1 VALE EVACUATES 200 PEOPLE FROM TOWN NEAR ITS MAR AZUL MINE WWW.MINING.COM PUBLISHED:2019/02/17      2 TOOTH PLAQUE SHOWS DRINKING MILK GOES BACK 3,000 YEARS IN MONGOLIA WWW.SCIENCENEWS.ORG  PUBLISHED:2019/02/17      3 INCREASING NUMBER OF CHINA-EUROPE FREIGHT TRAINS SUPPORTS MONGOLIA'S ECONOMY: OFFICIAL WWW.XINHUANET.COM PUBLISHED:2019/02/17      4 TAX REVENUE INCREASES BY 33.7 PERCENT WWW.MONTSAME.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/17      5 COPPER MINER'S $10B BET COMES TO LIFE IN PANAMA JUNGLE WWW.MINING.COM PUBLISHED:2019/02/15      6 TRADE UNIONS REQUEST PM TO FOCUS ON INTEREST RATE CUT WWW.ZGM.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/15      7 MONGOLIA’S HOURLY WAGE TO REACH USD 1 WWW.NEWS.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/15      8 US NARCOTICS BY POST TO MONGOLIA! THREE ARRESTED WWW.NEWS.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/15      9 WRITER D.URIANKHAI NOMINATED FOR THE NOBEL PRIZE WWW.MONTSAME.MN PUBLISHED:2019/02/15      10 MONGOLIA-CHINA-RUSSIA ECONOMIC CORRIDOR BENEFITS ALL SIDES: OFFICIAL WWW.XINHUANET.COM PUBLISHED:2019/02/15      “ОЮУ ТОЛГОЙ” КОМПАНИ 570 ТОННЫ ДААЦТАЙ CAT БРЭНДИЙН ГИДРАВЛИК ЭСКВАТОРООР ХҮЧЭЭ СЭЛБЭЛЭЭ WWW.GOGO.MN  НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/15     ӨРХИЙН САРЫН ДУНДАЖ ОРЛОГО 78,000 ТӨГРӨГӨӨР ӨССӨН Ч ЗАРЛАГА ДАВСАН ХЭВЭЭР БАЙНА WWW.IKON.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/15     АВСТРАЛИЙН ЭЛЧИН САЙД ДЭВИД МЭТЬЮ ВОСЭН ИТГЭМЖЛЭХ ЖУУХ БИЧГЭЭ ӨРГӨН БАРИВ WWW.MONTSAME.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/15     2018 ОНД МОНГОЛ УЛСЫН ЭДИЙН ЗАСАГ 6.9 ХУВИАР ӨСЛӨӨ WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/15     МХБ: II/15-НЫ БАЙДЛААР 8 КОМПАНИ ХЭХ-ЫН ТОВОО ГАРГААД БАЙНА WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/15     2017 ОНД 1.9 ТЭРБУМ ТӨГРӨГИЙН АЛДАГДАЛТАЙ АЖИЛЛАСАН “УЛААНБААТАР БҮК” 2018 ОНД 566 САЯ ТӨГРӨГИЙН АШИГТАЙ АЖИЛЛАВ WWW.BLOOMBERGTV.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/15     ОРХОН ТҮҮХИЙ НҮҮРСНЭЭС ТАТГАЛЗСАН АНХНЫ АЙМАГ БОЛНО WWW.UNUUDUR.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/15     АТГ-ААС НЭР БҮХИЙ 6 ШҮҮГЧИЙГ ШАЛГАЖ ЭХЭЛЖЭЭ WWW.EAGLE.MN НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/15     МОНГОЛ УЛС ДЭЛХИЙН 77 ОРОНД БАРАА ЭКСПОРТОЛСНООС ХЯТАДАД 93%-ИЙГ НЬ НИЙЛҮҮЛЖЭЭ WWW.IKON.MN  НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/14     АВТО МАШИНЫ ИМПОРТ 2018 ОНД 30% ӨСӨЖ, 86,296-Д ХҮРЧЭЭ WWW.IKON.MN  НИЙТЭЛСЭН:2019/02/14    

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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Toshiba begins negotiation for sale of chip unit www3.nhk.or.jp

 
Struggling electronics giant Toshiba has launched negotiations over the sale of its flash memory business.
 
