More on Re-Forming the DP

By Julian Dierkes

I recently started thinking about the future of the DP within Mongolian democracy. In that first post, I wrote about DP party unity and a rejuvenation of DP leaders. I want to continue that consideration here, particularly since the DP will be meeting in its party congress later in December.

3. Democratization Agenda?

One area where DP rhetoric has matched actions is on democratization. The DP very credibly stands for democratization given its history and its leaders’ history of involvement in the democratic revolution.

Pres. Elbegdorj personally emphasizes this democratization legacy at all opportunities, certainly in interactions with international audiences.

But, during his presidency, he has also made some credible efforts at building more democratic institutions that involve more Mongolians. The best example (though any sense of their longterm impact is too early still) are the Peoples’ Halls that have been crated at the local level to support democratic deliberations.

As these halls have been charged with hosting discussions of the Local Development Fund, they have been given real tasks that are of some significant relevance to local interests. The current budget situation may curtail the amount of funding that will be dispersed through the Local Development Fund and local corruption or lack of organization might limit the impact of deliberations in the peoples’ halls, but this has been a very tangible effort at further democratization.

If the DP wants to continue to trade on democratization as one of its strengths, some discussion will be needed as to what that might look like. Is continued decentralization of decision-making the direction that the DP would want to take Mongolia in, along with its implication of a move away from a unitary nation state to something that looks more federal?

4. Policy Platform?

In parliament, the DP has four long years ahead of itself as a small opposition party. Any legislative initiatives will likely be rejected by the MPP that can do so easily, given its 65/79 seat majority. It seems that while the DP might not have access to resources because of its electoral defeat, this would be the ideal time to build competency in policy fields that are of particular importance.

If some kind of rejuvenation of the DP leadership happens (yes, a big IF, see discussion in the previous post), the party should be able to enter the 2020 parliamentary election with an actual platform rather than merely a slate of candidates.

There is no shortage of issues where the DP could develop real competence as they are pressing and few solutions have been proposed in the past. From Ulaanbaatar air pollution, to serious attempts to address social inequality or to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals, 3 1/2 years in opposition remaining leaves lots of time for discussions within the party and a reorientation toward particular policies.

5. Corruption?

Corruption remains endemic to Mongolia and to Mongolian politics. It is a massive drain on individual and collective opportunities for Mongolians.

At some point, I think, Mongolia’s democracy will give rise to a popular movement against corruption that will either start a new party or will be absorbed into existing parties. For existing parties, including the DP, that will mean that at some point, the party might be swept away by a popular movement if it doesn’t manage to credibly join that anti-corruption movement. But with the current strong representation of business interests and the apparent desire of DP politicians to think of public office as an earnings opportunity for themselves and their associated (no different from other parties in that regard), it seems unlikely that the party will actually address this issue.

If there was a genuine anti-corruption effort, it would have to start from the top, address the presence of business interests, and acknowledge that parties and governments have to be models for everyone else in this regard.

What Else?

Lots of topics I’ve left out: diversification, environment, debt, inequality, constitutional reform, etc. But those are specific policy-areas where the DP could develop competency and answers, not questions that need to be answered in terms of the party’s future, I think.

Posted in Corruption, Democracy, Democratic Party, Ikh Khural 2016, Politics, Presidential 2017, Public Policy, Public Service | Tagged | Leave a comment

Kyrgyzstan: An Excursion

By Julian Dierkes

I have been traveling very regularly to Mongolia for over 10 years now. At the same time, I also spend a lot of time in Japan and in Europe, but it is easy to disassociate those latter trips from Mongolia because differences in developmental stage, etc. are so blatant.

But two years ago, I visited Myanmar and couldn’t help but make constant comparisons to Mongolia. In Myanmar, this was more of a question of politics and democratization, and of mining and mining policy. These comparisons culminated in an article in the  Nov 23 2014 UB Post: “An Open Letter to Mongolian Political Leadership”, where I concluded that “achieving a prosperous, healthy, democratic and stable Mongolia should be so easy!” Well, it should!

Recently, I visited Kyrgyzstan and thus for the very first time, Central Asia. Here heritage, developmental stage, a focus on mining, cultural similarities, and familiar landscapes make the comparison with Mongolia even more natural.

Standing at Petrov Lake, fed by Petrov Glacier, which supplies water to Kumtor gold mine.

A photo posted by Julian Dierkes (@jbdierkes) on

Here are some impressionistic observations about Kyrgyzstan then:

Bishkek vs. Ulaanbaatar

Both cities have obvious features that mark them as state-socialist creations. Some grand(iose) avenues, wide open, empty squares, monuments with some remaining hints at Soviet iconography. Apartments are of a similar vintage and some of them share similarities in dilapidated looks.

But, there are some very clear differences.

The cityscape of Bishkek includes many, many trees. Even though the weather swings from 22C to near freezing in just a day, the trees still have their leaves, even at the beginning of November. Throughout the centre of the city, there are also several parks.

The Osh Bazaar in Bishkek feels signifincantly safer than the Narantuul or other markets in Ulaanbaatar. It also offers a much greater variety of foodstuffs, including numerous stands with a wide selection of apples, vegetables, spices, dried apricots and nuts, etc.

Bishkek also feels somewhat more diverse than Ulaanbaatar. Not only is it obviously bilingual (Russian and Kyrgyz), but there is a greater varieties of ethnicities and costume, at least to my eye.

Kyrgyz Driving

Yes, Kyrgyz, just like Mongolians drive like they ride horses, i.e. recklessly and with little regard for lanes, directions or others. Well, that’s putting it a bit too starkly, but still. Bishkek seems a bit more orderly at times, but then drivers seem just as prone to spontaneously adding lanes of traffic as Mongolians are, or at least used to be. In the countryside the passing maneuvers are definitely reckless.

But, the selection of cars is entirely different and in an interesting way suggesting that geography matters. Mongolia is dominated by used cars sourced from Japan and South Korea. While the Hyundai Accent used to be most common, there is now a greater variety of cars with a surprisingly large number of Prius in the mix. In Kyrgyzstan, I see a surprising number of cars from Germany. The 1980s Audi 100 seems extremely common, with a jacked-up suspension for more road clearance, and VW sedans and buses are also common. There is a also a good number of 3-generations-ago Mercedes E-types. Remaining stickers on the cars suggest that they’re actually German. All the mini buses are Mercedes transporters.

The license plates have followed the European example of placing a flag in the left edge of the plate (unlike Russian tags that have the flag on the right). Europe is the first place I saw this with an EU flag with a country code printed on it that replaced the used-to-be-ubiquitous D or F or S stickers for Germany, France, or Sweden, respectively. Mongolia has adopted these as well.

Like many European countries (but also Mongolia and Japan, for example) the license plates also vary by province of issuance, Bishkek is thus dominated (along with Berlin) by B tags. This system is currently being replaced with a number code for the province of issuance like France or Russia, where Bishkek is 01.

Cuisine

My very brief impression of Kyrgyz cuisine was very favourable. Food can be delicious in the Mongolian countryside, primarily due to the freshness and quality of meat and dairy ingredients. But by contrast, Kyrgyz food seemed much more varied with stronger regional (Russian, but also other Central Asian) influences and a much greater variety and use of spices.

Everything seems to be available at the market in #Bishkek: fruit & veg, breads, clothing, meat, honey…

A photo posted by Julian Dierkes (@jbdierkes) on

The fruit and vegetable selection at the bazaar was quite impressive. The dried apricots, in particular, were delicious. I ate some very nice soups. Alcohol drinking seemed a little bit more restraint and was certainly not very visible in restaurants.

Countryside

During the time in Kyrgyzstan we had an opportunity to visit the Kumtor Gold mine. It is owned and operated by Canadian Centerra Gold, also involved in the Boroo and Gatsuurt deposits in Selenge.

To reach the mine, we drove for four hours across the Kyrgyz countryside from Bishkek and along Issyk-Kul, the very large lake in the Northeast of Kyrgyzstan.

Coming down the mountain, looking across #IssykKul at mountain panorama on the lake’s North shore. #Kyrgyzstan

A photo posted by Julian Dierkes (@jbdierkes) on

The drive across the countryside was very different from a similar drive in Mongolia.

