STATEMENT BY MR. O.OCHIRJAV,
STATE SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL
RELATIONS OF MONGOLIA AT THE 54TH SESSION OF ESCAP

Bangkok, April 20, 1998
 
Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Executive Secretary,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,
 

At the outset, may I offer you, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the Mongolian delegation our sincere congratulations on your unanimous election to the chair of this Session of ESCAP. We are confident that under your able guidance the Session will make significant progress on important issues before it.

As we approach the end of the twentieth century, we have to think more and more about the challenges of the next century, based on the experiences gained since the very inception of ESCAP.  During the past half a century the ESCAP region has marked important achievements in its economic and social development.  Per capita income growth has been much faster than elsewhere in the world. There has been a remarkable increase in the region's share of global flows of trade, private finance and investment. Many countries in the region, including economies in transition, have undergone, in recent years, fundamental transformations and experienced rapid changes in their economic structure.

        However, these achievements have remained uneven in different years, among the different countries, and even among different economic and social sectors.  Since mid-1997, a number of the best performing economies of the region have faced acute financial crisis. As it was reported, the impact of the crisis on affected economies has been far-reaching. External capital flows, both credit and investment, have either stopped or slowed sharply. Many countries have suffered a considerable deceleration in their economic growth; unemployment has increased. There have been signals that the overall crisis might worsen in 1998 and could spread within and beyond the region. My delegation fully shares the concerns expressed in this regard by the delegations of other members of ESCAP. But we are confident that through collective efforts and support from IMF, other multilateral and bilateral sources, the countries of the region shall be able to overcome these critical weaknesses.

Mongolia, as one of ESCAP Member States with transitional economies, is continuing today the economic reform process which it started in the early 1990s. The year of 1997 was of critical importance for Mongolia in stabilizing its economy, laying down the basis for its future sustainable growth. If during the first three years of our transition period the GDP growth rate was continuously dropping, in 1997 we achieved GDP growth rate of 3,3 percent. Agricultural production has increased for the first time in the last seven years. The most important achievement of this year was the slowing down of the inflation, which has laid a heavy burden on national economy and people's life for several years: in 1997 the inflation rate was brought down to 17,5 percent which is trice lower than in 1996.

In June of 1997 the Parliament of Mongolia passed the Law on Mineral Resources, which was an important step towards opening the doors for foreign investment in this field. Over the past period the number of companies that received permissions for geological prospecting has increased, and the size of investment in this field increased five fold. Furthermore, I wish to inform you that we are going to organize in June of this year an International Meeting on Foreign Investment Issues, and express our sincere hope that the countries of our region will participate in this Meeting. The Government of Mongolia attaches particular importance to this Meeting as it is expected to contribute greatly to increasing foreign investments to the country.

We are pleased to note that the first three months of 1998,in comparison with the same period of last year, have witnessed the following growth rates: in industrial sector - 1,9 percent, mining production - 5,3 percent, food production - 5,6 percent, manufacturing sector - 6,6 percent.

Since the beginning of  this year we have a positive tendency towards further decrease in the inflation rate. However, much more efforts and resources are needed in order to achieve a sound financial and monetary stabilization and a created strong economic capacity. In this connection, I wish to express once again our heartfelt gratitude to the donor community and international organizations for their active support and assistance which are being rendered to my country.

It has been also reported that the progress achieved in social development of our region  slowed down in recent years, suggesting the need for renewed efforts to address those issues. ESCAP region is still impregnated to a large extent by abject poverty, unemployment, wide-spread hunger, malnutrition, drugs and infectious diseases. But a mere recognition of this fact can hardly help us. There must be a real determination and will coupled with collective actions to face these challenges ahead of us. In this connection, we wish to emphasize once again the importance of implementing fully the commitments taken by the participating countries at the Copenhagen Summit for Social Development, as well as our commitments to goals and targets established in the Regional Social Development Agenda.

The Delegation of Mongolia finds it both timely and significant that the item "Asia and the Pacific into the twenty-first century: status and prospects for social development" had been chosen as the theme topic for the present Session of ESCAP. We wish to express our appreciation to the Secretariat for having prepared a comprehensive study on this matter, which can serve as a sound basis for further enhancement of regional cooperation in this field.