Toshiba plans to spin off its profitable chip unit and sell a stake in the new company to help cover the huge losses from its nuclear power business in the United States.
 
Investors, including US investment funds and other chip manufacturers, took part in the first round of bidding on Friday.
 
Informed sources say Toshiba asked the bidders to consider investing in not only the new chip firm but also Toshiba itself for several billions of dollars.
 
The request is viewed as Toshiba's attempt to prevent debt from exceeding assets in its financial statements for the current business year that ends in March.
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Coking coal price finally breaks fall www.mining.com

On Friday, Chinese traders returned to financial markets after the lunar new year break welcomed by a surprise interest rate announcement from the People's Bank. It's the latest sign that Beijing's stimulus efforts are coming to a close and that stoking economic growth is no longer the number one priority.

Friday's Caixin manufacturing PMI reading was also a disappointment showing Chinese manufacturing activity are losing some momentum at the start of 2017. The reading came in at 51.0 in January, down from the near four-year high of 51.9 that it hit in December and below expectations.

Nevertheless after 12 weeks of non-stop declines traders on Friday finally pushed the price of coking higher, albeit only by a few cents. The steelmaking raw material broke its fall at $167.80 on Friday, still $140 below its multi-year high of $308.80 per tonne (Australia free-on-board premium hard coking coal tracked by the Steel Index) hit in November.

Indian consortium plans to restart Benga mine in Mozambique bought from Rio Tinto for a fraction of Melbourne company's original purchase price
There was a more than $100 differential between the spot price average and the fourth quarter contract benchmark, but that situation has now completely reversed. Benchmark contract prices for the Q1 2017 were settled between Australian miners and Japanese steelmakers at $285 a tonne.

While the rally and subsequent pullback has created uncertainty in the market, supply is beginning to respond to higher prices.

Earlier this week International Coal ventures (ICVL), a consortium of five state-run coal mining operations, announced plans to restart operations at the Benga mine in Mozambique according to a report in the Financial Express.

ICVL acquired control of Benga mine and two green-field coal assets (Tete East and Zambezi) in 2014 from Rio Tinto. The assets have an estimated coal resource of 2.6 billion tonnes and in its current form Benga can produce 5.3 million tonnes per year. Mining was suspended in May when met coal was trading below $100 a tonne.

Rio Tinto acquired the Benga mine and other coal projects in the Southern African country’s Tete province in 2011, after buying Australia's Riversdale Mining for $3.7 billion. But in 2013 the Anglo-Australian giant took an asset impairment charge of $3 billion on the coking coal venture citing challenges in building the necessary infrastructure to bring the project on stream. A year later Melbourne-based Rio sold the assets to an Indian company for just $50 million.

Mozambique's central Tete province is believed to hold one of the world's largest untapped coal reserves that has been compared with Australia's coal-rich Bowen Basin.

The US is also expected to increase its coking coal production in 2017 and that around 9 million tonne of US met coal will be added to the export market. Companies such as Warrior Met Coal, Rosebud Mining and Ramaco already plan to start operations in the new year.

Australian coking coal mines owned by miners South32 and Anglo American are expected to once again produce at full capacity in 2017 following force majeure stoppages in late 2016, while Conuma Coal Resources is restarting production at its Wolverine mine in BC, Canada exporting around 1.5 million tonnes of coking coal a year starting in April.

Despite the pullback metallurgical coal had more than doubled from multi-year lows reached in February last year. Coking coal averaged $143 a tonne in 2016 (about the same as it did in 2013). Consensus forecast is for the price to average about the same in 2017.

In 2011 floods in key export region in Queensland saw the coking coal price briefly trade at an all-time high $335 a tonne.

