Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mongolia Brief June 12, 2014 Part II

Policy packaging

June 12 (UB Post) It has been over a month since Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag received approval for his “100 Day Plan to Revive the Economy,” on May 7, but no visible improvement has been felt or in sight.

Despite criticisms from Mongolian and international economists, the Prime Minister has maintained that it was possible to bring back lost foreign investment, which fell 56 percent last year, and increase mining, resolve mineral exploitation license issues, while boosting manufacturing and domestic production within just 100 days.
The Prime Minister has found himself under increasing public pressure this year, as Mongolia’s economy took on a downtrodden pace, with foreign investments taking a sharp plunge, and MNT currency rates falling. The Central Bank sold USD at the rate of 1,824.1 MNT to commercial banks at its weekly currency auction, compared to 1,430 MNT in June 2013. Bad policies by Mongolia and weakening global demand for mining products, such as coal, have also been blamed for the gloomy economic conditions.
Reflecting these imminent outlooks, international rating agencies such as Standard and Poor’s, Fitch, and the IMF have downgraded their outlooks for Mongolia.
Therefore experts and outside observers of Mongolian politics and economics say the Prime Minister’s push for the 100 day plan is a desperate attempt to restore his reputation and sooth the public, which is growing frustrated with the current economic situation.
Former Prime Minister and State Honored Economist D.Byambasuren called the 100 day action plan a “cheap trick” to appease the public.
How the government expects to achieve what they have been trying to do for over two years in just 100 days, is a concern echoed by many, especially after the bold claims made by the Prime Minister himself.
Within the 100 day plan, an Economic Council was formed with the “help of the private sector” to undertake measures such as introducing a new system on debt management, attracting investment to economic free zones, supporting gold mining, boosting coal exports, resolving “controversial” mining license issues, starting an oil refinery, amending the Law on Minerals to repurpose up to 20 percent of Mongolia’s land for mining, and supporting banks and financial lenders through tax breaks.
From looking at the measures that will be carried out through the 100 day plan, I cannot help but notice that they are mostly long term objectives of the government, which have been in process or would have progressed regardless of the “revival program.” This also begs the question, weren’t they trying to stabilize the economy before the 100 day action plan? And how exactly are they going to, for instance, “attract investment to economic free zones” and “start an oil refinery” when these issues have been talked about for years on end without definite resolution?
If it really is as simple as Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag makes it sound, why were they not accomplished after years and years of debate? The truth is that it’s not so simple, and Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag isn’t fooling many.
A month has passed since the plan began, but nothing but pretty promises and speeches about building trust with investors remain. Trust in doing business with a country isn’t built in 100 days, it is earned by honoring previously established agreements and the law. A country like Mongolia, whose decision makers make policies based on their personal interests at the spur of the moment, and revert back when things go bad, cannot afford any inconsistency.
I am not alone in remaining skeptical of the plan, which was presented as if the government has found a new solution, or at least a patch up method that would temporarily boost the economy somehow. But all we – the public – have is the same old crowd pleasing promises and statements that ultimately result in some indiscernible statement about how things will improve, only packaged neatly so as to boost lost morale. A government shouldn’t operate like a marketing agency that promotes its products through packaging and other cheap tricks, it should focus on the product – or rather policies itself, as it concerns the lives and futures of real people.
The 100 day plan should not rush to make decisions for major issues that require extensive research and planning. The Prime Minister is a great speaker, but is not as apt at making decisions. So far he has avoided making any definite decisions about Mongolia’s most important project, Oyu Tolgoi, which is expected to produce a third of Mongolia’s GDP singlehandedly by 2020. The resolution to the year-long dispute with Rio Tinto and its units, which own 66 percent of the project, has been promised and postponed numerous times, forcing me to question whether the government is capable of handling the matter.
All the nation wants is a stable, peaceful and comfortable living environment, a place where one can earn their living without worrying about whether they can afford a loaf of bread the next day. For this to happen, the county’s economy must be stable and healthy, not overburdened by debt and inflation. Mutually beneficial investment and businesses are the backbone of a healthy economy, but they require a fair and transparent government that doesn’t overexert its power, interfere and favor one sector over others. Is this too much to ask from one’s leaders?