In spite of the continuous efforts made the Government of Mongolia over the past years , the country is still facing a number of urgent social problems such as unemployment, poverty, low wage and pension rate, social security, health care, and others. The Government considers that one of the most practical ways to raise the living standards of the population and to reduce poverty is increasing of employment opportunities and therefore it is directing its policy and practical activities to this end. Thus, the promotion of employment and income generation opportunities is defined as one the main goals of the Mongolian National Programme on Poverty Alleviation, which was launched in 1994. In 1998, which is declared as "Youth Year" in Mongolia, a number of activities shall be undertaken to provide young people with employment opportunities.

It is gratifying to note that cooperation of Mongolia with ESCAP has been successfully developing in the field of social development. Thus, national seminars on social development issues were organized in recent years in Mongolia with the assistance and cooperation of ESCAP Secretariat. This year we are planning to organize national seminars and meetings on youth and women's issues and we are expecting that ESCAP Secretariat will kindly participate in those arrangements.

 The world community is approaching the twenty-first century in an environment of intensified process of globalization and regionalization. As you are well aware, countries of Asia and the Pacific are grouped into a number of regional arrangements that include ASEAN, ECO, SAARC, SPC, South Pacific Forum, and APEC.  But, the unevenness in the process of integration among countries of the region has already been referred to on a number of occasions by the delegation of my country. Over the past seven years Mongolia has been making  efforts to create the basic favourable conditions for its regional and international integration. At present, Mongolia is participating in the work of the Working Groups of APEC and we do hope that in the near future Mongolia will join this Organization.

Despite all the efforts made for wider participation in the international division of labour, our capacity and opportunities to do so are inherently limited. The small size of our economy, the poor state of transportation and communication infrastructures, land-locked geographical location and remoteness from major international trade and finance centres still pose tremendous obstacles and hardships in our efforts for speedy integration with the globalization and regionalization processes. Therefore, continued support from the international community and cooperation, as envisaged the "Agenda for Development", shall be imperative for Mongolia too.

Furthermore, Mongolia attaches particular importance to the development of economic cooperation at the subregional level, considering it as a stepping-stone to the overall regionalization process. In this respect, my Government pays particular attention to the strengthening of subregional economic cooperation in North-East Asia and commends the efforts made by ESCAP Secretariat  to this end. It is gratifying to note that a number of meetings on matters of enhancing North-East Asia cooperation in different fields have been successfully organized in recent years, including the Seventh Meeting of the Steering Group of the Committee for Regional Economic Cooperation, the First North-East Asia Subregional Consultative Meeting on Transit Transportation, held in Ulaanbaatar last year, the Fourth Meeting of Senior Officials on Environmental Cooperation in North-East Asia, held in Moscow in January of this year. We believe that time has come for finalizing and materializing certain ideas and proposals submitted to this end by different countries of this subregion.

May I take this opportunity to inform you that the Academy of Sciences of Mongolia, in cooperation with the University of Illynois, USA, is planning to organize in Ulaanbaatar in June of this year an international scientific conference on "Economic Cooperation in North-East Asia".

Mongolia strongly believes that the overall political stability and atmosphere of mutual cooperation in the region are quite significant for positive solution of pressing issues of economic and social development faced by the Member States of ESCAP. We consider that the ASEAN Regional Forum is an important mechanism serving the goals of strengthening peace and security, mutual understanding among the countries of this region. In this connection, I wish to inform you that Mongolia has submitted its request for joining the forum as its partner. May I take this opportunity to express our hope that the members of the ASEAN Regional Forum will positively respond to Mongolia's request.

 Concluding my statement, may I express once again my delegation's confidence that cooperation of ESCAP Member States will enhance further the sense of solidarity and mutual assistance among our countries and as well as economic and social development of our region. On its part, Mongolia will make all its efforts to make its contribution to the successful implementation of ESCAP programme activities and develop its cooperation with other Member States of the Organization.
 

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