THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF MONGOLIA, PRESS & COMMUNICATIONS DIVISION

www.president.mn

2017-04-05




SPEECH BY TSAKHIAGIIN ELBEGDORJ, THE PRESIDENT OF MONGOLIA, AT THE OPENING OF THE 2017 SPRING SESSION OF THE STATE GREAT KHURAL



MONGOLIA MUST BECOME A COUNTRY WHERE PEOPLE ENJOY LIVING, ENJOY WORKING.

Mr. Speaker,
Mr. Prime Minister,
Honorable Members of the State Great Khural,
Dear people of Mongolia,
Distinguished guests,

Mongolia is standing at a critical juncture at this point of time. In other words, the decision-makers are now to make an important decision. Earlier I did state that I have lots of trust in the incumbent Parliament. You are the third Parliament I have been cooperating with during my Presidency. The goal of any Parliament is in finding the most effective decision for pressing issues.

What are they, the pressing issues of today?

First: The issue of responsibility. The root cause of our present crisis is not economic. The true cause of Mongolia’s crisis is politics. It is irresponsibility, unaccountability. Mongolia is in crisis not because we have no money, but because we lack responsibility.

Mongolia’s name, fame, her virtue can earn us some money. What is rarest in Mongolia is irresponsibility. In an irresponsible state the rulers’ lust for money brings destruction. Mongolia will be deeply troubled.

Responsibility is a work that can be done, can be exercised without money. (To be responsible, to act and work responsibly one does not need money). To hold Mongolian elected and appointed officials accountable we do not need a credit in foreign exchange. If we really want to become a responsible country, we must adopt the law on accountability and responsibility.

The greatest credit the 65 MPs elected from the Mongolian People’s Party have earned is the trust of the Mongolian people. Accountability, law and their equal application will revive, even slightly, the people’s trust in the government, in the state.

The Chairman of the MPP Mr. Miyeegombyn Enkhbold said that it should never be forgotten that an absolute victory means absolute responsibility. In order not to forget, the responsibility must be put into law. We must start holding officials accountable. The government’s misery of insatiable hunger as it gets bigger can be cured by enforcing accountability.

No one from outside will or can be held accountable for Mongolia. Election promises, election platform of the ruling power is a contract it entered into with the people of Mongolia. There is no tomorrow without today, and no today without yesterday. The supreme responsibility is front of the Mongolian people is borne by the incumbent Parliament, incumbent Government.

Responsibility is enforced through visible, notable, sensible acts and tools. In order to have responsibility sensed, there is no other way except adopting and enforcing the accountability law. If the incumbent rulers fail to do this job, the next rulers will clearly promise to do so.

Honorable Members,

Mongolia is drained by interference of politics into business. This is the second point I would like to emphasize. The Mongolian state has grown bigger that our economy. The economy is suppressed under the heavy government’s load. Fiscal deficit, government indebtedness, business sector fall, people’s frustration, degradation of quality of life – all are the evidences of this truth. We cannot fix this situation without separating the government and the business.

In order to fix, let me underscore the following in an alphabetical order:

A: We must prohibit the state ministries and agencies engage in economic activities, by law. All our ministries, agencies and other governmental bodies now in business affairs, build buildings and award tenders. An official’s resolution, his official seal, signature are all a business today. Our governmental agencies are not governmental bodies in the true sense. Almost all of them have turned into a state owned business entity. Therefore, in order to overcome the crisis, we must separate the government from business.

B: In order to change this situation, we must not repeat previous mistakes, mistaken policies and actions. The people do not elect the new government to have it repeat the earlier wrongdoings. All kickbacks and payolas made in the name of the government must be stopped. The MPP used to criticize an MP wearing a “Minister’s suit”. A man cannot do a minister’s job and a business agent’s job all at the same time. We must do away with this situation.

