Friday, June 6, 2014

Mongolia Brief June 5, 2014 Part III

Oyu Tolgoi employment termination statement reveals violations

June 5 (UB Post) Laid off workers of Oyu Tolgoi (OT) sought help from the Confederation of Mongolian Trade Unions (CMTU), and confederation officials held a press conference to publicize several unfair articles in the OT employment contract termination statements sent to 300 employees last week.

Out of the total number of laid off workers, 200 were contracted workers of OT, while the remaining 100 were hired by subsidiary executor companies of OT, as posted on the OT website.
Businesses must inform their workers about lay offs 45 days prior to the termination of their employment contract, in accordance with the Labor Law of Mongolia, suggesting that the OT contracts should be annulled on July 14.
“No one from CMTU, the Ministry of Mining, or the Ministry of Labor have detailed information about the lay off. Some of the laid off workers showed us the contract termination statement on Wednesday, and several articles seemed to be violating labor laws in a compulsory manner,” said Chief of Energy, Geology and Mining Trade Union of CMTU S.Ganbold.
He highlighted, “The statement said that the workers will earn only their basic wages after receiving the statement, until the contracts are terminated, but OT must provide overtime pay. Also, the statement says any worker who gives away confidential information about the employment contracts will not be able to receive unemployment compensation, which sounds rather like threatening somehow. There are business and company secrets, but no employment contract secrets.”
Rio Tinto has decided to reduce its spending by one billion USD due to problematic business conditions, reported Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag during the “30 Minutes with the Prime Minister” weekly meeting on Thursday. The spending cut resulted in the laying off of 300 workers last week.
Unuudur Daily sources reported that the Prime Minister received this information from member of the Board of Directors of Oyu Tolgoi LLC, Ch.Otgochuluu.
When asked about how CMTU is planning to protect the rights of compensation for the laid off workers, S.Ganbold said, “Rio Tinto problems are not our concerns. But as long as Mongolian workers are serving at Oyu Tolgoi, despite the fact that it is foreign-funded, it will be our concern. We will submit a statement to the Prime Minister in order to ensure compensation for all workers and prevent mass lay offs of more Mongolian workers at OT.”
Only ten workers met with the CMTU officials, while others fear that sharing the statement might prevent them from receiving compensation, reported S.Ganbold.
Officials of the Public and Media Communications Division of OT stated, “We have no information that OT administration will reply to the issue. But we expect that OT will negotiate with administrators of CMTU.”

Mongolia-UAE economic relations taken to a new stage

June 5 (UB Post) Foreign Affairs Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan conducted a two-day official visit to Mongolia on June 3 and 4, upon the invitation of Foreign Affairs Minister of Mongolia L.Bold.
According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Sheikh called on the President and Prime Minister of Mongolia and held bilateral talks with his Mongolian counterparts. During the meetings the sides discussed bilateral and economic relations between Mongolia and the UAE.
Within the frames of his visit, Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan called on President Ts.Elbegdorj and reviewed the relations and cooperation between the two countries in recent years.
Presidents of Mongolia paid official visits to the UAE in 2001 and 2007, and ministers of the two countries have conducted reciprocal working visits, making great contributions to the relations and collaboration between the two countries.
President Elbegdorj and the Sheikh shared views on opportunities for continued cooperation and expanded economic and trade relations. Concluding the meeting, President Ts.Elbegdorj conveyed warm greetings to the President of the UAE, Emir Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The Foreign Minister also met his Mongolian counterpart, L.Bold to hold official talks. At the talks the sides agreed on organizing permanent political talks and discussions, developing bilateral economic relations, strengthening relations in education and culture, appointing an inter-parliamentary commission, and studying the possibility of launching a direct flight between Mongolia and the UAE. In addition, they reached a decision to open a UAE embassy in Ulaanbaatar within the next two years.
The UAE is considered one of the most influential countries in terms of its population, territory and economic power. This visit by a high ranking official from the UAE boosted the two country’s relations, bringing bilateral economic relations to a new level.
The Government of the UAE and Abu Dhabi Fund for Development granted a soft loan to the Mongolian project to build a Taishir hydroelectric plant. The UAE has expressed that it is willing to cooperate with the financing of large Mongolian projects from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.

