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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

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Mongolia and Globalization

Here's an article I wrote a few years ago. I welcome comments:


Mongolia’s Oyu Tolgoi and Globalization

Scott Gillette

Mongolia’s open country and natural beauty is one of the country’s most important assets, and also served as a barrier between itself and the rest of the world for much of human history. Too often Mongolia is overlooked internationally, because of its relatively small population and isolation. But its strategic significance in Asia is obvious, and this insures that Mongolia will receive ever more attention from the global community in the decades to come.

Many Mongolians are justifiably wary of any kind of foreign presence in their homeland. Mongolia’s history has been marred by centuries of outsiders controlling their destiny, first with the Chinese occupation during the Manchu dynasty, and then the Soviet occupation that prevailed from 1925 until 1990. For the longest time, Mongolia could not control its own fate. Today, for the first time in centuries, it can and does.

Mongolia has played a disproportionate role in world history compared to its size, but it is still a small country. This has meant that it is forced to play larger powers, most notably China and Russia, off each other and play power politics shrewdly. However, times have changed, and a different approach is needed.

Mongolia has to forge its own identity for this new century. The return of Chinggis Khan as a cultural icon demonstrates and is a product of Mongolia’s newfound independence. However, most Mongolians with whom I have talked to want Mongolia to be less about a past historical, and more of a forward-looking place.

Mongolia must develop the economic clout, both materially and spiritually. Mongolia must embrace the outside world with confidence and optimism, while preventing outsiders from corrupting its greatest assets. These goals may seem incompatible at first. Yet Mongolia’s freedom to choose its own destiny is complicated by the same forces that are sweeping the entire globe. This is because Mongolia’s biggest promise is also its biggest threat to its sovereignty. This promise and threat is not a mighty state, but an abstract force known as globalization.

Globalization, for the sake of this article, means that the world is becoming more interconnected politically, financially and culturally. Quantum leaps in technology and telecommunications mean that Mongolia is no longer an island separated by vast stretches of grasslands and desert. Instead, its fate is intertwined with the rest of the world. No area of the planet is immune from the winds of globalization. There have been protests against it all around the world, but nothing is going to stop it. Every part of the world is becoming more connected to and dependent on each other every day, whether one likes it or not.

Some areas and some groups will benefit more than others. China will probably be the country that benefits from globalization the most in the new century, while large corporations around the world will prosper disproportionately compared to smaller-sized businesses. The winds of globalization do not blow fairly. But it is no longer viable for any person or state to shut out the rest of the world.

It is understandable that many Mongolians would recoil from any engagement with the outside world. Many Mongolians would prefer a militant nationalism that barricades the entire country from outside influences, but that is no longer a viable and worthy option.

Steve Saunders, President of the North America-Mongolia Business Council, points out that “Political parties in Mongolia are keenly sensitive to voters' views on globalization, as are political parties in the US and Canada and every other democracy. Economic nationalism in Mongolia came from the grassroots, from the voters, and their elected officials are trying to cope with it.” So it is up to those who recognize the value of economic openness to persuade the electorate in a democracy.

I wrote in a previous column about how the recently enacted flat tax will bring simplicity, transparency and growth to Mongolia. The establishment of an honorable agreement between the new government and Rio Tinto, which can make Oyu Tolgoi operations a reality, would also have just as enormous and positive an impact.

Recent elections have called this massive project into doubt. Bret Clayton, CEO of Rio Tinto’s copper division, recently said, “We hope and trust that despite internal changes within the Mongolian government that we will remain focused on our common target.” I hope the new Mongolian leadership agrees.

I do not advocate this view because I embrace or benefit from the interests of the Rio Tinto mining company. I come to this position because of a sincere concern for the people of Mongolia. The project would make a new public sector in Mongolia possible, one that would fund vital projects in health care, infrastructure and education.

Economic openness can enhance Mongolia’s security in the future. If Mongolia stagnates while China prospers, Mongolia will be unfortunately at the whim of Beijing in the future. However, a prospering Mongolia can maintain its independence, as nobody would want to tamper with the goose that lays the golden egg. It is instructive to note that the Chinese never leaned on Hong Kong too heavily.

Gulf states like Bahrain and The United Arab Emirates serve as examples of the kind of economic nation that Mongolia could become. These states are culturally distinct from the West, but possess material wealth and relative political harmony. There is no reason why Mongolia cannot achieve this status in 30 years.

However, the clock is ticking. Ivanhoe, the parent company of Rio Tinto, has indicated that it will not wait around forever for an agreement to be reached. Bill Clayton pointed out, “Mining is one of the few ways that a developing country can accelerate its economic growth. A nation's reluctance to invest in its mineral resources in a timely and equitable manner will delay, and in some cases destroy, its ability to capitalize on its mineral wealth.” If Mongolia is labeled a place where it is too difficult to get deals done, companies will stop trying. The only thing worse than the global economy exploiting you is the global economy ignoring you.

