Erdenebilegism: A new phenomenon in Mongolia’s democracy

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  • Oct 09,2016
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By the 1990s, Mongolia eventually had to get rid of its socialist system that denied private ownership of property. It has been more than 20 years since we made the decision to transition into a democracy and a free market economy. Although Mongolians denied private property for the 80 years prior to the democratic revolution, our new Constitution reads, “Mongolia shall have an economy based on different forms of property, which takes into account universal trends of global economic development and national specifics. The State recognizes all forms of both public and private property and shall protect the rights of the owner by law.” Private property is the basis for economic and social relations. Therefore, it is important to protect private property in the same way human rights, safety, and freedom are safeguarded in a democratic society. Since any individual cannot ensure these values are protected, the people trust in the government, which consists of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, to protect those values. The government is selected through a fair and democratic election, and assumes power for a specific amount of time. The government collects taxes from private property owners and fulfills their duty to protect their property by overseeing foreign relations, trade, and the exchange of goods and services. Furthermore, the government has the responsibility to provide disadvantaged members of society with equal opportunities, an education, access to medical services, and social care. Every citizen has the right to put their private property into economic circulation, create value without harming public properties and interests, and to become wealthier. MONGOLIA’S TRANSITION Starting from the 1990s, the people who snuck into the government forgot their duty to protect private property and started misusing their power by demanding rewards from the value created by the private sector. They have come up with all kinds of unnecessary permits in order to ensure that private businesses cannot operate without their approval and signatures. Customs taxes were set by personal preference, and – as a result – many of the wealthy come from customs. Working in customs suddenly boosted your reputation. Nevertheless, the private sector naturally grew while the market's capacity and circulation increased. Mongolia’s urban and rural areas gained full access to consumer products. As private businesses expanded, people sought opportunities to do their own business and accumulate wealth. Even though state-owned assets were privatized, it was only a handful of people who assumed control by owning the majority of their shares. Mongolia’s corruption originates from a government that takes part in all business activities and has its public servants looking for ways to serve their personal interests. The political and economic institutions that are supposed to put an end to this corruption are replaced every four years in elections. They have been indulging in corruption instead of fighting it. As political parties better understood how much power came with election into office, public governance grew more corrupt. When the Constitution was amended in 2000, it allowed lawmakers to execute the laws they passed, which essentially legalized corruption. Currently, our political parties have set values for all positions, including those of ambassadors, and exchange them for donations made to the political party. Any individual or any company can gain authority in any industry, as long as they have enough money to donate to political party financing. Although the growth of corruption has been increasingly talked about in society, as well as why it is impeding our development and how it is preventing fair competition in the private sector, we greeted the 2010s without being able to do anything to fight it. The reach of corruption has grown further than just a seat in the government or the power of a single political party. Today, the reach of corruption has gone beyond single entities and has already consumed ministries, agencies, and different governments. The senior leadership of both the Democratic Party (DP) and the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) have been keeping each other's secrets. It has made it impossible for them to act against corruption. Mongolia’s government is fully consumed by corruption today. NEW PHENOMENON IN CORRUPTION The reach of corruption has grown so wide that one individual can impose their authority in the majority of our economic sectors. Ts.Nyamdorj, Vice Speaker of Parliament, talked about this individual  (whose name has only been whispered among politicians) in a press conference last week. He received criticism because he spoke against his own political party. At least it looks like there are still a handful of people who are willing to reveal facts and expose the truth. However, it is unclear how long anyone will have the freedom to talk about justice in Mongolia. It appears that the most powerful, secretive, and richest person in Mongolia is D.Erdenebileg, chairman of the Board of Directors of Trade and Development Bank (TDB). Although traditional and social media have talked about this person a lot lately, there are only two or three photographs of him, and no one can identify him in the photos. It shows how undisclosed his actions are. If you look at all the information made available about him, it appears that he owns the majority of shares of the biggest commercial bank in Mongolia through an offshore account. This is why he sits on the board. Also, he owns 99 percent of the shares of Ulaanbaatar Bank, which was established by the current Speaker of Parliament, M.Enkhbold, when he was the mayor of our capital city. Vice Speaker Ts.Nyamdorj said that D.Erdenebileg used the same mechanisms to impose his control through TDB on the Darkhan Metallurgical Plant, Khutul’s cement plant, Erdenet Mining Corporation, and Mongolrostsvetmet. Apparently, D.Erdenebileg is also preparing to seize Baganuur and Thermal Power Plants 3 and 4 (as reported by The Daily News, on October 3, 2016). It is also said that TDB paid a large amount of money to have Bloomberg Mongolia work for them, and purchased Forbes Mongolia Magazine. Furthermore, TDB is behind the Government News newspaper, which deliberately gave the outside world the  impression that the newspaper was released by the government. If all these claims are true, we are witnessing a phenomenon we can call "Erdenebilegism" – one individual being able to control everything. WHEN WILL THE PRESIDENT SAY SOMETHING? The DP and MPP's leaders and Members of Parliament are all reluctant to tell the public that the Chairman of TDB has the most influence on Mongolia’s politics and economy. As political party financing is secret, it is currently unknown how much money has been paid in donations to particular people. Even President Elbegdorj, who talks loudly about fighting corruption and having transparent accounts, is completely silent on the Erdenet shares being sold. Mongolian citizens understand that the Russians did not sell their shares without Elbegdorj’s blessing. We can all see that this deal was completed after President Elbegdorj met with President Putin on June 20 this year, in Tashkent. Even though individual wealth is encouraged in a market economy, monopolies must be stopped. Similarly, Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was broken down in the United States, and Bill Gates’ Microsoft had restrictions imposed on its operations. Monopolies set prices on their own, which restricts room for free market competition and impedes the progress of economic development. It will be impossible for a young democracy like Mongolia to create and sustain free market competition without stopping the corruption that involves both the government and the private sector. Trans. by B.Amar