Central roads to close on Car-Free Day

June 5 (UB Post) Mongolia observes the Car-Free Day on the first Saturday of June every year to call for a healthier lifestyle and reduce carbon dioxide emission by giving up cars for a day.
On the day, roads along Peace Avenue which spans from East Central Intersection to West Central Intersection, as well as the road from Geser Temple to Sansar underpass will be closed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Only cars on state service duty with audible and visual warning signals will be allowed to drive on the roads for special purposes.
The International Ulaanbaatar Marathon will also take place on the same day and Ulaanbaatar’s largest trade markets including Narantuul, Uguumur, Nar Mon, Sunday Plaza, Bumbugur-1, Bumbugur-2, and Altjin Bumbugur will operate according to revised schedule to ensure smooth conduct of the marathon.
The public will also be available to attend painting contests, watch a bicycle parade, inline skating competition and first-aid treatment demonstration.

Theft of historical and cultural heritages under investigation

June 5 (UB Post) For a long time our unrivalled historical, cultural, archeological and paleontological artifacts have been stolen by greedy people and attracted foreign interests. Mongolians are putty in foreigners’ hands when they steal historical and cultural pieces. Some Mongolians have joined international organized theft networks. Our policemen have investigated and proven that Mongolians have conspired with smugglers from Japan, the Republic of Korea, England and the U.S., and used international cash flow to smuggle fossils as large as the Tarbosaurus Bataar and other dinosaurs.
Mongolians are the people who are trafficking their own nation’s historical and cultural monuments and participating in the crime of depriving our younger generations and their offspring of being able to claim and cherish these treasures.
By the order of Chinese buyers, Mongolians intended to steal artworks by the High Saint Zanabazar. Several more crimes have occured, such as the thefts by former workers of the Erdenezuu Monastery and the National Museum.
A few years ago, several households of Umnudelger soum of Khentii Province were robbed and even now, this case remains unsolved. It is believed that the robbers committed crime again when they were out on bail. By accounts from traders at Urt Tsagaan, devotional relics were stolen.
B.Enkhbat, former curator of the National Museum stole and sold over 1,000 artifacts valued at over one billion MNT. Even though he was sentenced, the losses have not been recovered. In addition to law enforcement investigating the theft all over the country, they have also appealed to Interpol.
A White Goddess stolen from Baruun Choir Monastery of Tsagaandelger soum of Dundgovi Province and a 200 kilogram god stolen from a museum in Govi-Altai Province are also being investigated.
Cooperating with Interpol, the Criminal Police Department of Mongolia is investigating the recovery of over 1,500 artifacts registered as items of Mongolian historical and cultural heritage.

