1 FOREIGN RELATIONS OF MONGOLIA’S ROAD TRANSPORT SECTOR BROADENING WWW.MONTSAME.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/21      2 MONGOLIA EXPRESSES READINESS TO CONTRIBUTE TO STRENGTHENING ASIA-EUROPE COOPERATION WWW.MONTSAME.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/21      3 OYU TOLGOI FUNDED 35.1 KM ROAD OPENS IN KHANBOGD WWW.GOGO.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/21      4 POLYMER BITUMEN TO BE DOMESTICALLY PRODUCED WWW.MONTSAME.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/21      5 KHURELBAATAR CHIMED: 319 ENTITIES DREW LOANS FROM TWO FUNDS WWW.ZGM.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/21      6 CONSTRUCTION OF TAVANTOLGOI-GASHUUNSUKHAIT ROAD TO BE INTENSIFIED WWW.MONTSAME.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/20      7 OVER 30 MEASURES PLANNED FOR REDUCTION OF ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION WWW.MONTSAME.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/20      8 MONGOLIA SAYS IT EARNS OVER 169 MLN USD FROM COAL EXPORTS TO CHINA IN JAN WWW.HELLENICSHIPPINGNEWS.COM  PUBLISHED:2019/02/20      9 RUSSIA’S GAZPROM TO START CHINA GAS PIPELINE BY DECEMBER 1 WWW.RT.COM PUBLISHED:2019/02/20      10 MONGOLIA'S FOREIGN TRADE UP 41.6 PCT IN JAN. WWW.XINHUANET.COM PUBLISHED:2019/02/20      УГСАРМАЛ ОРОН СУУЦНЫ ДУЛААЛГАД ЗОРИУЛЖ 12.7 ТЭРБУМ ТӨГРӨГИЙГ УЛСЫН ТӨСВӨӨС ГАРГАХААР БОЛЖЭЭ WWW.IKON.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/21     2018ОНД ЦАГААН БУДАА , ЭЛСЭН ЧИХЭР , ТАХИАНЫ МАХНЫ ИМПОРТ 24-32 ХУВИАР ӨСЖЭЭ WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN  НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/21     ДЦС IV: 2018 ОНД НИЙТ АШИГ 4.7 ДАХИН ӨСӨЖ , 4.48 ТЭРБУМ ТӨГРӨГ БОЛСОН WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN  НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/21     ТУСГАЙ САНГУУДААС ГАРГАСАН ЗЭЭЛИЙН 100 ОРЧИМ ТЭРБУМ ТӨГРӨГ ХУГАЦАА ХЭТЭРСЭН ӨР БОЛЖЭЭ WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN  НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/21     МОНГОЛ УЛСЫН БОРЛУУЛАЛТЫН МЕНЕЖЕРҮҮДИЙН ИНДЕКС СҮҮЛИЙН 12 САРД АНХ УДАА УНАЛТЫН БҮСЭД ШИЛЖИВ WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/21     2018 ОНД ХАМГИЙН ЧИНЭЭЛЭГ БҮЛГИЙН ХЭРЭГЛЭЭ ЯДУУ БҮЛГИЙНХНЭЭС 5.1 ДАХИН ИХ БАЙВ WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/21     ХОВД ГОЛД ОСОЛДСОН 6 НАСТАЙ ХҮҮХДИЙН ЭРЛИЙГ ЗОГСООЛОО WWW.MONTSAME.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/21     ДБНХ-НООС П.ОРХОНЫ БАРИЛДАХ ЭРХИЙГ 4 ЖИЛЭЭР ХАСАВ WWW.MONTSAME.MN  НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/21     УУХҮЯ: II САРЫН БАЙДЛААР НИЙТ НУТАГ ДЭВСГЭРИЙН 5.6 ХУВЬД АШИГТ МАЛТМАЛЫН ЛИЦЕНЗ ОЛГОСОН WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN  НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/20     300 ОРТОЙ ТӨРӨХ ЭМНЭЛГИЙН БАРИЛГЫН АЖИЛ 80%-Д ХҮРЧ ГУРАВДУГААР САРЫН 1-НЭЭС ДУЛААНД ХОЛБОГДОХООР БОЛЖЭЭ WWW.IKON.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/20    