Steve Saunders points out that every day the Ikh Hural delays, it costs the Mongolian economy $1 million a day in GNP. On the positive side, “Prompt parliamentary approval of an investment contract for the Oyu Tolgoi project would produce a tidal wave of new investment in a variety of sectors.”

Saunders also points out that this investment is not based on helping one corporation alone. “One of the things not widely understood in Mongolia is that the capital behind foreign investment is democratic, not oligarchic; the money that foreign companies invest in Mongolia doesn't generally come from rich fat cats but rather from tens of thousands of individual citizen investors around the world who buy stock in those companies. If those stakeholders believe that Mongolia is unfriendly to foreign investment, those stakeholders sell their stock in companies that invest in Mongolia. In turn, those companies have to respond to shareholder concerns just as politicians must respond to voter concerns.”

Saunders’ observation is based upon extensive experience with Western markets and the Mongolian economy. He recognizes that Mongolian businesses like MCS Company, Newcom, Tavan Bogd, and the Khan Bank have opened up to the world. The government cannot ignore the concerns of its people about the outside world. Just as importantly, they cannot ignore the outside world altogether.

Now is not the time for Mongolia to turn away from globalization, but to find a way to embrace it. If Mongolia does not embrace globalization today, it may have to accept lesser deals tomorrow, as poverty leads to desperate measures. That is why the Oyu Tolgoi is so important; not only can it provide significant revenues to the government, but also it will serve as a blueprint for what may transpire in the future.

If Mongolia can open itself up to the world, its unique people, culture and landscapes will fuel another wave of sustainable development. Globalization is the central reality of the 21st century, and Mongolia has phenomenal opportunities by opening up to the outside world. If only Mongolia will take advantage of them…

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

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President Elbegdorj Says No Nuclear Waste

President Elbegdorj, head of the National Security Council, says no to nuclear waste by signing in a decree today. Read the press release by Elbegdorj's Office here and here. The decree strongly advised the government to stop and ban any intergovernment talks to bury nuclear waste within its territory without any prior consultation with the National Security Council.

Монгол Улсын Ерөнхийлөгч Ц.Элбэгдорж Үндсэн хууль, Ерөнхийлөгчийн тухай хууль, Үндэсний аюулгүй байдлын зөвлөлийн тухай хуулийн зүйл заалтуудыг үндэслэн зарлиг гаргаж, цөмийн хаягдлын асуудлаар Засгийн газарт чиглэл өглөө. Зарлигаар, Үндэсний аюулгүй байдлын зөвлөлийн зохих шийдвэргүйгээр цөмийн хаягдлын асуудлаар бусад улс орон, олон улсын байгууллагатай хамтран ажиллах, Монгол Улсын нэрийн өмнөөс аливаа яриа хэлэлцээ хийх, гэрээ хэлцэл байгуулах, баримт бичиг үйлдэхийг хориглов.

 Мөн Монгол Улсын нутаг дэвсгэр дээр цөмийн хаягдлыг хадгалах, түр байршуулах, булшлах зорилгоор импортлох, хил дамжуулан тээвэрлэх үйл ажиллагаа явуулахыг хориглосон Монгол Улсын хууль тогтоомжийн зүйл, заалтыг тууштай мөрдөж ажиллахыг Засгийн газарт чиглэл болгожээ.

Засгийн газарт чиглэл өгсөн уг зарлигт хуулийн дагуу Монгол Улсын Ерөнхий сайд С.Батболд мөн гарын үсэг зурсан байна.

Friday, August 19, 2011

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Nuclear visit by Joe Biden?

Whether Mongolia bury nuclear waste within its territory is sensational centerpiece story both on local Mongolian newspapers and TV debates. Following is an article printed on UB Post English weekly titled "Mongolia to become nuclear waste site" based on recent several Japanese press articles.

In recent months, the press in Japan and the US has reported that Mongolia is negotiating with these countries to serve as a regional depository for spent nuclear fuel. The proposed plan would permit geographically constrained countries in the region, such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, to dispose of their spent fuel in the spacious Central Asian state.

When the story first broke in March, the Mongolian Foreign Ministry was quick to dismiss the notion that Mongolia would host Asia’s nuclear waste. The statement went on to declare that Mongolia’s constitution prohibits the “import of dangerous waste to Mongolian territory”. The truth of these reports is still unknown. However, the suggestion of burying spent nuclear fuel in Mongolia has risen again. The Mainichi Daily News, the English site of Japan’s Mainichi Newspapers recently reported that the Draft accord describes Mongolia as the home for spent nuclear fuel.

A draft Japanese-US-Mongolian agreement over the creation of a nuclear fuel production and spent fuel disposal cycle clearly refers to Mongolia as the destination of such fuel, according to its text, which was obtained by Kyodo News on July 18th.

Mongolian government keeps denying that they engaged in talks to host nuclear waste, but watch following audio of recent Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference held in the U.S..




