Friday, January 15, 2010

Rule of The Jungle

A democratic society is governed by rule of law, not politics. In a society that lacks this rule, people do not trust each other, and so comes into play, the rule of the jungle. In the “jungle,” everyone can do whatever they want, provided that their power is stronger than the rest; one rule of jungle can replace the other as long as those in power continue to impose their will on the less powerful.

The objective of a democratic government is to enforce the rule of law. Its state is the creator of laws on behalf of the people and enforces and guarantees enforcement of these laws. That is why legislators are the fundamental source of rule of law; and from top to bottom, legislators of all levels must perform their duties, each at their own stage.

By ways through which the state of any given country protects private and common properties, one can deduce the rules of law and rules of the jungle the country stands and toward which direction it is shifting. In applying this approach to Mongolia, one can see where this nation stands today and where it is going in the future.

Since the 1990 democratic revolution, when all properties were common, we observed an attempt at the creation of private property. As a result of our efforts toward establishing market economic relations, the basic conditions of existence of private property, Mongolians began to own properties. Thousands of Mongolians became wealthy as a result of hard work, entrepreneurship and innovation. As a consequence our nation is getting wealthier.

There remain properties for the protection and enhancement of values of which the state is responsible. These are properties in society that remain public by nature, as we cannot distribute them to everyone, equally. They include parks, gardens, roads, buildings, monuments, the air we breathe, the water we drink etc. Yet, many public officers instead of looking after these properties, rob and plunder them directly and indirectly. A small group of individuals seize state power in the name of political parties, acquire common properties and install their rule. Such actions reinforce the rule of jungle instead of rule of law. The leaders of both ruling political parties, equally encourage plundering of state properties in unison. They reach mutual agreement on who takes what and behave like a few famished wolves in a yard full of sheep.

Although once the citizens see this and demand for them to stop while the state pretends to listen and change the situation, it all closely resembles a conversation between a deaf-mute and a blind man, or a new fashion of social games called “on the two sides of a thick, glass wall.”

All media instruments: newspapers, radio and TV channels have come to the hands of those in power in the jungle. The media becomes active only when there is war between the property “owners” and turns into a brain washing machine in the name of the Mongolian people. Public officials themselves became tools not for protecting common properties and public interests, but for taking them into their own possession.

(However, this “media instrument” still manages to voice itself without much restriction, hence the article you’re reading) In any case, this process goes on intensively in the state from top to bottom, strengthening its unstable bases. At the parliamentary level, common properties were re-named as state properties and privatized, the cream going directly or indirectly to the government official’s own kitchen.

Those who got the most gradually increased their power in all areas of social and economic life. The next wave of new rule was in Ulaanbaatar city, where land was soon evaluated. It was time for the city’s executive office and city representatives’ khural to take their share of “common” properties. It is almost impossible to identify any member of Khural or public executive who has not taken ownership of a public land. These are mostly a school’s sport yard, a kindergarten’s play-ground or a former state-owned manufacturing enterprise taken in the name of someone else. Obtained for just the value if peanuts and sold at fair market values, the lands now belong to today’s “billionaires from the state,” a name coined by the public.

The organized plundering of common properties has become so aggressive that the process has spilled over the walls of our gray house and the city mayor’s palace, reaching city, district and aimag levels.

As of today, the demand for resignation of Khentii aimag governor has been slowed, but the one in Bayan Ulgii aimag is at the level of sitting protest. The district khural’s representatives demand the resignation of district governors (two at the moment: Khan Uul and Songino Khaikhan districts of Ulaanbaatar city at the same time) are making a large noise in media today. Without that, the citizens of that district would not have known about this common land plundering. But the other district governor (Bayaongol district) being “smarter” and in giving a land slot for a summer house to each representative of district Khural miscalculated a human error. Everything was smooth until one odd member said to the media that he refuses the land just like another parliament member D. Enkhbat did refused his 1 billion tugrugs entitled to each of the 76 members to spend for their constituencies.

Unfortunately, the protests or refusals from shares of their own pie will not change anything substantial in this mismanagement. None of the district representatives will return the land. At best they will sell the land at a fair market value and finance all their campaign expenses making even more profit for themselves. Those in the political parties or parliament who grew divine “wings” in their group, will soon be bought out with executive positions in the government. There never was a single removal from a government position after all these years of media reflections on pubic mismanagement and mishandling of common properties. The same officials, who are caught under the spotlight of blame, continue to climb up the power ladder as they did before because replacement of one will break the long chain revealing even more plunderers and thieves. That is why no one in the country is being punished for plundering common property yet.

Acceptance of “nothing can be done once the damage is done” is the acceptance of rule of the jungle. There is only one law in a jungle: divvy up and possess. This looks like the only principle of public governance in Mongolia today.

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