C: A minister” is a seriously distorted position in Mongolia. A minister must exercise his ministership at the particular line minister’s position. That’s actually why we took of the word “Ministry” from the minister’s official title. The new and leaving ministers must stop a “ritual-like” ceremony of handing over the Ministry’s seal. A minister does not have a right to issue decisions, orders. This is the job of a state public administration specialist – this power must be maintained within the authority of the State Secretary. A minister comes and leaves. A professional public service stays on.

D: I must repeat: without separating public service, ministries, officials from economic activities, we will not improve the dire situation we are in today. The Government, ministers, officials bogged in business activities cannot steer clear of conflicts, fractions, quarrels, bribes and crimes. Recently the Prime Minister Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat said that if you into money and business, you better stay away from the state, the government”. The situation will not improve just by saying. This “golden chain” will only be broken under the fist of the law, at the iron face of the state.

E: All government tenders, procurement, investment, all business deals done in the name of the government, any tender awards must be clearly set outside of the government. They must be accomplished by professional organizations. All these processed must be “glass”, transparent and proceed under the public oversight. The government bodies must only enforce law, monitor compliance with standards, contracts and enforce accountability.

F: For all government officials and officers at all levels the official competencies – the size of office space, vehicles on call, expenses to make or not to, events to participate and not to – must all be standardized with explicit indication of pertinent rules, regulations, restrictions and bans, and these must be unwaveringly applied and enforced. The public officials must be dismissed if they enlarged their office spaces with luxury settings, if used their official vehicle for non-office purposes, if used their computers for non-work-related business. The very job of a responsible government starts here, starts with such changes.

G: Let us assess the operations of the state owned enterprises with one single measurement called “efficiency”. If it is not up to this measurement, change the ownership, change the leadership. The state owned enterprises have turned into the mines of capitalization of public officials, their followers, fans and adherents. Again, here there is only a single cure – introduce the world’s best practice of public assets management.

The reason the Mongolian state has outsized its economy is that the state itself has become the major player on the economic arena of the country. Yet, in fact, we chose a path where the government is only a regulator, or a referee on the economic playfield. It is because the state is a player, the state is a rent-seeker that the economic relations are turned into a plot and theft. The politicians who mastered the skill of capitalization on government are like leeches sucking blood, and those in their whereabouts imitate ad copy their appalling behavior and greedily race to the government. The state, the government which tries to do the jobs of the people before they do, is the government which devours, seizes what belongs to people.

In any country, anarchist rulers who rush to satisfy their own private interests are not acceptable. It is inconceivable for a devastator state seek people’s support. Officials greedy for money cannot make a better Mongolia. Without realizing this, without fixing this, the Mongolian economy will not come overcome the crisis. The loans that we “desperately need” today are piling up for our children as a heavy burden.

Dear friends,

Let me now emphasize my third point. Without cutting the government expenditures, we will not alleviate Mongolia’s burden. The undeniable proof that the government’s huge burden is the fiscal deficit. To fix the state, we must eliminate our fiscal deficit. We must strictly enforce our Fiscal Stability Law.

We must also restrain the personnel expansion of the public service. Since 2006, within ten years, our public service enlarged by more than one third or over 60 thousand people. To this extent, the government structures, staffing, load have swelled. We must closely attend this issue. Otherwise, our public service will have an elephant-like body on mouse-like feet.

On this front, certain actions need to be immediately undertaken.

1. Cut the budget. The classical way to constrain the public service growth is cutting the budget. It must be cut by half. Let’s cultivate, develop a healthy habit of executing our tasks with the budgets allocated, and most efficiently. In my, for instance, case, in the past 4 years, with 60% budget cut annually, my office has been working fine. The President’s budget was cut from 11 billion to now 4 billion. Nothing got worse. We are working as normal.

2. Let us restrain by law the public official at every level issue orders, decrees, resolutions single-handedly. Let us prohibit them make decisions which set new norms, expand budget and staffing. To this end, we must fully utilize the venues and regulation created by the general administrative law and the glass account law.