US Government later released a statement on this that its government official does not mean so.
Now the US Vice President soon make a visit to Mongolia on August 22, a first of its kind after 67 years. he is scheduled to meet with Mongolian President and Prime Minister and head to Japan to continue his Asian trip. No any official said that the visit will touch the issue of Mongolia-US-Japan nuclear waste disposal talk of where, when and how. Of course, no one will. But would fear of nuclear waste be frustrate the visit? One journalist's Facebook voiced a support for a protest by a number of civilian movements be organized during the visit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

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An Ancient Icon For The New Mongolia (Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)

Glad I found this video on Youtube. I helped this video crew from Radio Free Europe to take these shots. Kind of difficult to take pictures in nazi decorated bar. Nice shots Margot!




Saturday, June 4, 2011

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Pressure is on Demanding the Release Editor-in-Chief of Daily Newspaper

Globe International and Confederation of Mongolian Journalists demand Mr. Chuluunbaatar Dolgor, Editor-in-Chief of daily newspaper Ulaanbaatar Times, to be released on bail.
Chuluunbaatar Dolgor, 51, Editor-in-Chief of the daily newspaper Ulaanbaatar Times, was arrested on 24 March 2011 and put in Detention Center No 461. On April 7, 2011, he was indicted for allegedly “illegal privatization and serious damage of public property.” In 2008 the newspaper was privatized by the Capital City Privatization Commission and D.Chuluunbaatar was head of the management privatization team.

If found guilty he faces 15 years imprisonment under the relevant article of the Criminal Law of Mongolia.

Since the investigation by the Capital City Investigation Office, D.Chulunbaatar has consistently denied the allegations and claims innocence.

When D.Chuuluunbaatar accepted the position of editor-in-chief in 2008, the newspaper had no office because the building had been partly destroyed; the newspaper has debts of millions of MNT to the Taxation and Social Insurance Authorities and the staff have remained unpaid. He has made strenuous efforts to improve the newspaper’s financial situation.

The newspaper office was in the building of the former state printing house, near Ulaanbaatar’s central square and just left of Government House. The Mongolian media has reported that the building was privatized by Enkhbayar Nambar, the former Prime Minister, Parliamentary Speaker and President, 2000-2009.

He lost his position in the 2009 Presidential Elections.

During the investigations he has been frequently asked who was behind him. Once, investigators met him without the presence of his lawyer, when they told him, “It is better for you to say who is behind you. You are getting old and your health is deteriorating.

If you refuse to tell us who is behind you, it will be detrimental for you.”

Such police action is in violation of provisions of the Constitution of Mongolia, the Law on Criminal Procedure and the Law on Arrest and Detention of Suspects and Defendants, under which no one can be compelled to testify against him/her, and which bans unlawful action and psychological pressure.

D.Chuluunbaatar is in poor health. On April 2, 2011, staff at Shagdarsuren, a leading private hospital, concluded that he hadserious health problems and needed urgent treatment to safeguard his life. On April 27, 2011, this prognosis was confirmed by a doctor at the Detention Centerhospital, where hehad been a patient for a week.

He and his defense lawyers have applied nine times for bail, which has consistently been denied.

On May 9, 2011, Globe International convened a press conference calling for his immediate bail. In an International Statement, we stated that his arrest was unjustified and we expressed concerns about violation of his human rights.

We consider this is in fact a deliberate and politically motivated attack on the free media. Globe International has sent letters to the Capital City Prosecutor; Mr. Dorligjav, General Prosecutor of Mongolia; Mr. Bayambadorj, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission; and Mr. Kh.Temuujin, MP and Chairman of the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Mongolian Parliament, asking for an investigation into these human rights violations and support for his release on bail.

The arrest of Ch.Chuluunbaatar has been one of the hot topics of the Mongolian media reports since the Globe International press conference. The Confederation of Mongolian Journalists joined the action and they also convened the press conference and issued a Statement for the immediate release on bail on May 17, 2011.

Mr. D.Chuluunbaatar is an outstanding journalist who began his journalistic career in 1987 on Mongolian Television, the only channel at that time. He has contributed greatly to the development of Mongolian journalism with popular television documentaries about those who were ‘repressed’ under communism and many other programs.

He has been a fighter for free media press and against violations of journalists’ rights. He is a respectful activist of Mongolia’s media freedom movement.
In connection with Mr. Chuluunbaatar, who is also the Vice-President of Asia Journalist Association (AJA), has been in custody for two months, the AJA and the Reporters Without Borders already have expressed great concern over his custody and issued statements raising doubts about the connection between his custody and political interest.

After the investigations into the actual situation in Mongolia with the Mongolian Journalists and Government the Asia Journalist Association confirms that this is obviously an illegal act and therefore we announce the statement below.

The Asia Journalist Association will deliver this letter of protest to all those related to Dolgor Chuluunbaatar’s illegal custody including Mongolian President Ts. Elbegdorj, Prime Minister S. Batbold and Minister of Justice and Home Affairs Ts.Nyamdorj, through the Embassy of Mongolia in Republic of Korea on June 2nd 2011.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) issued a media release, calling for immediate release of Mr. Chuluunbaatar from detention and full transparency in the case being brought against him.