Saturday, November 22, 2008

Random stuff

Since I've been back, I read very little of the current news in Mongolia, preferring instead to hear firsthand accounts of what's really going on. The new government's number 1 task is to pass the infamously difficult Minerals law. As commodity prices drop around the world, the government is now seeking to close the deal on Oyu Tolgoi under the old law, which gives them a 34% of the asset rather than the proposed 51%. Whatever they decide, it has to be done in the next few months as investors get impatient. According to, some are pulling out of negotiations due to what they perceive as political instability. Unpredictability, I guess, is the right word, as our politicians, having never experienced the pressure that accompanies the discovery of sudden riches, move ahead hesitantly.

Since I have been back, I realize that Mongolia has now become just about as expensive as Singapore. The real estate boom of last year, fuelled by unbridled lending by the commercial banks, left the housing market exorbitantly expensive. Property developers in turn invested heavily into new housing developments, which now sit mostly empty since the commercial banks stopped giving out housing loans.Unfortunately, the construction craze threw what little city planning UB had to the dogs, of whom one sees fewer as compared to 5 years ago. At one point, every apartment block had a pack of stray dogs sifting through garbage. A running joke here is that ever since the Korean and the Chinese population increased, the dog population decreased in UB, though I've heard a lot of people say this with a degree of seriousness.

As winter approaches (which really should be here by now, but not yet thanks to pollution and global warming, we've had snow only a handful of times in UB and the snow on the ground disappears after half a day), the smog problem in UB is back. By January as the temperatures reach the -20s, one won't be able to see beyond 30 metres during early mornings and late evenings, especially near the 11th microdisrict where I live. The powers that be will start discussing their annual plan for smoke-free UB until spring comes and the smoke clears, by which time having accomplished the smoke-free city thanks to the advent of spring, they will wait until the next winter to resume their earnest discussions on decreasing pollution. I'm gonna post some photos later on of the haze disaster.