The following were culled from Mongolia's two English weeklies,
The UB Post and The Mongolian Messenger.
Private Schools to Receive Government Funding
Mongolia’s private and secondary schools held their first forum on January 26. A. Tsanjid, the Minister for Education, Science and Culture, observed that the influx of private schools will provide a much-needed boost to improving teaching standards through increased competitiveness, although he admitted that private and state schools are currently unified by poor teaching standards.
The first private secondary school was founded in 1993; today. There are seventy-seven private schools, and 6.6% of all Mongolian students attend them. Private secondary schools charge students between T15,000 and T500,000 per annum, which is equivalent to the fees charged by higher education institutes. Yet the quality of their curriculum is often poor. There is a lack of teachers, and the schools generally don’t own their own buildings, which are usually rented out by the state. Meanwhile, state schools cannot cope with the number of pupils crammed into their dilapidated buildings.
The Minister of Education has announced that from now on, permission to establish a private school will not be given unless the organisation possesses its own building.
A survey of thirty private secondary schools found that subjects such as Mongolian language, literature, and music classes were taught between 10 and 100 hours less than is standard. Some classes were taught by unqualified teachers, and many did not have sufficient training materials, leading the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture to conclude that Ulaanbaatar’s private schools offer a sub-standard education when compared to local state schools.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture approved across the board teaching standards in 1998, but these are violated by private schools. The directors of private schools assert that they offer flexible teaching programmes and a lower pupil-to-teacher ratio, and that their teaching standards and programmes meet the expectations of parents and the requirements of students. Most private schools specialise in foreign languages, mathematics, music, and computer studies, to the detriment of other subjects. Unlike state primary schools, private primary schools teach foreign languages.
The government spends T64,000 per year on each state primary school student, T68,000 on each state secondary school student, and T72,000 on each state high-school student. Fifty-one percent (or T21 billion) of Ulaanbaatar’s budget is spent on the education sector. The amount allocated to each student is split between paying teachers’ salaries, books, and electricity.
P. Dorj, chairman of the Education Office of Ulaanbaatar, has said that they are considering funding those private schools that provide a sound state education and extra classes. Private schools currently do not receive any state funding. Dorj has also said that permission may be given to private schools so that they can build their own buildings.
Reviving Mongolia’s Classical Arts
The decline of the Academic Theatre f Classical Art will hopefully be arrested by the appointment of three new directors. Former soloist G. Erdenebat has been appointed general director of the theatre; ballet master and state-honoured artist D. Jamyandagva is the new director the Ballet Institute; and Moscow-educated opera director G. Erdenebaatar is the new director of the Opera Institute.
The new directors plan to improve performance standards, update poor technical equipment, and provide a solution to the serious shortage of props and costumes.
The theatre’s current problems stem from three things: lack of funding, poor training standards for performers, and mismanagement.
Erdenebaatar says that since Mongolia has chosen the market economy, the theatre’s activities have been severely curtailed by lack of funding. The knock on the effect of nonexistent funding means that promising singers are no longer sent abroad to study, so standards have declined, as has the intake of students who wish to follow a career in the arts.
During the communist era, youngsters were trained in Russia and Bulgaria, providing the Mongolian theatre with about seventy chorus singers, eighty ballet dancers, and forty soloists. Today, the theatre has only twenty-two soloists, thirty-six chorus singers, and thirty ballet dancers. Promising students need to be sent abroad to study in countries which have an operatic heritage in order to provide them with a genuine appreciation for their chosen profession.
It is common for ballets and operas to be postponed, despite having been rehearsed for several months. Costumes and properties are in short supply. Performers’ salaries are low; some hold down another job in order to continue in their chosen profession.
Despite this, Mongolian operatic singers have won international praise. Opera singer Ganbat won first place in an International Opera Singers Competition, and is now working for a theatre in Novosibirsk, Russia. Signer Khavlaash works for a theatre in Alamaty, Kazakstan.
In 1995, with Japanese assistance, the theatre’s sound equipment was modernised. However, other technical equipment is outdated, and the problem is compounded by the fact that Russian-made technical equipment is difficult to obtain. On a lighting rig, only two of ten lights work. Plays and operas are performed in near-darkness. Erdenebaatar says that the audience do not seem to mind sitting in a twilight zone, but he believes that the miserable atmosphere created by poor lighting hinders audience appreciation.
The theatre plans to cooperate with the Institute of Art and Culture, where many performers train. In a concerted attempt to improve standards, the theatre will be participating in the Institute’s admission examinations and develop relationships with those students studying to become opera singers. Many former performers now teach at the institute. Since transition, theatres and teaching institutes have been struggling, and teaching standards have dropped.
The government just does not have enough money to fund new performances, which require more rehearsal time, new set designs, properties and costumes. Annual government spending is T200 million a year. Despite the fact that annual funding was actually less than this prior to democracy, the theatre was given all-important extra funding for new shows, which had a positive knock-on effect in several ways, attracting talented performers, appreciative audiences, and giving aspiring performers something to aim for.
The directors are not planning to stage new operas in 2001, but will instead stage modernised traditional and well-known classics that they have staged before. Over the next year, the Academic Theatre of Classical Art will perform six operas on a cyclical basis. They will put on Carmen, Turandot, Khokhoo Namjil, Uulen Zaya, Eugene Onegin, and Madame Butterfly. The theatre also plans to stage operas for children, such as the Russian children’s tale, The Wolf and the Seven Children and the traditional Mongolian tale, Naaldan Pad, for six-to-ten-year-old children, as well as Winnie the Pooh for two-to-six-year-old children.
To solve its financial problems and generate funding, the directors of the theatre are aiming for a more innovative style of management. Plans involve cooperation with private companies and individuals, and sponsorship deals.
Mongolians are justly proud of the Opera and Ballet Theatre - it is the only theatre in Asia to be especially built for the performance of ballet and opera. Opening in1963, the theatre performed Mongolia’s first national opera, “Uchirtay Gurvan Tolgoi, composed in 1942, since the very beginning and right up to the present day.
The classical arts were introduced to Mongolia through Europe, and were quick to be adopted and developed. The theatre flourished in the 1970s, performing several new pieces each year; but performances of new material has gradually died out.
Movie Review - Genghis Khan, by Michael Kohn
Much to the chagrin of Mongolian filmmakers, China has released an epic drama about the great Mongol warlord Chinggis Khaan - and, dare I say, it is a pretty good flick.
Genghis Khan, produced by Inner Mongolian Film Studios, depicts the troubled early years of Chinggis. It documents with near-historical accuracy his rise out of poverty to the head of his tribe. It also shows the fierce warrior as a tender and forgiving man, faithful to the love of his mother and bride.
The movie has been playing in San Francisco movie theatres since early October, and has earned top reviews by newspapers and magazines. The San Francisco Chronicle called it “an accomplished, rousing historical drama.”
Genghis Khan stars Tumen as Chinggis, and Aliya, his strong and authoritative mother. It is filmed on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, a poor choice of location as Chinggis spent his early years in Khentii, a region of forests, lakes and rivers. Despite this minor flaw, director Saifu Mailisi captures the desolate and harsh land that typifies Mongolia. The scenes of vast, empty plains and harsh winter weather give the audience a feel for the home of Mongolia’s nomads. The movie accurately portrays the Mongolian lifestyle in the ger (felt ones, not canvas), traditions (flicking milk before a journey), and language (Inner Mongolians make sufficient stand-ins for Buryats and Khalkhs). It also does a good job of clothing the actors in classic barbarian garb. The story focuses on the ancient Mongolian tradition of bride stealing. The movie opens with Chinggis’ father Yesuhei stealing the wife of a rival warrior. Yesuhei, the unproclaimed Khan of Hamag Mongol, shows his wise leadership on the battlefield, and then in politics when he gives his first son Temujin to a rival tribe in exchange for peace.
After Yesuhei is murdered, Temujin returns to his poverty-stricken family. Here, the director shows the incidents of his youth - the friendship with Jamuha, and the rather horrifying moment when he kills his half-brother. Temujin later becomes a victim of bride theft when his wife Ooluun is kidnapped. Violent battle scenes follow as he tries to win her back. But after all his efforts, he is crushed to see that his enemy has impregnated his wife. The Khan is torn apart emotionally, and must come to grips with his own mind before he can accept her again.
The whole film moves swiftly with dramatic scenes of war and an interesting plot. For a film obviously made on a budget, it is surprisingly professional. Genghis Khan also gives Western audiences a glimpse at the harsh, day-to-day conditions that existed for twelfth-, and even twentieth-century Mongols. This was clearly a place fit only for courageous and strong-willed people.
I give Genghis Khan four out of five stars. Not bad for a Chinese movie.
Enter the Year of the Snake: A Matter of Belief
January 23 marked the beginning of the Asian New Year celebrations based on the Lunar calendar. The day signifies the end of the Year of the Dragon and the beginning of the Year of the Snake in China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and other countries of Asia. It is also the most important holiday in Mongolia, called Tsagaan Sar (“White Month”). But Mongolia will not celebrate it until February 23, the same as in India and Tibet.
Professor at Mongolian State University and astrologer Dr. L.Terbish explained the difference in dates of the Asian New Year between different countries. “The dates are determined by the Asian countries that follow the lunar calendar and keep it in accordance with country location. Therefore, for people in China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea, people believing in Hinayana Buddhism, the first day of the lunar calendar took place a month before Mongolia’s.”
Mongolia’s celebrations involve spending time with family and a week of eating traditional holiday dairy foods in the form of tea with milk, curds, and milk fat. A whole sheep is cooked and placed on a specially laid table, and as friends and family visit throughout the week of the holiday, the sheep is carved and eaten in a specified order.
On New Year’s Eve, all family members gather in the eldest person’s home, eat steamed meat dumplings, and play a game (Shagai) using as pieces the ankle bones of sheep. When the sun rises on the first day of the New Year, all family and friends are visited in order of age. It can take up to three days to greet all family members.
The History of ’Chinggis’ Stone Inscription’ -
G. Regzen, research worder at the Mongolian National History Museum
In 1818. Russian scholar L. N. Spaski, while studying Russia’s ancient history in Siberia, discovered an inscribed stone monument near the Kharhiraa River, in what is now the Chita province of Russia. The inscription was carved in the ancient Uighur or Monoglian script. At the time of the discovery, Spaski thought that the findings belonged to the Kuandai Ruins of ancient, Siberian Russia, not realising that the monument would amount to invaluable testimony of the Mongolian people.
It was not until after the monument was taken to St. Petersburg - breaking into two pieces along the way - in 1832 that real research began on the artefact. From that time on, the stone monument became known as “Chinggis’s Stone Inscription”, because the words “Chinggis Khaan” are the first two carved upon it. Some scholars call it “Yesunkhei’s Stone Inscription” - Yesunkhei was one of Chinggis Khaan’s nine generals - because the meaning of the inscription concerns his achievement in archery. In the year of his discovery, Spaski transcribed the five lines of script on the stone. Mongolian history scholars Schmidt and B. Dorj attempted to make out the words on the monument from 1833 to 1848, but were unsuccessful due to the time-worn conditions of the inscription. I. N. Klukin was also unable to read the monument’s more illegible marks.
One hundred and forty-four years after Spaski’s discovery, Mongolian archeologist and scholar Kh. Perlee interpreted today’s accepted reading of the monument and corrected the mistaken transcriptions of previous scholars.
The inscription can be explained in the following way:
After Chinggis Khaan conquered the Sartuul Dynasty [in Central Asia] in 1224, all Mongolian lords met on the Bukha-Sojikhai steppe. There, Yesunkhei, with a bow and arrow, hit a target from a 335-arm-span distance. [By modern estimates, a one-arm-span length is just over 1.6 metres - a total distance of over 535 metres.]
Immortalised as “Chinggis’ Stone Inscription”, the writing is significant in Mongolian history, for it represents the long-held orthographic “custom” or “rule of respect” used in old Mongolian script. The rule is that the names of leaders and lords always preface, as it were, poems and literature. The fact that Chinggis Khaan’s name appears first in the inscription shows that the rule has been in place for well over 800 years, if not longer.
The original monument is now kept in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1998, Mongolian sculptors created a likeness of the original monument for the Mongolian National Museum in Ulaanbaatar.
World Cup 2002 Preliminaries
Preliminary rounds of World Cup 2002 will be held in Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from February 8 to February 19. The Mongolian national team will participate for the first time. They will compete against Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam in the Tenth Asian Zone. Playing in a country with temperatures of +30 degrees Centigrade, the Mongolian team will leave for Saudi Arabia seven days before the matches begin to acclimate to the sudden change. Joint training with Thailand’s football team in Thailand for 21 days last November gave the team a preview of the upcoming conditions.
Saudi Arabia is ranked 36th among 203 countries. Vietnam is ranked 99th, Bangladesh 151st, and Mongolia 196th.
World Cup 2002 Preliminaries - Final Results
Mongolia allowed twenty-two goals and scored only two during the tournament, in a 2-2 draw with Bangladesh. The equalising goals were scored by Ch. Bayarzorig and B. Buman-Uchral, the team captain.
Mongolia lost 6-0 to three-time Asian football champion Saudi Arabia. In two games against Vietnam, the Mongolians lost 1-0 and 4-0. Manager G. Bayartsogt told Reuters that due to -30 degrees Celsius temperatures, the team had not had much chance to train for the matches.
In the 1998 13th Asian Games in Bangkok, the Mongolian team didn’t score a single goal. They lost 15-0 to Uzbekistan and 11-0 to Kuwait.
A delegations of FIFA officials is scheduled to visit Mongolia to provide training and build a football stadium, which Mongolia as yet lacks.
A Day at the Races… Coming Soon
Mongolia’s centuries-old tradition of horse racing is taking a more commercial turn. The Mongolian Horse Racing Association (HRA) is building a racecourse in the Yarmag district of Ulaanbaatar, the site of the annual Naadam Festival.
