Friday, August 29, 2008

Mongolian Parliament Finally Sworn In

The New York Sun reports that the Mongolian government is finally ready to get to work. Following the protests of the July 1 election, the minority Democratic Party refused to attend sessions of Parliament. Without their presence, the majority MPRP could not establish a quorum to begin work.

Now, Elbegdorj Tsakhia, leader of the Democratic Party, has relented. He continues to allege voter fraud, claiming that the DP should have won 64 seats, instead of the 28 they were awarded. Although international observers declared the election fair, Elbegdorj says fraud was endemic. Some people voted as many as 18 times, he alleges, and, because the MPRP controls the electoral process, little was done to police the situation. Polls show that most Mongolian voters believe the election was unfair.

Of greater concern, though, were the post-election activities of the government. During the state of emergency, all private television channels were silenced, allowing the MPRP to have greater influence over public opinion. Elbegdorj even suspects that a fire set at the National Modern Art Gallery was a deliberate attempt to frame the DP. Naturally, the MPRP denies any involvement with the fire. "You can't think of a more stupid thing," says the general secretary of the party.

In order to convince the DP to return to Parliament, some concessions were made. A subcommittee will investigate the fraud allegations, and the state prosecutor's office will look into possible abuses by the police during the protests. Some police officers have already been charged with shooting protesters.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Coke plant in Ulaanbaatar

Coca-Cola has just spent 22 million dollars to build a new six-hectare manufacturing plant in Mongolia. Coke has enjoyed a 50% annual growth rate in the country; they supply direct employment for 3,500 people and perhaps indirect employment for as many as 35,000 suppliers and business partners.
"With the burgeoning beverage market in Mongolia we have recorded remarkable growth rates. In 2002 we sold 4 Coca-Cola products to every average Mongolian consumer. In 2008 we are selling an average of 67 beverages to every Mongolian consumer. This has caused our first plant to run out of manufacturing capacity 7 years ahead of schedule" said Mr. Jambaljamts [Chairman & CEO of MCS Group]. "We are greatly encouraged by the outstanding performance of our bottling operation as both the bottling company and The Coca-Cola Company have exceeded all projections of profitability and sales. Our investment in the new plant is just our first step to bring world class manufacturing to Mongolia."

Mongolia's second Olympic gold

Badar-Uugan Enkhbat has won Mongolia's first-ever gold medal in boxing, winning the bantamweight final over Cuba's Yankiel Leon Alarcon. The score was 16-5. Enkhbat took a 4-1 lead in the first round and easily held off Alarcon, in front of a sizable Mongolian crowd in the Workers' Gymnasium. Enkhbat, born in Ulaanbaatar in 1985, had previously won the silver medal at the international championship.

Mongolia missed its shot at a third gold when China's Zou Shiming defeated Serdamba Purevdorj in the light flyweight category. The fight was stopped in the second round due to an injury to Purevdorj's shoulder. This was Mongolia's first Olympic silver medal in boxing.

On Sunday afternoon, the people of Ulaanbaatar took to the streets to celebrate the two medals. Public screenings of the matches drew crowds, and people gathered in homes to watch the broadcasts on any of four channels airing the fights. Following the wins, the streets were filled with people shouting, giving high-fives, and waving the Mongolian flag from car windows.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Boxing for Gold

Fox Sports reports on Mongolia's Olympic boxing hopefuls:
Both China and Mongolia made history by qualifying fighters for an Olympic boxing final for the first time - and in Mongolia's case it was at a Games where judoka Tuvshinbayar Naidan won the country's first ever Olympic gold.

Badar-Uugan Enkhbat at bantamweight and Serdamba Purevdorj at light-flyweight will hope to become Mongolia's first ever boxing Olympic champions.

"I'm very happy and proud that two of our boxers could get through to the finals," said Mongolian coach Bandi Damdinjav.

"It's very honourable for us and for all Mongolian people."

Serdamba will face Zou Shiming, the third of China's finalists, who as double world champion will start as favourite.

Badar-Uugan will come up against Yankiel Leon of Cuba.

Mongolia names Nasreen Awal Bangladesh Consul

Mongolia names Nasreen Awal Bangladesh Consul

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Contemplating Georgia and Mongolia

Ever since this scuffle between Georgia and Russia began, I've been pondering what effect Russia's new aggressiveness might have on other former Soviet satellites. In particular, I've wondered about the effect on Mongolia. has done an assessment of the issue and seems to come to the conclusion that, despite the commonalities that Georgia and Mongolia share, Mongolia will stay off the Russian imperialistic radar for some time.
Mongolians realize that no outside power can project its power at the heart of Inner Asia forever, and the reality of living between two giant neighbors is something that Mongolia will arguably have forever.

Of course, because Mongolia does not threaten the interests of Russia or China like Georgia threatened Russia (bypassing pipelines, American troops presence, NATO involvement, etc.), both countries generally think of Mongolia as a strategic backwater. So Moscow and Beijing can be more generouis with Mongolia becoming close to the US, and its role as a buffer state won’t change—at least not in the eyes of Moscow.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Conan O'Brien - ''Pilobolus''

Naidan wins Olympic gold

This was on four channels in Mongolia, but I don't think it made the American broadcasts. Here's the final match in 100- kg judo.