3. Revise and enforce the public service law. Our politicians have exhausted the pool of all known evil, bad and wrong practices that may ever be in public service. The time is ripe for Mongolia to have a healthy public service. I note by the way that the renewed draft of the public service law does contain the core principles and prerequisites tested against our past mistakes and lessons learnt.

4. We must not delay with developing and enforcing a universal Ethical Code of Conduct for Public Servants. It is the very essence of the Parliamentary parties’ major electoral promise to improve public service. Straight after assuming office, the Prime Minister adopts and signs the ethical code of conduct in public service. The stronger the ethical conduct of the public servants, the neater the government becomes, the better its reputation and accountability are. Of ruling by rights, ruling by law and ruling by ethics, Mongolia is now trying to shift from the first to the second of these three forms of rule. The time has long come when we need to introduce ethical measurements of performance in the public service. The Prime Minister has all powers to orchestrate this change.

5. An underlying reason for the drastic surge in governmental expenditures is our government’s desire to be involved in everything. A smart government knows how to delegate. We have discussed about how a substantial portion of government work and services could be performed through leasing. A compilation of related concepts and ideas on the topic is on your desks before you. In case you are interested, the compiled documents are available on our webpage president.com. The initiative was backed by the political parties. The Standing Committee on State Institutions approved a resolution on implementation. The National Security Council issued recommendations and guidelines to all government organizations and branches. This is our collaborative effort and unified goal. We need to speed up the implementation.

Without responsible, ethical, principled and professional public service we cannot imagine Mongolia’s prosperity. We must end now the uncomfortable tides of disruption which come with every electoral cycle. Degeneracy in political circles, political vice and decadence destroy public service, and this, in turn, weakens national security. This is, undoubtedly, one of the issues that the decision makers have to address in a meaningful manner.

Honorable members,

The fourth topic I would like to discuss is about political parties. Without addressing the distortions surrounding political parties, we cannot address the many pressing matters in politics. It has been long since our political parties stopped representing the citizen’s political rights. They have become a layer that enables narrow interests and irresponsible behavior. Political parties and their poor trends have become the target of the people’s frustration.

Many honorable Parliament Members that are here today were elected in 2016 to change the abnormalities in our society. You all know that the root cause of these shortcomings is connected to the political parties. If I were in your shoes, my first order of business would be the draft of the Law on Political Parties.

It has been too long since the laws that I have drafted have been stonewalled. After reviewing my draft, our former Prime Minister, Dashiin Byambasuren said “The changes to be brought about by this law will not fall short of those brought about by the Democratic Revolution of 1990”. To mend our government, we must first mend the parties. The outdated Law on Political Parties cannot resolve this issue.

The historic responsibility of any leader is to address an issue as soon as they establish what those problems are. A subpar leader repeats past mistakes in his own way. A good leader, as difficult as it is, takes charge of the issues that others avoid and guides it to a better path.

Any leader can divide money. Can replace officials due to political reasons. Can earn kickbacks. This is an activity that the rulers are able to and like to engage in. However, it is difficult to change the environment, especially the political environment where they were brought up. It is challenging to break a bad habit. A bad habit dies hard. I would like to remind you one more time, that, your responsibilities lie in making these tough decisions.

The realization of citizen’s political rights has slowly begun to dwindle in our country of late. Efforts of achieving this through political parties have failed time and time again. However, opening all doors of opportunities for realizing the citizen’s political rights would become the driving force for that country’s and society’s prosperity. Countries, especially Mongolia cannot side-step this global approach.

“In Mongolia, all powers rests with the people. The Mongolian people directly participate in state affairs, … and enjoy their rights.” This fundamental constitutional principle has not found its standing in our society for quite some time now. A time has come that the citizens’ rights could not be realized through only representation. Policy makers in any country now cannot avoid a reality where the people know where to participate and know that by participation they ensure they exercise their rights and have their interests protected. Understanding the inevitable, aligning with it and getting ahead of it to lead and setting an example will define our future political outlook.