Putting Ulaanbaatar’s traffic problem in context

June 12 (UB Post) By JAMES WATKINS
When gazing at an endless mass of fellow stationary motorists, your destination within sight but still potentially an hour away, or when standing, cramped and sweaty, in an aging bus as traffic fumes pour in through the cracked open window, it is easy to get wrapped up in the immediacy of the problem and to focus simply on tomorrow, the next journey, the next turn to take to escape the stand-still. But urban transport and traffic management is a long-term, macro-level science, and taking this broader perspective is essential to gain a new level of understanding about the problem.
The global context
Most big cities across the globe—almost all in countries across Asia and South America with rapidly urbanizing populations—have a chronic transport problem. Ulaanbaatar is not unique in this respect. The World Bank refers to the state of urban transport in post-Soviet states in Asia and Eastern Europe as “a veritable region-wide crisis.”
The issue is as important as it is endemic: congestion can reduce a city’s GDP by up to five percent according to the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank estimates that traffic accidents cost an additional one to two percent of GDP, and that the full economic cost of air pollution can be up to 10 percent. Issues of public health, environmental sustainability, economic efficiency, and social welfare all stem from a problem with urban transport.
According to the Eastern Asia Society for Transport Societies, there were 350,000 vehicles on Ulaanbaatar’s roads in 2011—almost 1,000 vehicles per kilometer of available roadway. Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh and one of the world’s most congested cities, has 1,500 vehicles per km; Berlin, rated as amongst the world’s best cities for commuter satisfaction by IBM, has 222.
It is estimated that the population of Ulaanbaatar will increase by 50 percent between 2010 and 2030, rising to over 1.75 million, and, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), this will increase strain on the transport system threefold. If no steps are taken, they estimate that by 2030, the average volume-to-capacity ratio of the capital’s road network will rise to 1.4—in other words, there will be 40 percent more vehicles using the roads than maximum capacity.
Looking abroad: policies that work
Ulaanbaatar’s approach to tackle the problem so far has been piecemeal. The aging fleet of buses is being replaced with more modern and efficient vehicles, the road network is slowly being improved, and license plate restriction measures were introduced last year. According to a recent World Bank report, the only solution to the global pandemic of urban traffic problems is a public transport system that is not only comprehensive, but also efficient, cheap, and pleasant enough to lure drivers out of their cars. With less than 10 percent of journeys in Ulaanbaatar being taken by bus, this is currently not happening.
A more comprehensive and long-term strategy is required, such as one detailed by the Asian Development Bank’s “integrated urban transport plans”. Two relatively cheap approaches that are central to this program for transport development are realistic in Ulaanbaatar: promoting non-motorized transport and creating a “Bus Rapid Transit” (BRT) network.
Firstly, promoting non-motorized transport involves measure such as creating segregated cycle paths and walkways on existing sidewalk areas to encourage alternatives to cars without further reducing the capacity of the road network. European cities such as Amsterdam have led the way in this respect, proving that providing designated areas, including over- and under-passes at intersections, for cyclists and pedestrians will get huge numbers of people out of their cars. Sheltered walkways could also reduce the seasonality of these alternatives.
In addition, BRT schemes have been successfully deployed in 55 different South American cities such as Bogota, Columbia, to take a combined 17 million passengers out of their cars. This aims to combine the flexibility and cheapness of a bus network with the higher capacity and speed of metro systems. Specifically, this involves giving buses fully dedicated right-of-way routes and priority at intersections, and building bus stations on roadsides which encourage bus travel during the winter by reducing outdoor waiting time, and reduce curbside delays by providing step-free boarding and the pre-purchasing of tickets.
Could a UB Metro be the solution?
Plans also exist for the construction of an Ulaanbaatar Metro, designed by JICA and approved by the Capital City Citizens Representatives Khural. JICA estimate that the metro’s estimated 500,000 daily passengers could reduce the volume-to-capacity ratio of the road network to 0.8—usage 20 percent below maximum capacity.
Similar rail-based metro systems have been extremely successful in being the core of transport solutions in other Asian cities such as Singapore, where around 50 percent of daily journeys are now taken by metro. However, cities with less than three million inhabitants rarely build metro systems, and favor the aforementioned BRT system, which could be delivered at a greatly reduced cost in a shorter time frame (JICA’s planned metro wouldn’t open until 2020 at the earliest). BRT actually offers greater flexibility and more comprehensive coverage, as geographically smaller cities are only able to support a low density of metro stations, limiting the potential popularity of the metro.
Perhaps the UB metro is not, therefore, the golden ticket that many have suggested it is, especially given a price tag that should terrify the already fiscally challenged government. JICA’s plans involve 1.3 billion USD of liability for the Mongolian government: 600 million USD in credit from the government of Japan, and 700 million USD to be paid upfront. With the Mongolian government yet to sign off on this substantial cost, the vision is still far from a reality.