At least along this route, Kyrgyzstan is clearly more densely populated than Mongolia. Kyrgyz population density is just under 30/km2 while this figure is closer to 2/km2. This difference shows!

While it is surprising that there is always some human dwelling within sight in Mongolia (partly due to the openness of most of the landscape, but also due to the dispersal of population across most of the territory of Mongolia), in Kyrgyzstan there always seems to be a human settlement in sight with many small towns appearing along the road, and additional dwellings in between these towns.

On the whole drive, we did not see a single ger. We did see a lot of animals, however, mostly cattle, horses and sheep, but very few goats or yaks and only two camels. Because there are many apple and apricot orchards, there are also fences in this part of Kyrgyzstan, unlike most of Mongolia. The road got pretty crowded at dusk when many people were herding animals back to villages and used the road as a transit corridor, it seemed.

Islam is more visible in the countryside than in Bishkek as most small towns seem to have a mosque and a cemetery.

Posted in Curios, Kyrgyz Republic | Tagged | Leave a comment

Early Presidential Election Speculation

By Julian Dierkes

Nearly half a year after the parliamentary election, some discussions are turning to the presidential election in late June 2017.

One of the aspects that will make this election interesting is that incumbent Pres. Elbegdorj has served two terms as president, preventing him from running for re-election. The field is thus open for new candidates, at least in principle.

Recall that only parties represented in the State Great Khural can nominate candidates for president who then have to resign their party membership and any offices.

The parties that were elected to parliament in June are the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP), the Democratic Party (DP), and the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP). All three are likely to nominate a candidate, so we’re likely to see a three-way race.

Also recall that the president is elected directly. If s/he secures more than 50% of the vote, s/he is elected. If no candidate gains more than 50%, a run-off will have to be held, though that has not happened in Mongolia.

Will He, or Will He Not Run: M Enkhbold

Given the landslide election victory the MPP won in June, it would have seemed that M Enkhbold as party leader is in full control of the party and is making his own political destiny.

When J Erdenebat was elected prime minister in the UIX with M Enkhbold taking the chairman role in parliament, that seemed to indicate that he was trying to stay out of the day-to-day politics of the executive in preparation for a nomination as the MPP’s presidential candidate. This seemed particularly plausible since the MPP government is so constrained by the budget situation that it is unlikely to be able to point to any achievements by next summer.

That is not to say that M is unopposed in the MPP. He’s long had a rivalry with U Khurelsukh. But since parliament has started meeting, Nyamdorj Ts has become very active and vocal, particularly around the hearings regarding the “privatization” of Erdenet. Either of these two rivals could also stand in as a presidential candidate.

Why would M forego the opportunity to run for president?

He might be worried about not winning. I don’t have the sense that M is particularly popular, nor is he charismatic. Will voters have second thoughts about handing the MPP a super-majority in parliament? Will they thus prefer a DP president as a check on parliament? That calculation will surely depend very much on whom the DP nominates. The DP party congress on December 6 might give some hints on that, but nothing conclusive. And, whom will the MPRP nominate?

He would have to give up the party chairmanship. Whether or not M would win the election, he would have to resign his party role to be nominated. If he resigns from the party, one of his rivals might make a play for the chairmanship, leaving M with a fancy title and constitutional role (if he wins), but no party to exercise power.

Possible DP Candidates

There are a number of different scenarios on whom the DP might nominate as a presidential candidate.

Doing a Putin

As early as the middle of last year, someone mentioned to me that Pres. Elbegdorj might try to “do a Putin”, i.e. to place a Medvedev-like figure in the presidency to then make a comeback (possibly via a government position) to another presidential run in 2021. I have dismissed that as absurd in the past, largely because I continue to be convinced that Elbegdorj harbours international ambitions, ideally as head of a UN agency or in some other prominent UN role.

The Medvedev-figure would likely be P Tsagaan, erstwhile finance minister and long-time chief of staff to Elbegdorj. A number of people have mentioned that he may be preparing for a bid.

But, a run for the presidency requires some level of personal popularity and Tsagaan has been closely identified with Elbegdorj for some years now and has been visible but somewhat inaudible in that association. “Doing a Putin” only works when the stand-in gets elected!

Perceived Independence

Another plausible scenario is a candidate who is a DP politician but can credibly run “against” the party in a campaign, i.e. someone who is not closely associated with the 2012-16. That would rule out a number of the people who lost their seats in June 2016, including N Altankhuyag who is the only person who has identified himself as a candidate to be nominated so far, but also Z Enkhbold.

In this category, one of the more interesting possibilities seems to be R Amarjargal, the former prime minister who has always maintained his status as a bit of a gadfly and independent within the party.

A “New” Candidate?

During the 2012-16 legislative period, the DP clearly suffered from its own “ossification“. The entire leadership has been in leadership for some time and seems to have lost a lot of credibility with voters. Yet, few “new faces” have emerged. For a while X Temuujin seemed a possibility, but he self-destructed or was destroyed politically by other parts of the DP, depending on whom you believe. Are there others like that? Some have mentioned former Min of Education L Gantumur in this context, but he was a member of the previous DP government.

Campaigning Already?

Interesting to see that some candidates that are being talked about as possible nominees for the DP have recently stepped up their Twitter activities significantly.

Examples:

MPRP

The default assumption would have to be that the MPRP will try to nominate former president N Enkhbayar. But, given his money laundering conviction, the MPP and DP have successfully kept him away from an actual candidacy for some time.

G Uyanga then?

Posted in Democratic Party, Elections, Mongolian People's Party, Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, Politics, Presidential 2017 | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Nationalization of Erdenet Copper – Challenges for SOEs

By Mendee J

At a recent Standing Committee hearing, Ts. Nyamdorj, Vice Speaker of the Mongolian Parliament asked to meet with the new shareholders of the Erdenet Mining Corporation, especially the secret boss (link). The deal, which saw 49% of ownership transferred from Russian to Mongolian ownership indicates the Kremlin’s desperate economic situation as well as declining geostrategic interests in Mongolia (link). This secret deal has also triggered another round of debates on the role of state ownership of big mining projects, ranging from the press conference of Ts. Nyamdorj (link), to President Elbegdorj’s reactionary and emotional press conference (link), and to a well-known politician and now the representative of the new owner to the board, Da. Ganbold’s lengthy explanations (link). Now, as usual, all parties silenced after a major allegation, forcing the public to ponder – whether this silence indicates a major compromise for the sake of national security or parties working hard to divide up the cake.

State ownership has a strong public appeal in Mongolia since people perceive foreign mining companies as entities which strip the country of its natural resources without investing into the local development and taking responsibility for environmental damages.  The public assumes that the increased state involvement address these challenges.  But, it was not the case in Mongolia unless the political leaders constrained patronage politics and corruption by simply implementing fine regulations – passed by them.

The patronage politics around the state-owned enterprises have its own dynamics.  If one party makes a landslide victory as in 1996, 2000, 2012, or 2016, they will replace the management teams of the state-owned enterprises and promote party-affiliated politicians or local supporters to run the state-owned enterprise.  This creates a situation where these party affiliated politicians generate funds for their own party networks and some even benefit their own cronies.  However, if a coalition is formed, such as in the 2004 and 2008 elections, both parties negotiate how they would share these honey pots.

The other major challenge is corruption.  Evidences of shady deals by Erdenet Mining Corporation, allegations around the Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi coking coal and the outrageous high pay of state owned enterprise leaders were disclosed to the public around the election cycles – just like the parliamentary election of 2016.  But, neither the law enforcement authorities nor political leaders demonstrate the true commitment of investigating these evidences.

Cases such as the Erdenet buy-out indicate the competition among political and business factions over the state assets.  On one hand, the state ownership sounds appealing to voters.  But, on the other, political leaders won’t demonstrate resolve to constrain their patronage politics and fight against the corruption. Whoever manage to assert their influence in the state-owned enterprise, they would do their best in strengthening the patronage networks of  political parties, factions, and even a little crony-hood.  Unless high-ranking political leaders, President, Speaker, Prime Minister, and party leaders, agree to limit the patronage and greed for the public, more importantly the national sake, the state ownership is merely a greedy scheme.  If they adhere to the professionalism, the cake will be bigger for all rather than sliced into little pieces.

