Friday, May 2, 2014

Mongolia Brief May 1, 2014 Part III



Ministry provides school buses for disabled students

May 1 (UB Post) The Ministry of Education and Science (MES) handed school buses to six schools for disabled children and to “Mongol Temuulel” laboratory school on Wednesday.

Six of the buses are regular passenger buses with 26 seats each, while the bus provided to School No.70 for disabled children has 17 seats and is equipped with step-free wheelchair accessible stairs.
The bus costs 144 million MNT.
The MES spent 700 million MNT for the purchase of the buses.
“I used to carry my child in my hand on a bus as it caused inconvenience for passengers when my kid is on a wheelchair in the bus. The wheelchair don’t fit in small buses. Now I am so relieved that my child will be able to go to school comfortably without interfering with others,” said N.Altantsetseg, a mother of a student of School no.70.
Principal of School No.29 E.Batsaikhan noted, “Out of 310 disabled students in our school, 160 of them live in the school dormitory, while those who live in the suburbs take school buses and the rest used to catch public transportation buses. Now all of our students will be transported with school buses.”
A total of 15,770 students are physically impaired in Mongolia and 1,600 of them study at the six schools mentioned above.
Of the six schools, Schools No.25 and No.70 didn’t have school buses previously. Others had one or two buses which only transported students from the outskirts of the city.
Disabled students were sometimes not allowed in public buses and some were injured on the way, reported school principals.


Weakening Mongolian mining highlights risks for banks, says Fitch

May 1 (UB Post) The extension of a debt repayment by Mongolian Mining Corporation (MMC) highlights the pressures for the industry and the risks for local banks, Fitch Ratings says.
The following is Fitch’s assessment of Mongolian banks.
Mongolian banks do not have excessively high direct exposure to mining, but the deteriorating operating environment for the country’s key export sector heightens wider macro risks to the banking system. There are no immediate rating implications for the banks, as our ratings and their outlooks for Khan and Xac (both “B/Negative”) already reflect the harsher operating environment.
Mongolian banks are susceptible to the liquidity and profitability pressure in the mining sector as this flows through to the broader economy. Mining’s weakness stems largely from depressed demand, as indicated by falling prices. This also has a negative impact on the Mongolian MNT, which depreciated by 20 percent in 2013 and by another six percent so far this year. With foreign-currency loans at around 30 percent, banks are exposed to credit risk from a weaker local currency, even though foreign-currency lending is largely to corporations with natural or financial hedges.
Credit risks have built up for the banks due to an exceptionally loose macro policy that has fueled credit growth above nominal GDP. Buffers against the risk are not robust, as the brisk pace of credit expansion at capped rates under the government’s loan program pressures margins, liquidity and capital. Growth of non-performing loans is rapidly outstripping that of total loans, rising by 93 percent year on year in March 2014 against 54 percent.
The headline figure for NPLs remained at 5.2 percent of total loans (4.2 percent a year before). But Fitch believes this underestimates asset-quality stress as it only captures 90-days-or-longer-overdue loans. Mongolian banks’ direct lending to the mining sector was a modest 12 percent of total lending at end-2013 because they lack the capacity to fund large projects. Financing has been provided by global financial institutions, which have had to extend their funding commitments due to delays.
Among the local banks, Trade and Development Bank of Mongolia has a 40 million USD short-term unsecured loan to MMC. The loan is about 1.3 percent of the bank’s total assets or 18 percent of equity, and so manageable. Golomt’s loans to the mining industry represented 11 percent of its end-2013 lending, while Khan and Xac (both “B/Negative”) had small lending exposures at four percent and three percent, respectively.
The Development Bank of Mongolia does occasionally guarantee mining loans in part, which mitigates some of the credit risk. The mounting pressure on Mongolia’s economic and financial stability underpins the negative outlook on Fitch’s “B+” sovereign rating. Mongolia has a macro-prudential risk indicator of “MPI3”, reflecting a high risk of systemic stress from rapid credit growth, strong asset-price growth, and appreciation of the real effective exchange rate.


