatic ties between Mongolia and the US.

"Our formal diplomatic partnership began 30 years ago today with the signing of a communique; a little more than a year later, the US opened its first Embassy in Mongolia and the first resident US Ambassador arrived in 1990", Ambassador began as she opened a photography exhibition held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dedicated to the anniversary displaying the main achievements in bilateral relationship, contributing figures, major events and people-to-people relations between the countries.

"The first years of our bilateral relationship were marked by Mongolia's landmark decision for democracy and its transition to a free market economy. Historic visits followed accompanied by the signing of agreement such as the memorandum establishing the Peace Corps in Mongolia. Over time, our bilateral relationship has grown into a robust partnership, spanning political, economic and defense issues, and encompassing deep cultural and people-to-people ties", she said.

"Today, the US and Mongolia work together to advance democratic ideals in the UN and other international organizations, partner to spur economic growth, and strengthen our bilateral trade ties including through our newly signed transparency agreement which will come into force on March 20", she also said.

In the margins of the anniversary, Mongolian ethnic band 'Khusugtun' is set to tour in cities such as Washington, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle in March this year.

In return, the Philadelphia Orchestra of the US will visit Mongolia in June this year to perform for the first time.

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Belarus seeks closer all-round cooperation with Mongolia

MINSK, 26 January (BelTA) – Belarus hopes to expand cooperation with Mongolia in both the bilateral and multilateral formats, says a letter of greetings from Belarus Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei as the two countries mark the 25th anniversary of the diplomatic relations, BelTA learned from the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Over the past 25 years our countries have maintained a constructive dialogue based on the principles of mutual respect and equal partnership, creating a robust basis for further consistent development of bilateral ties," the letter runs.

According to Vladimir Makei, Belarus and Mongolia have similar viewpoints on many issues of the international agenda. "It is a major prerequisite for expanding cooperation in both the bilateral and multilateral formats. I am confident that, by joint efforts of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Belarus and Mongolia will continue effectively address the matters of importance for the two countries and the international community, and the Belarusian-Mongolian relations will be fruitfully developing for the benefit of the two peoples," the minister said.

According to the press service of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belarus' Ambassador to Mongolia Stanislav Chepurnoy met with State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia Davaasuren Damdinsuren to exchange the letters of greetings between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations. The parties also discussed issues on the bilateral agenda and Belarus-Mongolia cooperation in international organizations.

In his letter of greetings Mongolia Minister of Foreign Affairs Tsend Munkh-Orgil noted that recently Belarus and Mongolia have considerably strengthened the traditionally friendly relations, expanded the bilateral cooperation in various sectors. "I am convinced that joint efforts will help us advance mutually beneficial cooperation between Mongolia and Belarus," the Mongolian Minister of Foreign Affairs said.

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Belarus ready to share advanced agricultural technologies with Mongolia

MINSK, 26 January (BelTA) - Belarus is ready to cooperate with Mongolia in the field of advanced technologies in the production and processing of agricultural products, Belarusian Ambassador to that country Stanislav Chepurnoy said in an interview with the Mongolia News newspaper. The text of the publication is available on the website of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, BelTA has learned.

"In recent years, Mongolia has attached great importance to the development of its agricultural industry. Belarus has something to offer to Mongolian partners in this field," said the diplomat.

According to Stanislav Chepurnoy, Belarus traditionally supplies agricultural machinery to Mongolia. Those were mainly tractors in the past. However, in the recent three years these have been combine harvesters, and units of various small agricultural machinery.

"Agriculture is not only about the issues of soil cultivation, crop sowing and harvesting which are solved through the supply of appropriate agricultural machinery. Having a well-developed agricultural industry, Belarus looks forward to working closely with Mongolia, including in the application of advanced technologies in the production, processing and storage of agricultural products, both crop planting and livestock breeding," the Ambassador said.

He noted that bilateral relations between Belarus and Mongolia have been steadily expanding to include new areas of interaction.

The mining industry has an important role in the economy of Mongolia. This holds good prospects for cooperation with Belarus which is one of the world's largest manufacturers of mining equipment. Belarusian dump trucks BelAZ are used at most mining deposits in Mongolia.

The Ambassador also sees considerable potential for cooperation in science. "We are ready to develop interaction in fundamental science, and in applied research. Many of the achievements and experience of the Belarusian scientists can be applied in Mongolia. This is evidenced by the joint projects which are already implemented with the support of the national science funds of the two countries," he said.

"We are proud that MAZ buses have earned positive feedback from residents of Ulaanbaatar. For a year and a half the Mongolian capital city has been using MAZ buses on the main route: Peace Avenue," said Stanislav Chepurnoy.

In his words, MAZ is interested in developing further cooperation with Mongolia and meet the country's needs in public transport, road construction, street cleaning, fire-fighting and utilities vehicles. Other Belarusian companies are also ready to step up supplies of haul trucks, farm machinery, lifts, railway and other technological equipment, tires and other goods to Mongolia.

"Belarusian partners are open to cooperation. Keeping in mind the difficult financial and economic situation in Mongolia, they can offer flexible finance terms in the form of lending, leasing and other mutually beneficial mechanisms, including via the Development Bank of Belarus," the diplomat said. Belarus' other major exports to Mongolia include refrigerators, gas cookers, clothes, footwear, confectionery, dairy products, and pharmaceuticals. Their assortment is constantly expanding.

Stanislav Chepurnoy also confirmed Belarus' readiness to develop cooperation in education and culture.

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MFA State Secretary receives Ambassador of Belarus

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the Republic of Belarus, D.Davaasuren, State Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs met with Stanislav Chepurnoi, Ambassador of Belarus to Mongolia on January 25.

At the meeting, the dignitaries exchanged celebration letters of the Presidents, Speakers, Prime Ministers and Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia and Belarus, in accordance with the anniversary.

The sides exchanged views on issues of intensifying relations and cooperation between Mongolia and Belarus in the future, strengthening legal foundation and organizing high level visits from Belarus to Mongolia.

In particular, Belarusian side will hold a regular meeting of the Belarusian-Mongolian Joint Commission on trade and economic cooperation and a consultative meeting between Ministries of Foreign Affairs in Minsk city, Belarus.

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Transport Minister D.Ganbat meets French Ambassador

Ulaanbaatar, January 27 (MONTSAME) D.Ganbat, Minister for Road and Transport Development met with Elisabeth Barsacq, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Mongolia on January 26, yesterday.  

At the beginning of the meeting, the Minister remarked on how the friendly relations between Mongolia and France are flourishing in political, economic, social, cultural and other spheres. He also noted that cooperation in investment and technology exchange should be intensified.

He also touched on objectives set by Mongolian Government for the near future, including 'New Railroad' project, the progress of new Ulaanbaatar International Airport, and further opportunities and proposals for cooperation. In particular, the Minister talked about the use of helicopter for emergency and medical services to remote areas, and introduction of French technology to Mongolian transportation sector, expressing his wish to cooperate with the Embassy on implementation of such projects, training specialists, and learning from France's experience.

According to the Minister, the Ministry of Road and Transport Development is studying the chances to install smoke filters in vehicles in order to reduce air pollution, and he made a proposal to cooperate in this area.

For her part, Ambassador Barsacq said that she would be pleased to support Mongolia's transport development, having worked in transportation sector. She also informed of the possibility to convey requests to European Union organizations on the feasibility of long term soft loans for projects to be implemented in Mongolia.

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Vietnamese community in Mongolia celebrate Lunar New Year

January 27 (VOVworld) – On Wednesday, Vietnamese embassy in Mongolia extended Lunar New Year wishes to Vietnamese community there.

Ambassador Phan Dang Duong said last year, many Vietnamese delegations paid visits to Mongolia, especially the visits by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, created the impetus to boost Vietnam-Mongolia ties in the future. The Ambassador expressed his hope that Vietnamese community in Mongolia will continue to keep Vietnam's tradition and culture, and promote the friendship and cooperation between Vietnam and Mongolia.

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"Kuwait District" project to assist flood victims in Bayan-Ulgii

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) The Government of Kuwait will provide USD 274,835 non-refundable aid to Bayan-Ulgii province to build a district for 35 households. "Kuwait District" project was signed on January 26 by the head of Mongolian Red Cross Society, MP N.Enkhbold and the Ambassador of Kuwait, Khalid Yateem Al-Fadhli.

On July 10 of last year, Ulgii sum of Bayan-Ulgii aimag was hit by a flood and a total of 361 families fell victim to the disaster. Some 105 houses got collapsed and 70 houses were in risk of collapsing. Accordingly, on November 7, 2016, the Government of Kuwait approved an order to provide non-refundable aid.

"Kuwait District" will be established eight kilometers from the Ulgii soum of Bayan-Ulgii. The construction work will continue from January 26 till August 15. MP N.Enhbold said the district will hold 35 houses of 5x9 meters, a Muslim mosque for 100 people, 10 light poles, sidewalks and 2 wells for drinking water.

Also in October of 2016, AWQAF public foundation of Kuwait donated USD 60 thousand to built power line network and groundwater well in displaced area. Earlier this week, the Embassy of Kuwait provided USD 64.7 thousand of aid package to 205 flood victims. The embassy is planning to provide the next package soon.

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Mongolia opens information center on Java

January 26 (news.mn) A Mongolian Information Centre has been opened in Surabaya on the Indonesian island of Java. The opening ceremony was held on 23th of January as a part of the programme of events marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Indonesia.

The centre will provide information for Mongolians living in Indonesia and promote tourism as well as be a bridge for businesses between the two countries.

Mongolia opened an Embassy in Indonesia in 2014. A Mongolian Culture Centre has been operating on Java island since November, 2016.

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Khusugtun performs for Mongolia-Brazil diplomatic anniversary

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) The Khusugtun, Mongolian ballad group, has staged a full-length concert in Brasilia in frames of the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Mongolia and the Federative Republic of Brazil.

The concert was given opening remarks by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenpotentiary of Mongolia, Ms Ch.Sosormaa, the President of Parliament of the Brasilia Federative District, Mr J.Valle and the director of the East Asia Department of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, Ms Maria Isabel Vieira. The dignitaries pledged their efforts to broaden the bilateral ties in all areas.