The HRA was founded last year and intends to develop horse racing as a commercial sport. The racecourse will be three kilometres long, and there will also be a seated area for spectators. Although the complex will not be completed by the February 28 opening date, the racecourse will be completed.
The HRA organised a race last year in which spectators were allowed to bet money, and the positive response prompted it to take further steps in developing the sport commercially.
Traditional horse racing at the Naadam Festival takes place around the countryside and allows spectators to watch only the start and finish of a race. The HRA wants spectators to witness the whole race with a keen eye on the horse they’ve placed money on.
Commercial horse racing will differ in several ways to traditional racing, where young children race cross country for up to 30 kilometres. Races will be divided into four categories: eight-year-olds, five-year-olds, stallions, and fixed races for both stallions and mares to compete against one another. The distances covered will be much reduced; in fixed races, jockeys will ride between three and nine kilometres.
The age of the jockeys will increase; sixteen-year-olds and over will ride. The employment of very young people violates the rights of children. People have been critical during the last few years during the Naadam Festival, when young jockeys often fell and hurt themselves..
Gambling is a new phenomenon for Mongolians, who are used to placing bets amongst friends, with losers offering as prizes one of their own horses, bulls or a sheepskin in the cash-poor economy outside of the capital. Racegoers keen to have a flutter can make bets at licensed totes. The minimum bet will be T3000, the maximum T30,000, and gamblers will be able to bet on the first and second horses past the post; if they place five horses correctly, they will receive a payout. Keen gamblers will be able to read about the horses’ history, past performance, and ownership.
Prize money will be raised through race-entrance fees: trainers will pay between T50,000 and T200,000 to enter each race. The first five horses in each race will win between T100,000 to one million tugriks, with the first horse past the post winning a Russian jeep for its owner.
The HRA says that races will be broadcast on national television and radio, but for the time being, they have no plans to canvas for lucrative sponsorship deals that are so prevalent in the West.
Over twenty trainers have registered horses to participate in the February 28 fixture, and further races are planned for March 10 and 18. Fixtures over the following months will be confirmed at a later date.
The opening race on February 28 will be stallions racing 18 kilometres, and a group race for eight-year-old horses. The finals will be held on March 10.
Movie Review - Call for Grace, by L. Collins
Expectations of shamans on the steppe performing haunting rituals are firmly dispelled by Laetitia Merli’s film. Apart from the opening scene, Call for Grace is set firmly amidst Ulaanbaatar’s sprawling tower blocks and polluted skies, and shamans are contacted to right the wrongs in the daily lives of their clients. The utter ordinariness of the people who contact the Golomt Centre and pay for ancient rituals and practices is a revealing juxtaposition between the ancient and the modern, giving the film life, warmth, and humour.
Shamanism is very much a part of the fabric of society, yet it is also businesslike. The ‘client’ turns up at a small office, like a train station ticketing booth, with a clearly marked KACC sign on the window. He or she pays between T5000 and T40,000 for their ‘call’, the cashier writes out a receipt on which is printed the specific ritual the shaman will be called on to perform, and the client is then ushered into another office, where the ceremony commences. Call for Grace and Close the Door of Loss are just two of the many rituals that shamans from the Golomt Shamanistic Centre are called on to perform as part of their everyday duties. Paid-for invocations will resonate with anyone brought up in a faith - paying for the services of shamans comes across as an instinctive measure to Mongolians.
An elderly shaman, Tomor, struggles into his shamanastic costume and gently teases his two assistants. Cigarette in one hand, can of beer in the other, he is full of life, and it is easy to believe that prior to answering the call to become a shaman, he had performed on stage as a pretend shaman.
Three twenty-something men come to see Tomor, who is the antithesis of the pious cleric. Their secretaries had preceded them by several hours to partake in a lengthy ritual to call off the bad spirits which they believe are plaguing their company. As a precaution, they had already taken out an advertisement in a national newspaper, protesting their good name, and this ritual was to serve as back-up. The businessmen - a lawyer, accountant, and company president -, dressed in grey business suits, carrying briefcases and mobile phones, kneel over, receive three gentle taps on the back from Tomor (to ‘lighten’ them), and glance anxiously at their watches. They are in a hurry - they have a meeting with the Minister of Justice at 7:30 p.m.
Call for Grace is being screened with French subtitles at the French Cultural Centre on Friday, February 9.
Wolf Numbers, Tactics and Legends
Most predators hunt a limited number of animals, or are at least selective. Not so the wolf. Since wolves hunt in packs, any animal, even ones larger than a wolf, is prey to the hunt.
In the Gobi lives the endangered wild ass of the Asiatic steppe. A common problem affecting the onager population is the death of their unborn offspring. Although the animal is classified as an ass or relative of the donkey, it has the speed of a horse and can outrun wolves, But in their flight, pregnant females often miscarry, leaving the stillborn onager behind to be eaten by the wolves.
In the wintertime, wolves chase onager to frozen lakes or rivers so that they lose their traction and are therefore unable to escape. Wolves are cunning and ostensibly fearless. They also possess an unrivalled cleverness for defence. Wolves never flee danger as a pack. If three wolves are confronted by humans, they will escape in three separate directions.
Wolves and people do not always mix. Eighty-five-year-old hunter Ts. Namkhaidorj, a native of Dornod aimag, many years domesticated a wolf put for hunting. One day, while napping, his dogs began to growl and bark fiercely. He awoke to find his ‘tamed’ wolf crouched, ready to attack him.
The old hunter says that the wolf lives one month by the hunt, the next on carrion, and the third on water alone - a repeating cycle. A wolf suffering from hydrophobia is very dangerous, he warns. Signs that a wolf is rabid are frothing at the mouth and walking against the wind, something wolves seldom do when healthy.
With wolf numbers increasing every year, attacks on people are becoming all too familiar. Two years ago, in Bogs soum, Ovorkhangai aimag, a wolf attacked and killed a pregnant woman. In the same town, wolves have attacked people riding camels and motorcycles. In Arkhangai aimag, a wolf mangled a fifteen-year-old boy.
At Khovd aimag’s central market, one wolf carcass costs approximately T70,000 - T80,000 (approximately $63 to $73). Wolf hunting is a popular sport among some Mongolian men, but there is a saying that only those who are as lucky as the wolf will be able to kill it; the rest will not even know the wolf is there.
Symbols of Pride, Symbols of Wealth
Saddles and snuff boxes are as important signs of wealth and social standing to Mongolians as designer clothes and fast cars are to Westerners. [Daniel’s note: I think the reporter means the United States.]
Nomads pride themselves on their fast horses and ornamental saddles, as witnessed by the Russian scientists P. K. Kozlov late last century, while travelling through Bayankhongor aimag. Kozlov stated: “The rich people in this aimag compete with one another by their saddles.”
After the birth of a boy, Mongolians prepared a new saddle with decorations, and the same for when a daughter gets married.
Saddles are often decorated with silver ornaments and can be extremely valuable. B. Onshir, a blacksmith from Bunen soum, Tov aimag, reckons that his saddle is worth T3.5 million on account of the silver fittings.
At Tsagaan Sar and the summertime Naadam Festival, Mongolians dress in their best dels, carefully matching the colour of the del with their body shape, complexion, horse’s colour, and saddle ornamentation. In ancient times, kings, queens, and noblemen would common wear dels made of green or orange silk, with the collar of the del trimmed in blue brocade. Gold and silver ornaments would be sewn on to hats. Today, the style is for plain silk dels, with narrow trimming. Silver buttons on dels and on leather belts are more popular. Modern Mongolian men have a preference for leather dels and knives ensconced in fine pouches.
It is traditional for men to exchange snuff boxes during Tsagaan Sar. Whether made from humble wood, silver, metal, or covered in previous stones such as jade or coral, snuff boxes define the status of their owner. Chalcedony snuff boxes are very common in Mongolia, differing in size and make. Some snuff boxes are the size of a nail, others twin boxes that are so heavy that even two hands are not enough to pick them up.
Mongolians pass their snuff boxes and saddles from generation to generation, and they are regarded as family heirlooms.
Fashion Company Sponsors Ballet Production
The Academic Theatre of Classical Art will stage Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Sleeping Beauty, on March 4. The fashion house Christian Dior, which has a cosmetics and fragrance line, is sponsoring the performance. B. Sergelen, a senior manager at the theatre, explains why they have sought sponsorship: “We should not sit idly waiting for money and financial support from the government.”
Sleeping Beauty was staged by Russian ballet master Sobolev in Mongolia in 1990, with Japanese ballerina Kumiko Ochi in the lead role.
The rold of the Queen has been offered to Batchuluun, a former ballerina who is now employed as the Mongolian representative for Christian Dior. Apparently, Batchuluun has made it possible for many Mongolian ballet dancers to work in Europe through sponsorship deals.
H. Gerelchimeg is staging the ballet and is aiming to recreate the 19th century atmosphere in which the ballet was first staged by Sobolev.
Five lucky members of the audience will receive Christian Dior goodies.
"Mongolia Town" Smacks of the Real Thing
South Korea opened a Mongolia Town on February 13, just outside the city of Namyangjoo. As you enter the town, a statue bearing the state emblem and galloping horses greets your arrival. Mongolia Town is a resort area surrounded by high mountains and green forests, not unlike the town of Terelj outside Ulaanbaatar, with gers and Mongolian horses.
Mongolia Town is located twenty kilometres away from the centre of Namyangjoo. From Chinggis Street, the road leading into town, views of Namyangjoo can be seen - both modern skyscrapers and shanty houses…
The gers are functional as well as symbolic: one serves as a cafeteria. A restaurant serving Mongolian cuisine is now in the works. Though the Korean have added windows in the gers, everything else is authentic…
Namyangjoo is considered a potential tourist attraction in Korea. Mongolia Town will certainly be one of the stops for tourists, where they can ride Mongoilan horses and experience the simulated nomadic life.
Wrestler A. Sukhbat Take First Place
The Tsagaan Sar national wrestling competition was held on February 22 and 23. Though Giant B. Baterdene was the favourite, he lost early on in the competition. With his defeat, Elephant A. Sukhbat, and Lions Ts. Tserenputsag and G. Osokhbayar became the anticipated finalists. Sukhbat, the Naadam Festival champion, took first place for the second time, followed by Lion D. Sumyabazar. Sukhbat beat Lions Ts. Tserenpuntsag and G. Osokhbayar in the sixth and seventh rounds, respectively.
Two “Giants”, three “Elephants”, 12 “Lions”, 43 “Falcons”, 114 provincial title holders, and 76 new wrestlers participated in the competition.
Government to Create 50,000 Jobs
The government says that 50,000 jobs will be created in 2001. Twenty-five thousand jobs will be created through foreign investment; 15,000 jobs by the Millennium Road Project; 10,000 jobs by implementing an environment campaign; and 25,000 jobs by banks providing loans for people to set up small businesses.
Mongolia and Buryatia Cooperate
Mongolian and Buryatian youth organisations signed an agreement on January 26 that will permit a children’s summer camp exchange between the two sides. Excursions will be organised for youths to Baikal and Khovsgol Lakes, and Buryat surgeons will attend a research meeting in Mongolia.
Zud Assistance Update
The government of Mongolia and the United Nations launched an appeal on January 20, 2001, requesting US$11,778,857 in assistance for Mongolians suffering from the zud.
[…] As of today, 100,000 herders with 20 million livestock from 192 counties in 20 provinces are affected by the zud. As of January 25, some 605,000 animals had already perished. Herders are becoming exhausted. […] As many as six million head of livestock - about 20% of the national herd - could perish during the next four months, more than twice last year’s losses. The requested contributions targeted for key sectors: livestock survival ($3,996,027 in cash and $4,682,248 in kind), health, water and sanitation ($2,386,582), nutrition ($608,000), and programme support and capacity building in disaster preparedness ($106,000). The appeal covers a four-month period, from February 1 to May 31.
Ten Members of Parliament Travel to America
A group of ten Mongolian Parliament members headed by the Chair of the Standing Committee on State Structure, D. Demberel, will go to the United States for a three-week International Visitors Program from January 29 to February 17, 2001, sponsored by the United States government through the Department of State. This important exchange programme will focus on the procedures and structures of the federal government, cooperation between state and local governments, free press in a democratic society, and civic education.
Members of Parliament will go first to Washington, D.C., for one week, and then travel to the states of Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, and California. In Washington, D.C., Parliament members will have meetings with the U.S. Congress to discuss the functions of a congressman’s office. Meetings at the Congressional Institute will present training programmes for members of Congress and explain the rules and ethics of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Mongolian officials will meet with representatives of the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice to discuss federal efforts to ensure voting rights, and with the Freedom Forum for an overview about constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press in the U.S. and the relationship between the media and government.
Autumn Session of Parliament Closes
The last meeting of the autumn session of Parliament was held on February 2. The session decided that the date of the presidential election will be announced on March 20, and that Parliament will vote for the election on May 20. The Parliament has confirmed that it will spend T462,534,000 from the state budget for the first stage of the election.
During the session, Parliament made amendments to banking laws, to provide more security for customers. MPs debated the issues to be discussed in the spring session.
The autumn session lasted 89 days. During this time, Parliament discussed and passed 105 laws and resolutions, introducing thirty new laws, while twenty-eight were amended. Forty-six resolutions were made relating to current issues.
Parliament Speaker L. Enebish stated that “they were all significant in creating stable economics, overcoming financial problems, and solving social issues during this transition period to the market economy. As a result of passing the law of special permission for economic entities and the law of energy, an environment has been created within the main sectors of the economy to carry out structural changes and to abolish bureaucracy when opening new businesses.
”The Parliament has adopted a law on the Mongolian National Commission of Human Rights and appointed the head and members of the commission. Based on the experiences of the two previous presidential elections, we will henceforth announce the date of the elections sixty days before election day, limit the amount of donations from organisations and individuals, and establish new rules for running media campaigns. I believe that these will be helpful for the democratic development of elections.”
