Friday, August 8, 2014

Mongolia Brief August 7, 2014 Part III

B.Dulguun wins bronze medal at Singapore Swimming Championship 2014
August 7 (UB Post) The fourth Singapore National Swimming Championship 2014 was held from August 2 to 3 in Singapore. Mongolian athlete B.Dulguun won a bronze medal in the men’s 50 m dolphin crawl category. Some 27 athletes competed in the dolphin crawl.

B.Dulguun finished the race in 00:25:13 seconds, setting a new Mongolian record.
The swimmer competed in two other categories, 100 m dolphin crawl and 100 m front crawl, but did not make the medal podium. B.Dulguun completed the 100 m dolphin crawl in 57.60 seconds and ranked sixth, improving his personal record of 58.28 seconds set in 2012. In the 100m front crawl, he finished the race in 00:54:01 seconds.

“Marry Me Mother” to launch on August 15
August 7 (UB Post) Movie makers Mill and Mogolfilm is about to launch, “Marry Me Mother”, a feature film, on August 15 at cinemas in Ulaanbaatar.
Directors L.Lhagvajav and B.Munkhbat, writer D.Munkhbat and producer B.Otgonzorig worked on the film.
The movie stars popular Mongolian artists such as B.Khulan, U.Ankhbayar, G.Gan-Ochir, B.Battumur and Ch.Undral.
The movie attempts to show how divorce and family conflict influences children’s behavior and character.

Salkhi Band prepares 15th anniversary concert
August 7 (UB Post) The official Facebook page of Salkhi band announced that the band is preparing their 15th anniversary show and concert.
Salkhi band has enjoyed great success in the Mongolian pop music industry, with hits such as “Setgelees urvasan khun jargaagui”, “Ukhaarch amjaagui bukhnii chin tuluu”, “Nogoolin”, and “Khuurkhun okhin”.
The band hasn’t revealed the date for their concert yet.

Former President N.Enkhbayar faces fresh fraud allegations
August 7 (UB Post) Former President N.Enkhbayar, pardoned of corruption charges by the man who replaced him in the 2009 election, is facing fresh allegations of 1.5 million USD in fraud.
The Division Against Organized Crimes of the General Police Department initiated a criminal investigation of N.Enkhbayar, following allegations by one Mongolian and one U.S citizen who claim to have suffered significant financial losses because of his actions.
“N.Enkhbayar dealt with the U.S. citizen in December 2011 to purchase the current building of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) at 1.5 million USD, and D.Tsengel, executive director of N.Enkhbayar’s younger sister’s company, Eskon LLC, signed the contracts.
“However, the former president paid only 500,000 USD, with the remaining one million USD still unpaid to the original owner of the building,” says a source from the Prosecutor’s Office working on the case.
The property, located in the first khoroo of Sukhbaatar District, is a 900 square meter, two-story building in Sukhbaatar District, previously owned by Imperial Gold LLC.
N.Enkhbayar and three other officials were also named as suspects in a 1.2 billion MNT fraud case. “MPRP’s building has been forfeited by the police in order to use it for compensation for fraud early last week,” the source added.
However MPRP Secretary General G.Shiilegdamba gave Unuudur Daily conflicting information, “Some news websites have been reporting that MPRP’s building is closed. But our operations haven’t stopped at all. No police have come to us and closed the building.”

Ambassador of Belarus submits credentials
August 7 (UB Post) The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from the Republic of Belarus to Mongolia, Stanislav Chepurnoi, presented his credentials to Mongolian President Ts.Elbegdorj on Wednesday.
In a meeting with Ambassador Chepurnoi, the President noted, “Recently, bilateral relations are intensively developing. After the visit of the Belarusian Prime Minister in 2013, we can clearly see improvements in bilateral collaboration. Regarding negotiations, we decided on issues not mentioned for many years. Establishing an embassy for the first time in Ulaanbaatar, and appointing you as an ambassador, shows the importance of bilateral relations. It is evidence that we can deepen our relations in the future.”
Chepurnoi replied, “Thank you for welcoming us, and you’re right that our relations are expanding. Intergovernmental negotiations are intensifying, concurrence of the legal environment and the frequency of bilateral summit visits are increasing. We invite you to visit Belarus once again. Surely your visit will deepen relations in bilateral politics, the economy and trade sectors. We are known for distributing agricultural and agronomical machines and equipment to the Mongolian market. Therefore, we are interested in expanding those relations. We want to provide high tech products, passenger vehicles, and techniques for road and building construction. Moreover, establish industry and entities, together.”
Of the 15 member countries of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, only the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, and now Belarus, have opened embassies in Mongolia. A total of 21 nations now have embassies established in UB.