In the audience were, over 500 delegates, including the heads of diplomatic missions and political and business figures.

Last week, The Khusugtun participated in an international music festival, took place in Brazil's ancient capital Salvador, and successfully presented the wonders of the Mongolian national folk art.

The Mongolian ballad group is the first runner-up of the Asia's Got Talent 2015.

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Brazil hopes for better economic collaboration with Mongolia

January 27 (UB Post) The Embassy of Mongolia in Brazil held a cultural event in Brasilia to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Since the embassy first opened in 2014, its staff has worked to develop cooperation between the two nations in agriculture, mining, sports, and education. The embassy in Brazil is the only Mongolian diplomatic mission in South America, also working to represent Mongolia in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and Peru.

Trade turnover of 1.26 million USD took place between Mongolia and Brazil in 2015 and increased by 1.87 in 2016, and foreign trade between the two countries is expected to continue to increase in 2017. Mongolia exported yarn and chemical products to Brazil and exported mining and industrial equipment, tires, and food products from Brazil in 2016.

The Brazilian Mongolian Chamber of Commerce opened in Parana State, and the first business meeting of the two countries was held in Ulaanbaatar in September 2016.

During the business meeting, Brazilian entrepreneurs held meetings with representatives from over 30 Mongolian enterprises, and they visited Mongolia's leading dairy and meat farms and discussed adapting the use of innovative meat processing technology, the production of ethanol from potatoes, and making bio fuel from waste.

The Mongolian company Canephoras Solution started exclusively buying coffee beans from Brazil, and is now importing 2.4 tons of fresh coffee beans for Mongolian customers. The company is planning to export Brazilian coffee beans to other countries by roasting them in Mongolia. Brazilian entrepreneurs are interested in importing Mongolian cashmere products and carpets.

On September 21, 2015, Ambassador of Mongolia to Brazil Ch.Sosormaa and Brazil's Minister of External Relations Mauro Vieira signed an agreement between the governments of Mongolia and Brazil on establishing a visa waiver for the holders of regular passports. The citizens of the two countries are eligible for visa waivers for stays not exceeding 90 days from their date of entry. The agreement has become important to developing tourism between the two countries.

Following a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation between the foreign affairs ministries of Mongolia and the Federative Republic of Brazil was signed, and since January of this year, the first Mongolian diplomat has started attending the Rio Branco Institute, a famous diplomatic academy named after former Brazilian External Relations Minister and diplomat Jose Paranhos, the Baron of Rio Branco.

The Mongolia-Brazil Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group was formed in the Brazilian legislature this past November, and the members of the group are scheduled to visit Mongolia in June.

Relations and cooperation between the two nations have dramatically increased, and other countries in the region have expressed an interest in developing collaboration with Mongolia despite the great distance between South America and East Asia.

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Mongolian peacekeepers receive medals from NATO

January 27 (news.mn) Mongolian peacekeepers have received the honour of being awarded with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Medal for taking part in Operation 'Decisive Support' in Afghanistan. The ceremony took place in the city of New Kabul in Afghanistan.

Many important guests, including Brigadier-General Nicolas Pond, Commander of the Kabul Security Force and Captain Joshua Thompson, chief of New Kabul Base attended the award ceremony.

The Mongolian peacekeepers staged fighting performances and introduced a traditional Mongolian 'ger' (yurt) at the end of the ceremony.

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The Developing Strategic Partnership between India and Mongolia: Challenges and Opportunities

By Zolzaya Erdenebileg

January 27 (India Briefing) In May 2015, Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Mongolia. In a trip that included patting a horse and trying his hand at bow and arrow, Modi also made a significant announcement hinting at the future of diplomatic relations between India and Mongolia – a US$1 billion credit line, as well as promises of increased trade and support. Mongolia, which has always held a third-neighbor policy to decrease the looming presence of Russia and China, welcomed the announcement, highlighting the religious and political affinities of the two nations.

A possible India-Mongolia alliance has economic and geopolitical significance. This was highlighted throughout Modi's visit, and further underlined when Mongolia announced its intent to use the US$1 billion credit line to invest in oil refineries and energy capability. At present, Mongolia imports most of its refined oil from Russia. Oil refining capabilities would go a long way towards increasing the energy independence of the country, and flowering other subsequent industries, such as chemicals production.

While Modi's visit raised eyebrows, Indian-Mongolian relations have a long history. India was the first country outside of the Soviet bloc to establish diplomatic relations with Mongolia in 1955. Since then, the two countries have signed a number of cooperative agreements and MOUs, including agreements in the industries of health and medical, geology and mineral resources, nuclear energy, biotechnology, animal health, and dairy, among many others.

On May 17, 2015, India and Mongolia upgraded their relations to a "strategic partnership", with special focus on trade, training, and defense.

Economic cooperation

In 1996, during Vice President K.R. Narayanan's visit to Mongolia, the two countries signed an Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation, elevating each other to most-favored nation (MFN) status for a number of considerations including customs, duties, and taxes on imports and exports. In 2001, during President Bagabandi's visit to India, the two sides signed an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.

Trade volume between India and Mongolia reached a peak in 2012, during the period of Mongolia's fast tracked growth. Since then, volumes have suffered, although there was an uptick in 2015. Indian exports to Mongolia largely consist of medicines, mining machinery, and auto parts. Mongolian exports to India include raw and prepared wool and animal hair.

In December 2016, Mongolia was incorporated into the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), formerly known as the Bangkok Agreement, joining Bangladesh, India, China, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Laos as members, and raising the prospect of increased trade with South Asian countries. As part of the agreement, India decreases duty rates on over 3,000 items by five to 100 percent.

Below is a representation of the trade volume between India and Mongolia as of June 2016.

China controversy

The new age of India-Mongolia relations ushered in by Modi's visit was tested after a visit by the Dalai Lama to Mongolia. The high-profile visit was objected to by China, which views the Dalai Lama as a separatist. When the visit went through, China retaliated by raising tariffs at the Mongolian border and suspending talks for a US$4.2 billion loan. In economic strain, Mongolia called upon India to put the credit line into effect. The Ministry of External Affairs' spokesperson responded positively, saying, "We are closely working with the Mongolian government to implement the credit line in a manner that is deemed beneficial to the friendly people of Mongolia by its leadership." However, with a debt deadline looming, Mongolia's Foreign Minister, Tsend Munkh-Orgil, released a statement acknowledging that the Dalai Lama will likely not be visiting Mongolia for the duration of the current administration.

Future outlook

The incident resurfaced existing regional tensions, and placed some uncertainty on what seemed to be a robust partnership developing between India and Mongolia. Further, the US$1 billion credit line is still to be implemented at some point soon. Meanwhile, Mongolia is continuing to negotiate with the Import-Export Bank of India to build oil refineries and pipelines, a project that could increase Mongolia's GDP by 10 percent. Finally, it is likely that bilateral trade will continue to increase as Mongolia steadily revamps its economy after a difficult period of stalled growth.

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Health & Education

Coronary disease prevention project to be implemented with JICA

Ulaanbaatar, January 27 (MONTSAME) Japanese International Cooperation Agency and Administration of Kitami city of Japan in collaboration with Health Department of the Capital of Mongolia set to implement a project, targeted to prevent from coronary disease starting 2017. Health center of Sukhbaatar district is the main implementer of the project.

Chairman of Health Department of the Capital L.Tumurbaatar, chairman of Health center of Sukhbaatar district held a meeting with Japanese delegation headed by Inoue Tomoyuki, General director of the Citizen Environment Department of Kitami city and discussed issues regarding the project management, implementation and actions.

Japanese specialists will train nurses of district health center and family clinic to provide citizens with information and health advisory on prevention from hypertension.

Consultations will cover complex subjects on healthy eating, salt consumption and exercise based on best practices and experience of Japan. A total of over 200 nurses are planned to be prepared in a way that nine trainer-teachers would be trained at first, gaining experience in Japan and would train the others.

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Mongolian hospital performs 228 open heart surgeries a year

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) The State Central Third Clinic is the only hospital on national level that provides complete medical services in connection with cardiac operations. The number of open heart surgery with artificial circulation per year hit 228, the largest number ever in Mongolia, in 2016.

In the past five years, a total of 137,301 patients received specialized medical services from the Clinic, including cardiac diagnosis, treatment and surgeries. Among them, 6,643 patients received in-patient treatment and 3,887 received heart operations. In the same period, 571 surgeries were carried out to operate on children's congenital and acquired heart defects.

A goal was set by the clinic, in the margin of the MOH005 Project on Cardiovascular Center, Health of Mothers and Infants and Expaction of Online Healthcare, to achieve a performance level, where the clinic would be able to perform one heart surgery per day and 250 per year. The project is assisted by the Government of Luxembourg.

Achieving such a large number of successful heart operations was especially thanks to the efforts and collaboration of the National Institute of Cardiac Surgery and Interventional Cardiology of Luxembourg, the Heart Foundation of the Republic of Korea, Yonsei Severance Hospital and the team of thoracic surgery professors of the Seoul National University.

The surgical team of the state clinic has been working with the abovementioned institutes on 5-6 trainings of heart operation each year, and has collectively been ensuring that 20-30 children in need received expensive heart operations for free every year.

Out of all 228 open heart surgeries, 158 were performed on adults, 70—on infants and children. Thirteen of the open heart surgeries with blood transfusions on children were for the treatment of chronic cardiovascular conditions. The 75 percent of costs of the operations were covered by the Government of Mongolia, pursuant to the revised Health Insurance Law, and the rest were funded by Rafael International NGO of the Republic of Korea. 

Source: Ministry of Health

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Methylated spirit detected from blood sample of man who died of alcohol poisoning

January 26 (UB Post) During a press conference on Monday, the Ulaanbaatar Crime Prevention Council reported that contents of methylated spirit were found from the blood sample of a man who is believed to have died of alcohol poisoning. Due to the incident, city authorities recently placed a three-day ban on sales and distribution of alcohol.

