‘Twenty Ten,’ as the year 2010 coined by spin-doctors, was eventful for many different reasons throughout Mongolia.It started with the country’s 99th year of independence and progressed with many sectors experiencing trials and tribulations, and as to be expected in a country facing rapid growth and change, the main sectors affected were politics, mining, health and education.The year opened with the Energy Regulatory Office’s Council of Regulators resolution in January to increase electricity prices by 17.35 percent and heating by 14.5 percent as a direct result of the energy sector’s financial deterioration and energy companies operating at considerable loss. Electricity prices per kilowatt per family increased from Tgs 68 to Tgs79.8 without including Value Added Tax, and ger area families to Tgs 77.
A giant Christmas tree on Sukhbaatar Square symbolizes the holiday season
Neonatal infections (Klebsiella) at Maternity Hospital No. 1 led to the infection of 17 infants and four infant deaths. The incidents drew Parliament and Government’s special attention.The Prime Minister said due to the increase of birth rates in recent years,and lack of finance in the health sector,a new maternity hospital had not been built and this crowded existing hospitals. He said space per infant was too little and three-fold what the standard allowed creating conditions for the rise in neonatal infections.
In February, the full extent of the 2009/2010 Dzud (famine) disaster started to show. At the beginning of the month, 1.7 million head of livestock had perished across the country and catastophic conditions had convered 64 soums in 12 aimags; Arkhangai,Bayankhongor, Bayan- Olgii, Gobi-Altai, Dundgobi, Ovorkhangai,Omnogobi, Zavkhan, Tov, Khovd,Khovsgol and Uvs aimags. 68 additional soums were experiencing disastrous conditions with 71 soums and two villages likely to worsen before the end of winter. 27 soums in four aimags reported normal wintering conditions. Humanitarian aid to the tune of Tgs 1 billion was placed under Government authority to help counter the dzud’s impact. Tgs 2.2 million was spent on selling hay and fodder from State reserves at 50% discount to herders and broad-sweeping measures to increase livestock export and hay import were taken to alleviate the harsh condictions for herders and their families. A working group led by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) deputy chief, T.Badral, introduced evaluation results from 35 soums in eight aimags to the State Emergency Commission meeting on February 2. The results showed serous consideration was needed of the conditions that should account for last summer’s conditions in livestock,preparation for winter, thickness of snow, freezing, temperatures,numbers of perished livestock, road and mountain passes blocked by snow, challenges faced in delivering State and medical services, distribution of consumer goods to herdsmen, heating provisions for local organizations, and fuel supplies. Parliament supported a government proposal to issue Tgs 3.7 billion from the budget planned for the ‘Mongol Mal Program’ to rural areas most effected to help them recover with budget adjustments later, early February.
The Year of the Iron Tiger began February 14, 2010 according to the lunar calendar, with Mongolia’s famous New Year Holiday, Tsagaan Sar celebrated across the country.On February 23, Ministry of Foreign Affairs State Secretary D. Tsogtbaatar met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries,Landlocked Developing Countries,and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) Mr Cheick Sidi
Diarra, during a working visit to New York. The UN Secretary spoke highly of Mongolia’s contribution to the UN-OHRLLS, especially in the international community’s efforts to address global climate change and to the UN peacekeeping mission. In March Mongolia’s muchloved professional sumo wrestler and the Japapanese professional sumo tournament’s 68th Grand Champion,D. Dagvadorj retired. He held a press conference at the Bayangol Hotel after arriving home on March 11 and said, “I am a person who is often a target of quarrels, gossip, and speculation in the press. I have tried to overcome this. There are some people who hindered me. I am proud to inspire Mongolians abroad and feel proud to be a Mongolian.” He said at 29 years of age he was looking forward to more family time in Mongolia.On March 22, the Kazakh people of Mongolia held a double celebration. As well as celebrating their national holiday, ‘Nowruz,’ they rejoiced at the inclusion of their culture on the UN list of ‘Intangible Heritage of Humanity,’ and declared an international holiday in the years to follow. President Ts.Elbegdorj said, ‘Nowruz Holiday is a great sign for the Kazakh people to retain their heritage and customs for hundreds of years and to respect their elders. Kazakh people believe that good times will come with this new spring holiday.’On April 5, Parliament opened its spring session with Parliamentary Speaker, D. Demberel stressing in his opening speech there was a heavy workload ahead. Twenty eight agenda items would need to be discussed with about 100 bills and draft resolutions,including previously submitted bills,and other issues covered.