The spring session of Parliament will commence on April 5.
Ten Years of Freedom of Speech
The following are excerpts from an interview conducted by B. Indra and Ts. Dashdondov, President of the Mongolian Free Democratic Journalists Association
Summing up the year 2000, Dashdondov said, “Mongolians have just experienced a year that was both positive and negative. The main event of 2000 was the Parliamentary elections. The result of the elections was both interesting and true: the democratic forces failed during their four years of power. They showed their inexperience, and the people of Mongolia evaluated their performance by voting them out. The Democratic Party lost 72 out of 76 years.
”The arrival of free press has brought an added diversity to Mongolian society. It ushered in freedom of speech, differing opinions, a platform for people of different political persuasions. It has changed the face of journalism, bringing together a group of journalists possessing political and civil courage.
”There are some that talk about freedom of the press, but they demean it by their lack of responsibility and professionalism. If we want to develop real press freedom, we need to follow an ethical code; it’s a key to balanced reporting.
”A survey conducted in 1995 by the Journalists Frontier concluded that Mongolian press was considered ‘partly free’. According to Freedom House’s annual survey of press freedom in 2000, Mongolia is now listed in the category of ‘free’. The survey showed that a total of 69 countries - half the world’s nations and 20% of its population - have full freedom of the press; fifty-one were ‘partly free’, and sixty-six were ‘not free’.
”However, the International Federation of Journalists considers that there can be no freedom of the press if journalists live in conditions of corruption, poverty, and fear. Mongolia has all of these.”
President Bagabandi Meets Kim Dae-Jung in South Korea
Mongolian president Natsagiin Bagabandi and South Korean president Kim Dae-jung agreed on February 12 that their two countries will form a “knowledge partnership” to share South Korea’s experience in economic development. Under the agreement, Seoul will send a group of experts in the fiscal, tax and financial fields to advise their Mongolian counterparts.
President Bagabandi arrived in Seoul earlier yesterday (February 11) for a four-day state visit mainly aimed at boosting bilateral ties. President Kim visited Mongolia in May 1999. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1990.
He received an honorary doctorate Tuesday from Sogang University, where his daughter, B. Bayarmaa, studied economics at its graduate school from 1996 to 1998.
Around one hundred dignitaries accompanied the Mongolian president on his tour of the Kia Motors automotive plant, including a number of government ministers, lawmakers, and businessmen.
An agreement was struck on youth exchange and cooperation, also, first proposed in 1999 when Kim Dae-jung visited Mongolia.
The joint statement said Mr. Kim and Mr. Bagabandi agreed that South Korea and Mongolia would jointly promote the development of natural gas in the Irkutsk area in southern Siberia, and the connection of an inter-Korean railway with Mongolia as part of an “iron silk road” that would link East Asia with Europe.
Mongolia, who has diplomatic ties in both North and South Korea, supports the Seoul government’s policy of reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea.
Two-way trade volume between South Korea and Mongolia totalled $35 million in 1999, and $46 million in the first eleven months of last year. South Korea is Mongolia’s fifth-largest trading partner, and third-largest investor, $35.5 million worth, after China and Japan.
President Kim said his government would continue to render economic cooperation in the form of Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) projects to help Mongolia in its efforts to develop its human resources and infrastructure. The president also pledged to boost technological cooperation between the two nations. Both sides agreed to cooperate in regional multilateral bodies to cope with environmental problems facing North-East Asia, such as seasonal dust storms from the Gobi Desert that affect Korea and Mongolia, and cause desertification. President Kim expressed concern over damage caused by the zud, and pledged Seoul’s assistance in Mongolia’s efforts to overcome the damage.
South Korea will celebrate a Mongolian Week, and Mongolia a South Korean Week, around March 26 of this year - the anniversary of their formal ties.
President Bagabandi Travels to Singapore and United Arab Emirates
Mongolian President Natsagiin Bagabandi arrived in Singapore on February 15 to commence a three-day official visit to the country.
Singapore and Mongolia have resolved to strengthen bilateral relations with a string of fresh initiatives to further boost trade and cultural ties.
President Bagabandi and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong agreed to start discussions on a double-taxation agreement in August, and to increase cooperation in areas such as training. They also agreed on increased consultation between their foreign ministry officials.
Both leaders also agreed to an exchange of cultural officials and cooperation between their national libraries. Singapore will also provide courses for Mongolian officials on topics such as English language and business administration.
Mr. Bagabandi also discussed his country’s interest in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and the Asia-Europe Meeting, and briefed Mr. Goh on developments in Mongolia and the business and investment opportunities there.
The visit was the first by a Mongolian president, and the highest level of contact since diplomatic ties were established in 1970.
On February 19, President Bagabandi arrived in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on a state visit to that country. He was received by Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan. During his visit, President Bagabandi and UAE Foreign Minister Rashid Abdullah held talks over the latest regional developments, including the Middle East peace process. They also reviewed ways of enhancing bilateral relations and cooperation.
UAE Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, met with Mr. Bagabandi. They discussed cooperation between the two countries in higher education. Meanwhile, Bagabandi met with Ahmed Baqir, Assistant Director General of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, ADFD. Baqir said that the Fund agreed to enlist Mongolia as one of the Fund’s beneficiaries in terms of loans and financing of projects.
The Many Faces of Corruption
Individuals and groups are motivated by two forces: those of public and private benefit. The latter can come in many forms, and includes small and large business dealings. It can also come through an illegal abuse of privilege. Such abuse is known as corruption.
Corruption has few boundaries. It permeates state and private enterprise. In Mongolia, it has grown alarmingly over the last ten years. It has become a significant part of many social spheres, including the economy, government, judiciary, policing, media, education, health services, and science.
The Judiciary. In theory, the Mongolian legal system is independent from any outside influence. However, bribery is widespread among court officials. Bribes are accepted from individuals in exchange for more lenient penalties. They are also given under threat of harsher penalties. Thus, wealthier people have a greater chance of receiving more favourable decisions, as do relatives and friends. Conversely, those from lower socio-economic groups, or those without family connections, are more likely to receive an unjust sentence.
The Police. Many police officers engage in corruption. For example, the importation, distribution and sale of much illegal alcohol is overseen by police officers in exchange for lucrative benefits. In effect, the police are facilitating the trade of many illegal goods.
Well-accustomed to black market operations, police officers know how to conceal some criminal activities while bringing others to light. Most illegal businesspeople have friends in the police force willing to turn a blind eye. These “friends” are quite prepared to destroy incriminating evidence before any criminal investigation.
Customs. Many Mongolian customs officers enrich themselves by overcharging customs duties. They have also been known to accept bribes from individuals transporting contraband. Officers themselves are also participating in border trade. Day-to-day work in the customs office has become a lucrative affair. Understandably, many Mongolians are seeking work as customs officers. In general, jobs are allocated not according to merit, but to the size of the bribe offered. A few million tugriks is usually sufficient.
The Ministry of Finance and the Taxation Office. The Ministry of Finance is the prime embezzler of Mongolian capital. It has become a vital intermediary between state organisations and the service industry. Short- and long-term government contracts are tendered to those private individuals or companies who can afford the highest “processing fee”. Kickbacks and tax concessions are reciprocally offered to these companies. While lining the pockets of various executives and managers, this also means that workers’ salaries may not be delivered on time. Furthermore, it expends money and resources that might otherwise be devoted to the public good.
The Taxation Office is often a further “middleman” in the giving and receiving of bribes. Funds may be offered to a taxation officer to ensure that company taxes remain low and that any expenses be written off. Tax evasion of this kind is extremely difficult to detect.
Government Bureaucracy. The various ministries and departments of government are the primary corrupting influence in Mongolia. For example, the Ministry of Environment accepts many bribes from illegal hunters and falcon traders. It also takes money from individuals and companies in the mining industry, particularly gold mining. Under Mongolian environmental laws, private enterprise that harms natural flora and fauna is not permitted. However, this is no obstacle to wealthy individuals seeking further enrichment. In this case, the cost may be long-term environmental damage.
Education. Educators often compromise their position through bribery. It is a sad indictment of the Mongolian education system when any individual can buy their way through school. To ensure a favourable assessment, students or their parents can offer a bribe to school or college officials. Furthermore, less academically inclined students can simply purchase the degree of their choice. The market price for a Master’s degree is around T50,000. This almost renders higher education worthless.
Health Services. Wealthier individuals can afford better medical care. If they want preferential treatment, a patient can simply bribe hospital officials. If they cannot afford it, patients must be prepared to suffer substandard care and pharmaceuticals. To cut costs, medical staff have been known to use medicine appropriate only for livestock. To feather their own nest, they have also overcharged patients. Patients without the necessary resources or nepotistic connections are therefore forced to endure illnesses, no matter how debilitating.
Science. Mongolia has the dubious honour of having 40% of its population crowned Doctors of Science. Dubious because a huge number of these were not earned, but bought. Thus, there is the peculiar situation where the most qualified academicians and professionals may not be able to explain the most basic aspects of their “education”.
While this is largely a measure to gain professional prestige, it also entitles those most qualified to higher salaries.
Media. Like its counterparts elsewhere, the Mongolian media is not generally concerned with informing or educating the public. Rather, it concentrates on furthering the interests of various powerful individuals and groups. As in other spheres of social life in Mongolia, the wealthy and corrupt dictate the terms.
[Note: In 1989, Mongolia was ranked 87 in the world for GDP per capita. By 1999, it had plummeted to 131st. Corruption is thought to have played a large role.]
From Communism to Social Democracy: MPRP Still Going Strong
The MPRP, or Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, Mongolia’s first political party, celebrated its 80th birthday on March 1. The history of Mongolia throughout the 20th century is inseparably linked with the MPRP. In fact, the party holds the Guiness Book’s world record for the longest ruling political party: 75 years (1921-1996).
In 1919, Chinese General Ciu Shu Jian’s army invaded Mongolia under the pretext of protecting Mongolia from the “red” Russian influence; but in reality, their goal was to destroy Mongolian autonomy and force the nation under its subjugation. During this period, Mongolian patriots and intellectuals formed dissident groups to counter the takeover. D. Bodoo, who would later become prime minister, was the creator of one such group. On June 25, 1920, his faction merged with another headed by customs officer S. Danzan - both groups holding as goals the restoration of independence and religion freedom.
At the outset, the new party’s goal was national independence, rather than communism versus capitalism.
In its broadest sense, Mongolia spent the 20th century fighting for independence. The formation of a communist party was seen as the only way of combating Chinese oppression. On March 1, 1921, the party’s first consultative congress was held in the Russian town of Troitscosovsk, located near the border with Mongolia. That day marked the beginning of 75 years of unbroken governance.
The current MPRP is very different from the communist party it once was. The democratic movement begun in Mongolia in the early 1990s saw the ruling MPRP rejecting communist ideology for democracy, thereby ending one-party domination. In the first democratic elections of 1992, the MPRP swept the polls, taking seventy out of seventy-six seats in parliament. The next election in 1996 found the MPRP defeated, and the political party opted for social democracy as a new tack. Before the parliamentary election of last year, the MPRP became a member of the International Socialist Network, SocIntern, but the party maintains that it will never return to communism. The parliamentary election was subsequently won by the MPRP. The party took seventy-two of seventy-six seats.
Currently, the MPRP has 118,351 members. 47,000 people have become members since 1996. Thirty-five percent of all members are between the ages of 36-45; thirty-three percent are 18-35 years old.
At 9:00 a.m. of February 28, 2001, the 23rd Congress of the MPRP was held in the State House. 625 members of the MPRP were elected to the congressional delegation. 13.6 percent of the delegates are women. Eighty-two-year-old Sh. Dashdorj is the oldest delegate, and G. Batsaikhan, age 22, is the youngest.
Harrod’s Boss Pledges Aid to Zud-Stricken Herders
The well-known Egyptian businessman Mohammed al Fayed has announced that he is donating $25,000 worth of aid to zud-stricken Mongolia through his Ulaanbaatar-based Harrods Mineral Company. He donated $15,000 in aid last year.
Al Fayed visited Mongolia in 1998, and gave a donation to an orphanage in Hailaast, Ulaanbaatar. He has been investing in Mongolia’s mining sector since 1997.
The Harrod’s Mineral Company makes exploratory forays for gold in Dornogobi, Omnogobi, and Bayankhongor aimags.
Al Fayed requested that his donation be spent on restocking the local people of these aimags, who have lost their livelihoods through the death of their livestock.
Annual Economic Survey
The National Statistics Office has released its annual survey on Mongolia’s socio-economic situation in 2000.
GDP and Industry. Last year’s GDP index shows that Mongolia is going backwards. The planned GDP was to be 4%, but the survey indicates that it was only 1.3%. In 1995, GDP growth was 6.3%, and in 1999, 3.2%.
The reasons for the gradual economic decline can be summed up by one word: Zud.
The agricultural sector forms one third of the national economy, but production decreased, causing the animal originated raw material processing industries to go into decline. However, gross industry products reached T243.7 million - an increase of 2.4% against the previous year. Increases were seen in the mining sector, which experienced a 6.1% production growth, and the energy sector experienced a 3% growth in production. Production in the industrial processing sector decreased by 4.8%.
Macroeconomic Tendencies and the Budget. In 2000, the sum of the total state budget income and aid was T250.2 billion, and expenditure was T412.9 billion. The budget loss was T62.7 billion, a T35.5 billion decrease compared with 1999.
The current balance represents a T34.6 billion profit, the first since 1990. This is due to tighter controls on budget policy implementation. Compared to 1999, the tax income increased by 51.2%.
The Bank of Mongolia reports that since November 2000, the money supply of T245.5 billion represents an 18.6% increase against the previous year. Total cash in circulation was T99.6 billion, and the cash outside the banks decreased by 11.4%. Ninety-four percent of the total cash in circulation was outside the bank.