Deputy Head of the Ulaanbaatar Court-Ordered Forensic Examination Office N.Ganbayar clarified that one out of five people who were undergoing treatment for alcohol poisoning died, and that five people did not die as reported by local media.

"We took samples from plastic cups and a bottle of liquid [they consumed] and conducted an autopsy on the person who died. For starters, we have detected methylated spirit from the blood sample of the deceased. The final examination report will come out in a week or two," he stated.

Head of the Ulaanbaatar Specialized Inspection Agency L.Erdenechuluun noted that inspectors took samples from 59 bottles of vodka for laboratory examination, and added, "Results showed that samples from GEM International LLC met required standards, while the amount of alcohol of Munkhjin-Od LLC and Nairsag vodka brands didn't meet adequate levels. In other words, their labels read 39 percent alcohol, when in fact, it was only 28 to 32 percent. Even so, the alcohol level isn't enough to kill a person. The bottle of cleaning solution found at the scene contained 40 percent methylated spirit."

Following L.Erdenechuluun's report, Ulaanbaatar Police Department Chief J.Erdenebold notified that the investigation hasn't concluded and reported on drop crimes during the three-day alhocol sales ban.

"During the ban on sales and distribution of alcohol from 6:00 p.m. on January 17 through 11:59 p.m. on January 20, criminal offences caused involving the use of alcoholic beverages decreased. Criminal Crime reports declined by 61.9 percent, reports of alcohol abuse by 63.3 percent, and violations dropped by 39.3 percent. This shows how much alcohol impacts the lives of the public," he highlighted.

According to Head of Ulaanbaatar Health Department Sh.Tumurbaatar, 96 people were admitted to hospitals in Ulaanbaatar for alcohol overdose during the ban, but didn't have anything to do with the suspected alcohol poisoning that occurred in Bayanzurkh District last week. In relation to some stores selling alcohol during the ban, Deputy Ulaanbaatar Mayor D.Enkhtur assured that appropriate measures will be taken, such as terminations of permits of alcoholic beverage sales.

"There is a requirement to regulate food security. Since the Mongolian national holiday, Tsagaan Sar, is just around the corner, agencies specialized in food sales and distribution must pay extra attention to this matter," highlighted Ts.Sandui, Chairman of the Ulaanbaatar City Council and Head of the Ulaanbaatar Crime Prevention Council. He ordered agencies to supervise sales and distribution of food products without burdening the public and to intensify preventive measures.

Last Friday, a working group led by Deputy Mayor J.Batbayasgalan reported that traffic accidents caused by drunk drivers decreased by 83.3 percent, and the number of drivers arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol declined by 56.8 percent in Ulaanbaatar during a temporary ban on the sale and distribution of alcohol.

The temporary ban was in effect from January 17 to 20, ordered by the Ulaanbaatar Mayor's Office to ensure public safety after five people died in Bayangol District due to poisoning by an undetermined liquid substance on January 16. The working group lifted the ban at 11:59 p.m. on January 20, and the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages was allowed to resume.

"The police haven't received another report about alcohol poisoning since the sale and distribution of alcohol was prohibited. The working group determined that there was no reason to believe that a certain product caused the poisoning, and it was decided that it was  unnecessary to extend the ban," said A.Davaajargal, secretary of the working group and a legal officer at the Ulaanbaatar Mayor's Office.

"The ban until January 20 was very well enforced. Residents and businesses were very cooperative, as they understood the importance of the ban very well. Thanks to their cooperation, we are seeing good results, and crimes in the capital decreased by more than 50 percent," said J.Batbayasgalan.

The Bayanzurkh District Police Department found one store that continued selling alcoholic beverages and took two inebriated people into custody during the three-day ban.

According to A.Davaajargal, the National Institute of Forensic Science will announce the results of its analysis of samples of the substances believed to have been consumed by the five people who died last week.

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Selenium-enriched eggs for Mongolia

January 28 (The Scottish Farmer) DUE TO the low mineral levels in Mongolia's soil, many of the Eastern Asian country's population have micronutrient deficiencies in their diets that can cause health problems at all stages of life.

One of the most critical of these deficiencies is related to selenium, which the local health authorities have identified as a serious health threat – so much so that there is now work afoot to increase the population's selenium intake through 'enriched' foods.

Eggs have been identified as a handy conduit for this extra mineral boost, and Tumen Shuvuut, one of the two largest egg-layer companies in Mongolia, has begun marketing selenium-enriched eggs from hens fed with Sel-Plex organic selenium – supplied by Alltech – to consumers nationwide.

Selenium is nutritionally essential for humans, as it is a constituent of more than two dozen selenoproteins that play critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis and protection from oxidative damage and infection.

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

Addressing the press conference in Ulaanbaatar, Alltech's global vice president Dr Mark Lyon noted that the company has been working on the enrichment of food products with Sel-Plex for more than 15 years.

"Our organic form of selenium is able to support the immune system of the animal during production while also differentiating the final product in the market and contributing to human health," said Dr Lyons.

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

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EU project aims to highlight importance of biosafety in Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) The National Committee on Biosafety of Mongolia and the European Union CBRN CoE initiative are planning to implement project, entitled 'Strengthening the National Legal Framework and Provision of Specialized Training on Bio-Safety and Bio-Security in Central Asian Countries P53'.

The first meeting of the project P53 is taking place in Ulaanbaatar on January 26-27. The meeting is being attended by over 50 representatives from 24 organizations, such as CBRN CoE initiative, international organizations, Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia, the National Committee on Biosafety of Mongolia and other organizations engaged in biosafety.

The participants are reviewing the needs and demand for reducing dangers and current situation of chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear risks and identifying works to be implemented within the project. The National Committee on Biosafety of Mongolia serves under the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. It is needed to reduce and prevent from potential biological dangers, ensure readiness and improve the national legal environment for solving management after disaster and empowering human resources and organizations and toughen its control, the participants underlined. 

In his opening speech at the project meeting, Ts.Batbayar, Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism said "Formulating a policy on the reduction of chemical and biological risks are growing concerns of world countries. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the National Committee on Biosafety of Mongolia are working to ensure participation of all sides on the successful implementation of the project successful in Mongolia.

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Mongolian students gain "Best Hack Award" at JP HACKS in Japan

Ulaanbaatar, January 27 (MONTSAME) Mongolian student team led by D.Batchunag, student of Tokyo Institute of Technology gained a "Best Hack award" from the "JP HACKS" competition in Japan.  

It is one of the biggest competitions take place among Japanese students. A "Cookbot" mobile application invented by Mongolian student team offers detailed cooking recipes along with their photos. If users choose meal they want to cook, the cooking application shows them a comprehensive cooking process automatically from the start until the end.

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UVA Center for Politics Hosts Mongolia Delegation

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va., January 26 (WVIR) - The University of Virginia Center for Politics is hosting 30 young professionals from across Mongolia.

As part of a two week stay in Charlottesville, the group is taking part in various leadership training activities.

Part of their visit included a visit to the Rutherford Institute in Albemarle County to learn about civil liberties and human rights in the United States. Thursday, the professionals sat in on a lecture given by John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute.

Whitehead talked about the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, police SWAT team raids, and explained how people in America are sometimes arrested while exercising free speech.

Members of the group plan to create projects that they hope will make democracy stronger in Mongolia.

"We're learning good initiatives, but we're also observing what can go wrong if we don't inform our citizens or when there's so much polarization in their society. So that's my biggest takeaway from this trip so far," said journalist Lkhagva Erdene.

Group members say they hope to take part in more advocacy work on transparency in their home country and work with the youth as well.

Whitehead gave each member of the group pocket pamphlets of the Bill of Rights.

Release from the University of Virginia Center for Politics:

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Culture & Society

Genghis Khan's Golden Saddle on its Way to The Dutch National Military Museum

SOEST, The Netherlands, January 27, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Over 200 extraordinary items from the Inner Mongolia Museum in Hohhot (China) and other museums arrive at the Netherlands. The items, including a golden saddle, will be part of the exhibition 'Genghis Khan, world conqueror on horseback'. The objects have never before been shown outside China. The National Military Museum is the first museum that presents the exhibition from 18 February. 

200 extraordinary items

Using wide-ranging contemporary sources, digital media and some of the rarest objects from the museums of Inner Mongolia, this is the story of the Mongols - as it has never been told before. The golden saddle is one of the 200 treasures from the Inner Mongolia Museum in Hohhot, China. It is for the first time that these artefacts are accessible at this scale to the public outside China.

Genghis Khan, world conqueror on horseback  

The exhibition tells the story of one of the largest contiguous empires ever known to mankind and the impact it had. The golden saddle is one of the key pieces in the collection. The exhibition documents the life of Genghis Khan from a military perspective.

The exhibition 'Genghis' is a project of Nomad Exhibitions in collaboration with the Inner Mongolia Museum and the University of Edinburgh. The exhibition will open on 18 February and be on display until 27 August.

National Military Museum

The National Military Museum (NMM) is the leading museum highlighting the role of the armed forces in the Netherlands in the past, present and future. The museum illustrates this role by means of stories, activities and topical exhibitions that live long in the memory. The museum has a huge presentation area in which many impressive collection pieces are on display, such as aircraft, tanks, armoured vehicles and helicopters. For more information, go to http://www.nmm.nl or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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UNESCO to register traditional Mongolian handicrafts

January 26 (news.mn) The tradition of Mongolian handicrafts is to be registered into UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Mongolian craftsmen and women are to be tasked to make a duplicate of the Bogd Khaan's pouch. It will be an identical copy; the only difference being its dimensions - 225 cm by 88cm, in other words, four times larger than the actual size of the original. It is intended to be nominated for the Guinness Records as "the biggest pouch embroidered by the largest number of people".

The crafting process of the pouch will start during the opening ceremony of the "Embroidery Art Wonder" exhibition, which will take place at the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum in Ulaanbaatar on 27th of January.

The exhibition will display the best examples of modern day embroidery along with rare items from the collection of the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum to the public, including the original pouch of Mongolia's last ruler, the Bogd Khaan.

