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Thursday, March 9, 2017
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Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original
By Daniel Stanton
SINGAPORE, March 6 (IFR) - Mongolia completed a stunning turnaround in the global capital markets last week, pricing part of a $600 million sovereign bond more than 300 basis points (bps) inside a shorter issue sold less than a year ago.
Not only that, but the country managed to reward bondholders who had shown loyalty throughout a period of uncertainty, giving them a healthy one-day gain, on paper, of 7.5 points.
After signing a new funding agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the sovereign completed an exchange offer for its state-guaranteed Development Bank of Mongolia bonds due on Mar. 21, as well as offering a new money tranche to other investors to round up the deal size.
Holders of 82 percent of the S$580 million DBM bonds agreed to exchange into new sovereign seven-year notes at par. The yield for the new notes was set at 8.75 percent, the minimum shown in the Feb. 24 guidance.
That accounted for $475.989 million of the new issue size. The remaining $124.011 million was marketed to other investors to raise new money. Guidance started at 8.25 percent area, before tightening to 7.7 percent, plus or minus 12.5 bps, and eventually printing at a cash price of 106.016 to yield 7.625 percent.
That meant the new-money tranche priced more than 100 bps inside the exchange tranche. Some questioned if the exchange could have been priced at a lower yield, but the main objective of the whole exercise was to achieve the highest possible exchange rate ahead of the DBM maturity, as well as rewarding existing bondholders. Mongolia's outstanding 2021 bonds were seen at around 6.98 percent, implying a fair value of around 8% for a seven-year issue.
The new notes are rated B-/B- (S&P/Fitch). Moody's has a Caa1 rating on Mongolia, but did not rate the new issue. HUGE IMPROVEMENT The final pricing was a huge improvement from March last year, when the Government of Mongolia sold a $500 million five-year at par to yield 10.875 percent, the highest yield on any sovereign bonds since 2011. Orders for that deal were a modest $750 million.
More than 200 accounts placed orders totalling $3.3 billion for the new $124 million tranche and, apart from the small allocations, investors had nothing to complain about when the bonds shot up to a cash price of 107.5 the next day.
"It was like trying to drive a truck through a pinhole," said a source close to the deal.
Undoubtedly, the size could have been increased, but the issuer showed prudence, given that it has just entered an IMF programme and was focused on dealing with the short-term maturity.
The existing DBM bonds were issued under Reg S only, so the new sovereigns were marketed under 144A/Reg S and allocations were weighted towards U.S. investors to ensure the broadest investor diversification.
U.S. investors took 76 percent of the new-money tranche, with European accounts next on 18 percent and Asian investors on 6 percent. Fund managers bought 90 percent of the notes, public institutions bought 7 percent, insurers and banks bought a combined 2 percent, and others bought 1 percent.
The seven-year tenor was chosen to avoid clashing with Mongolia's other existing dollar maturities, in 2018, 2021 and 2022. The next challenge will be to refinance a $500 million sovereign bond due on Jan. 5, 2018.
DBM's 2017s had traded at a cash price as low as 90 in February last year, but the agreement last month of a $5.5 billion funding deal with the IMF and other agencies, as well as the extension of a 15 billion yuan ($2.2 billion) swap line with the People's Bank of China for another three years, has helped assuage investors' concerns, at least in the medium term.
"Mongolia has a lot of potential, but it is monolithic and commodity heavy, so the challenge for the country is to diversify into other industries," said a fund manager.
Credit Suisse and JP Morgan were joint bookrunners for the transaction. SC Lowy was financial adviser to the Mongolian government.
TRQ closed -2.17% Wednesday at US$3.15, +20.23% YoY
March 8 (Reuters) Mongolia said it has no plans to change the size of its stake in the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper mine, although it is seeking to boost exploration as it works to bolster its finances following an IMF-led loan deal.
Oyu Tolgoi is jointly owned by the government of Mongolia (34 percent) and Turquoise Hill Resources (66 percent), which in turn is 51 percent-owned by mine operator Rio Tinto.
Industry insiders say there is a logic in Mongolia selling down its relatively large state holding, while Rio's stake is relatively small given that it is operator.
Asked whether Mongolia might sell some of its stake, the mining minister said there were no plans for any change for now.
"Our ministry has to find out all possible options that are good for Mongolia and within that framework we are researching all possibilities. But currently, there is no such plan, but it is something that we can watch," Mongolia mining and industry minister Dashdorj Tsedev told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Toronto.
Rio Tinto declined to comment.
Geologists and mining executives see Mongolia as one of the world's best copper prospects and some are hoping to find another Oyu Tolgoi.
Also this week, the mining and industry minister said Mongolia aimed to double the amount of land available for exploration and the country hoped to build a copper smelting plant.
975 trading +1.96% Thursday morning at HK$0.26
March 8 -- This announcement (the "Announcement") is made by Mongolian Mining Corporation (In Provisional Liquidation) (the "Company") pursuant to Rule 13.09(1) of the Rules Governing the Listing of Securities on The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (the "Listing Rules") and the Inside Information Provisions under Part XIVA of the Securities and Futures Ordinance (Cap. 571 of the Laws of Hong Kong).
References are made to the announcements of the Company dated 8 July 2016, 11 July 2016, 13 July 2016, 21 July 2016, 26 August 2016, 31 August 2016, 2 September 2016, 11 October 2016, 28 October 2016, 3 November 2016, 20 November 2016, 21 December 2016, 22 December 2016, 19 January 2017 and 23 January 2017 in relation to the proposed offshore debt restructuring of the Company (the "Debt Restructuring").
Reference is also made to the announcement of the Company dated 20 February 2017 in relation to the Convening Orders sought to grant permission for the Company to convene meetings of Noteholders for the purpose of considering, and if thought fit, approving (with or without modification) the Cayman Scheme and the Hong Kong Scheme (the "Relevant Announcement"). Unless otherwise defined herein, capitalised terms in this announcement will have the same meanings as those defined in the Relevant Announcement.
The Company is pleased to announce that further to the applications filed with the Cayman Court and the Hong Kong Court on 17 February 2017 in relation to seeking the Convening Orders, it has filed the draft scheme of arrangement, the draft explanatory statement and certain supporting documents with the Cayman Court (in respect of the Cayman Scheme) and with the High Court of Hong Kong (in respect of the Hong Kong Scheme) ahead of the Convening Hearings to be heard at 9:30 a.m. (Cayman Islands time) on 13 March 2017 in respect of the Cayman Scheme before the Cayman Court and 10:00 a.m. (Hong Kong time) on 14 March 2017 in respect of the Hong Kong Scheme before the Hong Kong Court.
Copies of certain documents filed with the Cayman Court and the Hong Kong Court are available on the Scheme Website (http://www.lynchpinbm.com/project/mongolian-mining/). These documents are in draft form, non-binding, have not been approved by the courts in Hong Kong or the Cayman Islands and are subject to the execution of definitive legal documentation, that is in form and substance satisfactory to all parties.
FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT, THE DOCUMENTS ARE NOT LEGALLY BINDING BETWEEN THE GROUP AND ITS CREDITORS. THERE CAN BE NO ASSURANCE THAT SUCH AGREEMENT CAN BE SUCCESSFULLY ACHIEVED.
Following the Convening Hearings, and subject to the Cayman Court and the Hong Kong Court granting the Convening Orders, the Scheme Documents in addition to other documents concerning the Debt Restructuring that relate to the restructuring of the Notes will be made available to the creditors in the manner prescribed by the Convening Orders, including via the Scheme Website.
The Company will publish further announcements to update the shareholders and potential investors on progress of the Debt Restructuring as and when necessary.
March 6, Mongolian Mining Corporation Ltd. (HKEx:875) -- The board of directors (the "Board") of Mongolian Mining Corporation (In Provisional Liquidation) (the "Company", and its subsidiaries, the "Group") hereby announces that a meeting of the Board of the Company will be held on Wednesday, 22 March 2017 for the purpose of considering and approving the final results of the Group for the year ended 31 December 2016 and its publication, the recommendation of a final dividend, if any, and transacting any other business.
KCC closed +3.7% Wednesday at C$0.56, +2,700% YoY
Expanding along an emerging world class copper belt
March 6, Kincora Copper Ltd. (TSX:KCC) --
* Mongolia regarded as top copper exploration ground
* Mongolia needs foreign investment
March 7 (Reuters) Canadian miner Kincora Copper plans over coming months to start exploration drilling in Mongolia, its CEO told Reuters, calling the area "one of the last frontiers" for top quality copper assets.
With technologies such as electric vehicles expected to stoke demand, the mining industry is keen to discover copper reserves as existing mines get depleted.
Kincora's CEO Sam Spring compared Mongolia to Chile, the world's largest copper producer, in the 1970s when it was still under-explored and said he hoped to find another Oyu Tolgoi, using a team with experience of finding tier-one copper assets.
Last year Rio Tinto gave the go-ahead for a $5.3 billion expansion of the Oyu Tolgoi mine in the South Gobi desert, one of the world's largest copper deposits.
"In the upcoming months, Kincora is looking to drill two targets," Spring said in a telephone interview.
One -- named Bayan Tal -- is the first identified since Oyu Tolgoi with similar geology. The other -- East Tsagaan Suvarga -- is in the same mineral system as the existing Tsagaan Suvarga mine, included in the government's list of strategic mineral deposits.
So far Kincora has 10 licences, giving it acreage of 15,000 square kilometres (5,800 square miles), and has applied for two more. Spring says the company has overtaken Rio "as the most aggressive group" exploring in this area.
Mongolia, almost entirely dependent on coal and copper for foreign export earnings, needs international investment following an IMF-led loan agreement.
It has said it plans to double the amount of land available for exploration of raw materials.
TER trading flat Thursday at A$0.03, +328.57% YoY
March 9 -- TerraCom Limited (TerraCom or the Company) (ASX: TER) is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr James (Jim) Soorley, as a Non-Executive Director, to the board of TerraCom Limited and its wholly owned subsidiary Orion Mining Pty Limited.
TerraCom Limited's Executive Chairman, Mr Cameron McRae, stated: "Mr Soorley has been a highly successful leader in local government and business, which is demonstrated through Jim being Lord Mayor of the City of Brisbane for 12 years. Jim's wealth of experience will allow him to provide guidance and leadership in stakeholder relations and management to the TerraCom team both within Australia and overseas."
Jim has a Masters of Organisational Development and Bachelor of Arts. Jim is currently the inaugural Chairman of Unitywater and Chairman of CS Energy, a Queensland Government owned electricity generator producing a third of Queensland's electricity.
Jim was until recently the inaugural Chairman for the Queensland Partnership Group (now PROPEL). He has also served on a number of key government committees and boards including the A.C.T. Land Development Agency and Brisbane International Film Festival.
In addition, to coincide with the Company's focus shift away from a potential listing or dual listing on an Asian Stock Exchange, Hwee Fang Loo has tendered her resignation as a Non-Executive Director. The Company thanks Hwee Fang Loo for her contribution during her tenure and wish her every success in her future endeavours.
Denison Reports Results from 2016 and Outlook for 2017
TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - March 8, 2017) - Denison Mines Corp. ("Denison" or the "Company") (TSX:DML)(NYSE MKT:DNN) today filed its Consolidated Financial Statements and Management's Discussion & Analysis ("MD&A") for the year ended December 31, 2016. Both documents can be found on the Company's website at www.denisonmines.com or on SEDAR (at www.sedar.com) and EDGAR (at www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml). The highlights provided below are derived from these documents and should be read in conjunction with them. All amounts in this release are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise stated.
Results of discontinued operations
In the third quarter of 2016, the Company recognized a receivable of $10,000,000, with a corresponding profit on sale of its Mongolian mining division to Uranium Industry a.s. ("Uranium Industry"), which is accounted for as a discontinued operation. The original due date for payment of the receivable from Uranium Industry was in November 2016.
Pursuant to a subsequent extension agreement between Uranium Industry and the Company, the payment due date of the receivable was extended from November 16, 2016 to July 16, 2017 ("Extension Agreement"). As consideration for the extension, Uranium Industry agreed to pay interest on the receivable amount at a rate of 5% per year, payable monthly up to July 16, 2017, and they also agreed to pay a $100,000 instalment towards the balance of the receivable. The first payment under the Extension Agreement was due on or before January 31, 2017. The required payments were not made and Uranium Industry is now in default of both the Mongolian division sale Agreement and the Extension Agreement.
On February 24, 2017, the Company served notice to Uranium Industry that it was in default of its obligations under the sale agreement and the Extension Agreement and that the receivable and all interest payable thereon are immediately due and payable. The Company intends to explore all proceedings available to it to pursue the collection of the receivable.
In light of the uncertainty regarding Uranium Industry's capability to fund its obligations, Denison has impaired the $10,000,000 receivable to $nil in the fourth quarter, resulting in an adjustment to the previously recognized net gain on sale. The adjustment to the net gain on sale has been presented within discontinued operations as it directly relates to the proceeds realized, to date, on the sale of the Mongolia mining division to Uranium Industry.
March 6 (UB Post) Mongol Bank reported on the stock value of mining companies registered on foreign stock exchanges operating in Mongolia, comparing stock value in Q4'15 and Q4'16, and reported that stock prices increased by an average of 84 percent.
The following six companies saw increases of 25 percent or more: Winsway Coking Coal (600 percent), Petro Matad (160 percent), Mongolian Mining Corp (100 percent), Mongolia Energy Corp (53 percent), Turquoise Hill Resources (27 percent), and Prophecy Coal Corp (25 percent).
The following four companies saw decreases of five percent or more: Peace Map Holding Ltd (70 percent), SouthGobi Resources (28 percent), Haranga Resources (25 percent), and Centerra Gold (five percent).
MSE Trading Report, Mar 6: Top 20 +0.68%, ALL +0.36%, Turnover ₮55.7 Million Shares, ₮582.3 Million T-Bills
March 6 (MSE) --
MSE Trading Report, Mar 7: Top 20 -1.36%, ALL -0.72%, Turnover ₮117.5M Shares, ₮12.5B T-Bill Primary, ₮329.5M Secondary
March 7 (MSE) --
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, March 7, 2017—IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Mongolian Stock Exchange are joining 43 stock exchanges around the world in a global initiative to "Ring the Bell for Gender Equality" – a partnership that highlights how the private sector can spur women's participation in the economy.
Stock exchanges from Amman, Dhaka, Lima to Yangon, Nairobi and New York are participating, ringing opening or closing bells to mark International Women's Day. In Mongolia, several prominent institutions joined IFC and the Mongolian Stock Exchange in organizing the event, including the Corporate Governance Development Center, the WomenCorporateDirectors Mongolia Chapter, and the Women Entrepreneurs' Council of the Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
"Mongolia is a regional and global exemplar of gender equality in terms of access to education, finance, economic opportunities, and wage equality," said Tuyen D. Nguyen, IFC Resident Representative for Mongolia. "While there is certainly room for improvement, even in typically male-dominated sectors like mining, as well as senior executive and board directorship roles, Mongolia scores remarkably higher than some large OECD countries."
IFC believes that women—as consumers, employees, business leaders, and entrepreneurs—have the potential to transform the global economy, supporting job creation, raising per-capita incomes, and promoting sustainable development. IFC works with companies in developing countries to generate opportunities for women while also contributing to companies' bottom lines, productivity, and growth.
"Gender equality is crucial for the world's progress and development. The Mongolian Stock Exchange is honored to be part of a global event on gender equality by hosting this bell-ringing ceremony," said Board Director D. Sarangua, who did the bell-ringing honors at the Mongolian Stock Exchange.
By leveraging our relationship with about 1,000 financial institutions and private equity funds, we help expand access to finance for women entrepreneurs. Almost 30 percent of IFC nominee directors are women.
Now in its third iteration, "Ring the Bell for Gender Equality" event series is a partnership of IFC, Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, the UN Global Compact, UN Women, Women in ETF, and the World Federation of Stock Exchanges.
Reds are when MNT fell, greens when it rose. Bold reds are rates that set a new historic high at the time.
USD (blue), CNY (red) vs MNT in last 1 year:
March 6 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 281 billion at a weighted interest rate of 14.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/
March 7 (Bank of Mongolia) Spot trade: Commercial banks bid weighted average rate of MNT2461.91 for USD 0.5 million, asked weighted average rate of MNT2467.29 for USD41.3 million and bid weighted average rate of MNT354.24 for CNY13.5 million respectively. The BoM bought USD31.5 million with a closing rate of MNT2467.55.
Swap and forward trade: The BoM received buying bid offers of USD2.0 million of MNT swap agreements from commercial banks and the BoM did not accept the bid offers.
March 6 (Jargal Defacto) Reviewed news:
1. IMF's Extended Fund Facility: Will the economy improve or not.
2. Bank of Mongolia books to be audited.
3. Former MPs arrested in connection with DBM
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) On March 7, Tuesday, a forum was hosted at Chinggis Hotel for the citizens' consultative campaign 'People's View' organized by Mongolian Media Corp LLC with aim to review the outcome of Mongolian President's activities during his tenure.
More than 450 'People's experts', individuals chosen through a random sampling method by 'MEC' research center partook in the forum at which President Ts.Elbegdorj was present.
Other attendants of the forum included Ts.Bayarsaikhan, Chief of Staff of President, L.Purevsuren, Foreign Policy advisor to President, A.Ganbaatar, Public Relations Advisor to President, L.Zolbaatar, Director of 'MEC' research center and L.Badamdash, CEO of Mongolian Media Corp LLC.
The forum addressed President Ts.Elbegdorj's activities in foreign relations, defense and national security during the last 8 years, the output, initiatives made in these areas and how the reputation of Mongolia stands on the international platform today.
The morning session began as President's Foreign Policy advisor and former Minister of Foreign Affairs L.Purevsuren made a presentation on the President's activities in foreign relations field during his tenure, and concluded with question and answer session. The participating citizens were also able to relay their judgment and opinion.
