Mining Governance: In the Eyes of 2016 Graduates

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of 2016 graduates from universities and postgraduate schools either abroad or domestic alike.  All graduates have invested their energy, time, and money to attempt to learn everything that would equip them to become good professionals and public servants. Here I would like to talk about the ones who are dreaming to become the best public servant in Mongolia’s mining governance.  These are the ones who disliked the naming of their homeland as Minegolia, are irritated with the prevailing corruption, and saddened with irresponsible mining activities.  They departed for learning at the beginning  of the ‘mining bust’ but they made their choices as a result of the ‘mining boom’ when almost all Mongolians became mining policy makers and professionals.

Although excited for upcoming graduation ceremonies, they are much more concerned with the fear of being unable to pursue their dreams of making the country’s mining governance better. All they hear are unpromising, negative news and rumours about economic decline, crisis, loss of investors, drawdown of personnel, mothballing operations, likelihood of bankruptcy, and political instability.  Reaching to organizations like the Ministry of Mining and its agencies (mineral resources and petroluem), where they would love to contribute their newly attained knowledge, are difficult unless you know somebody – the insider.  What can the graduate do?

For one, the graduate can follow the formal path of following the ads of the Civil Service Council and taking the annual exam for public servants.  But, you will probably not hear back from them; even if you hear back from them – the news is always discouraging. Even if fortune smiles on you because of your merit, you will have to crawl through the minefield since you have no connections.

The second path is investing into the political party. Your options are very limited since there are two major parties and three minor ones that are competing for a share of the ministries and agencies. Also, there are already so many previous graduates who have  taken this path and are still fighting their battles. Once inside the party, you need to make your bet carefully depending on factions and charismatic leaders.  If you’re lucky, you can get appointed to some junior entry jobs or senior political posts – but it is likely that you will be branded with that political party.

The third option is joining your ‘homeland’ councils – these are becoming important political organizations in contemporary Mongolian politics.  As the trust declines in the society, informal institutions like this one provides more certainty.  You need to establish your ties with the homeland organization and influential people within those organizations.  You do not necessarily have to be born in that locality, but you can pursue either of your parents’ lineages. Then you need to make some investment into the homeland councils, ranging from fund-raising to organizing/attending any of their activities.

The final option is to invest into the public service with actual money.  If you’re the princeling of new capitalists, you do not need to worry so much about getting public service jobs. Or if you are in the horse-racing associations, you can probably get a helping hand from the wealthy horse-racing politicians.  But, if you are not either, then you better look for connections – then ask them to pull the strings for you to land the public service job – where you can devote your time and energy to implement things you’ve learned at the undergraduate and graduate schools.

A smart graduate will probably check out all these options or employ them simultaneously. If you are already on the inside through one of these methods, you need to help to put the system back on track by reducing the other non-merit based paths.  Because non-merit options will never provide certainty for you and the country and it will never help you fix mining governance. Otherwise, you will be contributing to this decaying system. Hopefully, you and the majority of political and economic elites could put back the first option as the entry for all new graduates.


About mendee

Jargalsaikhan Mendee is a Deputy Director of the Institute for Defense Studies of Mongolia. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of British Columbia, and MAs in International Relations from the US Naval Postgraduate School and in Asia-Pacific Policy Studies from the Institute of Asian Research of the University of British Columbia.
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