Events

Name organizer Where
“Doing business with Mongolia”, “UK Investors show” бизнес хөтөлбөр March 27-April 02. 2019 ЛОНДОН ХОТ, ИХ БРИТАНИ Mongolian Business Database London UK
SYMPOSIUM ON GLOBAL MARKETS Nationalism and Protectionism: The United States in the International Arena June 17-18, 2019 The Center for American and International Law Plano, Texas, USA The Center for American and International Law (CAILAW) Plano Texas June 17-18 2019
"Open to Export" ICC WTO International business award ICC WTO London

NEWS

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China's coal-rich Shanxi province to halt or slow mines construction until 2020 www.mining.com

China's Shanxi province, the country's top coal producer, has decided to suspend or hold back the development of mines until 2020, which effectively will take out of the market about of 120 million tonnes of the fossil fuel.

The province will also stop the construction of more coal mines over the period to further reduce capacity, state-owned news agency Xinhua reported, quoting a recent coal industry development plan published by the local government.

Currently, Shanxi supplies coking coal to China's top steel mills and also exports to Japan and Korea.
Coal output at Shanxi, in the country's north, will be capped by 2020 at 1 billion tonnes and capacity at 1.2 billion tonnes annually by 2020.

Currently, the province supplies coking coal to China's top steel mills and also exports to Japan and Korea.

Earlier this month, provincial authorities announced they it will close 18 collieries and cut 17 million tonnes of coal capacity by the end of the year.

China, the world’s largest coal consumer and producer, is in the midst of an aggressive plan to reduce the share of coal in its overall energy mix and consequent smog and greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of that strategy, Beijing announced in January its intention to shut down 800 million tonnes of outdated coal capacity by 2020.

The country has also made public recently its goal of modernizing its coal-fired power plants by 2020 in an effort to cut “polluting” emissions by 60%. The government also aims to add over 20 million kilowatts of installed wind power and more than 15 million kilowatts of installed photovoltaic power by the end of the decade.

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Influential emerging market investor is iron ore price bull www.mining.com

With Chinese and US traders on a break, the iron ore market took a breather on Monday after wild price swings saw the steelmaking raw material fall to a more than seven-month low on Friday.

The Northern China import price of 62% Fe content ore is down 15% for in May trading at $57.80 per dry metric tonne, the lowest since mid-October according to data supplied by The Steel Index.

“There may be a slowdown in demand from the housing sector but the infrastructure sector will still be sustained”
Benchmark prices are down a whopping 37% from their February highs when ore came to within shouting distance of triple digits.

Bloomberg quotes closely followed emerging markets investor Mark Mobius as saying volatile iron ore prices and the fundamentals of the industry have to be looked at separately.

Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, said the while fundamentals have bee stable, the price is "subject to all kinds of external factors" including how traders are betting on the price going up or down:

“I don’t see a big, big decline in the demand for iron ore going forward, I think there’ll be continuing demand not only in China but other parts of the world,” said Mobius, who’s spent over 40 years tracking emerging markets. “If you look at Chinese imports of iron ore, it’s almost a straight line, continuing to go up,” adding that in contrast the price “is going all over the place.”

“There may be a slowdown in demand from the housing sector but the infrastructure sector will still be sustained,” Mobius said. “If the One Belt, One Road program proceeds, there’ll be continuing demand.”

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National currency rate strengthened amid foreign exchange reserves increase www.montsame.mn

Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ Mongolian national currency rate against US dollar has been tightened in the last several days. According to the Bank of Mongolia, today, May 29, buy rate of one USD equals to MNT2395, and sell rate equals to MNT2406.50 on the interbank foreign exchange platform. A few days ago, for example on May 25, buy rate was MNT2405 and sell rate was MNT2411.

Tugrug rate is strenthening in direct connection to IMF’s funding within the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). IMF Executive Board approved a three-year extended arrangement under EFF for Mongolia on May 24 and the first funding of USD 38.6 million was deposited into the central bank on May 25 to increase foreign exchange reserves.

The foreign exchange reserves were planned to be raised to USD1.6 billion in 2017, 2.7 in 2018, USD3.5 billion in 2019 and USD4 billion in 2020.
B.Ooluun

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First ever project to target financial consumer protection underway www.montsame.mn

Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ The Asian Development Bank established a memorandum of understanding with Bank of Mongolia on realizing financial consumer protection sub-component of Supporting Financial sector development and stability of Mongolia project. Within the project, a study on financial consumer protection was carried-out and a recommendation was released. The Bank of Mongolia organized a national consultation meeting ‘Current regulations and legal situation of financial consumer protection and recommendation on improvement’, where the recommendation was introduced. The recommendation indicated the necessity of having financial consumer protection regulations, forming audit structure, supervise and reporting.