Dear friends,

The fifth topic I would like to discuss is about the government. We are all trying to get through today’s situation. Without bolstering the capabilities of the executive government, our country cannot resolve the issues we are faced with today. This outcome has become common knowledge. Mongolia is not a country without opportunities. But we lack the capability to use these opportunities and the executive authority.

There is an advantage to the society that we are trying to build. It is openness. Mongolia has ocean-wide good ideas, good starts. However, we lack an executive authority that can lead and materialize these ideas. Mongolia cannot go far with a weak government. Nowadays, we are not even going forward, not to mention going far.

Only a capable government can address issues that the country is faced with. Results come from the efforts of a capable government. Results can be demanded from a capable government. Only a capable government can be responsible. Partners only trust in responsible governments.

For any government, trust is the most valuable asset. Yet, both internally and externally, this valuable asset, this trust in the Government of Mongolia is nearly non-existent. The remedy for this fatal flaw, stemming from the entire system rather than an individual person, must be initiated by our decision makers. But when will this happen? I believe the time is now, both in terms of awareness and political circumstances.

We are faced with a harsh truth that if we lose time, we lose all. Wasted time means wasted opportunities. It means one task done multiple times, but still uncompleted. It means we would bear the costs of inefficiency and inefficacy. Even if the whole country is stuck in the mud, the executive branch should be up and running. We are living in an era where households and nations uphold the same rule in organizing their efforts.
Lack of a capable Government can be particularly debilitating for countries experiencing vulnerabilities, such as Mongolia.

It is common for any government to venture a risky path in fulfilling its duties. However in Mongolia, the situation has been the opposite. For a long time now, our Government exhausts its efforts to secure its position rather than taking risks to perform its duties. Life would surely be hard for a family if the person in charge of their wellbeing and livelihood is paralyzed. For an entire nation, it presents an even more daunting challenge. Mongolia must overcome this hurdle.

Our partners demand consistency, reliability, and integrity from Mongolia. Our citizens demand responsibility, speed, and creativity from the authorities. Mongolia is a sufficiently democratic nation. Now we must become a responsible and capable one. I wish we do not waste time on discussions, but present original solutions for a step forward. It is a wish shared by many Mongolians. It is achievable, and at the same time necessary.

Mongolia is a country, which boasts a system where the people score its leadership. It is also a country where if the authorities fail to adequately address pressing matters, people can replace the ones who have lost their trust. In any country, the term “rulers” is used interchangeably with the word “Government”. Many times we have tried changing government. However, with each change we kept failing to achieve the results we craved for. Thus, the verdict rests not in the individuals, but in the system we establish, operate, and change the government.

It is fair and gratifying to be appraised by your people once you have done everything in your power for their wellbeing. However, the time lost due to systematic failure is too precious. We have witnessed more than enough incidents proving the executive power divided among seventy-six honorable members will not and cannot lead our nation to the path of progress and development. This problem must be addressed in a manner, which meets both our distinctive needs and international best practices. We have sufficient experience and knowledge on this matter. But who will do it? When will it be done? Even if you fail to solve this issue, the next ones are sure to succeed.

Honorable Members of the Parliament!

With these words, I aim to bring to your focus the aforementioned five challenges present in Mongolia’s politics that are in need of immediate attention. I thank you for your undivided attention to my words and for not taking them as simple “off-boarding remarks of a departing person.” I think it is wrong for the core state policy to leave through revolving doors as people in the government come and go. Mongolians say, “Even a wise man can improve upon counsel.” It is the way of a human society to pass along its wisdom to the next generation, to support their endeavors in whichever way possible, and to move forward hand in hand.

Some work can be completed at first try. There are others, if once decided there is no need to revisit. But the problems of human life and social life alike have been around throughout generations, and will remain so. For every person who has made the choice to serve his or her country, for each generation, there is a challenge in need of a solution. Going around the problem is never a part of the answer. Indecisiveness and evading responsibility are the same as lying to your own self.