Japanese horse-head fiddle players perform at the State Philharmonic

May 1 (UB Post) Japanese Horse-head Fiddle (morin khuur) players participating in the Fourth International Festival – Competition of Morin Khuur organized by the World Morin Khuur Association performed at the State Philharmonic on April 27. The competition was organized by two-time state champion, composer and artist N.Jantsannorov, folk artist and morin khuur player Ts.Batchuluun and Chief of the World Morin Khuur Association A.Bat-Erdene.
Around ten amateur players performed and among them Matsuma Miki surprised everyone with her performance of “Morin Tuvurguun”. Many of the pieces performed during this year’s competition were compositions which require advanced skill and are difficult for not only foreign amateur players, but also professional Mongolian players. Yuuji Shioto and Masaho Yasu performed a ballet piece named “Uran Khas” composed by state merited artist J.Chuluun with a piano accompaniment. Mamaru Maekawa performed and also showed her exceptional talents.
The youngest Japanese participant was sixteen year old Yuyu Fuji, who played “Balchir Kheer” of Western Mongolia. She goes to a private school where a morin khuur course is part of the school curriculum and has been learning to play for four years. The eldest player, Noriko Mitsui, performed “Sanchir Garig” from the “Udshiin Byatskhan Duunuud” album by two-time state champion, composer and artist N.Jantsannorov, and was accompanied by a yatga. He is 74 years old and learned to play the morin khuur eight years ago. Yuko Miahara played the Mongolian rhythmic folk long song “Tungalar Tamir”. The player who most moved the audience was Nayisa Abe, who played the music of “Romeo and Juliet”. The sweet music of “Romeo and Juliet”, which portrayed the sincere love and sentiments of couples, sounded even better when played on the morin khuur. This piece was first taught to her by folk artist and morin huur player  Ts.Batchuluun. Horikawa Mahiro, champion of the November 2013 Amateur Competition for Morin Khuur Players named after two-time state champion, composer and artist N.Jantsannorov, performed his piece “Autumn” given to him by N.Jantsannorov.
Folk artist Ts.Batchuluun said, “I would like to thank today’s foreign amateur players who are learning and promoting these great musical pieces of Mongolia in their own countries. Today, a sixteen year old girl was able to play a Western Mongolian piece magnificently. Even people in their 50s, 60s and 70s were performing. They showed that age doesn’t matter in music. What are Mongolians of these ages doing? Some performers said that they go to schools to perform. They are expanding our culture instead of us. Mongolians honor the morin khuur and place it in homes and offices, but those who actually play it are few. I hope the morin huur is played instead of being displayed.”
There are around 600 people who play the morin khuur in Japan. Some participants were interviewed after the performance.
Horikawa Mahiro wished for Mongolians to be his first audience for ‘Autumn’
How did you first learn to play the morin khuur?
A morin khuur course is included in my school’s curriculum. It’s taught once a week. That’s how I came to know morin khuur. Later, I became a student of A.Bat-Erdene, Chief of the World Morin Khuur Association. Now, it’s my fifth year playing.
What about this instrument attracted you?
Morin khuur is very unique from European classical instruments. It creates a refined sound that classical instruments can’t make. It’s extremely amazing that the sound can be made from only two strings.
You just performed “Autumn” composed by N.Jantsannorov. What was your first impression of the music?
My wish for Mongolians to be the first to listen to “Autumn” came true today. When I first listened, it portrayed Mongolian autumn more than Japan’s, so I searched for information about Mongolian autumn on the internet. This transitional midseason of summer to winter is absolutely beautiful. The light loneliness of seasonal change, trees separating from their leaves, yellow leaves hovering on the ground, birds migrating and herders preparing for winter are portrayed in this piece.
What was the first Mongolian piece you played?
I first learned to play “Russian Leather Bag”. I can now play five Mongolian pieces. I play during my free time so I haven’t leant many.
Noriko Mitsui: I learned to play morin khuur after retiring
How did you come to like morin khuur?
Many years ago, when I came to Mongolia, I got a really unique feeling after listening to morin khuur. I can’t explain it in words. When I returned to my country, I told myself that I would learn morin khuur after retiring and soon, it came true. At first my fingers hurt a lot, but I tolerated it because I didn’t want to quit. After I leaned to play, I performed at an afternoon meeting of elderly people. Everyone appreciated it, so it encouraged me to play more. The sound from the morin khuur is completely unique.
Of pieces composed by Mongolians, what’s your favorite piece to play?
It’s “Sender Ohin”. I’m not sure of the details but I think it’s about a beautiful girl. I wonder what it means.
It’s about the sadness of a girl who is to be married to an old man because of her greedy parents.
Really? I didn’t know it was such a sad song.
You perform morin khuur at a primary school, right?
Yes, “Sukhiin Saaral Mori” and myths of morin khuur are included in a second grade curriculum. I play morin khuur while teaching the myth. Children love the morin khuur.
Other than morin khuur, what do you like about Mongolia?
I like listening to long songs and khoomii. I’m really envious of Mongolia’s beautiful nature.