Mongolian Naadam Festival is coming

June 12 (Unuudur) D.Sergelen The Mongolian Naadam Festival, where we wish for wrestlers to be strong and their tricks to be skilled, for jockeys’ singing to be melodious and for their horses to be fast, and for archers’ arrows to be optimal, is coming.
Modern scholars say that the Mongolian Naadam Festival began during the establishment of the Hunnu Empire, in I-II BC. At that time, the horse, wrestling and leather arrow case were considered symbols of the emergent nation. Since then, Mongolians have been celebrating the three manly games widely. And now, Mongolians are going to celebrate the 808th anniversary of the establishment of the Great Mongol Empire and the 93rd anniversary of the People’s Revolution. Mongolians, who are motivated to do things, are so optimistic and their faces are bright, perhaps anticipating Naadam. Everyone is trying to finish their work before Naadam and are so excited, like it’s going to happen tomorrow. From another angle, the governors have discussed and passed the budget for Naadam.
The festival’s organizing committee presidents, led by the Deputy Minister, became acquainted with the organization of Central Stadium and Khui Doloon Khudag and the procedures for preparation work. This year, there are nine organizing committees for Naadam and a working group. A total of 177 people will be responsible for the 285 projects and services.
360 million MNT to upgrade stadium seating
The upgrading of Central Stadium to become the Olympic Complex and Khui Doloon Khudag to become the Naadam Complex has already started. The stadium was built in 1959, and since then, large-scale maintenance has not been conducted. Routine maintenance, such as painting the seats and fixing the sunshades and section roofs, is paid for from the state budget. Citizen T.Nyamdaa owns 51 percent of the stadium. He told the Deputy Minister that Stadium LLC is conducting maintenance worth 180 million MNT, and first the sections for inspection authorities, hygiene, wrestling judges, score-keepers and policemen will be repaired.
T.Nyamdavaa offered a suggestion to the Deputy Minister to completely change the stadium’s seating. The wooden seats are close to tearing people’s elegant clothes and the seats have not been changed since the stadium’s opening. He said, “The plastic seats can be installed instead of wooden ones, and 13,000 people could be seated. Their installation would cost over 360 million MNT.” But to MP Tervishdagva, 360 million MNT seemed too high and suggested he make the budget real and discuss it in the next government meeting, but the idea could not be covered then.
In 2008, Stadium LLC conducted maintenance worth 480 million MNT through their own funding. In recent years, the state fund has given ten to 15 million MNT to the maintainence work for the stadium. Last year, buses were free to the stadium, which was appreciated by the public, so this year it will happen again. In order to manage the traffic around the stadium, cars will be parked at the Dunjingarav Shopping Center.
The moon shaped stadium won’t be built
The hilltop of Khui Doloon Khudag is very green now. It has been nine years that we have hosted horseracing here, but a more comfortable and safe environment has not been established yet. However, the last three years have been better compared to previous years. In 2013, 50 billion MNT was budgeted for turning Khui Doloon Khudag into the Mongol Naadam Complex. An 8.5 kilometer road from the 361 crossing to Khui Doloon Khudag and parking for over 7,000 cars on a 20 hectare field were built, and the parking lot was made from eco-friendly pavement. A 12.5 hectare field was paved with eco-friendly pavement for walkways and a vending area.
At the finish line, temporary seating for 3,000 people will be installed again this year. Officials will decide whether the old seats will be installed or not. Yo.Gerelchuluun, organizing committee president of Naadam stated, “Since the building of Mongol Naadam Complex work started, you can see that Khui Doloon Khudag is becoming quite different. In order to satisfy the public, we are doing so many projects. Honestly, we decided to build a moon shaped stadium to seat 8,000 people this year. Because of a lack of funding, this project has failed. But we have resolved trash and restroom issues completely this year.”
At every 50 meters, trash bins will be available, and 31 restrooms that meet hygiene requirements will be installed. Five wells will provide water and water will be available in restrooms. The City Maintenance Company of Songinokhairkan district will work at Khui Doloon Khudag and the workers will wear uniforms with their logo and emblem. So far, five electric buses are planned to serve the public. A total of 110 million MNT is going to be spent overall, only 47 million MNT has been spent on improvements at Khui Doloon Khudag so far.
During the organizing committee meeting, Ts.Jadambaa, head of the Information, Communications Technology and Post Authority introduced the installation of a GPS device which provides the opportunity to watch horseracing on phones and online. Due to the lack of available budget, this idea has not been approved. If racehorse trainers want it, they can attach the GPS devices to their horses.
Naadam budget approved
Even though seven days ago MPs said they would not exceed the budget, at the government meeting on June 7, the total cost of Naadam was approved at 2.2 billion MNT, out of which 369.9 million will be financed from the festival’s income, 500 million from the city budget, 57 million from residual income of 2013, and 1.2 million from the government’s reserved fund. Over 920 million MNT (13.1 percent) will be used for awards, 946 million for art, culture and honors activity, 494 million for maintenance, 142.5 million for emergency management, and 333.9 million for other events and organizational expenses for Naadam.
Thirty-nine days are left until we celebrate Naadam. Herders have already begun to round up livestock. Every year during Naadam, the price of sheep goes through the roof and reaches 130,000 to 250,000 MNT. This year, herders say they will be cheap. I was interested in the price and went to Emeelt market and around the 22nd checkpoint. A one-year-old lamb is 110,000 MNT, two year old cattle is 150,000, and a fat ram is 180,000. I asked whether the price will increase or not, but the herders said that traders may raise it up to 250,000 MNT.

