Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mongolia Brief December 23, 2014 Part IV

2015 budget cuts
December 24 (UB Post) Parliament is set to make amendments to the 2015 budget of the Mongolian government. Parliament previously approved the 2015 budget revenue at 7.15 trillion MNT (29.8 percent of GDP), total expenses at 7.59 trillion MNT (31.7 percent of GDP), and the total deficit at 439.2 billion MNT (1.8 percent of GDP).

The state is expected to cut total expenses and deficit in 2015 by 100 billion MNT.
The budget cut will affect the following projects.
Children’s welfare to be issued to only those in need
Since 2013, the state has handed out 20,000 MNT every month for children under 18 years of age. Starting from next month, the 20,000 MNT grant will be given only children who are most in need of financial assistance.
Some members of Parliament stated, “We mustn’t discriminate children. 20,000 MNT must be given to all. Instead of cutting the budget for children, other activities should cut expenses such as; cuting vice ministers’ positions and cutting the budget for travel.” But this statement was not supported by the majority.
According to statistics, a total of 218.2 billion MNT was given to 990 thousand children in November from the Human Development Fund.
Students to be given grants based on academic merit
Over a year ago, the government changed terms and policies of the monthly student stipend of 70,000 MNT. The stipend is to be given to students based on academic merit and only to schools that have a sufficient rate of employment of graduates starting next year.
“The law will be implement completely starting from next year,” stated Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg.
But experts from the education sector have pointed out that the criterion for the stipend isn’t clear as some schools grade their students high even though they rarely attend classes.
Limit set on civil servant retirement bonus
When civil servants retire, they get a bonus that equals to 12-36 months of their salary. The bonus has been reduced to equal 12 months’ salary by the government.
Over 100 billion MNT is expected to be saved through the deduction. However, civil servants who will receive bonuses that is 24 months’ salary lesser that if they had retired this year believe the decision is discriminatory and unfair.
Herders to pay taxes
The Prime Minister recently announced the new tax pool that will be formed next year. For a long time, herders have neglected on paying taxes. Starting next year, provincial governments will decide the terms and impose taxes for herders. Mongolia has over 50 million cattle. If a tax of 500 MNT is charged from each cattle, the total tax revenue will amount to 250 billion MNT per annum.
In 2010, taxes on herders begun to surface in Parliament but it turned into monetary support for herders who produce wool and cashmere. The support cost the government over 20 billion MNT each year.
Expenses on uniform of public servants to be cut
The uniform budget of state employees, except police, emergency management agencies, customs officers and soldiers, will be cut to reduce inefficient expenditure. Organizations such as, social insurance and tax collectors will not be required to wear uniforms.
The government originally wanted to cut 11 thousand government positions to cut expenses. But the decision was not supported by the cabinet as job cuts will require 38 billion MNT for layoff settlement.
Grants for honored mothers to be stopped if children are above 18
Honored mothers, who receive a yearly grant of 100,000 MNT to 200,000, will only receive their grants if their children are under 18 years of age starting next year. Mothers who received honorary medals receive grants for a lifetime, even after their children became adults.

O.Magnai resigns in opposition to reshuffled Cabinet structure
By M. Zoljargal
December 24 (UB Post) Director of the Agency for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection (AFCCP) O.Magnai announced his resignation on Monday following his objection to work for a government without an opposition party.
He reported that the new government has been formed without any opposition party, which he believes is “totally against the principles of democracy”.
“There must be an opposition party within the government which monitors the government’s work. The AFCCP operates under a direct administration of the Prime Minister. I can’t work with Deputy Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh as it doesn’t match the AFCCP’s ethics and principles,” O.Magnai cited as his reason for resigning.
When journalists asked what he will do now that he has resigned from his position, he said, “The Mongolian state needs cleaning and that is what I’m going to do.”
O.Magnai worked as the director of the AFCCP for over two years. He conducted 1,100 inspections, in response to approximately 6,000 public complaints received by the AFCCP.
Illegal commercial advertisement of alcoholic beverages was halted, while petrol price was kept stable without radical raise as a result of the inspections according to O.Magnai.
The AFCCP inspections covered a wide range of local industries and revealed concerning results from almost every inspection, including food safety of supermarkets and aviation catering, charging systems of mobile phone operators, and university tuition fee raises.

