New PM inducted
In the January 25 plenary session of parliament, 55 of the 66 MPs present voted to accept Miegombyn Enkhbold as Mongolia’s 23rd prime minister.
President N. Eknhbayar called for maintenance of social stability and asked all parties in parliament, and especially the MPRP and DP, to negotiate the new government.
He said that the parties should not fan the situation but leave aside political manoeuvres and work for stability.
Enkhbayar advised that if no party had a parliamentary majority, the only right way was to negotiate on a new government under the Constitution.
The new prime minister told parliament, “The government will be formed very shortly and I will demand that all cabinet members act responsibly and work hard. They will face many problems, especially on wages, salaries, pensions and benefits.”
He promised action against corruption and a 20-30 year policy for national development.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ts.Elbegdorj handed Enkhbold the state seal, and the new prime minister then called on the president and the speaker.
New cabinet formed
The January 27 plenary session of parliament opened at 7pm to discuss the formation of a ‘government of national unity’ and closed early in the morning of January 28 after appointing 16 cabinet members.
The appointment of the prime minister and 17 cabinet members was first debated by standing committees and put before a special session of parliament on January 25.
On January 17, MPs agreed to only 16 of the 17, with an unchanged cabinet structure, after debate and questions to the prime minister and each individual candidate.
Lunar New Year Ceremony
Traditionally, Tsagaan Sar is the most ceremonial of all Mongolian holidays, patriotic, religious and social, bringing families together, with special attention for seniors.
This was the thesis of President N. Enkhbayar’a address to the nation for New Year. He said that as Mongolia entered the year of the dog, the political situation was complicated, with the resignation of the coalition government.
Parliament in recess
Parliament recessed on February 3 after a session of three months, passing 62 laws, 44 bills (23 from independents) and 29 amendments, and repealing 10 laws.
Speaker Ts. Nyamdorj said the most significant of these were the electoral law and those on parliament and its running, which he said were constantly criticised as needing change.
“If we adhere to these laws in practice, there will be no more electoral problems,” he said.
On its final day, parliament authorised government expenditure of Tg36.5 billion from 2005 budget surplus to raise wages for 124,600 staff by 30 percent as from February 1 and a Tg5,000 minimum pension rise to Tg20,480.
Motherland Party upset
The ‘government of national unity’ was born on January 28, when the prime minister appointed 16 cabinet ministers from 17 candidates.
The one exception was Motherland Party general secretary N. Chuluunbaatar, whose nomination as failed on a tied vote in parliament.
On February 2, Motherland Sh. Sukhbaatar and party assembly member S. Altangerel, upset that some MPRP members had voted against Chuluunbaatar, told the media that the MPRP had broken the agreement they signed on January 19.
The Motherland Party said they had decided to nominate MP Ts. Jargal for the position.
Russia reduces oil export duty
Mongolia imports all its oil, and last year imported a total of 563,500 tonnes of fuel from Russia, Kazakhstan and China out of a total demand for around 600,000 tonnes.
From February 1, Russia, Mongolia’s main supplier, reduced the duty on oil products exported to Mongolia by $12.80 per tonne, from $133.50 to $120.70.
M. Enkhbold: no foreign policy change
Diplomats in Ulaanbaatar, led by their doyen, Russian Ambassador O.M. Derkovsky, have congratulated the prime minister on his appointment.
The ambassador said, “Friends of Mongolia wish Mongolia success in the difficult process of shifting from one government to another, negotiating with all political parties.”
“Neighbouring countries and partners wish Mongolia success and progress. We believe Mongolia will march ahead with socio-economic programmes, democratic reforms and a market economy.”
Enkhbold assured the diplomats that his government would adhere strictly to its foreign policy and work to implement bilateral and multilateral treaties and agreements.
US wheat arrives
US Ambassador Pamela Slutz on February 6 welcomed a trainload of 25,000 tonnes of US wheat worth Tg 4.6 billion ($3.8 million), part of a US Agriculture Department programme.