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Trump's travel ban has revoked 60,000 visas for now www.reuters.com

About 60,000 visas were revoked under U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, the State Department said on Friday, in one of several government communications clarifying how the order is being rolled out.

The revocation means the government voided travel visas for people trying to enter the United States but the visas could be restored later without a new application, said William Cocks, a spokesman for consular affairs at the State Department.

"We will communicate updates to affected travelers following the 90-day review," he said.

Earlier news reports, citing a government attorney at a federal court hearing, put the figure at more than 100,000 visas.

The government issued over 11 million immigrant and non-immigrant visas in fiscal year 2015, the State Department said.

The immigration executive order signed by Trump a week ago temporarily halted the U.S. refugee program and imposed a 90-day suspension on people traveling from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump said the measures would help protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

Under President Barack Obama, Trump's predecessor, the United States added those seven countries as "countries of concern" under its visa waiver program, effectively toughening U.S. visa procedures for individuals who visited those places during the past five years.

Trump's executive order was at least in part informed by those restrictions. The new president, who took office on Jan. 20, went further by temporarily barring passport holders from those seven countries.

The State Department first issued the guidance about revoking the visas on Jan. 27, the day Trump signed his executive order, according to a memo filed in a court case in Massachusetts.

But confusion about the roll out of the order sparked protests at airports across the country where people had been detained and led to a wave of lawsuits filed by individuals, states and civil rights groups.

To further clarify how the order should be applied, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sent out a letter to all of its employees on Feb. 2, according to a copy of the memo seen by Reuters.

The memo said the agency was continuing to process all applications and petitions for people inside the United States regardless of their country of origin. It also said all applications for permanent residency and adjustment of status can move forward.

USCIS said they could not discuss internal employee communications.

The Department of Homeland Security had earlier clarified, after some initial back-and-forth, that the order would not apply to green card holders. Also people from the seven countries who hold dual citizenship are allowed to enter the United States on the passport of a non-restricted nation when eligible, according to Feb. 2 guidance posted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection's website.

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54TH ANNUAL ACADEMY OF AMERICAN AND INTERNATIONAL LAW (Save the date) www.mongolianbusinessdatabase.com

May 21 - June 23, 2017

The Center for American and International Law | Plano, Texas USA

Registrations are now being accepted for the 2017 Academy of American and International Law, which will be held May 21 - June 23 in Plano, Texas.

Why should you participate (or send a colleague)?

This question is answered in the 2017 Academy Brochure, but we also want to share the answers of some of our recent alumni:

Mary Hennessy, Gordon Dadds, United Kingdom

“The Academy gave me a wonderful opportunity to learn from some of the best professors and legal practitioners in the U.S., as well as my classmates. I came home from Dallas feeling more motivated and confident, inspired by the wonderful people I had met.

The Academy was an invaluable opportunity to meet people from all over the world, many of whom will remain important contacts in my professional career and great friends for the rest of my life."

Rodrigo Lepervanche Rivero, EY Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela

“The Academy was definitely a landmark for my personal and professional life. The experience helped me to understand the law from a worldwide perspective, by having the opportunity to engage with more than 60 lawyers from 25 different jurisdiction, and the opportunity to be taught by the best professors in the U.S..”

Diego Rodríguez Ariztía, Guerrero, Olivos, Novoa Y Errázuriz, Santiago, Chile

"The 2016 Academy program was my personal best study experience. Not only because we learned lots about international related subjects with world-known teachers from some of the best U.S. universities, but also because of the people we met.

Meeting distinguished lawyers from all around the world gave me perspective, interaction and friends for life. I totally recommend the program, the experience, and Dallas itself. Take the chance and the opportunity and you will never regret it."

