Interview: President Ts. Elbegdorj
How would membership in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) benefit Mongolia and lead to a more integrated regional economy?
PRESIDENT TS. ELBEGDORJ: Mongolia fully supports APEC’s vision and principles, and has expressed interest in cooperating with and joining the institution since 1993. To this end, we are currently striving to meet the criteria for membership. Using APEC member practices as a benchmark, we have developed a plan for trade and investment liberalisation. Given that APEC economies account for more than 80% of Mongolia’s trade turnover and 70% of total foreign direct investment inflows, as well as the fact that the country’s economy is one of the fastest growing in Asia, Mongolia’s inclusion in the forum would help to further facilitate economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region.
Trade between Asia and Europe, particularly China and Russia, is increasing rapidly, and Mongolia plans to use its geographical advantage to become the shortest transit line connecting the two continents. To this end, we are working to build our transportation network, transit capacity and logistics system to better integrate into regional transportation infrastructure and gain access to more regional transport hubs. As part of these efforts, Mongolia has signed the Inter-governmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network with member states of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and is responsible for building routes AH3, AH32 and AH4 within our territory. We also launched the construction project of a new international airport, which will be operational by December 2016. This airport shall make Mongolia an air transit hub between Europe and Asia.
During the official visits of the presidents of China and Russia to Mongolia, we touched upon issues of establishing and developing transit corridors that will help to enhance cooperation in the region, particularly with respect to trade, investment, road transportation and the agricultural and tourism sectors. Once again, I expressed my readiness to cooperate on the Steppe Road Project, which would connect Russia and China with a highway, high-voltage electrical line and gas and oil pipelines.
Over the past months, I have put the final touches on a number of new pieces of draft legislation that aim to improve the quality of democratic institutions in Mongolia, including laws on public hearing, public participation, responsibilities of elected and appointed officials, procurement and license permits, limiting state commercial activities, the Criminal Code, law on administrative violations, legal procedures, and the national programme against corruption. The drafts of all of these laws were discussed by interested parties, experts and citizens, and should help us exercise horizontal accountability between state agencies, branches and officials for their performance. For me, the real test for any public official is not defined by how politicians deliver their social and economic promises, but by how they fight the abuse of power.
These measures are in addition to those that the government has already undertaken – most notable are the Budget Transparency Law and the Smart Government Initiative. Regarding the former, we now require public officials to publicise what they spend. By the new Glass Account Law, they should update their expenditure decisions within seven days on the internet or on paper in public places, no matter where they work. If they fail to do so, they will be punished or even dismissed from their positions. The latter, on the other hand, aims to utilise technological advances to meet our people’s needs and serve our society better. As such, we are working to design a smarter public administration that is both simple to use and secure.
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