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Desert Dwellers: Explore Life Amongst Mongolia's Singing Dunes

EXPLORE the traditions of the people living amongst the vast, singing dunes of the Gobi Desert

January 25 (Barcroft TV) London-based photographer Dan Joseph decided to capture Mongolians living in the desert after seeing other photographer's work focusing on the Mongolians nomads living in the grasslands.

Using a contact at the Zoological Society of London as a guide, Joseph flew to Dalanzadgad before driving into the desert for a day and a half before he met the first family, camel and cattle herders who live at the base of the Khongor sand dunes.

Luckily accommodation was easy to come by, as the Mongolian people uphold a strong tradition of hosting passersby in exchange for a gift or, in the case of foreigners, a small fee.

Joseph said: "Over the last few years, this area has had an increase in adventure tourism, which means there are daily flights in the summer to Dalanzadgad.

"Also, holiday camps are popping up a few hours drive from the sand dunes and have a sort of Butlins feel without the entertainment part.

"I found them bit depressing when visiting one to see if we could get some beer - I know very English man on holiday 'where is the nearest pub?'"

While the arid desert conditions proved challenging, the lack of a common language was Joseph's biggest barrier as he had to rely heavily on hand gestures to communicate with the locals.

Fortunately for Dan the celebration of Naadam festival month - which formally celebrates the Mongolian Revolution of 1921 and its subsequent independence from Chinese occupation - needed no translator.

Naadam incorporates a host of events including traditional sporting and military culture and music.

The 33-year-old photographer said: "The best way to describe it is Christmas, a Summer fair and the highland games rolled into one!

"Each area within Mongolia will have there own Naadam festival which will held over a few days anytime in July. People will gather to drink, play games, watch a horse race, archery and wrestling."

While exploring the region, Dan got to see a traditional horse race in Ulaanbaatar and a smaller local one in the midst of the Gobi Desert.

He added: "It was in the middle of nowhere. There seemed to be nothing around for hundreds of miles, just a big group of cars in a circle with two makeshift tents and that's it.

"Here they set up a horse race with two cars in place as the finish line and in the middle of the circle of cars was where the wrestling took place. There seemed to be two referees - one to watch each wrestler.

"Before each match began, every wrestler would do a sort of dance around their referee. Mimicking an eagle with the arms outstretched and slowly flapping them as if they were wings.

"The only rules I could understand were to get the opponent on his back either by a grapple hold and throw or hooking with their legs to trip them up. Each match must have lasted around ten minutes."

Although meeting the remote families of the Gobi Desert was the goal of Joseph's trip, the highlight came in the form of the Gobi Desert's spellbinding singing dunes.

He said: "The most memorable part was climbing to the top of a sand dune over 200 metres high and reaching the top in time to see the sunset.

"While I was up at the apex of the dune I could hear distant humming then I could feel the sand dune I was stood on start to vibrate and a humming sound coming from it.

"It was such a weird and slightly scary moment that lasted about a minute before it went silent and I watched the sunset."

The mystical sound is triggered by wind passing over dunes or by those walking on the sand dunes.

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Studying human generosity around the globe

January 26 (Phys.org) Rutgers anthropologist Lee Cronk has been working in remote stretches of Arizona and New Mexico, studying the ways in which ranchers are working together to manage the risks of their trade.

One of Cronk's graduate students, Thomas Conte, is even further off the grid. He's traveling with sheep herders in northern Mongolia, observing how families cooperate to cope with calamity.

Cathryn Townsend, a post-doctoral associate, is in Africa, living and working with farmers devastated by floods and famine yet who retain a strong communal tradition of sharing resources.

The three Rutgers anthropologists are among a group of scholars investigating some of the fundamental questions of human nature: Why, how, and under what conditions do people cooperate and share with each other?

"In a very broad sense we are trying to create a body of empirical work that helps explain human generosity," says Cronk, a professor in the Department of Anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences. "Why are people generous with one another? Why aren't they just selfish?"

Cronk serves as co-director of the Human Generosity Project, a research initiative run by Rutgers and Arizona State University (ASU) investigating examples of cooperation and risk pooling in eight communities across the globe. 

The potential benefits of the research to humankind are enormous.

"Our research is highlighting cooperation as an ancient practice, essential to the survival of our species," says Townsend, who is working with the Ik people, subsistence farmers in the mountains of Uganda. "In the long term, our work could help bring together divided communities and encourage us all to protect the natural resources that we depend upon for our survival."

Conte will spend most of this academic year in Mongolia near the Siberian border. He'll live in a felt tent and travel over mountain ranges on horseback. He'll observe the ways that the semi-nomadic herders work together to prepare for devastating winter storms, or zud, by cutting and storing hay and building shelters for the animals. 

"The fundamental question I'm trying to look at is whether disasters or risks bring people together or drive them apart," Conte says.

The project, funded largely through a grant by the John Templeton Foundation, and co-directed by ASU scholar Athena Aktipis, developed from Cronk's longtime interest in the Maasai people of East Africa, who use a system of sharing called osotua in which individuals ask their neighbors for help when in need and give to others when asked.

"Osotua is really about: "If you're in trouble, I will help you out," Cronk says. "We found it a rich area for research."

Indeed, Cronk's most recent work shows that even American ranchers—celebrated in popular culture for their rugged individualism—have created a network of cooperation in which they help each other with tasks such as branding or shipping, as well as providing support in the event of an injury.

"The ranchers are very individualistic, but they realize that people get in trouble and need help," Cronk says.

Cronk, more accustomed to doing research in African villages, was initially taken aback by the sparsely populated ranchlands of the Southwest, where he had to drive hundreds of miles to get interviews with his subjects. 

Still, he said, such challenges come with the job.

"Anthropologists study people where they are," he says. "And if that happens to be in the American Southwest, so be it. We study everybody." 

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How should Mongolian parents be raising their children?

January 27 (UB Post) While waiting for my turn with some teenage girls to see an OB/GYN, I overheard many things that shocked me. At first, I just thought that the girls were there for a routine examination, as they all seemed to be high school students.

Three girls sitting next to me were friends. They talked about boys and then discussed which way was the best way to end a pregnancy. One girl said that it was better with anesthesia, while another argued that it was better without anesthesia, because you can walk out on your own after a procedure. I was shocked and scared. It meant that it wasn't their first time having an abortion. If they were arguing about which way was better, they must have tried both ways – with and without anesthesia.

The scariest thing was their demeanor, as they didn't seem to feel any sense of remorse about what they were preparing for. They behaved as if they were going to get a tooth removed. After one of them entered the doctor's office, the others scrolled through Facebook and took selfies. After around a half an hour, their friend came out of a treatment room. She looked very pale, but asked her friends to go get something good to eat, and they left the hospital. As a parent with a daughter, I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. I became emotional, and I couldn't stop thinking about what I had seen, and was pretty sure that the parents of the girls didn't know about the dark experiences of their children.

I've heard about many similar incidents from my friends and acquaintances, about girls 15 to 18 years old having abortions. My friend's mother runs a women's clinic, and sometimes my friend helps her mother there. The clinic is located near many universities. My friend has observed many girls coming in for an abortion between lessons or during their lunch break. At first, I didn't believe her, because it sounded unbelievable. But after I saw something similar with my own eyes, I thought that what my friend told me might be possible. Even though abortion is illegal in Mongolia, it is done at almost every women's clinic. Everyone knows about it, but no one follows the law and regulations, and no one regulates these hospitals.

Doctors and psychologists have written extensively about the developmental period known as adolescence, which lasts about 10 years — from age 11 to 19 — and it's regarded as a critical time for brain development. During these years, parents should pay special attention to their children and watch them carefully. I lived in Poland for eight years. At first, when I saw my friends talking to their mothers about boys and other personal issues, I was a little shocked.

But then I learned that there aren't many boundaries between Polish parents and their children. They are very open-minded and talk to their children as they would to their friends. I liked it very much, and learned to talk to my mother about my personal issues and feelings as if she were my friend. Even now, I talk to my mother about everything, I don't have any secrets kept from her, which is probably because I came of age in Poland. But unfortunately, in Mongolia, parents are not eager to discuss certain topics with their children.

They place boundaries, and are uncomfortable talking about adult issues with their children. It may be related to our culture, but we are now living in the 21st century, and many foreign cultures influence the modern Mongolian lifestyle. Youth dress in Korean styles and are influenced by social trends in Korean dramas and pop music. We should be learning about things that can benefit us and teach us about the world in certain ways.

Mongolian parents should be more open with their children and give them a better understanding of things they should definitely know about in their teenage years. They should talk about relationships and what they should and shouldn't be doing. These conversations may exclude fathers, because talking with a daughter about sex and relationships may be difficult for some fathers, but mothers shouldn't shy away from it. Mothers should talk to their daughters about the consequences of unprotected sex, and teach them about contraception. They should teach their daughters that unprotected sex may lead to sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Children should know that an abortion is a terrible thing that may affect their future.

Unfortunately, Mongolian parents democonsider these topics taboo, and don't touch upon these issues. Health classes, which provided students with basic information about the reproductive system and sex, were eliminated from the general education curriculum in 2015. Teachers and students were also reluctant to discuss these subjects, so the results of the curriculum were poor. But still, it was better than not having any health classes at all. Students attending foreign schools in Mongolia tend to be more open about these subjects, and are not shy about expressing their opinions and exchanging information on these issues.

Living and working in Ulaanbaatar may be stressful for everyone, but parents shouldn't forget about the importance of taking care of their children. They should always find some time to spend with their children, to talk to them, to ask about their problems and to ask if they need any help. Children may not be brave and may lack the courage to start a conversation about their personal issues and life. Facilitating these conversations is a part of parental responsibility, and may be helpful in protecting many girls from unplanned pregnancy.

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Guest Post: Mongol Man Conquers American Woman's Heart

by Jocelyn Eikenburg 

January 26 (Speaking of China) Heather Caveney, who blogs at An American Tomboy in Mongolia, was always skeptical of love stories…until she found herself lost in her own love story while vacationing in Mongolia. 

