Wednesday, December 17, 2008

ACMS gearing up for a busy 2009

As 2008 comes to a close, we at the ACMS are gearing up for a busy 2009. In the coming year the center will offer three different kinds of fellowships (dissertation research, field research, and language), host 2 study seminar groups, unveil a new online language resource website, conduct a intensive summer language program, and hire a new Resident Director for the office, just to name a few of the bigger items on our work plan.

It is still not clear whether the cost cutting and fiscal measures being taken at universities in the United States as a result of the financial crisis will affect the number of US scholars coming to Mongolia in 2009. Mongolia remains an expensive place to travel to but relatively inexpensive place to conduct research or study, so time will tell whether the lure of this fascinating country will overcome financial obstacles.

The center will close for a brief period from December 31-January 5th, and then everyone will back to work to get started on the list of "to-dos" for 2009.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Anod Bank under Mongol Bank control

The big news in Mongolia is that Mongol Bank has taken control of Anod Bank because it has surfaced that the bank is insolvent. Anod is one of the more prominent mid-tier national banks, and its fall may be a harbinger for other banks like it.

As reported in the UB Post, the accounting reports Anod Bank submitted to Mongol Bank over the last few years appear to have been "cooked" as they say in accounting parlance. The government is now working to ensure that customers with deposits in the bank recover their money. Recently parliament passed a resolution authorizing the government to back all banking deposits in the country with state assets, creating an FDIC like safety net for depositors. Anod will put the validity of this resolution to the test.

The extent to which the global financial crisis has affected the Mongolian economy is still difficult to gauge. The steep decline in copper prices has been a complete game changer for the Mongolian government as huge deficits have appeared in the state budgets and revenue from Erdenet mine has been cut in half. Construction has stopped on many buildings, and it is rumored that this is due to the fact that people simply cannot get mortgage loans to purchase apartments already on the market. Prices on consumer goods appear to be declining, but the last report I saw still showed a very high inflation rate. And, inexplicably the tugrik has depreciated against the dollar by more than 100 tugriks, causing wide speculation about the cause.

The three major Mongolian banks Khan Bank, Xac Bank, and Trade and Development Bank appear to be weathering the storm so far. Most credit has apparently dried up, and loans that are still available are at very high interest rates. According to Khan Bank's PR department these banks hold no international paper, so they are not affected by the subprime mortgage losses directly. However, the overall credit crunch means that it is difficult for them to secure new financing for loans in Mongolia, making it difficult for them to secure new income through interest payments.

Only time will tell if the global economic crisis will claim more financial victims in Mongolia.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Job Opening Starting June 2009 - ACMS Resident Director

The ACMS is currently seeking a Resident Director to take over the management of the UB office starting sometime after June 2009. I will continue to be involved in the ACMS in other capacities after the new Resident Director takes the reins.

My wife and I are tentatively planning to move to Madison, WI to begin academic programs in fall 2009. There are not many places you can move from and look a Badger in the eye saying "Your winters are downright tropical." But, Mongolia happens to be one of those places. I look forward to saying that often in Wisconsin.

At any rate, those interested in applying for the Resident Director position should take a look at the full announcement on the ACMS website. Also, please send on the announcement to people you think might be qualified for the position.

Cold has Arrived

A few weeks ago I wrote on this blog that it was unusually warm for Mongolia in November. This week the weather seems to be making up for lost time. On Tuesday the temperature dropped to -26 F (-32 C) for a nighttime low, and it only made it up to -9 F (-22 C) for a daytime high on Wednesday. Brrrr! It's currently -20 F (-29 C) and snowing.

This level of cold does funny stuff, mostly in terms of freezing things to other things. Metal glasses freeze to noses, tear drops freeze to eyelids, and, the old classic, beards become frosty on walks to work.

Either you love the cold or hate it. I am one of those people who loves the cold, so entering my fifth winter in Mongolia I am not altogether disappointed with the change in weather.