Unprotected arts and heritage

June 5 (UB Post) Precious historic records and antiques, inherited by us, surviving years of war, revolution, protests and repression, have been taken from the places where they were kept, and some might have already been smuggled overseas. The return of the Tarbosaurus Bataar, on the edge of being sold at auction in the United States, is one of the clearest examples.
Currently, the recovery of around 1,500 historic and cultural records registered as items of Mongolian historical and cultural heritage is being investigated by the Criminal Police Department of Mongolia.
There are 43 museums in Mongolia with 250 thousand cultural and historic artifacts. It has been estimated that all the artifacts are worth approximately 11.5 billion MNT, however, only around 600 museum workers are protecting these precious items. They have no designated place. Some 30 percent of the artifacts are in rural museums and 80 percent of the artifacts in the capital’s museums are stored in archives. These artifacts are not preserved in designated facilities, and due to the lack of sufficient space, these valuables are locked in storage rooms.
The archeological artifacts of some museums stored in an apartment basement, were damaged by water. Who needs Mongolian history? Who is liable for protecting a unique cultural heritage which defines Mongolian history? One who doesn’t know their country’s history is like a monkey lost in a forest. No one will take care of it but us. This treasury fund is endless if we can protect, preserve it and show it off to others.
A state census of museum archives was conducted in 2012 and 2013, and the summary is going to be disclosed soon. Obviously, it is complicated to conduct a census, but it is even more difficult when there are not enough researchers and archivists. Archivists at the fine arts museum worked extended hours every day last year, busy conducting the census. Stocktaking is being conducted for a second year, which shows that the Mongolian archive is rich.
No one knows if quick-handed thieves have detailed information about these unique archived artifacts. In 2006, all museums were equipped with security systems connected to the police under the direction of the Education, Culture and Science Ministry. In order to keep security operations active, some funds are required annually. But due to insufficient funding, the security systems in museums did not last more than two years. However, last year, the security and protection services in all museums were improved with financing from the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry. But thieves had already started special operations before the security companies went in to action, as evident in the recent theft at Erdenezuu Monastery.
The renewed version of the law on cultural heritage calls to increase the quota of museum staff, which is positive news. According to the renewed law, the number of museum storage drawers, archivists and research specialists will be increased and research will be conducted actively. But it is not clear when this change will be put in place or when financing will be issued. If museum workers, preservationists and protectors of valuable historic items get sufficient salaries and support, perhaps they would not be tempted to sell the country’s history to someone who promises money.
Meanwhile, authorities have been discussing the building of a new museum for a whole year, Mongolian historical and cultural artifacts are on the verge of being destroyed in poor settings or being taken across our borders.