For our two previous posts on the “privatization” of Erdenet, see:

Posted in Corruption, Erdenet, Mendee Jargalsaikhan, Mining, Mining Governance | Tagged | Leave a comment

Mongolia – Rich in Governance Models

By Julian Dierkes

These days, the optimism regarding Mongolia’s development (economic, political, social) has turned into a disappointed consternation, “how could things go so wrong?”. Of course, the answer is mostly a domestic political one, but is also linked to commodity prices, etc. While we used to think of Mongolia as a soon-to-be-rich country, that is a little less clear now. Soon-to-be-rich in democracy, human development, etc. Those have all been topics for many posts on this blog and I will continue to return to these questions. But, inspired by a workshop in Bishkek bringing together Burmese, Kyrgyz, Mongolian, and Timorese participants, I am observing that Mongolia may well be rich in one unexpected commodity: mining governance models.

Governance Models

Here, I am primarily concerned with the nature and extent of government involvement in mining enterprises. More specifically, different levels and forms of government ownership, a limited view of governance, of course.

From a Canadian perspective (and it’s a very interesting conversation from this perspective at the workshop that got me writing this post), that is an odd concern under the broader rubric of governance models. Simplistically, there is no state ownership of mining enterprises in Canada. Of course, that could be a more complex discussion of First Nations involvement, and also public subsidies for mining in the tax code or in the unwelcome role of the public as an owner-of-last-resort when it comes to clean up of mining activities (see Giant Mine as an example, though not of ownership formally). Yet, as a simplistic statement, it probably works to say that the federal government does not act as an owner in mining enterprises.

Mongolia

If we think about mining governance as including different levels of involvement of the government, I would claim, Mongolia is rich in different models that are all operating at once.

What I mean is that the mining industry in Mongolia includes companies that

  • are fully privately held, that include some level of government ownership, and fully government-owned mines.
  • are operated directly by the state, or owned by a state holding company.
  • are very small companies that amount to barely more than a backhoe and a truck, there are medium-sized industrial mining companies operating a single mine, there are very large mining concerns with multiple operations.
  • are entirely owned by Mongolians, partly owned by Mongolians and non-Mongolians, and fully owned by non-Mongolians.

If we arranged these dimensions in some kind of array, we could probably fill all cells with at least one example from Mongolia.

International

Not all mining economies display such an array of different ownership models. Take Canada or Australia as mature mining economies, for example, and federal government ownership does not exist as a model, even though there are also many variations as to the size and domestic vs. foreign ownership.

In learning more about the four countries represented at the workshop, there is also much less diversity in ownership models than there is in Mongolia. In Kyrgyzstan, the instinct toward state ownership is strong, but the most prominent mining enterprise (Kumtor, with its Canada links (Centerra Gold) that are also a Mongolian link (Boroo Gold)) is fully owned by a Canadian company (Centerra), but the Kyrgyz government in turn has a 33% share in the Canadian company via Kyrgyzaltyn.

#Mining at 4000M in #Kyrgyzstan.

A photo posted by Julian Dierkes (@jbdierkes) on

The Burmese oil and gas sector is primarily organized around production sharing contracts, while mining is dominated by direct state ownership and operation. There is also some involvement by foreign investors, often SOEs from China. More ownership models seem to be on the horizon as Myanmar is taking steps toward opening its mining sector for investment.

The natural resource sector of Timor-Leste is concentrated in oil. Timor-Leste has a national oil company, Timor Gap, that partners with foreign companies in exploration and investments.

While the oil & gas sector operates very differently from the mining sector in many areas, making the Timorese and Burmese cases perhaps somewhat more distant from Mongolia, the Mongolian experience with different ownership models is still quite relevant to other emerging mining economies.

What does this Wealth of Models Mean?

It is not the case that Mongolia set out with its turn to a market economy following its democratic revolution in 1990 to become a world leader in the variety of governance models. At that time, there were only three models,

  • Erdenet, the very large copper and molybdenum mine, jointly owned by the government and the Soviet Union
  • fully-foreign owned operations like the uranium mines operated by the Soviet Union
  • fully publicly owned mines within Mongolia, like the coal mines near Ulaanbaatar that were developed to heat/power the capital (Nalaikh, Baganuur, etc.)

To some extent legislation on mining from the 1990s on was aimed at encouraging foreign investment, so this did presage some of the variety of models that have emerged since then.

But, a number of subsequent policy decisions took Mongolia further in the direction of a variety of governance models. For example, designation as a “strategic deposit” mandates a state equity stake in projects, but does not determine the level or nature of involvement.

So, today, Mongolia really is a particularly rich ecosystems of ownership governance models. Surely, some of these models have shown themselves to be effective for particular outcomes. Erdenet Mine would be the most prominent example here. As a mine that has been owned and operated by the state (and the Soviet state), most Mongolians see it as successful in spurring the growth of Erdenet as a town, and in securing financial benefits to the Mongolian state. More doubts may arise as to its corporate record (i.e. is it an efficient operation in extracting copper), or regarding its environmental impact. Given its disastrous closure “policies”, the Nalaikh coal mines might be an example of successful state-operated extractions, but at huge costs to the community after the state failed to close the mine properly.

At this point, I have not really seen a process that would begin to settle on one specific model, but instead, mostly not by design but in fact nevertheless, the diversity of models is likely to persist for some time.

That means, for example, in terms of political risk for foreign investment, that there is very little in the Mongolian trajectory that suggests outright nationalization, the worst-case scenario for foreign investors.

It also means that policy recommendations and solutions are, perhaps appropriately, complex. While many OECD-based consultants might emphasize the “need” for private sector-led development of the mining sector, Mongolia’s neighbours (China and Russia) might lean much more toward SOEs as the engine of development, and nearby neighbours like Japan and South Korea might point to state guidance for private-led development. For Mongolia, all these options exist and are relevant.

How Can Mongolia Benefit from this Wealth?

If I am right that the Mongolian mining industry is an ecosystem with a high level of diversity in governance models, is that a benefit to Mongolia?

Currently, it does not seem that way, as I said in the opening paragraph.

But, many models means experience with many models! If that diversity and that experience can be understood better, it will certainly form a strong basis for future policy decisions.

Sadly, that is yet another “big if” when it comes to Mongolia’s future. One of the great missed opportunities of the past 5 years has been the lack of concerted effort to build up analytical capacity within the Mongolian government, but also in civil society and the media. In order to turn the wealth of governance models into a wealth of human and sustainable development, such analytical capacity is sorely missing. Without it, the number of different models is just that, a lot of different models that potentially obfuscate the real situation at mining enterprises as it is difficult to understand for the (Mongolian public). A case in point for that is the recent “privatization” of Erdenet Mine.

In line with previous patterns, the new MPP government seems to be embarking on yet another round of wholesale replacement of personnel, destroying any capacity that may have built up, again. That makes me less than optimistic on the analytical capacity that would help understand the impact of different governance models on benefits that accrue to Mongolians.

Posted in Development, Kyrgyz Republic, Mining Governance | Tagged | Leave a comment

Bishkek ICF-CIRDI Workshop “Sound Management of Natural Resources: The State’s Role in the Resource Sector”

Co-Organized, Funded, and Hosted by:

From the perspective of the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute, this workshop continues discussions during a workshop held in May 2016. With participants from Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolian and Myanmar, this workshop pointed to the variety of governance models that are available for states to get involved in the mining sectors, but also to some of the risks these models bare. As the Oslo Centre has also been collaborating with the ICF on similar topics, we’re very happy to be joining with them to host this workshop in Bishkek with participants from Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Myanmar and Timor-Leste.

Venue: Golden Tulip Hotel, Bishkek

The workshop is open to the interested public, but we would ask participants to register.