Construction officials responsible for 12-year-old’s death sentenced to prison time
August 7 (UB Post) Construction officials accused of causing an accident that killed a 12-year-old girl due to negligence was sentenced up to two-years in prison on Monday, after two years of trial.
The accident took place in 2012, where a 12-year-old girl was killed in a pipe collapse.
The victim was on her way back home with her mother when a pipe used for laying concrete fell from the seventh floor of a building under construction, located next to the State Clinical Hospital No.3 in Bayangol District.
Investigation proved that a poor occupational safety was the main reason for the accident and those in charge were sentenced to prison time.
Out of six officials, two were sentenced to one year and six months in prison, one was sentenced to two years, while the remaining three are to pay a fine equal to 100 times the minimum monthly wage, which totals to 14 million MNT each.
The officials worked for Tugs Guren LLC and the company’s operation permit was suspended for two-years, according to the decision of the Bayanzurkh District Criminal Court No.2.

EBRD to finance 65 million USD for dry cement plant
August 7 (UB Post) The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced that it will issue a long-term loan of 65 million USD for the construction of Moncement dry process cement plant in Mongolia.
Senj Sant, subsidiary of Monpolymet Group, is building the Moncement dry process cement plant at Senj Khudaj mine, with a reserve of 170 years of limestone. The plant plans to produce one million tons of cement per year using a technologically advanced and environmentally friendly dry cement processing technique. The plant plans to supply domestic demand with cement of higher quality than the currently available imported cement, and to export its product. Senj Sant is using EBRD financing to continue funding the construction, commissioning and operation of the plant, which is expected to have a total capacity of about 3,000 tons of cement a day with the start of production planned in 2015.
The EBRD also provided a 20 million USD equity investment in May 2013 for a stake in the plant.

