Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mongolia Brief July 1, 2014 Part IV

11 government ministers overshoot travel expenses

July 1 (UB Post) During last week’s Parliament session, the General Audit Authority reported that 11 ministers exceeded their foreign visit spending last year by hundreds of millions of MNT.

The ministers were criticized for spending taxpayer money on “leisure and travel” by local news outlets and on social media.
In response to the allegation, Foreign Affairs Minister L.Bold, who was reported to have exceeded his travel expense budget by 558 million MNT last year, said in a press announcement that the allegations were untrue and that his ministry saved more than 650 million MNT last year.
“In the 2013 combined budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 653.4 million MNT was saved. Costs saved from construction and equipment made up most of this. But operations expenditures were overshot by two percent. This includes the official travel overspending of 558 million USD, which was explained as if it was ‘the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ travel and leisure’ which doesn’t match the reality, since 96 percent of this expense includes the cost of the commissioning and travel costs for the return of 39 diplomatic representative organization workers.”
Last year, Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag promised that the government would not waste taxpayers’ money on travel, and that a quota for only two trips has been made for ministers. He said that if ministers and government officials exceed this limit, they will be held accountable.
So far, no reprimand has been made, but news outlets and people on social media are demanding that officials pay their excessive spending from their own pockets.

Tax returns of 2,800 citizens not yet issued

July 1 (UB Post) People who bought apartments or paid university tuition fees for the first time are eligible to receive tax returns on those expenses. Last year’s taxes included in the first phase of tax returns were refunded in April. The third phase of the tax returns were implemented this month.
Currently, the tax returns from the State Budget Fund for 2,800 taxpayers included in the third phase have not been issued yet.
Through the 11-11 center, the General Department of Taxation reported that some of the 2,800 tax returns were issued in June and other tax returns will be issued after budget clarification.

Airstrip paving technology to create longer lasting roads

July 1 (UB Post) A new technology for Mongolia could increase the longevity of roads. The Wirtgen Group’s asphalt milling machine, invented in Germany, was used for the first time in Mongolia on Thursday, June 26, in the construction of an airstrip for the International Airport in Hushigt Valley, set to open in October 2016.
The Wirtgen machine, which has been used in many European, American, Asian and African countries, can plane paved roads with 15 cm height and 50 cm width.
”This technology is being used for the first time in our country. For Mongolia specifically, an iron framework must be used before paving with concrete, because of Mongolia’s climatic conditions. We used to have to repair the airstrip every 40 years. Thanks to this technology, the road will be serviceable for 50,” said Aerodrome Manager of the International Airport construction project D.Tsognyam.
The concrete airstrip of the International Airport in Hushigt Valley will be 3,600 meters long and 45 meters wide, with a 7.5 meter asphalt and concrete border.
The airstrip will be ready in three months, completed by a Japanese and Korean engineering team.

Draft amendments to business income tax policy to be submitted to the Parliament

July 1 (UB Post) Within the second phase of reforms toward the government’s aim to have tax policy supporting businesses, a decision was made to refund 90 percent of income taxes paid by entities whose annual income is less than 1.5 billion MNT and which operate in sectors other than mining, minerals, petroleum product import, oil product export, telecommunications, alcohol, tobacco, banking or finance.
By refunding 90 percent of the income tax paid by these entities, small and medium scale enterprises will be able to expand their operations, buy new equipment and facilities, and make other investments with the refund. The draft amendment calls for granting the refund without restrictions to entities which fulfill the following criteria:
1. Must run operations in a sector not forbidden in accordance with the law
2. Annual sales income can be no more than 1.5 billion MNT
3. Tax returns should be completed on time
4. Taxes should be paid
Once the draft amendment is approved, 45.3 percent of total tax payers (40,232 entities) will receive an income tax refund.
Governmental meeting in brief:
• Duties were given to Population Development and Social Protection Minister S.Erdene to review the results of the Mongolia-Kazakhstan VI Intergovernmental Commission meeting and to control the implementation of projects initiated in discussions. The meeting covered trade, economic, science, technology and cultural cooperation between the two countries, and was hosted in Ulaanbaatar, on May 26 and 27.
• The draft itinerary of the official visit of German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier on July 6 and 7 was discussed and delivered to Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag for approval.
• The draft itinerary of Foreign Affair Minister L.Bold’s visit to Spain and Luxemburg on July 1 to 3 was discussed and sent for further approval.
• Approval was given to Finance Minister Ch.Ulaan to issue 430,903,000 MNT from the resource fund of the Government, the money required for direct expenses during efforts to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in Dornogobi, Khentii and Sukhbaatar provinces.

