Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mongolia Brief April 15, 2014 Part II

Aimag governor meets UNDP deputy permanent representative

Ulaanbaatar, April 15 (MONTSAME) On Tuesday, the governor of Dornogobi aimag P.Gankhuyag met Mr Thomas Eriksson, the deputy permanent representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to Mongolia.

At the meeting, they discussed issues on modernizing local governance, developing specially-protected areas, urgent problems faced to the aimag and works to be done through developmental programmes.
Mr Eriksson reported that the UNDP plans to hold a training this month for members of the Citizens’ Representatives Khurals of aimags and soums.    

Stock exchange news for April 15

Ulaanbaatar, April 15 (MONTSAME) At the Stock Exchange trades held Tuesday, a total of 30 thousand and 091 shares of 18 JSCs were traded costing MNT 26 million 766 thousand and 652.00.
"Genco tour bureau" /16 thousand and 735 units/, "Ulaansan” /4,000 units/, "Remikon” /3,001 units/, "Tavantolgoi” /1,894 units/ and "State Department Store” /1,348 units/ were the most actively traded in terms of trading volume, in terms of trading value--"Tavantolgoi" (MNT nine million 449 thousand and 890), "Ulaansan" (MNT four million and 780 thousand), "APU" (MNT four million 208 and 940), "Genco tour bureau" (MNT one million 392 thousand and 085) and "Shivee ovoo" (MNT one million 191 thousand and 245).
The total market capitalization was set at MNT one trillion 577 billion 016 million 767 thousand and 810. The Index of Top-20 JSCs was 15,566.97, decreasing by MNT 119.14 or 0.76% against the previous day.

Mongolian girl to receive prize from Quebec governor

Ulaanbaatar, April 15 (MONTSAME) An 11th grade pupil in Canada’s Quebec province from Mongolia Z.Anudari is to receive a prize from the province’s governor, the website published Tuesday.
A Gatineau city-based basketball team where she plays won the regional championship. She has been awarded a right to receive the prize for being a key player in the sport team, and has been selected as a foremost student in her school. She is also an active participant of humanitarian actions.
The province’s governor grants prizes named after him to those people who have succeeded for its region.

‘A Day of Mongolia’ thrived on Chinggis Square

April 16 (UB Post) Some dedicated Mongolians spent Monday outside at Central Square. They gathered to attend a peaceful, public sit-in strike for “A Day of Mongolia-2014”, held to show policymakers how citizens are living and what challenges and difficulties they face.
The participants believed that the authorities do not know how ordinary citizens live, as they live near the State Palace and Zaisan area, and the West and East central intersections. The strike organizers pointed out that almost all of the one thousand chairs prepared for the event were populated.
Usually, elders attend gatherings but they become desperate to go home as they get tired after standing for hours, that’s why the decision was made to provide them with chairs, explained the event organizers.
There were many people who came with prepared posters stating the problems they face and the issues they want the authorities to resolve. It was a two-day open gathering for attendees to deliver petitions and comments on paper to members of parliament.
The demands gathered during the strike will be reviewed during the meeting of the Justice Coalition. Leaders of some civil movements and Members of Parliament, including O.Baasankhuu, attended to support the gathering crowd. Representatives from the Union of Mongolian Tenants, merchants from Narantuul Market, as well as circus performers took part in the meeting to state their opinions.
The following are comments from some sit-in attendees about what issues they want delivered to decision makers, published in Undesnii Shuudan Daily Newspaper. 
Senior citizen M.Bold:
Banks are robbing the elderly who are receiving a pension loan. I have borrowed around 10 million MNT under a two year-term pension loan. But the bank has withdrawn around four million 400 thousand MNT. I have written a petition to Minister S.Erdene, however, I still haven’t heard anything from him.
O.Doljinjav, 88 years old:
My son retired after working for 26 years with the airport police. Now he is blind and tired a lot. I worked for the state since I was 18 years old and retired in 1975. I get 300 thousand MNT. My pension is not enough to help my son, even to feed myself. Is there any place that can help my son?
U.Rina, citizen of Khan-Uul district:
I worked and served the state for 30 years and retired in 2008 with a monthly pension of 110 thousand MNT.  It has been increased and has become 240 thousand MNT. I came here today to tell state authorities that it is time to change the pension policy.
Unit product traders behind Narantuul market:
In the area we are operating at the moment, over 100 traders used to earn a living selling second-hand stuff. There are around four to five people in a trader’s family, which means the issue touches upon the lives of 500 people. We didn’t beg for any welfare from the government and we didn’t beg for food from anyone. But the policemen are pressuring us to stop our trade. They seized our products and never gave it back. They are treating us like dogs and the pressure and bullying has gone out of control.
Citizen T.Serjee:
Elders are allowed to be treated at traditional spas and resorts two times a year. Even though half of the expenses are covered by the state, spa resorts are too expensive. Is there any chance of taking care of this issue?
Member of Parliament G.Uyanga:
We have aimed to show the authorities and decision makers today’s life in society, the way it is without any additional fixes. I wish every state authority sitting in the tall black buildings or the State Palace would come out of their rooms and be introduced to real lives. I wish they realized why the decisions they are making are not meeting reality. The majority of policymakers do not know what lives are like for ordinary citizens and that’s why they make poor decisions.

