MP R. Amarjargal gives speech at the December 10, 2013 sitting of the Standing Committee of State Structure convened to discuss the MP’s resignation request.
First of all, I want to express my utter respect to the people of Mongolia, especially to Sukhbaatar district electorate who had sent me to this high office. Your trust and support not only had me reelected four times but also allowed me serve as a Prime Minister of Mongolia. I do not regard these as my own achievements, instead it is a fruit of the unwavering support of the Mongolian people and NPC, MNPP, MNDP and DP that I took part in forming of and thousand of their members, and I carry deepest respect for all.
Ever since my first election as a member of parliament, I have tried to uphold the trust and belief bestowed on me, held high principles, stood for integrity and consistency.
I. My resignation request may have startled some, but if you think about it there is nothing surprising about it. And there is nothing sudden about it either.
Speaking subjectively, anyone with a sense of shame would do the same looking at the state of state affairs, decisions and their implications. If not today, the honorable members of the parliament who entered this hall having accepted the mandate of the people of Mongolia to stay firm in resisting the wrong, will likely seek resignation as expression of political responsibility for the irresponsibility that has embroiled entirely our high offices, wrongdoings and deficiencies.
Objectively speaking, the evolution and the logic of Mongolian parliamentary democracy have led me to take this step. Today all of the western nations that we so like to follow are in earnest quest for good governance, the kind that would stand any global political and economic crisis. But what choices the Mongolian parliamentary democracy that has reached today’s crossroads having journeyed through bumps and challenges is facing:
- The choice between the tackling of real issues concerning the development prospects of the country or the empty talk – is the omnipresent populism to continue?
- The choice between a professional and expertly skilled parliament or a band of amateur actors – is the circus to continue?
- The choice between being trapped by oligarchs marred by conflicts of interest, more vocal than anyone ‘patriots’ or being respectful of technocrats and implementation of consistent policies and sustainable principles
- The choice between shallow decisions taken at will or thoroughly thought out considerations;
- The choice between visionary national strategies or chase after immediate gratification;
- The choice between considering objectively global economic cyclicality or working on 4-year election cycles,
- The choice between a parliament capable of combining innovation with convention or a parliament pursuing the semblance of reforms,
- The choice between ability to hold fellow party/faction members accountable or continuing to be trapped in a common web falling hostage to each other
Mongolia needs a parliament that is capable of resolving efficiently a whole spectrum of exigent matters in the political, economical, ethical and legal sphere. However, we have failed to form such a capable body. For that, I consider myself liable to take political responsibility.
I want to stress specifically that at this level of parliamentary democracy morals and ethics are what are lacking the most. I would really wish that going forward the parliament, if it doesn’t use the morals of right and wrong, concepts and categories of integrity as its operational criteria, it would at least remember always about their existence.
Democratic regards and values may seem to be universal but these need to be mainstreamed in Mongolia. The very way for democratic values to be incorporated, the very character of the Mongolian democracy and its sole is social accord, political harmony and tolerance, ethical mutual understanding and economic balance. I take a broad view in stating this – other political forces and civil society are not excluded.
From this perspective, our 24 yearlong democracy is becoming more and more murky. To quote my 1999 statement during a parliamentary session: “We lack a disciplined system, characterized by essentials ranging from ethical values, discipline and accountability to property and political culture, that lets different segments of the society to carry equitable burdens, has checks and balances where political forces are concerned, facilitates social consensus. We do lack social consensus. Provided that we fail in forming it, the political stability and democracy will sustain damage.”
I would like to repeat the above said and also warn that for Mongolian politics ignoring the consensus, acting bullishly will not only undermine our democracy but will risk its demise, for that it should be regarded as a crime against state.
II. Governance issues. It has been long enough since we lost any sense of governance balance and ratio. It is time now to remedy this in the spirit of and compliance to Constitution. For instance, some may view that the parliament has unlimited powers that it impedes the functioning of the government, while others be saying that the government is too much. Everyone knows how much change the presidential power has been subject to in the last 20 years. The fact that off-budget funds almost equaling entire year fiscal budget are in circulation is a testament to public sector gone off public accountability. It illustrates that the parliament does not voice concerns of the public and is not transparent. The parliament needs to take responsibility for such a state of affairs.