S.Ochirbat: It’s time for residents to become city residents

The following is an interview with Head of the Ulaanbaatar City Planning Department of the National Research Institute which is responsible for construction, urbanization and investment issues, about housing issues in Ulaanbaatar.
Mongolian residents were given five housing loan options. Can you elaborate on this?
From my knowledge, since the 1990s, Mongolia has been fighting against Ulaanbaatar’s smoke through many different measures. The World Bank and the government have spent a large sum of money on combating air pollution. The most correct way to fight smoke is to provide apartments to the people. The provision of apartments was supported by the government in various ways which increased choices for the people.
If citizens have their own land, they can exchange them for an apartment after forming an agreement with housing investors. Infrastructure issues in ger districts will be resolved through land redevelopment. Most importantly, residents need to participate in the proper structural organization and relocate from the land for infrastructural development. We’ll add it to the planning, install piping networks and build roads. This is one form of housing. The government is issuing many options including paying 30 percent of a housing price in advance for deposit and applying for the eight percent annual rate housing loan. Many are not able to move into apartments because they can’t pay the 30 percent. For these people, another suggestion was offered which is to withdraw a portion of their income every month if they have fixed income and when they’ve paid the deposit, they can move in. Many countries throughout the world have similar standards.
Moreover, there are many rundown buildings in the city. We’re planning to rebuild and improve them by using modern technologies with the help of the private sector. Residents can move into whichever floor they want in local area. The City Housing Program is a comprehensive program offering these five options.
How is the work for facilitating these five options progressing?
Last year, the private sector built and commissioned apartments for 15 thousand families. Seeing from this year’s permit acquisitions, we’re forecasting that we’ll build apartments for around 20 thousand households. Redevelopment of ger district was the biggest work we’ve done last year. The Citizens’ Representatives Council developed the planning procedures, held discussions with investors, established contracts between residents and investors, and now they’re progressing with their work. According to the information from project implementing agencies, over 5,000 apartments are to be commissioned within this year.
Investors are carrying huge responsibilities as well as risks of the city as they are letting owners of lands stay in rental accommodations. Since they’re spending a lot of money on rented apartments, apartments should be built within their deadline and have residents moved in as soon as possible. We’re enabling future residents to double check on the construction work. We’ve never had this sort of supervision before. Simply, they’ll be doing both professional inspector and supervising engineer’s work. Previously, each supervising engineer used to monitor 80 buildings which was a very heavy workload. When we recruited 20 more engineers to lessen the workload, we were criticized for having a huge staff structure. This structure allows recovering of costs through the income that comes from evaluations. One person cannot possibly supervise 80 buildings in a month. If they visit two buildings a day, they’ll monitor only 60 buildings in a month. Is this workload really sustainable?
Within the framework of land redevelopment work, 168 household’s lands were organized, and piping networks were built along with roads and engineering networks. For example, 160 households recieved comfortable apartments in the 30th Khoroo of Songinokhairkhan District. Some five trillion MNT was spent on this from the Minister of Construction and Urban Development’s package. We allocated 2.2 billion MNT for taking care of heating issues. We issued the program to provide comfortable apartments to some 20 thousand households by 2018. We’re confident that we will be able to achieve this.
Road work in Bayankhoshuu seems to be slow. At what stage is ger district redesigning work at currently?
It’s a good thing that private sectors are doing the work. Whether it’s major or minor help, it’s very useful. The public now understands that there’ll be road work and infrastructure in certain areas along with city expansions.
I visited Bayankhoshuu, Khutul and reviewed its road work. Several service centers had extended closer to roads. They stretched beyond their designated land and onto public land. Our land acquisition team went around and charged either compensations or after-taxes from them. Although it’s said that development follows roads, residents do not fulfill their obligations. The Bayankhoshuu road is a very busy road. Currently, we’re spending a portion of the 390 million USD provided by the Asian Development Bank on that road to resolve all engineering and infrastructural issues. We should do whatever we can if we wish to live comfortably. We need to understand that we’re residents of a megacity of the world. What I’m trying to say is that the time has come for residents to become city residents.
There are issues of setting affordable prices for residents. How is this issue being resolved?
We’ve never set lower values to properties. This work is carried out through the agreement between implementers and residents. Implementing agencies are doing their best to progress the work. Interests of some thousand residents of the city are more valuable than one man’s interests. The people should understand this. If they wish to live happily and comfortably, they need to start everything from themselves. There’ll indeed be difficulties and obstructions in this standard. Even so, it shouldn’t be stopped. Without destroying over 180 thousand chimneys in ger districts, Mongolia will not be able to get rid of soil, water and air pollution. The last 20 years has proved this. Adjustments for commencing work are now being made.
At what stage is the Capital City Housing Corporation (CHC) issue at?
The program was approved. Whether it’s CHC or Ulaanbaatar Corporation, they’re both needed. Before establishing this corporation, a research was conducted on countries that housed their citizen. The corporation will first purchase and then sell. The sales will settle sales issues of business entities to be redesigned. This corporation is different from the State Housing Corporation. Within this month, CHC issues will be resolved.
The CHC proposal to move buyers into apartments after depositing money is attracting people. What will happen if the government changes?
Since residents are paying a certain percentage to the housing stock, they’ll supervise construction work and even if the government is changed, it’ll not affect this all. This is a resident cooperation work. This work will not progress if we offer 100 thousand MNT and demand people to move out of their lands. When we created resident-investor agreements, the work started to progress. Last year, the government gave support in ger district infrastructure and gave 85.7 billion MNT from the Development Bank financing. Now the engineering network work is almost finished. The city gave 40 billion MNT for redesigning ger districts and the work was commenced. Both the state and the government is now fulfilling one purpose which is to implement the provision of the constitutional law to protect the balance of resident’s comfortable lifestyle and environment. Politics isn’t involved in this. If this work is shifted for political purposes and stopped, it’ll become a crime against the people. When I was meeting with many specialists, I felt their 100 percent support.
The Rental Housing Program is being implemented in the city. Is this program a form of housing residents? How was this received by residents?
Last year, around 300 households were moved into rental apartments. This year, we’re planning to move 396 households. This work is organized with the city budget funds. Last year, we established a housing fund. A certain portion of the state budget was allocated to this. Plans for 2030 were approved last year by Parliament. In this general plan, it was specified that 1,000 households will be moved into rental apartments each year until 2016 and in the following years, after 2016, rental apartments for 2,000 households will be built each year. Depending on the residents’ capacity to purchase apartments, the number of leases is increasing but the prices are high as there’s inadequacy in housing supply. It’s necessary to continue this work and increase construction each year.
When we enquired renters about their comfort, they had no complaint. They used to pay 150 to 160 thousand MNT to stay in another person’s residence in ger area but now they pay 120 thousand MNT to stay in an apartment. They seemed very satisfied.
With a loan from the Asian Development Bank, the area around Bayankhoshuu and Selbe are to be developed into sub-centers. Can you elaborate on this?
Within the framework of implementing the general plan to develop Ulaanbaatar through 2020, eight sub-centers were specified to be developed in the city. This work is being implemented with a 320 million USD loan from the Asian Development Bank. For starters, the parliament supported the project to redevelop Bayankhoshuu and Selbe into sub-centers. This year, we’re aiming to begin planning and construction work. Our purpose is to establish eight sub-centers in Ulaanbaatar by 2030. The most important work is to install engineering networks. There’ll be some household related issues and some land acquisition work. The municipality is giving 96 million USD for this. Some 16.6 million USD was allocated from this year’s state budget. Bayankhoshuu Center has a 48 MW heat source with modern technology. A total of 162 hectares around Selbe and around 140 hectares of land around Bayankhoshuu were assigned for the sub-centers. In total, services will be provided straight to some 200 thousand people. To make this estimate, the Asian Development Bank provided technical support and the feasibility was determined in a short amount of time. For the first time, the Asian Development Bank opened a multi-tier credit to Mongolia.