The agreement for the wheat, to be milled into flour and sold locally, was signed last August 9 with Mercy Corps, and the proceeds are to be used for their Rural Agribusiness Support programme in the aimags of Hovd, Zavkhan, Gobi-Altai, Bayanhongor, Arhangai, Uvurhangai, Dundgovi, Umnugovi, Dornogovi and Sukhbaatar.
Duty-free scrap metal can exports
On January 19, parliament amended its ban on the export of non-ferrous metals to allow exports of soft drink and beer cans only, duty-free.
The ban was imposed last July because MPs claimed that an increase in metal exports was inducing theft of metal installations of government agencies such as cables, railway lines and monuments for export to China.
It was reported that there had been many people earning a living by recycling metal who were driven out of business.
Minerals still booming
On January 25 Minerals Resources and Petroleum Authority (MRPA) chairman L. Bold told the media what the organisation had done last year and on tasks they face in the future.
He said that 20005 was the year of policy and legal renewal, with a new minerals law. The MRPA had contributed Tg19.5862 billion to the national budget; licence payments had brought in Tg7.8861 billion, while Tg1.3 billion has come from compensation for state-funded exploration of mineral deposits.
Oyu Tolgoi even richer
An Ivanhoe Mines Mongolia Inc spokesman has announced that the Oyu Tolgoi (OT) minerals deposit may have even greater potential than was thought.
Company President John Macken revealed last week that an independent survey by Perth (Australia) company GRD Minproc has upgraded the measured and indicated gold and copper resources in the planned open pit deposits in the south of the OT project.
Parliament slams the door
On January 27 parliament approved a bill to restructure the committee system and the order of parliament sessions; the public are now to be excluded from parliamentary debate.
Parliament will conduct debates in closed session except when discussing the budget or when a majority votes for an open session.
The new arrangement excludes even the media, which State Structure Standing Committee chair D. Dondog claimed was the practice in other countries. The closed door move was proposed by MP E. Bat-Uul.
Repressed claims term extended
The January 27 parliamentary session decided to allow claims to be lodged for exoneration of those politically repressed and for compensation up to February 1, 2009.
Health law amended
On January 19 parliament approved amendments to the law on health, to come into force in July.
The main change is that money charged by hospitals which has been illegal will now be legitimate.
Many hospitals charge extra fees for things like doctor’s smocks, surgical coats, and parking on the premises.
Meat prices to fall?
On January 27 parliament approved a bill to exempt meat producers from VAT (value added tax).
Mongolia processes up to 11,000 tonnes of meat a year, but only about 1,000 tonnes for domestic consumption.
A great deal of Mongolian meat is exported cheaply, partly because no VAT is payable on exports, while producers pay Tg150 million VAT on domestic sales.
Trading government securities
Parliament on January 19 accepted a government proposal to allow the sale of a total of Tg80 billion of securities to the public this year.
Last year the government issuing the same amount of bonds and raised Tg16.7 billion in the sale of securities.
Japanese words of advice
Two senior Japanese politicians were in Mongolia on an unofficial visit last month as guests of the One Asia-Ulaanbaatar Club.
They were Financial Services and Economic and Fiscal Policy Deputy Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada and NPO One Asia Club Chairman Yoji Sato, who met politicians, economists and NGO representatives.
Sakurada said, “In Japan, we will celebrate 2006 as Mongolian year and 2007 in Mongolia as the year of Japan…Japan is very friendly with Mongolia.”
When to sing Happy Birthday?
The date of birth of Chinggis Khaan has never been satisfactorily settled upon, and a conference was held on January 24 to make a formal decision on when to celebrate the event.
Reports were delivered by Academician Ch. Dalai (History Research Institute); academician D. Tsaerensodnom (Institute of Literature and Linguistics); Do. Baasanjav (Observatory and Geophysics Research Centre); and D. Munh-Ochir (State Professional Inspection Authority).
Some sources claim that Chinggis Khaan was born in the year of the water horse (in the third 60-year cycle), while a Yuan dynasty sutra says that Temuujin was born in the year of the horse.