The birthday of murdered Mongolian democratic revolution leader and former Member of Parliament and Infrastructure Minister, S. Zorig (who would have been 48) was remembered with the laying of wreaths at his monument in Ulaanbaatar. Family, friends,associates and dignitaries from the
US Embassy paid their respects. His murderer has never been found and investigations have not continued. In May, the mining sector saw increasing Mongolian ownership/ participation levels. World leading coal deposit, the Tavan Tolgoi mine with a reserve of 6.4 billion tonne, came under Mongolian majority ownership through the newly-formed national company ‘Mongolia 999 LLC’. Ivanhoe Mines Deputy Chairperson, Peter Meredith, announced Mongolian diplomat G. Batsukh had been nominated to Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Oyu Tolgoi LLC, which would operate, the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project in southern Mongolia.
The Czech Republic’s Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, paid an official visit to Mongolia on May 19-20 at the invitation of Prime Minister S. Batbold and became the first high-level Czech government leader to visit since 1993 when the Czech Republic was established. The visit coincided with the 60th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.
In June, a landmark decision saw Tavan Tolgoi coal deposit move to 100 percent state ownership guaranteeing all Mongolians a preference to own shares in the coal deposit.
Mongolia’s threat from desertification was raised at the ‘World Day to Combat Drought and Desertification,’ on July 17 in Ulaanbaatar. The Desertification Research Center of Geo-ecology Institute’s statistics showed over 90 % of Mongolia’s land area was classified as fragile dry-land and 72.3% was affected by desertification.The threat and its affects were cause for concern and measures to combat desertification had increased in recent years. Mongolia’s acceptance to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) since 1996 has strengthened its position to better manage the threats. On July 11-13 the famous Naadam holiday (‘Eriin Gurvan’–‘the three manly sports’) was held with all Mongolians staging feasts, wrestling, horseracing and displaying their archery and wrestling skills.On July 21, the ninth annual Buryat people’s ‘Altargana Festival’ showcasing art, culture and sports opened in Ulaanbaatar’s Central Stadium. The festival was held in the city for the first time with financial support from the government. August saw growth in the education sector with the opening of the new school year. According to statistics, 50,300 children would start primary school and more than 523,000 children would attend 753 schools nationwide. There were about 540,000 children going to 809 kindergartens, 25,900 teachers teaching in grade schools and 4,200 at kindergartens. Although the country still faced impacts from the economic global crisis, investment increased in the educational sector with construction of 55 buildings,including 30 new kindergartens and 12 schools, seven dormitories and six sport halls underway. From September 13, the ‘Auto Bus III’ Company’s 20 public transport buses started servicing seven routes through Ulaanbaatar with ‘Wi-Fi mobile wimax’.Telemax Communications Company,Mongolia’s first 4G hi-speed wireless internet service provider, initiated the program to provide free Internet on public transport. Passengers were able to access their Wi- Fi technology cell phone, notebook, Ipod and Iphone during travel.
Mongolia’s first world-class female wrestler, 20-year old S. Battsetseg won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the the FILA wrestling championships in Moscow between September 6 to 12, placing herself among Mongolia’s sporting heroes. On September 15 President Elbedorj bestowed on her the title ‘State Honoured Sportswoman,’ the Authority of Frontier Services awarded her a two-bedroom apartment and the Arkhangai Aimag presented her with a car.
From September 22-23, US Deputy Secretary of Energy, Daniel B. Poneman visited Mongolia for two days and met government officials, members of the private sector and teachers and students of Mongolia’s University of Science and Technology, among others, to discuss energy issues, the need to build a sustainable energy future and USMongolian cooperation in this sector.