N.Bayarmaa becomes World Belly Dance Champion

June 5 (UB Post) The World Belly Dance Championship was organized in China recently.
Mongolian belly dancer N.Bayarmaa represented Mongolia at the event.
Around 200 belly dancers from various countries competed in the contest and Mongolian belly dancer N.Bayarmaa became champion in the “modern belly dance” category. She was also selected as one of the top five in the “traditional belly dance” category.
N.Bayarmaa is head of the Mongolian Belly Dance Development Center. Mongolian folk band Altan Urag and zither player Munkh-Erdene participated in the belly dance contest along with N.Bayarmaa, who expressed Mandukhai Setsen Khatan through her dance.
Belly dancers of China, Taiwan and German became champions in other categories.

B.Chinzorig wins World Military Boxing Championship

June 5 (UB Post) The World Military Boxing Championship took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan from May 26 to June 4.
Mongolian boxer B.Chinzorig won a gold medal at the championship. He defeated Moroccan boxer Abdelhak Aatakni 2:1 at the silver medal match on June 2 in the men’s 64 kg category.
B.Chinzorig beat Tunisian boxer Alaa Shili in the finals on June 4.
He previously won a gold medal from the China Open international competition, a silver medal from an international competition in Taiwan and captured a bronze medal from an international competition in Pakistan. He became national champion in 2014.
Another Mongolian boxer, silver medalist of the 2012 London Summer Olympics, world champion, and State Honored Athlete N.Tugstsogt won a bronze medal at the World Military Boxing Championship.
The 55th World Boxing Championship of the International Military Sports Consul
took place in Almaty with participation of the top boxers of 22 countries such as Columbia, France, Sri Lanka, Brazil, South Korea, Algeria, Morocco, Germany, Mongolia, Italy, China, Russia, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, Georgia, Iraq and Nigeria.

How big will Russia’s political footprint be in Europe?