Please join us for a world-class learning experience. You will:

Learn about American and international business law from an all-star faculty

Develop a network of in-house counsel and law firm practitioners from more than 20 countries

Gain practical insights that will help you represent your clients

Be introduced to the people and the culture of the U.S. through a wide variety of out-of-class activities

We promise you an experience that you will never forget.

https://www.cailaw.org/Southwestern-In…/…/2017-academy.html…

Please contact Jasmine Hunt jhunt@cailaw.org directly or Ser Od Ichinkhorloo Country Coordinator of CAILAW at serod@b2bmongolia.com and 976 99066062 mobile for an additional inquiry.

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TEPCO mulls deploying robot into damaged reactor www3.nhk.or.jp

 
The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is examining if it can go ahead with a plan to deploy a robot into one of the damaged reactors at the facility.
 
Finding out the actual condition of the melted fuel inside is regarded as an important step towards decommissioning the reactors that melted down.
 
Tokyo Electric Power Company conducted an inspection inside the containment vessel of the No.2 reactor last month, using a remote-controlled camera.
 
An analysis of the images found that the radiation level inside the vessel was up to 530 sieverts per hour.
 
Officials speculate that fuel debris--a mixture of nuclear fuel and melted parts of the reactor's facility--may be emitting strong radiation inside the vessel.
 
They were planning to conduct closer examinations as early as next week by deploying a robot that is capable of measuring the temperature and radiation levels.
 
But some experts warn that a camera attached to the robot may not function properly given the high radiation. They say more preparations are needed.
 
Last week's probe found that part of a metal grating just beneath the reactor was missing. The robot was supposed to move around on the grating. The image analysis also found that an around one square-meter section near the missing segment is about to collapse.
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Amazon sees lower operating profit this quarter, shares dip www.reuters.com

 
Amazon.com Inc forecast an unexpected dip in operating profit for the current quarter, sending shares down more than 4 percent due to concerns about the costs of investments including new warehouses and video content.
 
The world's largest online retailer also reported lower-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue and missed Wall Street targets for its closely watched cloud computing unit.
 
The Seattle-based company is spending heavily to take greater control of package delivery and to expand its video service around the world. Key to its plan is to entice sign-ups for Amazon Prime, its $99-per-year shopping club, which has led to users buying more goods, more often.
 
"The story is an investment story," said Amazon Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky on a conference call with reporters, noting "stepped-up" spending levels have continued into 2017.
 
GlobalData Retail analyst Anthony Riva warned of profit erosion.
 
"Low cost and fast delivery are a fundamental part of Amazon’s appeal to consumers. However, they are also its Achilles' heel," he said in a note.
 
For years, Amazon has posted roller-coaster results as founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos emphasizes building up businesses rather than making an immediate profit. He has sunk profits into new areas that have either built new markets - as with cloud services or its Kindle e-readers - or have floundered, like its Fire Phones.
 
"Failure and invention are inseparable twins," Bezos wrote in a letter to shareholders last year.
 
This has made some investors uneasy and, after periods of Amazon's growth, quick to sell shares when forecasts miss expectations.
 
Sales in the first quarter will have a tough comparison to the year prior, Amazon's Olsavsky said, when foreign exchange rates were more favorable and the Feb. 29 leap day gave shoppers an extra 24 hours to spend.
 
The just-ended holiday season was Amazon's best-ever. It was a heavily promotional period for Amazon, said Olsavsky, though he did not comment on how discounts compared with prior years.
 
Net sales for Amazon rose 22.4 percent to $43.74 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with the average analyst estimate of $44.68 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
 
Amazon is now producing television shows for Prime subscribers to watch online. It is developing gadgets with an artificially intelligent assistant, Alexa, so users can buy toilet paper and other goods by voice command. And it is building out a system of trucks, planes and warehouses so orders are sped to Prime members in two days or less, a convenience that few online retailers can afford to match.
 
The company also said it was making a large investment in its India operation.
 
"After these periods of intense investment or spending, then we see acceleration in sales and profitability, or at least historically we have," said Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson.
 
The company forecast first-quarter operating income between $250 million and $900 million, below the consensus estimate of $1.34 billion, according to market research firm FactSet StreetAccount.
 
Amazon had reported operating income of $1.1 billion for the same period last year.
 