U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation training in Mongolia

May 1 (UB Post) In the framework of legal reform laid out by the Minister of Justice, a proposal for the formation of an investigation bureau focused on national security and fighting transnational organized crime was submitted to cabinet members. The main activities of the Bureau of Investigation would be to fight against drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, and cyber crime. In order to study the experiences of countries that fight these crimes, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was called on.
The FBI has been providing training to Mongolian law enforcement officers since April 21.
We learned more about the training from Ronald D. Curtis, special agent of the FBI and Virt Blake, legal attache of the U.S. Embassy in China.
How does the FBI work?
First of all, after analyzing what kind of crime is harmful, we start to work. We investigate the crimes that might impact society negatively.  For example, we mostly fight against terrorism and cyber crime.  Cyber crime is really harmful to the global community. The FBI does not investigate crimes such as assault, transportation accidents, or domestic violence.
Mongolia is considering the formation of a Bureau of Investigation.  Under what department does the FBI work?
The FBI belongs to the United States Justice Department. There are other agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration in the Justice Department. The United States of America is a federal country so each state has a legal office and they all belong to the Justice Department.
Do any other law enforcement officers participate in cases handled by the FBI?
The FBI cooperates with the other legal agencies (city, state, and federal) which have the same obligation. During the handling of the case, the prosecutor’s office controls it.
Transnational organized crime occurs in Mongolia. By joining the National Investigation Agency of Mongolia and Mongolian Criminal Police Department, we established the Department for Fighting Against Organized Crime. You have conducted several surveys in Mongolia. Do you think that we really need the National Investigation Agency?
We don’t have the right to draw a conclusion on it. Establishing a Bureau of Investigation or not will depend on your country’s government’s decision.
Who initiated the idea to come to Mongolia?
In 2013, delegates led by the Minister of Justice of Mongolia visited the U.S., and during the visit they met the head of the FBI. Currently we are developing a draft on the Bureau of Investigation. In connection with it, they discussed inviting facilitators from the FBI to share their information and experience. Based on this, the trainings were scheduled to be held for two weeks in April 2014. At present, we are starting the training.
What kind of information did you have about the Bureau of Investigation draft?
We met working group members from the Standing Committee of the Cabinet last Friday and D.Battsogt, the Member of Cabinet headed the meeting.  The draft consisted of six chapters and 40 provisions. At present, we have not become acquainted with the final draft, which is why we couldn’t make any conclusions earlier. As we understand, the newly established agency will investigate illegal drug and human trafficking, and cyber and financial crime.


Ts.Sosorbaram: Water supply for 1.3 million people is more important than grazing for ten herders