November 2, 2016, Wednesday

08:30 Registration of Kyrgyz participants

09:00 Opening Remarks

  • Ms. D. Gerelmaa, Deputy Director, Department of Multilateral Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia
  • Mr. Duishenbek Zilaliev, Director of State Committee on Industry, Energy and Mining of the Kyrgyz Republic
  • Dr. Bohdan Krawchenko, Director General, University of Central Asia

09:20 “Challenges and opportunities for the State in the Sound Management of Natural Resources”, Mr. Einar Steensnæs, Senior Advisor, The Oslo Centre

Coffee Break

10:30 Panel One – Defining the State’s Role in the Management of Natural Resources

Moderator: Dr. Julian Dierkes, University of British Columbia

Panelists:

  • Mr. Ulan Ryskulov, Vice Director of State Committee on Industry, Energy and Mining of the Kyrgyz Republic
  • Mr. Umar Izabaev, First Deputy Director, Altynken
  • Mr. N. Algaa, President, Mongolian National Mining Association
  • Mr. Kh. Bayarkhangai, Senior Officer, Geological Policy Department, Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry of Mongolia
  • Mr. Ch. Sukhbaatar, Director, Erdenes Mongol LLC

13:45 Panel Two – Taking Care of Values: The State’s Financial Challenges and Opportunities

Moderator: Mr. Claes Reksten, Norway

Panelists:

  • Mr. Maung Maung Win, Deputy Minister for Planning and Finance of Myanmar
  • Ms. Aicholpon Zhorupbekova, Kalikova & Associates
  • Mr. Kubanychbek Aidaraliev, Head of Fiscal Policy Department, Ministry of Economy
  • Mr. D. Bailiikhuu, Researcher, OSF, Mongolia

15:00 Coffee Break

15:15 Panel Three: Enhancing Coordination and Collaboration among the State, Industry and Public

Moderator: Ms. E. Odjargal, Mongolian Mining Journal

Panelists:

  • Mr. Mars Cherikchiev, State Committee on Industry, Energy and Mining
  • Ms. Venera Osmonkulova, KazMinerals (Mining Company)
  • Ms. Dinara Musabekova, Eurasian Foundation of Central Asia (mediator)
  • Ms. J. Sunjidmaa, Chair, Mongolian National Mining Association

16:30 Networking and Bilateral Meetings

 

November 3, 2016, Thursday  

09:00 Panel Four: Challenges and Opportunities for Increased Transparency

Moderator: Ms. Nazgul Kulova, NRGI Consultant

Panelists:

  • Mr. N. Dorjdari, NRGI Mongolia
  • Mr. Mung Don, Steering Committee Member, MATA, Myanmar
  • Mr. Ch. Tsogtbaatar, Senior Officer, Mining Policy Department, Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry of Mongolia
  • Ms. B. Sunderiya, Chief Legal Officer, Erdenes Mongol LLC

Coffee Break

10:30 Panel Five: ‘Ensuring State’s Interests in the Extraction of Natural Resources’

Moderator: Mr. J. Mendee, UBC

Presenters:

  • Mr. Alfredo Pires, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Timor-Leste
  • Mr. Claes Reksten, Norway
  • Ms. B. Solongo, Senior Officer, Legal Department, Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry, Mongolia

13:45 Question and Answer Session, including responses to written questions

Coffee Break

15:15 Question and Answer Session, including responses to written questions

 

Posted in CIRDI, Development, EITI, International Cooperation Fund, Kyrgyz Republic, Mining, Mining Governance, Mongolia and ..., Myanmar, Timor Leste | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Diplomat Podcast on Mongolia as Asia’s Hidden Geopolitical Player

By Julian Dierkes

I’m finally getting around to listening to The Diplomat’s podcast episode focused on Mongolia, “Northeast Asia’s Hidden Geopolitical Player“.

Ankit Panda, one of the editors of The Diplomat, speaks to Peter Bittner who spent some time in Mongolia earlier this year and has written about that for The Diplomat.

One of the reasons I want to discuss that podcast episode is that I enjoy The Diplomat podcast and website and appreciate that Ankit Panda does pay attention to Mongolia as one of the actors in Asian politics and international relations.

Panda and Bittner focused on Pres. Elbegdorj to some extent. Panda built on his curiosity about Elbegdorj’ status as “one of the world’s best-travelled” leaders. This is appropriate of course, as this is the last year in office for Pres. Elbegdorj, so that a discussion of Mongolia’s role in geopolitics may look somewhat different in two years or so after a new president has made his (most likely, yes, his) mark.

Permanent neutrality

As Panda noted, Elbegdorj made a bit of a splash at last year’s UN General Assembly by announcing that Mongolia would seek to achieve “permanent neutrality” to bolster its Third Neighbour Policy further.

That proposal was not received with much approval in Mongolia itself, though the discussion has generally been muted rather than opposed. Note that at his address at the 71st General Assembly, Pres. Elbegdorj did not mention permanent neutrality again this September.

The opposition to this proposal has been built around hesitancy to abandon the possibility of alliances entirely. That is not because there actually is a debate about a real re-commitment to Russia as Panda and Bittner discuss a little bit. Yes, there is a generally positive attitude toward Soviet history with Mongolia and toward contemporary Russia, but that only goes so far in the population as well as the leadership. But even for foreign policy leaders who are not considering any kind of closer “alliance” with Russia (China is completely out of the question in this regard, despite the ever-growing Mongolian dependence on Chinese bridge loans to paper over its fiscal woes), the permanent part of neutrality is somewhat off-putting.

Mongolian Aid

One element of foreign policy that Pres. Elbegdorj mentioned at the UN this year and that also has an impact on Mongolia’s hidden geopolitical ambitions/role is its aid program.

The International Cooperation Fund has been operational for some years now (I have coorganized activities with the ICF in the past), but Pres. Elbegdorj highlighted its work in democracy promotion in his congratulations to Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan on “their successful elections”.

Genghis?

Overall, Panda and Bittner provided a useful discussion.

Join me in a campaign to persuade Panda to speak of “Chinggis Khaan” rather than “Gengis” and we’ll appreciate his coverage of Mongolia even more.

Posted in China, Foreign Policy, Japan, Mongolia and ..., North Korea, Social Media, South Korea | Tagged | Leave a comment

Speculation Surrounding Erdenet Sale

By Julian Dierkes

A Massive Privatization Coup Right Before an Election?

It seemed odd that there was an announcement just before the June 29 election that the 49% portion of the longtime engine of Mongolian development, Erdenet mine, that was owned by Russian Monrostsvetment  was sold to the Trade and Development Bank of Mongolia. The timing suggested that this was a political scheme related to the election. This was reinforced by the general perception that TDBM was associated with the DP.

Given that the DP was likely to lose big, the suspicion at the time was that the DP was trying to sway the election by showing itself to be a guarantor of Mongolian interests.

Obviously, voters were not swayed. To the contrary, a common interpretation at the time was that the MPP did not react to the announcement beyond an initial press conference  in part because it would showcase DP “muddling” in the economy and DP corruption. Voters would be able to judge for themselves, and it appears that they did.

But is that what was behind the relative quiet in reaction to the Erdenet announcement from the MPP?

Asking Questions About the Sale of Erdenet

Lkhagva E of Mongol TV has taken a leading role in investigating the sale as he reported previously on this blog. He has stayed with this story.

Initially, there was an announcement by Prime Minister J Erdenebat that a cabinet committee would investigate the sale. Lots of questions have been raised about who authorized the sale, who spoke for the Government of Mongolia in passing on a first-right-of-refusal opportunity to purchase the Russian stake, how is the governance of Erdenet Mine now organized (particularly given the re-shuffle of the management of Erdenes Mongol, the state holding company), etc. Erdenet is designated a strategic asset so that governance questions are especially pertinent. The committee was due to report August 5, then again August 25, but no report has appeared.

Asking Even More Questions About Erdenet

It now appears that Ts Nyamdorj, a leading politician in the governing Mongolian People’s Party, has taken on this issue and is pushing hard to follow up on some of the confusing leads.

Nyamdorj himself was forced to resign as chairman of the Ikh Khural in 2007 after it was asserted that he had changed laws that parliament had voted on. He continues to be a force in the MPP, however. While he is not a member of party leader M Enkhbold’s faction, he does not seem to be particularly antagonistic towards Enkhbold.

Speculation about Context for Erdenet Sale

In his pursuit of answers on the Erdenet sale, however, Nyamdorj appears to be pushing hard against party colleagues as well as the DP. Some of his remarks imply that there may have been collusion about the sale between the DP and the MPP. Many Mongolians are interpreting this to mean that some kind of agreement between Enkhbold and Pres. Elbegdorj must have existed at the time. That is also seen as speculation, but a reasonably explanation of why the MPP’s reaction to the announcement of the sale was so muted.