Media censorship, intimidation claims
The NGO Globe International has issued three alerts about what it claims are restrictions on the right to information and intimidation of journalists in Hovd and Zavkhan aimags.
In the first, Globe claims that the Hovd Aimag Governor’s Office and the State Professional Inspection Agency (Hovd branch) has blocked relayed broadcasts of five televisions channels to about 2,000 ger households.
PRT general director reappointed
The National Council (NC) for Public Radio and Televison (PRT) on January 26 voted to replace its head and agreed on the appointment of a general director.
The NC sacked N. Sodnomdorj by a majority vote, attacking his political attitude on making state property public property, and voted unanimously to elect H. Chilaajav.
They also voted confidence by a narrow majority (eight of 15) to make S. Myagmar (Boroldoi Studio director) PRT general director.
Mongolian Dem Union demands
At a Mongolian Dem Union meeting in Yalalt (Freedom) Square on January 24, leader N. Sambaranz said that Mongolia was ruled by corruption, and that they had gathered in this square 16 years ago for democratic revolution.
Over these 16 years, he claimed, the nation had been mainly ruled by the MPRP, which had woven a network of corruption.
Long winter evenings
Theoretically, Tsagaan Sar was the end of winter, and that’s optimism for you.
In reality, it is far too soon to get the whip out: Mongolia will not de-freeze until around April, so the home stretch is fairly long.
Television watchers will have noticed that the same movies come round again and again. Books, while much more available, are still not exactly plentiful – good ones, anyway.
Getting a real buuz
Well, that’s Tsagaan Sar over with for another year, with all its traditions, some of which are plainly endangered.
One of the traditions at risk, amazingly, is buuz making. Clever mathematicians have estimated that Mongolians make up to 250 million buuz for Tsagaan Sar – and eat them all, too.
Ulaanbaatar’s own UN
Where else would you expect a Cuban, a Mongolian and an Ethiopian-American to work together but in a coffee shop in Ulaanbaatar?
Daniel Correa Martinez never meant to come to Mongolia. In 1988 he went to Tashkent to take a four-year course in meteorology. There he met Densmaa Gombojav, who was in the same course, though one year ahead.
Knitting it all together
“Younger folk like cashmere, but they want to keep up with the fashions, and Mongolia cannot supply that, with the constant fast changes – yet. But they will…” said British fashion advisor Alan Flux.
He praised the local technical skills and adaptability, but said that there is a need for investment in fashion design technique and technology.
Mongolia was once a pit of raw materials for other countries to process. This is still largely so for minerals, with only copper not being exported in its mined form.
Downhill all the way
On February 4, Mongolian representatives left to compete at the Turin Winter Olympics, having been farewelled at the National Olympic headquarters.
The competing team comprises skiers Kh. Khash-Erdene and E. Ochirsuren, with coach L. Dorj.
Mongolia’s first Winter Olympic team entered the 1964 Innsbruck Games, and this is the eleventh time a team has been sent.
An additional delegation of Mongolian officials and MPs will be led by Olympic Committee deputy president and Golomt Bank director general D. Bayasgalan, who was presented with the Mongolian flag by State Sports Committee Ch. Naranbaatar.
Mongolian fine arts
Her father, N. Tsultem, was an important figure in the Mongolian fine arts world; her twin brothers figure high in the contemporary arts, and other family members are also artists. She is art historian and critic Ts. Uranchimeg.
“All my life has been closely related to he arts. As a child, I loved to hold my father’s water pot when he was painting. Thanks to him, we learnt the Mongolian script, which helps my study of the arts of Urga,” said Urna.
Mongolian culture, present and future
A cut budget, fewer productions, no creativity and low pay: that’s the general situation arts organisations face.
How should arts organisations operate in the future? Should this sector continue as a burden on the national budget? That is the headache for anyone concerned with national development, believing that culture plays an important role in national ‘immunity’ and welfare.