May 1 (UB Post) A recent study stated that after five to ten years, the residents in Ulaanbaatar will face shortage of drinking water. Relevant organizations are looking for ways to save surface water and supply for the increasing water demand. As part of this work, water reservoir is to be established near Terelj. Although blueprints have already been developed, construction work is yet to begin. Ph.D Ts.Sosorbaram, director of Mongolian Water Company and advising engineer of Mongolia, gave an interview regarding the delay of construction work and other important aspects of the reservoir. 
When did you start talking about establishing a water reservoir at the basin of Gorkhi-Terelj National Park area?
A research for building a reservoir to use water from Tuul River first started in 1981. Scientists of five major institutions of Russia began this work and made construction designs and feasibility studies. Five locations around Tuul River were selected for establishing a reservoir. Specifically, three places around the border of Gachuurt and two places in Gorkhi-Terelj. Everything necessary for the construction was issued in the research including geodetic detailed mapping, hundreds of geological sites, earthquakes, measurements of seismic waves, building materials and estimated costs. For 30 years, this matter was discussed. However, the Water Program was approved in 2010 and issues concerning surface water usage received more attention. This made it possible to establish a water complex.
Why hasn’t the construction work started?
The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and Prestige company conducted further research based on the previous research. They concluded that it’s best to establish a reservoir at the basin of Terelj and Tuul River. We came to a position where we had to choose one of the two locations and develop a preliminary draft. It was assigned to the concession meeting to resolve it. Now, we’re waiting for their decision.
A significant amount of time has passed since the initial discussion of establishing a reservoir. During this period, was it discussed?
The Governor’s Office of Ulaanbaatar requested to establish a reservoir. The Citizen’s Representatives Council has to discuss it and the Ministry of Environment and Green Development (MEGD) has to assign a task force. They concluded that it’s best for professional organizations to make decisions and the matter was transferred to the National Water Commission led by the Prime Minister. Presently, we haven’t received a reply and time for the next conference is uncertain. If the National Water Commission approves, it will be discussed by the Water Resource Council of MEGD in charge of issues of surface and underground water resource. When the project is approved, investments will be decided and implementation will begin.
Mongolia has limited water resources, is it possible to establish a water reservoir?
Around 80 percent of Tuul River is from accumulated rain water and the rest from permafrost, snow and ice water of mountains. A significant amount of water passes Tuul River basin during summer. With its water above average flow level or flood water, it’s possible to establish a reservoir.
Is there a standard for reservoirs?
Reservoirs are different from hydroelectric power plants. You can say it’s a water complex. We must accumulate water as soon as possible and make a large harbor to establish the reservoir. This way, it’ll be possible to reduce current energy costs for delivering water to apartments. I heard that almost 30 percent of total expense of the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority of Ulaanbaatar (USUG) is from water delivery.
Furthermore, sanatorium aquatic environment will be built adjacent to the reservoir for increasing the population of fish.
Is it true that the work is delaying due to land issues?
Obviously, there are land issues. Furthermore, the location hasn’t been chosen from the two places. The basin of Gorkhi-Terelj where the water complex is planned is not only located in a tourism zone but it’s also a national park. It will either need to be removed from special protected areas after a proposal is submitted to the parliament and changes have to be made in the law or renew regimes/procedures of the project. In my opinion, with so many stages, this is very difficult. It’s forbidden to build any sort of facility in protected areas. If buildings are built, many issues and difficulties will arise. For example, noises from blasts, cars etc., animals will be scared away, species will be killed and weeds will grow. Establishing a water complex at the basin of Gorkhi-Terelj is a broad issue. Apart from wasting time, there’s a possibility that it’ll receive protests from local people.
It’s possible to establish the water complex in Gachuurt as it includes neither a settlement nor any private properties. Although there are several residents, it’s possible to relocate them.
What effects does the water complex have to the environment? How will restoration be done?
For a dry country like Mongolia, it’s significant in various aspects. It creates favorable conditions for creating ponds and lakes as well as increasing water resources. A certain amount of water will be absorbed in soil but it’s possible to reclaim and reuse it. There are risks of destroying forests, trees, willows and shrubs but we can replant them somewhere else. With the water complex, we’ll create a facility for animal population protection. Soils become watery and salinized in low and humid places with a lot of water. For Mongolia, it’s the opposite and it’s possible to establish a green facility.
Today, more than the grazing of ten herders, water supply for the population of 1.3 million people is more urgent. There aren’t any water reservoirs or electric power plants in Mongolia. There are 17 in Japan which has a comparatively small land, 30 in China and 57 in Moscow, Russia. The people need to understand that establishing a reservoir is significant to the ecology.
As for restoration, firstly, works to graze and transfer fertile soils will be incorporated into the project. To replant trees and plants, we’re planning on commissioning an environmental assessment. Other than that, there aren’t any effects on the environment.
What are the economic benefits of establishing a water complex?
Reservoir is unique because it’s a facility for adjusting water flow. Specifically, it supervises river flow so residents will not be affected by flood and issues such as rivers drying out and clean water shortage will be resolved. It’s also possible to adjust underground water structure. Until today, those who objected had the understandings that Ulaanbaatar will be flooded if we build a hydroelectric power plant. This is a bias to obstruct the project.
Water is one of the three essentials to life. It’s wrong to seek profit from water. Each resident in apartments in Ulaanbaatar uses 270 to 340 liters of water each day while a person living in the ger district uses six liters of water a day. They want to live in apartments. Last year, apartments for 20 thousand households were commissioned in Ulaanbaatar. This means that water usage increased substantially. In order to avoid water shortage, our reservoir will be used for cost recovery, not for profit.
If we establish a water complex, will water resource increase?
Although water resource will increase, for Mongolia, which is dry and has only one water complex, we’ll be able to get resources for only five to ten years. It’s necessary to build many reservoirs.
During a year with low precipitation, how much water can be accumulated?
A hydro-geological research was conducted for this. Based on a research showing that Tuul river basin was used for 40 year, a water complex for many years of usage will be established. This means that resources will not decrease during years with low precipitation.
The whole world is facing climate change and global warming. Will this situation affect water complex activities?
Global warming is affecting Mongolia. It is not only decreasing significant amounts of precipitation but also increasing evaporation in soil. This situation will affect water complex activities to a certain degree but we will conduct relevant studies. With its results, it’ll be possible to measure water level by monitoring water usage and delivery. For starters, our objective is to supply residents with clean water so we’ll continue to save resources.
To implement the project, how much funding is required?
Estimates were made based on studies conducted by Russians 30 years ago. After converting the currency to today’s rate, the estimate showed 250 to 300 million USD. According to the KOIKA’s version, over 300 million USD is required. This funding will be provided from several sources. We can acquire it from concessional loans, state budget, bonds, foreign investments and private businesses. Seven to 13 years will be needed to make up costs.
When will you start construction and when will it be commissioned?
If land issues are resolved, we’re ready to begin anytime. We’re anticipating good news from this conference. If we start our work today, we’ll have finished feasibility study around this time next year. Construction is estimated to take three years. Basically, we’ll get a water complex in four to five years.