In response to some of the revelations by Nyamdorj, the government has begun releasing some documents and also made cabinet minutes of a meeting on June 13 public.

While I would emphasize that I am reporting on speculation here (some of which founded on documents released, but some of it on interpretation), this speculation is significant in shining a light on the activities of the president and the chairman of parliament with great implications for Mongolia’s further development. For development to be socially and economically sustainable, assets like Erdenet have to be protected with particular vigilance on behalf of Mongolians. The current understanding of how Erdenet was “privatized” suggests very little care, and hints at personal rather than national advantage.

It is also important to recognize that if some of this speculation about the sale of Erdenet is born out by further documents and revelations, this will severely undermine the MPP government’s efforts to portray itself as having turned a corner in how investors (foreign and domestic) are treated and how reliably the government as an investment partner is.

Posted in Corruption, Erdenet, Ikh Khural 2016, Mining, Mining Governance, Policy | Tagged | 7 Comments

Let’s Imagine a Rosy MPP Future

By Julian Dierkes

Just a quick reminder that I don’t dabble in Mongolian (party) politics, I just try to analyze political development, including parties and elections. In these analyses I try to stay as neutral and detached as I can.

Big Choice: Small-Mindedness or Future of the Country?

Given the size of the MPP majority, they clearly have the ability to carry to wide-ranging reforms if they decide to do so. But that ability also comes with a big responsibility for the country’s development. If Mongolians are not better off four years from now, lots of factors will have played a role, but the MPP government will be prominent among them.

So, my rosy-tinted imagination makes me think that perhaps the MPP leadership or some parts of the party will take stock and recognize that the large majority they’ve won is a real opportunity to reform the party, reform politics and set Mongolia on a different path.

Interpreting the Election Result

In that process, it is important to recall that the general sense around the June Ikh Khural election was that the MPP won its large majority be default, simply because it was not the DP, and because smaller parties and independents had been pushed aside by changes in the election law. The election should thus not be misinterpreted as a strong mandate for the MPP to do as they please.

Resisting (Economic) Pressures

As the MPP has taken over government positions, it has become clear how bad the state of public finance really is. The crushing debt that has resulted from the wasteful spending of the Chinggis Bond and thus the mortgaging of Mongolia’s financial future, leaves the new government very little manoeuvring  room for new policies and initiatives.

Yet, given the extent to which Mongolian politics is patronage politics where supporters expect to be compensated for their contributions with the spoils that go to the victors, it is very likely that many individuals and companies are knocking on the door of party chair and Ikh Khural chairman M Enkhbold to secure appointments. The recording of Enkhbold discussing the cost of particular posts that was leaked just before the election suggests that appointments potentially represent two “opportunities”: a) to reward supporters, and b) for sale. It should be noted that the MPP government is no different from previous DP or MP(R)P governments in this regard, yet, patronage is not a principle that is likely to yield good outcomes for the country and for Mongolians.

Ideally, the new MPP government would thus resist the urge to make money through appointments or in positions and focus on how to re-build the Mongolian economy or at least how to bridge the time until revenue streams from mining projects rev up without going further into debt. Such a turn away from political office as a money-making opportunity would have to come through strong leadership from the very centre of the MPP.

Policy Platform

Like the DP, the MPP would make a contribution towards its own long-term viability, toward the viability of Mongolian democracy, and toward sustainable development, by developing more of a policy platform for the party.

The massive majority the MPP commands in parliament offers the opportunity to engage in more fundamental policy analysis and development than the more day-to-day work of a tight majority or coalition government. In the same ideal world where the MPP resists the money-making urge, it also sets aside party resources, at least for the period after the presidential election and perhaps 18 months out from the 2020 election to develop policy-making capacity.

The MPP under M Enkhbold

Currently, from the outside, it seems like party leader M Enkhbold is very firmly in charge of the MPP and of the government. No alternative explanation has emerged for his decision to take the Ikh Khural chairmanship rather than becoming PM, other than his plan to run for president next year. In the meantime, no actions of the government so far suggest that Enkhbold is not pulling the strings in the background. Most of the appointments are identifiably close to him and from his “City” faction. Barring unforeseen developments, that would lead to the assumption that he would use his position as party chair to secure the candidacy for president next year. This has also been the pattern in previous presidents, i.e. they’ve kept a fairly close reign of the party even though they nominally relinquish their party position and even membership when they are nominated as a candidate for president.

Again from the outside, Enkhbold is not very easy to figure out. He strikes me as a politician who is somewhat similar to former (DP) prime minister N Altankhuyag. Neither of them are riveting speakers or particularly charismatic.

I attended a campaign rally in the final days of the 2012 campaign where Enkhbold spoke, then still a “regular” candidate from Tov.

MPP Candidates Speaking in Zun Mod in Final Days of 2012 Parliamentary Campaign (M Enkhbold on the left holding a microphone)

He was wooden in his presentation and there was nothing I saw to suggest that he connected with the audience in any particular way or inspired the party faithful.

On the other hand, like Altankhuyag, he seems to manage his party well, or certainly his faction. He is thus politically skilled. There are no particular policy agendas that he has associated himself with or distinguished himself by. Substantively, it is thus very difficult to expect anything concrete from his leadership, and his likely presidency would be similarly unclear. Note the parallel with Altankhuyag in this regard. Is there a positive policy or political decision that you can recall from Altankhuyag’s primeministership?

Enkhbold’s skills as a political operative raise some concerns over the extent to which he will be governing for the good of the people (especially in the more lofty role of president) as opposed to the good of his party or of himself. It’s obviously early to tell, but he has not given off any indications that he is reaching for bigger goals, though his government so far is limited by budget woes in what it might pursue.

Internal Opposition

The MPP election victory was such that there is essentially no opposition to its government. That is terrific, as it offers a real opportunity to consider policies carefully (see above) and to enact them strategically, but it is also dangerous as the usual checks-and-balances on democratic government are somewhat suspended under such a majority.

It becomes an important task for a ruling majority to give an opportunity to internal voices of (substantive) opposition, as well as listening to external criticism. This is especially true in a situation like the current MPP government where there is a strong sense that it won the election on the basis of an anyone-but… choice, rather than on the strength of its platform.

The MPP is much less likely (than the DP) to break out in factional disputes, so internal opposition will remain invisble. But, the presidential election in 2017 will be an important moment for the party. If Enkhbold is the official candidate of the MPP as I expect, he would relinquish the party chair. A number of MPP leaders who have been somewhat sidelined at the moment, including former president N Bagabandi, and former prime ministers S Bayar, and Su Batbold, may well try to regain some power within the MPP at that point by succeeding Enkbold as party chair. By contrast, Enkhbold will certainly seek to install a party chair from his own faction who may then replace J Erdenebat as prime minister as well. Should Enkhbold lose the presidential election after having been nominated, he would presumably not return as party chair.

Note that in this discussion of party politics, I have not mentioned the role of a younger generation of MPP leaders. Isn’t it time that the 1970s and 1980s cohorts step up to leadership position so that the MPP can avoid some of the leadership paralysis the DP has been suffering from?

Back to that Rosy Future…

But, those are only the strategic/factional/political aspects of an internal opposition.

To imagine some kind of rosy future, a political turn toward policy-making seems essential as is some kind of movement (from within or from the outside) against corruption.

That rosy future under M Enkhbold and the MPP is just that so far, a rosy imagined scenario. The coming year leading up to the presidential election will offer many challenges but will also begin to give observers (and Mongolians) a sense of what kind of government the MPP government will be.

Posted in Corruption, Ikh Khural 2016, Inequality, Mongolian People's Party, Party Politics, Policy, Politics, Public Policy, Public Service, Younger Mongolians | Tagged | 2 Comments

Election Impressions Germany vs Mongolia

By Julian Dierkes

I was an international election observer in 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2013. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to travel to Mongolia for the most recent election. But, I’ve never observed any aspects of elections in my home country, Germany, other than as a voter.