Do you have a love story or other guest post you'd like to see featured here on Speaking of China? Visit the submit a post page to learn more about how to have your words published on the blog.

—–
You know that movie where the woman travels to a faraway place and meets the man of her dreams? Or what about that novel in which the heroine has a midlife crisis and overhauls her entire life? Yeah, that's the stuff of the silver screen, books, and urban legends, right?

While I have watched plenty of those movies—think Under the Tuscan Sun and Eat, Pray, Love—and I still read Jane Eyre regularly (every couple of years), I was a skeptic when it came to love stories. Two and a half years ago I would not have called myself a "romantic."

I was satisfied with a sedate and ordinary American life in Colorado. I had meaningful work, a loving family, great friends, and a calendar packed with events and commitments. I had resigned myself to the spouse I'd chosen fourteen years earlier and with whom I'd built a life–two vehicles and a suburban home filled with furnishings and all the stuff we seem to want and need in America. The things I had acquired and surrounded myself with seemed they should be, well, enough.

Instead of my life widening out into a matrix of forks in the road, I'd somehow arrived to a dead-end cul-de-sac. To anyone on the outside, I had the good life. On the inside, I was doing time.

Then Mongolia–and Zorig–happened.

It was July 2014–the summer after my 40th birthday. My traveling companion was my father. We'd been planning and saving for this trip–three weeks to explore Mongolia–for more than three years. 

It was there, on the wide-open steppe with its absence of fences that something began to crack open inside of me. A ger camp had become our temporary home. It was there that I found myself drinking vodka, with my father and three Mongolian men, that I felt free, and what it meant to be fully PRESENT with others. It was there, under a star-splattered midnight sky, when we paused in a mountain field blanketed with knee-high wildflowers, listening to wolves howl, that I thanked the universe for being free from the tethers of technology. And it was there that I became intrigued by a man named Zorig.

Now, this is not some kind of love-at-first-sight story. Well, Zorig claims it was "love at first seen" for him. But that was NOT the case for me.

I was a married woman. Traveling with my father. Camping in the countryside where there were no showers. Wearing a baseball cap because my hair was greasy. Get the picture?

But I'd be lying if I didn't say I was curious about this man who was our fishing guide and translator. His name—Zorig—made him sound like a superhero, or a sports car. We spent six days traveling and fishing with Zorig (as well as a driver and local area guide) on the Onon River, located in Khentii province, the birthplace of Chinggis Khan.

In fact, you could say that Chinggis Khan got us together!

After many adventures over four days of fishing—including getting stuck in a river, listening to wolves howl back to our guide's call, enjoying hyam (sausage) and pickles while drinking vodka, hunting for a terrain feature to pee behind, eating marmot, and sharing small shards of our personal lives—something ignited between us.

While I do not condone cheating or being unfaithful to one's mate, I have to own the choices I made. On that last night before we returned to Ulaanbaatar and prepared to depart Mongolia forever, I made a choice to see if what I'd been feeling—a connection between this strange Mongol man and myself—was real.

I watched my father tuck himself into bed, turned out the light, and then I stepped outside the ger (yurt). Not knowing how to proceed (it had been over 16 years since I'd flirted or made a move on a man!), I watched a brilliant half moon rise up from the horizon, illuminating the steppe before me and the river off in the distance.

"What are you thinking about?" asked Zorig, materializing at my side.

"Chinggis Khan," I said, simultaneously surprised and relieved.

We spoke briefly about the infamous Mongolian leader before Zorig invited me into his ger. I drank vodka with him, our driver, the local guide, and one of the men that had helped get us un-stuck from the river two days before.

I had been wondering, for days, what it would be like to kiss this wild and exotic man. Yes, I understand the cliché that sits in that sentence. But you see—I was making good on a declaration I'd made as a teenager—"to date someone from every race." At more than 40 years old, the absurdity of that is not lost on me. What is "every race" to a white girl graduating high school just outside of Gettysburg, PA? It's laughable to consider now. But as a young adult I had tried to pursue a path in multicultural dating. I'd dated white, black, and Hispanic. I'd kissed a beautiful Norwegian soldier while working in Sarajevo as a photojournalist with the U.S. Army. And I'd hunted throughout my college years and early adult life for an Asian man to date. Or kiss. All hunts had proved fruitless.

It was in Mongolia where he finally walked into my life, and later on–into my heart. He was a hunter, a fisherman, an adventurer. He was brave and bold. He was a man who went after what he wanted.

That night, we hugged. We kissed. And it was a stunning surprise.

My mind raced with thoughts of him being a Cassanova, someone that hit on all his (female) clients, and certainly someone that was looking for a quick something-something. But oh, the kiss was not what I expected (rushed, hurried, sloppy!).

It was tentative.

Careful.

Soft and sensual.

This man would continue to surprise me at every turn in the road.

The next morning we drove back to the capital, Ulaanbaatar (UB). Zorig tried to hold my hand on the ride. I jerked away, shocked he would be so bold with my father sitting in the front seat. I pretended to sleep the entire eight hours.

After a quick unload and time for a shower and change, Zorig collected Dad and I from the Edelweiss Hotel and we went by taxi to Silk Road, a nice restaurant, that catered to tourists and expats, in the heart of the city. This was a change from our schedule. We were supposed to be eating in the hotel's restaurant. Unaccompanied.

As we were seated in a small private, glassed-in room at the center of Silk Road it occurred to me that THIS WAS A DATE. However, my dad and our driver (who arrived late and left early) had to be present to make it "business." We drank two bottles of wine, enjoyed lovely meals, and the men enjoyed after-dinner scotches. We talked and drank and ate for nearly four hours. Zorig put his hand on my knee under the table (my father was clueless!)

When he went to pay the check, I gave Zorig a folded note (basically a Dear John letter–thanks for the fun! and goodbye).

Escorting us back to the hotel on foot, he deftly slipped the note into my jacket pocket. Arriving, he told us the time he'd collect us in the morning for airport delivery, and said goodnight. As we climbed the stairs, I read:

"I wait for you at first floor anyway. If you think of me like friend, come and talk a while."

Oh, what to do!?! It was 11 pm and we would leave in ten hours. I was in a strange city. A foreign country. My father was going to sleep. I should do the same. But I could not. All I thought was, "If you don't go, you will always wonder what if!"

I said goodnight to my dad (we had adjoining rooms with our own bathrooms) and told him I was going to the communal computer on the second floor to check on our flights. I grabbed my tiny travel purse, cramming my passport inside.

I arrived to the lobby and saw Zorig standing just outside the front door. When I stepped out he took my hand in his and led me to River Sounds–a live music dance club–located a few blocks away. We had a drink. We talked. We danced. We kissed "in the arena" as he called it; the dance floor, as I know it. At 1 AM I asked him to take me home.

"Okay," he said, "but every 50 meters we stop and kiss."

"Okay," I agreed.

I told myself during that walk all the reasons he was wrong for me, and why we couldn't work. He was too short. I was married. His hands were small. I lived in America. He lived in Mongolia. We hardly knew each other. Different religions (probably). Very different upbringings. What was that saying about a fish and a bird falling in love? Yes, this was a crazy and fun interlude in a wild place. I had no regrets. But this was, The end.

He paused to kiss me just outside the hotel and declared, "If I have any chance to have your hand, I'm going to take it."

I thought, "this man is crazy," and smiled. We kissed one last time and I went upstairs to sleep.

At the airport the next morning, Zorig helped Dad and I get our luggage and ourselves where we needed to be. Soon we were at the gate to international flights. My dad went to shake Zorig's hand and to give him his hard-earned tip. Zorig refused it. He refused mine as well. My father was flummoxed (he's a well seasoned traveler and this had never happened before!) and had to settle for hand shakes, hugs, and requests for him to return and catch the taimen which we had not caught. Then Zorig came in to hug me, placing his head on the side opposite from where my father stood.

"I love you," he whispered into my ear.

Now it was confirmed–the man was insane. He hardly knew me. He could not love me.

I did not love this strange man. But I also did not sleep on that 12 hour flight from Beijing to San Francisco.

When I arrived home on August 6th I had three emails from Zorig and a Facebook friend request.

Over the next four and a half months we got to know one another. We talked about foods we liked and disliked, our religions (or lack thereof), our families, our histories, what we did with our time. We talked about our work and world presidents and hunting. We shared failed dreams and hopes for the future. All of our communications were through email, Facebook messenger, and International texts. We never Skyped or Facetimed. It was all written words. Beautiful words. He courted me like we dream of being courted.

He had a way of knowing and understanding me that was both unnerving and exciting. He was honest and forthright. I can't say WHY I chose to accept and believe him at face value (this is a question he yet asks me). But I did. There was no game playing. He said what he wanted. Directly. And in that he inspired the same from me to him. He made me fall in love.

While that was happening, I simultaneously filed for divorce (that marriage had ended LONG before I met Zorig), sold a house, moved into an apartment. That dead-end cul-de-sac that had been my life, was suddenly NOT. My future was as wide open as the Eurasian steppe.

On December 22nd I picked Zorig up at the Colorado Springs airport. It was the greatest Christmas present I've ever received. Our mission: to discover if the love we felt was real. If we had the magic. The chemistry.

As you are reading this in the Double Happiness section of Jocelyn's blog, you already know the answer.

Within the first day, I knew that I would move to Mongolia. Over his seven week visit, we traveled. First to Michigan to spend time with my father, then to Idaho where he met my older sister, her two children, and my mother (who was visiting from Virginia), and then to Las Vegas where my brother and his wife, as well as my younger sister's fiancee came to meet him and spend a little time with us. At the end of January, Zorig proposed– and I said, "Yes." On February 10th I took him to the airport and said goodbye–for now.

We were to spend a second four and a half months apart. Once home in Mongolia, Zorig introduced me to his teenage son, Enkhjin, over Skype and we began to get acquainted via Facebook messenger. I secured a job in UB at an international school. And I sold or gave away everything I owned. I whittled my life down to 21 containers–12 boxes I shipped by container, 4 boxes I shipped by air, and I departed the U.S. with five 50 lb suitcases on June 30th, 2015, for Love and a new life in Mongolia.

