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.

This entry was posted in Corruption, Democracy, Democratic Party, Education, Foreign Policy, Ikh Khural 2016, Mining, Party Politics, Policy, Policy, Politics, Public Policy, Public Service and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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