Junior chess players win Grand Prix at international chess tournament

June 12 (UB Post) The first “World Family” international chess tournament took place in Ulan-Ude, Russia recently.
Some 100 chess players from 27 teams competed in the tournament. Players of Uramtai Shatar Club, led by international master N.Tuvshintugs, won the Grand Prix at the tournament.
The Mongolian team included Ts.Ashid from Zuunii Shatar Club and world junior champion Ye.Tugstumur.
Ts.Ashid won a gold medal and Ye.Tugstumur won silver in the under-12 category.

Former directors of MIAT suspected of more embezzlement

June 12 (UB Post) Former Vice Director of MIAT Mongolian Airlines Ch.Khorolsuren, who is currently serving a sentence of eight years in prison for embezzling and laundering a large sum of money from MIAT by creating a fraudulent “War Risk Insurance” fee, is under interrogation as a suspect in another case of embezzlement.
A former director of MIAT Mongolian Airlines, B.Erdenebileg, is also a suspect in the case.
According to a source of Unuudur, they are suspected of embezzling approximately 300,000 USD for the payment of introducing an electronic ticketing system to MIAT. The airline shifted to this system in May 2008, as the duty of one of the members of the International Air Transport Association.
The fraudulent payment was transferred from a MIAT account to a Hong Kong-based company account in August 2008, which was later deposited to the bank accounts of N.Gantumur and O.Tamir, who were suspects in the “War Risk Insurance” fee case.

DP delays discussion of Economic Development Minister’s dismissal

June 12 (UB Post) At the meeting of the Parliamentary Economic Standing Committee meeting, attendees discussed a parliamentary resolution to adopt directions to develop Mongolia’s economy and society in 2015, draft amendments to the resolution, a draft resolution on defining state ownership shares from Tsagaan Suvarga mine, and issues related to the dismissal of Economic Development Minister N.Batbayar.
The meeting attendees decided to bring up the issue of amendments to the draft resolution later, once the Law on Minerals is approved. The Democratic Party (DP) group in the Parliament made a request to postpone the discussion of the dismissal of Minister N.Batbayar. DP Chairman D.Erdenebat pointed out, “The demands to dismiss Economic Development Minister N.Batbayar are rude, slandering the Minister’s reputation and distorting the situation. For instance, the demand mentions incorrect numbers in the state debt and budget loss, etc. Therefore, we have delivered official documents to clarify whether the demand has any truthful grounds. Responses have not yet been received. Thus, we are requesting to postpone the issue, as it should be examined and reviewed carefully.”
Upon the results of a vote among members, the issue has been postponed for later discussion.
Earlier, Mongolian People’s Party members M.Enkhbold and S.Byambatsogt submitted a draft resolution of parliament to Speaker Z.Enkhbold calling for the dismissal of incumbent Minister of Economic Development N.Batbayar.
“He should be dismissed because he breached the law when realizing the general policy on investment, the policy and regulation of foreign investment, and the policy and planning of loans and assistance, which are reflected in the law on economy,” they said.