Trade unions demonstrate for better social security

May 1 (UB Post) Members of the Confederation of Mongolian Trade Unions (CMTU) organized a demonstration for “Social Security for Citizens and Workers” at the central square on Wednesday, demanding a decrease in the price of consumer goods, a salary and pension increase, better occupational safety, as well as job security.
The CMTU has made several requests for the parliament and the government to respond to the current conditions in Mongolia, where both social and economic situations are unstable, while the income and purchasing power of the people remains low. As a result, many businesses are laying off their employees, causing financial difficulties for many families.
The demonstrators also demanded that the state form a legal benchmark which allows indexation of pay and pension, provides equal pay to employees holding the same positions, eliminate salary discrimination between foreign and Mongolian employees, and collect social insurance fees from both foreign and local employees.
CMTU administrators, members, related organizations and representatives of the senior, youth and professional communities attended the demonstration to show their support for the demands.


Axis 2014

May 1 (UB Post) Artists and teachers at the Industrial Technology and Design School of Mongolian State University of Science and Technology have been displaying an exhibition titled “Axis” since 2003. This year’s Axis exhibition was on view at the Exhibition Hall of the Union of Mongolian Artists from April 23 to 30. This exhibition is displayed abroad as well as in Mongolia.
Visitors saw fine arts, graphic design, photography and textiles featuring batik and felt in Axis 2014. Some 60 creations by 12 artists were on view.
More about the Industrial Technology and Design School
The School of Industrial Technology and Design is one of the most prestigious branches of Mongolian University of Science and Technology, which prepares specialists for 19 professions, preparing engineers, technologists, mechanic specialists, art designers, and managers for light industry. It offers undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees. Their collective has a history of more than 40 years and are still playing a significant role in achieving effective and efficient progress by conducting research and providing expert services in many fields.
Their outstanding professors and staff have been focused on developing the content and methodology of training processes, improving professional skills, and to upgrade their training facilities to conform with the requirements of advancing technology. They intend to prepare highly motivated, technically proficient, creative and intellectual specialists.
In addition, the School of Industrial Technology and Design has developed an explicit policy directed to strengthening the correlation and coordination of training, research and industry, and to create an environment for solving urgent problems by using the intellectual potential of professors and researchers, and to introduce advanced technology.
One of the major factors in implementing their targeted objectives is cooperating closely with businesses and the private sector and enhancing innovation and exchange with foreign countries.