Landlocked democracy faces challenges balancing diplomacy
August 7 (UB Post) Mongolia abstains from UN resolution on Territorial Integrity of Ukraine: chosen or compelled?
As the Crimean crisis continues, concerns have emerged whether ongoing conflict will affect diplomatic relations in Mongolia – like Ukraine, an independent and democratic state, neighboring Russia.
Mongolia’s political neutrality is considered by many as a wise choice and a product of its unique geographic and political circumstances.
“Everything about Mongolian foreign policy and general international outlook would lead one to believe that Mongolian officials do not welcome Russia’s aggressive actions,” explained Julian Dierkes, Professor at the Institute of Asian Studies of the University of British Columbia on Mongolia Focus. However, the situation is not so simple and Russia’s share in Mongolia’s political and economic life weighs heavily when the time comes to take a stance on the issue.
Mongolia’s similarities to Ukraine are countered by its differences; staying independent throughout the Soviet era and the absence of a strong Russian diaspora like that of Ukraine, dissociate Mongolia from the Crimea crisis, Dierkes added.
Mongolia is not in a position to upset either of its direct neighbors and despite the unlikelihood of an attempt by Russia to invade Mongolian territory, Dierkes consequently perceives neutrality a sensible answer. “You don’t want to aggravate the neighbor, so it is probably not worth making a big fuss about.”
A situation well understood by Mongolia’s western allies.
“You don’t always contribute to a solution by picking side,” Canada’s Ambassador Gregory Goldhawk told the UB Post.
Granting that both Canada and the United States would have wished for their Asian ally to express its “concerns over the developments in the Ukraine and the actions that Russia has taken,” as Bryan Koontz, Jr, U.S. Political Chief Section in Mongolia expressed to the UB Post, it is appreciated that Mongolia’s foreign policies have to take into account its history.
“That is a phenomenon with which most Canadians would feel a kind of sympathy for, because part of our national history has been our proximity to our much larger neighbor, the United States,” recognizes Ambassador Goldhawk.
One question remains, will Mongolia be able to keep neutral ground if the conflict deteriorates?
Canada and the United States have the luxury of being outside observers, to be able to sanction Russia without facing potential grave alterations to their economy, something Mongolia cannot afford.
Although U.S. Vice President Joe Biden made it clear in an interview with the New Yorker published on July 21st that “We [the U.S.] no longer think in Cold War terms,” the renewed tensions between the former super-powers have a Cold War aftertaste, far from being in the interest of Mongolia’s young democracy.
Mongolia is not big enough a player to be forced to take a position, Dierkes believes; a conclusion that can also be drawn from the opinions expressed by the Canadian and U.S. embassies in Mongolia. here are no signs that Russia, or the Western powers are putting pressure on Mongolia to take action.
That doesn’t mean that the issue is not being discussed in diplomatic meetings. While we do not have confirmation of the Ukrainian crisis being brought up during Vladimir Putin’s two meetings with President Elbegdorj in May, or in the meeting with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, in July, Ukraine was on the agenda during a meeting with the British Minister of Foreign Affairs in late May.
“In the actual meeting it would be more difficult to remain neutral,” says Dierkes, suggesting that personal statements could have been made during meetings. But as a matter of governmental policy, it should be possible for Mongolia to remain relatively neutral throughout the conflict.
Before going to press, we were not able to meet with the Russian Embassy although they had agreed on an interview.
In the past five years, Mongolia has been increasingly engaging with Canada and the United States through the Third Neighbor policy, Mongolia’s new foreign affairs guideline designed to diversify its diplomatic partnerships. Landlocked between Russia and China, two giants who have been juggling with the country’s politics for centuries, Mongolia is historically tied to them. But simultaneously maintaining friendly relations with Russia and its new Western neighbors is a challenge as their relations worsen through the deepening of the Crimean crisis.
Solo on democracy
Mongolia’s political geography surprises many politicians.
“One of the reasons why Mongolia attracts Canada’s particular attention and affection is because this is a country which, better than many of its post-Soviet orbit of north Central Asia, is doing an extraordinary job at building a democracy that most Canadians would recognize,” claims Ambassador Goldhawk.
Politicians are not the only one’s stunned by Mongolia’s stunt.
“How does this tiny place manage to embrace democracy and stay democratic?” wonders Dierkes.
At any rate, this achievement has won Mongolia the support of strong international players such as Canada and the United States, a huge advantage for Mongolians who have increasingly seen their neighbors’ interests aligning.
Mongolia’s success in independence partly lies in the conflicting interests of Russia and China over time. Mongolians felt safer when they did not share political interest; if their southern neighbor became too intrusive, support could easily be found at the northern frontier. Lately though, Russian and Chinese governments have come to see eye to eye on many issues and might make it hard for Mongolia to stand its ground when opposed to their policies.
“The goal of Mongolian foreign policy has to be to balance the neighbors in Mongolia,” points out Dierkes. The third neighbor policy falls perfectly in place with this idea, widening Mongolia’s options and diversifying its range of allies.
Canada and the United States are only two of the tens of partners which Mongolia has created or renewed alliances with in the past five years. This entrance on the international political platform has not been ignored and has stimulated the interest of most of Mongolia’s new allies.
Both Canada and the United States underline the growing space for collaboration with Mongolia, a partnership that will extend from mining investment and foreign direct investment to legal and democratic reforms, most of the work being already ongoing.
By Mathilde Michaud