In the blink of an eye we were married on October 2nd, 2015, at the Office of Civil Registration. Zorig had made good on that declaration to have my hand!

Over this past Christmas and New Year's I traveled home for the first time, taking Zorig and Enkhjin along to meet the extended family (we gather once every five years for a Caveney Clan Christmas in Northern Michigan). With the support of my father, we surprised my family and some friends (about 40 people in all) with a wedding ceremony on December 28th. That evening we ate roasted lamb and toasted with Mongolian vodka. 

Most days I still want to pinch myself. I don't know why I got a real life fairytale. But I did. And I'm writing about it here to keep the dream alive. You never know what is going to happen next in life. And in a world of 7 billion people…..it is possible that your match may be living on the other side of the planet. So travel. Be brave. And listen to your heart.

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Nature & Environment

Dzud 2017: Impacting Women and Their Families

By: Dr. Shinetugs Bayanbileg and Angelica Esguerra

January 26 (UNFPA Mongolia) According to the Mongolian Information and Research Institute of Meteorology as early as November 2016, harsh winter weather hit Mongolia once again. By December, almost 50% of the country experienced heavy snowfall and faced a high risk of severe winter with extremely low temperatures, otherwise known as Dzud. Temperatures were threatened to drop as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius in Northern and Eastern Mongolia, and along with that came the high risk of losing thousands of animals which traditional herder families depend on for their livelihood.

UNFPA recently participated in a multi-organization mission headed by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), joined by several international NGOs and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, to distribute a relief package to herder families in the northern soums (districts )of Dornod and Khentii aimags (provinces). These areas have been particularly subjected to heavy snowfall this winter.

In addition to the food, medicine and blankets in the relief package, UNFPA contributed Dignity Kits specifically for the women and girls in these herder families affected by the extreme winter conditions this season. Dignity Kits contain sanitary products, toiletries, clothing items such as socks and underwear, all curated with the aim to respond to the unique needs of women and girls and to help them maintain a certain level of hygiene, well-being and dignity in face of difficult conditions brought by the Dzud natural disaster. Unfortunately, humanitarian situations can also bring an increased risks to the safety of women and girls. Thus, the Dignity Kits also included flashlights with batteries to allow women and girls to move about more safely at night, as well as whistles to use in case of distress.

Apart from distributing the relief package to the families, it was an opportunity to engage with them and further grasp the conditions they have had to face, understand their challenges – particularly that of the women and girls more deeply, and appreciate their resolve to survive the worst.

For *Munkhzul, his wife *Munkhtsetseg and their 3 young children, the challenges came long before the Dzud arrived. "It was a very dry summer, "Munkhsteteg relates, "And after that, there was too much rain. This made it difficult to gather hay which we need for to store for the animals in winter." With their 320 heads of livestock and 11 cows in mind, that was a cause for worry. Early onset of winter also meant they could not take the animals to otor (or to find better grazing grounds) which impacts the animals' ability to survive the harsh season.

They took out what is known as "The Herder's Loan" from the State Bank, but low income returns from the slaughter of their sheep and goats in early winter has done little to alleviate their situation or promised a way out of debt. When warnings of impending Dzud came, many herder families made the decision to take their livestock suitable for butchering to market, flooding supply and causing meat prices to drop. "We did not get much from the sales," she shares. And as the snow came, markets closed or were inaccessible in the affected areas, which dealt another blow to vulnerable families such as theirs.

Like her, *Narantsetseg's personal concerns fall low on the priority list during these difficult times. When it comes to spending what little her family has, items like food and fuel come first. Certain commodities that the rest of the world takes for granted such as basic sanitary supplies become even rarer. While she uses commercially produced sanitary napkins, which are more sterile than other re-usable, traditional materials such as rags that make women more susceptible to reproductive health problems, she has to carefully ration her existing supply. On her most recent cycle, she only used 4, which is not nearly enough changes to prevent a risk of infections. But such considerations are set aside for now, as supplies dwindle, access is difficult and money to spend is tight.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time women and their families in Mongolia experiencing the Dzud have had to deal with these realities. Last year's winter was also severe, which affected 965,000 people, mostly herders, and killed more than 1 million livestock – something from which many people are still trying to recover. The extremely severe winter for the second year in a row has been a blow to Mongolia's herder families.

In spite of these challenges however, families have managed to remain undaunted. As many of them agree, "This is all part of the herder's life." As is characteristic of Mongolia, families always managed to extend the visiting members of the mission with traditional hospitality. And as they gratefully received the relief packages, as with most herder families in these places hit by severe winter, they did so with the hope remaining that this might be a sign of better times to come. We saw resilience in herders' eyes.

*Names have been changed

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Herders to receive assistance from USAID and Red Cross

Ulaanbaatar, January 26 (MONTSAME) On January 26, Mongolian Red Cross Society informed that herder families facing harsh winter disaster or dzud in 13 aimags will receive CHF 160 thousand from the found of relief assistance during emergencies of the International Committee of the Red Cross and USD 100 thousand from United States Agency for International Development.

This assistance will be delivered in two stages. Firstly, 1740 herder families of Uvs, Khovd, Zavkhan, Khuvsgul and Selenge provinces, where severe winter is being experienced will receive USD 100 each through "Khan Bank". The World Animal Protection International will render first-aid kits and veterinary treatment packages.

The second assistance of USD 100 will be delivered after the Mongolian traditional Lunar New Year for another 1740 herder families of Tuv, Uvurkhangai, Darkhan-Uul, Orkhon, Khentii, and Dornod provinces. Moreover, children of herder families are going to be involved in mental health training.

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Mongolia: Lethal livestock plague now hitting endangered antelope, warns UN agency

27 January 2017 (UN News Centre) – The international pledge to eradicate a devastating livestock disease affecting mostly sheep and goats has taken on new urgency in the wake of a mass die-off of a rare Mongolian antelope, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

A news release from FAO said that some 900 Saiga antelopes (Saiga tatarica mongolica), almost 10 percent of the sub-species' population, have been found dead in Mongolia's western province of Khovd.

Samples taken from carcasses indicated the animals were positive for Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), a highly fatal viral disease with plague-like impact on domestic sheep and goat herds, killing up to 90 percent of infected animals.

While wildlife have long been considered potentially vulnerable, relatively few actual cases of PPR infection have been documented in free ranging wild goat-like species and never in free-ranging antelope.

FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) are leading a multinational effort to eradicate PPR, which can have devastating food-security and economic impacts, by 2030.

Eighty percent of the world's estimated 2.1 billion small ruminants live in affected regions and constitute an important asset for a third of poor rural households. PPR, first identified in Côte d'Ivoire in the 1940s, is now threatening over 75 countries.

Saiga in Mongolia are not truly migratory but are certainly nomadic with an extensive range of about 130,000 square kilometers with seasonal movements in autumn for breeding and early spring for calving. The species, was once widely spread across the Eurasian steppes, is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The dead are highly suggestive of a spillover event from domestic animals with which they share common grazing areas, especially in winter when foraging ranges are fewer. Efforts are ongoing to investigate the situation on the ground, geared in particular to investigating possible other causes, such as the bacterial infection (Pasteurella multocida) that is now suspected to have been the cause of death of hundreds of thousands of Saiga in Kazakhstan in 2015.

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Link to FAO release

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Protect Snow Leopards, Says Global Leaders

January 26 (Travelers Today) Twelve global leaders from snow leopard countries met in Kathmandu, Nepal to discuss the atrocities made against the big cats and lamented that only 4,000 of them are left in the wild. Last week, the Steering Committee of the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection program (GSLEP) tackled poaching and illegal trades in the northern borders of Asian mountains.

Representatives from the 12 countries - Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Uzbekistan - conducted a country presentation which sees that illegal activities are a major concern for all of them.

According to the Snow Leopard Organization, International Coordinator for the GSLEP Secretariat Koustubh Sharma said, "Poaching has been listed as one of the main threats to snow leopard populations over at least the last two decades - but little is known about its extent and impact." He continued to say, "This report by TRAFFIC is a great step towards building the case for a concerted effort to understand and address the issue."

About 200 to 450 snow leopards are killed annually which is equivalent to four a week. However, the number might be higher for unreported cases.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network stated that more than 90 percent of illegal activities are in Asian countries such as China, Mongolia, Pakistan, India, and Tajikistan. Russia is one of the countries identified as the destinations of the poached leopards.

Senior Programme Director of TRAFFIC James Compton said, "TRAFFIC's analysis provides a blueprint for GSLEP action at national and transboundary levels to protect snow leopards from threats posed by poaching and trafficking." He further commented that "Key recommendations to range country governments, communities, conservation experts and donors should be considered as part of an integrated approach to implement the GLSEP objectives."

After the convention in Nepal, the country allotted $3.15 million for its four-year plan to combat atrocities against the almost endangered animals. Another seminar will be held in Kyrgyzstan on September 7 and 8 this year with the twelve countries.

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Sports

Mongolian bandy team tops group after beating Ukraine, Japan, Hungary

Ulaanbaatar, January 27 (MONTSAME) 2017 Bandy World Championship is taking place in Sweden. In the world's second most popular winter sport after ice hockey, Mongolian team have won their final match of preliminary rounds against Hungary in division B.

After winning over Japan and Ukraine, Mongolians have triumphed over the block with 3 consecutive wins. Showing promising performance, Mongolia will face against Netherlands in the quarter-finals on January 27.

Results:

24 January, 2017      Hungary      7-0      Japan

24 January, 2017      Ukraine       6-9      Mongolia

25 January, 2017      Japan         2-10    Mongolia

25 January, 2017      Hungary     11-3     Ukraine

26 January, 2017      Japan          6-2     Ukraine 

26 January, 2017      Mongolia     9-5     Hungary

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Farewell ceremony held for Mongolian Winter Universiade team

January 26 (UB Post) A farewell ceremony for Mongolian athletes who will compete in the 28th Winter Universiade took place at the Central Sports Palace on January 24.

Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Science and Sports Yo.Otgonbayar, Head of Physical Culture and Sports Authority Ts.Sharavjamts, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Mongolia Kalybek Koblandin and other officials attended the farewell ceremony.

The Mongolian national team is comprised of 10 athletes. Mongolian athletes will compete in cross-country skiing and speed skating events of the Winter Universiade this year, which will be held in Almaty, Kazakhstan from January 29 to February 8.

Yo.Otgonbayar opened the ceremony, and said, "We have to try hard to win medals from the Winter Universiade. The state flag and national anthem of Mongolia must be raised and played."

Skater Ch.Otgontsetseg will be the flag bearer of Mongolia. She received the state flag of Mongolia from state officials during the farewell ceremony.

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Mongolian girls' U14 football team trains for Hong Kong tournament

Ulaanbaatar, January 27 (MONTSAME) National girls' football team under 14 has started intense training to partake in the competition to be held on February 10-13 in Hong Kong, China. The team was formed with the best players selected from the national championships took place on January 5-12.

Thus, the girls earned the pass to participate in the competition, in the name of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Our girls will compete with teams of Hong Kong, Thailand and Laos for three days.

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Olympic participant pin awarded to Rio 2016 team

January 26 (UB Post) On January 23, the Mongolian National Olympic Committee (MNOC) presented the participant pins of the International Olympic Committee to the Mongolian athletes who competed in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

The ceremony was held at the MNOC, and the president of the committee S.Zagdsuren, vice president Ts.Damdin, secretary-general J.Otgontsagaan, and head of the Sports Policy Department of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Sports S.Chinbat handed the pins to the athletes.

Olympic bronze medalist boxer D.Otgondalai; boxers E.Tsendbaatar, B.Chinzorig and Kh.Enkh-Amar; world weightlifting champion M.Ankhtsetseg; wrestlers J.Chuluunbat, O.Uitumen, D.Khuderbulga, L.Otgonbayar and P.Temuujin; and archer J.Gantugs received participant pins. MNOC president D.Zagdsuren said, "Every country recognizes Olympic participant pins, and I want to remind athletes to proudly wear this pin everywhere they go."

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State Ice Climbing Championship features new artificial ice wall

January 26 (UB Post) The Mongolian National Climbing Federation has organized the State Ice Climbing Championship, Ice Challenge 2016, in Nairamdal International Children's Center on January 21 and 22.

Over 80 climbers from Ulaanbaatar and provinces competed in the speed and technique categories of the championship.

The first State Ice Climbing Championship was held in 2011 at the frozen Ulaan Tsutgalan Waterfall in Uvurkhangai Province by the initiation of State Honored Athlete G.Usukhbayar.

Organizers of the State Ice Climbing Championship 2016 explained that the event was delayed and held in 2017 due to bad weather conditions.

The highlight of this year's championship was the launch of a 15-meter artificial ice wall in Nairamdal, which was used for the competitions instead of a natural ice formation like previous years.

The championship aims to sharpen the skills and experience of Mongolian climbers and give opportunities to new athletes.

Results of the Ice Challenge 2016:

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Art & Entertainment

Hard Rock Café Hosting Elvis Presley Tribute Night

January 26 (UB Post) Hard Rock Cafe Ulaanbaatar will host an Elvis Presley Tribute Night on January 28.

Asian Top Model and the top participant of "Your Face Sounds Familiar" show E.Enkhbold, live music band RecOn and singer Chinggis will sing songs of legendary, King of Rock 'n' Roll Elvis Presley.

Details

Where: Hard Rock Cafe Ulaanbaatar

When: January 28, 8:00 p.m.

Admission: Free

More Information: 70157625

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Tusgal Photography Club's 'The Edge of Blue Heaven' Exhibition

January 26 (UB Post) Tusgal Photography Club is presenting 2017's second exhibition at the Shangri-La Mall, "The Edge of Blue Heaven", a collection of photographs on view through January 31.

At the beginning of this month, Tusgal Club hosted the gallery's first group exhibition of the year, an exhibition held in collaboration with the NGO Lantuun Dohio, which was dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of preventing child abuse.

The 47 members of the Tusgal Photography Club are sharing their photographs of Mongolia's natural landscapes in "The Edge of Blue Heaven".

The exhibition's organizers want the images on display to motivate people living in Ulaanbaatar, a city filled with excessive air pollution and traffic jams, to experience Mongolia's beautiful nature, to love their motherland, and to travel in Mongolia during the summer.

Head of the club, B.Ankhbayar, said the exhibition is called "The Edge of Blue Heaven" because the club's members feel that Mongolia is like heaven due its vast spaces, four distinct seasons, and beautiful landscapes.

He emphasized that Tusgal Photography Club was established by 19 people who loved photography and connected via BizNetwork seven years ago to develop Mongolian photography.

The club has 47 active members from the ages of 20 to 60 years old, and all of the club's members are working to improve the development of Mongolian photography by educating themselves and entering into the international world of photography.

B.Ankhbayar pointed out that 100 photographs from an exhibition organized by Tusgal Club in 2015 are being sold to raise funds for the construction of the Id Shidiin Oron Child Development Center, a project being led by Lantuun Dohio. He noted that visitors to the exhibition can buy prints for 20,000 MNT.

Some images in the exhibition were inspired by capturing the Fibonacci Spiral, and a number of visitors to the exhibition spoke well of the Tusgal photographers thinking outside of the box.

B.Ankhbayar underlined that the curators of the exhibition want to make changes to the way art exhibitions are held in Mongolia, and to take exhibitions to a new level by reflecting new ideas and creative initiatives.

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Folk tale-based play to be staged for children

Ulaanbaatar, January 27 (MONTSAME) The National Academic Drama Theatre is to stage a new play for children "Tsartsaa Namjil" (Grasshopper Namjil), with aim to enhance its repertoire with children's play as well as to persuade children into adoring national culture and heritage and wisdom and knowledge through Mongolian folk oral histories, tales and myth.

The play, written by Ya.Bayaraa and B.Khishigzaya won in "Artwork for children project" competition announced by Minister of Education, Culture and Science.

The play is based on a well-known folk tale "Tsartsaa Namjil" and talks about various remarkable incidents and events happened to a boy named Namjil , who departed for attaining knowledge. General director of the play is B.Khishigzaya, general scenic and costume designer L.Tserendulam, composer B.Tsatsral and choreographer S.Gan-Ochir. 

Leading characters are performed by B.Zoljargal for Tsartsaa Namjil, S.Bold-Erdene and Ts.Tserenbold for teachers, P.Tserendagva for Erleg Nomun khan (God of death), J.Oyundari for wife of officer, A.Chinguun and G.Ganbat for officiers, and B.Zolzaya for an aged maid. Premiere of the play is on February 05. The ticket costs MNT8000.

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Mongolian embroidery art exhibition opens

Ulaanbaatar, January 27 (MONTSAME) "Among traditional arts and crafts, embroidery is considered to be highly impactful to one's creativity, self-control and tolerance, as I figured out after many years of research", said Z.Tsengelsaikhan, Head of 'Egneshgui Sanaa' NGO (literal meaning Unique Initiatives) at the opening ceremony of an exhibition named 'Wonders of Art of Embroidery" which is being hosted by Bogd Khaan Palace Museum.

Unveiling more than 100 pieces of embroidery by Mongolia's foremost embroiderers and rare pieces from the repertory of the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum, the exhibition marked the official launch of a project to produce a Guinness-record-setting pouch or snuff bottle bag.

'Egneshgui Sanaa' NGO, founded in 2005 with an objective to revive traditional Mongolian embroidery art, is thus embarking on a more than six months long journey to remake Bogd Khaan's pouch in 4-times size in order to highlight Mongolian traditional embroidery art.

The organization sets out to register the pouch in the Guinness Book of records, and the demonstrated embroidery art techniques in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO.

"There are more than 30 different types of embroidery known in Mongolia; among those, 'zuu orooh' (literal meaning needle enwrapping) and 'zagasan nuruu' (literal meaning fish back) embroideries are creations of Mongolian nomads. It's probable that Mongolian 'Zuu orooh' art dates back to the Stone Age", Tsengelsaikhan told us.

"By the time our NGO was founded, traditional Mongolian embroidery art was on the brink of being forgotten. And now, I personally have taught embroidery to 3500 women, passing down the precious art to future generations", she says. According to her, young women and girls nowadays are very interested in and keen to learn the essentials of needlework techniques.

During the opening of the exhibition, a thread-knotting ceremony was held to inaugurate the Bogd Khaan's pouch making which will be 225 cm long and 88 cm wide.

The exhibition's opening attracted quite an audience among whom were many voluntary embroiderers who came to contribute to the remaking of Bogd Khaan's pouch. The exhibition remains open for ten days.

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Top U.S. cello rock band to play with traditional Mongolian musicians

January 26 (news.mn) American cello rock band 'Break of Reality' in collaboration with the Mongolian State Morin Khuur Ensemble will perform at the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet. The concert, entitled "Sounds from East & West", is part of the events marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the USA and Mongolia, will be held on Friday January 27 at 17:30.

'Break of Reality' is visiting Ulaanbaatar at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy, the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Arts Council of Mongolia. During their visit to Mongolia, which began on the 22nd of January and will last until 29th, the group has been organizing public concerts, interactive master classes and performances with local musicians, and jam sessions. They performed the "Sounds from East & West" concert free of charge on January 24th at the Children's Palace for children of orphanages and children with disabilities.

If you want to see the concert, contact the Arts Council of Mongolia for free tickets.

'Break of Reality' is famous for its signature cello rock sound which hopes to bridge the gap between classical, rock, and world music listeners. The band has held sold out concerts across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

It is to be hoped that the cold UB winter will not deter the members of the band from returning to Mongolia at a nicer time of year.

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Related:

American band holds free concerts in MongoliaUB Post, January 26

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Movie review: 'Eagle Huntress' takes flight with kid-friendly tale of empowerment

January 27 (The Cap Times) The remote mountains of Mongolia might seem like an unlikely place to find a tale of female empowerment. But the documentary "The Eagle Huntress" provides just that sort of story, as well as a beautiful and sweet-natured adventure tale — although one wonders how much of what we see is authentic and how much is staged for the camera.