It was a very good index when the inflation rate reached 8.1% in 2000. In 1995, the rate was 53.1%, and since then has decreased annually, reaching only 10% in 1999. In December 2000, the prices of consumer goods and services increased by 8.1%. Compared to 1999, due to the 2.5% increase in heating costs and 30% to 50% price increase for wood and coal, the cost of renting an apartment and powering it with electricity has increased by 32% - the highest increase ever.
Agriculture. Mongolia is home to 30.1 million head of livestock, according to the animal census held at the end of 2000. Mongolian livestock numbers decreased by 10.3%. 142,100 tons of grain were collected throughout the country last year, a decrease of 27,400 tons compared to the previous year.
Social Well Being. At the end of 2000, the number of unemployed people registered at labour agencies throughout the nation was 38,600. This figure represents a 3% decrease. However, the real number is probably closer to 140,000 unemployed.
As of December, 2000, the Health Ministry reported that there are 21 births and 5.9 deaths per 1000 people, and the net population growth was 15.2%. The number of orphans was 47,700 - a decrease of 2.2% against 1999. The number of students throughout the country reached 587,100, a 6.6% increase.
Crime. A total of 23,500 criminal cases were registered in Mongolia in 2000. Violent crime is rising. For example, 12.9% of crimes committed were deliberate murders, and 15.2% were robberies.
External Trade. Preliminary estimates for 2000 indicate that the total external trade turnover equalled $1006.5 million, of which exports were $432.3 million and imports were $574.2 million. The trade external trade balance saw a deficit of $141.9 million, a decrease of $12.6 million compared to 1999. Compared with 1999, total external trade turnover increased by 15.5%, of which exports were 20.7% and imports 12.0%, respectively.
Privatisation Sends the Hide Processing Industry Spiralling in Decline
A “Leather and Skin” conference held on January 22, organised by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Counselling Office for Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises, the German Technical Cooperative, and the Mongolian Association for Manufacturers of Leather and Skins, addressed the crisis facing the leather and skin industry and discussed ways in which the industry could be revived.
The leather and hide industry was the first to decline during the transition period to the market economy. In 1989, factories processed 5.1 million hides, producing 1.1 million square metres of goat hides, 400 square metres of sheep hides, 4.1 million leather boots, 1000 tons of raw hides for the boot heels, 240,000 pieces of leather clothing, and 180,000 sheepskin coats.
Ten years on, production of goat hides has decreased by 97.7%, sheep hides by 99.1%, sheepskin coats and leather footwear by 99.8%, and the production of raw hides for footwear heels and leather clothes has almost stopped. Thirty thousand people have lost their jobs as a consequence.
Today, only four fur, leather, and hide processing factories and 60 foreign-invested small enterprises work in this sector. The leather and hide processing industries only work at 10% of their total capacity, and most of their business activity is dependent on the seasons. […]
The revival of the hide processing industry is thwarted by many factors. Successful management is lacking, there isn’t a comprehensive system for the preparation of raw materials, and the companies have no market to sell their products. Hard capital is difficult to come by. […]
Now, 80% of raw materials are exported abroad, bypassing Mongolian processing industries. In 1989, 112,000 cattle hides were exported, increasing to 367,400 in 1999. In 1989, 180,200 sheepskin coats were exported, decreasing to 200 in 1999.
Horst Ammana, a representative of the German Cooperative, believes that the problem could be solved by introducing a state tax on raw material exports, providing private businesses in the sector with sufficient cash flow to purchase hides and the chemicals needed for processing. The taxable amount would be set according to the profits of exporting businesses. This would allow the price fetched for processed hides at the international marketplace to increase.
Ammana says that the profit could be used to establish a “Stable Development Foundation”, which would be a financial organisation that gave loans to hide processing companies to buy raw materials. The companies that take out loans would repay them once they had sold their products on the domestic market or through a raw materials exchange.
Bond Trades Show Low Turnout at the Exchange
The Mongolian Stock Exchange (MSE) has traded 12 billion tugriks’ worth of government bonds five times with private businesses and twice with individuals for terms of 30-120 days since November of last year. Each time, the sale price has been reduced. […]
”Mongolia has a seasonal economy. Only 5% of annual income enter the budget in the first quarter of the year. Our government has made a goal of providing social services on time,” head of the Treasury’s Management and Regulations Department at the Finance Ministry, Ts. Davaasuren, explains.
An estimated 70% to 80% of Mongolia’s cash stays in the hands of individuals. […] “Besides commercial banks, only three companies took part in the five bond trades for businesses, and only ten people participated in the last bond trade for individuals. […] I’m sure that money changers and herdsmen are not participating.”
[…] It is not surprising that national industries which face shortages of turnover capital are not available to take part in the bond trade. Mr. Bekhbat, general director of Gurvan Gol Gold Mining Company, says […] “We have no cash now. The money gained in the summertime was used for buying machinery, spare parts, fuel, oil, and paying salaries. In a word, we ate our cash this winter. We will start work again when it becomes warmer by taking out a bank loan.”
[…] Mostly commercial banks take part in bond trades. “Yes, banks obviously understand the value of money. Inactive participation of entities and individuals is related to their not understanding fully that value,” said Mr. Davaasuren.
[…] Some view bonds to be disadvantageous, creating rather than solving financial troubles. “Bonds will cause additional pressure on the budget. Essentially, bonds are a way for the government to get quick money instead of gathering taxes on time and in full. They cannot support the development of the stock exchange and the bond market without developing industry in the country,” Z. Dashzeveg, head of the Mongolian National Manufacturers’ Association, said.
Virtual Shopping Reaches Mongolia
Datacom is the first company to introduce online shopping to Mongolia. They are also the company who first introduced the internet to the country. Datacom’s NetCard, a subsidiary company, has introduced bronze cards, which gives consumers the right to shop online. The bronze cards will cost T5000, and card holders will pay T30,000 upfront to hold the card for two years.
By owning a card, customers will be able to shop online at the virtual NetMart. The bronze card can only be used at NetMart - in the future, NetCard will allow their bronze card to be used at other online shopping sites. The bronze card is not a credit card with which you can order and purchase products online; it allows customers to order goods online, for payment upon delivery.
Because Ulaanbaatar has no comprehensive map and address system, NetCard will not deliver the goods directly to people’s homes. They will deliver the goods through internet cafes. In cooperation with the Railway Office, NetCard is the introduce an on-line shopping service to residents of Erdenet City and other villages along the railway line, with the goods costing the same as if they had been purchased in Ulaanbaatar.
Currently, NetMart sells food products, medicine, cosmetics, flowers, and souvenirs. The company is also striving to offer online payment service. They want to promote the new-to-Mongolia experience of electronic payment. Internet service provider Magicnet is one of the very first customers of this service, and they will allow their customers to pay for services online.
Tradition and Capitalism Go Han in Hand at Tsagaan Sar
The week leading up to Tsagaan Sar is the focus of extensive preparations by families and traders alike. The average family prepares thousands of buuz (steamed meat-filled dumplings), and the home is cleaned from top to bottom to see in the new year. Such preparations cost time and money. Enter the burgeoning market economy. The set piece of any Mongolian table is uuts, a whole lamb, although some families may offer the sternum of a cow, and the meat is usually cooked at home. However, for some families living in apartments, cooking a whole lamb or cow’s sternum is a problem due to lack of space. Some guanz (canteen) owners have a sideline, charging families to cook the meat on their premises, and some entrepreneurs offer to cook your meat over an open fire.
Despite the nationwide zud, tonnes of meat have been transported to Ulaanbaatar specially for this holiday, with a whole lamb costing between T30,000-T60,000.
Anotehr festive treat is ul boov, specially shaped bread. Many younger Mongolians choose to buy heaviin boov from bakeries, T450-T650 apiece.
Buuz can be bought ready-made from the freezer section of supermarkets and guanzes. The Huns Trade Company have a flourishing business providing instant buuz for T1600 a kilo, and charge T1800 a kilo for dumplings.
Milk products are also a must on any Tsagaan Sar table. This year, because of the zud, there are not as many dairy products on display at the markets in comparison to previous years.
During the holiday period, Mongolians dress in the traditional del and hat, and it is not just the older generation who keep this tradition alive. Demand for new dels is highest amongst girls and women, with a new del costing between T20,000 and T30,000.
The Ulaanbaatar Transportation and Coordination Office has announced a new service for Tsagaan Sar. If there is enough demand, they will run special minivan services for families.
Mongolia’s Black Gold Lacks Investment
The tenth anniversary of the law on oil passed on February 13. Oil is known as black gold by Mongolians. The law on oil was passed in order to develop a favourable investment climate for the industry and to reduce investors’ risks.
Oil exploration was begun in Mongolia by American geologists in 1931. J. Dugersuren, a Mongolian geologist, discovered oil in Dornogobi aimag in 1940. In 1947, the MongolNeft Trust was established for the purposes of oil exploration. In nineteen years of oil exploration, nearly one million tonnes of oil were produced in Mongolia, supplying twenty percent of Mongolia’s total oil requirements.
The industry suffered a huge setback when oil fields began operating in Siberia in 1969, forcing a complete shutdown of the Mongolian oil industry. Mongolia was to import oil from Russia for the next twenty years.
It was only in 1990 that the oil industry was revived. With the advent of the market economy, Russia dropped its subsidies to Mongolia and charged full market value per barrel, which led to Mongolia deciding to exploit its own natural resources. Twenty-two oil fields were identified. A venture between the American company Snaidar Oil International and the Mongolian company Medalion Oil was the first to resume operations in twenty years, opening oil fields in Matad soum, Dornod aimag, in 1993.
O. Davaasambuu, the head of the Oil Authority, said that the government spent T9 billion on oil exploration and on promotion, to entice foreign companies to invest in this sector. The anticipated oil rush never happened - oil is considered a risky business, with a high initial outlay of capital for an uncertain return. Poor infrastructure within Mongolia, the abundance of oil in neighbouring Siberia and China, and a limited domestic marketplace did nothing to promote the possibility of oil-rich reserves to foreign organisations.
Today, oil companies work in ten oil fields and are engaged not only in exploratory work, but in mining for crude oil, oil storage, transportation and sale. The resurgence of the oil sector has created three hundred new jobs, and oil sales have contributed T2 billion to the state budget in the past four years.
On June 11, 1997, free-flowing oil spurted from a 2.3-kilometre deep borehole dug by the American company SOCO, and filled 687 barrels a day. In the past seven years, SOCO Oil Company have explored 12,000 km, drilled 21 holes, filled 193,000 barrels with oil, and exported 184,700 barrels to China.
Of the twenty-two oil fields in Mongolia, SOCO and ROC Oil run seven of them. SOCO are working in Tamsag, Eastern Mongolia, and ROC Oil work in the Gobi region.
Specialists believe that Ikh Nuurudiin Hotgor, in the west of Mongolia, has vast oil reserves just waiting to be explored. A Chinese company, American Desert Oil, has been active in this region since 2000.
Fish Farming Hindered by Lack of Infrastructure
Japanese experts visited Mongolia in 1999 and have concluded that due to Mongolia’s lack of infrastructure in the fishing industry, it will be extremely difficult to develop the industry for profitable purposes. During a meeting on the issue of fish farming, Professor U. Tsend-Ayush stated that Mongolia needed to split the fishing industry into three regions: the western region would have Khovd as its centre, the central region would have Ulaanbaatar, and the eastern region Choibalsan.
[…] The amount of fish that can be taken from Mongolia’s lakes and rivrs is based on a 1975 study conducted by the Scientific Academy’s Biological Institute. A research group determined the number of fish reserves in twenty-three lakes and then worked out the amount that could be killed without harming fish stocks. In 1998, researchers from the Russian Scientific Academy, along with Russian specialists from the fisheries company Rus Ribhoz, determined that 700 tonnes of fish could be killed every year, after conducting studies on five Mongolian lakes.
Since 1978, Jarmaga fish have been brought to Mongolia from fish farms in Ulan-Ude for breeding purposes. Because of the great distances between fish farms and urban areas, the fishing season begins in November and ends in March, when freezing temperatures ensure that the fish do not rot in transit. With more investment, the fishing season could run all year round.
Five Biggest State-Owned Enterprises Hit Auction Block
Last week, the Mongolia Cabinet issued the “2001 Privatisation Programme”. The programme includes listings for the sale of twenty-seven entities that are wholly or partly owned by the State, sixty-six unfinished buildings, and twenty-five entities that will require structural reforms before being sold.
The list includes the five largest state-owned enterprises in the country. These include Mongolia’s national airline, MIAT, NIC Petroleum, the Trade and Development Bank, Gobi Company, and the country’s largest alcohol producer, APU. State shares for each business range from 51% to 100%. The government has reported that the preparatory work and legal environment for their sale are close to completion.
Tender bids were accepted this past week for appraisals of the five companies, but the deadline has already passed. All applications for bids were to be received by the SPC March 1. The narrow timeframe is in place, SPC adviser D. Bailiikhuu maintains, because bidders were previously “in the know” about the upcoming sale. The 2001 privatisation process is a tight plan, he says. By June, the evaluation work should be done, and subsequent purchase bids should be received.
”The programme includes not only listings, but methods of privatisation and structural changes for all the entities defined in the programme,” he explained.
The five state-owned properties mentioned above were prohibited from sale during the former government’s administration. [Our note: that is, the democratic coalition.]
The Long Haul Just Got Shorter
Located eight kilometres from the centre of Khovd aimag is Memo Mongolia Co., the first travelling meat processing facility in the nation. A Mongolian-Russian-Norwegian venture company, Memo Mongolia was established one year ago in the country’s most south-western province.
P. Bataa, general director of Memo Mongolia, said, “Our mobile factory is capable of processing four tons of meat daily - in other words, the slaughter of 40-60 cattle. Processing levels can be adjusted according to demand. The facility can also be moved to other aimags and soums. This year, we have exported 240 tons of meat to Russia. On occasion, we accept flour, rice, and/or fuel from Russia as payment.”