June 5 (The Mark News)
- Russian influence in Europe after the far right’s success in the European elections of 2014 -
By Peter Kreko, director, Political Capital Institute
On May 25, the same day that most of the European Union member states voted for the European Parliament, presidential elections took place in Ukraine. In both elections, Russia had an obvious strategy to influence the results.
In the case of Ukraine, Russian-supported separatists did everything they could to delegitimize the process in the eastern territories, keeping voters away from the ballot boxes by threatening to shoot people who planned to vote.
In the European Parliament elections, the influence was less direct. Russia supports increasingly popular anti-EU parties on the far left and far right, hoping to have pro-Russian caucuses in the next Parliament to help articulate Russian views, and to have an impact on decision-making processes.
The tools were different, but the goal was the same: destabilization.
The recent crisis in Ukraine has especially revealed the close bonding of European far-right parties with Russia. Many far-right parties (such as the Freedom Party of Austria, the Bulgarian Ataka party, the Italian Northern League, and the Hungarian Jobbik party) have sent “independent observers” to the Crimean referendum, and their representatives in the European Parliament have openly joined forces with some of the far-left parties (including the German Die Linke) to reject a resolution condemning the Crimean annexation and the “destabilization of eastern Ukraine.”
Russian influence on the affairs of radical fringe groups is seen all over Europe as a key risk for Euro-Atlantic integration at both the national and the EU level. The recent European Parliament elections resulted in an influx of far-right and far-left euroskeptic and euroreject parties, which now form as much as 27 percent of the assembly.
Russian interests will be represented at the highest level of the European Parliament. Spearheaded by the French National Front, far-right parties may join a pro-Russian faction called the European Alliance for Freedom. While some call these forces the “Trojan horse” of Russian interests, they are not hiding their commitment. As one member, the Belgian Vlaams Belang party, has put it, “I think we can be a good partner for Russia in the European Parliament. And Russia sees us as a potential partner.”
Such a cooperation between the European far right and Russia dates back many years, and is built upon the policy of “eastern opening,” which emphasizes the economic interests of Europe; an ideological admiration for Russia’s conservative, nationalist, and strong-hand policies; pushing Russia’s agenda on international forums; and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new foreign policy of Eurasianism as a geopolitical framework.
In a 2011 article, Putin promised post-Soviet states national development and “genuine sovereignty,” without the European Union’s “gratuitous restrictions.”
Putin’s reformulated ideology, which is built on conservatism, Christianity, authoritarianism, law-and-order policies, nationalism, and state control over strategic sectors, coincides with the far right’s anti-establishment ideological platform and policy interests.
Far-right parties thus appear as natural allies for Russia against the European Union, even though their stated interest in renewed national sovereignty inherently contradicts the Russian interests of expansion and European influence.
Through what Putin calls the “active means” of his “Eurasian Doctrine,” Russia provides political and organizational support to “friendly” organizations.
In a summary report, researcher Sinikukka Saari describes three major types of Russian support:
1. Contacting and establishing foreign political actors (e.g., in Latvia, where the formerly insignificant Harmony Centre party won the 2011 elections with strong Russian backing).
2. Establishing non-governmental organizations such as youth, minority, or separatist civil organizations (as it did in Estonia, Transnistria, and South Ossetia). The Institute of Democracy and Cooperation think-tank, which is based in Paris and funded by Russian donors, is designed to fight off Western human-rights criticism of Russia, and has hosted many right-wing figures (such as Alain Bournazel, Dominique Venner, and BĂ©atrice Bourges) at its events.
3. Supporting friendly media enterprises to influence domestic and international public opinion. A sound example of the latter is the French, which features the logo of the United Russia party and employs at least five journalists with close ties to the National Front and the French far-right scene.
The European far right is divided along many lines because parties belong to different international alliances. In what appears to be an attempt to build party families in Europe, Russia has been encouraging and hosting international meetings for the parties.
For example, in November 2013, the head of the British National Party (BNP), the head of Italy’s New Force party, and the spokesperson for Greece’s Golden Dawn party held a joint news conference while visiting Moscow. New Force and Golden Dawn are part of the European National Front alliance, while BNP is part of the Jobbik-led Alliance of European National Movements.
Jobbik and Golden Dawn have both been invited to the Russian National Forum – to be held in St. Petersburg in October 2014 – to develop a new national doctrine for Russia and Europe with the far-right parties.
Fifteen out of 25 major European far-right parties are vocal and open supporters of Russia and Russian interests, while seven can be classified as “open” and only three as hostile towards Russia.
The Hungarian Jobbik party has supported Russia since it was elected to the European Parliament in 2009. The party’s 2010 election program described the establishment and maintenance of good relations with “an increasingly influential Russia” as vitally important.
In the May 25 elections, the party maintained its success, and the “Euro-Asian foreign policy paradigm” and the renegotiation of Hungary’s EU and NATO membership are at the top of the party’s agenda.
If the radical left and the radical right have some fortune and skill in negotiations, three caucuses (a radical left, a populist right, and a far right) with open Russian sympathies could be formed.
Even if far-left and far-right players are not expected to form a politically homogeneous block, the one-fourth of the Members of the European Parliament that show open, ideological admiration for Putin’s Russia could really cause a shift in the EU’s policies.

