Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: June, 2008

Election Results

The rural votes have been counted, and with urban votes currently being counted, it looks like the MPRP has taken 44 seats (38 in the country and 6 in the capital), the DP 21 seats and independents 3 seats. Votes for the remaining seats are still being counted. Final results are expected tomorrow, but it appears that the MPRP has an absolute majority in the parliament and the former communists will be the ones tasked with bringing Mongolia’s inflation under control and determining how to appropriately exploit the nation’s mineral resources. The early results were sufficient to drive up Ivanhoe Mines’ stock around 9%.

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Awaiting Election Results

Polling stations have closed, and we may have a long wait for the results of yesterday’s elections in Mongolia. Russian observers say the voting went off without a hitch, but some minor party candidates have already complained that the vote was not fair. Supporters of the Civic Movement Party grabbed ballot boxes in the capital but were chased down by police. The General Election Committee condemned the attack.

About 74% of the nation’s 1.5 million registered voters participated in the polling, down slightly from the 81% who voted in the election of 2004, which left a hung State Great Khural, with neither of the two major parties able to establish a firm government. Now, the discovery of extensive mineral wealth and concerns over unbridled inflation (15.1% last year) have combined to make this a high-stakes election. Per capita income in the country stands at just $1,500 a year.

Both the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party and the Mongolian Democratic Party support investment agreements to allow the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project in the Gobi Desert to proceed. Ivanhoe Mines and Rio Tinto, the developers of the project, suggest that this mine could boost Mongolia’s GDP by 34% and could be followed by uranium and coal extraction projects.

More than 350 candidates from 12 parties and one coalition ran in the election. Smaller parties argue that allowing the developers to proceed under current contracts would rob Mongolia of its wealth and do irreparable harm to the environment. The law currently gives the government a 50% share in any project where state funds are used and a 34% share in others. A recent proposal would give Mongolia a 51% share in any major project. The MPRP would centralize those holdings in the Mongolian government, and give each citizen a “Gift of the Motherland,” a cash dividend of $1,300 once mining starts. The DP, on the other hand, advocates a Mongolian holding corporation, in which all Mongolians are stakeholders, as well as giving a “Treasure Share” of $860 to each Mongolian. Both parties are also pushing greater economic independence for Mongolia through increased agricultural initiatives and further exploration for oil and natural gas. Currently, Mongolia imports 90% of its oil and natural gas from Russia, a fact Russia has recently used for economic blackmail.

Although the minor parties are unlikely to grab a large percentage of the vote, they may be in a significant position for negotiating if the parliament is again largely split. The MPRP claims that they have secured a majority of the votes in the countryside (40 to 50 of the 76 seats up for grabs), but other reports suggest a dead heat, which might result in a deadlock that could stall key mining deals.

Votes in the capital (typically a DP stronghold) remain uncounted, and there is confusion in some areas due to a new voting system. The old system had each constituency vote for one member of parliament. Now, there are fewer constituencies, but each one votes for several seats in the Great Khural. Voters have been confused, with some circling too many names on the ballot, invalidating their vote. Counting has also been slowed because pollworkers can no longer just stack up ballots as they did before when only one name was circled per ballot. The election committee is suggesting that results may not be available today.

20080605 Khovsgol Lake, Mongolia 001

 

Roughing It: Mongolia

THE WESLEYAN CHURCH ELECTS FIRST WOMAN

World Hope International Founder Elected in Historical Vote

Indianapolis – Dr. Jo Anne Lyon wrote a new chapter in the history of The Wesleyan Church on Monday, June 9, 2008, when she was elected by the Indianapolis, Indiana denomination as its first-ever woman General Superintendent at the Church’s June 7-11, 2008, General Conference in Orlando, Florida. “What a wonderful statement you have made as The Wesleyan Church,” said outgoing General Superintendent Dr. Earle L. Wilson to the nearly 2,000 delegates and guests at the conference.
An ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church, Dr. Lyon is founder of World Hope International and has led the organization to develop successful relief and development projects in more than 30 countries with an annual budget of over $12 million for 2007.
A licensed professional counselor, General Superintendent Lyon had thirty years prior experience in administering urban and rural human service programs before founding World Hope. She has a Bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Cincinnati, a Master’s in Counseling from The University of Missouri-Kansas City, and further graduate work at St. Louis University in Historical Theology. She has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Dr. Lyon will join Dr. Thomas E. Armiger and Dr. Jerry G. Pence on the Board of General Superintendents. Dr. Armiger and Dr. Pence, both incumbents, were elected to new terms earlier Monday, June 9.
The Wesleyan Church is an evangelical, Protestant denomination, which has its roots in John Wesley’s Methodism. The denomination has nearly 400,000 constituents in 5,000 churches and missions in 86 countries around the world.

Doing business with China

Mongolia seems to be growing closer and closer to China, and a desire for increasing closeness was expressed by China’s Vice President Xi Jinping, who is visiting Mongolia this week. China has been Mongolia’s top trading partner and top investor for nearly a decade, and this year has seen a 68% increase in bilateral trade over last year. About 90% of Mongolia’s rice, clothing and vegetable imports come from China, and more than 6% of the Mongolian labor force are employees of the 700 Chinese businesses operating in the country. China’s geographic proximity makes it easier for them to make the infrastructure investments that put them first in line to tap Mongolia’s mineral wealth.

Some Mongolians have expressed displeasure over the rising food costs in their country. In an attempt to alleviate the problem, the government borrowed money to import flour, which they distributed to bread makers at discount prices. However, the bread makers refuse to pay cash for the flour, refuse to store the flour and refuse to accept the set price for bread established by the government. It seems like the government did not do their homework on this one. It’s tough switching to a free market economy!

20080528 Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes, Gobi Desert, Mongolia 001

 

20080611 Erdene Zuu Monastery, Karakorum, Mongolia 001

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World Day against Child Labor

Yesterday, Mongolia kicked off a one-year campaign to end child labor. More than 70,000 children in the nation are “economically active,” and nearly 9,000 are school drop-outs. These numbers do not include those children who work in the coal and gold mines.

Eclipses, Earthquakes and Enterovirus-71

Mongolians are wondering how the impending solar eclipse will affect tourism in their country. There was less-than-anticipated crowd during the last such eclipse. While I would be interested in observing the eclipse, I was more interested in some of the customs observed by Mongoliands during this pheomenon. According to the UB Post, “In order to rid Rahu [enemy of the sky], Mongolians have some rituals to do during an eclipse: to make their dog bark (specially a four-eyed banhar), to make any three year old child cry, to fire a gun, and to make noise using kitchenware.” I’m certain that Elijah is glad we won’t be there for people to try to make him cry.

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake has hit western Mongolia, causing widespread panic. Many people fled their apartments to stay in one-story dwellings or gers. This apparently followed widespread fears last week that an earthquake was about to hit UB. Unfortunately, seismology has not advance to the point where such quakes can be predicted.

On a brighter note, the hand-foot-mouth disease epidemic appears to be slowing. The rate of new infections has dropped to ten new cases per day, a drop from one hundred cases per day. Still, schools remain closed and public activities for children are prohibited. More than 2,000 have contracted the virus, including more than 1,000 in UB. Nearly 200 children are still in the hospital, while 800 more are under a doctor’s care.