Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mongolia - Election 2008 updates: In which events take confusing turns

So I hear the MPRP (the not-so-Commie anymore party) and the DP (Democratic Party) are now promising money to citizens. Not just voters, but to everyone. The Democratic Party came up with the idea of "Wealth Sharing" or literally translated as "Share of the Wealth", which will see every adult citizen of Mongolia richer by Tg1million (approx US$ 870), if they are voted into power.

Meanwhile, MPRP, not to be outdone, promises to distribute Tg1.5million (approx. US$1,300.) to each adult citizen and Tg10,000 (approx US$9) to each child. Their PR team put together a fancy and, more importantly, different name for this project.. promise ..money-throwing ...thing, which is "Gifts of the Motherland". You could also translate it as "Blessings of the Motherland", which sounds all too Biblical and mystical in English, but does not in Mongolian. To make the translation of flowery Mongolian phrases simpler for me, I will just call them the Funds.

What neither of the parties seems very clear on in the media is how these Funds will be distributed. It is quite possible that they have not gotten around to the distribution method yet, focusing more on the amount. On a second thought, I do not think they even got around to how these Funds will be funded. Their proposal is to establish the funds from the proceeds of the mining industry and state mines such as Erdenet gold mines.

Many in the media as well as minor opposition parties consider these promises to be premature and unrealistic, considering the proposed changes to the Minerals Law have yet to be approved.

In yesterday's interview published on news.mn, Ts.Elbegdorj, Chairman of the Democratic Party, does not clarify much on the issue. He does mention that it would not be incorrect to assume that the government may give out the equivalent of Tg 1million in unspecified non-cash forms. Intriguing and mysterious.

This idea of setting up a national fund for "wealth-sharing" is not a new idea. Earlier this year, there were proposals by Lu.Bold, a member of the DP's National Advisory Committee, to set up a "Bayan Mongol" Mining Corporation (Wealthy Mongol), in which all Mongolian citizens will hold shares. The Corporation is to own and develop around 54 of the strategic mining assets in Mongolia. The article also mentioned that the Mongolian Government is projected make a profit of US$5.9 billion by 2021 from these projects (with or without the corporation).

If the DP comes into power, they will most likely lobby for the establishment of this corporation soon as the Minerals Law is passed.

This issue was also recently covered by Kazinform, a Kazakhstani news portal, though with some factual inaccuracies. My figures are the right figures. I rule.
Read the article here.

UPDATE: A friend, Onon, pointed out that the figures also do not calculate (if they were to give out cash). 2.6million people x US$1,300 = US$3.38billion. Our GDP is estimated at around US$6 billion, optimistically speaking. Surely the government can't give away more than half of our GDP in a gracious distribution of wealth. Even if it were 1million people, that still makes the figure US$1.3billion. With the projects expected to bring in US$ 5.9 billion by 2021, even if the government were to hand out shares to the possible "Bayan Mongol" corporation, the figures still do not calculate.