The relationship between the state and the society, in particular the trustworthiness, propriety, and fairness of the state, is a never-ending topic. I worry today’s rulers are on the path of repeating, not correcting the mistakes of their predecessors. No substantial change is seen in the approaches towards numerous challenges haunting Mongolia’s politics, such as disruption of public service, nepotism, and the craving for materialistic gain. Criticism of our citizens “different political parties, same outcome” sounds true with each passing day.

The purpose of our election is not to replace one official with another. It reflects people’s desire for policy makers with different solutions and approaches to existing issues. It is not because one is named “democratic” and the other “people’s” that people switch choices between the parties. It is because of their hope and expectation for a change in the substance of solutions. In the last years, I have seen people grow more and more desperate and frustrated. I have heard them say “every one of them is the same old guy.”

Today we need a political force, a politician that can confidently say “we are different,” “I am different” and uphold their words through action.

At the end of 2016, the year of the last parliamentary election, Mongolia witnessed a decline in its ranking on the international corruption perceptions index. Perhaps corruption in Mongolia did not increase in 2016. However, this ranking by Transparency International should be seen as a warning for possible deterioration in the situation. If we are unable to improve our ranking by the end of 2017, this premonition by the international community will indeed be proven correct.

The same can be said about Mongolia’s credit rating. I firmly believe Mongolia’s credit rating must be improved in the coming years, if not months. We are capable of making a comeback to В+, ВВ, or В1, the highest ratings we have achieved so far. Internal and external appraisal of Mongolia will be based not on the change of persons, but on the contents of policy and the substance of changes.

Lately, attention of our citizens has centered on the “offshore” case. There is even a phrase “ovt shaar” or a “scheming charlatan,” similar in both pronunciation and implication. A metaphoric phrase which I fully support. From the very start my position was clear. I called for particular attention to this matter. I called for appropriate amendments to the relevant legislation, thorough investigation by law enforcement bodies, and close cooperation with international organizations. I expressed my support for a complete ban on “offshore accounts” for all levels of public service. Today my position remains the same. I understand this issue was brought to the attention of the authorities. And I expect immediate progress on it.

Honorable Members of the Parliament!

Today, from this esteemed podium, I would like to bring to your attention two matters, which have long threatened the very security of our nation.

The first one is the use of drugs and narcotics. The second one is abortion.

For a long time now our children and youth have been under threat by these two silent plagues. They attack our youth at their most vulnerable; when they are yet to acquire sufficient education and to mature and find their path in life.

For many years we have written and spoken about the increase in drug use nationwide, especially among our youth, reaching levels that could potentially affect national security. Yet Mongolia’s policies and actions remain dormant, while the situation deteriorates at an alarming speed. Some studies even conclude that 6-8 out of ten secondary school students in urban centers are vulnerable to or have experimented with drug use. Each and every public official present in this hall has a child. Some even have grandchildren. And your families are exposed to this risk too.

In the past, I have organized discussions on this matter in the Citizens’ Hall, and issued specific directives and orders. I have warned our people to “Keep drugs away from our families and communities.” My position for Mongolia to “hold a firm stance on drug use” remains the same. Certain steps have been taken, but the situation is still dire.

We say there are only a few of us Mongolians, situated in a unique, at the same time, vulnerable location. It is becoming evident that the old methods of simply warning and cautioning against drug use under current government capacity will not succeed. If we do not take drastic actions to expand our policies and reinforce our actions, it would not be a matter of exaggeration to state that the future of our nation is on the edge of a knife. Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs Mr. S. Byambatsogt is expected to be in full control of this matter. It is his duty. I urge both the Cabinet and the Parliament to keenly note the importance and urgency for necessary policies, legislative framework, institutional mechanisms, and sufficient budget to effectively address this issue.