The consultation meeting was attended by representatives of Financial Regulatory Commission, Authority for Fair Competition and Customers Protection, Mongolian Bankers Association, Bank and Financial Academy and other professional unions.

The first ever project targeted to financial consumer protection covers whole financial sector and as a result of the project, financial consumer protection framework is expected to be enhanced and system and mechanism to resolve disputes in finance sector in non-judicial process to be formed.

B.Ooluun

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Parliament reviews basic guidelines for 2018 socio-economic development www.theubpost.mn

During Thursday’s session of Parliament, MPs debated the operations of state-owned companies, health, and environmental projects.

Head of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Social Policy, Education, Culture and Science L.Enkh-Amgalan pointed out that over 90 percent of state-owned enterprises are facing deficits, but their directors are getting paid high salaries, driving expensive vehicles, and renting expensive offices. He said the state cannot afford to function this way, and that there should be a greater focus on reforming the leadership and management of stateowned companies.

Vice-Speaker of Parliament Ts.Nyamdorj said that some state-owned companies are operating by taking out loans from other companies and the state. He asked what the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Authority, Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry, and the Government Agency for Policy Coordination on State Property are doing to address the deficits facing these state-owned enterprises.

Cabinet Secretariat J.Munkhbat stated that there should be an emphasis on improving management and addressing the deficits of Erdenes Mongol Company.

MP B.Undarmaa asked the Minister of Energy what measures are being taken to provide ger district residents with permanent electricity in the framework of ger-district re-planning projects.

Minister of Energy P.Gankhuu noted that more than 1,600 households are connected to the central electricity network, and that the ministry has announced tender bids for a project that would provide 6,000 households with permanent electricity this year.

Member of Parliament B.Saranchimeg asked Minister of Nature, Environment, and Tourism
D.Oyunkhorol what kind of projects her ministry is implementing to deal with environmental challenges and to stop desertification.

Minister D.Oyunkhorol said that the ministry is working to collaborate with international organizations to implement projects and programs to combat desertification and adapt to climate change. The ministry is working on receiving funding from international organizations fighting climate change and green loan funds to implement programs addressing environmental issues.

Deputy Minister of Health L.Byambasuren pointed out that the average monthly salary for a doctor at public hospitals is 640,000 MNT, and the average monthly salary for a nurse is 560,000 MNT. She noted that these salaries are very low considering their workload, so the ministry is working to increase the salaries of the doctors, nurses, and staff of public hospital as part of the basic guidelines for 2018’s socio-economic development.

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Fitch: Mongolia's IMF Programme Staves Off Financing Risks www.reuters.com