Turquoise Hill announces first quarter 2014 production and update on project financing

April 16 (UB Post) Canadian miner Turquoise Hill Resources on Monday announced its first quarter 2014 production for Oyu Tolgoi and provided an update on project financing.
Turquoise reported that production at Oyu Tolgoi in the first quarter of this year was heavily impacted by post commissioning issues, including rake blade failure in both of the tailings thickeners, which caused the shutdown of one production line for approximately seven weeks. Repairs to the rakes have been completed and full production recommenced in late March. The concentrator also completed a number of major planned shutdowns in the first quarter, including ball mill relines and the first concave change in the primary crusher.
“Copper and gold head grades increased in Q1’14 as the mine deepened. These higher grades combined with ongoing improvement initiatives led to improved copper and gold recoveries during the quarter. Also, during March 2014, Oyu Tolgoi processed small volumes of ore from the high grade areas of the gold core,” said the company.
“Concentrate sales continue to accelerate and are matching current production. During the second half of 2014, Oyu Tolgoi is expected to drawdown inventory. Oyu Tolgoi will monitor production levels and if necessary, match them to meet customer requirements, with the goal of returning to more normal levels of inventory by the end of 2014.
“Oyu Tolgoi expects to produce 135,000 to 160,000 tons of copper and 600,000 to 700,000 ounces of gold in concentrates for 2014.”
Update on Project Financing
Turquoise said that all parties agreed to send requests to the project finance lenders to extend the commitment letters for the financing of the underground development at Oyu Tolgoi to September 30, 2014.
Turquoise Hill Chief Executive Officer Kay Priestly said, “All parties remain committed to the underground development of Oyu Tolgoi and to resolving the outstanding shareholder issues. Constructive discussions between all parties have resulted in significant progress being made in resolving the issues, and those discussions are continuing.”
Turquoise Hill Resources’ primary operation is its 66 percent interest in the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold-silver mine in southern Mongolia. Turquoise Hill also holds a 56 percent interest in Mongolian coal miner SouthGobi Resources.

Bad weather expected at western and central regions

April 16 (UB Post) Temperatures are expected to drop followed by snow showers from today at western regions of Mongolia, and throughout the nation starting from Thursday, reported the National Agency for Meteorology, Hydrology and Environmental Monitoring.
Wind speeds will increase followed by dust storms at most regions, according to the agency.
Wind speed will reach 12 to 14 meters per second from today, while Gobi regions will experience a wind speed of 16 to 18 meters per second from tomorrow.
Western and central regions will experience heavy snow today, while most of the remaining provinces will experience snow falls tomorrow.

Mongolia gains two victories at Youth World Boxing Championship

April 16 (UB Post) Mongolian boxer B.Tumurkhuyag defeated his opponent Edwin Tshabalala in the men’s 49 kg weight category, while G.Battamir won his bout against South Korea’s Han Younghun in the men’s 52 kg category on the first day of the Youth World Boxing Championship, hosted by Sofia, Bulgaria. The event officially launched on Monday.
A total of seven men and three women from Mongolia are competing for medals at the championship.
Both championship organizers and the Mongolian team are expecting promising results as Mongolian boxers earned decisive victories on the launch day.
News website posted an article titled “Perfect Mongolians on Day 1” which commented on the brilliant performances of Mongolian boxers on the first day.