I am currently spending the academic year 2016-17 in Germany and the city state of Berlin voted on Sept 18 for the city parliament and thus the state government. Of course, this is not comparable to the Ikh Khural election in that it was only a state election, but still elections run somewhat similarly, I suppose. My time in Germany will have ended by the time of the federal election in the fall of 2017, so I will not have a chance to observe anything then.

“Observing”

Unlike a Mongolian election, there do not seem to be any formal observers in German elections. No party observers, no NGO observers, no international observers.

The counting of the votes is publicly accessible, however, so I couldn’t resist the opportunity of going to a polling station just before it closed to ask whether I’d be allowed to stay for the count. Since the law specifies that the counting is held publicly, I was allowed. Clearly, I asked in German and I’m not sure what would have happened if I had asked in a foreign accent, but for me this was certainly an easy and relaxed opportunity to observe.

Impressions

The strongest impression I got, particularly when comparing to the Mongolian elections, that German elections are “old-school” and very relaxed. Clearly, the level of trust in the intentions and abilities of the administrative team is high and there is very little general suspicion of the process.

None of the innovations that we see in Mongolian polling stations exist in Germany.

No (party) observers, no video broadcast of the inside of the polling station, no “black machines” (or any other kind of machines), no ink to the finger to show that a voter voted, really no electronics.

Instead, voters’ bring in their notification of the upcoming election (with their name, and the show their national id). This is verified against a printed roll of voters. Voters are then handed their ballot. In the case of this election, there were three ballots, one for a direct candidate for the Berlin parliament, then the party vote for the proportional representation route to the Berlin parliament, then the party vote for the district parliament.

After the vote finishes, the election committee (including positions of a chair, vice-chair, and protocol-writer) opens the ballot box quite unceremoniously. No national anthem here. But also no video-taping and arguments about procedure that I saw in Mongolia when I was able to observe the counting process. Certainly also no fear about electricity being disconnected or anything like that. There was a very small number of spoiled ballots, but these were announced, shown, and did not lead to further discussion.

Counting proceeded in a relaxed, but careful manner, though I only observed the first stage of counting, the proportional representation party vote.

Conclusions

As is the case in Mongolia, it’s always important to recognize the people that make elections work. Whether it is volunteers, observers or public servants, they all deserve our thanks for their dedication, hard work, and contributions to democracy!

Trust in political institutions plays a huge role in how elections unfold. Even though Germany has some recent memory of the manipulation of votes (Nazi-Germany, as well as the German Democratic Republic), there appears to be a very high level of general trust in the election system which means that it is fairly unsupervised and there are few checks.

By contrast, Mongolians trust “the system” much less (as is evident in polls as well) and a lot of the mechanics of voting are intended to inspire more trust with limited success.

 

Posted in Democracy, Elections, Germany, Politics | Tagged | Leave a comment

Future of the DP?

By Julian Dierkes

A crushing defeat like the one that the DP suffered on June 29 should lead to some party-soul searching. More than two months after the election, I can only imagine that questions about the future of the DP, both, immediate as well as long-term are being asked.

To me, this soul-searching will have to find the answers to a whole host of questions. The answers to five big questions will determine the party’s future, I think.

I am writing this not because I am in any close to or supportive of the DP in a partisan way, but because a functioning democracy needs a vibrant opposition. While the recent election was a positive surprise in terms of the turnout, and its clear result, the overwhelming majority that the MPP now holds and might be able to build on for next year’s presidential election also holds some real risks.

1. Unity or Split?

The DP has alway struggled with its internal divisions and factions. It seems to me that this is in part because it was originally founded around opposition against the then-MPRP, now-DP, not as a political movement in a particular ideological direction. To the extent that the main issue in the DP’s platform is democracy, this has long been achieved in some ways in Mongolia, so it leaves the party without a unifying element. Sure, democracy requires continued work and vigilance, but it is no longer the main thrust of any kind of movement in Mongolia. The organizational origins in a number of different parties leaves the DP hamstrung as these parties, and sometimes more importantly, their leaders live on.

The nature of Mongolian politics with its focus on patronage also represents a centrifugal force. This was clear in the past election when one of the great frustrations that voters seemed to feel was around the internal struggles within the DP that prevented some policies/policy mistakes during the DP-led government.

It’s not that the MPP or other parties are immune from internal struggles, but the DP does suffer more (publicly) from there, so some of the efforts in the coming four years should be directed at unifying the party. If party unity cannot be built either through strong leadership (see 2.) or through the development of a policy platform (see 4.) perhaps the DP and also Mongolia would be better off with a split into two or even three parties that do have a clearer profile and would thus contribute to a sharpening of political discourse in Mongolia around policy questions.

2. Rejuvenation or Ossification?

One of the challenges to party unity has also been the continued leadership of the original democrats. Most of the more prominent DP politicians were involved in the democratic revolution of the early 1990s and very few younger or more recent politicians have come to the fore in the party.

Elbegdorj

Most prominently, this holds for Elbegdorj. Independent of his qualities as a politicians and/or policy-maker, he has been very involved in national politics for 25 years now. But, despite this long record, it does not seem entirely like he’s ready to leave politics yet even though his presidential term will run out next year and he is not allowed to run for president again (at least not next year).

Of course, “Ebe” was young when he got involved in democratic politics, so he’s still young now, at 53.

One or two years ago, most of the speculation focused on Elbergdorj’s likely ambition for some kind of international role, most likely with the UN. That’s certainly something that I have been expecting for some time. It would fit very well with his desire to keep Mongolia (and himself) in the mind of the international community and with all of his initiatives on the international stage. Some time ago, it would’ve seemed that his chances at a UN position would have been good. The Secretary General route always seemed like a very remote chance, but head of a UN mission? Or head of some other international organization like the Community of Democracies? Those kind of positions would seem to suit him very well. It should also be noted that if he were appointed into some position like that, it would suit Mongolia well, as he will continue to give the country some prominence in international affairs.

What are his chances? Who knows! There are so many political traps involved with many of those appointments that it’s difficult to say in the abstract. But consider Mongolia’s and thus Elbegdorj’s credentials as democratic, somewhat neutral and certainly non-threatening, hopeful in terms of economic/social development (despite the current woes) and you’d have to guess that the opportunity for an international appointment does exist.

The other subject of speculation is whether Elbegdorj will try to “do a Putin”, i.e. promote a caretaker for himself to then run for office again at the next opportunity, i.e. the 2020 parliamentary or 2021 presidential election. His long-time chief of staff, Tsagaan, has been mentioned in this context. There was some plausibility to this speculation up until the election. Now, the DP’s chances in the presidential election seem quite remote, so it seems unlikely that Elbegdorj would have a chance to “appoint” his successor.

Presidential Election

Next year’s presidential election may be a moment when we will see some suggestions as to which direction the DP might turn.

Until recently, Bat-Uul certainly would have seemed like an obvious candidate for the presidency. Another long-time democracy partisan his role as mayor of Ulaanbaatar has been quite prominent and despite some of the grumbles about corruption, etc., generally I thought he was perceived as a reasonably successful mayor. The election results in June belie this sense, of course, as the DP got thrown out of city politics just as much as they did out of the Ikh Khural. Did that kill Bat-Uul’s chances at nomination? Perhaps, especially since they were already small due to his ambivalent role within the party. But who else?

Enkhbold Z clearly harboured presidential ambitions and some of his politicking during the last two years of the DP government made it seem like he was angling for the party’s nomination. But it never seemed like he was particularly popular as an individual. The direct election of the president does require some level of personal popularity.

A younger candidate would obviously make a statement! But who? It does not seem like the DP or any of its faction or party leaders have really groomed a new generation of leaders. Yet, if the MPP nominates M Enkhbold – as seems very likely, see his staying aloof from the government despite his role as party leader – his lack of charisma and profile would seem to leave the door open for a younger/new candidate that could attract some of the voters who had been frustrated previously, but might not have intended to give the MPP full control of all politics for some years.

More Thoughts to Come

I will continue this consideration of the future of the DP in a future post and will focus that on three more central questions, what about democratization?, what about policy?, what about corruption? and will consider other challenges to the future of the DP as well.

