Stop Zaisan-ing the elections

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  • Jun 19,2016
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Having lost their sense of shame, politicians today are willing to do absolutely anything to retain their power and positions. They passed a law that prohibits distributing cash during elections, however, they break the same law and speak as if they haven't, as long as whatever plan they've devised serves their interests. This practice has been repeated by Ch.Saikhanbileg’s government. Since it is a phenomenon normal only in Mongolia, we can use the term "Zaisan-ing", which refers to a prime example of this practice. When the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP) had ruling power, their senior leaders gave away Zaisan’s mountain pass, then Yarmag Hill, and eventually, the 2012 parliamentary elections. We – the people – are well aware of this, and how they used public assets to their own advantage. Instead of putting an end to these corrupt acts, the Democratic Party (DP) is now replicating them by distributing cash ahead of the 2016 elections. 2012 ELECTIONS In 2012, then Prime Minister S.Batbold and Deputy Prime Minister N.Altankhuyag announced that the coalition government, dragged forward by the MPP with the DP tailing behind, decided to let the Mongolian people own 10 percent (1.5 billion shares) of the Tavan Tolgoi mine. They delivered the news with such excitement, saying that Mongolians, who were able to own their animals, apartments, and jobs after 1990, were being given the opportunity to own their natural resources with these shares. However, the underlying reason for distributing the shares had nothing to do with justice or equity. They only did it because the DP promised to give every citizen a million MNT in the 2008 elections, whereas the MPP was promising a thousand USD for each citizen. With the next election looming, they first devised this scheme to distribute shares because they did not know where to find such a great amount of money. The original plan was to give each of Mongolia’s 2.7 million people 536 shares of Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi (1.5 billion shares in total). Parliament had previously made the decision to let domestic businesses own another 10 percent of the shares.With this news, the number of registered businesses in the country rose instantly, and it got to the point where one person owned 32 companies. Unable to figure out how to distribute the shares to these businesses, the government decided to distribute 20 percent of the shares to the people, meaning that every citizen was to receive 1,072 shares. The MPP and DP learned their lesson and made a law that banned candidates from handing out cash during elections. However, they found a way to Zaisan that law by distributing shares before the 2012 elections. The government's decision on share distribution was announced on May 1, 2012, just before the elections. Subsequently, the government bought shares from some people. A total of 464.8 billion MNT was given to 1,216,000 people, which included pensioners, students, and people with disabilities. Buying votes with cash is a classic scheme to win an election in a developing country, where most of the people are concerned about putting food on their table day to day. In 2012, the DP won 31 seats in the government and the MPP won 25 seats. The DP ended up establishing a coalition government with smaller parties. 2016 ELECTIONS This year, on June 9, Mongolian Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg announced that the government had decided it would help people convert their 1,072 shares of Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi into cash – only 20 days before the elections. If we exclude the people who sold their shares previously, and those under the age of 18, there are 1,650,000 people who have not yet converted their shares into cash. The government announced that they will first buy 322 shares, 30 percent of the 1,072 shares people hold, for 300,000 MNT. This time the government reached an agreement with Mongol Bank to issue 400 billion MNT in bonds to sell to commercial banks. In other words, they are taking out a loan to buy the shares back. The process of selling and buying shares started last Monday. Commercial banks were full of customers who queued on the street. When the banks closed on Monday, a total of 185,000 people applied to sell their shares. The government promised to transfer the money in a week’s time. There was big news on social media that DP members were providing countryside people with transportation so that they could get to a bank to fill out the form. Our Prime Minister Zaisan-ed it, saying, “There is no need to link the converting of shares into cash to the elections. It is not a matter of distributing cash. The shares are being bought. In other words, it is a matter of making a payment. Everything will be done within legal boundaries. At this time of economic hardship, the government converting people's 1,072 shares into cash will have a positive impact on the economy.” If that is the case, why would they not do it after the elections? If you do not call it distributing cash, what else can you call it? SHARES AND FAIR DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH Natural resources are not created by anyone, but by nature itself. Therefore, every Mongolian deserves to receive benefits from natural resources, including the Tavan Tolgoi deposit. In this case, fair distribution refers to those who have executed the project receiving adequate profits and distributing the rest to everyone in a fair manner. What is not fair is the government making a campaign effort in the name of distributing natural resources fairly. Buying Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi shares has now become a routine action taken during an election cycle. Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi is a state-owned company, and the real value of its shares is supposed to be estimated only after they are sold through a stock exchange. When the shares are first offered on the stock exchange through an initial public offering (IPO), their value may be higher or lower than their initial price. The value of shares like these depends on many factors, such as deposit resources, commodity prices, the location of the deposit, access to the market, company debt, company management, and pressure from the government. Shares are offered on a stock market to raise capital, not to buy votes like the Mongolian government does. Politicians are now determining the value of the shares themselves, and are mocking the public in this effort to win the elections. Shares of any company are bought back with profits made from operations. However, the Mongolian government is buying non-existent shares with non-existent money by taking out a loan. How would you feel if they took your wallet and distributed the cash in it to other people? How do you see the government, who is taking out a loan on your behalf, but not asking you first? When the time to repay the debt comes, where will we find these people who took on the debt? Politicians only care about getting elected and are not concerned with debt that has to be paid in the future. It is now impossible to hold them accountable for their actions. The MPP and DP must stop Zaisain-ing and should be ashamed of embezzling for the elections. Mongolia needs a brand new political force today. Trans. by B.AMAR