‘Hidden Prospect’

June 5 (UB Post) The reception for “Hidden Prospect” was my first time visiting an art exhibition on its opening. I usually visit an exhibition after its opening. This exhibition really impressed, inspired and encouraged me to attend others.
The exhibition presents the excellence, talent and creativity of five artists, Munkhjargal, Bazarsad, Enkhchuluun, Nyamdulam and Munkhzul. They presented 40 photographs and one video.
The artists presented portraits of famous people, but changed their careers in their portraits. They showed an artist as a boxer and a composer as an artist. The video is composed of these portraits and they made a composition from them.
According to one of the artists, they started taking these photographs in January 2014. Munkhjargal and Enkhchuluun initiated this group project, with the support of the Blue Rust Artist’s Union.
“Hidden Prospect” will be open through June 14, at Blue Moon Art Gallery.

Prices jump while earnings remain unchanged

June 5 (UB Post) The “New Government for Changes” raised pensions by 15 to 30 percent depending on the previous amount, starting February 1 this year, as it had promised earlier. However, the pension increase which delighted the elderly for a while, which was followed by the same amount of hike in commodity prices.
The minimum raise of 15 percent added around 20,000 MNT to average pension amount. But the value of Mongolian currency has plummeted in recent years, reducing the purchasing power of 20,000 MNT equivalent to only two kilograms of beef. Just three years ago, 20,000 MNT was enough to buy food to last for ten days. If the current pace of inflation go on longer, it is clear what will become of the purchasing power of 20,000 MNT in three years from now.
Mongolia is home to over 45 million livestock. Yet meat, main and other basic food products for Mongolians is above 10,000 MNT per kilo which is ironic. In a matter of only a year, meat prices have risen by 20 percent in Mongolia.
The government is taking steps to support small and medium enterprises to increase exports and supplement imports. However, if price of domestically manufactured goods jump on average 20 percent a year, it is hard to tell whether it will benefit Mongolia in any way.
Price increase is quite predictable, or rather obvious, once the talk of pension and pay raise breaks out.
The raise needs to be conducted after thorough planning and time management as exchange value of MNT has declined by over 30 percent this year. Currently pay raise is likely to bring nothing but price increases.
As of the first five months of 2014, inflation rate has reached 12.3 percent in Mongolia although it dipped down to almost eight percent in August 2013. The rate climbed back up to 11.7 percent at the end of last year due to the increase of USD vs MNT exchange rate.
Inflation rate has almost risen by 50 percent in the past four years, compared to the previous four years. The pension and pay raise must be made depending on inflation rate and economic growth which the government action plan has included.
Since the 2012 parliamentary election, only pension has been raised, while prices of all consumer goods have rapidly increased at the same time. For instance, the retail price of a liter of “Pure Milk” of APU LLC was 1,700 MNT in 2011, today it is 2,700 MNT. It shows that price of milk that come factory packaged has increased 60 percent, while wages remained the same.
It is good news when wages or pensions are increased, but in the case of Mongolia, it encourages traders to increase prices of consumer goods as much as they want which in turn causes conflicts between the people and the government.
Though pension and wage increase are not solely responsible for price increases, these are one of the main factors causing them which means that the government must adopt a better economic management and forecast systems rather than focusing on promising too many things that they can’t afford to keep.
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