President Ts.Elbegdorj made an appearance at the afternoon session of the forum to take questions from the representatives of the people of Mongolia.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) On March 7, the Cabinet approved the National Program on Fight Against the Circulation of Narcotic Drugs and Psychoactive Substances. The documents aims to establish a general system to monitor drug use, combat illegal distribution and identifying the sources, as well as voluntary and compulsory rehabilitation.
Within the past decade, 388 cases were reported of cooking psychoactive substances, illegally acquiring, possessing, carrying, sending, selling and smuggling of drugs, 1,112 people were interrogated.
The drug trafficking methods have been becoming more inventive, including sending narcotics by post packages, hiding in electronics and food products, using other people's accounts to pay bills of illegal purchasing and many others.
The associated ministers were tasked to raise funding from donors, international financial organizations and private sector for implementation of the program.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) On March 6, Monday, Parliament Speaker M.Enkhbold bestowed the Order of Red Banner of Labor to its recipients, Parliament Member, Head of Parliamentary Standing Committee on State Structure N.Enkhbold and Parliament Member, Head of Sub-committee on Budgetary Control Z.Narantuya.
On the occasions of traditional Tsagaan Sar (Lunar New Year) festivity, the 2226th anniversary of the First Mongolian State, 811th anniversary of Great Mongol Empire, 106th anniversary of Victory of National Liberation Movement and the Restoration of Independence and 96th anniversary of the People's Revolution, some Parliament Members were bestowed the honorary order for their long-time commitment.
Parliament Members N.Enkhbold and Z.Narantuya hadn't received their medals during Tsagaan Sar because they were working in their respective constituencies.
Ulaanbaatar, March 8 (MONTSAME) Following tradition, March 8, International Women's Day is being observed as a public holiday in Mongolia with the whole country celebrating the day on every household level.
On March 7, Tuesday, Parliament Speaker M.Enkhbold received representatives of female government officials to greet them on the occasion. He said, "From time to time, Mongolian women have worked in every sector, serving the society and solidifying their glory. Included among them are women working in public organizations of all levels".
According to statistics, 59.4 percent of public servants in Mongolia are women. And out of 76 Members of Parliament, 13 or 17.1 percent are women. The percentage is the highest among the previous 6 Parliaments in the modern history of Mongolia.
The Speaker said, "I extend my greetings to every Mongolian woman, and wish happiness and prosperity. Happy International Women's Day!". Present at the meeting were Member of Parliament, Minister of Environment and Tourism D.Oyunkhorol, Members of Parliament G.Munkhtsetseg, Z.Narantuya, D.Sarangerel and B.Undarmaa, Minister of Health A.Tsogtsetseg and others.
Ulaanbaatar, March 8 (MONTSAME) On the occasion of International Women's Day, an honorary assembly themed 'Admirable Mongolian Mother' was held at the State House on March 7, Tuesday, gathering mothers, representatives of 1.5 million Mongolian women from across the nation.
The assembly was attended by Prime Minister of Mongolia J.Erdenebat, Parliament Speaker M.Enkhbold and female Members of Parliament. Prime Minister J.Erdenebat bowed before the gathered mothers, and began his speech with a cordial greeting.
"Stories about heroic Mongolian women who have contributed to governing and making of this nation remain eternally carved in the hearts of Mongolian people. Descendants of those glorious queens, the women of modern Mongolia continue to uphold their duties and thrive for success", the Prime Minister said, appreciating the role and presence of women in every sector.
In his speech, the Prime Minister touched upon certain measures and policy changes directed at increasing the number of women in the workforce, ensuring social guarantee, and enforcing gender equality reflected in the current Cabinet's 2016-2020 action plan.
He noted, "Despite of economic difficulties, the Government is working to maintain the social welfare policy concerning women, mothers and children". During the forum, nine mothers were named an 'Admirable Mongolian Mother', and were rewarded for their contribution to the country.
March 6 (UB Post) The State Housing Corporation will launch the second registration for the State Rental Housing Program on March 31 and April 1.
Reportedly, 214 three-room apartments in Buyant Ukhaa-2 residential area and 146 three-room apartments in provincial centers are available for rent. Residential lease agreements are for a five-year term.
Under the revised procedures of the program, people above the age of 21, who don't own an apartment or house with the intention to live permanently in the area, and have financial means to pay the deposit and utility bills are eligible to apply.
To apply, applicants must bring a notarized copy of their ID card, a valid proof of current residential address, application, and a notarized copy of income statement.
Newly married couples under the age of 35, public servants, self-employed people, employees of private companies, families with more than four children under the age of 18, single parents, old age pension applicants, and those living with disabilities and their caretakers, as well as people who became homeless after a natural disaster will be preferred, according to the requirements for applicants.
A total of 3,359 people applied in the first registration for the State Rental Housing Program, held between March 21 and 30 in 2016, but only 1,443 were accepted.
March 7 (World Bank) --
March 7 (UB Post) During the Soviet era in Mongolia, herders were awarded by the state for their productivity and success, just as those in other fields of labor. Meritocracy was a big part of what made the Soviet system successful in Mongolia, as there was no private property and everything was owned by the state. Hence, it was fair – and even wise – for the state to award those who were best at increasing its assets and wealth.
But what we see now is blatant pandering to herders by politicians, who make up the majority of rural voters in Mongolia. Politicians never lose an opportunity to praise herders and give them awards and support. They know that when herders are happy, those who are in power in the provinces are likely to stay in power.
Before Tsagaan Sar, the President awarded state titles to horse trainers. "The Year of the Monkey, bestowed upon us by the heavens, is coming to a close. And during this good age, when the Year of the Generous Red Rooster is coming, I want to wish the greatest of fortune and goodness to you – honorable horse trainers, who bear the longstanding nomadic culture and defend and uphold horse culture – from the bottom of my heart," said President Ts.Elbegdorj after granting them state titles.
In many more eloquently phrased words, the President linked horse training to Mongolia's nomadic roots and historic conquests, which were won on horseback.
Furthermore, during Tsagaan Sar, Mongolia's top legislators and government ministers went around the provinces and awarded medals, cash grants, gers, and other items to herders who had successfully increased the size of their herds.
Herders with thousands of sheep, goats, cows, and horses get gers and money from state officials as rewards for their success, while struggling herders in the northern and north-western regions of the country await aid from international organizations and local governments to feed their livestock.
Is it right for the state to give prizes paid with taxpayer money to herders who have expanded the sizes of their herds when herders don't even pay income taxes? Herders are always given priority treatment by the state over laborers in other fields. They don't have to pay income taxes or royalties for using state-owned land for grazing; when they face risks such as dzud, the state provides aid and bailouts; when they need money, the state offers soft loans just for herders; and when they want to retire, their social insurance grants account for more than everyone else's.
What do herders give back to the nation in return for all this support? Their main products are meat, dairy, and wool. According to the National Statistical Office website, there are over 61 million livestock (with this number expected to rise to 80 million this spring) in Mongolia and only three million people. Yet, when overgrazing is a problem and people need to eat through animals to balance out the livestock population, meat prices are still too high for most families in the city. National dairy products such as aaruul, a staple of Tsagaan Sar, cost over 12,000 MNT per kg. These products need to be a part of the everyday consumption of Mongolian households to boost domestic production, but the majority of families in Mongolia cannot afford to pay 12,000 MNT for a bag of aaruul every month, let alone every day. And lastly, Mongolian cashmere and wool clothing is overpriced and overrated and has become a luxury reserved for rich Mongolians and people from wealthy foreign countries.
A very simple dilemma exists in Mongolia today: why is the industry which is the least economically productive receiving the most state benefits? Shouldn't the state be trying to invest in economically productive industries in this time of economic decline, when so many families are trying to get from one day to another on their last penny?
When politicians award herders, they glorify them and say they are Mongolia's "cultural identity" and praise them as "guardians of Mongolia's vast land". From an economic perspective, they drain Mongolia's pasture lands, harming the environment just as mining does, and they contribute much less to the nation's development than the average worker in Ulaanbaatar.
It is no surprise that there have not been any major innovations in Mongolian animal husbandry in the last few centuries, as herders only needed to open their hand and ask the state for favors. They have never had to look for alternative practices in animal husbandry to improve productivity and minimize and prepare for risks such as dzud.
Why do laborers grinding away day after day in Ulaanbaatar have to give up a share of their income (that share will likely increase thanks to the bailout deal the government signed with the IMF), while some herders in the countryside receive state benefits paid for with taxpayer money?
Taxpayers, who are always too busy working to speak up for their rights, need to realize that they are just as entitled to state benefits as herders, if not more so. The state should not give preferential treatment to some industries for such unsubstantiated values as "cultural significance". Herding is not the only honorable profession in Mongolia.
By Julian Dierkes
I recently wrote that year-over-year changes in the Corruption Perception Index for Mongolia didn't mean much, and also tried to benchmark corruption in Mongolia against post-state socialist countries, resource economies and democracies.
Now, Transparency International offers some more information in their "Asia Pacific – Global Corruption Barometer".
First – as I do often – a quick note on methods.
Figures reported in the GCB are based on face-to-face surveys conducted in Mongolia in December 2015 (Nov 25 2015 – Jan 2 2016). 1,500 respondents were interviewed.
A number of reported measures come with caveats, often involving Mongolia. For example, questions regarding whether corruption had become better or worse were not asked in Mongolia and no explanation was given why that might have been the case.
"TNS" is listed as having conducted the survey in Mongolia.
Reports of Bribes Actually Low for Mongolia
At the broadest level, the survey reports that 20% of Mongolians report having paid a bribe. That is remarkable and worth noting.
World Bank country manager Jim Anderson notes this right away:
It is worth looking at this regional comparison a bit more closely. Transparency International colours its map by deciles, i.e. 0-10% reporting paying bribe, 11-20%, etc.
Alternatively, let's group countries with very low corruption, i.e. under 7%: Japan (0,3%), Hong Kong 2%, South Korea (3%), Australia (4%), Taiwan (6%). I imagine that Singapore and New Zealand would also be in this group had they been included.
Then there is a jump to Sri Lanka (15%), Mongolia (20%), Malaysia (23%) and China (26%).
After that, reported figures jump to nearly a third of respondents (Indonesia 32%), and rise all the way to over two thirds of Indians reporting having paid a bribe.
Note that all the low-corruption countries are the Asian OECD countries plus Taiwan and Hong Kong. The very high figure for India, on the other hand, suggests that levels of bribe-paying are not necessarily strictly related to per capita GDP.
What could we best call Mongolia's group of 15-26% reported bribe paying? Moderately corrupt? Not bad company for Mongolia to be in, but clearly this points to a lot of room for improvement.
Perception of Government Efforts
One of the areas where the Mongolian results are much less encouraging is the perception that the government doing badly in combatting corruption. At 61% of Mongolians responding with this assessment, the sense in the population is obviously that the government is part of the problem, not the solution. This is especially discouraging as the survey was conducted at a time of a DP government. The DP and especially President Elbegdorj has always laid claim to anti-corruption as a central differences with the MPP. The electorate is obviously not impressed by these claims.
It should be noted that the same countries where citizens report low levels of bribe-paying also report high levels of dissatisfaction with government measures against corruption. Along with Mongolia that is South Korea (76% "government doing badly"), Malaysia (62%), Japan (60%). This assessment is also high in some countries where corruption is rampant, for example Cambodia with 56% saying the government is doing badly with 40% reporting having paid a bribe.
Clearly, the relationship between paying bribes, perception of corruption, and government action is in no ways a direct/linear one, as I have long suspected for the CPI and other measures.
Adding to this negative perception of government efforts is Mongolians' sense that "ordinary people" have limited impact in the fight against corruption. 51% of Mongolians disagree with the statement "Ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption". That is the highest figure across the region except for Pakistan (67%). Note that on this question as well, Mongolia is similar to Japan (51%) and Malaysia (55%).
I still believe that corruption has a lot of potential for mobilizing Mongolians and also for causing some major shift in party politics, along with air pollution as an issue. My belief in this regard does not seem to be confirmed by these figures, however.
Where do Mongolians Pay Bribes?
Mongolian respondents clearly identified the police and public hospitals as places where they paid more bribes than in schools or for registration and other administrative tasks. Note that Mongolians were not asked about utilities or the courts.
The identification of the police as a weak link in anti-corruption efforts seems fairly common across the Asia Pacific region.
Corruption is a complex challenge. Talking about it more is not a cure-all and, ironically, the case of Mongolia perhaps demonstrates that greater awareness of corruption may go hand-in-hand with lower prevalence (or vice-versa).
The complex causal relationships around perception and actual prevalence of corruption, as well as the efficacy of anti-corruption efforts, to me suggests that even more than with other global indices, the various measures used by Transparency International are of very limited meaning. At best, they may be pointing to trends over time, at worst, they seem to be subject to popular mood swings and really suffer from a lack of country-to-country comparability.
But, at the same time, corruption is a scourge on Mongolia and there are no significantly better ways of measuring it available in a consistent manner.
DP members in Bayanzurkh District protest mayoral appointment
Summary: Last Thursday, E. Bat-Amgalan was appointed Mayor of Bayanzurkh by the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar S. Batbold. After the announcement of his appointment, members of the DP in Bayanzurkh District held protests in objection. In the election for the Citizen's Representative Council, the DP won 22 seats and the MPP won 19 seats. After the election, six of the newly elected DP candidates were accused of violating the Law on Elections and the Bayanzurkh Criminal Court decided that five out of the six candidates accused had violated the law. While holding the majority of seats, the MPP nominated a candidate for the district. A new Citizen's Representative Council election will take place in October to fill the five open seats, and if the DP wins the seats, the DP will have the authority to hold a new vote to nominate a new mayor.
Keywords: DP, elections, Bayanzurkh District | Today /page A2/
Visa-free travel agreement signed with Albania
Summary: Minister of Foreign Affairs Ts. Munkh-Orgil participated in the 34th session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations and delivered remarks. While in Switzerland, Minister Ts. Munkh-Orgil met with the Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati, and signed an agreement for visa-free travel between the two countries for official and diplomatic passport holders. The Minister also met with the Director- General of the UN Office in Geneva Michael Møller and Zeid bin Ra'Ad, the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, to discuss relations and partnership between the two parties.
Keywords: bilateral relations, Albania, foreign affairs | Today /page A2/
Mongolia in the spotlight at PDAC convention in Toronto
Summary: The Prospectors & Development Association of Canada (PDAC) International Convention, Trade Show & Investors Exchange launched yesterday in Toronto, and will finish on March 8. Representatives from the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry and representatives from Mongolia's leading mining companies are participating in the event. At the "Mongolia for Stability: Building a better mining country, unlocking its true potential" forum, a session was held to discuss measures being taken in Mongolia to attract investors, and to increase competitive advantages and new opportunities for investment and projects. During the forum, the Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry, the Head of the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Authority, the ambassadors of Mongolia and Canada, and representatives from Erdenes Mongol, Oyu Tolgoi, Steppe Gold and other companies are set to give presentations.
Keywords: PDAC, Canada, investment | The Century News /page 1/
Loans will be granted to responsible mining sector companies
Summary: The government is set to grant loans to companies that take part in the Gold-2 program. The loans issued will have lower interest rates than loans issued by commercial banks, and will be given to companies that are engaged in the rehabilitation and restoration of land used for exploration and excavation. The Mongolian Gold Producers Association has requested that 200 billion MNT in financing be included in the budget for the Gold -2 program. The necessary capital will come from loans, bonds, and grants from international organizations and foreign governments. Through the program, gold production is expected to reach 25 tons by 2020.
Keywords: Gold-2, loans, mining | Today /page B1/
AmCham Mongolia to organize AmCham Mentor Day
Summary: AmCham Mongolia will organize its second annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, AmCham Mentor Day 2017. AmCham Mentor Day 2017 is a day-long mentoring event giving students the opportunity to learn from the nation's top business leaders and to attend workshops on career development, confidence building, and teamwork, as well as resume development, led by the human resource directors of Mongolia's leading companies. Third and 4th year university students are eligible to apply for AmCham Mentor Day 2017.
Keywords: AmCham, CSR, mentorship | www.ikon.mn
State budget deficit significantly decreases
Summary: The National Statistical Office reported that the state's budget deficit decreased by three-fold. In January 2016, the budget deficit stood at 80 billion MNT, and as of January of this year, the deficit stood at 25 billion MNT. According to reports released by the Ministry of Finance, budget revenue increased by 60 billion MNT, reaching 360 billion MNT. The doubling of income tax revenue and a significant increase in other taxes paid led to the decrease in the deficit. Excise tax revenue rose by 10 billion MNT and VAT revenue rose by 12 billion MNT, but social insurance revenue decreased by 9.7 billion MNT. The state's expenditure and debt reached 465.9 billion MNT, an increase of 50.9 billion MNT compared to last year. The budget deficit was planned to be 3.4% of GDP at the start of 2016, but the deficit reached almost 20% of GDP at 3.6 trillion MNT. This year, the budget deficit is forecasted to not exceed 9.1% of GDP (2.4 trillion MNT), and judging by the results from the first report of the year, the budget deficit target is expected to be met.
Keywords: state budget, National Statistical Office | The Official Gazette /page 17/
Khuraldai bond price increases
Summary: The price of the Khuraldai bond newly released by the Government of Mongolia rose to 108 USD in the secondary market. The new 600 million USD bond's nominal price is 100 USD, with an 8.75% interest rate and a seven-year term. The majority of the 580 million USD Development Bank Euro bondholders agreed to exchange 476 million USD in bonds for the new government-backed Khuraldai bond. The remaining amount, totaling 124 million USD, was introduced to new investors, creating high demand in the secondary market. According to some sources, the remaining amount of Development Bank's bond debt will be paid by March 9.
Keywords: bonds, GoM | The Official Gazette /page 17/
Gobi Cashmere's 2016 profits reach 16.1 billion MNT
Summary: Gobi Cashmere's sales revenue increased by 24% in 2016, reaching 88.6 billion MNT, and profits rose by 50%, reaching 16.1 billion MNT. In 2016, Gobi opened stores in Germany, and they opened stores in China and Belgium in 2017, increasing their export by 30%. The Mongolian Stock Exchange reported that the company's stock profit per share increased by 1.5 times.