The meat-processing company can be seen as a first step in bringing the city to the farms, instead of the farm to the city. Herders often travel hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres to sell off their livestock in Ulaanbaatar.
Memo Mongolia buys livestock at T260 a kilogram, and in turn sells each kilogram of meat at a price of T800.
Small Business Get a Boost
A foundation serving small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs was established in Mongolia in 1996. At that time, the sale of wheat and butter from a State relief programme was centralised in the foundation and distributed to business owners as a loan; but the centralised, “big” money has vanished without a trace. Recently, the Ministry of Industry and Trade established a department to support these entrepreneurs. M. Zorigbaatar, head of the department, spoke to the Mongolian News newspaper about the department’s activities.
What is considered a small- or medium-sized enterprise (SMSE)?
Since 1990, many wholly or partly-owned state enterprises, private enterprises, and self-employed persons have gone into business in Mongolia. So, anyone who runs an economic entity in any field - construction, trade, animal husbandry or agriculture - is considered a SMSE operator. But there is no official criterion for defining what an SMSE is.
How many people run SMSEs in Mongolia?
According to last year’s figures, there are 23,800 economic entities in Mongolia. Ninety percent of them (approximately 20,000) are private entities. Sixty percent of that number are SMSEs. There are over 1000 SMSEs in agriculture and animal husbandry alone. We began research this year to find out how many businesses are in each aimag; how many workers they have; and how many assets and turnover capital they possess. Most aimags have already sent us their information. Based on those results, we will define who are SMSEs. Furthermore, our department will work out a draft law which will provide SMSE owners a favourable financial environment in which to run their businesses and protect their interests.
What favourable financial and legal environments will be provided?
A policy that imposes SMSE income tax differently. For example, we will exempt SMSEs and investments in remote aimags and soums from income taxes, and we will also support foreign investment and non-banking financial organisations, such as Gobi Initiative, Credit Mongolia, and Golden Foundation for Development.
I remember that during the previous governmetn’s administation, a foundation to support SMSEs was established. At that time, revenue from the sale of U.S., aid in the form of butter and wheat was centralised in the foundation. Where is the revenue now??
The sales revenue of the American aid was centralised in the previous foundation that supported SMSEs. The foundation gave T4.6 billion in loans to over 1000 SMSEs through the following banks in order to develop SMSEs: Ard (“People”), Daatgal (“Insurance”), Restore Bank, the Agricultural Bank, and the Investment and Technology Development Bank. But Restore Bank, the Investment and Technological Bank, and the Ard Bank went bankrupt, so the foundation’s activities came to a halt.
Our department has already started to redeem the previous foundation’s funds. By December 2000, the department gained T830,400,000, and materials and equipment from the bankrupt Restore and Investment and Technology Development Banks. Now it is possible for us to lend financial relief to SMSEs.
Can Mongolia Climb Out of Its Economic Rut This Year?
Professor G. Purevbaatar was interviewed by the Mongolyn Medee newspaper on his economic predictions for the New Year
Do you expect improvement in the Mongolian economy?
No, I don’t. Livestock losses are expected to reach five or six million. That will affect the economy. Raw material exports will be reduced, and foreign trade will be unbalanced. Meat prices will take their toll on the livelihood of the people.
Although gold, copper mining, and energy production will stay at the same level as last year, the raw material processing industry - the main economic sector - is having a hard time with less turnover…
The cashmere industry is not ambitious. One million out of eleven million goats were lost in 1999. More losses are predicted this year. China’s policy is to make Mongolia a raw cashmere base for Chinese industry. Raw cashmere prices are T50,000 to T55,000 per kilogram. That system will lead our national industry to bankruptcy. Banning raw cashmere exports is the way to prevent that from happening…
Although moist soil from winter snows are promising better harvests this year, the financial situation for fuel, fertiliser, and seeds is not promising to boost the economy.
I think that using the $20 million loan from the Asian Development Bank to revive the agricultural sector - farms and livestock raw material production - is a wiser use of the money than building apartments.
Mongolia’s dilapidated economuy will once again be dependent on foreign aid and loans this year. The gross domestic product did not increase last year, so a two or three percent annual increase in the GDP would mean progress.
What can you say about the nation’s living standards?
No improvements. It’s expected to get worse. Considering such factors such as the increase in heating and electricity prices, the real decline in income is 5% to 7%. If the salaries and pensions of 140,000 civil servants and 240,00 retired people increases by 10%, the decline will stand at 3% or 4%.
The country’s negative influence will affect 80% of the population.
What about inflation or the U.S. dollar (USD) exchange rate?
Neither will increase. Inflate does not increase if new currency is not coming into circulation, or when purchasing power is decreased against the increased supply of goods and services. In that case, last year’s inflation rate of 8.1% could even decrease.
I am quite sure about a stable USD exchange rate this year. The national currency reserve is T258 billion. The foreign currency reserve is US$246 million, or equal to T246 billion. The USD rate will not increase if these two currencies are equal in circulation.
The widespread use of the USD at local markets has had unpleasant effects on the Mongolian market. Because of this, local market prices will become more sensitive to world-market price fluctuations…
Do you see any possible way to improve the economy and living standards of the nation in the short term?
It is impossible to solve these two important issues at the same time. Economic improvement needs to come first.
A serious loan, a long-term soft loan of US$1.5 to US$2 billion is needed from the IMF. Restoring raw animal products production, the agricultural sector, the mining industry, and the building of small- and medium-sized hydroelectric power stations are the high-priority tasks needed to improve the economy through the loan.
Of course, there are other issues, such as adopting new technology, but the most important thing is that the government be seen instituting effective policies aimed at reviving national industries.
Canadian Dollar – Mongolian Tugrik Exchange Rate: CAD$1 = T709.95
The Japanese government will provide aid worth $41,900 to a secondary school in Sagil soum, Uvs aimag. An agreement has been signed by the Japanese ambassador M. Hanada and the soum governor, D. Batsuuri. According to the agreement, the aid money will be spent on renovating the school and buying computers, printers, and a linguaphone set.
The Japanese government’s Grassroots project will provide $25,163 of aid for the improvement of medical services in Biger soum, Gobi Altai aimag. The money will be spent on reconstructing the hospital, staff training, and updating medical equipment.
During the 1990s, 15,452 Kazak people emigrated to Kazakstan from Mongolia. About 3200 of them have applied to the Mongolian Ministry of Justice to cancel their Mongolian status.
The government has announced that 2001 is the year of the supporting disabled people. The purpose of this specially designated year is to provide and encourage assistance to improve the social standing of disabled people and protect their rights. Over T120 million will be allocated from the state budget for this project. Unofficial figures suggest that there are about 120,000 disabled people in Mongolia.
Twenty percent of the total state budget will be spent on social care in 2001. Last year, ten percent of the state budget was allocated to the Social Insurance Fund. This year, T64.3 billion will be allocated to the fund.
Boxer D. Enkhsaikhan, a resident of Seoul, South Korea, was murdered in Beijing while on his way to Mongolia to celebrate the Mongolian Lunar New Year. Enkhsaikhan and two friends had remained in Seoul to seek work after the international Seoul Cup competition. He was carrying a large amount of cash when he was killed. Enkhsaikhan won bronze medals at the Asian Championships in 1997, and at the Asian Summer Games in 1998.
A pair of leather boots owned by a Mrs. R. Dashragcha of Arkhangai aimag date back to the 15th-17th centuries. The boots have been handed down through seven generations of the Dashragcha family, who believe that the boots once belonged to Chinggis Khaan.
A Kazak writer, Hamza Koktendi, asserts that he has proof that Chinggis Khaan is buried in Kazakstan. He says that if Kazak President T. Nursultan Nazarbaev promises to guarantee the protection of the grave, he will reveal its whereabouts. Chinese scholars claimed last year that Chinggis Khaan’s grave was in Xinjiang, which Mongolian scholars have denied.
Last week, an exhibition to support modern art, Kwangju 2000, was held in the city of Kwangju, South Korea. The theme of this year’s event was “Humans and Destiny”. Dagvadorj Sereeter, art professor at the Mongolian Fine Arts Institute, won first place at the exhibition. The Mongolian government will award him with eight million tugriks - approximately US$7,280 at the current exchange rate - for his success. Mongolian singer Battulga participated in Asia’s Best Singer competition held in Shanghai, China, last week, winning the bronze medal. To support his talent, the Mongolian government will award Mr. Battulga with two million tugriks.
Last Thursday, January 25, a fire broke out in Room 406 in the B wing of the Bayangol Hotel, located in the Sukhbaatar District, Ulaanbaatar. The blaze was allegedly caused by the room occupants’s lit cigarette, causing T700,000 worth of damage. Thirty to forty people were staying at the hotel at the time of the fire, between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.
Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reports that thousands of white-tailed gazelles have migrated from Mongolia to Russia. About ten thousand animals passed to the Russian side through Mongolia’s eastern Dornod aimag and the Russian Chita region. Over 70,000 gazelles have gathered at the Mongolian border.
The number of single mothers has increased by 1.7 percent, which is an increase of 928 single mothers compared with the same period last year. Mongolia has over 56,000 single mothers, with the majority having between three and five children, and the minority having more than six.
February 2 was the birthday of Damdiny Sukhbaatar (1893-1923), one of the founders of the People’s Revolution of 1921.
A Russian trickster has been arrested in Singapore in connection with a string of deals he has pulled off, where he passed himself off as a representative of Mongolian companies. He used forged documents to make contracts with German, Singaporean and Chinese companies, who invested in his non-existent Mongolian business ventures. He had been wanted by Interpol since 1992.
On February 1, Mrs. S. Yanjmaa, native of Ulaangom, Uvs aimag, gave birth to healthy triplets weighing in at 2.2 - 3.5 kg. A teacher by profession, Mrs. Yanjmaa is the first mother to bear triplets in the new century and millennium n Mongolia, and the first triplets born in Uvs aimag in ten years.
The police department reported that on the first day of every month, minor traffic violations will not incur a fine. Traffic police do not issue tickets in Mongolia; if a driver is stopped for running a red light, for example, he must pay the fine directly to the officer, in cash.
Last Sunday, February 4, an earthquake of a magnitude of 4.0 on the Richter scale occurred in Omnogobi aimag at around 4:11 a.m. The epicentre was located between the border of Dundgobi aimag and Mandal-Ovoo soum of Omnogobi aimag. The moderate quake was perceptible, though damage slight. In the capital of Omnogobi aimag, located 130 km away from the epicentre, windows were said to have rattled. The area in and around Omnogobi aimag is considered to be an earthquake-prone region.
The City Governor’s Office has organised the Tsagaan Sar 2001 Trade Fair in conjunction with S&A Company at the Zuun Dorvon Zam Trade Centre from February 5 to 23. The fair will cater to the Asian New Year shopper. Sixty companies are at work at the fair, selling their wares at wholesale prices. Slaughtered sheep cost T20,000, and buuz are at T1600 a kilogram.
Mongolian Mobicom Co. is now offering the Mobile Account. Telephone lines are now not the only means of connecting to the internet. With the Mobile Account Plan, users will be able to connect directly to the internet on their mobile phones. Mobicom Co. representatives stated that the company will also decrease its rates for internet use by 40%.
In 1998, homeless children numbered five hundred in Mongolia. However, in the last two years, this statistic has increased by 150%. Of these children, 41% have left home to avoid abusive parents. In Ulaanbaatar, there are 3,100 street people, 8% of whom are 1-5 years old, 34% 6-13 years old, 28% 14-20 years old, and 6% over 50. Furthermore, over 10,000 children perform hard labour in Mongolia. Sixty-three percent of them work in markets and railway stations. They receive an income of T1000 to T3000 a day. Seventy percent are aged 8 to 13.
Mongolia and South Korea have signed an agreement on a student exchange programme. Fifteen Mongolians are currently studying in South Korea, and twenty South Koreans are studying in Mongolia.
Over 108 religious centres are officially operating in Mongolia. About one hundred of these are Buddhist monasteries. According to statistics, 50% of the Mongolian population is Buddhist. Religious temps of the Ba-hai, who have been active in Mongolia since 1989, operate in all 21 aimags, including Ulaanbaatar, and have over 4000 followers.
In a covert operation carried out by the General Police Department, code-named Abroad, eighteen Mongolians were arrested in the Russian cities of Moscow, Irkutsk, and Ulan-Ude for hooliganism, using counterfeit passports for overstaying their visas. The General Police Department were assisted by Mongolian consulates in Russia and by Russian police. The clampdown was made due to a rise in the number of crimes committed on the Trans-Siberian Railway, which links Moscow and Beijing via Ulaanbaatar.
A swath of land, located approximately 1,200 metres from Yeguzer Temple in Erdenetsagaan soum, Sukhbaatar aimag, recently fell in on itself, causing groundwater to seep up into the hole from a five-metre depth. The Mongolian Science Academy’s Physics Department has cited it as the natural process of lake formation.
Eighty percent of Mongolia’s university students study law, foreign languages and foreign relations, but over eighty percent of all available work exists in the technical field. Thus, most university and institute graduates are without employment. Sixty percent, or 30,000, of all unemployed workers in the nation are under the age of 35. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is giving consideration for the support of technical schools, which have become virtually extinct in Mongolia over the last decade.
Mongolian Prime Minister N. Enkhbayar’s official visit to Japan from February 13-19 has strengthened ties between Mongolia and its important neighbour. It has resulted in the Japanese Prime Minister I. Mori announcing the donation of a further US$3 million aid package to Mongolia, in addition to the US$10 million donation already given for zud disaster relief.
UBS TV will cooperate with Russian channel Irkutsk Aist TV (Irkutsk Stork TV). Irkutsk Aist TV will provide Ulaanbaatar with news programmes from this part of Siberia every two weeks, and a fifteen-minute programme prepared by UBS TV will be broadcast in Irkutsk.