 
KONG/SINGAPORE, May 28 (Fitch) The IMF's approval of a financing arrangement for Mongolia reduces the country's external financing risks and should put the economy on a more stable footing, says Fitch Ratings. The IMF programme will also promote sustainable fiscal policies, which could support Mongolia's credit profile over the medium term. However, there will be implementation challenges in meeting budget targets and medium-term debt sustainability is highly dependent on the success of large mining projects. The refinancing of USD580 million in government-guaranteed bonds in March has already demonstrated an improvement in Mongolia's access to international financial markets since a staff-level IMF agreement was reached in February. The IMF-led financing package itself will total around USD5.5 billion, including USD434 million under a three-year External Fund Facility, around USD3 billion from multilateral and bilateral partners, and an extension of the CNY15 billion (USD2.2 billion) swap line with the People's Bank of China. The high likelihood of IMF support was factored into our decision to affirm Mongolia's sovereign rating at 'B-'/Stable in February 2017. The support package and stronger market confidence should ensure that Mongolia can meet its external obligations over the next few years, and should support greater stability of the Mongolian tugrik, which depreciated by 20% against the US dollar in 2016. The partial recovery in commodity prices has also relieved some pressures - commodities account for around three-quarters of Mongolia's exports and mining activity represents about 20% of GDP. Overall, the near-term risk of default has fallen sharply from last year. The IMF programme's conditions include commitments to financial-sector reform, a strengthening of central-bank governance and exchange-rate flexibility. Fiscal consolidation is also a key component. The budget deficit surged to 17% of GDP in 2016 from 8.5% in 2015, and Fitch estimates that general government debt rose sharply to around 92% of GDP at end-2016, well above previous limits set in a Fiscal Stability Law. The government is now targeting a budget deficit of about 10% in 2017 and aims to reduce this to below 7% by 2019 under its new medium-term budget framework. A poor track record in hitting fiscal targets in recent years suggests there is a risk of some slippage. Nevertheless, we expect a significant reduction in the deficit over the next two years, given ongoing collaboration with the IMF and a desire to avoid a resurgence of market pressures ahead of future refinancing exercises. Failure to make meaningful progress on fiscal consolidation would undermine the recent improvement in market sentiment and expose the country again to refinancing risks, particularly since a considerable proportion of government borrowings is now in the form of marketable external debt. Fiscal consolidation is likely to act as a headwind to economic growth in the short term, but medium-term prospects are much stronger, owing to the second phase of the Oyu Tolgoi (OT2) underground copper mine and other natural resources projects, such as the Tavan Tolgoi coal mine. We expect real GDP growth to pick up to 8.0% by 2019, from just 1% in 2016. Stronger growth should support medium-term debt sustainability, with general government debt likely to stabilise next year - albeit at around 94% of GDP based on Fitch estimates, well above the 51% median for 'B' rated countries. A substantial increase in export revenue generated by OT2 and other projects should also guard against a return of external finance pressure beyond the time-frame of the IMF programme.
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Uvurkhangai aimag to establish meat factory jointly with Chinese and US companies www.montsame.mn

Uvurkhangai /MONTSAME/ Uvurkhangai aimag is going to establish a meat processing factory jointly with Hai Chuan Group of Guizhou province, China and Jarves Mongolia Company of USA. During Prime Minister J.Erdnebat's visit to China, Governor of Uvurkhangai aimag G.Ganbold signed a memorandum with the parties on establishing the factory and supplying its product to international markets. Governor G.Ganbold was interviewed on the matter.

-Why China has been chosen to collaborate and how is the work going?

Uvurkhangai aimag used to maintain cooperation with foreign countries in culture, health and tourism sectors. Therefore, the Governor’s action plan in 2016-2020 indicated to bring more economic activities in foreign relations, making beneficial to the aimag. China is the closest country, with which business could be profitable. We established relations with Guizhou province and put forward a request to support the aimag on establishing the meat processing factory and increasing green space. Guizhou province' authorities connected us with four of the largest meat factories, one of which was Hai Chuan group.

The group has a leading position in meat processing and production on the Chinese market. Jarvis Mongolia of USA is a company which supplies 85 per cent of global meat processing machinery and has built over 1000 meat factories in China in the last few years.

Hai Chuan Group and Jarvis Mongolia have a cooperation for a long period and we previously had talks with ‘Jarvis Mongolia’ Company about having a 'healthy livestock area' in Uvurkhangai aimag and agreed to develop trilateral cooperation. The cooperation issue was raised at the Government and Ministerial level and was solved within three months. During the PM’s visit, Mongolian and Chinese ministers in charge of agriculture talked about establishing the healthy animal area.

-When is the factory planned to start operations?

A meat processing factory building owned by Just Agro Company in Uvurkhangai aimag had been under collateral for MNT3 billion to the State Bank and the Government has freed the collateral, transferring the factory building to the local property. We will expand the factory, renovate equipment and start operations of thermal processing factory, producing ham, sausage and canned meat products. Further, when the healthy animal area is established, we will have a possibility to export fresh meat to the Chinese market. Hai Chuan Company will make marketing of fresh meat supply to the Chinese market with labels of the company. Therefore, there will be no problem concerning the sales and price.

-Will animal and meat be supplied from local herders, won't they?

Of course. As the meat factory is being built in Uvurkhangai aimag, which would be a healthy animal area, local herders will have more possibility to sell their animals and meat. Uvurkhangai aimag and surrounding 4-5 soums of other aimags have 35 per cent of the total livestock population of Mongolia.

What measures are being taken to make livestock healthy, free of animal diseases?

