Mongolia’s Epic Meltdown Won’t Be Reversed by a Commodity Revival – by Michael Kohn (August 25, 2016)

The commodity super-cycle that peaked in 2011 powered Mongolia to world-beating growth. Then came the bust and China’s recent economic slowdown that’s pushed the land of Genghis Khan into an unprecedented economic crisis this summer.

Yet even though the commodity market finally has a pulse again after a five-year collapse, a modest revival in prices isn’t going to be enough to rescue Mongolia’s mineral-rich, $12 billion economy.

What worked for Mongolia in 2011 isn’t working now. The nation, once dubbed Minegolia for sitting on what the International Monetary Fund has estimated is $1 trillion to $3 trillion in mineral wealth, has seen its attractiveness as an investment destination wane as global miners rein in spending.

On top of that, disputes with foreign investors such as Rio Tinto Group over the development of the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold deposits continue to weigh on its reputation. And the seemingly unique advantage of sitting on the doorstep of the world’s biggest buyer of commodities, China, is now looking more like a liability given the marked slowdown in the world’s second-biggest economy.

While there’s no quick fix to Mongolia’s recent travails — it has burned through much of its foreign currency reserves and the government has a crushing debt burden — the country can mend things by improving the laws, regulations and bureaucracy that prevent it from being globally competitive, according to an industry analyst and former chief of Oyu Tolgoi LLC.

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