Among the Kazakh people, there is a longstanding tradition of training and using golden eagles to catch foxes and other prey. These "eagle hunters" capture their birds from the nest — a dicey proposition as the nests are on the sides of steep cliffs — and train and use them for seven years before releasing them back into the wild.

The eagle hunters have also always been men. Until 13-year-old Aisholpan Nurgaiv.

The heroine of "Eagle Huntress" is determined to become the first female to follow in her father's tradition, over the objections of the male elders in their village. After training with her father's bird, Aisholpan rappels down a cliff to capture her own eagle and spends months training it follow her commands.

The film follows her as she becomes the only female to compete in a "Golden Eagle Festival" against 70 other Kazakh eagle hunters. Then comes the ultimate test, to venture into the snow-covered mountains of Mongolia and catch a fox herself.

The story is so simple that even kids can follow it, and Aisholpan makes for a cheerful, indefatigable heroine. Daisy Ridley (Rey from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens") provides the voiceover narration that explains what's going on. And the cinematography is breathtaking. To see that eagle soar above the snow-covered mountains, captured by cameras mounted on drones, is truly stunning.

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Mongolia wins bronze at Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships

Sweden wins Silver, Mongolia-Erdene wins Bronze amidst highly-skilled field

BRECKENRIDGE, Janjuary 29 (The Summit Daily) — Team China won gold in the 27th annual International Snow Sculpture Championships with "Mermaid," a piece that depicted an underwater scene highlighted by a swimming mermaid.

Jenn Cram, judge coordinator and director of public programs and engagement for Breckenridge Creative Arts commented on behalf of the judging panel: "This sculpture pushed the boundaries of the medium with its illusion of movement and delicate form; some of the features could have been made of paper. Team China seemingly freed the mermaid and sea creatures from the block of snow, creating a sculpture that is visually appealing from 360 degrees."

Along with 15 other teams, Chinese sculptors worked with only hand tools for 65 hours across five days to create a temporary outdoor art gallery. Sculptures will remain on display at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge until Sunday, Feb. 5 (weather permitting). Visit SculptSnow.com for detailed event information.

Team Sweden won Silver with "4 (Ever) Wheels Reflection." The sculpture depicted two cars tied together, an expression of both freedom and dependency.

Team Mongolia-Erdene won Bronze with "We are One Family," a piece that reflected the idea of animals coexisting with humans and nature.

In a first-ever tie, Artists' Choice was split between Mongolia-Erdene and Mongolia-Tserendash.

People's Choice and Kid's Choice will be announced Sunday, Jan. 29.

Beginning Monday, Jan. 20, anyone can vote for Social Media Fan Favorite on Facebook.com/GoBreck

During competition week, high temperatures in the teens and twenties made for excellent carving conditions. An official awards ceremony took place today at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center. Winners receive medals and recognition from the international snow sculpture community – though no prize money is awarded, all teams receive travel stipends, meals and lodging. The result is one of the world's most prestigious snow sculpting events, where teams are known to take risks and come together in the spirit of camaraderie.

Teams competing this year included China, Finland, Germany (Theil), Great Britain (Annaly), Iceland, India (Callisto), Italy, Mexico, Mongolia (Erdene), Mongolia (Tserendash), Sweden, Turkey, USA-Breckenridge, USA-Loveland, USA-Vermont, USA-Wisconsin (Tomczak).

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Travel

10 Popular Questions On Mongolia

Why are the autumn eagle festivals so close together? What is the best time of year to visit Mongolia? What's the currency of Mongolia? 

Not answers to all the questions I have ever been asked over the past 12 years but certainly some!

January 27 (Eternal Landscapes) I spent this last weekend at The Adventure Travel Show up in London. Throughout the two days  people stopped at the Eternal Landscapes Mongolia stand. Quite a few questions about Mongolia were asked so I thought I would answer 10 of the more general ones here. You never know, one or two might be of use!

What's the typical landscape?

That's the problem. There is no typical landscape. Apart from maybe the immensity. 

Mongolians typically divide their country into three - Gobi (desert), tal herem bus (steppe) and Khangai (mountain). 

There's the Gobi Desert to the south (the fifth largest desert in the world but only 3% is sand), the wide low, stretching grasslands in the east, the Altai mountains (Mongolia's highest mountain) that dominate western Mongolia and then mountain/forest steppe in the central/northern regions.

What's the currency of Mongolia? 

Mongolian tögrög / tughrik  - the currency code is MNT, and the currency symbol is ₮.  The lowest denomination in regular use is the 10-tögrög note and the highest is the 20,000-tögrög note.

Why are the autumn eagle festivals so close together? 

There are two - both held in Bayan Ulgii Province in western Mongolia. The first is held in the district of Sagsai and takes place on the third weekend in September. The second is held in the provincial capital - Ulgii, and takes place on the first weekend in October. Both are sponsored by tour companies. 

An alternative option is Nauryz  which  means 'new day' and is the spring festival that is celebrated through Central Asia and falls on the spring equinox. It is essentially a celebration of the coming of spring. In Ulgii in Western Mongolia, there is a two-day celebration with a colourful parade on the first day and horse racing and games on the second.

What is the best time of year to visit Mongolia?

Hard one this!

The typical season is May through to September with July being peak season because of  Naadam - the three manly sports.

Spring is March to May - with very few visitors - it is dry but can be very windy. Autumn is September and October and it's not very crowded, dry, sunny but starting to get chilly.  Winter (November – February) is the quietest time of year - it's typically dry but bitterly cold.

At any time of year, Mongolia is not a pack light destination!

What's the difference between Outer Mongolia and Inner Mongolia?

Basically, Inner Mongolia is in China whereas Outer Mongolia refers to the actual country of Mongolia. 

Historically, both were part of the Mongol Empire. But, China took control of Inner Mongolia in the 1630's  and it has remained a province (Autnomous Region) of China ever since. 

Having become part of China in 1690, (Outer) Mongolia regained independence from China (for the final time) in 1921. It became a democracy in 1990 after the fall of the USSR.

What language do they speak?

Mongolian!

However, they use the cyrillic alphabet in Mongolia (with latin alphabet for text messages and social media!) but in Inner Mongolia they have retained the traditional vertical script based on the Uighur alphabet.

Don't be put off by the fact that he travel author Tim Severin described the Mongolian language as being similar to:

'two cats coughing and spitting at each other until one finally throws up. ' 

How do I get there?

However, you approach it takes time. 

There are currently five airlines that fly into the capital city - Ulaanbaatar (UB). With each airline, you transfer through their main transit hub for your flight to UB.  

Air China - via Beijing
Korean Air - via Seoul
Turkish Airlines - via Istanbul
Aeroflot - via Moscow 
MIAT - via various hubs

And of course there is the second option of the Trans Mongolian / Siberian. There are both local and international trains but either way, express route this is not. 

Is there a problem with altitude?

Not really. Mongolia is one of the highest countries in the world - over 80% is over 1000 metres - Ulaanbaatar itself is at 1350m above sea level. Khuiten Peak is Mongolia's highest mountain at 4,374 m (14,350 feet). It is one of five peaks of Tavan Bogd National Park but unless you're a mountaineer (this is a technical climb) then you probably won't be climbing it.

I'm vegetarian. Is this a problem?

No. 

Of course, you have to bear in mind that this is Mongolia so there are restrictions in place to what is available. Still, with only 1% of the landmass dedicated to crop growing (and we are talking the 19th largest country in the world), in 2016 Mongolia harvested

  • 482.1 thousand tons of wheat
  • 174.7 thousand tons of potatoes
  • 117.5 thousand tons of vegetables
  • 32.5 thousand tons of oil plants
  • 43.4 thousand tons of fodder plants

If you're interested in Mongolia,  then why not pop across to the Eternal Landscapes Mongolia website and see what we're offering for 2017. Alternatively, just email me (jess@eternal-landscapes.co.uk) - I'm always happy to be of help and all advice is free with no sales pitch. 

And, unless I have mentioned otherwise, all images used throughout this post were taken either by EL guests or members of the EL team. This is the Mongolia you will also experience if you chose to travel with us.

Wherever the road takes you in 2017 - Sain Yavaarai - Journey Well

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Indy Guide: Central Mongolia Tour of Beauties, Nomadic & Culture, 5 Days

DAY 1. LEAVING ULAANBAATAR FOR KHARKHORIN

DAY 2. ELSEN TASARKHAI SAND DUNES+CAMEL and HORSE RIDINGS WITH LOCAL GUIDE

DAY 3. DRIVING TO TERELJ NATIONAL PARK+HORSEBACK RIDING WITH LOCAL GUIDE VIA KHUSTAI NATIONAL PARK /WILD TAKHI HORSES/

DAY 4. HORSEBACK RIDING FOR 2-3 HOURS THROUGH TERELJ NATIONAL PARK+CHINGGIS STATUE /Bonus/

DAY 5. DRIVE BACK TO ULAANBAATAR

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Indy Guide: Winter Tour in Mongolia: Terelj national park short tour, 3D

3 day Short tour to Terelj national park from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

This is one of our great deals for our customers who are visiting to Mongolian for short amount of time. You will have opportunity to discover semi desert type of landscape with big sand dunes and beautiful mountains around! On the way back to Terelj National Park you will stop over the Khustai National Park and chance to see some wild horses!

Here you will have some great way to get local Mongolian experience during the winter months. It will be just a perfect match with those who are traveling with Trans Siberian, staying in Mongolia for a short amount of time or who would like to experience Mongolia in winter time...

DETAILED ITINERARY:

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Indy Guide: Western Mongolia and Gobi safari tours, 19 days

Day 1: Fly to Ulgii. Upon arrival meet your guide and drive to Tavan Bogd. Reach to the Tsagaan gol valley.

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Suite 303, Level 3, Elite Complex

14 Chinggis Avenue, Sukhbaatar District 1

Ulaanbaatar 14251, Mongolia
Email: info@covermongolia.com

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