We vaccinated 70000 heads of livestock when smallpox spread in neighboring aimags in December. We are paying attention to use high quality medicine and vaccination and 20-40 veterinarians will be involved in 6-month to 1-year trainings in Guizhou province.
B.Ooluun

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British Airways: Chaos continues at Heathrow www.bbc.com

More than a third of British Airways flights from Heathrow were cancelled as thousands of passengers faced a second day of disruption.
The airline was hit by a worldwide computer system power failure on Saturday, causing cancellations and delays for thousands of passengers.
All long-haul services left from Heathrow, but with delays, BA said.
The airline has urged people to check the status of flights before travelling to the airport.

The airline apologised to customers for the issue, which is thought to have been caused by a problem with the IT system's power supply.
In a statement released on Sunday, chief executive Alex Cruz said: "I know this has been a horrible time for customers. We're not there yet, but we are doing our very best to sort things out for you."
The BBC's Phillip Norton, who has been stranded at Rome airport since Saturday, has been told he won't be able to fly back to London until Tuesday.

The airline is liable to reimburse thousands of passengers for refreshments and hotel costs.
Customers displaced by flight cancellations can claim up to £200 a day for a room (based on two people sharing), £50 for transport between the hotel and airport, and £25 a day per adult for meals and refreshments.
One traveller from Seattle said she had spent the evening sleeping on the floor of a hotel conference room.
Ashley Tracey, who was trying to get to Mumbai for her friend's wedding, said she had been queuing to rebook her flight for six hours.
She said: "There's no information I can't seem to get through online, I don't live here so I don't have a phone that works here."
line break
At the scene

On Sunday morning, Heathrow Terminal 5 descended into chaos again as people arrived to rebook flights after theirs were cancelled yesterday as well as new arrivals hoping they had not been affected by the company's IT failure.
Many people told me about the lack of knowledge or information provided by BA staff.
One American woman on a stop-over described how an employee asked what the queue they were standing in was for.
Some passengers slept on yoga mats provided by the airline as conference rooms were opened to provide somewhere more comfortable to rest.
A number of people arrived at the airport for 05:00 and were still none the wiser by lunch time whether they'd be home any time soon.
As the day has progressed, British Airways appears to have more of a grip on the situation. The departure lounge has calmed down and many have rearranged their flights.
But the terminal is still full of hour-long queues and for many this wasn't how they had hoped to spend their Bank Holiday weekend.
line break
There have been reports that some passengers who departed from Heathrow on Saturday found their luggage was not at their destination when they landed.
Terry Page, 28, arrived in Fort Worth, Texas after delays and said "about 50" passengers did not have their check-in luggage.

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Workshop on trade policy held between Mongolia and Korea www.montsame.mn

Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ Within the framework of a joint research for studying the opportunities to establish Economic Partnership Agreement between Mongolia and the Republic of Korea, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia held a Mongolia-Korea Workshop on Trade Policy in cooperation with Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) at Corporate Convention Center on May 25-26.

The workshop held seminars on ROK’s foreign trade policy, practices of free trade agreements and current trade issues of the two countries.
During the event, the researchers led by Lee Jae Young, Vice President of Europe, Americas and Eurasia Department of KIEP and professors from the ROK and National University of Mongolia delivered presentations and held colloquium during the two-day workshop.

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Under the Radar: Could Mongolia’s June election see a populist upset? www.globalriskinsights.com

Mongolia enters 2017 on the heels of the global commodity slump that torpedoed the country’s economy and provides the backdrop for the upcoming presidential election in June. Mongolia’s economic growth forecast is -0.2% for 2017 – a stark contrast to the runaway, double-digit growth experienced only a few years ago. The country’s economic situation adds an important dimension to the June 26th presidential election, as mounting frustration and disenchantment could provide fertile ground for a political upset.

In order to meet IMF bailout terms, Mongolia passed a supplementary budget, promised to keep the central bank from undertaking any quasi-financial activities, and must carry out an asset-quality review of its banks by November. With a budget deficit of 17% of GDP in 2016 and 11% in 2017, Mongolia hopes that IMF aid and severe belt-tightening will see the budget deficit drop to 4% by 2020. With commodity prices picking up – Mongolia exported year-on-year 446% more coal in Q1 2017 – the IMF predicts a robust 8% growth rate by 2019. So far the signs appear promising, with Mongolian exports up 36% in the first quarter of 2017 compared to last year. Investor confidence also appears to be returning, with March’s seven year, $600 million Khuraldai bond six times oversubscribed.