Norovsuren: Ger districts will not exist in the future
August 7 (UB Post) Searching for a better life and for greener pastures has recently meant leaving the greenery of the countryside for the gray smoke of the city.
Powered by Mongolia’s economic expansion in the extractive industries, Ulaanbaatar is experiencing growth at rapid rates. The arrival of modern buildings, luxury boutiques, and tower cranes, is proof of the city’s urbanization. Yet, for the least densely populated country in the world, the capital is in the midst of a housing shortage.
In search of better employment opportunities, nearly 40,000 people move to Ulaanbaatar each year, according to a 2010 National Population Center census. Other factors such as climate change or severe weather, like the dzud (blizzard) of 2010, also compel migrants to move to the city after livestock fail to survive harsh winter conditions. As the population grows, most emigrants are driven to live in ger districts surrounding the city, creating ever-expanding unplanned settlements. Some residents live in traditional gers by choice, being accustomed to Mongolia’s nomadic lifestyle, but many simply can’t afford more modern housing options.
While 60 percent of Ulaanbaatar’s residents live in these neighborhoods, the ger districts contribute to a whopping 84 percent of the city’s air pollution, according to the American Center for Mongolian Studies. In these neighborhoods, water can be hard to come by, improper roads make it difficult for emergency services to find and reach homes, and pollution is high from coal burning stoves and unauthorized waste disposal sites.
It’s no secret that major restructuring of ger districts are crucial to improving the lives of its residents. There have even been talks of moving or eradicating some gers, and placing residents into apartments in other parts of the city, in an effort to reduce pollution.
Development organizations help fund, as well as provide technical assistance in improving basic infrastructure, and government officials are more motivated than ever to take action. Reports of some positive change has begun to emerge. Many coal-burning stoves are being replaced with more efficient ones, and the replacement of ger to permanent housing has begun.
However, the massive influx of migrants, along with the vast size of the area is proving to be an immense and complex undertaking. So for now, there’s plenty of work to be done.
The following is an interview with Norovsuren, a 59-year-old former herder from Dornod Province, who has been living with his family in the 11th Khoroo of Bayanzurkh District for the last three years.
What is the reason you left the countryside for Ulaanbaatar?
We are following our kids’ future, because they want to live in the city, so we moved with them to watch over them and help them. There was a dzud in 2000, and again in 2010, when we lost all our cattle. We had no income in the countryside, so we moved to the city so our kids could get a better education and a job.
What are some of the everyday challenges you face living here?
The problems we face everyday aren’t that bad. But we cannot work because we don’t have cattle here, so we are dependent on our kids.
For those used to the nomadic way of life, with lots of free space to roam, what has the adjustment been like, moving to a more urban population where you have less space to yourself?
It’s okay living here. I don’t mind living close to our neighbors, even though we have less space for ourselves.
It’s been said that there is very little interaction between people living in the ger districts. What’s your neighborhood like? How well do people know each other here and how do they interact with each other?
This particular ger district is new. So we actually know the neighbors and there’s lots of interaction between us, which is different than living in an apartment in the center of the city. It’s been pretty similar to living as a nomad, in terms of interacting with people.
The Mongolian economy is being driven by the increase of mining. Do you believe that money will be used to help Mongolians like yourself, and how should the government use it?
Even though the government doesn’t give us money right away, I believe the government will help us eventually, and contribute to the society, such as construction of new homes, and free schooling. I do believe they should use the money to help the unemployed, but I’m sure that the government will help.
The government wants to improve many things in the ger districts. The goal is to develop better water, heat and waste disposal services, as well as improve social and community development in the area, all in a 10-year period. Is this realistic?
Yes, it seems reasonable. We hope that in 10 years, the government can do these things. We are optimistic.
The government has promised community involvement in the improvement projects. Have you been involved or contacted by anyone with regards to the decision-making and planning of improvement projects?
We don’t have our city papers yet, and our identification is still from Dornod Province, so we’re not yet able to be involved in any government projects.
What changes and improvements would you like you to see happen in your neighborhood?
Well, there are always problems, but mostly, it would be nice to get proper electricity for our family.
Is there anything your family can do personally to get involved in improving the community?
I have free time, so if there’s a chance to be involved in any project, I’d like to be involved, whether building fences or adding lighting on the streets. I would love the opportunity to better the neighborhood and make it look nicer if possible.
Studies have suggested that eliminating or moving some gers will help drastically lower soil, water and air pollution. What’s your reaction to this? Is there a possibility that you could transition into subsidized apartments?
We are aware of the soil and air pollution, so yes of course, we would move into subsidized apartments.
Where and how do you see the future of the ger district?
In the future, we believe there will be no ger district given that the government will have more money, and hopefully everyone will live in nicer buildings.
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