Keywords: cashmere, exports, MSE | The Official Gazette /page 17/
Fitch labels Mongolia's commercial banks as high risk
Summary: Fitch Ratings reported that even though Mongolia and the IMF reached a staff-level agreement on an extended fund facility, Mongolia's commercial banks are still under pressure. Fitch notes that the agreement with the IMF will help in meeting immediate external debt obligations and also reduce some of the short-term macroeconomic risks faced by commercial banks. Even though Mongolian commercial banks are able to operate in the Asia-Pacific region and raise capital from the international market, due to their exposure to government-related entities, weak operating environment, likelihood of asset quality deterioration, and the possibility of tighter enforcement of laws and regulations, Mongolian commercial banks are seen as risky. In the mid-term, as the economy stabilizes, the profitability of the banks is expected to recover. In the short term, the pressure on the banking system is set to continue and Fitch believes that the government must make the financial and economic market more free. Last February, Fitch Ratings decided to keep Mongolia's credit rating at "B-".
Keywords: Fitch, commercial banking, credit ratings | www.ikon.mn
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO, MARCH 6 (Reuters) Mineral-rich Mongolia plans to double the amount of land available for exploration in an effort to tap into the mining industry's appetite for new resources and help shore up its finances following an IMF-led bailout.
Mongolia will increase the land to 20.9 percent of the country from 9.6 percent currently, and could announce the change later this month, the minister of mining and heavy industry, Dashdorj Tsedev, said in an interview on Monday.
Miners say Mongolia ranks as one of the best prospects in the world for new copper reserves, as the best quality ore bodies in many other parts of the world have been depleted and electric vehicles raise the possibility of a surge in demand.
The expansion reflects improved geological surveys, and the land open for exploration could increase as further improvements are made, the minister said at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto.
"A big amount of land will be up for exploration and license," said Tsedev, speaking through a translator, adding that ecologically sensitive areas are excluded.
The land-locked country is home to Rio Tinto's massive Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine. Rio decided in June to go ahead with a $5.3 billion expansion, which will take five to seven years.
The mine will eventually be responsible for around 30 percent of the economy, Rio said, but direct benefits for Mongolia will be delayed. According to a 2009 agreement, investors must recoup their original investment costs before Mongolia can collect dividends for its 34 percent shareholding in the mine.
Mongolia's economy grew at a double-digit annual rate over 2011-2013 as foreign investors rushed in to take advantage of its vast untapped mineral deposits, but it has been hit hard by an economic crisis since 2016 due to government overspending and declining revenues from commodity exports.
Slowing demand for coal and copper, Mongolia's chief exports, and a plunge in foreign investment have left the world's most sparsely populated sovereign country with soaring debts and a rapidly declining currency, forcing government to hike interest rates and slash spending.
A plan to develop oil refining capabilities could see Mongolia enhance its energy security, curb its energy import bill and broaden the scope of its manufacturing industry.
March 7 (Oxford Business Group) The proposed refinery, to be located in the Sainshand soum (district) in the province of Dornogovi, is forecast to cost around $700m, with a further $264m to be spent on pipelines needed to bring crude to the plant from local fields.
A decent proposal
According to the proposal, which was approved by the Cabinet at the end of last year, the facility will have a yearly processing capacity of 1.5m tonnes. Its output is projected to comprise 560,000 tonnes of petrol, 670,000 tonnes of diesel and 107,000 tonnes of liquefied natural gas.
This should meet all of Mongolia's petrol and diesel needs for the immediate future, with a heavy emphasis on diesel production reflecting a reliance on heavy-duty vehicles, particularly in the extraction sector, which accounts for close to 20% of GDP and more than 80% of exports.
In late December the government announced it was seeking approval from the Import-Export Bank of India to utilise a $1bn loan for the construction of the refinery and associated infrastructure.
The credit, agreed upon last year during a visit to Mongolia by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was extended to help develop the country's rail network and general infrastructure.
Security of supply
One of the driving forces behind Mongolia's plans to develop local refining capacity is a broader concern about energy security.
Although Mongolia produces around 8m barrels of crude a year – most of which it extracts from the Dornod fields in the east of the country – it does not have any significant refining capacity. As such, virtually all of the current output from Mongolia's operational oil fields is exported to China, and the country fulfils 97% of its processed hydrocarbons needs via imports, mainly from Russia.
Last year Mongolia imported 1.2m tonnes of petroleum from the country, of which 800,000 tonnes was supplied by Russian state-owned firm Rosnet, according to official figures.
In addition to saving as much as $1bn a year in import costs, the new refinery could help boost Mongolia's GDP by 10%, according to statements from the Cabinet. Initial projections put the facility's turnover at $1.2bn per year, with extra tax revenues and net profits expected to reach $150m and $43m per year, respectively.
Feedstock for the refinery is expected to come, at least initially, from the Dornod fields, located 545 km to the north-west of the site of the proposed plant, though other reserves will have to be developed over time to maintain supply while still meeting export commitments to China.
Upstream meets downstream
The development of a major hydrocarbons processing facility could have broader implications for Mongolia's industrial development. According to the Ministry of Finance, up to 30 separate manufacturing lines, ranging from rubber products and plastics, to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, could be established if a domestic refinery were in place.
The presence of a downstream facility could also spur investment in Mongolia's upstream sector, which experienced a drop-off in interest following the fall in crude prices in the late 2000s. With a ready domestic market for refined products, more of Mongolia's fields could become financially viable in the future.
Mongolia has identified 332m tonnes of oil reserves; however, only 42.6m tonnes are technically available for extraction, according to data from the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry.
Long in the pipeline
The plan to build an oil refinery is by no means new, with similar proposals mooted since the 1990s. More recently, there was a scheme to develop a refinery at Darkhan-Uul aimag (province) in northern Mongolia with an annual capacity of 1.7m tonnes of crude and an output of petrol, diesel and aviation fuel.
A feasibility study for the for the $1.5bn refinery was completed in November 2013; however, in early 2014 Mongolia's National Security Council struck down the plan due to its expected reliance on feedstock imports from Russia.
As the latest refinery initiative includes plans to build a pipeline connecting it to Mongolia's native crude supply in Dornod, a need for foreign imports should not be a sticking point.
While a refinery could help Mongolia fulfil its own basic fuel requirements, expansion of its industrial base will increase the need for more advanced products, such as lubricants and additives. Unless additional production lines are established at the proposed Sainshand refinery, Mongolia will still have to rely on imports for some oil-based products.
Ulaanbaatar, March 6 (MONTSAME) Law on Pledge of Tangible and Intangible Movable Property has entered into effect starting March 01, 2017. The purpose of the law is to regulate the rights and legal interests of the parties to transaction involving the pledge of movable and intangible properties.
In addition, the law aims to increase economic efficiency and to ease access to new financial resources. Prior to the enactment of this Movables Pledge Law, the Mongolian Civil Code was the main reference point and a principal governing law for transactions involving the pledge of movable and intangible property.
Due to the lack of detailed guidance and regulation regarding the pledging of movable and tangible properties, the most common pledge security became immovable property; thus, shutting out a vast whole array of properties from the economy.
Now, under the Movables Pledge Law any movable and intangible property can be pledged as long as the property can be validly used in civil transactions, is physically present or is not yet readily available; such properties include all types of shares and securities, receivables, intellectual property rights, and other intangible properties.
March 6 (UB Post) Mongol Bank decided on February 10 that it will omit 25,621 loans from its loan database, and the loans will not be included in any credit references issued by the bank.
The following criteria were set for the loans that will be omitted:
1. The loan must have a duration of less than one year
2. The loan must not be more than 12 times the minimum wage
3. The loan must not have a record of more than one default prior to January 31, 2017
This decision has been described by Mongol Bank as a one-time policy decision. Central bank officials say that is designed to give citizens and businesses equal opportunities to receive financial services.
Although there are no laws restricting citizens and businesses with outstanding loans from applying for new loans, many banks and financial institutions avoid issuing loans to high risk borrowers. Mongol Bank's omission of specific loans from its loan database will benefit the credit scores of borrowers looking to borrow again in the future
March 6 (news.mn) Mongolia Gold 2017 Conference and Exhibition will be held on 17th of March in Ulaanbaatar. The event is being organised by the Mongolian Mining Exchange in cooperation with Ministry of Mining and Heavy industry, Mongolbank, BCM and HKIMA.
The conference is intended to discuss a wide range of issues connected with the gold mining sector and plans to set goals for seeking ways to improve and stabilise the legal environment for gold mining. The event will address solutions to the recent financial concerns of recent years. Related to this, the government is to implement "Gold-2" project, to introduce gold projects to investors as well as advanced technologies, expand business relations and cooperation, and exchange international experience.
"Gold-2" was approved by the Mongolian Cabinet as a key part of the raft of measures revive the economy; it aims on increasing gold production by two to three tonnes annually, leading up annual production of 25 tonnes by 2020. Mongolian gold export is forecast to reach 15.8-40.0 tonnes in the next decade and gold revenue going to USD 1177.9 million by 2020.
"Mongolia Gold 2017" forum will take place – Montsame, March 6
March 8 (Asia Foundation) In Mongolia, informal businesses make up a significant portion of the business sector, and play an important role in driving the vast country's local economies. While the female-to-male labor force participation rate in the formal sector is relatively high compared to other countries in the region, steep challenges for women in business remain in the areas of developing solid networks, gaining technical information on how to develop and grow a business, and accessing financial support for entrepreneurial activities.
The Asia Foundation recently opened the first-ever Women's Business Center Incubation project, funded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency, to support a rising number of women-owned businesses, and to provide an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs to receive high-quality business support services.
As we mark International Women's Day, we followed one of the clients of the new business center, 60-year-old Gerelee (who two years ago started a micro-business in the capital, Ulanabattar) to learn about the challenges in starting a business, and the impact that the center has had on her ability to expand her business and grow her profit. Photos by Davaanyam Delgerjargal.
Like many Mongolians, Gerelee migrated from the countryside to Ulaanbaatar in 2002 in search of economic opportunity. Once she had moved, Gerelee applied for a loan to open a small business but was rejected three times—the first time because she had no collateral, the second time because she had a low credit rating, and a third time because she was retired. This is a typical cycle of events for women entrepreneurs in Mongolia, even though women-owned micro, small, and medium enterprises make significant contributions to the economy. Women entrepreneurs face a range of financial and nonfinancial challenges in realizing their growth potential and, according to an Asia Foundation survey, are more likely than their male counterparts to cite access to finance as a major or severe constraint on their business operations.
Despite being rejected for the loan, Gerelee persisted and tapped into her savings to start a small cooperative, using second-hand materials to make and sell household products such as gloves from old clothes, stoves out of old oil barrels, flower pots from used tires, and stools, bins, brooms, and sieves from plastic bottles. Gerelee's business provides a source of employment for her husband, son in law and two daughters, one of whom is a single mother to three children who was unable to find employment until now. The cooperative also provides employment for two additional women from the neighborhood with disabilities who found themselves in a similar situation to Gerelee's daughter.
Mongolian winters are long and harsh with temperatures dropping to -30 degrees Celsius. Instead of burning coal for heat, her family burns pine nut shells and wood fragments, which are free of cost and more environmentally friendly. In the summertime, the cooperative grows its own vegetables to sell in the neighborhood grocery store. Many members of Gerelee's neighborhood struggle to afford items for cooking and cleaning, so she uses a system where people can take the items they need and pay later when they have the money. Here, Gerelee holds some of the small wood fragments that her family burns during the wintertime to keep warm.
In September 2016, Gerelee joined the Women's Business Center to help expand her existing business. The center has helped her gain access to new markets, link with other women starting their own businesses, and increase her profit margin. Gerelee has used the Women's Business Centre training courses and consulting services on product innovation, creative marketing, accounting, formulating a new business plan, and improving customer experience. Through these courses, she was able to turn her existing business into a more profitable venture. After participating in a training on product innovation, Gerelee consulted the WBC staff, and with their assistance created a three-in-one product consisting of three small bags of barley, traditional butter, and traditional oatmeal in one large bag. Initially, Gerelee was selling each of these products in one-kilogram bags but has found the new product sells much better.
Gerelee sells her products at the recent WBC pop-up shop for the Mongolian New Year. Gaining access to financial services was one of the biggest hurdles Gerelee faced in starting her business, and the WBC helps address challenges that women entrepreneurs like Gerelee experience in accessing financing. Through the project's partner organization, the Golomt Bank, the WBC provides mentoring, ongoing loan training, and loan advisory services. In this way, the project seeks to reduce the barriers women face when accessing a loan and increasing their access to financial services.
By strengthening women-run micro, small, and medium businesses like Gerelee's, the Women's Business Center is expanding economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs and women employees that will result in growing investments, a more diverse economy, and more competitive industries across Mongolia.
Ashleigh Griffiths is an economic development officer for The Asia Foundation in Mongolia and is currently participating in the Australian Volunteers for International Development, an Australian Government Initiative. Uyanga Sainbayar is The Asia Foundation's Project Support Officer for women's empowerment in Mongolia. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funder.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) The ministry of Road and Transportation Development has started examination on all railway freight forwarding companies regarding their implementation of relevant laws, regulations, rules and meeting standards and requirements.
For this reason certificates of 82 freight forwarding companies are under suspension. The Ministry announced that the companies should apply for the examination within March 17.
March 7 (news.mn) "Modern Nomads", the well-known Mongolian restaurant chain has recently introduced its "Black Burger Factory" in Ulaanbaatar. Black Burger is newest trend all over the world. "Burger King Japan" first unveiled the "Kuro Burger"—which translates as "black burger", which features a dark black bun, a slice of black cheese, and, for an extra dose of darkness, the onion-garlic sauce is made with squid ink.
"Modern Nomads" restaurant offers Black Burgers with double beef for meet lovers, "Brown Burger" for dieters and "Steak Burger" for chili lovers. The chain will deliver Black burgers to customers within a 500 meter radius of the Central Cultural Palace from 1st of April. The Black Burger Factory is located behind the Central Cultural Palace in the building of the 'Mongolyn Unen' newspaper - just next to Sukhbaatar Square.
E-Mart has ambitious plans to boost exports
March 7 (Korea JoongAng Daily) Korean discount chain E-Mart unveiled a plan on Monday to increase exports by 65 percent to 53 billion won ($46 million) this year, with the ultimate goal of hitting 100 billion won by 2018.
The retailer already began shipments to the Philippines in January and is preparing to start exporting to Japan, England, Thailand and Taiwan between late March and April. This will increase the number of export countries to 15 by this year's first half.
"In the second half, we're talking with companies in Uzbekistan, Russia and the Netherlands," said Shim Jin-bo, a manager at E-Mart's global business team. "The goal is to reach 20 countries by the end of this year."
Last year, the retailer raised 32 billion won from exports to 10 markets including China, Hong Kong, the United States, Singapore and Australia. Its sales grew 100 times compared to 2013, when it first began exporting products to Hong Kong.
The government last year named the top Korean discount chain a "certified trading company," a title that is only granted to companies that achieve over $1 million in exports in a year. Another mandatory requirement is that among the exported products, over 30 percent has to be from other companies. E-Mart was the first discount retailer to gain the title.
The company's overseas advancement is not only beneficial for E-Mart but also for its suppliers who fill the discount chain's shelves. Around 45 percent of all sales earned from exports last year were generated by products from small and midsize companies. E-Mart wants eventually to increase this to 50 percent.
The retailer is sending products to consumer markets through two ways: by establishing E-Mart branches abroad, such as in Vietnam and Mongolia, and signing partnerships with local retail companies such as China's Alibaba and NetEase. This year, E-Mart plans to pursue partnerships with local wholesalers as well.
In January, E-Mart began sending Korean-grown fresh food to Mongolia via plane. This will likely benefit Korean farmers, whose revenue mostly comes from the domestic market.
"Expanding our global sales channel is a good opportunity to generate networks and accumulate know-how in global exports through which we can introduce quality products in Korea," E-Mart CEO Lee Gap-su said.
March 7 (CONTROLS Group) From the 16th to the 17th of March will be held the "5th Road Expo Mongolia", the International Exhibition and Conference on New Technique & Technology in Road, in Ulaanbaatar - Mongolia.
The event, organized by Ministry of Road and Transportation of Mongolia , Mongolia Road Association and The Federal Higway Research Institute, will host experts and consultants from USA, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Russian federation, Italy.
CONTROLS Group will be present with a booth to meet all visitors and to speak about the IPC Global/CONTROLS latest technologies, the equipment of the new Advanced pavementes testing division of CONTROLS Group.
Come to visit us at booth no.16!
For further information see the exhibition website here.
March 7 (JLL) Featuring 315 individual units set across 16 storeys, the Residences are the first Singaporean-led development in Mongolia, featuring top-of-the-line construction and design unrivaled by competitors.
The Property offers multiple investment scenarios including operation as a hotel/serviced apartment with complementary facilities, or a multi-family residence, taking advantage of the burgeoning expatriate market in the city. The units can also be separated and sold individually on a strata basis, regardless of operating strategy.
Key investment highlights include:
- Institutional-quality asset with multiple investment strategies
- Rare opportunity in a strategic Asian frontier market with rapid economic growth forecast over the coming years
- Available on a Freehold basis
- Newly built & quality Singaporean-led design
- Located in a lively shopping district that is a focus for regeneration and future development
- Limited competition in the surrounding district
- Increasing housing demand from a rapidly urbanising population
March 6 (UB Post) Members of the Democratic Party have spoken out against the March 2 appointment of E.BatAmgalan as Mayor of Bayanzurkh District. The opposition to the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar's appointment follows a hotly contested election for seats on the district's Citizen's Representative Council.
In the October 2016 elections for the Citizen's Representative Council, the Democratic Party (DP) won 22 seats on the Bayanzurkh District council and the Mongolian People's Party (MPP) won 19 seats.
Following the announcement of the result of the election, complaints were filed alleging that six of the newly elected DP candidates violated the Law on Elections during the campaign. In response to complaints, Bayanzurkh District's Criminal Court decided that five out of the six candidates accused, including B.Saruul, A.Tumennasan, M.Mendbayar, Sh.Ganchimeg, and D.Ulambayar, had violated some sections of the Law on Elections.