Deputy FM on official visit to Brazil

June 12 (UB Post) The official visit of Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister D.Gankhuyag to Brazil began on June 9, with a meeting with Minister of External Relations of Brazil Luiz Alberto Figueiredo.
Conveying the greetings of Minister of Foreign Affairs L.Bold, D.Gankhuyag confirmed that Mongolia attaches great significance to Mongolia-Brazil relations, and shared views on possibilities for the further development of bilateral cooperation.
Minister Figueiredo noted the wide range of opportunities for fostering bilateral ties and stated that the opening of a Mongolian embassy in Brazil is an important milestone in the history of bilateral relations.
A consultative meeting hosted between the Foreign Ministries since 2007 came to be an effective dialogue mechanism. The sides concluded and agreed on seeking possibilities for holding political talks at high levels.
After the meeting with Figueiredo, Deputy Minister D.Gankhuyag, along with his Brazilian counterpart Jose Alfredo Grasa Lima, co-chaired the consultative meeting of the Foreign Ministries. The meeting reviewed the present state of bilateral relations and cooperation, and focused on issues concerning bilateral cooperation in the fields of sports and education, and on the importance of a visa waiver agreement for promoting people-to-people contact.
The visit of the Deputy Foreign Minister to Brazil is ongoing, reported the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia.

Draft bill on glass account resubmitted

June 12 (UB Post) A draft bill on “glass account”, initiated by President Ts.Elbegdorj, has been submitted to Speaker of the Parliament Z.Enkhbold for ratification. “Glass account” refers to transparency in government finances and spending.
At the draft bill’s submission, Chairman of the President’s Office P.Tsagaan noted, “The law on glass account is one of the significant parts of the smart government, which covers a wide range of issues including economy and society.
“The draft bill has been re-developed with improved clauses and includes requests that parliamentary members suggested. I hope the Parliament will discuss the draft bill promptly.”
If the bill on glass account is approved, budget income, monetary transactions, spending, finance reports, debts, loans, warranties and information related to property and asset expenditures will become open to the public. The bill will regulate relations between organizations and officials who will be required to promptly and coherently report on the above mentioned issues for public monitoring.

State Visit of President of Republic of Latvia to Mongolia Commences

June 12 ( On June 11-13, 2014, the President of the Republic of Latvia Mr. Andris Berzins is conducting an official visit to Mongolia and the state visit starts today, where President of Mongolia Mr. Tsakhia ELBEGDORJ welcomed the state head of Latvia Andris Berzins at the Chinggis Square, Ulaanbaatar.
The Latvian President is accompanied with the Deputy Speaker of the Saeima (Parliament) Mr. Andrejs Klemetjevs, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Edgars Rinkevics, Minister of Education and Science Mrs. Ina Druviete, Minister of Agriculture Mr. Janis Duklavs, non-resident Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Latvia to Mongolia Mrs. Ingrida Levrence and Head of the Office of President of Latvia Mr. Gundars Daudze.
Following the welcoming ceremony, Presidents of Mongolia and Latvia paid tribute to the Monument of Chinggis Khaan and President Andris Berzins left a note on the Guest Book in the Government House.
Afterwards, President Ts.Elbegdorj and President A.Berzins held a one-to-one meeting in the State Affairs Ger Palace and official talks at the Government House.
At the official talks with his counterpart of the Republic of Latvia, President Ts.Elbegdorj addressed:
Good day, Ladies and Gentlemen,
His Excellency Mr. Andris Berzins, President of Latvia accepted my invitation and is paying a visit to Mongolia.
The official talks I had with Mr. President was held in a friendly and open atmosphere: we have assessed the current state of our bilateral relations and discussed in details the perspectives of our future cooperation. We have exchanged views and expressed our positions on the current issues in international relations.
I would like to underscore that our two countries need to intensify our relations and cooperation. Mongolia has been observing Latvia’s efforts and progress made in successfully surmounting an economic crisis and firmly embarking upon dynamic economic growth. Although many miles separate our two countries, we have been supporting each other in international fora on issues of mutual interest, and we have agreed to continue and consolidate our cooperation.
To expand our relations, we need to bring our bilateral trade and economic cooperation onto a new level. In this regard, I welcome the Latvian businesses, accompanying President A.Berzins on this visit, and commend the holding of a business forum with Mongolian businesses.
I would like to point out that guided by the desire to promote people-to-people relations between Mongolian and Latvian peoples, the two sides emphasized the importance of strengthening cooperation in culture, education and science. 
We have just signed Agreements between the Governments of Mongolia and Latvia on Exemption of Visa Requirements for Holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports, on International Transport by Road as well as the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of two countries as a permanent mechanism in our relations. In recent years the legal basis for our bilateral relations and cooperation has been established and thus are being further strengthened.
I am confident that the President A.Berzins’s meetings with our state and government officials would be fruitful.
Once again, I heartily welcome Your Excellency Mr. President to Mongolia. I wish you and your delegation a memorable and successful visit.
Thank you.