Some may remember my plea to the parliament back in 2004 to resolve the issue of governing balance one way or another. One may also remember all ended then with empty slogans of ‘king choice’.
Mongolia needs to choose one and for all between a parliamentary state or presidential state. If presidents were elected by the parliament the choice would have been made and the executive branch of the government would gain at least one more year for working undistracted by populism.
I am supportive of parliamentary regime where a winning party leader assumes the role of prime minister, and these views were expressed in my 1998 article. On the surface, it could seem that such system is in fact in place. Looking deeper, however, it is evident that prime ministers lack two essential instruments. First, the power to dissolve the parliament; second, the right or the freedom to form his/her cabinet as seen appropriate. Once the parliament bestowed its confidence and appointed the prime minister it would seem logical to grant full freedoms to form a government. Done otherwise, political forces taking mutual hostage will continue sabotaging the workings of the state as we have it today. In general, it can be summarized that the performance and accountability in the executive branch have hit the weakest point.
There is constant talk of who is to be cabinet member. I personally think that a cabinet member not in possession of people’s mandate is nonsense. Sheer common sense would dictate that. Principles ought to be crystal clear. There should not be such a thing as cabinet member not in receipt of people’s mandate. In order to resolve this, we have to get our election system out of the lame duck position it is in. It should be noted that political parties are another pollutant of the system.
The Constitution stipulates that the parliament is the highest power body. In my understanding, the parliament is just a legislative body. If we don’t get things straight, we have a speaker acting as a prime minister. Global history offers one too many lessons of states failing due to their ‘multi-headedness’.
III. Economic issues. Could discuss for days this subject. The situation is complicated and worrisome indeed.
- Fiscal deficit reached almost 7-8 percent of GDP. Debt pressures are at unprecedented levels. Frankly, I don’t think we manage to keep accurate tabs of debts and no longer are able to tell the exact truth.
- Investments went down by over 30 percent from 10 months ago. FDI plummeted by 70% in the non-mining and 30% in the mining sector. Investor sentiment is rather weak at this point.
- Second phase of OT project is effectively stalled. If one assumes most optimistically that negotiations succeed, realistically two more years would need to pass before any real work can be done.
- How TT infrastructure issues are going to be resolved still remains very vague. Thermal coal prices remain not viable and coking coal prices are way too low.
- The banking sector is weak and vulnerable. Most recently we had the fifth biggest bank go belly up. Two of remaining big four banks have issues. Limited equities, declining deposits, and rising credit demand are the cause for their enormous capital crunch.
- 21 percent of bank assets are effectively in the hands of the central bank. The dependency of some of our commercial banks on the central bank now exceeds that of Greek banks.
- There is no end in sight for tugrug depreciation. 1740MNT. At the same time, one third of all credits are directly susceptible to exchange rate changes. .
- Inflation is now in two digits. There is no hiding anymore.
The very people who have led to this deterioration, who have inflicted this are no doubt sitting in this room. Are they not to take responsibility? I spoke and wrote back in April about alarming signs. Let us hope our largest companies will not soon start collapsing domino style.
There is another issue I have to touch. This is the issue of economic security. Today, at the core of economic security of the country is the fuels and energy sector.
I would really want us to produce a liter of own fuel and adopt the technology. Would also want us to meet percent, through own sources, electric energy needs. If these two are fulfilled, Mongolia can be in a position to discuss anything with anyone. And it’s possible. Was telling about it back in 2000 speaking before the parliament as prime minister. 13 years later these issues are still not resolved and remain critical. In the future other issues may take front row but now, in the near future it is energy and fuel.
Ministers who do not understand these strategic tasks need to go, need to be made go ruthlessly. Everyone heard a recent criticism by the president of some ministers acting as if they were there for own, friends’ and business group interests as opposed to interests of the country. Self-enrichment is often mistaken with the country’s progress.
Events of 2007-2013 have shown vulnerability, fragility of our economy. It grows amazingly one day and frails the next. At least such tendencies must be observed. The latest example is recently approved 2014 budget. Sometimes frustration alone seems not enough.
In the last 23 years we have witnessed two super cycles of unprecedented commodity price hikes. Unfortunately, only witness we did. We have failed to grasp the golden opportunity and take comprehensive future-looking measures leading to sustainable growth of the economy. Mongolians have failed to accumulate capital savings (I am referring to mid-90s, 2010, early 2011)
There is another thing that merits attention. In 2012\2013 the time of sharp declining FDI, the old agriculture, namely animal husbandry, got us through. Let us not discriminate herders and animal husbandry.