B.Amarsaikhan: I specifically wore deel to promote Mongolian traditional clothing
December 24 (UB Post) The following is an interview with B.Amarsaikhan, who is the first Mongolian actor to set foot into Hollywood by starring in the 90 million USD drama series “Marco Polo”.
He signed a contract with Netflix Inc. for the role of Arig Bukh in the currently ongoing drama series created by John Fusco, “Marco Polo”. Netflix is an American provider of on-demand internet streaming media available to viewers in North and South America, the Caribbean and parts of Europe.
Congratulations on becoming the first Mongolian actor to enter Hollywood. How was the premier of “Marco Polo”?
The premier of “Marco Polo” original series took place in New York on December 2. Actors from many different countries gathered at the red carpet and attended a huge party in the evening after the premier.
The red carpet is focused on photographing stars. Photographers ask you to look here and there and make different poses. I felt as if I had become a model. You often see actors and entertainers talking about their outfit at the red carpet. It can be said that this event has become a large custom or tradition.
How is the red carpet of Mongolia different from Hollywood’s?
In Mongolia, people can walk on the red carpet and enter a building straight away. In Hollywood, you get specific directions on where to pose and get photographed. Sometimes, I had to pose alone and sometimes, with my wife. At the premier, only the author and director stood on the stage while actors sat down. In Mongolia, everyone has to stand on the stage.
There were many aspects that should be focused on in the future. The Executive Director of Netflix Inc. took photos individually with the actors.
After the premier, I went to Los Angeles to meet and report on my work to my agency.
Can you tell us about your agency? How did you get connected to the agency?
My agency is called UNEW, abbreviated for United Nations East West. The agency helps actors from Asia step into Europe and Hollywood, and vice-versa. Many entertainers from South Korea and China were introduced to Hollywood by UNEW, such as Lee Byung Hun (G.I. Joe series). I devoted an immense amount of time and effort to connect with this agency. Actors from all around the world try to enter this large organization. I did everything I could do to get their attention. After drawing up an acting contract, the agency recommended “Marco Polo” series.
UNEW worked hard to get me Arig Bukh’s role and I had to travel back and forth to Malaysia for four months to pass several auditions. It may seem like a simple audition from the outside, but it’s actually a fierce competition full of rivalry.
After hearing that I got the role, the agency celebrated in Los Angeles while I celebrated in Mongolia. A few weeks ago, the agency congratulated me on successfully performing in the role and I made an official report of my work.
At the red carpet, you wore a traditional Mongolian deel. Who did you consult about your outfit and why did you choose that specific outfit?
Besides including actors from over 30 countries, the series is about the history of Mongolia. It was only right that I wore a traditional deel and my Mongolian representative agency, Amin Shiidel PR, recommended I do so. Considerable consideration, effort, and participation from many people lies behind my appearance on the red carpet.  I wanted to promote Mongolian deel and the best Mongolian brand by wearing a deel made of cashmere from Gobi Cashmere, hat from Burkh Company, shoes from Best Shoes Company, and accessories from Mongol Costumes Company. The outfit I wore at the evening reception was prepared by a B.Bayarmaa from Monsonics Company. She is a talented designer, globally recognized by her Bayarmaa Brand. Designer of Gobi Cashmere E.Battsetseg, who designed our deels, became the best designer at a Goyol fashion show in Mongolia. Mongolian model working in the USA as a stylist S.Ijiltsetseg worked as our stylist.
Many Mongolians living in the USA welcomed us at the airport, including President of Mongolian Democratic Socialist Youth Association L.Oyun-Erdene and designer Nomin. I was warmly received by Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the U.N. O.Och and his spouse J.Tsolmon, as well as S.Aruinaa, working at one of the largest museums of the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They all attended the premier. Everyone gave a lot of attention to my participation at the red carpet and supported me considerably so that I could prove that Mongolia is as great as any other country.
From the many actors from different countries, did anyone else wear traditional clothing? Deel wasn’t very interesting to fellow actors since they’re wearing them in the series, right?
My wife and I were the only ones wearing traditional clothing. Fellow actors must’ve been fascinated to see modern designs of Mongolian deel they’ve been wearing during filming. I would’ve probably worn a suit if I played in an action or adventure film. As it is a series about the history of Mongolia, I felt wearing deel was the best choice.
Is it true that your introduction at the premier was more special than other actors’? How are premiers for drama series different from film premiers?
Actors were introduced by their roles. When they introduced me, they said they were very happy to introduce me and that I was Amaraa, an actor from Mongolia. Mongolians who were present mentioned that my introduction was special, but it’s probably because it was a series about Mongolia.
As for the premier, just like a film premier, the first two episodes of the series was shown in the cinema.
Most foreign historic films about Mongolia received criticism. Do you think “Marco Polo” will also receive negative comments?
Everything depends on how the artist wants to portray their work. I don’t know how this film will continue. I know for a fact that John Fusco wrote his script after researching in detail. Sometimes, I complained that some events and costumes weren’t accurate but he said that he’s portraying how Marco Polo saw Mongolia and the rulers. So, the series will be filmed in that manner.
The series is an artistic and commercial script so there will be some exaggerations and imaginative aspects. I can notice that John Fusco did a lot of research for some of the scenes. For instance, he noticed that Mongolians communicates and expresses their agreement or disagreement through words like “thh”, “hnn”, and “mmm”. He tried to display this in the series. I think “Marco Polo” will be different from other films since it was created by a person who did heavy research.
Watching the first few episodes, the Mongolian music, costumes, headwear, and other accessories seem very accurate. Is there a Mongolian advisor for the series?
A president of a travel company, Byambaa, is working as a cultural advisor. John Fusco met him many years ago during his trip to Mongolia. Fusco focuses on portraying Mongolia’s traditions and customs properly. He even dedicates a day of the week as “Mongolian Day” for introducing necessary information about Mongolia to actors. No wonder the series is different from other films.
Do actors researching about their roles ask you about Mongolia?
Of course. During my stay there, I tried to teach even the littlest details to as many people as possible, starting from how to properly sit in gers, how to play Mongolian traditional games with angle-bones. I helped with the pronunciation of words that aren’t translated to foreign languages such as airag and borts. Foreigners pronounce Chinggis Khaan as Jinghis or Genghis, but in the film it will be pronounced properly as “Chinggis”. This is all because a Mongolian actor starred in the series. It was awkward at first but later, the crew got closer and they started inquiring about small things.
You are only in the first two episodes. Don’t you think your role ended too soon?
The first antagonist in the series is the enemy of Khubilai, Arig Bukh. Script writers also said that Arig Bukh’s role ended too soon and wanted to find ways to bring him out again. They even talked about making him appear in Khubilai’s nightmare. I don’t know how the script will continue. Currently, the script for the third season has been completed.
Link to interview

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