New Citizen's Representative Council elections will take place in October for the five open seats. Following the court's ruling, the MPP holds 19 seats on the district's council and the DPP holds 16 seats.
Holding the majority of seats, the MPP nominated a candidate for the Mayor of Bayanzurkh District. After Mayor of Ulaanbaatar S.Batbold appointed the MPP's E.Bat-Amgalan as Mayor
of Bayanzurkh District on March 2, DP members party members residing in the Bayanzurkh District protested Mayor S.Batbold's decision.
On March 3, the Senior Advisor to the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar D.Munkh-Erdene, Head of the Ulaanbaatar Mayor's Office M.Otgonbayar, and other officials held a press conference about Mayor S.Batbold's decision concerning the appointment of E.Bat-Amgalan.
D.Munkh-Erdene pointed out that all of Ulaanbaatar's districts had mayors in place, but Bayanzurkh District only recently has a mayor because the district's criminal and appeals courts had only recently ruled on complaints concerning DP candidates who had won five council seats.
He stated that E.Bat-Amgalan was nominated by the majority of the 35 representatives of the Bayanzurkh District Citizens' Representative Council, so Mayor S.Batbold appointed E.Bat-Amgalan as the district's mayor.
D.Munkh-Erdene noted that if the DP wins the five open seats in the new Citizen's
Representative Council elections, the DP will have the authority to hold a new vote to nominate a new mayor for the district.
Mayor S.Batbold said that his decision was legal, and called on the leaders of the DP to stop opposing the appointment of the MPP's nominee.
Former Prime Minister and DP member R.Amarjargal pointed out that Bayanzurkh District's Election Commission is under the influence of the MPP. He alleges that the ruling party wants to erase the votes of DP members in the Bayanzurkh District by engaging law enforcement and other state authorities.
He noted that only 19 representatives of the MPP participated in the Bayanzurkh District's Citizens' Representative Council meeting for the nomination of E.Bat-Amgalan, and called for MPP leaders to stop their illegal actions.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) Today on March 7, a memorandum of cooperation was signed between the Governor's Office of the Capital, the Management Academy and the Asian Foundation. Within the framework of the memorandum the parties will collaborate in capacity strengthening of officers of khoroo (smallest administrative unit) including governors, managers, social workers, members of livelihood support councils and heads of units.
Chairman of the Governor's Office of the Capital M.Otgonbayar said, "- Trainings for improving state officials' knowledge and skills will be held with finance of the Swiss Development Agency and with support of Asian Foundation and the Management academy. And curriculum will be developed for state officials, who work at primary administrative level and trainings for local government officers will be organized for long period".
With funding of the Swiss Development Agency, the Asian Foundation together with the Governor's Office of the Capital has been implementing a project "Improving governance of the city" for 3.5 years since September 2015.
March 7, 2017 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada -- Creating the right conditions for Canadian businesses to compete internationally is an important part of the Government of Canada's progressive trade agenda, which is helping the middle class and those working hard to join it.
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade, met today with Tsedev Dashdorj, Mongolia's Minister of Mining and Heavy Industry, on the sidelines of the annual convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, in Toronto, Ontario, and announced that the Canada-Mongolia Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) has entered into force.
This agreement sets out a framework of legally binding rights and obligations that will protect Canadian investors in Mongolia. The strong reciprocal protections in the FIPA will help Canadian and Mongolian companies deepen commercial ties with confidence and spur job creation.
Canada is one of the top investors in Mongolia, largely in the mining sector. In 2015, Statistics Canada estimated Canadian investment in Mongolia at approximately $6.4 billion.
The positive investment climate created by the FIPA may also help pave the way for deeper cooperation in Mongolia's non-resource-based sectors, such as infrastructure and agriculture, where Canadian companies have valuable expertise to share.
Through deeper economic engagement, Canada is helping Mongolia to further build its capacity to manage its natural resources sector effectively and according to principles of transparency and accountability, environmental sustainability and inclusivity.
"The opportunities to strengthen our middle class relate directly to creating the right conditions for Canadian businesses to compete internationally, and that is precisely what this agreement is all about."
- François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade
- The FIPA will provide Canadian investors operating in Mongolia with a legal framework that will help bring greater predictability and certainty with respect to their investments.
- Canada and Mongolia signed the FIPA on September 8, 2016.
- Mongolia is a country of focus for Canada's development funding, with seven operational projects worth $40 million over five years (2015 to 2020) promoting sustainable economic growth and democratic development.
- Canada supports the improved governance of Mongolia's natural resources sector, including through capacity building on public-sector management and development and the implementation of policies and regulatory frameworks based on international best practices.
- These efforts aim to help Mongolia pursue governance based on principles such as transparency and accountability, environmental sustainability, evidence-based decision making and gender mainstreaming, for the benefit of all Mongolians.
- Agreement Between Canada and Mongolia for the Promotion and Protection of Investments
- Embassy of Canada to Mongolia
March 7 (news.mn) Under headers, such as "Mongolian Consulate transformed into Casino", the Russian media reported Monday that a secret casino has been discovered in offices belonging to the Mongolian Embassy in the Arbat region of Moscow. D.Davaasuren, State Secretariat of Foreign Ministry has informed that Mongolian diplomatic representatives were no longer working in the building where the secret casino was being run. The articles noted, however, that the building was still the property of the Mongolian government. The illegal casino evidently advertised itself as a yoga centre; in reality, it attracted a wealthy predominately male clientele and was fully equipped with gaming tables and gambling machines. The embassy building was established in 1965. The Mongolian diplomatic representatives moved out of the building in 2007 after the Moscow City authorities warned of structural damage and the risk of collapse. However, a company called "Moscow Centre Region Style" LLC rented the building for 10 years in 2007. The rent agreement will end in September, 2017. The renters deny any secret casino and Mongolian officials are examining the issue.
March 7 (RT) Arid Northwest China is considering building a 1,000km pipeline to pump fresh water from Lake Baikal in Russia's Siberia, reports Beijing-based Global Times. Baikal is the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume.
According to reports in the Chinese media, officials in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, intend to build the pipeline through Russia and Mongolia to China.
"Once the technical issues are resolved, diplomats should sit down and talk to each other about how each party would benefit from such international cooperation," said Li Luoli the vice president of the China Society of Economic Reform, a state-run think tank, who is one of the plan's masterminds.
The water taken from Baikal will be a fraction for the lake, which contains 23,000 cubic kilometers or roughly 20 percent of the world's unfrozen surface fresh water.
"However, for Mongolia and northern China which have been plagued by water scarcity, it will help improve environmental conditions that have become a bottleneck for economic development," he wrote in his book in 2012.
For Russia the project would be good, as it would develop resource-rich Siberia and become a major exporter of water, strengthening both politically and economically, according to Li.
The feasibility of such a plan is questionable, as it will involve three countries. "Technology is not a problem. Diplomatic negotiations will depend on the local government," an expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times.
The Russian government has not commented on the issue, but environmentalists have expressed concerns that Lake Baikal has been drying up at an alarming pace.
A 2015 report said the shores of Baikal are covered with rotting algae dangerous to its unique ecosystem.
Lake Baikal is increasingly contaminated by Spirogyra, which could pose a threat to the purity of its waters.
Spirogyra is not native to Baikal's ecosystem. It thrives on biological waste which, according to ecologists, comes from sewage facilities from several local holiday centers, as well as private boats.
Also in 2015, Baikal's water level hit a record low – five centimeters below the critical level of 456 meters.
Ulaanbaatar, March 6 (MONTSAME) Peacekeepers from the Mongolian Battalion, nicknamed "MonBatt" by the UN, have saved lives of domestic refugees, reported the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).
David Shearer, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in South Sudan, praised the bravery of Mongolian soldiers in times of danger. According to him, the incident occurred on the evening of February 22, when 11 domestic refugees were beaten up by a group of people in military costumes near a farm in Bentiu. Thanks to the soldiers from the MonBatt's courageous actions, the seven men and four women were saved.
As of today, a total of around 120 thousand Sudanese refugees are living in the Bentiu Camp.
Similar stories are being told about the Mongolian peacekeepers in South Sudan, where they have prevented bloodsheds by discovering hidden firearms and a terror group, have helped deliver babies and saved people's lives.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) On March 6, Monday, Minister of Environment and Tourism D.Oyunkhorol met with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Mongolia Masako Takaoka.
Environment Ministries of Mongolia and Japan have been working together since 2006 http://en.montsame.mn/node/9010, and the 10th Environmental Policy Consultative Meeting between the two countries took place last year in Ulaanbaatar.
Minister D.Oyunkhorol congratulated the Ambassador on his appointment, and emphasized on the need to evaluate the past cooperation in environment sector, and upgrade the cooperation into a new level. "One of the many projects that were co-realized by the two sides was the establishment of Fresh Water Resources and Natural Conservation Center which has been a big investment to environmental research in Mongolia", she said.
For his part, Ambassador Masako Takaoka expressed his regard for the bilateral policy consultation meeting. He said, "There is a good chance for development of tourism between our two countries. The New Ulaanbaatar International Airport (NUBIA) is a major project of cooperation between Japan and Mongolia". He expressed his belief that the airport should launch operation as soon as possible so as to start benefitting the economy of Mongolia.
The sides exchanged views regarding various matters such as wind power plant, 5th power plant, leather factory projects and more environmental projects.
March 8 (UB Post) On March 7, Belarusian Ambassador to Mongolia Stanislav Chepurnoy was received by Member of Parliament and Head of the State Building Standing Committee N.Enkhbold to discuss ongoing projects on economic cooperation between the two countries.
Ambassador Chepurnoy pointed out that the sides need to focus on expanding trade, economic, and other cooperation, as well as the number of mutual visits between the legislators of the two countries, are of importance to improving mutual cooperation.
He noted that there is a Belarus-Mongolia Inter-Parliamentary Group in the Belarusian parliament that includes 12 legislators, and that he hopes a similar inter-parliamentary group will be established in the parliament of Mongolia.
The Ambassador emphasized that there are possible areas for the expansion of economic cooperation, including Ulaanbaatar's public transportation, agriculture, dairy industry, heavy machinery mechanics, and mining sector.
MP N.Enkhbold said that both countries have the opportunity to expand relations and cooperation in a wide range of issues.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) On February 28, S.Erdene, Consul General of Mongolia in Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China paid a courtesy call on Leung Chun-ying, Chief Executive of Hong Kong.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying mentioned that cooperation between Mongolia and Hong Kong is intensifying in recent years and underlined that the sides need to boost collaboration in the fields of trade and economy in the future. Expressing his satisfaction for strengthening bilateral partnership, he said continued that Hong Kong will pay attention to create favorable environment for deepening connectivity of investors, entities and people-to-people ties between Mongolia and Hong Kong.
After commending the establishment of a prisoner exchange agreement, Consul General S.Erdene expressed his confidence that an agreement on rendering legal assistance on criminal case will be signed within this year.
Also, on March 2, Consul General S.Erdene met with Tong Xiaoling, Acting Commissioner of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong to exchange views on certain issues concerning the relations between Mongolia and China. At the meeting, Ms. Tong Xiaoling handed over a consular exequatur to S.Erdene, Consul General of Mongolia in Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China.
March 8 (VNA) President Tran Dai Quang hosted separate receptions for newly-accredited ambassadors to Vietnam in Hanoi on March 8, during which he called for the diplomats' greater efforts to broaden bilateral wide-ranging cooperation.
Speaking to Mongolia's newly-accredited Ambassador Bilegdorj Dash, President Quang stressed that Vietnam attaches importance to the development of relations with Mongolia and is pleased with strides made in bilateral cooperation.
The two countries' senior leaders agreed to maintain high-level meetings, bolster connections in diplomacy, security, and defence, and bring into play the role of the intergovernmental committee in fostering economic and trade partnerships. They were also unanimous in tightening links in culture, education, tourism and labour, and in enhancing coordination and mutual support at multilateral forums.
The President asked the diplomat to accelerate the realisation of the Vietnamese and Mongolian leaders' common perceptions and devise measures to optimise cooperation potential and expand business-to-business and people-to-people ties.
Bilegdorj Dash said Mongolia and Vietnam have traditional friendship and want to step up economic and trade relations. They will have many important diplomatic activities this year, and the embassy will do its utmost to augment multi-faceted cooperation in an effective manner.
He hoped Vietnam will support Mongolia to participate in APEC and become a dialogue partner of ASEAN.
by Charu Sudan Kasturi
New Delhi, March 8 (The Telegraph India) India and Mongolia plan to begin formal talks this month on trading in uranium, a mineral abundant in the northeast Asian country and a key attraction for New Delhi as it seeks a tighter partnership with nations on China's periphery.
Mongolia holds one of the world's largest reserves of uranium, which fuels nuclear plants that India is counting on to generate an ever-growing chunk of its energy pie. It is also testing its traditional dependence on China by increasing its engagement with other countries.
But talks between New Delhi and Ulan Bator on the import of uranium by India have so far remained informal, partly because Mongolia lacks a clear regulatory framework for the sale of minerals to other countries.
Now, the two nations want to pull the shroud off those talks and begin formal discussions and negotiations on how India can buy and transport uranium from the land-locked country.
Mongolia is expected to seek more assistance from India in the use of nuclear medicine for cancer treatment at the meeting of the joint working group on civil nuclear cooperation.
India had gifted Mongolia a Bhabhatron - a tele-cobalt machine used to provide radiotherapy to cancer patients - during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to that country in May 2016. But the core in the machine, which emits the radiation, now needs to be replaced.
"We're going to seek that replacement," Gonchig Ganbold, Mongolia's ambassador to India, told The Telegraph.
The upcoming meeting comes at a time tensions are high between India and China, and Beijing is pressuring Ulan Bator to abandon any steps it views as provocative.
China threatened a blockade along the land border with Mongolia after the smaller country hosted the Dalai Lama in December. Beijing considers the Tibetan leader a "separatist" and has in recent days warned New Delhi of damage to bilateral ties if it goes ahead and hosts him in Arunachal Pradesh, a part of which China claims.
But while Mongolia's foreign minister assured China that the country's current government would not allow the Dalai Lama to visit again, the Narendra Modi administration in India has indicated it doesn't plan to backtrack.
Mongolia, sandwiched between giant powers Russia and China, has traditionally followed a policy similar to Nepal's with India and China: of carefully balancing ties with the two larger neighbours.
But in recent years, Ulan Bator has been seeking out "third neighbours" - other nations in the region apart from Russia and China - to counterbalance the pressures from its biggest neighbours.
That approach has coincided with India's search for deeper strategic partnerships with countries along China's periphery - Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore - and Beijing's rivals like Japan.
With Mongolia, India has long eyed uranium trade as a potential pillar of strategic ties. India has set a target of generating 63,000MW of nuclear power by 2032 - it currently generates less than 10,000MW - and needs steady imports of uranium.
By Dr Bawa Singh
March 8 (South Asia Monitor) China conceived its 'Neighbourhood Policy' in 2007 to assure neighbours regarding its peaceful intentions -- seeking no hegemony, playing of power politics, interfering in internal affairs and imposition of its ideology on other countries are the important objectives of policy. However, seeing the Chinese reaction on the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia in December 2016, it seems that China does not believe in pursuing its own neighbourhood policy in spirit and substance in the context of its small neighbour.
Tibet has long remained as one the most crucial issues of Chinese foreign policy in general and the neighbourhood policy in particular. In 1949, Tibet was taken over by China. The Tibetan leaders were compelled to sign a treaty known as the Seventeen Point Agreement (SPA), dictated by China in 1951. The agreement guaranteed the autonomy and respect of Buddhist religion along with the establishment of Chinese civil and military headquarters at Lhasa, capital of Tibet.
Being communist, China controlled the freedom of religion, speech, and press of the Tibetan people. The Dalai Lama had met Chairman of the Communist Party of China Mao Zedong (1945-1976) in 1954 in an effort to sort out these issues and urged him to honour the SPA.
In the face of Chinese obduracy, the Dalai Lama consistently fought for Tibet's autonomy and China took a tough stand against him. Consequently, he fled to India in 1959 and has since been living in India with 100,000 Tibetan refugees and their government-in-exile. The Dalai Lama has been perceived by Beijing as a separatist leader. Therefore, the Chinese leadership wanted that the neighbouring countries should follow the 'One China Policy' as well as not hosting the Dalai Lama.
Given the high percentage of Tibetan Buddhism followers in Mongolia, the Dalai Lama has been held in very high esteem there as a spiritual leader. He paid his first visit to Mongolia in 1979, and the seventh visit was in 2002.
In November 2016, once again he was invited by the Mongolia-based Gadan ThekchenLing Monastery, the largest Buddhist monastery and the centre of Buddhist learning in Mongolia. He gave his teachings in the Buddhist congregations and participated in a conference on Buddhism and Science followed by a public discourse on November 23-24.
Over the next two days, he conferred the Bhikshuka ordination and the Hayagriva initiation. On November 28, the Dalai Lama flew back to India via Japan. During his stay in Mongolia, the Tibetan spiritual leader had openly complained about and criticised the Chinese attempts to disrupt his travel arrangements.
Hosting/meeting the Dalai Lama has been perceived by China as a challenge to its 'One China Policy.' Deeming the Dalai Lama as a problem for its unity and sovereignty, China asked Mongolia to forbid his visit. In this regard, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a press briefing: "Do not allow the Dalai Lama to visit. Do not support or facilitate the separatist activities of the Dalai clique."
In Chinese perception, the Dalai Lama is a separatist, not a religious figure. The Chinese government and public discourses have been disapproving of his alleged separatist deeds. Hosting him by any country also implies the endorsement of his separatist acts which is not acceptable to the Chinese leadership. China has expressed its anger against those countries that have hosted the Tibetan spiritual leader.
The Tibetan rights groups and exiles have always been accusing China of trampling upon the religious and cultural rights of the Tibetan people. The visit of the Dalai Lama has been termed by Mongolia as a purely religious visit with no political strings attached to it.