Whatever else may occur, the fact remains that Mongolia remains fundamentally dependent on commodity exports, especially to China. Consequently, maintaining investor confidence and stability is vital. In the meantime, the upcoming presidential election highlights widespread public anger, and any sabre rattling (and potential surprise win) by populist candidates could seriously jeopardize Mongolia’s goals for the coming years.

Mongolia’s belt tightening and mining bust stoke anger

Longstanding grievances about inequality and a lack of trickle down benefits from the country’s mining boom are now accented by the pain from the conditions of the IMF bailout. While the river of mining money largely passed ordinary Mongolians by, they are now the ones most impacted by the government’s austerity measures. These measures include: increased taxes on tobacco, passenger vehicles, petrol and alcohol as well pay cuts for civil servants. Further changes also include: higher employer and employee social insurance payments, cuts in social service offerings, a raise in the retirement age, and cuts in allowances for children and pensioners.

Wealthy Mongolians are also unhappy, as a reformed progressive tax system raises the top tax bracket to 25% and introduces tax on savings interest. These measures proved so unpopular that the Mongolian Chamber of Commerce threatened to boycott tax payments in protest.

Another source of instability has been the efforts of Mongolian politicians to strengthen the economy on their own terms. Such efforts saw Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) member Davaasuren Tserenpil introduce measures in the 2017 budget requiring foreign companies to bank with local institutions, as well use local commercial bank accounts for sales transactions. In response, Rio Tinto – a major investor and mining operator in Mongolia – complained to the IMF, which in turn delayed bailout payments in early May, expressing concern over the proposals.

Rio Tinto argued that the Mongolian government was increasing taxes on mining firms under the guise of IMF bailout requirements, and that Rio Tinto already uses local banks for employee payments. Moreover, Rio Tinto refuses to use banks with less than an AA rating: the highest rated Mongolian bank – Khan Bank – is rated B- by Fitch and Caa1 by Moody’s. While MPP parliamentarians maintained that the legislation did not pertain to Rio Tinto’s massive Oyu Tolgoi mine (upon completion in 2010, the mine accounted for over 30% of Mongolia’s GDP), legislators have nevertheless bowed to external pressure and amended the budget to ensure the bailout funding is received.

Government accuses media of fake news

This incident highlights the power dynamics at play in the country, with many complaining of the disproportionate power wielded by mining companies, such as Rio Tinto. These sentiments feed into the national discourse in the run-up to the June elections. This is reflected in the controversy surrounding a government bill, the so-called ‘Law of Infringement’ which would allow police to fine individuals up to $41,000 for spreading libelous or defamatory (including via social media) information without having to go to court: this fine is increased to $410,000 for media outlets.

The ruling MPP government has accused the media of spreading false reports and creating division in the months leading up to the election. In response, twelve national broadcasters went dark on April 25th and seven newspapers suspended their websites, with print media outlets also running black front pages in protest. Mongol TV News director Lhagva Erdene argued that the bill represents “[…] the death of opinions and critical thought before the election.”

On the subject of opinions, the 2017 election will see a new policy on opinion polling, with polling now permitted up to 21 days before the election, an increase on the previous limit of 65 days. This will add a new dimension to this election, one that could see a greater role played by reports on public opinion shifts, a situation that benefits populist candidates who capitalize on such swings and their momentum.

Checking out the playing field

The MPP swept legislative elections in 2016, ousting the Democratic Party and securing 65 of 75 seats. The MPP’s victory was in large part due to public discontent over the state of the economy, yet it remains to be seen whether the MPP can continue its winning streak, or if its heavy handed methods combined with lingering economic woes will undermine its chances of securing the presidency.

With President Elbegdorj’s term up, the Democratic Party has selected Khaltmaa Battulga, a self-made millionaire and judo star. Battulga served as an MP in the previous Democratic government from 2011-2016, occupying the posts of transport and agriculture minister. Battulga is also an outspoken critic of Mongolia’s dependence on China, a dependence underwritten by mining exports. Consequently, Battulga’s stance on China could threaten investor confidence if this sparks a drop in relations or worse. While Battulga is unlikely to antagonize China to the point of sinking the Mongolian economy, if elected he could try to take the country in a new direction, either via economic diversification or seeking out other trading partners. The latter is a tricky prospect given Mongolia’s isolated and landlocked position.