How do we achieve economic security? We hear only about increasing the involvement of state. We seem incapable of finding any alternative solutions. The state itself is problematic and its increased involvement in all things would mean even more problem. We have travelled this path way too long. In the meantime, the security has not strengthened instead it is only compromised. In my understanding, solutions need to be based on private holdings and initiatives of private founders. With the rise of private capital and national investors our interests, namely political and economic interest can be safeguarded. Our national capitalists’ aggregate assets (capitalization) that amount to USD6bln currently need to expand to USD60bln at least.
State involvement needs to be in refraining from taking things away from each other (nationalization), from pirating under the prowess of the state. The state needs to be that platform on which the economy, the private sector are nurtured, a soil that fosters economic growth of the country.
IY. The strengthening of the state is inherently linked with integrity and provision thereof. One recent survey shows that 84 percent of respondents are not happy with our judiciary one way or another. There is a deep seated belief in our judiciary that state is always right. .Its supposed independence is not materialized in essence. Only when a judiciary is able to annul decisions of authorities and require due execution, people will have faith in justice. Only then we can rid ourselves of justice-by-order.
The strengthening of the state is a function of human resource quality and systems for qualification, selection and nomination of cadre. The inertia or the public sector governance legacy retained from socialist times are fast depleted. The new people frankly lack the attitude to handle state affairs as statesmen and the culture of discipline and accountability. Those entering public service with their party mandates in hand and under someone’s protective wings simply cannot work, .do not have mentality of statesmen. Honestly, one can’t help but ask whether they care about anything else besides turning signatures into cash or stacking their vallets.
Corruption has become a norm of the day. We have come to a point where some say ‘it is our time now to pocket’ and others agree and oblige unconditionally. We will be hard pressed to find investors interested in investing in such economy, they will have to depart when everything initiated is taken back under the pretense of the state. He was referring to this when D. Byambasuren said, “Governing of oblivious of state affairs statesmen is heavier than a mountain”.
It is time now to wake comprehensive, systematic actions to clean and strengthen the public service in every possible aspect. This is a priority of primary importance, because for Mongolia the most valuable asset is its human resources. Human resources that are educated, skilled, ethical, highly disciplined and responsible. Too much of this valuable asset has been discriminated by party affiliation and put on the street. Such behavior is an unacceptable luxury for Mongolia. Establishment of a system whereby talent can be utilized fully regardless his/her party affiliation is a matter of to be or not to be for Mongolia, a country of only 3 million.
Statehood, equity, bravery, bloodline, rules, hierarchy, priority, seniority, patience, will, honor, loyalty, restraint, polite care, graciousness, customs, taboos, integrity, solidarity – these words may seem intangible or trivial, but these concepts must be incorporated into the criterion on which hiring decisions are based as such notions are vitally important elements of a strong Mongolian state. . Needless to say that in the absence of these elements states crack, gaps are created, weakening and further weakening the state till their complete crumbling.
All things I was referring to have not come to existence today. They are unresolved issues that have accumulating through the years, becoming stale in the process due to nonexistence of desire to tackle them. That is why after 12 years the people of the country voted for the Democratic Party and gave it the reign. A lot of hope and trust has been placed with the DP. On the same par, high expectations were formed. We have to work commensurately with that expectation. Have to show example. Responsibility, discipline, organization need to be highest. However, it is not so. We are making it even worse. Citizens are saying in frustration that there is no difference with democrats in power. For this, someone from the Democratic Party needs to take responsibility.
Lastly, would like to say the following: criticism is thrown at me blaming for going against at the party being one of members, for criticizing the still young government which I helped in establishing. I respect this criticism. But, precisely because
– I am one of founders of the Democratic Party,
– I cherish the mandate of the people who have sent me here to stand for truth and integrity
– Most importantly, because I have consciousness I have submitted my request for resignation.
This is my way of taking a step toward political accountability, needed accountability for irresponsible decisions and actions of the parliament and the government. There has to be a standard set for political culture. I have to doubt whatsoever that this is a right step from political culture, accountability, but also simple morals and beliefs point of view. I humbly thank Sukhbaatar district constituency for all the understanding and support given to me.