Mongolia has been pressing China for a $4.2 billion assistance to overcome its economic crisis and recession.
After Mongolia's hosting the Dalai Lama, China has severely punished it for not toeing its line. China imposed new tariffs on commodity shipments between China and Mongolia. A transportation blockade has been forcing Mongolian truck drivers to wait for long on the border in minus 20 degrees Celsius temperature.
In this backdrop, there is the possibility of a humanitarian crisis due to blockage of essential commodities. The most serious concern is the cancellation of a meeting regarding loan negotiations related to a coalfield railway line, copper plant, and coal gasification.
The incident has also cast a dark shadow over Mongolian Prime Minister Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat's planned visit to China next year. However, it has been argued that Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang did not confirm the imposition of new border tariffs due to Dalai Lama's visit, rather he pretended to be unaware of the situation.
In the matter of land connectivity, Mongolia has been hoping that the proposed New Silk Road under China's 'One Belt One Road' initiative would pass through its territory. Now it is also expected that this project may be hampered due to the suddenly emerged hostile relations. Mongolia's economic dependence on China, due to the recent "enforcement measures", could result in grave consequences not only for Mongolia but also for the region.
Due to the sensitivities of China, Mongolia could hardly expect diplomatic or economic assistance from any quarter. Against these concerns on the part of China, Mongolia has been pursuing the 'Third Neighbour Policy'. Under this policy, Mongolia has been reaching out to friendly European countries in general and the US, Japan, Korea and India in particular.
In this critical situation, Mongolian Ambassador to India Gonchig Ganbold urged: "India should come out with clear support against the difficulties that have been imposed on Mongolia by China." He also pointed out that it is a "kind of blockade-like situation" imposed by China. It was "an over-reaction" to the Dalai Lama's religious visit, despite Ulaanbaatar's assurance of the 'One China Policy', the envoy maintained.
In the backdrop of such hegemonic and monopolistic countermoves, Mongolia has urged India to support it against China's blockade moves. China has reacted to this step in very jaundiced language -- as expected by the Indian establishment. The Chinese official mouthpiece Global Times dubbed Mongolia's seeking help from India as "politically harebrained". Mongolia was also warned to avoid such dangerous geopolitical games and be prepared for dire consequences otherwise.
India as a regional power should give a fitting reply to this emerging geopolitical great game. In this critical condition, it is worth mentioning that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said: "As a close friend of Mongolia, which regards India as its 'third neighbour' and 'spiritual neighbour', we are ready to work with the Mongolian people in this time of their difficulty."
India has also given a signal of being sympathetic to the Mongolian people in the present difficult time. It has expressed its desire to allow Mongolia to make use of the $1 billion financial assistance offered during PM Narendra Modi's visit in 2015 to tide over the economic sanctions imposed by China.
Buddhism is a common factor linking the Dalai Lama, Mongolia and India. The Dalai Lama also has connections with Arunachal Pradesh, which is an integral part of India and has several prominent Buddhist monasteries. The Dalai Lama, who has been living in India since 1959, has the right to visit Arunachal Pradesh. It seems that the current incident, where China has objected to the Tibetan spiritual leader visiting Mongolia, has implications for Arunachal Pradesh as time and again this issue has been raked up by China. India should strongly support Mongolia in view of the historical, geo-cultural and geopolitical interests.
China cannot stop the Dalai Lama from visiting any part of the world, including Arunachal Pradesh, and, of course, except Tibet which has been illegally acceded by China.
The visit of erstwhile US Ambassador Richard Verma to Arunachal Pradesh in October has also not gone down well with China. Beijing has warned India and the US over the envoy's visit, claiming that Arunachal Pradesh is a disputed territory between China and India. China has perceived Verma's visit as intervention by the US in the Sino-Indian boundary dispute which makes it more complicated and disturbs the hard-won peace at the border.
If China raises these issues time and again, it has to give reply to some questions. Why is China not following the same principles as preached by it? What is the status of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), where work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is going on? From where did it get the right to station 10,000 military personnel in PoK to protect its CPEC project? Why has military modernisation been going on in South China Sea, where seven countries are claiming territorial jurisdiction? How can it stop India from exploring energy in the area, where New Delhi has been asked by Vietnam to do so?
India is a potential global power, characterised by sound economy, political stability, military modernisation, science and technology development, and large pool of human resource development. The only thing which will make a difference is the strong urge for translating the diplomatic will into practice.
But to prove its worth in the comity of nations, India has to take strong decisions. India should support not only Mongolia -- rather it should support the Dalai Lama and the Tibet issue as well in the backdrop of its own Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh policy.
The author is teaching at the Centre for South and Central Asian Studies, School of Global Relations, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda, India. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Ashok Rao
February 4 (Dorje Shugden) Mongolia is reeling from impending economic meltdown in March as previous measures to solve its almost $600 million financial commitment to bond holders dissolved into thin air amidst qualms over His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit. Originally in negotiations with China to help solve its dire fiscal situation, the Tibetan religious leader's visit to Mongolia led to a breakdown in talks between the two countries. The economic situation in Mongolia has now degenerated so badly as to warrant private citizens donating their personal assets to the government in a last ditch attempt to save the country's economy from financial ruin.
In hindsight this fiscal maelstrom, as reported in the article below, could have been easily avoidable through talks and deals with China and the International Monetary Fund. However negotiations with China collapsed after the Dalai Lama's visit to Mongolia. Despite warnings from China that such a visit would strain relations between the two countries, the visit proceeded, something that the Central Tibetan Administration publicised heavily on its own website. In the aftermath of China pulling out from the negotiations, the Mongolian government even banned the Dalai Lama from entering Mongolia in an attempt to placate China back to the negotiation table. With such disaster hitting, the Central Tibetan Administration remains silent in regards to Mongolia's current situation. Having fully supported the Dalai Lama's visit, the Tibetan leadership now choose to ignore the outcome of their endorsements.
Mongolia and Tibet have a long, complicated but mutually shared spiritual history, something that has led to strong relations between the two countries, since before the time of His Holiness the 4th Dalai Lama, Yonten Gyatso, who was born in Mongolia, and was a great-grandson of Altan Khan. Altan Khan himself is remembered for instigating and strengthening ties between Mongolia and Tibet.
The Central Tibetan Administration's promotion of this event was originally seen as an extension of their support for Mongolia, its people, its spiritual traditions (that stem from Tibet) and the fact that many people consider the Dalai Lama to be their spiritual leader. They had couched the visit in terms of spiritual wellbeing and harmony, but given their lack of support or even mentioning the fallout from the visit, it is evident that their intentions were not all that pure after all.
Well aware of Mongolia's dependence on foreign support, the Tibetan Administration have conned the Mongolian leadership to stand up to China for their own ends. In pulling out the sovereignty card and standing up to China, through their heavy support for the Dalai Lama's visit, the Tibetan leadership has worsened Mongolia's economic situation. Adding salt to the wound, they do nothing to support Mongolia, do not promise aid or political help but kept quiet when their so-called friend is in urgent need to stave off the worst fears of any leadership – economic breakdown. For all intents and purposes, the Tibetan leadership has used Mongolia for its political usefulness, but offer nothing in return when the country is in serious trouble. They simply chewed on them until there was no taste left, and spat them out to be discarded once their usefulness was over. A simple glimpse of Mongolia's financial situation and events over the past year, makes the Tibetan leadership's exploitation of the country glaringly obvious.
For a leadership that claims to follow the Dalai Lama, a Buddhist monk, the actions of the Tibetan leadership by pulling out the sovereignty card, shows the underhanded and wholly un-virtuous exploitation of an entire country to fulfil their selfish aims. Mongolia now teeters on the edge of disastrous economic ruin, and the Tibetan leadership – the direct cause of the situation, which could have been avoided – are nowhere to be seen and offer not even a statement of support, betraying their own selfish intent. Strangely, India said they would step in among other countries to assist, but it looks like the assistance was too meagre to bail Mongolia out. Unfortunately, it will be the average Mongolian citizen who will need to bear the brunt of this costly political predicament with China while the Tibetan leadership gets away scot-free with yet another one of their underhanded political manipulations to assert their sovereignty at the expense of another country. You can read more about the dire situation that Mongolia faces below.
March 7 (Reuters) China's Foreign Ministry called the Dalai Lama a "deceptive actor" on Tuesday, after the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said in an interview that Chinese hardliners have parts of their brains missing.
Speaking to U.S. comedian John Oliver in India's northern town of Dharamsala, where the exiled Tibetan government is based, the Dalai Lama cast doubt on his reincarnation by saying he might be the last in line.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang noted that the interview appeared in an entertainment program.
"The Dalai Lama's comments in the interview perhaps appeared humorous and funny, but these words are all lies that do not accord with the facts," Geng said.
"We often say that the 14th Dalai Lama is a political exile who wears religious clothing to engage in anti-China separatist activities," he added.
"Now it seems he is an actor, who is very good at performing, and very deceptively."
China brands the Nobel Peace laureate a dangerous separatist. The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, denies espousing violence and says he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet.
The animosity between the two sides, and their rivalry for control over Tibetan Buddhism, is at the heart of the debate about reincarnation.
Tibetan Buddhism holds that the soul of a senior lama is reincarnated in the body of a child on his death.
China says the tradition must continue and its officially atheist Communist leaders have the right to approve the Dalai Lama's successor, as a legacy inherited from China's emperors.
The Dalai Lama has suggested previously the title could end with him, when he dies. China accuses him of betraying, and being disrespectful of, the Tibetan religion, by saying there might be no future reincarnations.
Tibet's delegation to the annual meeting of China's parliament, which opened on Sunday, is likely to hold a news conference some time this week. Such meetings tend to be dominated by the issue of the Dalai Lama.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) During its regular meeting on March 7, Tuesday, the Cabinet adopted a National Program on Reproductive, Maternal and Newborn Health.
Corresponding Ministers and governors of the capital city and aimags were assigned to project necessary measures to realize the program in their yearly action plan, reflect the required fund in their budgets, and fund the program through international aids and loans.
Although Mongolia's maternal mortality rate upgraded from high to medium as a result of more than 10 programs that were implemented during the course of the last 20 years, maternal and infant mortality rate isn't stably declining.
According to studies, factors that lead to maternal death in Mongolia are livelihood, migration, administration issues and late reception of medical services.
The program is expected to improve readiness of maternal, newborn and reproductive health services, introduce advanced diagnosis and treatment technologies, enhance human resource capacities, and increase access and quality of medical services.
March 6 (UNFPA Mon golia) Statement of UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin on International Women's Day, 8 March 2017
Gender equality is a human right. Women are entitled to live in dignity and in freedom from want and fear, without discrimination. Gender equality is also vital to sustainable development, peace and security. It's not just a women's issue. It's an issue for all of humanity.
Sadly, despite some progress, the world still has a long way to go to achieve full gender equality.
Take, for instance, the fact that every year tens of thousands of girls are forced into child marriage —nearly one third of these before the age of 15. Or that one woman in three experiences gender-based violence in her lifetime. Some 200 million women and girls have endured female genital mutilation. And there are 225 million women who want modern family planning but are not getting it, and therefore are unable to choose whether or when to have children.
The global community has an obligation to advance the new agenda for sustainable development, which enshrines gender equality as one of its goals. The ability of women and girls to exercise their basic human rights, including their right to sexual and reproductive health, is a prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Studies have demonstrated clearly that family planning is the best investment countries can make for human development.
Ensuring universal access to voluntary family planning means putting the poorest, most marginalized and excluded women and girls at the forefront of our efforts—particularly those in conflict and fragile settings.
Women and girls who can make choices and control their reproductive lives are better able to get quality education, find decent work, and make free and informed decisions in all spheres of life.
Their families and societies are better off financially. Their children, if they choose to have them, are healthier and better educated, helping break the spiral of poverty that traps billions and triggering a cycle of prosperity that carries over into future generations.
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is fully committed to ensuring the rights of women and girls to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning. On this International Women's Day, we urge the global community to join us. Together, we can make a giant leap forward that saves lives, empowers women and girls, advances gender equality and ensures a more prosperous and sustainable future for all of us.
Ulaanbaatar, March 8 (MONTSAME) Mongolians are celebrating International Women's Day for the 62th time since 1955 when the day was first marked following an ordinance issued by People's Great Khural, the then Parliament.
In dedication to the occasion, we are unveiling some interesting statistics on the state of Mongolian women. Mongolia's population is 3,119,935, and there are 1,585,952 women, 69 percent of whom live in a city and 31 percent live in the countryside.
On average, Mongolian women weigh 59.4 kg with average height being 157.7 cm. Life expectancy in Mongolia is 69.89 whereas the number is 76 for women and is continually increasing.
Average marriage age among Mongolian women is 24.5, average number of children is 2-3 and 4.9 percent are single mothers.
1 out of every 5 woman holds higher education diploma, and 580,100 women are employed with average wage being MNT 808,900. 54 percent of Mongolian women actively vote.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) The clinical hospital of Uvs aimag, named after Hero of Labour of Mongolia Kh.Deleg, now has a hemodialysis department with hemodialysis machines and equipment, donated from Taiwan as well as Mongolia and Tibet committee in Taiwan. The machines and equipment cost USD 55000.
Doctors and physicians had been trained in Taipei hospital of Taiwan in hemodialysis treatment prior to the opening of the new department, allowing the hospital of Uvs aimag to immediately receive patients, who were having treatment in Ulaanbaatar and Regional diagnostic and medical treatment center in Khovd aimag. New department will receive not only patients of the aimag but also patients from western aimags.
March 7 (World Bank) --
March 8 (gogo.mn) International women`s day is celebrated widely in Mongolia. In regards, we deliver you the photo report of Mongolian women who shared what they want from social as well as their own wishes.
Ulaanbaatar, March 6 (MONTSAME) March 6 marks the 104th anniversary of journalism in Mongolia.
In commemoration of the anniversary, B.Galaarid, President of Confederation of Mongolian Journalists conveyed his greetings.
"One of the pioneer industries in Bogd Khaanate Mongolia was journalism. March 6 is a day when Mongolian intellectuals led by editor-in-chief Tseveen Jamsran first published a newspaper titled 'Paper named New Mirror' in 1913. During its assembly in 1992, Union of Mongolian Journalists proposed that the day be celebrated as National Journalism Day. We've annually marked the National Journalism Day since 2009", he said.
"On this occasion, I wish happiness and luck to all working and senior journalists, media staff, cooperating organizations and the general public. May national journalism flourish in the days to come", he added.
The first Mongolian newspaper, further named as 'New Mirror' was first published in the form of a 50-page magazine. Initially, 500 copies were published most of which were distributed to public organizations and few of which were sold. Later, the paper's pages were shortened. Historic sources indicated that the 'New Mirror' published 20 issues until August 21, 1914.
Editor of the newspaper Tseveen Jamsran is considered to be the founding father of Mongolian journalism.
March 6 (MONTSAME) Today, National News Agency MONTSAME has granted its 'Observer of Golden rule" award to the best news reporters of Mongolian mass media. Reporters G.Munkhtuul from "25th TV channel", G.Ulsbold from "Itoim" online news portal and photo reporter B.Byamba-Ochir have won this year's award.
During a ceremony on the occasion of 104th anniversary of the foundation of mass media in Mongolia, the winners received the award, which was handed over by the Director General of the MONTSAME News Agency B.Ganchimeg, Deputy Director Sh.Batbold and Head of Human Resource Department of the agency D.Otgonbayar.
Within the framework of cooperation agreement with Mongolian Journalists' Confederation and MONTSAME news agency, initiated the award last year to encourage best news reporters.
So called "Observer of Golden rule" award is granted to the best news reporters, who prepare news professionally consistent with core principals of journalism and modern standard and requirements.
March 4 (ARTGER) First day of the Mongolian Lunar New Year celebration all the Mongols woke up early and walks to the top of the mountains and pray to the sun. It is an ancient ritual of the nomadic Mongolians.
March 6 (UB Post) Khamba Lama D.Natsagdorj, a state merited doctor and head of the Mamba Datsan Temple, spoke about the new lunar year, the Year of the Fire Rooster with Altan Unjlaga (golden tassel), which was welcomed on February 27.
The Mamba Datsan is a Buddhist university monastery specialized in medicine and medical science.
Mongolia expected the Year of the Monkey to be harsh as astrologers described it as "evil faced". Can you review the Year of the Monkey? How has it impacted the people?
The Year of the Fire Monkey was a good year for Mongolians. We spent an additional month during the winter. People expected last year to be very difficult but it was a relatively good year because the public worked hard, prepared for the year well, and got their spiritual readings done in advance.
All the bad fortune can be fixed and turned into good things with good deeds and spiritual readings for good fortune. We, Mongolians, have in depth knowledge in Buddhism. We must learn and expand our knowledge in this area, which corrects the bad and flourishes the good.
What's in store for the Year of the Fire Rooster?
Everyone needs to wish for their wellbeing and peacefulness for the Year of the Fire Rooster. Good wishes will bring good and positive energy, eliminating bad outcomes and spreading goodwill. In general, spring and fall will be windy and the summer will be rainy. However, predictions say that there will be frequent lightning and thunder in some areas while others will suffer droughts and that we should expect considerable snowfall this year.
Dignitaries and the public are likely to face conflicts and not see eye to eye so it's important for everyone to think of the long run and try to maintain their anger and refrain from arguments. Since we got the chance to become humans in this life, we must have the intelligence, knowledge and ability to overcome any struggles. We must use that knowledge to resolve our own and other people's problems.
What is the meaning of "golden tassel", the description astrologers gave to the New Year of the Fire Rooster?
A long time ago, families whose children died at a young age or at birth used to give names such as Nokhoijav to protect them from bad things and bless them with a long life. Like so, the descriptions given to lunar years have a deep meaning that conceal or prevent certain things from happening and encourage other things to happen.
The description for this year is "with golden tassel" which hopes to make the public cautious about all kinds of issues related to food and diseases. It will be a good year for trade if people put in effort (in this matter).
Is it important to worship deities and the earth just as it is important to get spiritual readings every year?
