Jargal de Facto: More grants, less labour in the Mongolian desert

I transited through Dalanzadgad. While each month every Mongolian citizen receives 21 thousand Tugrogs as “motherland grant,” in addition to that UmnuGobi residents began receive “local grant” in 500 thousand Tugrogs a year. National and local politicians (14 of the 25 members at the Khural of citizens representatives in South Gobi aimag are from Democratic Party) are as busy as those in the capital city as they try to keep their election promise to individual citizens in delivering “municipal share” from the 51% shares designated to municipal government from the “Old” Tavan Tolgoi mine. A chauffeur was telling me how his family of four would be receiving 2 million Tugrogs soon.

In this way, UmnuGobi residents, who are receiving grants from both the capital and aimag, are less and less interested in digging up earth or working on constructions for pay of 15 thousand Tugrogs a day, leaving the job to workers from DundGobi and Ulaanbaatar. Since the distribution of grants it has become harder to find herders as the number of feasts, celebrations and award ceremonies in preparation for election campaigns started to spread. Shaman “services” are one of the foremost businesses that help circulate the cash flow. So far almost every family in the region has one sometimes two shamans whose drum beats call the higher powers nonstop to shower the families with cash.  

Why is the “motherland grants” not able to become a life supporting basis?

In the first half of 2011 through the "Human Development" fund 355.0 billion Tugrogs or 300 million USD were distributed to citizens. Although it helped boost major economic demand, the impact on the supply end was not as great. Significant changes in infrastructure such as new roads, electric and water supplies to aid efficiency of business operations, training of employees to fill vacancies, creation of new employment opportunities are yet to be witnessed.

Even though in the first half of this year the economy grew by 17.3% compared to the previous year, inflation also rose by 13.7%. A middle or lower income Mongolian family, who spends most of revenue for basic stuff cannot feel this economic growth. As cash is handed out by political promise, national currency is losing its value and proving the current “public distribution process” of Mongolia’s natural resources ineffective.

Without a professional workforce to exploit the famous tolgois of UmnuGobi, Mongolia leaves the major projects related infrastructure and development works to Chinese labourers.

Interested in getting rich quick most Mongolians become “ninjas” or called otherwise artisanal miners. Local residents detail with joy their story of becoming rich from finding gold from “Iraq” tolgoi on the border of Umnu and Dorno Gobi aimags. This story of sacrificing lives to find gold there seems to closely resonate with conflicts by the same name in other parts of the world. Many are afraid that the future of UmnuGobi might become as trivial and unclear as Iraq’s.

What explains the continuing “fall” of gold productions even with all of Mongolia’s on-going investment into the gold production, the rising number of gold companies and the gold market value rising as never before in history? Gold in Mongolia is being mined and smuggled across border and the Mongolian government is not doing anything about it.

Although one or two cases are revealed from time to time, the stories die down as investigations eventually lead to some political party, the government or regional authorities. That is why Mongolia’s gold continues to secretly cross the border. As the value of the US Dollar declines, gold is becoming the dream reserve for many nations.

Government organizations stay still unable to take action as they watch uncertified foods and poor quality products enter the country and as gold, the best and most expensive resources exit Mongolia’s territory. Yet protecting national borders, ensuring social safety is government’s foremost duty; distributing cash is not.

The promises even with prettiest of names by political parties to give out money is not going to be basis, that fundamentally enhance citizens’ standard of living. I propose against supporting any political candidate who promises money as part of his/her election campaign. On whose behalf are they promising to distribute whose wealth? Surely not theirs. It is Mongolian citizens’ duty to keep speculators away from their future.

Dalanzadgad-Ulaanbaatar

Unoodor 
2011.08.31

Translated by J.Ariunaa

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