Manila’s Partial Case

April 16 (UB Post) The Mark News
Professor and Associate Dean
Institute of International Studies
Fudan University
April 5, 2014
China is now facing challenges to its maritime claims. The Philippines has just filed a lawsuit to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea against China over a dispute concerning its fishing rights in the South China Sea.
Manila considers itself to be solely entitled to all economic rights, including fishing rights, in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), per the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Since China drew the so-called “nine-dotted line” in 1947, claiming part of the South China Sea as its own – including an area that is part of the Philippines’ EEZ – Manila has demanded that Beijing yield its economic claim in the overlapping area claimed by both countries.
But the Philippines is telling the world an incomplete story. Sure, it has the right to sue another country in the International Tribunal for its own reasons. However, Manila should be mindful that a country has the right not to ratify a certain international treaty, or to make a reservation when joining a particular treaty. For instance, the United States has joined but not ratified the UNCLOS. China has joined and ratified the UNCLOS, but with certain reservations.
While the economic rights in the aforementioned overlapping area are significant, there is a more fundamental issue here: the sovereignty of the islands and islets in that area. China rightfully owned these rocks centuries before the UNCLOS. This cannot be undone just because the UN convention addresses the fishing rights in the waters surrounding these rocks. The UNCLOS is a treaty that addresses the division and sharing of economic rights at sea, but not the issue of sovereignty at sea.
A review of the basic history is telling. In terms of sovereignty over those sea-based territories, successive Chinese governments have claimed various islands, islets, shoals, etc. in the South China Sea. During the Han dynasty, the Chinese government brought Hainan Island under its jurisdiction. In the Tang dynasty, Chinese control extended to the Nansha Islands (the Spratly Islands). Eight centuries ago, during the Yuan dynasty, Beijing sent some officials to conduct a survey at Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal). When the Chinese government claimed all rock features in the South China Sea area in 1947, it was met with virtually no counterclaim.
Moreover, until 1997, successive Philippine governments made it clear – through their constitutions – that the nation’s westernmost territory ended at Luzon Island. In fact, Scarborough Shoal, 130 nautical miles west of Luzon, was completely out of the Philippines’ constitution-defined territory until 1997. It was therefore never an area covered by its defense treaties with either Spain or the United States.
It was only in 1997, when Manila introduced its current constitution, that the Philippines began to claim all the islands within its EEZ. Yes, the 1982 UNCLOS gives the Philippines certain economic rights within this exclusive zone, but it doesn’t give it sovereignty over the Chinese islands and islets within that zone.
The Philippines has recently taken military action to occupy at least eight such islands – a serious infringement upon China’s sovereignty. In addition, in 1999, the Philippine Navy intentionally grounded its tank-landing ship at Ren’ai Jiao (Second Thomas Shoal), further encroaching on Chinese territory. Given such aggression, it should be China suing the Philippines and not the other way around. One is left wondering how a country that doesn’t respect the sovereignty of its neighbors can demand that other nations respect its own economic rights.
There are two categories of dispute at stake – sovereignty and economic rights – and China has strong claims on both. Until 1997, the Philippines accepted that it was not entitled to sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, but China has not accepted Manila’s EEZ without reservation. Manila cannot invade Chinese territory (and territorial waters) in the South China Sea while demanding that China yield its traditional economic rights to an international convention without reservation.
China has long proposed that both sides put aside their differences and co-develop in a fair manner. It has exercised significant self-restraint in dealing with the Philippines’ aggression and encroachment. Given this serious dispute, it is essential that both sides take meticulous care to communicate and ease the tension. But Manila has recently shown no interest in shelving differences. It has even employed gunships to arrest Chinese fishermen in the traditional Chinese fishing area. Facing such challenges, China has to respond resolutely to defend its legitimate rights.

