Our population has not even reached three million, yet thousands of Mongolians are living overseas. While many of us, living in Mongolia or abroad, have a job and are enjoying a good livelihood, the majority is struggling in their everyday life. In many cases, they are suffering from weak family bonds, which often result in a divorce. Also, many children are growing up without the physical presence of their parents because they are working abroad to feed their family.
Mongolians are asking their relatives for money and using up all their savings to travel to Thailand, China, Singapore or Japan for medical treatment. Meanwhile, those who are more well-known to the public are collecting donations in order to fund medical service to be received in foreign countries. In this fashion, Mongolians have spent twenty years spending millions of dollars on getting medical treatment abroad. It no longer seems odd or unusual that the wealthy part of society constantly travels outside Mongolia with the purpose of getting treatment or just having a medical test.
It is time to carefully assess and reflect upon how foreign countries see us. We should also have a look at the way we are living in our country. In the capital city, half of our residents are living in ger districts with outdoor bathrooms and are carrying drinking water home on carts. Although the other half live in apartment blocks, they are frequently faced with problems such as power outages, lack of running water, broken elevators and thieves breaking into parked cars. Plus, there are many other difficulties such as disastrous air pollution in winter.
The underlying reason behind why Mongolians are almost on the verge of taking refuge in foreign countries is that we have been failing to create the necessary conditions to make our homes and our city a good place to live. Now is the time to bring about a change. What needs to be done in order to transform Ulaanbaatar into a great place to live? How could we turn Ulaanbaatar into one of the greatest cities in the world?
Urban planning and management
We have always dreamt about establishing satellite towns and creating zones to develop Ulaanbaatar. It looks like this dream passed-on by every mayor to his successor could soon be realized and satellite towns surrounding Ulaanbaatar will be built and connected by a network of highways.
It is said that large marketplaces will be moved out of the city and replaced with apartment blocks. Also, they are discussing building university campuses in the suburbs and establishing new districts for students there. However, in order to move marketplaces and build campuses, they will have to tackle the problems associated with land ownership, as most of the land outside the city is given land ownership certificates of 99 years.
It is time to introduce a system that registers land by its ownership. Public land and private property should be clearly distinguishable. The current categorization system in use serves no significant purpose, consisting of ger district, building area, and public domain. After introducing a new system and registering land by its ownership, we need to categorize land into three different zones according to its designated function: residential, commercial or industrial. This zoning needs to be legalized so that changes will not be made every time the management of the city is replaced. Otherwise, there will not be any substantial change to the way things are today.
Then, appropriate standards have to be set for every zone and costs associated with landscaping and other activities should be covered by revenue collected from capital gains tax. The world has yet to find a way to develop a city without imposing taxes. More investment could be found if independent capital assessments are made available.
The city management can issue bonds to fund their construction projects, such as building new schools, cultural centers and sports halls. In order to issue such bonds, a 2-3 percent tax must first be imposed on goods and services being sold in that territory. However, there is no such thing as tax imposed only on residents of a city. Therefore, the 2-3 percent tax could be incorporated into sales tax imposed by the government, or other similar taxes that are already in place. This way, a new tax is not necessarily required. Moscow did the exact same thing and issued bonds.
We should immediately turn Ulaanbaatar into an intelligent city that is built upon good harmony between the environment, tradition and a modern lifestyle. Also, we need to make sure that the technologies we use take into account the special characteristics of our climate when we make building materials and work on construction projects. Our city should be open to everyone and exist in good alignment with the region. Furthermore, an intelligent Ulaanbaatar should have skilled professionals who contribute to the city.
Our capital city should be developed under an economic model rather than a social one, so that many higher education and TVET schools prepare a more skilled workforce while high quality infrastructure is built. Also, specific industries will then be able to focus more on exports.
Furthermore, when constructing new buildings and districts, everything has to be taken into account, such as office space, entertainment, schools, kindergartens, residential areas, public transportation arrangements, and even pedestrian crossings. Moreover, certain parts of our city should play the role of financial centers, shopping areas or entertainment centers. It is much preferred that the capital city of Mongolia becomes a city like Denver or Calgary, rather than Hong Kong or Singapore.
If we manage to build such a city, our accomplishments will unite the hearts of all Mongolians. Let us create new values to take pride in as Mongolians, besides the beautiful countryside we have. If everyone makes their own contributions to achieving this great goal of ours, we will realize that our city is something that we all share with one another.
We should show the world how much Mongolians can achieve by building a great city full of people living a nice life.
Obviously, there are things we can do and some things we cannot. We should learn from others while fulfilling our own duties responsibly. Let us put our best efforts into the development of our country and start from becoming a nation where every single person fully realizes the advantages of information technology today and makes the best use of it.
We should remind ourselves that we are living in a rather peaceful city. There are shootings and bombs exploding every day in the streets of Kabul, Tripoli and Damascus.
Mongolians can accomplish as much as anyone can. There is nothing that can stop us. We are a nation that is fully capable of setting out a great goal and achieving it successfully. The only thing that needs to be done now is to work together and walk on the same path to development, rather than going different ways.