Friday, November 13, 2009

Abandoned city

We, the citizens of Ulaanbaatar shout until we lose our voices about the horrible smoke, hell like roads, dark lighting and thousands of other problems in ger (felt houses) districts all in vain. Why is that?


There are two major reasons: first, capital city residents do not have a chance to use proceeds from the values they create for their common needs, instead the government collects all the taxes into a central pool and almost does not give it back; second, citizens of Ulaanbaatar are not able to elect their mayor, the chief for public operations, who is nominated instead by a leader of a political party.

Cities, aimags and other local provinces always look forward to anything that will be given to them from the state budget, which is too centralized and superiorly wasteful. This budget system is really obsolete and each parliament member who approves the budget knows it very well already, but the issues of Ulaanbaatar are never their priority.

Although half of the Mongolian population lives in Ulaanbaatar city, only one third of the parliament represents the city (25 out of 76 members). One would expect half of them to be from the capital city. In 2009 alone, each of our parliament members has silently (no report) spent 500 million tugrugs for their “electorate needs”, and they will be increasing that amount to 1 billion according to the draft of the state budget for 2010. It means half of the 76 billion tugrugs will not go to Ulaanbaatar city. It is a misleading Mongolian practice that the parliament is becoming another ministry of finance. Actually, it is their way of camouflaging their method of bribing low-educated, poor voters with taxpayers’ money.

In any case, almost one third of Ulaanbaatar city’s population has no representation in the parliament. It is “abandoned” by legislative power. One can see very clear this abandonment of the city when the parliamentarians discuss state budget every year. For example, when they discuss the budget for 2010, they plan to construct 400 kilometers of road in the countryside but only 8 kilometers in Ulaanbaatar city. At the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar city, there are huge ger districts many times larger than an average aimag center. There are forty to fifty pupils in one classroom of middle schools of general education. A half of the city population is getting “civilized” by carrying drinking water from somewhere, burning coal, not having a chance to shower and going to an outdoor toilet.

These issues are not burning issues for our Mayor because he is not elected by the citizens, but only nominated by the leaders of political parties. In fact, they have never set a goal to improve the living conditions of city residents. They, themselves, know it very well. That is why when election of parliament members comes, they go to the countryside. They have been wandering around all the cities of the world advertising themselves as the mayor of Ulaanbaatar, but suddenly become a deputy from a local province in countryside.

Such mayors and their teams with a completely different agenda come to the city office every time and instead of improving living conditions of the residents they mismanage public property, create their own hotels and palaces inside existing parks and have almost finished selling “under the table” all free lands that could be connected with the existing infrastructure.

They have brought city planning to the highest possible level of chaos. They have shown how the city must not be managed and how the city can be the most polluted city in the world and the largest enemy of lungs of their citizens. We “thank” them deeply for that.

Next steps

Quarterly, when tax reporting time comes, the largest enterprises in Ulaanbaatar city go to the state tax department, the medium ones go to the city and the smaller ones go to the districts. Your company size can be determined by whom you are addressed or at which level you have your own “network” of influence to get the smallest possible size of tax payable.

In every civilized city and municipality in modern world, the local authority collects business taxes, personal income taxes and property taxes on their territory, accumulating and spending them for common needs of the residents. That is the only way to stop migration of their citizens and develop communities.

In some countries, if the sales tax is 7%, its 2-3% goes to government budget and 4-5% goes straight to local budget. The country and the city compete by leveling the percentage designated to them. Further, the taxes that they collect become only a guarantee for the long term bond that the city may issue for social and economic large and long term projects’ financing.

It is time for our government and politicians to discontinue regarding Ulaanbaatar as a province in the country. For the citizens, Ulaanbaatar is not a province, even though it might be to the parliament members. Those of us born in Ulaanbaatar would like to lead a city life.

It is evident that political parties will participate in the state parliamentary election at the national level. It is also evident that at the local level the citizens vote for Mayoral position out of the residents. The election of provincial governance by its local citizens is a model observed throughout the world.

Our city will prosper when its mayor is elected directly by the residents and not by a ruling party of the country. Only then will the mayor take responsibility before its electorate and will be called back by referendum if his work is unsatisfactory.

A substantial part of tax revenues should go back to those who had paid them in the form of meeting their collective needs and for community development. The Mayor of Ulaanbaatar must be elected by its citizens themselves.

1 comment:

  1. Incredible that the issue is finally addressed in proper details by someone after almost 20yrs of democracy! Sincere Compliments Mr. JD! Public awareness must be raised on this subject before any other issues. A "wake up" or "it is time" campaign should be conducted citywide by those who care and who can organize it. This subject has to become The Buzz in the media, all the doors in UB has to be knocked and handed this article. People must know that it is possible to make a change in a democratic society, but solely by participating with our voices and actions it can be done. There has to be a movement involving all the chief editors of the major papers, TVs, radios and websites of UB. So this issue becomes the headline until some serious actions are taken effectively. Otherwise only those few of us who read this will say "hmmm... it's true" and continue minding our own mortal deeds, our nature! Nothing happens. -Just a single faint bang of a small rocket in the dark sky. But it has to be an Olympic-opening-ceremony scale fireworks in order to make a change. C'mon people let's fire all our rockets to the sky instead of selfishly hoping the 'imaginary' others will do it for us!