‘Ulaanbaatar Book’ to answer city-related questions

May 1 (UB Post) This week, the Office of the Ulaanbaatar City Governor launched the “Ulaanbaatar Book” featuring basic and essential information to both old and new residents of the city.
Information on social welfare services, registration, public transportation routes, micro-bus and taxi services, real estate prices, as well as places where residents can spend their free time are all available in the book.
The book will be published every year with updated information about the city and its services. It was launched as part of Ulaanbaatar City Mayor E-Bat-Uul’s action plan for 2013 to 2016.
A book titled “Common Regulations of Ulaanbaatar City” is also being formulated by the office, as part of the “Smart Ulaanbaatar” program launched recently as part of the “From Big Government to Smart Government” initiative of President Ts.Elbegdorj.
Residents can get the book from their residing khoroo registration manager.


Mongolian student wins award at collegiate Emmy Awards

May 1 (UB Post) Mongolian student in the USA, N.Munkhtsetseg took a third place prize from the Emmys Foundation’s, the 35th College Television Awards, on April 23.
This year’s College Television Awards was held at the Television Academy’s Leonard H. Goldenson Theater on April 23.
N.Munkhtsetseg produced an animated film titled “I’m possible” and received the award in the animation category.
Currently, she is studying at Savannah College of Art and Design and was previously selected as the top student of the school.
N.Munkhtsetseg received her award from famous actor Bob Bergen, known as the voice of “Porky Pig” and “Tweety.”
The Emmy Award recognizes excellence in the television industry, and corresponds to the Academy Award (for film), the Tony Award (for theater), and the Grammy Award (for music).
Because Emmy Awards are given in various sectors of the American television industry, they are presented in different annual ceremonies held throughout the year.


Mongolia holds fencing training

May 1 (UB Post) The Mongolian Fencing Federation is organizing a number of activities to develop fencing in Mongolia. Within this framework, the Mongolian National Olympic Committee hosted a training on fundamentals of fencing to coaches on April 29.
Vice president of Mongolian National Olympic Committee Ts.Damdin and secretary-general of the Mongolian Fencing Federation B.Khosbayar participated in the training.
Led by the Mongolian Fencing Federation’s general coach D.Ganbaatar, the training involved 16 coaches from Ulaanbaatar, Baganuur District and Orkhon Province.
The training serves to be a preparatory session before Mongolian Fencing Federation brings in coaches from Russia.
A similar training was held in 2012 and professional fencer from Hong Kong, Cliff Wong led the training.


Independent Media Regulatory Body forms to improve Mongolian media

May 1 (UB Post) Around 20 media agencies and unions have recently joined together to create the Independent Media Regulatory Body to develop responsible journalism benchmarks and recover the public’s trust in Mongolian journalism.
Delegates of the participating agencies officially reported on Wednesday that they have already formed an “Initiators’ Group” which will work to establish the Independent Media Regulatory Body (IMRB).
The group plans to formulate a draft of IMRB regulations, have the draft of professional journalism ethics discussed by journalists, hold workshops on the significance of the journalist-run regulatory body, which would remain independent from the state and any other third parties.
It also plans to seek support from international media organizations and unions, and provide them with information about Mongolia.
The organizers hope to improve the quality and transparency of Mongolian journalism and strengthen the independence of newsrooms nationwide.
The Mongolian Media Council Club, Globe International NGO, Press Institute and many other media organizations have already joined the group.

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