President of Republic of Latvia Andris Berzins Visits Mongolia
June 2 ( The President of the Republic of Latvia Mr. Andris Berzins is paying an official visit to Mongolia upon the invitation of the President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj.
This is the first ever visit by Latvian State Head to Mongolia that has a great importance for discussing ways of stimulating bilateral relations.
During the visit the heads of state held a private meeting and official talks. As a part of the visit, Mr. Andris Berzins received courtesy calls from Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag and Deputy Speaker of Parliament R.Gonchigdorj.
During the talks and meetings, the sides reviewed the current state of mutual relations and cooperation and deliberated directions for developing bilateral collaboration in all spheres. A focus was made on bilateral cooperation in the trade, economic and investment sectors, collaboration in transporting Mongolian export goods to European countries through the territory of Latvia, promoting contacts in the education sector, and training Mongolian youth in Latvia.
In connection with the assuming by Latvia the chairmanship of the European Council in 2015, Latvia will provide support to Mongolia in launching the implementation of an agreement on partnership and cooperation established between Mongolia and the European Union last year, the sides agreed. Besides, international and regional issues of mutual concern were touched upon during the meetings.
During the visit a number of documents were signed including a visa waiver agreement for holders of diplomatic and official passports, an intergovernmental agreement on international road transportation, and a cooperation memorandum between the Foreign Ministries of the two countries.
In the context of the visit, a Mongolian-Latvian Business Forum was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a round table on education was hosted by Ministries of Education of Mongolia and the Republic of Latvia.
Mongolia and Latvia had maintained comprehensive ties during the so called socialist period. Diplomatic relations between Mongolia and newly independent Latvia was established on October 15, 1991, reports the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia.

Slovakia and Mongolia sign agricultural contract

June 12 (UB Post) On June 5, Mongolian Ambassador D.Zumberellkham and the State Secretary of the Slovakian Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry, Latsko Bartoshova, signed a contract to supply Mongolia with 600 pregnant Semental cows. The agreement was established between Isokman Trading of Slovakia and Govi Khurakh LLC of Mongolia. In the first phase of the contract’s fulfillment, a total of 165 cows will be brought to Mongolia in the beginning of July.
At the contract signing ceremony, Bartoshova expressed satisfaction with the fulfillment of some provisions of the memorandum on agricultural cooperation between Mongolian agriculture and Industry Ministry and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Slovakia, signed during her last visit to Ulaanbaatar on September 2013.
Ambassador L.Zumberellkham thanked Bartoshova for paying attention to implementing mutually beneficial projects and programs in Mongolia, and supporting the two country’s collaboration and noted that bilateral cooperation between Mongolia and Slovakia – particularly in the politics and economic spheres – are becoming more active. He also introduced some suggestions to carry out cooperation in agriculture, especially to develop intensified cattle husbandry in Mongolia.
The sides discussed practical opportunities to develop the two country’s collaboration in other fields and agreed to cooperate actively.

