By Bulgan B
Mongolian President Kh Battulga addressed the Parliament during the opening of the fall session on October 2, 2017. While skipping the pleasantries, President listed the major challenges that Mongolia is confronted by and his opinions on those issues. The first item on the list is the formation of the cabinet (which is a matter of time since U Khurelsukh has been appointed Prime Minister – interesting article by a Mendee J here ) and its swift action in tackling many challenges the country is facing. For the sake of easier reading, I divided the President’s perspectives 1. On domestic issues 2. On mining, and 3. On Justice. I then offer some short reflections.
On domestic issues, the president started off by disclosing his dissatisfaction with the 5.3 percent of expected economic growth in 2017 and the IMF’s decision to invalidate livestock as a deposit and the IMF’s classification of children’s benefit as a welfare payment. He states that livestock and population growth (children’s benefit) are important to Mongolia thus advised to revisit this issue with the IMF. He continued his speech emphasizing the importance of passing next year’s budget that supports the private sector. He citds the full implementation of the Law on Procurement of Goods and Services on State and Local Budgets further. Not only children lunch, examples were illustrated on items such as boots production (targeting the markets of military, law enforcement organization, mining and construction workers) could support the national shoe factories, leather processing shops and herders. He states that herders could supply the hides for the boots with a fairer price than today’s three hides for a cup of instant noodle price. He continued to emphasize the importance of state organizations and state-owned companies to be supportive of national production not only at the policy level but also to procure locally made produce for their canteens.
The President also demanded a law which regulates the expenditure of international credits limiting its use only on projects which has investment return, not infrastructures and social institutions, like the credits were spent up until now. He shares his disappointment in fake promise to support food production and his hope in increasing agricultural exports thus creating diverse pillars of the economy that is not as vulnerable than single mining focused policy.
On Mining, The President positioned himself as anti-mining without much subtlety. He charged that the dropping coal price is guilty for failing economic growth thus causing demonstrations by educators and healthcare workers for higher pay. Not only the failure of the economic growth but also tainting justice in politics, economy, and society were blamed on the “dirty money” from mining. In addition, the mining businesses and highest authorities were in the largest corruption network as he portrays it. He also made a point that welcoming mining business owners to the cabinet and other executive bodies need to be stopped.
The President also requested that the parliament and the new cabinet do better in the management of mining income. He reiterated the constitutional right of Mongolians to natural resources, demanding justice, stating that people have MNT 3 trillion more debt than before the mining boom. His dislike of mining was further expressed as he sees that only a few elites (or wealthy families) have access to the profit from mining and natural resources, halting the public to benefit from the exploitation of the natural resources. Furtherly, the President sees that the Law on Mineral Resources is enabling those few elites to get even richer and the public deep in debt. Therefore, he calls for a change in the law and the policy.
In making changes to the Law on Mineral Resources, President signifies “gold” and makes a justification to have a full state ownership of thethe President enumerated that gold has the ability to define the value of the national currency and our two neighbors exercise special privileges when it comes to gold.
Justice. He repeatedly mentioned how judicial institutions, executive institution, and law enforcement were rigged, covering up crimes and conspiring to revenge their opponents. He mentions the cases of off-shore accounts, 60 billion’s case, tobacco law and S Zorig’s assassination case. He declared that he will attach special importance to restoring justice in the judiciary.
Reflections on his speech, the tone of “populism[i]” was engraved in every part of his speech. He repeatedly mentioned wealthy families and mining business and how they were rigging the system to profit at the cost of the commons. Also, his take on justice was not new, hence he shared his dissatisfaction with the judiciary and law enforcement (and legislative body, executive body) when he was a member of parliament.
On the other hand, his take on mining and its elaboration sounds immature and misleading. Although I agree with his general conclusion that Mongolia has not governed the revenues from natural resources well , if at all, I cannot share his sentiment that mining is the evil. Mining exposes Mongolia to global competition thus revealing many of its shortcomings and vulnerabilities (and might I say, advantages too).n or governance of the income.
Ending his speech, the president warned the harsh winter and challenging economy which could overcome by mutual collaboration. I worry that there would not be a collaboration unless there is a common understanding of mining challenges and its opportunities and map out a common vision and ways which we pursue the vision and we also have to consider the vicious cycle of politic, democracy, and citizen participation. Well, as he said:
Мөнх тэнгэр биднийг ивээг!
PS: For full speech
Mongolian at http://president.mn/taxonomy/1086
English at http://president.mn/eng/newsCenter/viewNews.php?newsId=2197
[i] Populism is a political doctrine that appeals to the interests and conceptions (such as hopes and fears) of the general population, especially when contrasting any new collective consciousness push against the prevailing status quo interests of any predominant political sector. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Populism