As for China, President Xi Jinping extended his country’s offers for continuing assistance and cooperation, as well as noting that Mongolia is welcome to actively participate in China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) plans, during the OBOR summit from May 14th – 15th.

The MPP has chosen parliamentary speaker Miyeegombyn Enkhbold as its candidate. Expect more of the status quo from an Enkhbold administration, as the MPP seeks to further consolidate its grip on power in 2017. To this end, the MPP government has tried to reassure mining interests, with an announcement in early March promising to soon increase the percentage of the country open to mining exploration from the current 9.6% to 20.9%.

The third option

The MPP and Democratic Party have been the two main political forces in post-independence Mongolia; however, the ongoing economic downturn, recycled politicians and corruption has tainted both parties in the eyes of the Mongolian electorate. Opinion polling done before the 2016 legislative election showed that 60% of respondents had little to no confidence in political parties, and that some 60% of Mongolians described themselves as independents. In this context the MPP victory appears as a protest vote against the current government, with the MPP benefiting from being the only viable alternative.

The 2017 election has already seen some controversial candidate choices, with the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) initially choosing former president Enkhbayar Nambaryn. The MPRP, a MPP splinter group founded by Enkhbayar in 2010 has a rather fluid identity. Having parted ways with the MPP over concerns of the latter’s drift away from its traditional socialist roots, the MPRP together with the Mongolian National Democratic Party (MNDP) formed the Justice Coalition headed by Enkhbayar to contest the 2012 parliamentary elections. It eventually entered government as a junior coalition partner of the Democratic Party, having won 11 seats.

Enkhbayar was prime minister from 2000 to 2004 and president from 2005 to 2009, overseeing the landmark Oyu Tolgoi deal with Rio Tinto. Enkhbayar remains popular despite being jailed in 2012 for graft. Enkhbayar and his supporters maintain that the charges were politically motivated; a claim seemingly supported by his 2013 pardon by President Elbegdorj. Nevertheless, Enkhbayar was barred from entering the 2017 race because he remains banned from holding office under his original sentence until October 8th.

Bereft of their founder, the MPRP has been adrift, eventually making an interesting second choice in the form of Sainkhuu Ganbaatar. Ganbaatar, who entered the presidential race on May 16th, is described as a resource nationalist, a populist who has agitated against foreign control of Mongolia’s resources for years. Ironically, the party of the architect of the Oyu Tolgoi deal has selected the mine’s most vocal opponent to represent it.

Ganbaatar led calls for a redo of the Oyu Tolgoi deal with Rio Tinto in 2013, calls that helped antagonize relations with the company, eventually leading to the suspension of the $5.3 billion expansion. A conflict over a $340 million tax bill with the Democratic government, and the efforts of resource nationalists, like Ganbaatar pushing for a better deal eventually saw Rio Tinto cut 1,800 Mongolian jobs. The company remained at odds with the government over the issue for years.

The dispute with Rio Tinto severely damaged investor confidence and in part exasperated the impact from the global commodity downturn which was accelerating at the same time. It was only last year that Mongolia and Rio Tinto finally agreed to proceed with the Oyu Tolgoi expansion. Having committed economic and political capital to the expansion, Rio Tinto is now vulnerable to a surprise political upset by Ganbaatar.

Ganbaatar now finds himself running for president, aiming to capitalize on the frustration surrounding Mongolia’s economic situation – a situation which Ganbaatar helped create. The new polling regulations, combined with existing disenchantment with established parties and the high percentage of self-reported independents could all potentially benefit Ganbaatar. A lack of strong party loyalties among many voters, plus an emphasis on personality driven politicking is an ideal environment for a populist. Furthermore, Ganbaatar is also very popular, having captured the top spot (for both 2015 and 2016) in a popularity survey ranking senior Mongolian politicians by polling organization, Sant Maral.

While Ganbaatar’s popularity has slipped somewhat (he lost his seat in parliament in 2016) he nevertheless remains a force to be watched. Indeed, the extent to which his loss in 2016 was due to the general route faced by all non-MPP candidates rather than his personal appeal remains uncertain. Nevertheless, his vocal efforts make him a well-known persona, and his popularity remains robust. Whether he can capitalize on this remains to be seen. Ganbaatar’s position is summed up by Sant Maral head Luvsandendev Sumati: “He’s popular, but people consider that he’s not fit for the office of the president.”

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