He also met the Minister for Foreign Affairs, G. Zandanshatar where a Memorandum of Understanding was signed promoting cooperation on the peaceful use of civil nuclear energy. October 20 was a landmark date for government in Mongolia – it marked the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Mongolia’s permanent Parliament. PresidentTs. Elbegdorj and Parliamentary Speaker D. Demberel delivered speeches acknowledging the transition process from the former political system the State Baga Khural of 50 members to a multi-party system that comes with democracy. Business as usual saw the Parliamentary Speaker appeal to Members of Parliament in his opening speech to complete the allotment of Tgs 1.5 million to voters as promised before 2012. He noted changes in Mongolia’s economic and social life and said five % growth in the first half of the year would lead to 7.4% growth by the end of 2010. He predicted GDP would reach Tgs 8 trillion and State revenue would exceed the plan. He hoped the goal to maintain inflation at 10% would be achieved and Mongolia’s forecasted growth in mining would show rapidly.
From November 15 to 19, President Ts. Elbegdorj paid a State visit to Japan including a meeting with Mongolians living in japan. On November 20, the President delivered a speech on Afghanistan at the general session of the NATO Summit of Heads of State and Government in Lisbon,Portugal where he met US President,Barack Obama.From November 11-17, the oncein-a-decade ‘Population and Housing Census’ was conducted throughout the nation under the recommendation of the UN. This census was organized for the first time under independent law using a digital map. 29,189 census collectors were hired for the census commission and a preliminary report will be ready by February 2011 with final results issued on June 1 2011. A database will be formed in 2012-2013. An analysis of the data will allow a study of Mongolia’s demography – in the economy, in social development and scientific research and help plan for the future. The first census in 1918 registered 547,600 people and in the 2000 census, the population showed an increase to 2,373,5000.
Mongolia’s treasured Khoomi singing (throat singing) received international recognition during the 5th session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee of the Convention on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in Nairobi November 14 to 19. Much to the delight of all Mongolians, Khoomi,
Three Manly Games and Eagle Hunting were registered as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage.’ The opening of a new Sports Palace in Yarmag, Khan-Uul District took place on December 2. The Palace was built with non-refundable aid from the Chinese government and an agreement of transfer was signed by Member of Parliamant, S. Bayartsogt, and Chinese Ambassador to Mongolia, Yu Hongyao. The Palace has 5,045 seats, a 2,950 sqm arena, two smaller halls of 260 sqm each for training and
a total of 104 rooms. Government approved the ‘Fresh Air Fund’ – a law on fees for air pollution–with monies to accumulate in the fund, not the State Budget. It is estimated Tgs30 billion will be accumulated by 2011. The Law is intended to reduce air pollution by 10 percent in 2011 and 50 percent by 2015. It was a welcome Law given the extent of Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution over many years. The main concept is that a person or organization that pollutes the air will be fined and air pollution will be reduced from initiatives implemented with this money. As a new form of duty, the law
will not be effective on a broad scale and the legislation imposes fees on six subjects. A fine of Tg1 will be imposed on each kg of coal being extracted by industries.
On December 13-16, Prime Minister S. Batbold and an entourage visited Russia at the invitation of Russian Prime Minister V. Putin. The visit marked the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Russia. Among the highlights from the visit was an agreement to implement a program to develop Mongolia-Russia trade and economic cooperation, from 2011-2015, and additional measures to improve the efficiency of the Erdenet Mining Corporation and Mongolrostsvetmet, Mongolian-Russian Joint Ventures. The 20th anniversary celebrations of the Democratic Revolution in Mongolia celebrated throughout 2010 finished on December 10. A
closing ceremony with fireworks and a meeting of honour marked the end of the celebrations and President Ts.Elbegdorj acknowledged the contribution of the country’s heros and political parties who bought democracy to their homeland. Well known writer B. Batbayar, who openly crticized corrupt State officials 20 years ago, reported on Mongolia’s fight against tyranny and the onset of democracy.
2011 as Mongolia’s 20th anniversary as a democracy holds promises for more change and growth as much needed initiatives, such as the ‘Fresh Air Fund’ are realized to improve the lives of Mongolians.