On February 2, the 113th birth anniversary of Sukhbaatar, a wreath was laid at his monument in Sukhbaatar Square.
Among those at the ceremony were MPRP governing board members, Defence Minister M. Sonompil and Deputy Minister B. Erdenebat; members of the armed forces general headquarters; Mayor Ts. Batbayar; and Ulaanbaatar Citizen’s Representatives Khural head N. Bolormaa.
Gandantegchilen Monastery Hamba Lama D. Choijamts, on a visit to India, has signed an agreement on the building of a Mongol temple in Delhi, to be completed in June.
Enrolment in the schools in Ulaanbaatar’s six districts is predicted to rise by 18,000 by 2008 because of urban migration. The Education, Culture and Science Minister said that expanding the system will be carried out with domestic and international funding.
A Family InfoCentre has opened in Selenge Aimag, run by the National Centre Against Violence (NCAV), offering legal advice and training. NCAV was set up to protect women and children from domestic violence and sexual abuse, and recently ran courses for 35 Selenge lawyers.
Coordinator of a health service comparison project Dr Carlo Bagliani has been in Mongolia, where he met Health Ministry state secretary Ts. Sonompil, Central Hospital head L. Sarantsetseg, and D. Natsagdorj, who is head of the Manba Datsan Traditional Mongolian Medicine Centre and the Otoch Manramba University.
They agreed to introduce contemporary medicine, to exchange medical staff, to run training courses and to open a Mongolian traditional medicine centre in Turin, Italy.
Bagliani addressed staff and students of the Central Hospital, Shastin Hospital 3 and the Otoch Manramba University.
The Open Society Forum (OSF) and the Arts Council have announced a competition for project funding, called Calibration, open to individuals and organisations in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.
They said that previous recipients of OSF arts programme grants may apply. The project should aim to start in 2006 and may finish in 2007. The maximum amount granted will be $10,000.
Five male and five female Mongolians are in training for selection to represent their country at the World Table Tennis Championships in April in Germany. The team will comprise four men and three women.
This year 1,000 Ulaanbaatar taxis are to be converted to run on liquid gas. At present, 300 taxis use the fuel. The conversion is part of the campaign to decrease air pollution in the city, which has about 70,000 vehicles.
Mobicom last week opened its 106th branch, in Baruun-Urt, Sukhbaatar soum, Sukhbaatar aimag, attended by MP and Budget Standing Committee chairman Ch. Ulaan, Mobicom director G. Battur, and aimag governor R. Erdenetsogt.
Baruun-Urt was connected to the Mobicom network three years ago and has over 4.000 users.
The Mineral Resources and Petroleum Authority (MRPA) is to seek foreign investment in big Mongolian projects at round table meetings on March 10-11 in Toronto, Canada, and in Washington DC.
On December 20 the Newcom Group (founded 1993) bought two second-hand SAAB 340B aircraft, manufactured 1991-1992, from American Eagle Airlines.
The aircraft will be operated by Eznis Airways, fully owned by Newcom, on domestic routes. The aircraft can operate from unpaved runways, and fully comply with international safety standards.
Mobicom is a subsidiary of Newcom.
UNESCO, the Noyon Khutugtu Fund and the Uv Erdene Fund are to celebrate the 150th death anniversary of Gobi Noyon Khutugtu Duldiut Danzanravjaa as one of UNESCO’s 63 special occasions this year.
MP L. Odonchimed, who heads Noyon Khutugtu, said that UNESCO is to grant $20,000 for the celebration, to be spent on translating Danzanravjaa’s works from Tibetan into Mongolian and English.
The US embassy will grant $20,000 to help reconstruct the Noyon Khutugtu Danzanravjaa Museum, and Danzanravjaa’s Demchig temple will be renovated with $20,000 from Ivanhoe Mines. Fifteen events are planned for the anniversary.
South Korea on January 25 gave the General Emergency Authority equipment to be used when working in areas affected by bird flu and other infectious diseases. The equipment included 500 protective suits, masks, boots and goggles.