While getting spiritual readings every year, everyone should worship deities in their surroundings, and hold a ritual to ensure peacefulness and prevent natural disasters from occurring. Deities want to be worshiped and want people to take action in lessening their worries. They want to listen to spiritual readings for the gods and deities. In this sense, we must give them what they want and demand whether it's spiritual readings or rituals.
It's wrong to entrust one's life and wellbeing to deities of land, water and mountains. You can't worship them as some kind of rescuer. Our great teacher reminded us to avoid harming the earth, and soothe deities. By meeting their needs, we make them happy and by making them happy, they prevent bad things from happening and bless good harvest. We must act ourselves to prevent natural disasters. We have to make deities of land, water, air, space, and those in various forms happy through Dharma sutra. Dharma enable people to influence nature, soothe deities and maintain good relations between people and gods. It's important for monks to carry out this duty correctly.
Some people don't get spiritual readings. Is there any bad consequences from not getting spiritual readings?
It's a miracle to be born as humans. However, many good and bad things can happen in life when a person hasn't been enlightened. The sun, moon, 28 stars, 1,080 obstacles, 360 evils, 15 devils that try to harm children until the age of 16, and the years, months, days and time can impact us negatively. People get spiritual readings based on astrological theories and concepts to protect themselves from dangers. If you're harmed by one of the evils because you avoided spiritual readings, there can be many bad subsequent consequences. It could affect a person's health, life, property, peacefulness, and spirit. There's always something that causes people to get entangled in arguments, fights and accidents. Therefore, I advise everyone to get spiritual readings.
Some people think it is okay to skip an annual spiritual reading but bad things always harm them in big or small forms and they could be unnoticeable depending on how strong the evil or obstacle is and how strong a person is. It might seem okay for that particular year but it comes back in a more significant and noticeable form several years later. You bring bad fortune to yourself and those around you by avoiding spiritual readings. So look after yourself and prevent bad things from happening to your dearest. If you can't look after yourself and get sick, many people will worry and suffer financially, starting from your parents and relatives. Don't try to deny the power of spiritual readings because it'll only be your loss.
Who should get spiritual readings this year?
This year, people born in the Year of the Ox will be affected by ominous stars like Guimig (Guanfu) so they need to get spiritual readings with Janaggagdog, Manla, Tsend-Ayush and Ayushiin Chogo sutras. It's a bad year for those aged 13, 25, 37, 49, 61, 73, and 85 so they should also get spiritual readings for protection. Children face a lot of physical changes and become weak at the age of 13. Hence, parents should worship Dashzeveg, Naiman Gegeen, Zagdjusum, Bumchin and Goviin Lkha gods and get related sutras read.
In fact, it's really beneficial to get spiritual readings done well for those aged of 13 because it affects positively in their life, career and education in the future. It's good to have Altangerel and Tsagaan Shukhert sutras read for children.
People born in the Year of the Rabbit should get Dashzeveg, Naiman Gegeen and Zantsanzemubujin sutras read. Those born in animal zodiac signs of metal element (Monkey and Rooster) are prone to accidents, injuries, surgeries, disputes, rumors, and theft this year so be careful. People born in the Years of the Rat and Horse clash with Tai Sui (Grand Duke of Jupiter) so it's better to get Green Tara mantra recited to remove obstacles, fears and worries.
Why do certain people have to get spiritual readings before Tsagaan Sar?
I learned that it's essential to get spiritual readings on December 22 and June 22 by studying Kalachakra (a very complex Buddhist teaching related to the wheel of time or time-cycles), astrology and black zodiac. Some people are greatly spiritually affected on December 22 as their prophecy changes for the next year. Through spiritual readings, they can protect their life, health, property, and spirit from harm. This builds your good deeds and reduces your bad karma. Dharma sutras will benefit you in many ways.
In recent years, more and more Mongolians have started to wear traditional deels and gift domestically produced products during Tsagaan Sar to support domestic production. Slowly, Mongolia is recovering old traditions. Is there any particular tradition or custom we should recover now?
The first moon of spring is very sacred and important. During Tsagaan Sar, everyone should feel grateful to their parents and be proud of being born human. Mongolians need to take pride in being Mongolian and being born in Mongolia, a country like heaven. We should also be proud to have preserved the great teachings of Buddhism for so many years. I recommend that everyone clear and purify their thoughts and wish for good fortunes during Tsagaan Sar. I hope you all start the New Year by showing respect to your parents and elders, doing good deeds and opening your minds.
In general, it's important to rid oneself from the 84,000 defilements and impurities and cultivate a purer and more loving mindset during Tsagaan Sar. Paying respect to our ancestors, respecting our customs and traditions, and caring for children are one of Mongolia's many cultures. We must keep this in mind and welcome the New Year joyfully. A splendid year with good health and full of new knowledge and good fortune is ahead of you all. I hope everyone stays happy and healthy and continue to smile this year. May good fortune bless us all!
Mogi: Grace is back with TWM!
March 2 (Star TV) --
The Third Goal of the Peace Corps is to promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
March 7 (Peace Corps) Mongolia Volunteer Anna Buchanan shows us hospitality in the city and in the countryside.
ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA, March 8 (Deseret News) The combined Ulaanbaatar Mongolia East and West Stake choir reached the semi-finals of the second season of the nationally televised show "Mongolia's Got Talent!" in December 2016. Seminary and institute students ages 14-28 comprised much of the choir, with the exception of a few young married adults. Approximately half of the choir members were returned missionaries.
Television audiences were curious about the choir and how it made it to the national stage. Odgerel Ochirjav, president of the Ulaanbaatar Mongolia West Stake, recalled when this local multistake choir was first organized following a visit from a Brigham Young University choir in 2008. The idea to showcase the choir in Mongolia was something far from his mind at the time.
In January 2016, the stake president's brother-in-law, Tsogtbayar Samandari, had finished watching the first season of "Mongolia's Got Talent" and felt impressed to call President Ochirjav.
"I was watching 'Mongolia's Got Talent' ... and remembered your BYU choir which was fantastic," the stake president's brother-in-law told him. "I had a strong impression that your church choir should participate and it would be very interesting because it would be something new."
President Ochirjav discussed the idea with Sister Unurjargal Purev, the choir director, who in turn discussed it with the choir members. Everyone was enthusiastic about the opportunity. The choir became known as Zion or SION, which was an acronym for Spirit, Faith, Mind and Union in the Mongolian language.
SION prepared a mash up of two songs, "Winter Hymnal" and "Rather Be," which they sang during the first round of competition in March 2016. They needed the votes of three out of four contest judges to move to the next level, and the choir successfully earned all four votes.
"This is new and refreshing to have an a capella choir that moves and dances with the music. In the past I have only seen groups singing without moving in Mongolia," one judge said.
"I see your faces light up! … We need to put your video on YouTube to showcase this show to the world," another judged remarked.
Choir members were asked what they would do with the $50,000 grand prize if they won. A judge was impressed when the choir responded by saying they wanted to donate it all as a special Christmas gift to an orphanage. In competing against 400 other contestants, SION was among the 200 talent acts who advanced to the second round, overcoming challenges along the way.
A multistake youth conference was planned for June 2016 and about half of 35 choir members were involved with it. They had not heard from the producers of "Mongolia's Got Talent" until a week before the conference to inform them that they needed to be at the TV studio the following week — the same day of the youth conference.
The youth conference was 480 km or about eight hours by bus from the TV studio. The choir discussed the dilemma and decided to go to the second round. A bus was hired, and following the second round, they traveled directly to the youth conference which started on the same day.
The second round was a series of interviews with the judges, and of the 200 acts, SION was among the 32 to advance to the semi-finals.
Following the youth conference, the choir spent the rest of the summer preparing a song in English for the semi-finals. However, with only two weeks before the recording in September, the TV producers told the choir they would not be allowed to sing in English and would have to instead sing in Mongolian.
In addition, the size of the choir was reduced from thirty-five to twenty-nine because four left to study at BYU-Hawaii and two left on a mission. The TV producers said that if any others left, the choir would be removed from the semi-finals. There was a lot of exposure on social media about the show and the group, and there were many late nights to practice and prepare. The season for this TV show ran from September to December. The choir woke up at 4 a.m. to -34C temperatures to participate in the semi-final.
The faith and testimony of choir members increased through this experience. They gained self-confidence, developed friendships and learned unity.
"By being in 'Mongolia's Got Talent' show, I have learned that I should never doubt myself or think that I can't do something. Singing in the choir has helped me to make many friends," Sister Bilguunzaya Tungalagtuul said.
"Singing in the choir has helped us to learn how to forgive and support one another," Sister Nomuungerel Enkhtuvshin added.
Although the choir did not receive enough votes to move on to the finals, the Church received exposure throughout Mongolia. The choir was among those featured in the televised Christmas concert. Many organizations extended invitations for the choir to perform at various events, including the 2016 New Year's Eve concert in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia with almost 1.4 million people or half of the country's population.
President Ochirjav said, "We were obedient to an assignment by our priesthood leaders and the Lord prepared a way. … Now the whole city talks about the Mormon choir's participation in 'Mongolia's Got Talent.'"
The LDS Church News is an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The publication's content supports the doctrines, principles and practices of the Church.
BRISTOL, March 6 (Addison County Independent) —The word shaman evokes a range of mysterious images and feelings. Filmmaker and energy healer Sas Carey brings these to life in her film "Ceremony," which she will share and discuss on Thursday, March 9 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Lawrence Memorial Library in Bristol. This free event is hosted by the One World Library Project.
"Ceremony"witnesses the spiritual journey and practice of a shaman in northern Mongolia. The documentary revolves around a specific ceremony by steppe dwellers of Darhad ethnicity and taiga-dwelling Dukha reindeer herders, both of whom continue shamanic traditions.
Elder shamans share their wisdom and discuss their lineage as bearers of the "shaman disease," including their initial resistance to assuming this powerful role and the dangers of not accepting the call. While connected to the ancestor's spirit, the shamans fill the role of doctor, spiritual adviser and healers in a land where the nearest doctor can be eight hours away by reindeer and horse.
Footage for the documentary, released in 2015, was taken over an eleven-year period and includes intimate glimpses of the geographical and cultural environment.
Sas Carey, the film's director, is an energy healer, nurse and spiritual adviser. She has spent time in Mongolia annually for the past twenty-three years following the nomadic practice of Dukha people and documenting their lore and heart songs. She has explored traditional Mongolian medicine, served as a health educator for the United Nations Development Programme (1997) and founded and directsNomadicare, a nonprofit supporting sustainability and cultural survival of nomadic people.
A trailer for "Ceremony" can be found at https://vimeo.com/114941631. Other works by Sas Carey include the film "Gobi Women's Song" (2005), the book "Reindeer Herders in My Heart"(2012), and the award-winning documentary "Migration" (2016). Cary's videos and books will be available for sale at the event.
For more information on this event or about One World Library Project, contact the Lawrence Memorial Library at 453-2366 or visit www.OneWorldLibraryProject.orgor the One World Library Project Facebook page.
One World Library Project is a local community nonprofit that "Brings the World to our Community" through regular programs as well as a collection of adult and children's books and films about world cultures, all of which can be found at the Lawrence Memorial Library. The library's online catalog has a full listing of OWLP items available for checkoutat www.lawrencelibrary.net.
DATE AND TIME: Thu 30 March 2017, 19:00 – 21:00 BST, Add to Calendar
LOCATION: The Bootlegger, 25-26 Lime Street, London, EC3M 7HR, United Kingdom, View Map
An introductory talk, photography exhibition and informal networking event.
Joe Johnstone will introduce the beauty, traditions and cultures of Mongolia, contrasted by the challenges posed by democracy and globalisation. Stunning photographs from Brett Rushworth, an American Photographer living in Central Mongolia for 2 years, will provide the backdrop to the narrative as Joe introduces you to this fascinating part of the world.
Joe Johnstone is a mountain guide, expedition leader and adventurer. He has guided on 6 continents, cycled over 15,000km, lead 25 ascents of Kilimanjaro and over 100 days of trekking in Mongolia. He has attempted solo first ascents in the Mongolian Altai, facing temperatures of -50 Celsius.
Joe's experiences of Mongolia, through expeditions and other projects, has led to the establishment of a charitable foundation with the ambition of preserving and supporting the nomadic herders living in the wilderness. In the recent past Joe has been supported by the Mongolian Arts Council, National Broadcasting Company and Ministry for cultural Heritage.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) Triplet calves were born in Arkhangai aimag on the first day of Mongolian Tsagaan Sar, February 27, reports MONTSAME correspondent in the province.
The domestic yak herd of J.Tumurbaatar whose winter camp is situated in 'Tooroit', Ikh Tamir soum of Arkhangai aimag thus welcomed triplets just in time for the celebration of Tsagaan Sar, one of the biggest traditional festivals of Mongolia.
Interestingly, the mother yak is called 'Twin' and is black in color. Two of the triplets are male and blue in color whereas the last one is female and black in color.
It is not very uncommon for a cow to produce twin calves, but triplets are decidedly rare, wrote J.Hered in his article titled 'Triplet Calves'.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) On March 6, T.Daisaku, member of the Japanese Association for Dental Science and Honorary professor of the National University of Mongolia contributed JPY 5 million to Mongolians to overcome damage caused by harsh winter disaster or dzud.
S.Khurelbaatar, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to Japan expressed gratitude on behalf of the Government of Mongolia and the people of Mongolia and handed over a gratitude letter to T.Daisaku. Moreover, the Japanese Red Cross Society has rendered assistance worth CHF 21600 to the Mongolian Red Cross Society.
by Katie Stallard, Asia Correspondent
March 6 (Sky News) First came the drought.
The long, hot summer dried out the pasturelands, depleting the reserves of hay and fodder that were meant to see them through the winter.
Then came the extreme cold.
Temperatures in parts of Mongolia have dropped below -50C. More than 70% of the country is under thick snow and ice.
Tens of thousands of animals have already died, with millions more now said to be at risk - along with the livelihoods of the herder families who depend on them.
They call this the "dzud" - a devastating combination of summer drought and winter snows.
It used to happen around once a decade; lately they've been coming more frequently - this is Mongolia's second year of dzud in a row.
Families who lost large numbers of animals last year are being hit hard again.
Save the Children has found increasing numbers of herders forced into debt to buy food, and going entire days without eating.
To compound the situation, the country's economic downturn has limited the government's ability to respond, with less funding to heat schools and hospitals, and to help the most badly affected communities.
"We are facing a perfect storm of the conditions that could see the humanitarian situation deteriorate rapidly," said Mitsuaki Toyoda, Save the Children's Mongolia director.
"It's a worrying sign that so many animals have already died this dzud given it's not even spring yet, when tens of thousands of animals can die in a single day.
"The dying season has started early, and thousands of herder families are living on the brink."
The head of one of those families is Baatarkhuu Tserenbaljir, a nomadic herder, who lives with his wife, 19-year-old daughter, and her 11-month-old son.
They lost 10 cows in last year's dzud and fear they are about to see their animals dying again.
They couldn't afford to buy insurance.
"Since old times we rely on traditional livestock herding for our living," Mr Tserenbaljir explained.
"In the recent times, due to global warming, drought and dzud disasters, we have scarce vegetation, especially useful plants.
"The animals are dying because they are weak and they could not get enough fat."
Now their centuries-old way of life is under threat.
"Happiness for us is to see our animals alive, fat in winter and having grazing land in summer.
"Depletion of nature resources is caused by humans.
"We should treat nature with respect and live in harmony.
"Only in this way can we save our traditional nomadic lifestyle."
In the last three decades more than half a million herders have migrated to the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.
This year's dzud may force more families to pack up their lives on the land and do the same but, without the skills to find new jobs, their prospects in the city are not much better.
The Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal to help Mongolia's struggling herders but, unlike an earthquake or a typhoon, this is a slow moving humanitarian crisis, for the most part taking place out of sight, and away from the headlines.
Sky Views is a series of comment pieces by Sky News editors and correspondents, published every morning.
Goats, sheep, horses and cattle suffering in harsh winter weather known as a 'dzud' will get emergency help over the next few months
March 7 (World Animal Protection) Animals in Mongolia are freezing and struggling to find food which is buried beneath thick snow covering half the country.
Temperatures reach as low as -40c at night, and the grass they need to eat can't grow properly during these severe conditions. Animal owners are still recovering from the devastating 2016 dzud, making it harder to feed and keep their animals warm as they are now hit with yet another.
Striking, yet deadly
Despite the picturesque backdrop of blue skies and vast white snow, much of Mongolia is a deadly place for animals right now.
Animals photographed in affected parts of Mongolia may seem serene, roaming their striking surroundings, but looks can be deceptive. They can't find food and time is running out for them.
In the 2010 dzud, millions of animals died.
We have to act fast, or a repeat of this tragedy could be imminent.
Delivering vital emergency nutrition
We're providing emergency nutrition relief packs to 1,740 households in six provinces. Each pack helps sheep, goats, cattle and horses, and includes:
- 10 kg of milk powder
- 1 litre of fish oil
- 3 kg of vitamin supplement
- 8 kg of mineral blocks.
The creation and distribution of these packs would not be possible without kind donations from our supporters.
Working in partnership
During February, we'll distribute these vital nutrition packs in parallel with the Mongolian Red Cross with the financial support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) - the world's largest humanitarian organisation - and USAID.
IFRC resident coordinator, Mr. Enkhjin Garid, said: "We are all working towards the same goal. In Mongolia, we can't help people if we don't also help their animals."
A strong connection
Earlier this year, Mongolian herders told us stories of their animals' struggle during the dzud. Animals are the only source of income for some. They're a very important part of many Mongolian people's lives.
We recently revisited a woman called Mrs Davaa, who has about 70 sheep and goats and 10 cattle. Her animals are always deficient in salt and minerals. The mineral blocks and milk powder we provided last year for these animals made the difference between life and death.
Our international response manager, Steven Clegg, said: "It was immediately evident how important these animals were in these herders lives. Her son proudly showed us one of the lambs he saved from the unforgiving winter conditions."
You can help
Thanks to your support, we have been able to give aid to millions of affected animals in disaster zones like Mongolia. Please donate today and help us protect as many animals as we can and give local communities their best chance of a quick recovery.