Amazon Web Services, the company's fast-growing and lucrative cloud business, posted a 47 percent jump in revenue to $3.54 billion, but fell short of the average analyst estimate of $3.60 billion, according to FactSet StreetAccount. Amazon is the market leader in the space, selling computer services, hosting websites and storing data.
 
The company said it would delay its annual financial filing so it can revise its disclosure of net product and service sales, following a letter it received from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This does not impact its financial results, it said.
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Uber boss quits Trump advisory board www.bbc.com

 
Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of ride-sharing service Uber, has stepped down from President Donald Trump's economic advisory group after strong criticism from staff and the public.
The board, which also counts Tesla chief executive Elon Musk as a member, is due to meet the president on Friday.
Uber is one of several technology firms concerned over the impact of the immigration ban on its workforce.
The company said it had set up a $3m legal fund to help those affected.
These may include Uber's own drivers.
However, Elon Musk tweeted that he would attend Friday's meeting.
"Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration," he said.
"I and others will express our objections to the recent executive order on immigration and offer suggestions for changes to the policy."
Other companies involved in the panel include IBM and General Motors.
For his part, Mr Kalanick had informed his employees earlier on Thursday about his decision.
In a memo to staff seen by the BBC he said: "Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the president or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.
"Earlier today I spoke briefly with the president about the immigration executive order and its issues for our community," he wrote.
Appearing frustrated with how his involvement was being interpreted in the press, Mr Kalanick added: "The implicit assumption that Uber (or I) was somehow endorsing the Administration's agenda has created a perception-reality gap between who people think we are, and who we actually are."
The move was backed by the Independent Drivers Guild which represents Uber drivers in New York.
"This is an important show of solidarity with the immigrant drivers who helped build Uber and number over 40,000 in New York City alone," said the group's founder, Jim Conigliaro.
"We are heartened that Uber has listened to the drivers and the community on this important issue that is so integral to the promise of the American dream."
Uber has come in for some heavy criticism since President Trump's election.
Over last weekend, as protesters gathered at several US airports, Uber appeared to defy a taxi strike by removing surge pricing - the mechanism by which prices go up on the service when demand is high.
A social media campaign to "#DeleteUber" quickly went viral.
However, Uber said it had not been its intention to break the strike, and was looking to help people reach the airport without paying higher fares.
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Goodbye volatility, hello steady growth, says Mongolia's finance chief www.asia.nikkei.com

ULAANBAATAR Mongolia is promoting macroeconomic policies aimed at producing years of stable annual growth of 6-8%, Finance Minister Choijilsuren Battogtokh told the Nikkei Asian Review.

The Mongolian economy roared ahead at a world-beating 17.3% in 2011. Just five years later, however, growth nearly ground to a halt, expanding a mere 0.3%, according to the Asian Development Bank.

The economy has been "unpredictable and high-risk [for investors]," Choijilsuren told the NAR in mid-January. But "at a 6-8% pace, we can constantly grow for at least 10 years." During that period, the country can "regain investors' confidence and establish a ... foundation for development," he said.

Mongolia's growth target is in line with advice from the International Monetary Fund, with which the country is negotiating a financial aid package. Choijilsuren said his government and the IMF will likely agree on the basic conditions by Feb. 15. Such conditions typically include fiscal and monetary austerity measures and structural reforms.

In November, the Mongolian parliament approved the 2017 budget, which calls for slashing spending by over 10% from 2016. Choijilsuren said those reductions will continue in 2018, and that the government will further trim the 2017 budget if the talks with the IMF suggest it is necessary.

"Of course people don't like budget cuts," Choijilsuren said. "But our [ruling Mongolian People's Party] is not working for election votes but for the nation," he said, a reference perhaps to populist spending measures of previous governments that have caused the fiscal deficit to balloon to 18% of gross domestic product.