Hoomii singing and performances of Mongolian art took place in New York City on Valentine’s Day at a charity function sponsored by the Mongolian Permanent Mission to the UN, the New York City Rotary Club, the UNICEF American Foundation, and the American-Mongolian Cultural Society. Twenty-five thousand dollars were raised.
MIAT are to operate a new route between Ulaanbaatar and Hong Kong from June to August 28, 2001, departing every Tuesday.
The World Bank Institute and the Mongolian Foundation for Open Society launched the first of an eight-week series of roundtable discussions on February 13. The discussions centre around national policies on poverty reduction and on promoting public participation in addressing this issue. Regional video conferences, with the participation of four other Asian countries and leading World Bank leaders, will take part in the discussions.
Last year, customs officers confiscated 198,000 litres of spirits, 1,238 kilograms of cashmere, 109,358 cartons of cigarettes, 12,600 marmot skins, 81 reproductive organs of deer, and 36.1 kilograms of deer antlers. Foreign companies are the most common culprits violating customs.
When the Democrats came to power in 1996, they passed laws allowing live television transmissions of parliament plenary session and citizens to sit for fifteen minutes in the gallery of the government house to watch debates.
Mongolia will celebrate on March 20 the twentieth anniversary of Mongolian cosmonaut J. Gurragchaa’s space flight. The celebration will be attended by Russian cosmonaturs B. A. Janibekov and B. Savinih, who travelled into space with J. Gurragchaa.
From 1980 to 1990, Mongolia exported a total of 21,163,000 cubic metres of sawn timber, or approximately 2,116,000 cubic metres a year. In the last decade, the yearly average has dropped to 600,000 cubic metres. However, illegal logging has reached an unprecedented level. There are over 200 illegal logging centres in Selenge aimag alone.
The 23rd Congress and 80th anniversary of the MPRP (Mongolian Communist Party) coincides today, February 28.
The Mongolian Foundation for Open Society (MFOS), together with state-owned Mongolian National Television, has established a professional council consisting of representative non-governmental cultural organisations.
An oil refinery plant in Orkhon aimag (capital, Erdenet), began operating after the Tsagaan Sar holiday. The plant will receive crude oil from Russia. Four hundred tonnes of meat was shipped to Russia as payment for the first consignment of crude oil. The plant has the capacity to refine up to 200 tonnes of crude oil a day.
On February 5, customs officials confiscated 163 mobile phones and 35 cans of military-grade tear gas on board a flight form Berlin, Germany to Ulaanbaatar. Police arrested two Mongolian stewardesses by the name of T. Bodigerel and Amarsaikhan, who were trying to smuggle the goods in the rear bulkhead of the airplane. Police officials report that carrying canisters of tear gas aboard a commercial airplane is not only illegal, but extremely dangerous, due to the fact that passengers are in an enclosed space. The police are continuing their investigation to find out who else may have been involved.
Three dinosaur eggs were confiscated from the Trans-Siberian train by Baikal border guards from the State Security Service of Russia. On February 1, at Naushki Station, on the border of Mongolia and Russia, officers confiscated fifteen fragments of ‘unknown origin’ from the Beijing-Ulaanbaatar-Moscow train. The owner could not be found. According to specialists from the Buriat Institute of Geology, the fragments are three dinosaur eggs which were hatched in Central Asia 150-170 million years ago.
Crash Survivors Sent to Japan for Medical Treatment
Three of the injured survivors from the helicopter crash on January 14 were sent to Japan on January 24. Namsrai, an officer from the Civil Defence Office, Battomor, the mayor of Malchin soum, Uvs aimag, and his daughter Battsengel are to receive further treatment for severe burns.
On January 22, Singaporean doctor Erik Zi Wei and surgeon K. Ruman, together with Mongolian doctors, successfully completed dermoplasty surgery on the burnt hands of Namsrai.
Traumatic surgeon B. Choyondorj said that the injured have sustained burns mainly on their bodies and have problems in their upper air passage. Those people who were wearing sheepskin coats were protected from the fire much more so than those wearing nylon clothing, which sticks to the wearer when it burns. Namsrai was wearing a military uniform made of nylon when the helicopter crashed.
Battomor was saved from all-over burns as he was wearing a sheepskin coat - his hands and face were burnt. His daughter was wearing clothes containing nylon and suffered from serious burns to her face, the fingers of both hands, her lower back, and her respiratory organs.
The psychological effects of the crash on survivors is being addressed by doctors at the Psychological Clinic, who are giving counselling.
Tourism Dries Up
Tourism in Mongolia last year fell well short of expectations. Statistics show that tourist numbers have fallen since 1999.
According to tourist consultant Alan Saffrey, of the 158,205 visitors to Mongolia last year, just 33,232 came on holiday. In 1999, Mongolia welcomed 158,743 visitors, and 34,049 came on holiday. That is a one-year drop-off of 817 dollar-toting bodies.
Earlier in 2000, the Japanese aid organisation JICA predicted that Mongolia would attract 43,000 visitors by year’s end. Experts blame the extreme zud for scaring off potential holidaymakers. JICA, which has drawn up a master plan for Mongolia’s tourist industry, estimates that 75,000 people will visit Mongolia by 2005, and 210,000 people by the year 2015.
[…] Carolyn McAskie, the UN’s Humanitarian Relief Coordinator, gave a press briefing at UN Headquarters on January 24. McAskie explained to reporters that Mongolia experienced a climatic phenomenon known nowhere else in the world, so unique to Mongolia that the word to describe the combination of extreme winter weather and drought, zud, could not be translated into other languages.
[…] “Mongolia consists mainly of herding communities, and its economy is based primarily on livestock. Since the collapse of the industrial relationship with the former Soviet bloc in 1989, traditional methods of income have been encouraged to the extent that livestock represents some 80% of the economy. What we need to try and explain is that a livestock disaster is a humanitarian disaster, as well.
”An appeal for aid to Mongolia was launched in April, 2000. It is difficult to explain to donors why they should respond to an appeal launched in April for a bad winter. In Western terms, the winter is over, and things should be better.
”Mongolia is not viewed as a permanent humanitarian crisis. The problem in Mongolia is the issue of restructuring and diversifying the economy. […] It is not unrealistic to expect that the government will require humanitarian assistance for a few more years.
”Recovering from a livestock disaster is not like recovering from a crop disaster. While a good crop could be produced after only one year of good conditions, it takes four to five years for a good livestock crop to be produced.
”When livestock are threatened, herders will do anything to protect them. The herders go out in extreme cold conditions, which has a tremendous impact on their health. Anything less than 100 head of cattle is a disaster for a herder family. Anything less than 200 puts a family close to the subsistence level. Thirty percent of human services were once granted through grants from the former Soviet Union, and the once elaborate health care system no longer exists. Herders have very little resources to turn to in terms of health care and social services. Part of the appeal will include the provision of health care for herders, as well as transportation to allow them to access these services.
”The livestock crisis becomes a human crisis through an increase in poverty, the breakdown of families, increases in drinking, child abuse, and disease.
Mongolia Is Home to 30,000 Schrenk Magnoliophytina
One hundred and ten types of aspen grow in the world, and five are to be found in Mongolia. The Magnoliophytina is one of these five, and grows only in desert regions such as the Gobi. Research indicates that there are about 30,000 Magnoliophytinas in Mongolia. This rare plant was registered in the 1987 Mongolian Red Book, which records animal and plant species “at risk”. The Mongolian name for the Magnoliophytina is Tooroi.
The Red Book writes that the plant is found in Elst Myangan and the southern Aj Bogd Mountain in the west, Tost Noyonbogd and Nemegt Mountains in the east, Mongol Altai in the north, and at the mouth of the Eznii River in the south.
Since 1990, a Ministry of Nature and Environment expedition defined over 50 areas where the plant grows. According to the ministry, the Tooroi grows in Noyon Sium, Omnogobi in the east, Yolhon in Altai soum, Khovd aimag, in the west, and the frontier in the south. However, many areas containing the Tooroi sometimes have only one Tooroi. The most Toorois found in any one area number only 30-40 per hectare.
The Tooroi protects the soil in the desert, reduces wind force, and provides shade for people and animals during the very hot summers. Sheep, goats, and camels in the Gobi eat the leaves of the Tooroi, and the local people use the substance that the plant produces in their food. It is also used in the construction of gers and for fires. The plant has many beneficial uses, and the Ministry of Nature and Environment needs to protect and encourage the growth of the Tooroi.
Suspect in Family Homicides Remains in Confinement
The UB Post reported in last week’s edition on the murders committed at apartment building No. 30 in the Second Microdistrict of Sukhbaatar District, Ulaanbaatar. Five members of the Batjargal family were brutally murdered, being repeatedly stabbed and having their throats cut. B. Bayarbat, son of 61-year-old victim Mr. Batjargal, is suspected in the slayings. Police found a bloody knife inside his Hyundai Sonata car after the crimes were committed, though Onoodor newspaper reported Tuesday, January 30, that the killings were not done with a knife.
Bayarbat did not spend the night of the murders at his apartment, Saturday, January 20. Police reported that he spent that night with his girlfriend Oyunsuvd at the apartment where she rents a room. There, police suspect that he had his clothes washed by his girlfriend, removing the blood after the homicides. However, the details of that night spent at her apartment remain uncorroborated.
The victims may have kept large amounts of cash in their home, authorities believe. Bayarbat’s girlfriend, a student of Tenger University, rents a small room in an apartment house. Police are investigating whether Mr. Bayarbat intended to buy an apartment for her as a motive for the crime or whether or not he was in debt. Bayarbat remains in police custody.
City Housing Just Got Roomier
Apartment shortages in Ulaanbaatar may soon be a thing of the past. Between the years 2001 and 2005, 1,985 family apartments, worth T17.2 billion, will be built in eight districts at the nation’s capital. That means 88,000 square metres of new apartment space. Construction work will be implemented under the framework of the “New Millennium” project. 74.2% of the apartments will be built for middle- and low-income people, and will cost less than current rates. For example, a one-room apartment will cost T6.2 million, approximately US$5,600.
According to the project, 240 family apartments will be built in the 13th Microdistrict; 1000 apartments will be built in Bayangol District by Bodi International Company; and 50 apartments will be constructed in Sukhbaatar District by T & T Company, among others.
Chinese and Russian construction companies will help built many of the new apartment buildings.
One Reporter’s Opinion on the Zud -
A. Baasandorj of Onoodor newspaper criticises the nomadic pastoral lifestyle
[…] Many people wondered why UN officers had come to Mongolia to assess the so-called natural disaster. Many asked why why these people did not know about zuds. “Don’t they practice animal husbandry?” they queried.
The answer is that they do indeed tend animals, but they are not nomadic. It is thought a backward and forgotten method of raising livestock. They have pens and barns in which to keep their cattle warm, and supply enough hay and water when it snows and gets too cold. Economically smart people plan these things prior to natural disasters. They protect their property and themselves, and never count on help from others. In our country, however, things are completely different.
In my opinion, we should change our nomadic pastoral system for the settled type that other countries use. Unfortunately, people keep talking of vigorously developing nomadic herding. There are many who campaign for the preservation of nomadic life and traditional culture. This is wrong. We should be fighting for true development and improvement; if we stick to our nomadic ways, we should forget about both. History will read that Mongolia collapsed under the weight of its livestock.
Mongolia has 30 million domesticated farm animals. Is this a large amount? I don’t believe so. Mongolians have a saying: “Herds can die in one snow.” Do you think that a herdsman with several thousand animals is a rich man? He isn’t. One snowstorm can turn him into a poor man. It was like this before, and it is like this still.
For the past decade, we have exaggerated the zud. Before, we used to consider it just one of the passing difficulties of nature. This was the right attitude. It is a short-term hardship. If herdsmen spend a month every year preparing enough fodder for the winter, there would not be such devastation. After doing nothing at all summer and fall, herders now say that things are hard for them and ignominiously beg for government assistance.
When we talk about the zud, we hardly ever discuss people; we only speak of the herds. Currently, over 600,000 animals have perished. At the same time, people are dying, too - two dozen, so far. […]
In reality, there are no years without snow and wind in Mongolia. In the past century, there have only been eight cases that could properly be called zuds. For example, in the Year of the Monkey, 1944-45, and in the Year of the Sheep, 1967-68, there were real zuds. In 1944-45, over eight million head of livestock died - 32.2% of the nation’s farm animals. In 1967-68, over 2.6 million died - 11.9% of total herds. In each of the other six cases, about three percent of Mongolian livestock died. It is not that serious. After losing this much, Mongolia did not go broke; the economy did not collapse.
When the country entered the free-market economy, the Mongolian government returned the herds to the herdsmen. Animals are now their private property. It is their business whether or not to sell their property. The government has nothing to do with it. Why did honourable people have to die for the sins of indolent herdsmen? We should not waste foreign investment on them. We have too many other things to spend the money on.
I do not understand why the government pays such attention to lazy herdsmen. They cannot maintain their own property. Herdsmen should be ashamed. It would like asking for money from the government to pay our rent. The government should understand that it is the same thing. The famous herdsman R. Minjuur once said that zuds only happen to those herdsmen who are lazy.
People are calling recent temperatures of -35 degrees Celsius “bitterly cold”. These temperatures are not uncommon. I was brought up in Zavkhan aimag; it is normally -30 during the day and -50 at night. Nobody dies. It is normal for us.
Finally, I would like to say that people who can herd cattle should be herders, and people who cannot should come to the city and do something else. We will never develop if we rely so much on our traditional lifestyle.
Black Box Reveals Naught
The black box recording device kept in the MI-8 helicopter that crashed in Malchin soum, Uvs aimag, on January 14 was sent to Moscow last week for examination to possibly establish the cause of the accident, which caused nine deaths and fourteen injuries, many severe.