Mongolia the next rising star in Medals Per Capita list

Mongolia the next rising star in Medals Per Capita list

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Mongolia Celebrates Olympic Gold

Mongolian Matters reports on the massive celebration in UB of Mongolia's first-ever Olympic gold medal. The rejoicing bonded even the estranged leaders of the MPRP and MDP. The president of the country walked down the steps of the government house holding hands with the prime minister and the leader of the Democratic Party. The blogger notes how large quantities of gold (mining rights) have divided the country, but how a very small amount of gold has brought them together.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

First Gold Medal in Beijing

Mongolia's Tuvshinbayar Naidan has defeated Ashkat Zhitkeyev to win the men's -100kilograms class judo gold, the AP reports. Naidan had defeated the Japanese 2004 gold medalist in the first round before going on to eliminate fighters from Germany, Korea and Azerbaijan. This was his first Olympic competition; he had taken 5th place at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.

Until 2000, Naidan was a wrestler, and he used a Mongolian wrestling move to drop his final contender. Although Naidan was five inches shorter than his opponent from Kazakhstan, he dove low and barrelled into Zhitkeyev's legs. He was able to post three scoring blows by lifting Zhitkeyev off the ground and rolling him onto his back.

This was Mongolia's first gold medal in history. They had previously won six silver medals and twelve bronze. Mongolia is now 2 medals ahead of Canada in the Beijing Olympics. :)

Foreign drudges jostle to Mongolia

Foreign drudges jostle to Mongolia

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It's Boom Time!

That's what Peter Morrow, CEO of Khaan Bank, claims about Ulaanbaatar's retail sector, according to the UB Post. Morrow reports that, in 2000, the State Department Store was just a series of vegetable and meat stalls, while today, it is a thriving department store with high-end goods. If Mongolia's mining sector takes off, the rest of UB's retail business could follow suit.

Investors are worried, though, in the light of recent unrest and the slow progress of mining in the nation. Next month, they will have an opportunity to address these issues at an economic forum in UB. Morrow insists that Mongolia is absolutely a good, stable place to invest.

Mongolia's GDP grew by at least 9 or 10 percent last year, as they begin to exploit the resources that Russia controlled for so long. The strong economy, proximity to China, and an ambitious promotion of tourism has put Mongolia on the business map, and international corporations are being drawn to UB. The fact that the nation is a late bloomer economically means that they have avoided some of the chaos currently plaguing the world market, such as the mortgage-backed securities that have played havoc with the U.S. economy.

Still, Mongolia has some obstacles to address. First, there needs to be a clear sign from the government that they are ready to sign off on some new mining projects, something they've only done once in their 20-year independence. Second, the nation needs to convince investors that the July 1 unrest was an isolated incident and that the new government is ready to move forward. So far the Democratic Party has been able to stall the installation of the new Parliament, but Morrow and other investors are hopeful that this can be accomplished by next month.

Morrow will be among those presenting at the economic forum, addressing these issues as well as environmental, legislative, and international trade concerns. Morrow is confident, though, that UB is a showplace that will convice investors by itself. "You can see the great vibrancy, the excitement of what’s happening here," he says. Probably nothing earth-shattering will come out of this forum, but it will hopefully open international eyes to the great potential for investment in Mongolia.

A Road to Kazakhstan

Last week, the President of Kazakhstan met with the Mongolian president on a number of issues. One of those issues was the desire to have a highway linking the two nations. Both nations desire increased international trade but have lacked a good transportation link. The highway would have to pass through Russia, so they will need international cooperation for the project to move forward.

Mongolia's next medal hopeful

Serdamba Purevdorj has progressed to the Round of 16 in the men's 48 kg boxing competition by defeating Ronald Serugo of Uganda.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mongolian Government to Subsidize Cashmere Purchases

Because banks have been charging high interest rates, cashmere sales have slowed recently in Mongolia. Currently, herders are currently holding more than 2,000 tons of cashmere. In response, Montsame reports that the government of Mongolia is guaranteeing loans of MNT 10 billion to cashmere processing facilities to purchase from the herders. Sixty percent of that money is going to the Gobi Cashmere company.

Mongolians in the Olympics

As the Olympic athletes go into the final round of the womens' 25m pistol event, Mongolia's Gundegmaa Otryad enters with a massive 3-point lead. In the preliminary round, Otryad shot 291 out of 300 in the precision segment and 299 out of 300 in the rapid-fire segment.

In second place is Dorjsuren Monkhbayar, a Mongolian who became a German citizen six years ago. The defending champion is currently in fifth place.

UPDATE: China's Chen Ying came from behind to take the gold, when Otryad's pistol locked up on her 11th shot. Chen won by 1.2 points. Otryad still managed to claim the silver, with Monkhbayar picking up the bronze. Otryad's silver is Mongolia's first medal this year.

Montsame reports the contents of Prime Minister S. Bayar's telegram to Otryad: "I offer heartfelt congratulations on behalf of the Mongolian people and the government of Mongolia to you for winning a silver medal. Mongolian people are happy to win the silver medal after 28 years and for the first time ever by a woman. I wish high success for Mongolian sports teams and athletes, and hope that the Mongolian athletes will show more success at the world sports arena. Let the glory of Mongolia be developed around the world".

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

car repair

I was quite worried about the steering on our car. Lately, we've had a bad vibration in the front left wheel when we're going 65-70 mph. On my trip to Chicago, a guy drove up next to me and yelled that my wheel was wobbling. I had taken the car to the garage to check on the air conditioner, and the service adviser had pointed out that the inner tie rod bushings were badly worn. He also pointed out that the rack and pinion was leaking. He gave me a quote of $1700. I'm not sure if that was just the tie rod repair or the whole steering system.

At any rate, I was thrilled that my talented brother-in-law James was willing to come over this morning and help me with the repair. Well, okay, he did the repair while I watched. The parts were less than $20, and James had the job done in less than 2 hours, including the trip to the parts store. Since none of my mechanically-inclined family members are going to Mongolia with us, maybe it's good that we've decided to go without a vehicle for a few years.