Dynamic Mohanik takes on an inspirational tour

July 1 (UB Post) From June 15-19 at Blue Moon Art Gallery, Mongolian rock band Mohanik celebrated the launch of its new album “Mohanik at Amarbayasgalant”. The band has recently taken an “inspirational” tour where they experimented natural sounds and used unique Mongolian tunes to create their new album. An event titled “Foreword” was held where people were introduced to the process of making the album. The event was a combination of unique live sounds by the band, live painting and travel pictures.
The following is an interview with Mohanik’s bass guitarist O.Enerelt.
I see that you have changed your style of music and it became more deeply related to nature. What did you want to say with your songs?
Firstly, we were not interested in making songs about everyday petty problems. Our first album was a very light hearted, easy and fun album which we composed during our teenage years. Since we have been together for 10 years now, we thought it is time to create some serious music and define Mohanik. After doing some soul searching, we created the album “Mohanik at Amarbayasgalant”. Even though we are into foreign music, we are Mongolians so we were magnetized by unique sounds of Mongolia. If we use these unique tunes, it seemed our music will be more valuable. There are plenty of bands that sound like other music, so we aimed to create our own original music. Even though we are from the city, there is nomadic culture still within us, and we wanted to express this feeling through our songs.
What kind of musical instruments did you use?
Actually we just played with the instruments we always used to play: guitars, drums, base, keyboard and little additions to our percussions. But to expose Mongolian music, we did not use horse fiddle or throat singing, that would be too pretentious. We just played with our own instruments that we are comfortable with. We worked to illustrate Mongolian music with drums and guitars; the focus was on sounds not instruments.
What instruments do you want to use in the future?
We are very open to new ideas and instruments. But we have been interested in the instruments we play now. We played for 10 years like this and we are still working to get better at it so our main path will still be the same. In this album, we used more keyboards and searched for additional natural tunes.
Do you adapt your songs for live music in concerts?
Yes we do. After making a song, we play it over and over. Whenever we play the song, we discuss it and in the process it gets altered. We created the album in a year. Final versions of some songs were finalized when we made the music videos. And others evolved with time.
You have recorded your songs at Amarbayasgalant Monastery. Were there any noise obstructions when you were recording?
Yes, we aimed to record those noises. Initially, we wanted to record each song at a different place that resembled the songs, but there needed to be an electrical motor working for our instruments. So we recorded our album at Amarbayasgalant, a monastery with a 300 year history. When we entered Amarbayasgalant, there was a very powerful aura, almost supernatural. Also it had electricity so we recorded our album there with the help of the administrators at the monastery. In Amarbayasgalant, there are child monks who will live there all their lives, and those children were next to us cleaning, walking and playing. We recorded this into our album. The monastery has almost become a part of nature, so we wanted to record and capture its energy. There were birds, dogs and tourists. We placed our instruments in the middle of the main ground outside and recorded every sound around us when we played.
Were inspired to write songs after visiting interesting places?
No. Even though we wrote our songs in the city, our first audience was the nature. During our inspirational trip, we played amongst natural beauty, and as paying respect to our songs, we performed them to the wilderness. The places we visited were the places we initially wanted to record our songs. We played with acoustic guitars at different kinds of land formations, in a rock cave, on the sand, near a flowing water and so on. While we were performing our songs in the wild, the songs gained a unique spiritual energy from that places. Also, it was very important to experience the journey and the nature together as a band. A day after our two week-journey, we went to Amarbayasgalant and recorded our album.
What do you think was the people’s reaction to your transition in your musical style?