And belly laughs throughout the entire interview.
On Sunday's "Last Week Tonight" on HBO, Oliver traveled to Dharamsala, India, to sit down with the Dalai Lama and discuss China, the people of Tibet and his holiness' claim that he cured Mongolia of alcoholism by turning people onto horse milk.
"Wait, hold on," Oliver said. "You tried to wean them off vodka by giving them horse milk?"
"Oh, yes!" the Dalai Lama said. "They follow!"
Oliver wasn't so keen on the idea:
Watch the entire interview in the video above.
Dalai Lama tears into "short-sighted" China in hilarious interview with John Oliver – India.com, March 7
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) "Earthquake awareness and prevention day" will be marked on every fourth Wednesday of March annually. In today's irregular cabinet meeting the Government made this decision to conduct a nationwide campaign of awareness and training citizens on prevention, risk reduction, preparedness and rescue actions.
55 percent of the territory of Mongolia belongs to possible 7-8 magnitude earthquake zone and 20 per cent to possible 9 and more magnitude earthquake zone and some 75 per cent of all cities and settlements are located on 7 and more magnitude earthquake zones and 12 soums and settlements on 9 and more magnitude earthquake zones.
Some 28 thousand seismic vibrations were registered in 2016 nationwide. Vibrations are still active around Ulaanbaatar including Gunjiin am, Avdar uul, Emeelt and Khustai nuruu and over 1800 vibrations were registered in 2016 around Ulaanbaatar while it was some 200 in 2000.
It is estimated that in case of 6.6-7.6 magnitude earthquake in earthquake active areas 22-50 per cent of constructions and facilities in the city would be ruined, damaged or broken. This shows the need of strengthening national capacity of disaster protection and improving system of prevention, preparedness and risk reduction.
Discovery highlights diversity of plants more than 100 million years ago
March 6 (National Science Foundation) A discovery of well-preserved fossil plants by paleontologists from the United States, China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia has allowed researchers to identify a distant relative of the living plant Ginkgo biloba.
The find helps scientists better understand the evolution and diversity of ancient seed plants.
The fossils, from the species Umaltolepis mongoliensis, date back to the early Cretaceous Period (some 100-125 million years ago). Scientists discovered the fossils in ancient peat deposits at the Tevshiin Govi mine in the steppes of central Mongolia. Results of the research, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), are published in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
"The stems and leaves are similar to the ginkgo tree, but the seeds, and especially the structures they are born in, are unlike any other known plant, living or extinct," says scientist Patrick Herendeen of the Chicago Botanic Garden, co-author of the PNAS paper. "Finding something like this does not happen very often."
Scientists had previously uncovered fossils of U. mongoliensis, but those were in poor condition, making them difficult to study. Hundreds of better-preserved new fossils show that features of the stems and leaves are similar to those of living ginkgo.
However, the seed-bearing structures are not like those of today's ginkgo tree, Herendeen says. Ginkgo has large seeds with a fleshy outer covering, but U. mongoliensis has small, winged seeds.
As they developed, U. mongoliensis seeds were protected inside a tough, resinous, umbrella-like outer covering, which stayed almost completely closed, opening only to release the seeds.
The key to determining how U. mongoliensis is related to other seed plants lies in understanding its strange seed-bearing capsules.
While the U. mongoliensis seeds are dissimilar to those of any other living or extinct plant, preliminary comparisons connect them with the seed-bearing structures of two groups of extinct plants that may be part of the ginkgo lineage.
These comparisons and the unique features of U. mongoliensis indicate that ginkgo is the last living member of a group of plants that was much more diverse and important in the past.
"Ginkgo biloba, primarily known today as a dietary supplement to enhance memory, also plays an important role in the understanding of seed plant evolution," says Simon Malcomber, program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology. "This research expands our understanding of the diversity in this enigmatic group, in addition to helping clarify relationships among seed plants more generally."
In addition, the researchers collected other fossils from the Tevshiin Govi mine, including seed plants related to modern pines, spruces, swamp cypresses and redwoods.
Also present in the ancient swamp forests of central Mongolia were a variety of extinct plants thought to be early conifers, but that have no clear living relatives.
"Knowing the diversity of plants in Cretaceous environments provides a better understanding of potential food sources for animals such as plant-eating dinosaurs," says Judy Skog, program director for paleontology in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences. "Once the diversity of plants decreases, as this paper indicates is true for the relatives of ginkgo, animal life also declines."
Scientists have long known about dinosaurs from the Cretaceous of Mongolia, but only now are the plants that supported those extinct animals coming into sharper focus.
March 6 (MONTSAME) The international junior freestyle wrestling tournament, in memory of the Olympic Champion Roman Dmitriyev, was held in Yakutsk of Sakha Republic, Russia on March 4 and 5.
In the fifth tournament, a total of 166 athletes of 13 countries competed in eight different weight categories. On the second day, wrestling matches of 55, 66, 84 and 120 kg took place and Mongolian athlete of "Megastars" club E.Temuulen won a silver medal in the 66 kg tournament.
In his first round, he went against Jafar Nouri of Iran and won the match with 9:8 points, facing Razambek Jamalov of Dagestan, Russia in the final round and lost fair and square. The winner of the tournament was awarded RUB 50 thousand while the silver medalist was awarded RUB 30 thousand and bronze medaliыэ was awarded RUB 15 thousand.
Ulaanbaatar, March 6 (MONTSAME) Mongolian mister of bodybuilding, International Master of Sports and athlete of the Mongolian United Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness G.Dorj won a gold medal in the men's 70 kg category of the Arnold Classic 2017 figure international championship in Ohio, USA on March 2-5. It is the first gold medal of Mongolia from the Arnold Classic.
The 28th figure international champion was attended by over 700 athletes from 80 countries. This competition is at second by the ranking of International Federation of Body Building and Fitness.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) One of the biggest entertainment center of Mongolia "Crocus Event Hall" regularly holds 80's and 90's disco parties. Within the framework, "London Beat" and "La Bouche" were invited to Mongolia for the first time last year. This time, on March 7, Austrian pop band JOY will be playing at Crocus Event Hall in Ulaanbaatar.
On the occasion of the International Women's Day - March 8, the band "Shar Airag" /literal meaning Beer/ will also play from their latest cover songs of Smokie band.
The Austrian band is famous for their hits "Touch by Touch" and "Valerie". During the event, the band announced to play their new song "Mongolian Girls".
Ulaanbaatar, March 6 (MONTSAME) Mongolian musician Dolgoon, nicknamed "Magnolian" will participate in the South by Southwest-2017 Festival (SXSW), in Austin, Texas, USA in March 10-19. The Indie-folk musician Magnolian is recognized with his 'Famous Men' album, released in 2016. Last June, "nerdist.com" website of the US named his album as one of the best underground album of 2016.
Best new musicians, singers, music groups, writers, directors and producers are invited to the festival to present their works, which has been organized since 1987. The festival is also famous with that best thinkers and inventors of technology introduce their new findings and innovations and discussions are held on the world pressing issues.
Ulaanbaatar, March 6 (MONTSAME) The National Academic Drama Theatre is opening the "Days of Classic Plays" with William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The famous play will be staged for three days on March 6-8 on the occasion of the International Women's Day.
Director N.Naranbaatar has re-directed the famous play with reflection of contemporary love story in 2015. Young actor and actress B.Shinebayar and G.Nomuun are playing the roles of Romeo and Juliet.
G.Nomuun is a rising young actress who has been working at the theatre since 2013, known for her roles in Cinderella and Son of Heaven. She received the Best Actress in Category of Solo Plays award from the Saint Muse 2016 annual film awards of Mongolia.
B.Shinebayar, playing Romeo, received the Best Actor award for his role in Romeo and Juliet last year, as well.
The Days of Classic Plays will last until the end of March, after staging other world masterpieces such as Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, Hamlet by William Shakespeare and The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.
Ulaanbaatar, March 6 (MONTSAME) Mongolian young artist S.Purevkhuu is opening his exhibition at "montARTphon" Gallery of Schruns, Austria from March 11 to April 2. Around 70 oil and watercolor artworks of Mongolian nature and lifestyle will be displayed in the exhibition.
S.Purevkhuu has studied at the workshop halls of State Honored Cultural Figure titled veteran artist P.Tsogzol and State Honored Cultural Figure O.Myagmar as well as the Mongolian Institute of Cinematography in 2006. The artist has been working as a cameraman for famous Mongolian films such as "Anu Khatan" (Queen Anu), "2020", "Minii akh ataman" (My brother is a gangster), "Taiga", "Ayultai khariltsaa" (Dangerous relations) and "Mash nuuts" (Top secret).
And since 2006, he has regularly displayed his works in joint exhibitions such as "Khavar" (Spring), "Shine buteeliin uzesgelen" (Exhibition for new creation), "Mongoliin saikhan oron" (Beautiful Mongolian Country) and "Gurvan ungu" (Three colors).
March 7 (gogo.mn) "Nomad Spirit" international art exhibition is taking place at Contemporary Art Center of Mongolia (Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs, entrance from east side of the museum) from 6 to 25 March, 2017.
The exhibition is organized by Mongolian Contemporary Art Support Association MCASA and 976 Art Gallery with the support from Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC.
Nomad Spirit aims to raise public awareness on potential threats to important environmental and cultural resources in rural areas of Mongolia, caused by mining and other activities.
In September 2016, 7 artists from Mongolia, Brazil and Switzerland travelled 1500 km exploring mostly gold mining sites and ecologically damaged areas in Uvurkhangai, Tuv, Arkhangai and Bulgan provinces. Artists documented their observations and organized public discussions and workshops in various places.
Artists J.Bolortuvshin, G.Munkhbolor, E.Enkhzaya, S.Ganzug, Ts.Davaajargal (Mongolia), Mauricio Dias (Brazil) and Walter Riedweg (Switzerland) are now presenting their artworks, created basing on their documentations.
Exhibition will display video works, sculpture and sound installations of participating artist.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) Cannes' Cinefondation has announced the 15-project cut for the 2017 Cannes Festival Atelier co-production forum, and Mongolian director Byamba Sakhya is a new entrant in the selection.
For the 13th edition of the Atelier, 15 projects from 14 countries have been selected and one of them is Mongolian project titled 'Bedridden', a film adaptation of Mongolian author G.Ayurzana's novel by the same name. Mongolian 'Guru Media' and 'Prime Pictures' production houses will be collaborating on the making of the film.
The chosen directors are provided access to international co-productions, and opportunities to meet potential partners which altogether will contribute to accelerating the project's completion. From May 19-25, the chosen directors will introduce their project to investors and sponsors in cinema.
With his first feature film titled 'Remote Control', director Byamba Sakhya won the New Currents prize at the 18th edition of the Busan International Film Festival (IFF) in the Republic of Korea, the Award for Best Feature Film at the 2014 Anonimul IFF, Romania, and was nominated for the Hubert Bals Fund Lions Film Award at the 2014 Rotterdam IFF, in the Netherlands.
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) "Neg udriin tsagaan dara ekh" (White Tara for a day), an event for creating Buddhist god White Tara took place for the fifth year at the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum on March 7.
During the event, disciples of artist T.Jamyansuren and god sculptor D.Ukhaanzaya who is also the head of "Tsaglashgui Gerelt" sculpture center were involved together and crafted White Tara within a day.
Every year on 8th day of lunar calendar, the museum collects sculptures and artworks of White Tara to open up an exhibition with their entire collection. Although the museum displayed only the sculptures that were created during the event on 2013 and 2014, the entire collections related to White Tara was displayed on 2015 and 2016. This year, Bogd Khaan Palace Museum displayed over 50 artworks of White Tara of the XIX-XX centuries, including Mongolian, Tibetan and Chinese handcrafted artworks.
March 8 (Huffington Post) There's Eagle Scout, Fly Like an Eagle, Eagle Eye, Where Eagles Dare, and the Eagle has Landed.
And then there's the Eagle Huntress. Her name is Aisholpan...and she's quite the Ambassador for International Women's Day. Hers is a story of feminism, courage, independence...and sisterhood bonding.
Most young girls have an affinity for puppies…or ponies. Their eyes widen at the sight of a golden retriever, golden doodle or golden-maned percheron. Not Aisholpan. This Mongolian girl has a most unique compadre: a golden eagle. True—Hedwig (Harry Potter), Meeko (Pocahontas), Baxter (Anchorman) and Chewbacca (Star Wars) may be phenomenal fictional sidekicks, but this one is for real.
Hogwarts, move over. Aisholpan is all about true wizardry — flying her majestic bird Akkainat (White Wings), whose 8 ½' wingspan is almost double her height.
OASIS IN THE DESERT
Let's face it. We've overdosed on fake news, Netflix binging, bitter twitter, accusations of Russian interference and wiretappings, White House briefings, and the daily Dow. We could all use a detour from selfie madness, chirping pundits, and melodramatic Hollywood hotties. From Executive Orders, recusals and red carpets.
We need a breath of fresh air amidst the crush and glum of urban living. Aisholpan is indeed a breath of fresh mountain air, trekking and riding into snow and ice in the majestic Mongolian wilderness.
True, Ansel Adams and Edward Weston did some stunning images of dune patterns and natural wonders. But photojournalist Asher Svidensky's got some astonishing shots that would make Annie Leibovitz cry with joy.
ADOLESCENCE EFFERVESCENCE: KATY vs. KAZAKH KHARMA
Yup. For most teenagers it's about Katy Perry and first kisses; BFF's and first bras. For Aisholpan, it was all about her first eagle hunt: with White Wings. We've all heard kids dreaming of Hollywood, fantasizing their some-day Oscar moment, delivering imaginary acceptance speeches into their microphone fists. As a little girl in Mongolia, Aisholpan dreamt of flying an eagle like her Dad. No malls, no Shake Shacks. Nope. Just mountains, tents, gers, and goats. Aisholpan was born into a Kazakh family of nomad herders going back 12 generations. To supplement their income, Kazakh herders have a side career: training golden eagle chicks to hunt fox and game.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER
The daughter of celebrated hunter Agalai Nurgaiv, young Aisholpan got home-eagle-schooled young. Captivated by the bond between her father and his hawk, she followed them everywhere, observing the mesmerizing duo. As a baby, she crawled, undaunted, towards her Dad's eagles. Intriguingly, Kazakhs prefer female birds because they are fiercer, larger, more powerful hunters — their wingspan can exceed seven feet.
Although the eagle hunt is a primarily male-dominated sport in Nurgaiv's community, Agalai kept the paternal faith, trusting Aisholpan could do anything a boy could do. His son, while training to be the successor falconer of the ancient family tradition, was drafted into the army. Agalai was willing to start the five-year training process with Aisholpan, under one condition: that she initiate the wish. Not only did she crave capturing and training an eagle, but she was determined to compete in the annual Golden Eagle Festival in Ölgii.
Sure, we all know pop culture, in-the-limelight father-daughter pairs: Paul & Stella McCartney; Brian & Allison Williams; Will & Willow Smith; Lionel & Nicole Ritchie; and, of course, Donald & Ivanka Trump.
And, if it weren't for a touch of international and cinematic destiny, we might never have known about Aisholpan and Agalai Nurgaiv. After all, it seems cool enough to have a father-daughter bond over a regal, historic, elegant, exotic sport. But to have the fortune of capturing the story on film by a determined documentarian? Priceless.
OTTO'S MOTTO — FOR WHOM THE BELL CURVES
March 5 (Country Rebel Clothing) If you've ever doubted the impact that George Strait has had on the music industry, you may be surprised to learn that a cover of one of King George's biggest hits helped a Mongolian electrician become a star.
In 2016, 20-year old O.Enkh-Erdene wowed the audience and judges during the opening round of Mongolia's Got Talent with his take on the country classic "Amarillo By Morning."
The singer, who doesn't speak English, pulled of a flawless cover of the 1983 George Strait hit, but left many wondering if he understood what he was singing about. His accent skewed some of the lyrics, but his jaw-dropping voice shined through. In fact, the talented vocalist went on to win the 2nd season of the popular competition show.
Watch O. Enkh-Erdene's impressive take on "Amarillo By Morning" in the video below.
March 6 (news.mn) During March, the Ministry of Environment and Green Development is organising an interesting series of events entitled 'The Nomadic Winter 2017'. The series opened with an 'Eagle Festival' at the Chinggis Khaani Khuree camp on 5th of March. The camp, is located not far from Ulaanbaatar. More than 2000 came to the remarkable event, including people from every corner of Mongolia and many foreign countries. Each year this event is becoming more and more popular.
A star of the 'Eagle Festival' was Aisholpan, a 13-year-old Kazakh girl from Bayan-Ulgii. She is the heroine of the internationally recognised documentary, "The Eagle Huntress", which is executive-produced and narrated by "Star Wars" star Daisy Ridley. It premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival and competed in the Oscars.
Every year, just as the winter hunting season is getting underway, ethnic Kazakh golden eagle hunters gather from all over Bayan-Ulgii province (western Mongolia) to celebrate their age-old tradition. Like traditional practices elsewhere in the world, hunting with eagles is on the verge of extinction, but in Mongolia the tradition is alive and well.
Aisholpan partakes in Eagle Festival 2017 – Montsame, March 6
Ulaanbaatar, March 7 (MONTSAME) The Blue Pearl 2017 ice festival has completed with success on the frozen Lake Huvsgul. Last week, more than 10,000 national and international tourists and 2,000 vehicles gathered for the festival at the Hatgal Village of Huvsgul aimag.
Aimed at paying tribute to the "Mother Lake" and promoting winter tourism, ice festival has been organized each year for the last 18 years. The performance by a young Russian ice-skater was the most appreciated by audience. This year's highlights were the show performed by a hockey club of Mongolia and dogsled tours.
A local team of cyclists makes a full circle around the lake as a tradition during the ice festival. This year, a 68-year-old cyclist Sh.Yondondash stole the show by coming to the festival all the way from Ulaanbaatar on a bicycle, cruising distance of 900 kilometers within seven days.