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Battered Mongolia faces make-or-break moment www.asia.nikkei.com

The roller-coaster ride that was the commodity supercycle sent Mongolia's resource-driven economy pinwheeling from 17% growth in 2011 to an external debt crisis just a few years later. But with commodity prices rebounding and the IMF swooping in for an imminent bailout, many feel the worst may be over. Can the country -- so ripe with potential -- transform this moment into the lasting stability its people and businesses have waited so long for?

ULAANBAATAR At about 4 o'clock on a mid-January afternoon, the temperature in the Mongolian capital was lower than minus 30 C. In spite of the cold, people could be seen lugging containers of water from a roadside water station to their homes in one of the many ger districts on the outskirts of the city.

These districts are home to more than 700,000 residents, most living in poverty. The districts lack water supply systems, leaving residents no choice but to buy well water at nearby stations for 1 tugrik (0.04 cents) per liter.

BUILT-IN PROBLEMS Ger districts sprang up in post-communist Mongolia when new land laws automatically entitled each citizen to a free 700-sq.-meter plot of land in designated urban areas. This prompted massive urban migration starting in the late 1990s by former nomadic herders looking for better education for their children and a more modern lifestyle. They brought their traditional tents, or gers, onto their plots, and settled down.

The land policy, however, was not accompanied by an urban development policy. Neither the national nor the city government has provided any infrastructure in ger districts other than electric power. Consequently, most of the people living in these neighborhoods -- more than one-fifth of the country's total population of 3.1 million -- have no plumbing, sewage, paved streets or schools.

At the edge of one ger district is a small supermarket. The 53-year-old store manager, who calls herself Tugszaya, said 8 out of 10 of the adults she knows have lost their low-skill jobs, such as load handling or truck driving, during the last few years.

"Most people have stopped eating luxury stuff like cakes even for the year-end holidays," she said. "They are cutting [back] on even basic foods to buy fuel for their stoves. Look how few shoppers we have."

One reason for this is the lack of education needed to secure better, more stable jobs. For ger districts lacking even schools for children, adult training centers for former herders remain a distant dream.

BIGGER PICTURE The lack of long-term planning and investment behind the trouble in the ger districts is reflected in the country's economic structure.

The mining sector accounted for as much as 25% of gross domestic product in 2015, coming in at $11.7 billion, while manufacturing accounted for just 9%. Copper, gold, iron ore and other metals made up 67% of exports that year, while coal and crude oil made up 23%.

Diversification is the obvious answer to Mongolia's economic woes, but this also requires broad-based, long-term efforts, such as promoting foreign investment, investing in education, and providing research funding.

Another clear risk to the country's economy is its extreme dependence on China as a trade partner. China took in 83% of Mongolia's exports in 2015 and accounted for 36% of imports to the country. A slight slowdown in demand or supply in this neighboring giant could easily play havoc with the Mongolian economy.

To diversify its trade partners, Mongolia needs to not only diversify its industry, but to also invest more in logistics infrastructure to improve connectivity with other countries.

The first freight train from China to the U.K. departed on New Year's Day from the eastern city of Yiwu and arrived in London later in January without having passed through Mongolia. Such a route would only have been an option if the country had an adequate rail system in place.

The obvious lack of social investment does not, however, mean that the Mongolian government has been short of funds.

WASTED OPPORTUNITIES Of the last 17 years, the country has achieved double-digit real annual GDP growth in five years and above-5% growth in six others, buoyed by commodity price upcycles. GDP per capita grew eightfold from 2000 to $3,967 in 2015, though this was down from a peak of $4,400 in 2013.

General government revenue grew from less than 500 billion tugrik in the early 2000s to over 5 trillion tugrik in recent years.

On top of that, the government and government-affiliated entities raised billions of dollars through foreign-currency bond issuances and international loans, especially starting from 2011, even though the country had just turned to the International Monetary Fund to rescue it from the 2008 financial crisis. Public external debt mushroomed from about $2.5 billion, or 31% of GDP, at the end of 2010 to $8.5 billion, roughly 85% of estimated GDP, in 2016.

So where has all the money gone? In a word, corruption.