Posted in Democratic Party, Foreign Policy, Ikh Khural 2016, Inequality, Party Politics, Policy, Politics, Presidential 2017, Public Policy, Ulaanbaatar | Tagged | Leave a comment

Navigating by Fibreoptic Cable

[Somehow this post got stuck in the drafts folder on the blog dashboard in July 2013 and lingered there for quite some time until I found it again in summer 2016.]

Pardon the very general and somewhat cranky, er, excursion here…

Solar-Powered Pedestrian Map in Ulaanbaatar

Anyone who has visited Mongolia more than once can tell many stories of the massive changes that are happening in the country. Visitors or residents who remain in Ulaanbaatar tell numerous stories about the amazing transformation sthat occur every summer during the construction season. As a recent visitor I might point to the beautification of Ulaanbaatar as a project that began in earnest two or three years ago, but that is obviously being attacked with great energy by Mayor Bat-Uul.

There are now actual sidewalks in the city and plots of greenery that are turning into attractive urban parks. Hosting the ministerial meeting of the Community of Democrarcies in April 2013 obviously lent further impetus to this project as public garbage cans now separate trash from recyclables. Pedestrian crosswalks are not only indicated by road signs, but are occasionally actually observed by pedestrians as well as motorists. Amazing!

Unfortunately, there is still too little research that is capturing these changes in the city or elsewhere. We might think of a highly theoretical engagement with modernity in a Mongolian urban context, but also of the much more detailed documentation of the transformation of the daily life of Mongolians in the city as well as the country. Little of this kind of research is being conducted in an empirical manner by Mongolians as well, and it remains to be seen whether the planned program to support Mongolian Studies abroad will move beyond the traditional philological orientation of Mongolists to focus more on contemporary challenges.

Changing Navigational Tools

Now to more concrete topics…

Overland voyages are certainly an interesting experience in Mongolia. The network of paved roads remains limited and many of the most attractive destinations or many of the necessary trips still involve dirt-roads and off-road travel. Few foreigners take these challenges on on their own.

But, the interaction with drivers and translators around road navigation can often be frustrating. Once you leave the major paved roads there are no road signs. In fact, it sometimes seems as if there is a nation-wide government decree that is better-enforced than many laws that forbids road signs to point to destinations.

Which road to take around Khkukh Nuur? [Khentii, June 2013, photo by Marc Tassé]

As a consequence, all voyages involve optimistic morning-time estimates of, “Oh, we should be there in the morning!”, lunch-time puzzlement at the lack of progress, and late-afternoon concerns about reaching destinations, ger camps, and dinner.

For some reasons, there is also a country-wide conspiracy against GPS technology. Oddly for a land that employs fingerprint readers to verify voters’ identity and counts votes through electronic counting machines, GPS devices are shunned. Some claim that maps are unavailable, but even if that is the case (anyone?), knowledge of one’s location would at least allow for decisions about whether to follow the first or the second valley that presents itself as an option en route.

Yet, at the same time, a surprising navigational tool seems to have, er, taken root in the countryside. For some years now, the government has been laying fibreoptic cable to all sum centres in the country to guarantee internect connectivity and mobile phone network access. Typically, this cable is laid at a fairly shallow depth by small backhoes. Whether this construction actually involves more serious mapping efforts or simply follows existing routes, perhaps on the advice of locals, the lengthy mole hill that is created over the cable now shows direct routes between sum centres. If you come across such a mole hill, it will certainly lead you to a sum and ultimately an aimag centre.

It would be nice, of course, if these mole hills were decorated with directional signs, but it is often relatively clear from the rough direction which sum centre the cable might lead to.

As a navigation aide, the cable mole hill appears to be rapidly replacing power lines which previously served as signposts for overland travel to non-locals. Power lines always had the distinct disadvantage that they seem to have been built as the crow flys, or at least with scant regard for the drivability of the route. By contrast, the small backhoes that have been laying fibreoptic cable have preferred flat spaces that lend themselves to driving between sum centres.

If my observation of this use of the cable mole hill is correct, who would have thought that the laying of fibreoptic cable would transform countryside driving not through making information flows possible, but by hinting at a direct route between towns. As more and more Mongolians in the country are relying on cars, such navigational markers may become more and more important. It is unclear whether mole hills will lead to directional signs or will simply erode, in the meantime, trips between sum centres are becoming more direct. Landscapes are still gorgeous and the Autobahn isn’t about to arrive in the countryside, but some of the adventure and enforced relaxation may be waning.

Posted in Countryside, Nomadism, Social Issues, Tourism | Tagged | Leave a comment

Erdenebat Cabinet

By Bulgan B & Julian Dierkes

Contrary to usual practice to wait to form a new government after a June election until September, the newly-elected Mongolian parliament met in July already to elect a Prime Minister and a cabinet.

Given the resounding MPP victory in the election, it came as no surprise that MPP leader M Enkhbold pushed for an MPP majority government.

The government is led by J Enkhbat as Prime Minister while Enkhbold has been elected speaker of the State Great Khural, perhaps a position to launch a bid for presidency from next year. It thus seems fair to assume that Enkhbold and other MPP officials have considerable authority over the prime ministers and other members of cabinet.

The Erdenebat cabinet has 16 ministers and 13 ministries. Seven ministers were appointed from outside of parliament and nine ministers are MPs (double deel). Only two members of cabinet are women.

Prime Minister (Монгол Улсын Ерөнхий Сайд): J Erdenebat
Trade and Industry Institute, Academy of Administration, Mongolian Univ of Agriculture
Russian
MP 2012-present
Governor of Selenge Aimag 2008-12
Head of the Finance and State Fund Department, Office of the Selenge aimag 2005-2008
Deputy Governor of Selenge Aimag from 2004-2005
Head of the Finance and Economic Policy Coordination Department, Office of Selenge Aimag 2000-2004
Accountant of “Suutei” LLC in Mandal Soum, Selenge aimag 1996-1997

Cabinet Secretary (Хэрэг эрхлэх газрын дарга): MP J Munkhbat (General Secretary of MPP)
Born 1979
National University of Mongolia – political science
Mongolian People’s Party General Secretary 2013-2016
Editor-in-Chief of  “Mongolyn Unen” newspaper  2011-2013
Deputy chairman of the Standing committee on Political Policy of the Mongolian People’s Party 2010-2013
President of the Mongolian Young Generations’ Development Association 2008-2010
Secretary General of the Social Democratic Mongolian Youth Association 2005-2007

Deputy Prime Minister (Шадар сайд): U Khurelsukh (MPP)
Born 1968
Defense University of Mongolia (Political Science), Institute of Public Administration and Development (Public Administration), National University of Mongolia (Law)
Deputy Prime Minister 2014-2015
MPP Gen Secretary 2008-2012
Member of Parliament 2000-2008
Minister of National Emergency Agency 2004-06
Minister in charge of Professional Inspections 2006-08

Minister of Justice and Interior Affairs (Хууль зүй дотоод хэргийн сайд): MP S Byambatsogt (former MPP Caucus Leader)
Institute of Economy and Finance and MBA, University of Maastricht in Holland
Member of Parliament 2008-present
President of the “New Progress” Group 2008
Chairman of the Board of Directors of “New Progress” Group 2006-2008
Director of “New Progress” LLC 2000-2006General Director of “Khovdiin Urguu” LLC 1998-2000

Minister of Education, Culture, Science and Sports (Боловсрол, соёл шинжлэх ухаан, спортын сайд): J Batsuuri
Construction engineer and economist from University in Bratislava and PhD in Economy from Czech Technical University
Member of Parliament 2008-Present
Governor of Dornogovi Aimag 2000-2008
General Director “Us Orchin” LLC 1998-2000
PhD Professor at Czech technical university 1994-1998
Deputy Director of Information Technology School of Technical University 1992-1994
Professor at the Technical University 1987-1992
Professor at Polytechnic Institute and 1983-1987

Minister of Defense (Батлан хамгаалахын сайд): MP B Bat-Erdene (former national wrestling champion)
Graduated with a degree in law from the Military University in 1990
Member of Parliament 2004-Present
Director of “Avraga” Institute of Kinesiology 1999-2004
Sportsman, Deputy director and Director of “Khuch” sports society 1983-2010