Informal data show that in the past 30 years, Mongolia has lost about one million children to abortion. Most regretful of all, seven out of ten women of reproductive age have received abortion at some point of their life. We regularly hear about a growing number of institutes or individuals pursuing abortion as their main source of income.

Many girls and young women suffer serious health consequences due to unregulated trade and abuse of abortion pills. More and more women are now scarred for life; unable to bear children and to be called “mom.” Even worse, the number of girls and women losing their lives due to abortion pills has increased rapidly. We must put an end to this threat, where the extraordinary blessing of and the right to motherhood endanger a women’s life. What a heartbreaking tragedy! The National Security Council, upon discussing this matter, issued a recommendation, although its implementation is still lacking.

I had no choice but to speak loudly of this silent murder that is abortion. Mongolia, as a nation that cherishes its children, must put an end to this matter with a clear and coherent policy. No one in Mongolia should have the right to murder an unborn. No one should have the power to cut short a woman’s natural right to become a mother.

We must curb, and consequently, put an end to this crime against the Mongol nation. Even a single Mongolian is precious for Mongolia. There is never one, a thousand, or a million too many Mongolians for Mongolia. The only acceptable reason is when there is a risk to the life of the mother and/or the child. However, it must be strictly regulated and meticulously enforced. Mongolia must become a nation, which does not slaughter its unborn children in the womb of their mothers.

I am confident in the leadership and the role of Mongolia’s women parliamentarians on this issue, which currently is more destructive to the fate of our country than a war. In particular, I would like to express my trust in the leadership and initiative of Ms. Tsogtsetseg, Minister of Health.

Drug use and abortion are two of the most perilous threats facing us, as they target Mongolia’s youth, Mongolia’s future, and Mongolia’s gene pool. The State of Mongolia should always stand up against them with apt decisions and concrete actions. Mongolians have an admirable tradition where those in the front pave the way for the ones who follow. Whenever we are aware and informed, we must strive put an end to such threats once and for all.

Esteemed colleagues,

It is not my purpose to speak of all the faults in the society today. Even if I wanted to, it would be impossible. The economic and financial situation of our country is on top of the current Government’s immediate agenda. And I have no doubt we will soon witness some positive turnarounds in this regard. However, I would like to request particular attention to the issues I have raised, concerning government expenditure and pressing political and social matters. When Mongolian politics is disciplined and makes efforts for the country’s wellbeing, the winners will be Mongolia and the Mongolian people.

Moreover, Mongolia must always push forward to boost its energy production, to process petroleum exploiting its resources, and to expand its infrastructure including the current railroad system. Equally important is to carry through previous talks and negotiations with our neighbors on transit and alleviation of tariff and other trade barriers. Projects and programs on the economic corridor connecting our neighbors must be consummated. We must further expand our multilateral cooperation efforts, which would help strengthen Mongolia’s weight and presence in the regional and international level.

Regardless of the circumstances we are in, regardless of our internal quarrels and differences, we must never forget we share the same country and the same fate. Mongolia’s flag in red and blue graces us equally and the golden “Soyombo” shines upon us all. There is no “ruling party’s” Mongolia or “opposition party’s” Mongolia. We share the same Mongolia, where the sacred spirits of our ancestors rest. It is one for all of us. Unity, not discord, should be embedded deep in the heart and the mind of each and every Mongolian. Let us abide by an old Mongolian proverb “Prosperity through unity, disgrace through slander.”

Mongolia must become a country amiable for both living and working. Every one of us must be able to honestly and proudly declare “My country is the best place to live and work.” There is such a thing as an opportunity too precious to lose. We have triumphs and accomplishments that cannot be denied. Mongolia is a country where inspiration finds you, and visiting once is never enough.

There is no more fulfilling role than serving your country and having the opportunity and the responsibility to present solutions to the challenges she faces. It is a privilege wished by many but limited to a few.

Honorable Members of the Parliament,

The people of Mongolia have entrusted you this fate and responsibility. I wish you the best of success in your endeavors.

Thank you for your attention.


April 5, 2017