For 70 years, Mongolia was a Soviet satellite ruled as a single-party state by the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party. This communist leadership was toppled, and the country held its first democratic election in 1990.

Mongolia, in other words, is still a young democracy, and elections have revolved largely around factional power struggles. Politicians eager to get elected are quick to promise voters direct, short-term economic benefits.

In the 2008 election campaign, for example, both the ruling Democratic Party and the opposition Mongolian People's Party promised cash handouts of 1 million to 1.5 million tugrik (roughly $406-$609) for "every Mongolian" as a share of the nation's mining revenue. The coalition government that eventually formed later announced a multiyear plan to give each citizen 1.5 million tugrik, which would theoretically cost 65% of GDP in 2008.

This universal cash handout was actually implemented from 2010 through 2012, adding to the fiscal deficit and eventually increasing the country's dependence on external debt.

A 2012 law banned election promises of cash handouts, but politicians have continued finding loopholes. One involved the government buying back shares in a national mining company that had previously been distributed to citizens.

Conflicts of interest are rife in Mongolian government. Finance Minister Choijilsuren Battogtokh, for example, owns the country's largest real estate development conglomerate, Khurd Group, and is believed to be one of the country's richest people. Byambatsogt Sandag, the justice and internal affairs minister, is the chief executive of a road construction company. Both of these companies are engaged in public projects.

"Ministers and government positions are lucrative businesses," said Batsuuri Haltar, a prominent independent economist based in Ulaanbaatar. "Especially if they have their own businesses, they can make a fortune during their tenure."

Such widespread corruption has repeatedly disappointed foreign investors and aid donors.

A sovereign debt fund set up by the Development Bank of Mongolia in 2011, for example, attracted an over-subscription among foreign investors when it announced issuance of a five-year, $580 million bond the following year. The money was supposed to be invested in industrial zone development and other infrastructure projects under parliamentary supervision.

Around 2013, however, the chief executive of the DBM, who had been appointed by the Democratic Party, started using the fund without approval by the parliament. The Mongolian People's Party took the power in June, and he was arrested on charges of corruption in October.

The DBM bond is due on March 21. International lenders and aid donors are watching closely to see whether the Mongolian government, with assistance from the IMF, can make the payment or roll it over, or whether it will default.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE The picture might look bleak, but January brought some welcome news to the coldest capital city on earth: The economy may have bottomed out last year.

Nyamaa Buyantogtokh, Mongolia's state finance secretary, told the Nikkei Asian Review that the fiscal deficit for 2016 had ended up around 15% of GDP, less than an earlier projection of 18%, thanks to rebounds in commodities prices and production late last year.

General government revenue for 2016 is estimated to have reached 5.85 trillion tugrik, up a half trillion tugrik from the government's previous projection in September. The government managed to cut expenditures by more than 200 billion tugrik from the September projection to 9.52 trillion tugrik.

Gold and coal exports for November and December also turned out to be strong. Exports of copper, which saw a sudden price surge in November, were also robust in late 2016.

These positive surprises in commodity exports may result in the actual growth rate for 2016 coming in slightly better than the Asian Development Bank's latest estimate of 0.3%.

The Bank of Mongolia's tight monetary policy, especially after the general election in June, kept inflation in the latter half of 2016 in negative territory. Low inflation finally halted the tugrik's depreciation against major currencies, with the dollar exchange rate peaking just below 2,500 tugrik in December.

The Mongolian currency hit less than 1,200 to the dollar in spring 2011, the year the economy recorded a record-high 17% growth, and had been depreciating since.

While an improved commodities market provided a major tailwind for the economy, the government can also take some credit. The Mongolian People's Party has implemented a number of much-needed reforms. As a result, the IMF will likely agree to extend a second bailout package in less than a decade (the previous one was in 2009) by mid-February, according to sources close to the matter.

SECOND CHANCE So far so good this year. But the country still faces more than $2 billion in external sovereign debt reaching maturity within five years, and securing a real turnaround in the economy will require some fundamental changes.