Minister of Environment and Tourism (Байгаль орчин, аялал жуулчлалын сайд): MP D Oyunkhorol
Born 1963
Mongolian State Univ of Education, National University of Mongolia (Law)
English, Russian
MP 2000-04, 2008-present
Minister of Environment, Green Development, and Tourism 2014-2015

Minister of Foreign Relations (Гадаад харилцааны сайд): MP Ts Munkh-Orgil
Born 1964
Bachelor degree from Russia in International Relations and LLM, Harvard University
Secretary General of the Mongolian People’s Party 2012-2013
Member of Parliament 2004-2012 (Minister of Foreign Affairs 2004-2006 and Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs 2007-2008)
Deputy Minister of the Justice and Internal Affairs 2000-2004
Executive director of “Munkh-Orgil, Idesh, Lynch” LLC 1997-2000
Lawyer in Washington US 1996 – 1997
Third and Second Secretary of Mongolian Permanent Mission of UN 1991-1995
Foreign Ministry Attache 1988-1991

Minister of Finance (Сангийн сайд): MP B Choijilsuren
Graduated with a degree in automation and tele-mechanics from the Urals Higher Polytechnic
Member of Parliament 2008-Present
Deputy Head of the Office of the President 2005
Director of Khurd, Khurd Food, Khurd Invest companies 1995-2005
Director of KAMAN company 1993-1995

Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry (Уул уурхай, хүнд үйлдвэрийн сайд): Ts Dashdorj (former MP)
Drilling technology and engineer degree from the Polytechnic Institute 1990
Member of Parliament 2000-2004; 2008-2012; 2012 to Present
Deputy Minister of Construction and Urban Development 2004-2008
General Direcgtor of “Ikh Temuulel” LLC 1995-2000
Drilling Engineer “Gazriin Tos” LLC 1990-1993

Minister of Labor and Social Protection (Хөдөлмөр, нийгмийн хамгааллын сайд): MP N Nomtoibayar
Graduated from the Valparaiso University of Indiana, USA with the degree in political science and practice business
Member of Parliament 2012 – Present Deputy Minister of Social Protection and Labour 2012
Vice President of Mongolyn Alt LLC 2010-2012
Board of Directors of the Mongolian Economic Research and Competitiveness Center 2010
Central Intelligence Agency 2008-2009
Project manager at Mongolyn Alt LLC 2005-2008
Central Intelligence Authority 2001-2005

Minister of Roads and Transport (Зам, тээврийн хөгжлийн сайд): D Ganbat (CEO of Mongolian Railways)
Graduates as an engineer, mechanics, translation and law from the Military Engineering Institute, ВГЧУ, National University of Mongolia
Member of Parliament 2012 – Present
General Director of “Technic Import” LLC 2004-2012
Chairman of the Boards of Directors of “Technik Import” LLC 1999-2004
Director of the Historical and Cultural Artifact Restoration Authority 1996-1999
Deputy Director of the Russia Mongolia joint “Bayanbulag” LLC 1989-1992

Minister of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry (Хүнс, хөдөө аж ахуй, хөнгөн үйлдвэрийн сайд): P Sergelen (Noyon Suld Group)
Graduated form State University of Pedagogy and Institute of Economy and Finance
General Director of “Buudain Khur” LLC 2010-2014
Director of “Noyon Suld” LLC 1995-2009

Minister of Construction and Urban Development (Барилга, хот байгуулалтын яам): G Munkhbayar

Minister of Energy (Эрчим хүчний сайд): P Gankhuu
Professor at the Institute of Society and Economy 1997
Project advisor to the NUM
Deputy head of the Energy Authority 2009-2012
Senior specialist at the Ministry of Fuel and Energy 2004-2009
Specialist at the Ministry of Infrastructure 2002-2004

Minister of Health (Эрүүл мэндийн сайд): A Tsogtsetseg
Graduated the Medical University and Academy of Management
Director of the Venereal Disease Research Center of Mongolia 2003-2016
Head of Department at the Venereal Disease Research Center of Mongolia 1988-2003
Doctor at the Venereal Disease Research Center of Mongolia 1986-1988

Posted in Ikh Khural 2016, Mongolian People's Party, Politics, Public Policy, Public Service | Tagged | Leave a comment

Five Years of Mongolia Focus

By Julian Dierkes

We posted our first blog on July 29, 2011.

The idea to blog grew out of discussions that Mendee, Byamba and I were having almost every day at the office. Social developments in Mongolia, current politics, curious aspects of comparisons, etc., these were all discussions we were having. At some point, we decided that there were not enough discussions of this kind that connected different centres of interest in Mongolia around the world.

At first we were speaking primarily to ourselves, though now accessible to others in our thinking.

As we kept writing, and we haven’t missed a month yet. Later on, Brandon Miliate and Bulgan joined our efforts and several guest authors have also contributed posts.

We’ve published a total of 403 posts.

The most read post has been “Corruption in Mongolia according to Transparency International“. It has been read nearly 1,500 times.

We’ve covered a great variety of topics, captured somewhat by this recent tagcloud.

Over these past five years, a total of 79,000 readers have visited our pages. The top ten locations of our readers are: Mongolia (23%), U.S. (20%), Canada (14%), UK (5%), Australia (5%), Germany (3%), Japan (3%), China (2%), South Korea (2%), India (2%).

Interest in the blog obviously parallels broader interest in Mongolia and thus spikes in particular around national elections.

Posted in Research on Mongolia, Social Media | Tagged | 2 Comments

Did (Any of) My Saikhanbileg Wishes Come True?

By Julian Dierkes

In December 2014 when the first Saikhanbileg cabinet had been formed, I wrote a personal wishlist of actions I was hoping that cabinet might take.

J Erdenebat was the finance minister in that cabinet. All the more reason to revisit that wishlist now that the election has passed and  Erdenebat’s MPP government is forming.

My Wishes Two Years Ago

Below are the topics I focused on in my 2014 wishlist and a quick sense if any of my wishes came trie.

The Economy
Well, OT is back on track. Underground construction is under way and production from the underground part of the mine should rev up in the early 2020s

The economy? Not so much.

Clearly, economic worries have been on top of Mongolians’ minds as polls this Spring showed. And, for good reason. Unemployment, poverty, inflation, all these are challenges that persist. They have also led to a huge public debt (mostly papered over through Chinese bridge loans) which severely curtail Erdenebat government’s space to manoeuvre or to consider policies that are in any way costly.

Anti-Corruption
No, the grand coalition of the early Saikhanbileg primeministership did not lead to a bi-partisan attempt to actually address corruption.

Public Service
No, public service organization did not improve. There were no significant legislative initiatives in this regard, and the DP’s attempts to replace virtually everyone in public service with a patronage, i.e. DP appointment continued unabated.

Higher Education
No, there was no significant action on higher education.

Long-term Risky Research for Diversification
Diversification remains a topic that shows up frequently in economic discussions, it also showed up in the recent election campaign. But, has there been strategic progress in this regard? Not that I can see.

Policy-Making Capacity
No big movement on this topic either. In fact, the election campaign with its lack of clearly identifiable policy differences between the parties illustrated the lack of focus on policy and evidence to determine policy.

A Role for “Repats”
The flurry of initial interest in the XUN party (yes, aware of the redundancy of “XUN party” since the “N” already stands for HAM=party), was also a flurry of mobilization by repats. Yet, the party got derailed, and many repats and other younger professionals seemed very frustrated by the limited choices in a two-horse race.

Support for Aimag Centres
Nothing of the sort.

Nurturing Democracy
This does seem the one element of DP rhetoric that has been pursued most consistently, though perhaps more by Pres Elbegdorj than PM Saikhanbileg.

Initiatives such as the devolution of decision-making to the local level and to citizens’ halls continue, though seemingly in a fairly unsystematic manner.

Nurturing Democracy as Foreign Policy
This certainly has been one of the successes were the DP has been able to build on long-standing policy, like the Third Neighbour Policy and amplify that for Mongolia to continue to have a visibility on the global stage much beyond its (population) size or economic significance in the world.

Posted in Corruption, Democracy, Democratic Party, Education, Foreign Policy, Ikh Khural 2016, Mining, Party Politics, Policy, Policy, Politics, Public Policy, Public Service | Tagged | Leave a comment