On February 5, the special commission just returned from Moscow announced that no record had been kept in the box.
MIAT Airlines began to equip their Russian-made choppers with black boxes in 1997. The box kept in the helicopter under investigation was an audio recording device designed to record the pilots’ speech.
Nine Times Nine Equals a Mongolian Winter
Mongolia’s nomadic culture and ideas vary from those of sedentary nations. The concept of winter is among them.
Since ancient times, nomadic Mongolians have said that there are 81 cold days of winter. This time period in Mongolian is known as Yosyn Khuiten - nine periods of nine days of cold after the winter solstice. According to the Mongolian calendar, the 81 days begin on December 22 of every year. These frigid days of winter are divided into three parts. The first three periods of nine days of cold (27 days) is translated as “infant cold”; the second three periods are “young cold”; and the last three are “old cold” (or “tired of the cold”), ending on March 22.
Yosyn Khuiten lasts from the winter solstice to the vernal equinox. In reality, though, the Mongolian winter lasts nearly six months, from November to April. “Infant cold” is considered to be the most severe time of winter. If you stand outside in Mongolia during this time, you may feel air temperatures below minus forty degrees Celsius.
Mongols Invented Powdered Milk -
by Borjgin N. Purevsuren
They say that the milk of animals was created by God. Well, powdered milk was made by humans, and Mongolians are considered to be among the first in the world to learn how to do it.
Marco Polo arrived in Mongolia in 1275 and stayed in Kublai Khaan’s court for 17 years. During this time, he made written records of how the Mongols used powdered milk. It seems amazing that Mongolians were producing dehydrated milk during the medieval 13th century, but powdered milk was processed by hand for the needs of daily life.
S. Jambaldorj wrote about dried milk in his book, A Treasure of Mongolian Secrets. How did the Mongols make powdered milk? There is the following method: add millet and rice to milk little by little, and boil it until it becomes as thick as cream; then let it dry.
Mongolians still produce powdered milk in the Gobi regions. Herders of Dundgobi and Omnogobi aimags process Tsulkhir - “goosefoot” or “wild spinach”, a pod-bearing pea plant which grows in sandy soil - by hand and have been using it in place of rice and flour since ancient times. After tsulkhir is ripe, it is gathered and dehydrated in the open air at the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Tsulkhir rice: the dehydrated tsulkhir is cleaned completely and is used in place of millet for making tea and meals. Tsulkhir flour: dehydrated goosefoot plants are mashed in a mortar until they become as powdery as snuff; it is used fo making various meals and pastries.
I clearly remember that during the zud disaster of the Year of the Monkey, 1944-45, when flour and rice were scarce, the elders of my birthplace, in the Gobi, were using flour and rice made of tsulkhir.
Dehydrated milk made of tsulkhir was consumed all over Mongolia through the long, cold winter and spring. First of all, rice of the herbaceous plant is dried until its bitter taste is gone. Then a bunch is fried in a cast-iron pan. A ladle of the fried rice is then cooked in milk. The cooked rice is dehydrated in the open air. Afterwards, it is mashed into flour. Finally, the dehydrated tsulkhir milk is stored in a cool, dry place.
A tablespoon of the powdered milk is ample for a whole kettle of tea.
Five Coal Miners Killed Inside Nalaikh Mine
The Mine Rescue Team of Mongolia brought out the bodies of five illegal coal miners after a two-day rescue effort, Tuesday night, February 6. The miners were crushed when the walls of the mine fell in on them. Although the collapse had started two days earlier, other miners and the trapped persons’ relatives attempted the rescue themselves. The relatives called the rescue team the following day at approximately 7 p.m. when they realised that it was an accident of serious proportions.
The trapped miners were still heard calling for help inside the mine on February 5, but eventually died through suffocation.
Many people live on illegal coal mining around the mine of Nalaikh, situated in Halaikh district, Ulaanbaatar. Once employing more the 1500 people, the mine closed during the transitional economic crises of the early 1990s. About a thousand people make their livelihoods off the abandoned mine - no one working under any degree of safety measures. While attempts were being made to rescue the five people, other miners carried on working in parallel mines.
A wrecked coal transport cart, which brings coal out of the mine, was the reason for the accident, according to rescue workers. Sadly, such accidents are common at Nalaikh; thirty-seven people have died in similar accidents in the last five years.
Aid in Action
All aid agencies working in Mongolia to provide zud relief face the same logistical problems. Criteria and timing are the key words in providing relief, and each aid agency has its own agenda. The Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA) is an Adventist-based organisation; their income comes from many countries, and is circulated through a central office.
ADRA is a neutral organisation, although affiliated with the Seventh Day Adventist Church. They began operating in Mongolia in 1994, and operate in 140 countries - they were the first aid agency to reach Kosovo. ADRA has several branches working in Mongolia: disaster, food security, health, tobacco-free projects, street children prevention, and ultra-poor tutoring projects.
To obtain the funding essential to carry out their mission, they canvas support from official donors and organisations. Some donors have criteria. Last year, Oxfam donated money to ADRA based on the findings of their emergency assessment team, to provide aid to Zavkhan aimag, which is the hardest zud hit aimag this year.
This year, Oxfam have pledged US$100,000 to ADRA. Donations also come in kind - Hush Puppies have donated brand-new shoes and clothing.
Timing is crucial: Mat Cousins, ADRA’s disaster relief project director, refers to the Mongolian zud as a creeping disaster. He said that aid agencies work hard so as not to overlap and cover the same ground. The ADRA criteria for handing out aid is: less than twenty animals family; no other source of income; female-headed households; elderly households with no dependents; pregnant, lactating mothers; children under five; more than three children. They speak to local officials, work at the bag (subdistrict) level to target the fifty poorest families in each soum.
ADRA’s zud relief distribution programme lasts six months, incorporating their training programmes, and they buy flour in local soums or aimag centres, buying enough to support the economy, but not enough to upset it. Cousins says, “There are reserves at a local level, but people just cannot afford to buy supplies.” This grassroots approach cuts down on transportation costs.
Cousins continues: “Every organisation has different criteria, which can cause problems. The Red Cross’s criteria is to give aid to herders with less than one hundred head of livestock, giving three months’ rations to targeted families. The zud pushes more people under the poverty line. The UN’s approach is to feed the animals to stop people from falling falling under the poverty line. Communication between aid distribution agencies is vital to ensure that overlapping doesn’t happen, and it generally good.
”ADRA gives one month’s worth of rations to needy families, including clothing, shoes, tea, cooking oil, 50kg of flour and 25kg of rice. The family must not have received aid from another organisation. There are families, however, that slip through the net, invisible families.
”Timing is essential when providing hay and fodder. May is a critical time, as the winter is gradually drawing to a close and the weakened animals begin to die, sending livestock deaths rocketing. Providing fodder before the winter sets in, so the animals can get through the winter, and medicine that kill off livestock parasites, is crucial.
”Flour is surely the most important food staple in Mongolia. As demand rises in the wintertime, prices rise, and the poorest people are priced out of the market. You can give food to people in the summer, which allows them one month’s grace. Herders are used to preparing good and storing it for the winter months.
ADRA intends to move into herder education, agricultural training, market gardening (vegetable growing), health seminars, to be held at the soum and bag levels. If herders complete the training, they receive aid.”
Eyewitness: The Dolgorsuren Family
Bayanjargalan soum, Tov aimag, is 160 kilometres south-east of Ulaanbaatar. The soum is home to 483 families, 1842 people, and 93,000 head of livestock. It is one of Tov aimag’s worst zud-affected areas.
Herders literally live off the land. Their animals are their money, their trade, their food, their clothing, their clothing. They are utterly dependent on them for survival.
The Dolgorsuren family are the poorest family in the district, and live on the outskirts of the town centre. The ger this family live in is surrounded by snow, and the ‘man’ of the household, a 64-year-old grandmother from whom the family take their name, shows me the fourteen dead sheep and goats piled up outside, along with the assorted carcasses of cows dotted about.
The Dolgorsuren family consist of the grandmother, her daughter and her four children, all under the age of fifteen. Two of the family are living away from home; Dolgorsuren’s son is doing military service, and an older child is studying in Ulaanbaatar.
The ger is grey, dim, and cold. There is one bed. Dolgorsuren explains that the children sleep on the floor, on the remains of the tattered felt covering that was saved from their other ger, which was destroyed in a storm.
There are no men in this household, which is why the family have not moved in search of better pastures for their livestock - they need a man’s strength to pack up the ger and erect it somewhere else.
Dolgorsuren receives a pension of T60,000 (about sixty dollars) per month. They try to feed their skinny animals with this money, to keep them alive, and ensure the family’s survival. The family had forty head of livestock, comprising cows, goats, and sheep. Of their 33 cows, they now have two, and they will die soon, says Dolgorsuren. They cannot afford to buy coal, so every morning, she and all but the youngest of the children scavenge for firewood. The twigs they find heat the stove in the ger, which is essential in temperatures permanently below -20 Celsius. They used to sell sheepskins to survive, but now that their animals are dying, this opportunity is lose.
Dolgorsuren says that she has never seen such a severe winter before, and she has been tending sheep since she was nine years old.
They are due to receive government aid tomorrow, and in the meantime, have borrowed some flour from a neighbouring family to tide them over. The children are busy rolling out dough to make khuushuur, the flat, deep-fried concoction of dough filled with mutton.
Government aid of 2kg of rice and 13kg of flour will last the family several weeks, and the two packets of hay will feed one cow for two days. I ask the mother of five, if she were offered an apartment in Ulaanbaatar tomorrow, would she take it? Yes, she replies, but only if she had no animals to take care of.
Most herders have travelled north to Khentii aimag for winter, where the weather conditions are less severe. Soum Governor Mendbayar explains that because they are experiencing the zud for a second straight winter, and two consecutive droughts in the summer, animals were not able to fatten up, and are now dying because they are just too weak to survive.
Young cows belonging to a herder called Batmonkh amble about the town dressed in ‘coats’, in an attempt to fend off the searing cold. Because he lives in the town, he has access to cow byres, and lights fires at night to keep his animals warm. He has been a successful herder for ten years, and the refrigerator, television and stereo in his homely ger attest to this. But he has spent all of his T300,000 ($300) savings on buying hay for his animals, and it’s now run out.
Dorijbat is a Government Husbandry expert based in the soum. He explains that herders don’t usually prepare much hay as the animals are able to forage for food. Because of the severity of this winter, and the 20 snowstorms they have endured since October 2000, the only animals that can penetrate the rock-hard surface of snow are horses. In some pastures areas, ice measures 15 to 20 centimetres deep.
The Many Ethnic Traditions of the Mongolian New Year
There are numerous ethnic groups in Mongolians that celebrate Tsagaan Sar (‘White Month’, the Lunar New Year) differently. Today, over twenty groups, including the Baarin, Bayad, Dariganga, Dorvod, Kazak, Khalkh, Khorchin, Myangad, Uzemchin, and Zakhchin live in Mongolia. Most groups live in Western Mongolia, in aimags such as Bayan-Olgii, Khovd, Uvs, and Zavkhan. Khalkh people (Mongols) are the largest ethnic group, and are widely distributed throughout the country.
Zakhchin families have the tradition of putting a sheep’s back and breastbone in front of their shrine on New Year’s Eve, or Bituun, as it is known in Mongolian. Three days before Bituun, they build a cairn on a hill in front of their ger, placing a forked branch on top. They cut hair from the head of a ram, a male camel, and a stallion, and tie them with ribbons of five colours to the crowning branch. Early the next day, or the first day of the New Year, three men from the community go with food to the cairn and place it in front of the stones. They circle the cairn three times clockwise; the eldest among them is greeted first and sits at the north side of the pile of stones. The next oldest member of the family then greets him or her, carrying a hadag - a scarf of blue silk - across their palms. A cup filled with milk is placed in the right hand on the silk. The normal greeting is, “Are you happily celebrating the New Year?”
Some ethnic groups erect a cairn with soil and rocks brought from a far-off place. This shows that they respect God and that they dedicate their strength and efforts to Him.
Khorchin and Uzemchin boil a sheep’s head on New Year’s Eve of which the whole family partakes.
Almost all ethnic groups have one interesting tradition in common: husband and wife do not greet each other during Tsagaan Sar because they are considered as one person through marriage.
The Kazaks of Bayan-Olgii celebrate the holiday at a different time altogether. They are Islamic, and their Nauriz festival (New Year) is celebrated in March, rather than February.
All of Mongolia’s ethnic groups dress in new, traditional garments on Tsagaan Sar. Their clothes, including the ubiquitous del and cap, vary from region to region.
Bayarbat Convicted in Family Murders
On February 5, police officially announced that B. Bayarbat, the son of victims Mr. Batjargal and Mrs. Sevjid, admitted, after fifteen days of interrogation, to killing his parents, his sister, and her two children. Police arrested Bayarbat the day after the crime was committed, where Bayarbat cut the throats of his five victims and repeatedly stabbed them with a knife. When he admitted his guilt to police, he is quoted as saying, “I needed money.”
Police found approximately two million tugriks at his mother-in-law’s home, hidden under an armchair. Bayarbat’s wife, Enkhjargal, gave the money to her mother after the crime. Mrs. Enkhjargal, Bayarbat’s girlfriend Oyunsuvd, and his mother-in-law are still under investigation as to their involvement, if any, in the crime.
Quarantine Grows with Spread of Hoof-and-Mouth
Thirty veterinarians are presently fighting the spread of hoof-and-mouth disease in Sukhbaatar and Dornod aimags after an outbreak of the bovine disease last week. The distemper is thought to have originated at the farm of herdsman Borkhuu in Erdenetsagaan soum of Sukhbaatar aimag, spreading quickly into the north-eastern part of the country - into Bayandun, Bayan-Uul and Chuluunhoroot soums of Dornod aimags, where 52 cows have been infected. The whole of Dornod aimag has now been quarantined. Veterinarians are working in thirteen soums in the easternmost aimag of Mongolia.
