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Mongolia

In China, a South-South Exchange Helps Countries Yearning for Clean and Efficient Heating Learn from Each Other

Yabei zhang's picture

Places with cold climates need access to a reliable and efficient heat supply for the health of their population. But in developing countries, the majority of rural and peri-urban households do not have access to centralized heating or gas networks. Instead, they use traditional heating stoves that use solid fuels like coal, wood, and dung for heating. These stoves are often inefficient (with thermal efficiency as low as 25%-40% compared to 70% or above for efficient stoves) and emit large amounts of pollutants (e.g., CO and PM2.5), causing indoor and outdoor air pollution with negative health and environmental impacts.
 

Dynamic Ulaanbaatar—photographs from 1990s and the present

Jim Anderson's picture
One regret from my time in Mongolia in the 1990s is that I did not take more pictures. I wasn’t alone in this respect—people generally didn’t carry cameras, and whenever I pulled out my 35mm Nikon I got a lot of stares.  I had to buy and develop film in Beijing and, well, I just didn’t take nearly as many photos as I should have.  Happily, I did take some.

In the spring of 1997 I conducted the research for a study of Mongolia’s informal sector. It was the first such study in the country and there was a blank slate in terms of information.  I was fascinated by how rapidly it had grown, by questions about the size of the sector, by how people working in the informal sector see and organized themselves, by informal entrepreneurship and the spontaneity of markets.

I had as much fun as I have had in my career before or since, poring through statistics, interviewing taxi drivers and shoe shine boys. I interviewed officials on how they decide to provide permission for kiosks to set up shop and how they collaborate with informal (i.e., private, independent) buses. I worked with the NSO and the Ulaanbaatar city statistics department to do a survey to put some numbers with the stories.

How do we achieve sustained growth? Through human capital, and East Asia and the Pacific proves it

Michael Crawford's picture
Students at Beijing Bayi High School in China. Photo: World Bank


In 1950, the average working-age person in the world had  almost three years of education, but in East Asia and Pacific (EAP), the  average person had less than half that amount. Around this time, countries in  the EAP  region put themselves on a path that focused on growth  driven by human capital. They made significant and steady investments in  schooling to close the educational attainment gap with the rest of the world. While  improving their school systems, they also put their human capital to work in  labor markets. As a result, economic growth has been stellar: for four decades  EAP has grown at roughly twice the pace of the global average. What is more, no  slowdown is in sight for rising prosperity.

High economic growth and strong human capital accumulation  are deeply intertwined. In a recent paper, Daron Acemoglu and David Autor explore  the way skills and labor markets interact: Human capital is the central  determinant of economic growth and is the main—and very likely the only—means  to achieve shared growth when technology is changing quickly and raising the  demand for skills. Skills promote productivity and growth, but if there are not  enough skilled workers, growth soon chokes off. If, by contrast, skills are abundant and  average skill-levels keep rising, technological change can drive productivity  and growth without stoking inequality.

Making social accountability part of Mongolia’s DNA

Marcela Rozo's picture
Mongolia has made good progress in its economic and political transitions during the last two decades, but this growth has not been fully translated into improved quality of public services, particularly for the poor and vulnerable. Despite the government’s legal and regulatory reforms to improve transparency and citizen participation in the management of public funds, the pace of implementation is still lagging.  

As Mongolia suffers with economic instability due to external and internal circumstances, how can we improve performance of basic public services in a way that works well in the Mongolian context but also brings sustained outcomes?
Local champions for social accountability are building their vision for the project.
© SDC and World Bank Mongolia

End poverty now more than ever, Mongolia

Jim Anderson's picture

October 17 is End Poverty Day. Every day is a day to end poverty, but it helps to designate one day per year to reflect on this goal and how we can work to achieve it.

In Mongolia, poverty declined from 2010 to 2012, and again from 2012 to 2014. Since poverty rates very closely track overall economic growth, this is not surprising. Growth in labor incomes over the period helped reduce poverty, and this growth, in turn, was generated by increases in real wages in the non-agricultural sector and non-wage income in the  agricultural sector.  Mongolia’s fondness for universal social transfers also contributed: poverty rates fell from 38.8 percent in 2010 to 21.6 percent in 2014, based on the national poverty lines.

That was then, this is now.

Although the 2016 poverty level is not yet available, we can be sure that the economic downturn has not helped. Overall growth of GDP is projected to be only 0.1 percent for 2016, with production in the non-mining sector declining. And Mongolia’s pro-cyclical policies that funded social programs in the boom years now face opposite pressures. Social welfare  programs that are categorically targeted and pro-cyclically funded are more difficult to scale up when times become difficult.

With a large and unsustainable budget deficit (projected to reach 18 percent of GDP for 2016), and with growing levels of debt, Mongolia has little choice but to focus on fiscal  consolidation. Can they do so without hurting the most vulnerable people in society?

What’s in a category?

