New government, wry public
- By Khash-Erdene Bayarsaikhan -
- Jul 26,2016
Government ministries and agencies are expected to see drastic structural changes in relation to the formation of the new government headed by Prime Minister J.Erdenebat. With 11 out of 16 ministers receiving approval from Parliament, and four nominees being rejected by the Independent Agency Against Corruption for conflicts of interest, the broad strokes of J.Erdenebat’s cabinet have already been laid out for the public. Though the Mongolian People’s Party, which won 65 out of 76 seats in Parliament, said it would avoid double deel appointments (assigning parliamentarians to positions in Cabinet), some of the newly appointed ministers hold seats in Parliament. In the span of Mongolia's history, the cabinet has usually had 10 to 16 ministries, with former Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag’s cabinet being the largest. The newly appointed Prime Minister has formed 13 ministries, which is right bang in the middle of the size of the average cabinet, and some local media believe that if he keeps the number of ministers wearing double deels low - let’s say no more than 50 percent - he might gain some favor with the public right from the get go. So far, seven members of the J.Erdenebat Cabinet are parliamentarians. This is a considerably low number when you realize that the previous two cabinets each had 19 ministers, largely comprised of parliamentarians. Altankhuyag’s cabinet had 17 MPs and Saikhanbileg’s had 15. Double deel alone isn’t the issue. The cabinet is supposed to be formed of industry experts and specialists, but the new cabinet seems to be lacking in this area. A clear example is the appointment of Finance Minister B.Choijilsuren, who studied telemechanics and automation at Ural State Technical University in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Politicians such as MP J.Batzandan of the Democratic Party noted that it was strange for the government to appoint a non-specialist to oversee the country’s finances and economy, especially in a “time of economic downturn”. It must be said that B.Choijilsuren is a successful businessman and a veteran politician who joined Parliament in 2008. He is the Director of Khurd Group, one of the leading businesses in the country. But at the same time, it does not give me confidence as a citizen of Mongolia to discover that someone who specializes in telemechanics is to oversee our country’s finances. Losing public confidence so early in a government's term isn’t a good sign. Now that lists of names are being tossed around sporadically for the remaining four ministerial positions (including the Deputy Prime Minister’s position), and heads of state organizations are being switched at the whim of a few, the public grows increasingly resigned about what they suspect to be government appointments that are directly correlated to monetary contributions made to the ruling party. Though it is busy forming itself right now, the question remains: How will the new government operate and what will it be its main policies? Will it try to undo everything the Democratic Party-led cabinet did? Will it move in a completely different direction and abandon all the unfinished projects that are pending decisions? Or will it learn from the previous government, expand on its plans, and work to correct its mistakes? These are the questions that will give us a glimpse into what the country will look like by 2020. So much is still unclear at this point. International headlines, such as “Mongolian president clashes with new prime minister over cabinet posts” by Reuters, does not boost investor confidence in Mongolia, especially when it needs it most with slowing economic growth and dwindling foreign investment. The best thing I can say about the previous governments led by the Democratic Party is that they carried out a lot of work. And the worst that can be said about the last two governments is that they did a lot at a ridiculously high price. The country is knee-deep in debt and repayment burdens are about to take their toll starting next year. What we need now is a stable government of professionals that are able to evaluate the current situation correctly and carry out an effective action plan that will raise the living standards of the people. Can the new government deliver?