We were kind of a pop-punk band. And now we cannot say specifically what we are.  If we designate a specific genre to our band, it seems like we are limiting ourselves. We are not going to label our music, but people can. Our music will evolve and progress as time goes, so we named our album “Mohanik at Amarbayasgalant” because we wanted to specify a time or place as a reference point of our musical careers. At Amarbayasgalant, Mohanik was like this, but two or three years later, Mohanik will have changed into another. After soul searching, we found out that Mohanik is not one thing in particular, it will never stay at one place, that’s for sure. At first, we wanted to name our album as “Mohanik” as the album defines our music, but music always changes. After 10 years, we might be playing completely differently.
Did shaman culture influence your songs?
Not specifically. Before shamanism came to Mongolia, there was still this spiritual energy, which shamans and other people use. We became inspired by the creation of tunes that is connected with Mongolian roots. Unique Mongolian style is greatly used by shamans so whenever somebody uses them, they assume that it is related to shamanism. This style is not only for shamanism, it is Mongolian.
What kind of music do you guys listen to?
Four of us are interested in really different kinds of music. We do not have an artist or band we all like. But it’s really good because we will not be biased to one particular direction, and our creativity will not be limited. We do not like most MTV songs because they are mostly factory made that are copies of each other. Production of automatic music is prevailing, to fight against this trend, we used natural tunes. We are able to like one artist or song but we are not really fans of one thing in particular. Davaa (vocalist and guitarist) has recently taken up listening to ethnic music, such as Arabic, Gobi and nomadic music. Tsoijoo (vocalist and lead guitarist) listens to old school as well as new music, for example Bob Dylan, Black Keys and other UK and European bands. I am always searches for new music.
Are you all full time artists?
Davaa is a full time artist; he has other artistic pursuits besides music such as painting. We are influenced by him and have grown to like his ideas. However, there is not much opportunity to pursue an artist’s life full time in Mongolia. Even though we really like music, one cannot play music for 10 to 12 hours everyday. So we do different things to exploit our energy. Some of us do arts and others do business. There is not much to do if you become full-time artists. It is not every day we are touring or we are creating new music. All in all, we are doing what we like. If we make music our main work, we will approach it as work, not as something we enjoy. It will lose its essence of pleasure. We are doing what we like when we want to keep the music natural and pure.
How does Mohanik tackle its finances?
It is quite problematic actually. This album was delayed by three years due to financial problems. Our recording and production was going to need a lot of money, and we did not start recording until we solved it, because a half-hearted album was not our aim. The expense was very big. We used the money we have earned by playing at wedding parties, New Year parties, We Support Concert and other places. There was some contribution from a foreign company as well. As for the rest of the financial needs, we sponsored ourselves since we do not have any official sponsors.
Which events will you attend this year?
This summer is really cool. When we introduced our new album, people were really interested and gave a lot of offers to play abroad. In May, we have played at Spring Festival in Japan where different countries introduce their art and culture. In July, we are going play at some events in Korea. Just after coming back from Korea, we will take part in Playtime music festival in Mongolia. Playtime is a must of course, unless the plane is delayed. In August, we are going to play at We Rocks festival in Vladivostok, Russia, and in September, our new album concert will be held in Ulaanbaatar.
What is your current aim as a band?
We want to perform our new album at our concert in September successfully. The concert will incorporate visuals and use videos for story telling in addition to our music. And as always, we want to participate in different festivals abroad to gain experience. And I think it is starting one by one. We played in China a couple of times. Also in Korea and Japan, and we will play in Russia. All options are open for us.
Link to interview

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