Governor D. Odbayar of Dornod said, “We have begun to euthanise infected animals… Disinfectants and vaccines are lacking.”
O. Urjinee, vice-head of the State Emergency Comission (SEC), stated that “the necessary truck drivers and disinfectants have been sent, and five short-wave radio stations are set up in Dornod and Sukhbaatar aimags.”
The SEC bought vaccines for hoof-and-mouth from Russia at a cost of $30,000.
Slaughter, veterinary examinations, and vaccinations are underway. On February 17, twenty-seven infected cows were killed in Dornod. More cattle will necessarily be put down in other areas of the two aimags. There are six hundred cows infected with the disease in Erdenetsagaan soum alone.
According to veterinary standards, the carcasses or livestock that have died from or were infected with hoof-and-mouth disease must be cremated or buried at a depth of twom metres. The disease can live on in carrion for to 146 days, in skin and fur for 28 days, and implants growing in the infected zone for up to a month. The Mongolian government has called for a completion of veterinary examinations by February 22.
Sheep, doctors are finding out, have also been infected by the disease. Therefore, veterinarians are hastening the vaccination process of uninfected livestock in the region. Dornod aimag has enough vaccines for 100,000 livestock, Sukhbaatar for 27,000. A boosted immune system capable of fighting hoof-and-mouth takes two weeks to develop after the vaccines have been administered.
A Prize Inside Mon Laa Candles
Mongolian company Mon Laa (Mongolian Candle) recently put a large quantity of candles on the market. Some of these hold a gold coin. Those lucky enough to find a coin will be awarded unspecified prizes by the company. A week ago, the first winner was announced. Herdsman S. Batsukh and his wife D. Oyunaa or Jargalant soum, Orkhon aimag, won a prize worth 150,000 tugriks. Mon Laa paid for the couple’s transportation to Ulaanbaatar, where they enjoyed a three-day getaway.
National Programme on
Education to Be Drawn Up
[…] During the 2000-2001 academic year, nearly 70 percent of primary school pupils were eight years of age, the average age for starting school. Children attend kindergarten from age 4 to 7, where they begin to receive basic formal education. Nearly 70,000 children of school age are not attending school. Poverty and staying at home to help the family are two of the main reasons. A total of 494,544 students are studying in primary and secondary schools in Mongolia.
A major disparity in school attendance is between male and female children. A higher proportion of girls attend primary school (ages 8 to 11), secondary school (ages 11 to 15), and high school (ages 16 to 18, not compulsory). At high school, 60 percent of pupils are girls.
Children in rural areas, especially boys, have the highest rate of non-attendance, being kept at home to assist their herding families. Rural children comprise nearly eighty percent of those children not attending school regularly, and have the highest illiteracy rates.
At the end of 2000, 258 secondary school students shared one computer, and this figure increased to about 700 students per computer in Arkhangai, Bulgan, Tov, Uvs, and Khovd aimags. The minimum number of computers required by secondary schools in the next four years is estimated at 1,860 computers and 520 printers, allowing students an hour per week of computer time. The cost of providing this equipment is calculated at T1.7 billion.
Information Superhighway Spans the Steppe
IN 1234, the Mongol Empire set up the world’s most sophisticated postal system. The Urtuu Alba post could take a letter from Karakorum to the Caspian in one week. Those days are gone, but now Mongolia is enjoying a second information boom. The World Wide Web has taken over where the Urtuu Alba left off, bringing information to one of the most remote corners of the earth. The heart and soul of this revolution is the myriad of internet cafes that have sprung up across Ulaanbaatar.
The cafes, which cost about T1000 an hour, make the net affordable for average Mongolians. [Our note: Not really.] A personal subscription to one of the three service providers would cost $50 a month [Our note: Very expensive.].
One of the pioneers in this business was the Epsilon Cafe, located on the Little Ring Road. On a Thursday afternoon, the place is packed with young people patiently waiting their turn at one of twelve terminals.
A deaf man is researching scholarship opportunities at American universities. A student is looking up information for a report on how to organise a business conference. Three others are getting market statistics for their studies on Asian economics.
”Our teachers advise us to use the internet rather than the library,” said Altantuya while scrolling down the International Monetary Fund web page. “All the newest information is right here.”
Students are also getting involved with extra-curricular web surfing. Of Mongolia’s 230 web sites, the most popular is chat.Mongol.net, which serves as the new mouthpiece for young people.
”The chat room is a good way for young people to express their feelings. We talk about all sorts of things: music, basketball, school, and girls,” said 15-year-old Tsogoo.
Sh. Bayarsaikhan, the manager at Epsilon, said it’s not just students who are surfing. “We get all kinds of customers. Business people are making deals, some people come to get news, and everyone is e-mailing. This kind of communication is a lot cheaper than the telephone,” he said.
Bayarsaikhan said he has not been surfing the web to get ideas for starting his own business. “I’ve been studying the net and I think I want to get involved with recycling or maybe cardboard box production. Opportunities that are not yet in Mongolia,” he said.
Margreet can Doodewaard, a technology consultant for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has a deeper outlook.
”The internet can support democratic governance. Already, there are centres that provide information on government activities. Anyone can research developments in other countries. This allows Mongolians to make well-informed choices with regards to their own government. This is the ultimate free press.”
For those who have not quite gotten the hang of it, aid agencies have been hosting web courses, and universities are offering internet and computer classes as part of their curriculum. A local radio station even broadcasts an Internet Hour, for listeners to call up and ask questions about the web.
The IT revolution is quickly expanding out of the capital. Over the past twelve months, several remote aimags have been wired with a handful of computers (there are just 5.3 PCs per 1000 people). Several centres were donated by the UNDP and the Soros Foundation, putting thousands of previously out-of-touch people in contact with the outside world.
Some have gotten the hang of it. In far-flung Bayan-Olgii, students e-mail their peers at sister schools in Turkey. Kazak, Russian, and Chinese traders check the market prices for cashmere and sheepskin.
Atai, the head of the National Park Office in Bayan-Olgii, says he uses the internet to contact potential tourists in North America and Europe. “It’s a great tool. The internet gives remote places like Olgii the chance to make itself known. It’s going to be the key to our success in tourism.”
But for otheres, the internet is more a novelty than a tool. One Western teacher in Olgii noticed how young people go to the internet cafe just to sign up for e-mail accounts.
”It’s all they know how to do,” the teacher said. “They sign up for as many accounts as they can, then spend hours on the computer to check their junk mail.”
T. Altansukh, the webmaster at the UNDP in Ulaanbaatar, thinks the naivete will quickly fade. He predicts that Mongolia’s large territory and crumbling infrastructure make it ripe for a giant leap into the cyber-world. Hinting at this forecast is the newly launched e-learning programme, which will provide distance education to children cut off from big city school.
”Distance education is just the start. In less than ten years, nomads will have internet access from their gers. They will be able to receive information on market prices and weather conditions,” said Altansukh. “The web is perfect for Mongolia, because it can by-pass old technology like landlines. Now, it’s just a matter of money and education.”
Overloaded Helicopter May Have Been Cause of January Crash
The Government Technical Commission investigating the cause of the helicopter crash in Malchin soum, Uvs aimag, on January 14 has issued its tentative findings. The commission says that the aircraft’s load exceeded its capacity by 800 kg, and that the area of landing was poorly chosen. According to a report in the Century News newspaper, several 20-litre containers of fuel were being carried in the aircraft’s fuselage - one of the alleged reasons for the fire. The commission’s final results will be issued on March 5.
New Alcohol Tax Labels
The Ulaanbaatar Department of Health and Epidemiology, the General Department of National Taxation, and the National Centre for Standards and Measurements worked together to account for alcoholic beverages being sold in the city’s 48 cafes, 51 factories, 166 restaurants, 445 bars, and 972 bottle shops with permission to produce and/or sell alcohol. The establishments were taxed per product, but beginning February 1, alcohol without tax labels or stamps will not be allowed for sale at markets. The excise tax stamps will be given to a limited number of factories that are provided with spirits. The amount will be determined by how much spirits was provided to each business. The joint task force aims at stopping the illegal importation, production, and selling of spirits and alcoholic beverages in Mongolia.
Alcohol Tax Stamp Smuggling
The Ulaanbaatar railway police have reported that an unnamed woman of Ulaanbaatar was apprehended for smuggling 28,000 counterfeit alcohol tax stamps into Mongolia from China. The counterfeit Mongolian tax stamps were printed in groups of thirty in Khukhot, Inner Mongolia, China.
The unnamed woman sells the Chinese-made levy stamps for T70-80 each on the black market, which provide for the tax-free sale of 14,000 bottles of home-made vodka.
As Hope Fades In Frozen Mongolia
From February 6 to 13, Ms. Solveig Olafsdottir, information delegate from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, visited Mongolia. During the visit, she worked in Ulaanbaatar and Bayantsagaan soum of Tov aimag, in cooperation with her colleagues at the Mongolian Red Cross Society. Her video shoots and reports have been shown recently on BBC World, CNN, Sky News, and Star TV, as well as on the Netherlands and Icelandic national television stations. Her Zud Report is available at www.ifrc.org/docs/news/01/021501.
Mongolian herders are on the verge of physical and mental exhaustion, and the Red Cross fears that many will not survive this bitter cold winter if they do not receive aid soon. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched an appeal on February 14, seeking 2.8 million Swiss francs to provide 35,000 herders with immediate food, radio, and first aid kits. With this appeal, the Federation is reaching out to communities which did not receive Red Cross aid last year, but have suffered severe losses of livestock at the onset of winter and are in dire need of assistance after two years of summer droughts and winter snow disasters.
"Usually, most animals die in the spring. We have already lost half of our herd since the beginning of the zud in November. I fear that we will have no animals left in the summer. There is no hope for us anymore," says Sodnom-Ish as he embraces his infant daughter Shirchin with incredible sadness.
Sodnom-Ish is referring to the winter disaster the Mongolians call zud - a combination of heavy snowfall and severe frost which results in total glazing of all pastureland, preventing hungry animals from getting through the coat of ice for grass. The hoofs of horses, sheep, and cattle alike are bleeding from their fruitless efforts at scraping through several inches of ice and snow looking for something to eat. Only there is nothing to be had - the severe drought last summer left no winter grazing land to speak of. The animals have resorted to eating each other's fur and tails - and occasionally attacking the ger (felt tent) - in order to satisfy their empty stomachs.
Sodnom-Ish is 24 years old. He has travelled with his wife, daughter and father for more than 300 km from his family's traditional pastureland in a vain attempt to save his livestock. They have moved their ger three times in the past three months, and are now preparing to move it once more.
"We will move five kilometres away from this place, where there is a supply of old dung. That way, we will have some fuel, and the grazing land is a little better than here," explains Sodnom-Ish.
They have lost animals everywhere that they have settled in the past weeks. Stacks of frozen hides and carcasses in front of their ger bear witness to their deprivations. At the onset of winter, they had 1,114 animals - 700 sheep, 200 goats, 40 cows, 4 camels, and 170 horses. They have now lost at least 512 animals. All the cows have died; 300 sheep and 100 goats have also perished. They have even lost two camels, animals that normally endure the harshest of winters.
"It was during this year's New Year's Eve snowstorm. We couldn't get out of the ger because of the blizzard. When we finally managed to reach them, it was too late. The camels were completely buried under the snow,", Sodnom-Ish says.
They think they have lost 70 of their horses - think, but they don't know for sure if more have died. Sodnom-Ish's older brother took the rest of the herd to another soum (district) to try to save them.
There is also one more thing to add to their distress. Dorj, Sodnom-Ish's 52-year-old father, had to leave his wife behind bevcause she was too sick to travel.
"We had to split up our family to try to save the animals. It is not right. A family should stay together," says Dorj. He is worried about his other son who has gone so far away. "This zud is terrible."
This is the second winter the herders by a zud, following two consecutive summers of drought. This meant that their animals have had no means of building up necessary body fat to take them through these exceptionally harsh weather conditions. Last year's zud killed 2.5 million head of livestock, but the number of animal deaths this year already indicates that more than six million will die before summer. This means that nine million animals will have perished over a period of two years - an estimated 20% of all livestock in the country -, seriously threatening the livelihood of herders, who constitute one third of Mongolia's population.
There are other ailments that have plagued the family. A black spot on Sodnom-Ish's cheek is a reminder of a recent frostbite he got as he was fighting the elements to keep his flock of sheep and goats together. And the constant travelling in the bitter cold has taken its toll on the ten-month-old baby.
"She has suffered from a severe cold and diarrhoea," says Bat-tsetseg, Sodnom-Ish's 20-year-old wife. "We have had to carry her on the camel from place to place. It has been very difficult." Bat-tsetseg is shy, but is obviously anxious over having to move once more with her little daughter. Despite freezing temperatures outside (down to -40 degrees Celsius during the night), the ger is warm and comforting, and little Shirchin giggles as she wobbles between the conventional furniture that have belonged to her family for decades - painted in the traditional bright orange colour of the sun.
Father and son have a bleak outlook for the future. Dorj, who has been a herder for the past thirty years, has never experienced such losses of livestock. During last year's zud, they lost 144 animals - 100 sheep and goat, 24 cows, and 20 horses. At the beginning of this year, they have already lost half of their livestock, and they foresee more losses.
"In the spring, during the birthing season, the sheep, goats, and horses tend to die. Those that are still alive by then will be too exhausted to survive," says Sodnom-Ish.
They are exhausted themselves. Physically, as every day they have to defy the elements - in the morning when they bring their herd in search of pastureland, and in the evening when they gather their flock to take it home. Mentally, as every day they helplessly must watch their animals die of hunger.
"We have no other skills. We will have to borrow or buy other animals in the summer and start all over again," says Dorj. "If we survive."