Morgan Stanley economist Ruchir Sharma, in his book "The Rise and Fall of Nations," emphasizes the importance for emerging economies to develop less politically driven, more productive industries, such as information and communications technologies, manufacturing and retail. Fortunately for Mongolia, there are signs that these kinds of "good" industries are on the rise.

Uuganbaatar Altanchimeg, a 37-year-old computer scientist, returned to Ulaanbaatar in 2013 after working as a software engineer in Japan for six years. Last summer, he and another engineer who had also come back from Japan founded Bers Solution to develop and market portable equipment for quick diagnosis of diabetes.

Diabetes is the second most common cause of adult deaths in Mongolia, partly due to the scarcity of clinics and hospitals capable of diagnosis. The Bers product enables diagnosis in remote locations by sending patient data to a hospital in a major city.

Uuganbaatar said he hopes to "help the country develop the technology industry" by growing his startup into a midsize business. He plans to hire several new engineers and launch a few new development projects within a year or so. He said he is also thinking about venture-capital fund raising in the near future.

IT is just one of the many promising nonmining sectors in Mongolia.

Last September, Clean Energy Asia, a joint venture of Newcom of Mongolia and SoftBank Group of Japan, announced it plans to start commercial operation of a wind energy farm in the Mongolian Gobi Desert by the end of 2017, with financial support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

SoftBank estimates that Mongolia has the potential to generate enough solar and wind power to meet Asia's entire demand for electricity due to its sunny and windy climate. The Japanese group has launched a joint feasibility study with Chinese, South Korean and Russian partners on the concept of an "Asia Super Grid" that would connect power sources in Mongolia with those in other countries across the region.

Mongolia's tourism industry also has room for growth, and its cashmere wool producers are exploring ways to move higher up the value chain in the fashion industry.

Khashchuluun Chuluundorj, an economics professor at the National University of Mongolia, emphasizes the potential for the private sector to drive economic development. "If the international level of transparency and discipline are put in place in both the government and private sector, the country should be able to proceed on a steadier growth path than in the past," he said.

Mongolia missed its chance to secure stable growth during the last commodities upswings. But with resource prices once again rising, the government finally pushing for reform and the private sector poised for growth, this could be the second chance the country has been waiting for.

Additional reporting by contributing writer Khaliun Bayartsogt in Ulaanbaatar

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Samsung Elec may build US plant for home appliances -source www.asia.nikkei.com

SEOUL (Reuters) -- Samsung Electronics Co Ltd may build a U.S. plant for its home appliances business, a person familiar with the matter said, the latest global firm to consider a response to criticism about imports from new U.S. President Donald Trump.

Specifics such as the amount the electronics giant might invest and where the new base could be located have yet to be decided, said the person, declining to be identified due to lack of authorisation to speak publicly on the matter.

The new U.S. administration has threatened an import tax while Trump has attacked some of the world's biggest companies for manufacturing abroad for U.S. consumers, stoking much alarm and triggering a rash of promises to invest more in the United States.

"Thank you, @samsung! We would love to have you!," Trump said on Twitter.

Samsung declined to comment on whether it has any specific plans to add production facilities in the U.S. but said it has already made significant investments in the country, including the $17 billion the firm has spent to date for its Austin, Texas, chip plant.

"We continue to evaluate new investment needs in the U.S. that can help us best serve our customers," it said in an email.

South Korean firms have not been singled out so far, but some have embarked on preemptive moves to ward off criticism. The Hyundai Motor Group said last month it plans to lift U.S. investment by 50 percent to $3.1 billion over five years.

LG Electronics Inc also announced in January that it will decide on whether to build a manufacturing base in the United States within the first half of the year and warned of risks from the Trump administration's trade policies.

Plants for assembling appliances would not pose a financial burden for the likes of Samsung or LG, said Jay Yoo, an analyst at Korea Investment.

If a border tax was imposed, investing in plants would be essential if they wanted to remain competitive with rivals such as Whirlpool Corp that make appliances in the country.

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