Jim Anderson's picture



One year ago, Mongolia was designated an Upper Middle Income Country (UMIC) when the country’s GNI per capita crossed the threshold between lower and upper middle income countries.  Some Mongolians celebrated, seeing the designation as a reflection of how far the country had come since recovering from a prolonged slump in the 1990s.  Others wondered what it means for the availability of concessional financing in the future.  And others just wondered if it was accurate.  While Mongolia’s progress is unmistakable, we also know that 22% of the population lives below the national poverty line of roughly $2.70 per day—what does it mean to be an “upper middle income country” in the face of such a statistic?

Last week, Mongolia was re-designated a Lower Middle Income Country (LMIC).  How is this possible and what does it mean?

2015: The 25th year of Mongolia’s partnership with the World Bank

Jim Anderson's picture
This is the final entry in our series on the 25 years since Mongolia joined the World Bank. (To read the series from the beginning, click here for the 1991 post.) Befitting the 25th year of the partnership, the year 2015 was a year focused on knowledge.

The latest estimates of poverty in Mongolia showed both progress and reason for concern. The National Statistical Office (NSO) and the World Bank have worked together on the methodology for estimating poverty since at least 2002. The estimates showed that the poverty rate declined from 27.4 percent in 2012 to 21.6 percent in 2014, continuing the trend of 2010-2012. The estimates also showed, however, that many people are near the poverty line and remain vulnerable as the economy softens. 

2014: Toward more efficient financing for healthcare, agriculture, and Ulaanbaatar city

Jim Anderson's picture
Continuing our series on the 25 years since Mongolia joined the World Bank, today we look at 2014. Growth was 7.8 percent, but inflation was in double-digits and FDI continued to fall. The World Bank’s economic updates continued to warn of persistent macroeconomic imbalances, and sector studies focused on financing.

The rapid growth rates of the previous years, combined with the bent for decentralization, led to a natural desire to explore new possibilities for subnational finance. To this end, a pair of studies in 2014 aimed at preparing a debt management approach for Ulaanbaatar and a financial self-assessment for the city. The former stressed “the need to first build local institutional capacity for an effective and transparent debt management system before any borrowing is considered. … UB should use this time to put in place a debt management system so that it is prepared for borrowing once it is ready and the macroeconomic conditions improve.” The latter study examined what it would take for Ulaanbaatar to improve its credit quality and thereby prepare for an official rating from a credit rating agency. The recommendations centered on improving the city’s financial reporting system, strengthening its capital investment planning process, improving its capital asset registry, strengthening the oversight of municipal-owned enterprises and their debts, and identifying Ulaanbaatar’s contingent liabilities, both explicit and implicit.

2013: The challenge of public finance during a mining boom

Jim Anderson's picture
Continuing our series celebrating the 25 years that Mongolia has been a member of the World Bank, today we look at 2013.  Foreign direct investment (FDI) fell below 20% of GDP, down from the heights around 50% of GDP a few years earlier. Growth, however, was still in double-digit territory and inflation was in single digits.

With the boom well underway, a report examined how to meet the challenge of scaling up infrastructure.  In a blog summarizing the study, one co-author was blunt:  “Financed by the mining boom, government spending on new infrastructure in Mongolia has increased 35-fold in the past 10 years. But you would not know this from driving the pot holed streets of Ulaanbaatar or inhaling the smog filled air of the city, particularly in the ger areas. … [The study] examines why this increased spending is not resulting in equivalent benefits for the citizens of Mongolia in terms of better roads, efficient and clean heating, and improved water and sanitation services.” The study pointed to poor project planning and implementation, and suggested ways to improve.

2012: Scaling up Mongolia

Coralie Gevers's picture
In the 25 years since Mongolia joined the World Bank, 2012 stands out for several reasons.  Starting with politics: 2012 was an electoral year that produced its fair share of surprises. The main issue at stake was for Mongolians to decide if and how they wanted to use the country's mining wealth for its development. Politicians appealed to Mongolians' love for their country, its nature, its grand history, and its fighting spirit. While Oyu Tolgoi and Tavan Tolgoi monopolized the headlines, the issue was much deeper: what does it mean to be Mongolian in today's globalizing world?
 
For an outside observer like me—I was in my second year as the World Bank’s Country Manager for Mongolia at the time—it was fantastic to see democracy at work: the spirit of 1990 that I had read about and seen in pictures at the National Museum was still alive! The more experienced observers were puzzled: many Mongolians told me that for the first time since 1990, they were unable to forecast the outcome of those elections. A few did predict the outcome, of course: the Democratic Party won the largest share of seats and opted to form a coalition with the MPRP and the Civil Will-Green Party.
 
At the World Bank, we also had a leadership change: Mr. Jim Yong Kim, until then President of Dartmouth College and co-founder of Partners in Health, replaced Mr. Robert Zoellick at the helm of the World Bank Group in July 2012.
 

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