Since early December, mass protests have been held in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar by citizens concerned about the investigation into the large-scale theft of hard coal exports to China. Damages from the scheme, according to Mongolian media estimates, could be as much as $13 billion. Mongolia's anti-corruption agency has said that top officials, including former President Khaltmaagiin Battulga, seven MPs and the governor are linked to the coal case. The Mongolian parliament has scheduled a hearing on the investigation for December 21. Gankhuyag Chuluun, deputy minister of finance of Mongolia in 2010-2012, executive director of ARD financial group and a member of the Mongolian People's Party, said in an interview with RIA Novosti that he believed it was necessary to privatize large state companies and distribute shares to citizens of the country. He also spoke in favor of constitutional reform and partnership with China and Russia.
- What are your impressions of the events of the last two weeks and the protests that began because of the theft of coal? In your opinion, what are the main reasons for what is happening?
- I think the longest demonstration against coal theft in Mongolia's history is the peak of people's anger and dissatisfaction with rampant corruption and bribery in our society. The demonstration takes place very abruptly, coinciding with the post-COVID-19 era, our northern neighbor's military problem, the decline of the Mongolian tugrik, and the economic crisis. As a result, the government itself has shown that there is an urgent need to fight corruption, job trafficking, and the problems of our electoral system and party financing system. There is an urgent need to amend the Constitution.
All in all, I believe that both the government and the president and the Great State Khural have received a clear signal, marking the beginning of a major reform. If the authorities themselves do not meet their standards, the anger of the people will lead to great instability in society and may pose a great risk to the country. But I see what is happening in a positive way: it will bring positive changes in the long term.
What will change in the medium and short term is that there will be more responsibility for those who are involved in corruption. Misconduct and corruption offenses will no longer be dealt with in a simplified manner. Officials who commit corruption offenses will be disqualified from holding public office for life and sentenced to 5 to 12 years in prison. These important decisions were taken by parliament in a very short time.
I can see that there will be big changes in our system of state property management. State property management will become transparent; welfare funds will be created, which have been talked about for many years. The privatization of state companies will be intensified. Apparently, the issue of registering the shares of Erdenez Tavan Tolgoi (state-owned coal mining company - ed.) will move to distribute them to citizens. Besides, I think the fate of 30-40 strategically important mines and state-owned industrial facilities such as Erdenet and Mongolsortsvetmet will become clear. I believe this will have more positive consequences for our economy.
- How complicated was the embezzlement scheme? It became known only now, and it caused such a popular outcry, while before no one noticed anything?
- We suspected and criticized it. For years, citizens thought it was speculation, that it could not be, but now the problem has become obvious. In spring, the Prime Minister himself uncovered a corrupt scheme in the Development Bank, and it caused a public outcry. When the problem of the Erdenez Tavan Tolgoi company, where embezzlement was taking place, was revealed, this caused great discontent among the people.
If this had not happened, I think high-ranking officials could have continued to pay no attention to anything and throw money around. But the actions of Oyuun-Erdene (Luvsannamsrayn Oyuun-Erdene - Prime Minister of Mongolia - ed.) and Amarbayasgalan (Dashzegwin Amarbayasgalan - ed.) regarding Development Bank, Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi and Erdenet revealed everything. However, these problems are only the tip of the iceberg. Behind this is something even more terrible. Railroads, tenders, off-take contracts, coal trucking, border control and customs issues, which have been discussed for years!