Business and Life

  • Granted he said this in a metaphysical vein and was certainly not thinking of metallic ones, there is much truth even for readers of this journal in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s comment, “Our knowledge is a little island in a great ocean of non-knowledge.
  • MNMA head D. Damba is not happy with the address of Minister of Minerals D. Gankhuyag at this year’s Discover Mongolia. Damba feels it was short on specifics and gave eagerly waiting investors few clear indications of how the Government felt about several issues of seminal importance. I would not blame the Minister for this. His government is still pretty new and will take time to formulate a policy that addresses existing, or creates new, momentous concerns. It is savvier for a politician to hide behind platitudes for the time being than to be too forthcoming, and then forced to put his foot into his mouth.
  • Everything seems to be in a limbo in the country right now. Parliament is too new to develop its own personality, and acquiring one could be difficult until many new members find the right balance between living up to their resource nationalist identity and living it down after donning a new garb. The Government is still to find its feet or to decide on the exact ground where it will place those feet. Businessmen wielding political power need to tread a straight and narrow path of public probity, and the people wonder if the new set can. General policy and specific issues wither in an impasse or, maybe it would be better to say, loiter in a maze. Foreign investors, from neighbours of both the immediate and the third sort, keep their fingers crossed and purse strings tightly closed. Mining, seen only recently as an unstoppable engine of growth, is hobbling, with promise overshadowing performance.
  • Between this issue and our next, Mongolia will be in the grips of election fever, and that is my excuse for laying aside matters financial or economic for this month’s column. I shall not stray from our consistent and scrupulously followed policy of not commenting on domestic partisan politics, but I am as interested as anybody else in the outcome and how it is achieved. There certainly is no clear favourite and no party can be expecting to emerge substantially stronger than the others. At a recent conversation, the astute pollster L. Sumati claimed some of his earlier predictions based on results of surveys conducted by hisSant Maral Foundation had been “breathtakingly accurate” but he, too, feels stumped this time around.  
  • Given the MMJ’s unwavering commitment to upholding industrial responsibility to and for the environment, we cannot let go unnoticed the death in March, when our last issue was almost ready to be published, of American chemist F. Sherwood Rowland, even if his career and courage had no direct links with mining.  Rowland would have remained one among the many Nobel Prize winners whose research had important implications for life on Earth but he went beyond them and became a scientific hero by displaying the commitment and energy to fight for global action to rescue the planet from impending disaster.
  • By Tirthankar Mukherjee

    As one moves around in Ulaanbaatar, one is struck by how young most of the Mongolians around one are. The balance of global economic power is widely perceived as shifting to Asia (though power has many secreted and secret levers and the presently developed countries will not give up their preeminence without a fight) but inside most societies, decision making is rapidly becoming the prerogative of the young. It appears that Mongolia has accepted that a brave new world demands and deserves a brave new generation to run it.
  • By Tirthankar Mukherjee

    Prime Minister S. Batbold has assured people, both in his partyand outside it, that a “strategic plan” titled “Imagination to Develop Mongolia” is not “just a dream”, but incorporates a program that is “ready to be implemented” over the next 20 years. That the program was released just before the election could be deliberate, and could as well be fortuitous.
  • By Tirthankar Mukherjee

    Mongolia is doing well, judging by macroeconomic figures and coverage in the global media. The ungainly name Minegolia has stuck, and investment analysts are predicting all sorts of possible achievements. The euphoria is palpable in Ulaanbaatar, too, but my concern is that little notice is taken of the riders that follow the prescription. These constantly remind us that  large, untapped deposits in frontier markets such as Mongolia do offer greater promise but at the same time venturing into uncharted territory, characterised by the absence of strong political institutions and a paucity of earlier major natural resources investment, carries its own risks.
  • By Tirthankar Mukherjee

    Small may be beautiful – left to myself, I would change that “may be” to “is” – but since time immemorial, man has almost always thought the bigger to be more covetable. The Manu Samhita, an ancient Indian text incorporating ideas of government that was compiled between 200 BCE and 200 CE, mentions a theory called the matsya nyaya, literally meaning the “law of fishes”, which pinpoints a fundamental practice in nature: small fish become the prey of the big fish.  The treatise says it is the job of a government to enforce laws and restrictions to ensure that this does not happen. But it does, all the time around us, and mergers and acquisitions in the corporate world are examples and expressions of this human trait. 
  • By Tirthankar Mukherjee

    Judging by what is dished out by the English-language media here, Mongolian political leaders and policy makers do not much believe in taking the masses into confidence. The paternalistic norms of the ancien regime still hold sway: the people have no right, or business, to know about any problem in the economy, no matter how threatening they are. Ignorance is the best way to popular contentment, if not bliss. On their part, the people, too, are happy to repose responsibility in these leaders, unconcerned that complacency is no guarantee against disappointment and disaster.
Do you agree with increasing state participation in the Draft New Mining Law?
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