Housing mess

April 16 (UB Post) A total of 190,000 households are living in ger districts currently. Providing ger district households with apartments is not only a matter of housing but also a big challenge for Mongolia’s development. It also goes without saying that housing will be instrumental in getting rid of air pollution in Ulaanbaatar. Furthermore, it is hard to use the term “urban households” when referring to households that have no running water.
During the last two years, since the management of our capital city was transferred to a different political party for the first time in history, we had an increased number of housing projects progressing simultaneously. Senior management of the capital city visited the United States, the Republic of South Africa, Singapore, and Korea to learn their experience in public housing. However, Ulaanbaatar residents are more interested in the outcome of housing projects than how many projects there are and how they will be implemented. We, the residents of Ulaanbaatar, need to have our own apartments as soon as possible which offers basic living conditions.
Ger District Redevelopment Project
Fifteen months ago, the Ulaanbaatar Citizens’ Representatives Council, commonly referred to as the “City Council,” approved a project to redevelop seven ger district locations into modern apartment areas. The Ger District Redevelopment (GDR) project’s pipe construction alone costs 35 billion MNT. The project is expected to be completed by 2019 and provide 92,500 households with apartments. A total of 15 companies will implement this project and are expected to deliver 5,800 apartments this year and another 9,500 next year. The project is managed by D.Battulga, Chairman of the Ulaanbaatar Citizens’ Representatives Council.
Government Housing Corporation Project
Eight months ago, the government made a decision to provide a funding of 100 million USD to establish a Government Housing Corporation (GHC) on the foundation of the Housing Finance Corporation. The corporation is aimed at building affordable housings for people opting for the eight percent interest mortgage program. The mortgage is being provided to people who have a full-time job and have paid a down payment of 30 percent. Furthermore, renting options are available for public servants, young families, people with disabilities, and elders. Loans that existed with the Housing Financing Corporations were fully transferred to the State Bank. This project is directly managed by the Prime Minister.
Ulaanbaatar Housing Corporation Project
Several days ago, a new project that targets people who are not able to make a down payment was announced by the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar. This project will allow people to put 25-30 percent of their salary in a housing accumulation fund every month to receive an apartment three to five years later. Afterwards, they will be eligible to gain ownership of the apartments by making the required monthly payments. It is expected that the Ulaanbaatar Housing Corporation (UHC) will receive 20,000 apartment orders in the first year and accumulate 50 billion MNT, which will allow them to commence the work to build two housing districts. They will build apartments in six locations that are owned by the city. This project is expected to run much faster as there will be no need to relocate ger districts from those locations. It looks like that the mayor will be in charge of this project.
Using the same approach, every province can establish an Aimag Housing Corporation (AHC). When many projects are implemented simultaneously, there could be overlapping management and organization. Such problems could lead to conflicting management, fights over authority, and ineffective spending. It means that we have to starting thinking about it now.
The policy on public housing has to be simple, clear, and highly efficient. The main reason for government involvement in housing is to provide mass housings at an affordable price in a shorter amount of time. The government has started to build studio apartments for elders and people in home care, rental apartments for low-income families, and apartments for middle-income families and above. It will also be efficient for the private sector, not the government, to build houses with spacey backyards for those with higher incomes.
A project to build 200,000 apartments in the capital city is not only a construction project but also a matter of development. Therefore, we have to be wise in project management and organization. Although Korean models are similar to ours in terms of formatting, it seems that the Housing and Development Board of Singapore is more suitable to our case. Integrating different managements of the corporations mentioned above will better meet the needs of a country with a small population like us.
Since the Housing and Development Board of Mongolia (HDBM) will belong to and be governed by the government only, its highest authority should be the Ministry of Economic Development. Branch offices of the HDBM could be established in the capital city as well as province centers and be managed by local governments. It will be more efficient to have the Ministry of Economic Development provide high-level management, methodology, research, and evaluations to local governments, which will be working under integrated budget and funding.
The HDMB should be a limited liability company and eventually become a shareholding company. In terms of structure, the HDMB can have two main departments, one in charge of construction and another managing lands and corporations. The construction department should be responsible for planning and construction of infrastructure and buildings, research and development, building quality, and tenders. The other department could have a simple structure where they have two divisions; one in charge of real estate management, housing management, public involvement, and production, and the other managing the relations between corporations, financial and information services, laws, and internal audit. Apart from the two main departments, a third department needs to be established for research and studies.
The 400,000 hectares of land owned by Ulaanbaatar is quite a huge capital itself, therefore, it should have the same level of management, by the corporation that is in charge of its funding. The corporation should be able to issue bonds and raise capital to fund construction and purchase lands from people at market rates, which is the fastest method for land acquisition. Also, another way of raising capital would be by selling lands owned by the capital city for higher prices.
In terms of funding, the Housing and Development Council should establish a fund besides the public budget and raise capital by issuing local bonds, setting up a lottery in apartment sales, and land auctions. Singapore has a Central Provident Fund that collects all compulsory taxes from both employers and employees into retirement, healthcare, and housing (ordinary) accounts under the name of employees. It is allowed to make housing payments from an ordinary account.
Besides the proposal from the mayor to collect 30 percent of salary for an accumulation fund, every housing project needs a mechanism that will ensure a timely completion of the project and guarantee that people will move into their apartments in time. The Mayor’s reassurance that the government will not go bankrupt is just not going to be good enough. South Korea solved this problem by establishing a Construction Guarantee that is owned by the government (55 percent), commercial banks (18 percent), and construction companies (14 percent). This organization provides all remainder funds needed for a successful project completion in case a construction company fails to complete its project within the deadline.
In terms of organization, international tenders should be announced only after finalizing the policy and mechanism. Otherwise, we will repeat our experience where a newly formed government denies the previous processes started by the former government and freezes large projects, stopping their progress.
Furthermore, it would be great if our mayor resolves the issue of heating and power sources by immediately starting the construction of Power Plant No.5.
If the housing projects in our capital city are successful, it will produce many positive changes including the recovery of our economy, shrinking of ger districts, and reduction of air pollution.
Translated by B.AMAR

