Takenori Shimizu: Mongolia’s prosperity depends on the development of agriculture and tourism sectors

Trans. by B.DULGUUN

The following is an interview with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Mongolia Takenori Shimizu, about joint projects between Japan and Mongolia.

Shimizu was first appointed to Mongolia in 1977, when he started collecting stamps to become closer to Mongolians, who weren’t fond of people from capitalistic society. Presently, Ambassador Shimizu’s collection includes many historic and cultural valuables such as stamps, envelopes, coins, and paintings.

 You speak very well in Mongolian. Most foreigners find Mongolian language very difficult and complicated. How did you learn Mongolian?

Learning Mongolian language is very difficult. Moreover, the Mongolian society was very constrained in 1977, when I came to Mongolia. I was put in a special class for teaching Vietnamese students. I didn’t get to visit a student dormitory so I wasn’t able to become friends with many Mongolian students. Everything worked out well in the end as some students were very kind and friendly to me. For example, my good friend Urjnee, the son of laureate of the State Prize and illustrator U.Yadamsuren. He was very open with foreigners probably since he’s an artist himself. Even now, I’m very grateful to him.

 The Japanese economy has reduced the amount of loans, grant aid, and investment to Mongolia due to the global economic difficulty. This year, which sector of Mongolia will Japan focus its investment on?

Mongolia has lost trust of foreign investors in the past two years. There are many reasons. But after assigning Ch.Saikhanbileg as Prime Minister and recognizing the nation’s economic crisis, Mongolia focused all efforts towards the “economy, economy, and economy again”. I believe this was a brilliant decision as it is crucial to provide correct diagnose for any situation. Correctly diagnosing that the economy is failing will help determine the next project. In my opinion, regaining lost confidence and faith of investors isn’t easy. The next two years will most likely be tough. This may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. Third neighbors of Mongolia aren’t providing investment nor have they announced to provide major investment for Mongolia. It’s important for the Mongolian government to focus on improving legal and regulatory environment to attract investment from third neighbors.

Mongolia and Japan will soon establish an economic partnership agreement. From examples of countries that inaugurated this agreement, it can be seen that trade relations and investment cooperation had developed rapidly. I hope that Mongolia can prosper in a short period by establishing an economic partnership agreement with Japan.

 What do you think Mongolia should do to recover the economy?

Everyone’s talking about mining. Mining is very significant as it generates massive amount of money quickly and gives the country an advantage to expand the economy, and advance faster than other countries. Therefore, it’s essential to attract foreign investors for this sector. Still, resources will exhaust someday. I believe that Mongolia’s long-term development will depend on how the agriculture sector is developed. For instance, Mongolia should create a technology for processing agricultural products and raw material, and distribute profit from its export to herders and farmers.

Also, a beautiful country like Mongolia can spike interests of tourists. The tourism sector in Mongolia isn’t flourishing because quality and conditions of tourist camps aren’t improved. It’s advisable to make specific investments for promoting tourism while seeking opportunities to cooperate with foreign companies. If this is achieved, everyone can live without worry.

Mongolian politicians discuss big aspirations and dreams, and I can’t blame it. However, it seems that those big dreams only encircle few people. Politicians are obligated to improve the lives of the whole nation so it would be better if their aspirations are for the public and their well-being. If the whole government doesn’t lose their state continuity and follow consistent policy, the economic crisis will be easier to overcome. I think that Mongolians have the opportunity to work hard during summers and fall, and take a vacation to Hawaii. I believe that time will come soon.

 The Japanese government has been investing in important and most critical sectors, and executing many effective projects and programs. One of them is the New Ulaanbaatar International Airport, or the Khushig Valley Airport. How is this project progressing?

The current Chinggis Khaan International Airport is too dependent on weather conditions and often has to cancel flights. An analysis shows that over 20 percent of total annual flights are delayed or cancelled. If the Khushig Valley Airport is completed, it will be able to receive airplanes 24 hours a day regardless of weather conditions and wind directions. This will help boost the number of passengers and tourists drastically, and the currency inflow from various sectors related to tourism will also increase. In other words, this new airport will connect Mongolia to foreign countries, and take Mongolia’s development to a whole new level. According to plans, the construction work is expected to be completed by December 2016. After the construction finishes, preparation and experimental works will continue for half a year, so the airport will begin receiving passengers from the summer of 2017, and bring a brand new era to Mongolia’s tourism sector.

Some major projects that were completed with support of the Japanese government include: establishing Intelsat ground station and transshipment complex in Zamiin-Ude border point, and upgrading railway tracks and Thermal Power Plant No.4. Although these projects were completed several years ago, Mongolians are still benefiting from them.

 Some time ago, Mongolia and Japan discussed the start of Metro Project with support from Japan. Lately, this hasn’t been mentioned at all. Can you comment on this?

Constructing a metro is definitely an important decision for reducing city traffic. The Japanese side paid a lot of attention on this issue from the beginning and conducted research work. We still have interests to further this project and implement the project. However, it is a big project, requiring large sums of funding. During this difficult time for the Mongolian economy, the amount of loan Mongolia can acquire from abroad is limited, making it impossible to actualize major projects. Once the economy recovers, it will become possible to start the Metro Project.

 Mongolia is happy to establish the first Mongolia-Japan Teaching Hospital. Unfortunately, it’s planned to be constructed in the only Botanical Garden in Mongolia. Has Japan ever built this sort of facility in one of its botanic gardens?

 It’s essential to consider which is more useful. Everyone knows that a botanic garden is important. On the contrary, hospital is important for people’s health. Fundamentally, rare plants do not grow in the area where the Mongolia-Japan Teaching Hospital is going to be built. If any rare plants were there, it would’ve been a different case. Therefore, in this case, I don’t think it’s wrong to consider the people’s health as first priority. This is necessary for the public. Mongolians are traveling abroad to get quality treatment and services. Isn’t it better to train capable doctors and personnel, and keep the immense amount of money used for treatment in the country?

 How favorable are Japanese visa requirements for Mongolians? In the near future, is it possible to make agreements on visa free short travels between Mongolia and Japan?

The first thing I did after being assigned as ambassador was changing and easing visa requirements. Presently, around 95 percent of Mongolians applying for visa are issued visas. Unfortunately, the more visa requirements are eased, the more people are staying in Japan illegally after going there. Every after a month I became an ambassador, I’ve been informed of this unpleasant news. Visa requirements for countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia were also eased, and their number of travelers to Japan is higher. But, they hardly ever live illegally in Japan so no matter what issue is raised, rationale is necessary. For instance, if there is a positive indicator saying that not a single Mongolian is living illegally in Japan, the two countries could consider visa-free travels.


Source: mongolnews.mn /1gss


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