There's no business like politics

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  • Jul 18,2019
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The government is responsible for providing people with services at lower costs and without thinking about profits. Some officers and employees working in the public sector don’t own up to their responsibilities, because they put themselves first, despite being public servants. All politicians claim that public services have to be clear, transparent, accountable, and non-bureaucratic, but these claims aren't being put into practice.

When someone has to get state paperwork, they need to meet with countless officials. Mongolians call it "chasing work". It is not a sarcastic expression now, but maybe it was a few decades ago. Now it is an accurate description. Unfortunately, we are still bogged down in bureaucratic systems.  

During a parliamentary session, Member of Parliament U.Enkhtuvshin placed the blame for bureaucracy on the Law on Civil Service Councils. He said, “When a state organization needs to hire an official or employee, the head of the organization or another senior officer looks for a person who has a connection to them to hire someone for the position. And then they require that applicants have the qualifications, experience, and other essential requirements for the job, so it is not a transparent process to select a new employee for public service.”

A lot of people join political parties to work for politicians, and many business owners contribute a lot of money to political parties to buy favors or to secure appointments for themselves or for getting their children good government positions. Their funds flow through election campaigns.

They get into good governmental offices, but they are unqualified for them. Instead of serving the public, they spend their time in office blaming their predecessors for current difficulties and speaking on behalf of populism.

When Mongolia's third president, N.Enkhbayar, was an MP, he said that he wanted to allocate budgets for political parties to change this political system but it didn’t happen.  The existing system of nepotism and donor influence can be very beneficial to people with good connections or a lot of money.  

After winning a majority of seats in Parliament, the ruling political party always dismisses state officials to replace them with their supporters.  A mass dismissal of state officials happened after the 2000, 2012, and 2016 elections.

It is not the government that makes this business model successful, but a board of people within the government, an unofficial board. These decision makers find their way into public service to see a return on the money they have spent on backing political parties. They have no aspirations to serve the public.

They don’t believe that governmental officials are representatives of their electorate, that they should provide people with the public services they want. When they come into office, they study opportunities for profit by granting state tenders to their silent partners.

They don’t want to continue the work of their predecessors, and they tell the public that their opposing party’s policies were not steady or robust.  Many people feel that politicians are synonymous with selfishness and ego, because they don’t fulfill their promises to their constituents.

In 2004, a few days after the Democratic Party (DP) said it would be giving 10,000 MNT a month to every Mongolian child up until the age of 18, the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) claimed they would distribute 500,000 MNT to all newlyweds and give parents 100,000 MNT for the birth of a new child. The MPP won 36 seats in the legislature and the DP got 34 seats, and they fulfilled their financial vows made during the election by forming a joint Cabinet. 

In the 2008 parliamentary election, when the DP claimed they would distribute one million MNT to every citizen if they won the election, the MPP said the DP’s proposal was unrealistic and that the math simply didn’t work. Unbelievably, after a few days, the MPP claimed that it was possible for everybody to receive 1.5 million MNT with a vote for their party.

The MPP won 48 percent of the seats in Parliament in that election and the DP won 44 percent, because they made political moves to win favor in the election by promising voters a lot of money. The two parties worked together for four years, and a lot of money was scattered before the 2012 elections.

The politicians from both parties knew that giving voters money would put pressure on the economy, but they would do anything to gain votes. Some observers believe that these policies put forward by the two dominant parties are responsible for the current economic challenges Mongolians face.

In a speech given by former British Prime Minister David Cameron, he said that politics is show business for ugly people and got big laughs from the audience. Maybe what he said is true.

A small country with strong neighbors, like Mongolia, really needs to carry out a consistently strong political system, one not subject to arbitrary policies every four years.