Moreover, the ice sculptures are the essential part of this annual event. Named as the best creation was the sculpture called "Melody of the Mother Lake", meaning of which was explained by the sculptor D.Enkhbat as it had expressed that there is still a melody of water and life under the frozen lake. Twelve teams have challenged themselves in ice sculpting competition.
Two ice villages were built, in order to deliver a message and appeal to love the mother earth and protect the surrounding environment. The gamekeeping staff of the Red Taiga specially protected area have treated the festival-goers with wild berries, which had been grown by themselves, from ice bowls.
The most relied-on vehicle at the festival was the horse-sleds, dragging the passengers around on the frozen lake to Khusliin Khad (The Rock of Wishes), told to have been granting wishes of the visitors.
Festival-goers also enjoyed taking photographs with the reindeers, the sixth type of livestock in Mongolia. They also had the opportunity to witness the lifestyle of reindeer herders, native to Huvsgul's taiga.Amateur competitions, such as the ice-knuckle-bone shooting contest, race of sledhorses, war of tug, sumo wrestling and traditional costume shows, were held.
This year's ice festival was participated by 5 heads of diplomatic missions in Mongolia. The number of festival-goers almost doubled compared to that of 2016.
The officials applauded the organization of the festival by saying that it had allowed people a chance to enjoy the fresh air and mesmerizing landscape of Ikh Saridag Mountain and Lake Huvsgul, as well as to experience the unique winter culture of Mongolia.
March 7 (gogo.mn) Blue Pearl International Ice Festival 2017 took place at Khatgal village, the southern shore of lake Khuvsgul on Mar 3-4th.
The two-day event aims to develop winter tourism in Mongolia offered ice sculptures, traditional Mongolian ice shooting competition, horse sled races, skating competitions, horse sled, shaman`s fire ceremony, fun competition among foreign tourists and ice sumo competition.
We deliver you the photo report from the annual Blue Pearl International Ice Festival.
Travel Writing 2017 Application
Out of my comfort zone
by Austin Johnson, Mongolia
Myself, my girlfriend Roxy, and our friend Joey were fresh off the train when we randomly met the director for the Mongolian national climbing team, and made a deal to train the athletes for a driver in the time we were in Mongolia. Having bought horses to explore the amazing scenery of the steppe, shooting a Mongolian TV commercial, and hiking for days in search of climbs, we just never found what we wanted. If it weren't for the amazing people, and the raw adventure aspect, we would have moved on to our next destination much sooner. Our next stop, and most memorable stop, was in the Batsumber area of Mongolia. This area was a long bumpy van ride 8 hours North of the Capital. Upon arriving we saw a ton of rock, a shaman camp, and a beautiful river cutting through the steppe below a tall cliff face. We were meeting with many athletes from all over Mongolia for a climbing competition. We set up camp on top of a hill with the rest of the locals, and went on exploring the close-by rock. The next morning we decided to go on a hike about 5 miles away to check out a distant boulder field for rock quality. On the way to the boulder field, we started to get tired quicker than usual, but waved it off and kept exploring. As the day started to wind down into the afternoon hours, the sun seemed to be beating down on us even harder. It felt much hotter than usual as we trekked around the mountain for a shortcut back to camp. We ended up going through a shaman camp on the edge of a swamp next to the river. The one thing I had wanted to bring back from Mongolia just so happened to be a Shaman scarf, so after hopping across the swamp around the corner from the camp, I took one off their ovoo and continued to hop back to camp. About 15 minutes later, we felt like death. We were literally crawling on all fours across the side of the river, exploding fluids from all openings of our bodies. A herd of cows and massive bulls surrounded us, eating our piles of vomit along the way. When we literally could not puke anymore, we crawled a jug of water and ourselves the mile back to camp. The beautiful part about Mongolia in this situation is, there is nowhere to hide to relieve yourself, so your constantly going in front of everyone! Unable to control ourselves, this went on for a few days before we finally made the long bumpy van trip back to Ulaanbaatar, where it continued for about a week! This is the most sick I've ever felt in my life, but we cherish every bit of the adventure!
The 25-year-old Yorkshire-based photographer clocked in 10,000 miles, 19 countries, and 40 rolls of film for this journey of a lifetime.
March 6 (Unrated) Road trips are great. Epic road trips that span 10,000 miles and over 19 countries are something else. This is what young Yorkshire-based photographer James Parker and two other friends did last summer, and he has the images to show for it. The purpose: a simple desire to seek adventure. "I wanted an adventure: to meet new people and experience new cultures," Parker explains to Huck Magazine in an article about the epic journey. The trip starts out in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the three young adventurers took a vintage 1972 Morris Minor and headed out for the next 53 days to reach the outer skirts of Russia and into Mongolia.
Having studied photography at Edinburgh Napier and Ryerson University in Toronto, it was only natural for Parker to document the trip, which he did over the total of 40 rolls of film for a series dubbed Boys, Bikes and Bucket Hats. What's even more insane is that this was Parker's first official 'trip,' stating, "This was the first time I had been 'traveling'–if you can call it that–and it turns out that it's certainly more challenging than relaxing. Driving 10 hours a day for that long really affects you."
Never-the-less, the results look incredible, as it showcases the nuances of the open road over such diverse landscapes and the locals from them. Check out a few excerpts from the series throughout, and head here to read the full Huck article.
March 6 (TravelMag.co.uk) If Ulaanbaatar helps to point towards Mongolia's future it is the ubiquitous yurt which is synonymous with its past. As we skirt northwards towards the Altai Mountains passing those white clothed structures laced with horse hair as the smoke from dried dung rises through the roof, they take on a standing more than just as an abode occupied by the majority of Mongolia's population. The yurt signifies a way of life, history and culture which is far older than the country herself and was first recorded by Herodotus – that of the nomad.
We were lucky enough to have crossed the threshold of several yurts into this world during our skirmish in Mongolia. The most memorable was in the town of Ulaangom, several days riding from the border with Russia.
Seven kilometres outside of town, down a horrifically bumpy headache inducing track, we visited a Mongolian family to go horse riding – Mongolian style. It was a terrific experience and though the horses did not really listen to either of us, munching on some grass when they felt like it, luckily it didn't involve getting bucked off. As we approached, a two cylinder motorbike sat outside the yurt next to the lower horse powered horse. Throughout Mongolia, many of the younger generation prefer herding using a motorbike; the symbol of the 21st century cowboy in the new Wild West. A solar panel glints next to half a dozen newly born goats tied against the cloth as a small satellite dish powers the newly purchased television. Such is the modern fusion of technology with the structures over 3000 year old history.
To prevent overgrazing and based on precedent one will rarely see more than two or three yurts within several kilometres of each other as the family unit constitutes the modern clan. The families herd, of no more than 100 cows, sheep and goats sat idly on the marshy plain picking on the grass as blue paint on the horns marked their ownership.
It is rude to knock on the brightly coloured doors of yurts so in a shaming accent, reminiscent of some unidentified dialect, I call out 'Nokhoi khor' to the family which roughly translates as 'Can I come in?', but literally means 'Hold your dog'. This is to avoid being eaten by a vicious and highly protective mongrel which stalks the property. Over the past weeks we had been chased by dozens of these less than puppy eyed security systems as we passed by their homes. Here, three generations lived in the two yurts within ten metres of each other. The parents lived in one, which we were invited into, and their children and grandchildren in the other.
As I circled around the outside of the yurt I could see the beautiful simplicity in its construction. It can be assembled in two hours and the Mongolian nomads can deconstruct, transport and reassemble them within a day. Daily we would pass a truck or mini-van laden with a family's belongings that were moving. The bones of the structure are an expanding wooden circular frame which consists of several lattice wall sections, a door frame and bent roof poles which plug the walls to the central wooden crown to act as a roof. Felt acts as the meat of the structure and a cotton cover as the skin, waterproofing the building. This is then wrapped together in a cake shaped package by three tightly bound ropes of horse hair. Such ease of assembly is necessary as families will move around more times in a year than most Western families do in a lifetime. This is roughly six to find fresh pastures for their herd.
Every yurt in Mongolia has its gaudy door facing south, granting significance to the cardinal directions. As I duck through the 4 foot hobbit-high door frame placing my right foot first over the threshold as the ancient code demands I move around clockwise (women move around anticlockwise) not stepping between the two central pillars that represent the link between earth and sky. I am invited to sit on a small stool in the north west segment, next to the shrine or 'Xiomore' (the sacred area in the north), which is reserved for honoured guests.
As tradition demands I keep my feet pointed away from the sacred hearth and do not turn my back to the shrine where a Buddhist image, suitcases, a photo of the male head's father in his sharply cut military uniform and other treasured objects rest. Since yurts have no walls it makes them very intimate and inclusive spaces, epitomising the importance of family which is central to nomadic life.
The man reaches with his leathered hands into deep pockets to produce a small jaded bottle of snuff. Will accepts it first with his right hand touching his inner arm with his left hand as a sign of respect breathing it in deeply as it tickles its way down his nostrils. Hospitality is traditionally so important and it is deeply insulting to decline anything, at least without trying it, as I gratefully accept the snuff of which many nomads cannot afford.
The inside of the yurt is pristine and is kept with the same pride as a Maharajah's mausoleum. Everything has a place and purpose. The portable sink is stationed just left of the door. On the western side (male side) there are stacked saddles and leather milk bags. The east side (female side) contains cooking implements, water, buckets and the food preparation area where the wife silently prepared us tea with salted goat's milk.
A pair of reading glasses, wallet and tooth brushes were cozied in-between the orange painted wooden beams, which represent the colour of the sun, and felt above our heads. Underneath the cabinets lay the bare ground as there was no groundsheet (which is an indicator of the family's wealth) as it followed the natural contours of the dried earth. In the centre of the yurt, or 'ger' in Mongolian, is the practically and symbolically significant hearth. Here the wife knelt down and began to heat up the milk tea as it bubbled up warming the space.
As we sat there with the man, his Chinese cigarette perched neatly in between his tanned fingers, looking through his photographs, his son, a boy a similar age to us entered wearing a vintage Adidas shirt and plonked himself on his mother's bed. I was surprised as this area was traditionally reserved for women exclusively. We glanced at each other smiling as we viewed the photographs together. As we finished flicking through them the man noticed Will looking at his 2:2 bolt action rifle, which was probably Soviet era from WWI. He grinned and grabbed it. It looked similar to the Lee Enfield's we used during the days of CCF training at school. Pressing the worn wood to his shoulder he cocked the bolt and took aim through the chipped metal cross in the direction of our heads as the cigarette now in between his lips glowed an ominous red. With a click of the trigger a puff of smoke emerged from his cigarette as he handed us the gun before replacing it next to his wife's metallic single bed. This surprised me too as traditionally a weapon should have been next to the male bed. Later in the afternoon, as we sprinkled special flour on our endless cups of tea for added flavour and he briefly flicked on the TV, I started to understand the erosion of their traditions as several belly dancers entered the room through the screen.
Whilst traditions and customs are still very important to the nomadic people, particularly those who have chosen not to leave this way of life for the static existence of Ulaanbaatar, the influence of the outside world has creased their edges. Previously commonplace customs like men keeping their hats on indoors, picking things up with palms facing upwards and filling up any glass that is empty are increasingly becoming forgotten in the face of the inexorable pool of modernity as their lives are synthesised with a newer world. I am thrilled that western comforts have made the lives of many hundreds of thousands of nomads easier, particularly as I witness swathes of the country suffering from desertification, soil erosion and the evaporation of their water sources as Mongolia's 60 million cattle compete for space in the face of climate change. I do hope, for the sake of their beautiful culture and country which I was privileged to share in however fleetingly, that both are not lost.
March 6 (Washington Post) Jill Kirkpatrick and Tony Connor have been wedded blissfully for 20 years and they agree that one truism of their happy marriage is that they avoid driving together. So when Kirkpatrick "offhanded and flippantly" mentioned to her husband that they ought to consider competing in the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, a vintage-car race that would take them from the Great Wall of China to the Place Vendome in Paris, Connor said he just about fell out of his chair.
"He loves cars and I love adventure travel," Kirkpatrick said. Then Connor finished her sentence saying, "And the mother of all rallies is what she decided to do."
So the couple left Washington in June 2016 and spent 36 days covering 8,500 miles across the Eurasian continent, fording rivers, rumbling over washboard dirt roads, circumnavigating mountain passes in the Swiss Alps and tent camping in the Mongolian grassland. What's more, the prize for winning the rally is simply a shot of pride and a bottle of champagne.
If you want to drive the Peking to Paris rally, you'll have to wait until 2019, but the association sponsors vintage-car endurance races several times a year: The next is the Baltic Classic in May, a two-week rally that starts in Copenhagen and ends in Berlin.
To enter, participants pay a registration fee to the race organizer, the Endurance Rally Association, which covers much of the cost of the trip, including lodgings and most of the fuel. Connor, who works in finance, said that he was able to arrange taking the time off for the trip with the help of his team back in the office. The overall cost, not including preparing a car and shipping it to the start point, is in the five figures.
The month-long journey — the sixth such rally so far — tested Connor and Kirkpatrick to their limits and beyond. They averaged one meal a day and three-to-four hours of sleep a night. And because of an agreement they made beforehand, they finished without a single argument about Kirkpatrick's directions or Connor's driving.
That alone was a feat, they agreed, considering that the rally is an epic trial of human and mechanical capacity even under ordinary circumstances. Then there's the fact that Connor and Kirkpatrick drove the entire race in a Porsche.
"This rally will move 'impossible' for you," Connor said. Kirkpatrick chimed in: "It was the hardest thing I've ever chosen to do in my life."
The rally dates to 1907 and is a race specifically for cars made before 1975. The 2016 rally included a parade of classics such as a 1917 American LaFrance speedster, a 1930 Ford Model A and a 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II.
Then there was the car that Connor calls "the second love of my life," which he shipped from the District and drove for the entire race equipped with D.C. plates. When Connor began looking for a car to fit the criteria for the rally, he contacted a dealer who specializes in classics. What the dealer found was an "outlaw" 1956 Porsche 356A, meaning that original parts of the car had been replaced with more modern versions, including its suspension and engine.
Connor bought the two-seater coupe and began a series of modifications to prepare it to complete the trip over the rugged and unforgiving terrain. He installed a steel plate to protect the undercarriage, reinforced the steering column and doubled the fuel-tank capacity. He also rerouted the exhaust through the rear fender for river crossings and adjusted the car's suspension to gain additional clearance. But one aspect of the car never changed: its color, a silty brown. Connor and Kirkpatrick named the vehicle Java in memory of a close family friend's chocolate Lab, whose coat resembled the paint color.
But during the rally, the Porsche was known as "car 58" for the number emblazoned on its doors. When the race began in June, a total of 107 cars lined up at the start. Only 97 had completed the entire journey by the race's end in July. Connor and Kirkpatrick crossed the line in Paris third in their class, happy just to have finished. During the race, Connor made major repairs, including one that necessitated a stop in Kazan, Russia, to replace the whole back end of the car after its rear suspension failed.
Minor repairs, meanwhile, were ongoing. On the couple's first day traversing Mongolia — the second day of the race — the dashboard's speedometer and fuel gauge stopped functioning. For the rest of the rally, Connor "guessed" the speed and gas level. In all, Connor estimated that the 8,500 miles they covered was the equivalent of 100,000 miles of wear and tear. Yet for all of the time Connor spent covered in motor oil while tinkering with the car to make it run, he said that they never had a flat tire.
Kirkpatrick said that surprise was one of many for the couple on the trip. She said that despite their preparation for the rally, they realized shortly after it started how little they really knew. Mongolia, for instance. There, they saw yaks. And also some of the roughest roads they encountered. During one river crossing the Porsche, with its relatively low road clearance and the steel plate underneath, turned into an ark and began to float. That is, until Connor stomped the accelerator, the tires gained traction and the Porsche shot out of the water.
"Mongolia will take a bit out of your soul," Connor says. "But it will replace it with something more beautiful."
Then there was the daily pace. Although Connor and Kirkpatrick were aware that the event was designated a race, they didn't know that each day began with a wheel-spinning start and went flat-out from there.
"We thought you cruised along," Kirkpatrick said. Not so. "There was nothing gentlemanly about it. . . . It was lawless."
Other revelations awaited down the road. There was the time they were driving along a superhighway in Russia when the pavement suddenly ended without warning. Then came the high alpine passes of Italy, where Connor's fear of heights crept up as they navigated the narrow road at an elevation of 4,000 feet.
Connor and Kirkpatrick agreed that the most suspenseful moment of the trip — alternatively the most hysterical — involved the immigration officers at the border crossing between Mongolia and Russia.
Pulling up to the border, the pair opened the doors, the trunk and the hood for inspection.
"We looked homeless and hadn't showered," Kirkpatrick said.
One of the border guards approached with a German shepherd on a leash. Another spotted a suspicious plastic bag of little green crystals. Two more officers then separated Connor and Kirkpatrick for interrogation about what they thought was methamphetamines.
It wasn't until Connor poured some of the crystals onto an oil leak that the border guards learned that the crystals were an absorbing chemical for vehicle spills.
"We couldn't look at each other without laughing," Kirkpatrick said.
"It was 'Breaking Bad,' " Connor said.
Not all teams were as carefree as Connor and Kirkpatrick. The sleep deprivation, physical hardship and mental strain of the rally took its toll. Bickering led several navigators to leave their drivers midrace. Some teams abandoned the rally altogether, going their separate ways. The thought of quitting never occurred to Connor and Kirkpatrick.
As the pair crossed Europe toward Paris, they realized how much the rally had changed their perspective on themselves and the world around them.
"Everything looks right but it doesn't feel right," Connor said. Glancing at his wife, he said: "She looked the same and completely different."
Rolling across the finish line at Place Vendome, Connor and Kirkpatrick gallantly waved a pair of American flags.
"I didn't want it to end," Connor said. "We're already thinking about 2019."
For more information about the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge and similar road races, visit the Endurance Rally Association's website at endurorally.com
Suite 303, Level 3, Elite Complex
14 Chinggis Avenue, Sukhbaatar District 1
Ulaanbaatar 14251, Mongolia
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