Movie Review: Amka and the Three Golden Rules

April 16 (UB Post) This review contains spoilers
A disproportionately small amount of spotlight is shed onto the human aspect of Mongolia as opposed to its vast mineral riches. What really resonated with me about the film, “Amka and the Three Golden Rules” was that it managed to balance the importance of both through the brilliantly crafted story of a ten year old orphan boy who must provide for his drunken older brother and little sister by collecting cans and bottles in the streets.
“Amka and the Three Golden Rules” is currently being featured in American film festivals and has won two awards for best feature film so far. And it’s no surprise.
Directed by Pakistan born British/American Babar Ahmed and starring Ganzorig Telmen as Amka, the film delivers a compelling and uplifting story of a good-hearted boy who must learn from his mistakes. The story is in many ways a symbol of how Mongolia must decide its own faith.
When Amka, who’s had a tragic past that left his family in poverty, finds a gold coin in his backyard, he does what most ten year old boys do – buy the things he wants most. The little money he made from the gold coin is quickly spent on sports clothes and video games (more on this later), and soon Amka finds himself in debt with the local boys.
Due to his excessive spending habits developed as a result of the gold coin, Amka finds himself in confrontation with his older brother and begins to neglect his little sister.
Unable to live in his neighbourhood without getting into trouble with those from whom he borrowed, Amka decides to spend the rest of the summer with his uncle, who leads a nomadic life in the countryside. There Amka must learn three lessons that will set him on the right path.
Telmen delivers a strong, natural performance as Amka, seamlessly guiding the audience through the story.
Combined with a strong lead, stunning shots of the spectacular landscapes of Mongolia and excellent music, with an ethnic undertone, the movie adds another perspective onto life in Mongolia.
As stated above, the story itself serves as a symbol for Mongolia and how it must efficiently utilizes its considerable natural resources, as Amka had to learn. At the same time, the movie underlines important social concerns in Mongolia, such as the hardships living in the ger districts, without central heating and water supplies, and unregulated video game centers that allow minors to play violent video games and view explicit content for prolonged hours.
The only things that were a bit hard to swallow for me was the Mongolian dialogue, which sometimes felt a bit forced and unnatural, but I think foreign audiences will enjoy watching it with the English subtitles.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie and feel that it is a great addition to movies set in Mongolia. I give this film 7.5/10, definitely worth watching.

Mongolian opera singers take second place at international opera competition

April 16 (UB Post) Mongolian opera singers Ch.Badral and B.Mongolkhuu participated in an international opera singers’ competition named after Russian People’s Artist Nadezhda Obukhova.
Some 217 opera singers from various countries such as Russia, the USA, France, Cuba, Ukraine, South Korea, China and the UK took part in contest.
At the second stage of the competition, 34 opera singers competed and 14 were selected for the final stage. Out of those 14, Mongolian opera singer Ch.Badral took second place and B.Mongolkhuu received a special place.

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