The ASEM drama directed by state officials

Russian comic about reality and perception

This year Mongolia is organizing the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit from July 15 to 16 in Ulaanbaatar. Since the news of Mongolia hosting the summit was first announced, Mongolia’s leaders started placing a high priority on the meeting. Of course, ASEM is an opportunity for Mongolia to promote the country, and many people see the summit as a chance Mongolia cannot pass up.

The Cabinet created a special working group in charge of organizing the summit, and they have been taking many measures to improve the city’s landscape. The Cabinet approved a budget of 20 billion MNT for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to pay for the summit’s organization. China is providing 15 million USD in assistance for the purchase of goods and products required for the summit, while some European countries are helping in organizing one the summit’s sub-conferences, according to a government report. It is also reported that the private sector is supplying cars and building villas for the summit’s guests, funded through loans from Development Bank of Mongolia.

The Mongolian Hotel Association and Office of the President reported that nearly 200 billion MNT will be spent for hotel upgrades to serve delegates from over 50 countries. The money is being issued in loans to hotels. On April 8, a total of 52 Toyota Prius 30s, valued at 3.4 billion MNT, were handed over to police for use during ASEM.

Deputy Chairman of the ASEM Organizing Committee B.Baysgalan said that preparation for the summit is being carried out in accordance with plans. He said, “Together, with the private sector, we are resolving the issue of cars to serve summit guests. We will import 250 new cars. Currently, we are working to exempt taxes for these cars. The government will not spend money on this issue. Estimates suggest that around 350 cars will be required for the summit guests. We are conducting studies on cars used by ministries, private entities, and citizens that could be used for serving ASEM guests.”

“The Ministry of Roads and Transportation is implementing a project on inter-urban public transportation. Under the project, the ministry negotiated to buy over 300 buses through concessional loans from the Republic of Korea. First, we will buy 50 buses before the summit. During the summit, namely from July 15 to 16, the central road will be closed,” Baysgalan said.

Last week, Mayor of Ulaanbaatar E.Bat-Uul decided to spend three billion MNT to repaint sidewalks and pavement, remove and replace pavement, build bicycle paths, take down fences that don’t meet standards, renovate building facades in the city center, and on other renovation projects, such as resolving lighting issues in residential areas.

Even though the summit is a chance for promoting Mongolia, its organization shouldn’t burden the lives of citizens. State officials, including Prime Minister Ch.Saikhanbileg, called on Ulaanbaatarians to spend time in the countryside during the two-day meeting. Of course, the public is criticizing these requests to make sacrifices, and are asking each other if the state is ashamed of its citizens.

Recently, local media is reporting that the Mayor’s Office released an order to suspend the operations of some roadside shoe repair shops, canteens, and kiosks as part of the ASEM city beautification effort. Kiosk owners say that officials from district Production and Services departments are pressuring these small business owners to close their businesses until August 20.

Kiosk operator S.Munkhbat said, “I rent a modern kiosk that meets design standards approved by the Mayor’s Office. I pay 750,000 MNT for rent every month. But how am I supposed to live and how am I supposed to pay for rent if the city administration is not allowing me to operate?”

B.Erdenechimeg, an expert from the Production and Services Department of Bayangol District, said, “We are demanding that business owners suspend their activities following an order from our authorities. This isn’t only related to ASEM, but for the comfort of Ulaanbaatarians.”

The 9th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting (ASEP9) is going to take place from April 21 to 22. Over 100 parliament speakers and members from 23 countries are expected to take part in the meeting. Following the meeting, Ulaanbaatar Mayor E.Bat-Uul released Guideline A/286. In order to ensure the safety of the meeting’s guests and to prevent crime and mitigate traffic, the Mayor has decided to close some of the biggest markets and trade centers operating in the city center. On April 21, vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers cannot participate in traffic, while vehicles with plates ending in even numbers cannot be driven on April 22.

UB administrators and other state officials are just releasing orders and guidelines in order to make Mongolia look better to foreign guests, but they shouldn’t pressure citizens and businesses. At a time when everyone is talking about the economic crisis, they should understand that behind every booth and kiosk there are many people trying to make a living.

Many streets will be renovated and quite a large amount of money will be spent on greening Ulaanbaatar, but will trees and plants impress foreign delegates? Instead of wasting billions on city renovation, it would be much better for Mongolia, and for its future, if a new children’s or maternity hospital was built.

The city administration wants to suspend the operations of kiosks and other service providers located along roads, but how are these people supposed to live for the next few months? Now, when the nation’s economic conditions are difficult, people are gravely concerned about unemployment and are dependent on their jobs to stay out of debt and stay in their homes. This is reality: people are living from paycheck to paycheck, patching the front hem with the back hem.

Why does Cabinet want to pretend that Mongolia is a rich country? There are many Mongolians who are going hungry. People living in ger district areas buy almost every living essential, including meat, oil, vegetables, rice, and noodles, in grams. They buy 100 grams of meat to feed their children and themselves. They eat offal because it’s cheaper than meat. This is their reality. Instead of pretending that Mongolia is a rich country, why can’t the state promote the country’s advantages and ask foreigners for help and investment in the industrial sector?

Why do state officials want to deport Ulaanbaatarians to the countryside? Instead of being ashamed of citizens, the UB administrators and police should deal with thieves and suspend their operations instead of putting that burden on businesses and citizens. It would be unfortunate to hear of an ASEM guest being robbed. This is what UB administrators and other state officials should be ashamed of. If politicians want to impress foreign state officials and attract investors, the nation’s political situation must be stable. Who would want to make an investment in a country where the political situation changes frequently?

As we all know, Mongolia is placing a high priority on the summit, and the country is spending great amount of money on it. Let’s hope that ASEM will present many advantages for Mongolia, and that our state officials will not regret any of their decisions.