NGOs demonstrate against uranium extraction in Mongolia

June 12 (UB Post) Several NGOs expressed their opposition to uranium extraction in Mongolia, informed the public of the fatal effects of uranium extraction in Ulaanbadrakh soum, and prompted decision makers to visit the soum in Dornogovi Province to witness conditions during a peaceful demonstration at Central Square on Monday.
Residents of Ulaanbadrakh soum contacted the NGOs for support against the uranium operations of Gogegobi LLC and Areva Mongol LLC, a fully owned subsidiary of French uranium-giant Areva, at the soum, which has reportedly seen 200 livestock die and many more with birth defects due to uranium contamination in the region.
One of the ten herders that demonstrated at Central Square, D.Gantur highlighted, “The very critical environmental condition in our soum was followed by the delivery of mutated livestock. After snow or rain, livestock and people are experiencing fur and hair loss, as well as rashes. Some former residents of Ulaanbadrakh soum told us that these problems went away after moving.”
“We are no longer consuming the internal organs of our livestock. A three-legged colt was born to our neighboring herder family, while an eight-legged goat and two-headed sheep have been delivered by another family whose livestock are watered from the same well as our neighbor.
“As for me, there’s a young goat with two short front legs and three colts that are unable to walk in my herd,” added D.Gantur.
The herders said that Ulaanbadrakh soum Governor P.Gankhuyag turned them down when approached about this issue and told them, “No one has proven that uranium is toxic. We can’t suspend uranium operations that will benefit the nation because of the interests of few residents.”
Golomt Anti-Nuclear Movement, Gal Undesten, Green Peace and Bosoo Khukh Mongol NGOs held the demonstration.
Head of Bosoo Khukh Mongol NGO E.Tumurkhuyag commented, “The first research done in a veterinary laboratory has proven that [mutation] is indeed derived from uranium contamination.
However, the 100 million MNT government study denied the previous result last year. We will send a demand to the President of Mongolia to visit Ulaanbadrakh soum.”
“Uranium is extracted by digging and sulfuric acid is sprayed deep into the ground. Sulfur is very toxic, so those consuming meat and dairy products of livestock that grazed on contaminated pastures run a high risk of cancer. Though we have met Gogegobi administrators and handed them our demands, their press report depicted us as burglars and as if we were paid to make trouble.”

37 road development projects planned for 2014

June 12 (UB Post) A total of 37 road development projects will be completed at the total cost of 465.2 billion MNT this year, reported Deputy Minister of Ministry of Roads and Transportation Kh.Yerjan in the “Development Hour” meeting.
A total of 1,886 kilometers of road will be paved on 37 routes, while bridges totaling to up to a length of 2,040 meters are also planned for construction at eight locations.
The state budget will finance 76.8 billion MNT, the Chinggis Bond fund will provide 219.8 billion MNT, and foreign loans and aid will provide 168.6 billion MNT for the road projects.
Also, six more provinces will be connected to Ulaanbaatar this year with newly built roads.
A 133 km road is currently under construction, and at 56.7 percent completion, to link Umnugovi Province to Ulaanbaatar. Five companies are constructing the road.
A 174.3 km road from Khuvsgul Province to Ulaanbaatar is at 50 percent completion, while a 288.4 km road from Dornod to Ulaanbaatar is at 67.8 percent.
A 177.9 km road, at 42 percent completion, will soon connect Sukhbaatar Province and Ulaanbaatar, while another 294.1 km road is at 16.5 percent completion from Zavkhan Province to the capital.
The sixth province to be connected to Ulaanbaatar by a paved road is Govi-Altai and project completion is currently at 33 percent, reported officials.

Seven meat factories closed due to poor standards

June 12 (UB Post) The State Specialized Inspection Agency reported the results of its inspections at butcheries and meat product factories this week. The inspection was conducted from January to May, involving 239 meat businesses nationwide, in 18 provinces and in Ulaanbaatar.
The inspection results of 118 businesses were reported and the inspectors found 835 violations in total.
The inspectors said that 26 percent of the violations discovered during inspection were fixed.
Seven factories were closed due to poor hygiene and low quality products, which were recalled from the market and eliminated.
The workplace standards of the butcheries and meat product factories have reportedly improved by as much as 28 percent this year, compared to last year. Factories in densely populated regions, including Ulaanbaatar, Darkhan-Uul, Orkhon, Dornod and Khuvsgul provinces, have updated their premises.
The results will be delivered to the Deputy Prime Minister, Ministry of Industry and Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Mongolian Agency for Standardization and Metrology, offices of governors, and the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry for better enforcement of food standards.

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